Earthquakes and tarantulas – Lebanon’s unexpected extras

Last night after nine months in Beirut two unexpected things happened which freaked me out. I am used to worrying about the normal things: money, work deadlines, walking home by myself at night – but then up popped two things I had (perhaps foolishly) not anticipated.

Firstly at ten o’clock last night I was in a fourth floor flat in Gemmayzeh, babysitting and watching a DVD, when I felt the sofa rocking under me. The dog was some way away and couldn’t possibly have moved it and I was alone in the house. I got up and walked around it, trying to work out what had happened, then decided I must have imagined it. I sat back down and a minute later the same thing happened. I realised that the sofa couldn’t moving by itself – which meant that the building must be moving, which meant – earthquake!

Continue reading

Two Easters in Lebanon

One week back in Beirut and I’m struggling to get back into a routine now that I’m not in the office everyday. I’ve spent a lot of my time baby-sitting little Sam, celebrating his first ever easter by decorating the little tree on the balcony with easter decorations (Sam was far more interested in the packaging that the decorations) and dying eggs to make a colourful easter basket. Sam loved the dye, as he is going through a phase where he is obsessed with water, and very much enjoyed splashing the colours all over me, himself, the table, the floor, his high-chair and everything else in a three-metre radius.

Continue reading

Beirut Snapshots: Valentine’s in a gay bar and the invisible man

I’ve had a rather exhausting but very fun week reviewing three plays in Arabic, followed by a lazy weekend which was spent not partying but doing rather mundane but necessary things. I spent yesterday cleaning the house, which in my absence has become a cess-pit, then baby-sitting last night and today cleaning all my clothes, which over the past couple of weeks have over-flowed the basket and made their way in a steady mass across the floor forming an impregnable fortress between bed and door.

Everitte went to the post office again on Friday and was once again served by Shireen. Having not seen Noor in a long time he inquired as to her whereabouts and was told that she had left. “She told me you upset her very much,” Shireen said to him. “But she wouldn’t tell me why.”

Continue reading

Beirut Snapshots: contemporary oriental music meets studio 54 and Lebanon’s Costa Concordia

Back to work yesterday after a weekend which cannot really be called a break from work, but was nevertheless a lot of fun. After a busy but very enjoyable week at the Daily Star, where I had the opportunity to write lots of culture articles, I spent Friday night baby-sitting. Samuele is used to me by now, which makes life easier when it comes to getting him to sleep. I am growing to love him dearly, though I do think he thinks he’s a dog, as evidenced by his reaction when I try to wash his face which is to lick me enthusiastically. He also took his chance while I was reaching for the towel and decided the simplest way to dry his face was just to wipe it energetically on the shoulder of my jumper, while attempting to chew it at the same time, thus proving his ability to multitask.

Continue reading

20 Reasons Why I Love Beirut… And You Should Too

Beirut is a city of contradictions. It’s 1000 other places and things and at the same time it’s utterly unique.

It’s Roman ruins…

…and it’s Dunkin Donuts. Continue reading

Fall Seven Times and Stand Up Eight

Fall seven times and stand up eight – Japanese proverb

So yesterday was a very mixed bundle. Since, as will soon become apparent, the number seven was key, I’ll start by giving seven examples of the emotional roller coaster ride I went on in the space of a day.

1) The day began terribly. Everitte and I finally made it to the Indian Embassy, after two mornings spent trying to find it last week and failing miserably, only to be told that they would not issue us with a tourist visa for our trip, which is in less than a month, because we don’t have residency permits.

2) We came home and spent several hours looking on the internet for possible solutions, stressed because we had already spent over $300 each on non-refundable flights and apparently shipping passports across international borders to get visas elsewhere is very difficult and possibly illegal. I was running late for my internship at the newspaper by this point, and had an article due in a few hours, and ended up screaming at poor Everitte like a demented harpy-woman, which unsurprisingly lead to a fight. It was raining and life seemed like too much hard work. Continue reading

Healing Images – Beirut’s Graffiti

A couple of people expressed interest in seeing more of Beirut’s graffiti. In my previous post on Beirut’s Street Art I posted pictures of the art around Hamra and Gemmayzeh, two central, residential districts of Beirut. In the process of researching my article on graffiti in Beirut for Hibr online I subsequently made a trip to Karantina, one of Beirut’s industrial areas out by the port, in order to photograph the graffiti art there, which is a lot bigger and more impressive, as artists go there to bomb the ugly concrete walls along the main road in and out of Beirut so that people see their work on their boring commutes to and from work from Northern Lebanon.

A skeleton road-sweeper surrounded by ravens on the side of a bullet-ridden building

Continue reading

Beirut Snapshots: baby versus dog, a burning car and the post office saga continues

Over the last week my life has suddenly got about three times as busy. I’ve gone from working for Everitte, helping to answer his emails and deal with commissions for his calligraphy, a job which clearly left me with far too much time on my hands – as evidenced by my taking an entire day to shoddily sew one giant pair of trousers out of two perfectly good, reasonably sized pairs:

And by my spending another whole day last month making my own Christmas decorations for our tiny Christmas tree: Continue reading

Living life à la Shakespeare and an offer of marriage

I start an internship with Lebanon’s biggest English language paper, The Daily Star, on Monday. My nervousness is battling my excitement at the moment and I’m not sure which is winning. I have been doing some freelance writing and translation since I’ve moved to Lebanon, but this will be my first time in a news office – first time in an office at all for that matter! Any tips on how to make a good impression would be very welcome – while I’m not expecting a short internship to lead to a job offer it can’t hurt to give it my best shot…

Yesterday I spent the morning interviewing a graffiti artist for my graffiti article (more on that soon) and then went to Karantina, a big industrial area of Beirut near the docks, to photography some of the graffiti in a less residential area – lots of wall space and factories plus less people milling around at night equals bigger, bolder and more imaginative graffiti. On the way back I took a servees and met a fascinating man, in some ways the epitome of Lebanon’s two sides: modern, liberal and forward-thinking, while at the same time still very traditional and conservative about certain issues. Continue reading

Beirut Snapshots: my grown-up “son” and the epic battle with Libanpost

Yesterday Everitte and I travelled across town to General Security, to leave our passports for visa renewal. While the process is a lot simpler than it was in Damascus (due mostly to the Lebanese having a fairly good concept of how queuing works!) it still involves a fair degree of red tape such as having various forms signed in triplicate by ‘The Chief of Arabs’, who has own special uniform covered in lots of shiny badges. While waiting in a queue on the third floor yesterday a little old lady came up to us and speaking in French said to me ‘He’s very slow – change queues, change queues!’ We smiled at her and she touched my cheek and said ‘You’re very pretty’ then she looked at Everitte standing next to me and said ‘Ah, and is this your son?’. So… very pretty but also very old then, if at 24 I look capable of having a 23-year-old son! Continue reading