I am moving to Beirut to work at an international school. When I tell people this I get the equally emphatic, yet opposite reactions of, “Oh, wow! That sounds so exciting!” and, “Really? Are you going there by choice? Why would you want to move to the Middle East?”
Let me start by saying that is was, in fact, my first choice to move to Beirut. My fascination (or obsession–call it what you want) with Lebanon started many years ago when I dated a Lebanese and then proceeded to read every book about Lebanon that I could get my hands on. I soon had an overwhelming desire to see for myself this place that I had read so much about. I even started stalking the websites of international schools in Beirut dreaming of moving there before I’d even visited. (Some of my friends joke that I must have been Lebanese in a past life.)
So, yes, Beirut was definitely my first choice, but for a while it seemed I wouldn’t make it to Lebanon at all. It just seemed too risky and unsafe from everything I had read about it, not to mention the daunting travel advisories issued by the State Department. Then of course there was the July War in 2006 which didn’t make it seem any more likely that I’d be able to go. So instead I told people that my goal was to teach at an international school in Egypt. There at least I’d be able to satisfy my desire to be in the Middle East and learn Arabic while living in a relatively less volatile country.
Something changed though in the summer of 2009. I was finally ready to take the plunge and make my first trip to the Middle East. I planned a two-month trip to Syria to study Arabic in Damascus. I planned on making at least a trip or two to Lebanon and maybe one to Jordan while I was there. In the third week of my trip to Syria I went to Lebanon for a visit and I was instantly enamored. From the descent down the mountain from Syria, to my first glimpse of Beirut and the sparkling Mediterranean, I knew that Beirut was where I wanted to be. By the end of that first week in Lebanon I had already changed all my summer plans and found an apartment in Beirut to finish out the time until my return flight home. By the end of the summer I had started looking for a job so that I could come back to Beirut and stay for more than just a few weeks.
The rest, as they say, is history. I went to a international school job fair in February, got my first choice school, and am about to begin a two-year adventure living in Beirut.