The Last to Know
Last night I returned to Beirut after a lovely and relaxing triathlon weekend in Batroun to some frantic tweets from my students wanting to know if we had school the next day or not.
I contacted one of my Lebanese friends from work to find out what she knew about this vague understanding of my seventh grader. She told me that there was “spillover” from the recent events in Tripoli and that the Minister of Education had announced that there was no school but then had taken that statement back shortly after.
I went to bed feeling quite confident that there would be school the next day as the school tends to only shut down if absolutely required.
With no word of a school closure in the morning, I walked to school and ran into a colleague of mine who’s much better informed about situations like this. He filled me in on the gist of what was going on. We both noticed that the roads were very quiet compared to a normal weekday morning. There were almost no cars on the roads heading towards school as there usually are. At school, another foreign teacher at my school had also noticed the quiet streets but had no idea anything was going on and wondered if his watch was wrong. Another colleague laughed and said, “Oh, you didn’t know anything was happening? You’re funny.” But this is how it is. As foreigners who don’t watch the local Arabic news channels we’re the last to know everything. (Similarly, when my half marathon in Tripoli was canceled last Sunday, it was a Lebanese friend who alerted me on Facebook. I would have been on the Corniche ready to meet the other runners for the bus at 5:30 am!)
School was pretty normal in the morning, in my classes at least. I had three absences in first period which is abnormal but not disruptive. My classes later in the day had less and less students as parents came to pick them up throughout the day, much like on the “Day of Anger” last January. The problem was really exacerbated though by students calling home to tell their parents to come and pick them up because many students were absent and “we weren’t doing anything” in class. Well, the more students that went home, the harder it got to actually teach anything! I managed to teach a lesson with all of my classes though, and when the others return tomorrow they’ll be able to catch up without a problem.
As for the neighborhood, it seemed pretty normal. Shops were open, people were out and about, and there was plenty of honking, so basically, business as usual. No photos of an empty Hamra Street today.
Here’s hoping tomorrow is a normal day because we have Term 3 to finish, finals to prepare for, and then summer vacation to get to! As much fun as it is to have an unexpected day off, it’s not so much fun when it comes at the expense of the stability of the country.