Is it just me, or are the taxi/service drivers in Beirut really lazy? First of all, they honk at anything on two legs trying to get them to get in the car to take ride. (Sometimes it almost feels like harassment the way they slow down and honk at you while you’re just minding your own business walking down the street). Then, the times when you actually *want* a ride they say no! How hard is it to drive from Downtown to Hamra? Anything less would be just a drive down the street. Where *are* they willing to drive? It’s so frustrating.

Tonight when I was coming home from Downtown I caught a car that was already headed towards Hamra so he picked me up. As we were driving down Hamra Street almost to the end he asked me where in Hamra I was going. I said, the end of Hamra Street (in Arabic too, holla!) and he started chewing me out that that wasn’t Hamra! Sorry bud, but it’s still Hamra even if it’s at the end of Hamra and not the beginning. I think he was just bitter because he honked at about 50 people on the way from Downtown and no one accepted a ride.

Rain!

Friday afternoon it rained. Actually, poured buckets of water from the sky seems like a more accurate description. The streets were like rushing rivers and the only thing to do was walk home from school right through the water as there was sometimes no getting around the floods. I was totally unprepared for the rain because after six weeks of checking the weather online only to see hot, hotter, and suffocatingly humid, I stopped checking.

It was the second to last period of the school day when the rain started. My 6th grade English class erupted into cheers of joy. I’d never seen this reaction to rain before. Snow definitely. But never rain. I tried to tell the kids, “It’s just rain,” to calm them down. One of them replied, “Miss, we haven’t seen rain in SO long!” It was hard to get any work done for the rest of the period.

So, I guess that means that fall has officially arrived in Lebanon. Apparently it never rains in summer so once the rain comes you know it’s over. This weekend has been exceptionally cool which is great for running on the cornice as I don’t have to wait until dark to get out and run. (I’m training for the 10K race on November 7th.)

I wish I had taken some pictures of the downpour but since I didn’t I’ll leave you with a link to Sietske’s blog with some awesome pictures from Friday afternoon.

• Use the projector to display your writing questions.

• Get into your email to find the writing questions you have saved as an attachment.

• Make a photo copy of the one hard copy of the writing questions you do have (thanks to your super colleague who was smart enough to print them out for you the night before).

**Generally the electricity goes out and them comes right back on with the back up generator but today we seemed to be having issues for some reason. Just goes to show you have to always be prepared for technology to fail.

I don’t like Tabbouleh. There, I said it. (If you are Lebanese and you are reading this right now and you never want to read my blog again, I totally understand.)

Whenever I say this to Lebanese people I see their jaws immediately drop and their eyes get wide. Then they follow with questions like, “How many times have you tried it?” or “Are you sure it was a good Tabbouleh?” or “My mother makes the best Tabbouleh. You should try hers before you say you don’t like it.” It is impossible for Lebanese to understand how anyone could not like Tabbouleh. All I can say is, sorry!

It’s just . . . here’s the thing . . . I don’t like parsley. (I know, I know! This is just about as blasphemous as not liking Tabbouleh.) I never knew I didn’t like parsley until I visited Lebanon for the first time last summer. My family is Italian and we use parsley a lot and I’ve never had a problem with it. But see, we sprinkle a bit on top of a dish for some added color, or put dried flakes in a pasta sauce. We don’t use it as a *main ingredient*!! The Lebanese put it in practically everything. And always generous portions of it.

If you’re thinking, I’ve had Tabbouleh before and I didn’t notice *that* much parsley, then you didn’t have the Lebanese version. This, dear readers, is NOT the way the Lebanese do it:
Tabbouleh
The Lebanese way has so little bulgur wheat that I had to actually ask some of my local friends if the dish even contains bulgur wheat (it does). So basically, pare back that ingredient to practically nothing and you get bite after bite of chopped parsley (with some small amounts of mint, tomato, olive oil, and lemon of course). Sounds delicious in theory, but that’s only if you’ve never tried a mouthful of raw parsley before.

When thinking about this post today I came across a blog post by BritinBeirut that just confirmed how weird people think I am when I mention my dislike for this (practically) national dish of Lebanon. (See numbers 6 and 7).

That said, I am going to make it a point to *try* and learn to like parsley in the next two years. Surely one can acquire a taste for it, no? And it’s not like I won’t have plenty of opportunities to try it.

Here’s hoping for the best.

And again, sorry. Hope I didn’t offend any Lebanese with this post.

(Photo credit and recipe for authentic Lebanese Tabbouleh)

Hamra Street Festival, Day 3

From the last day of the street festival.

drum solo

behind the scenes

lost in the music

kicks

concert goers

What a fun weekend! Can’t wait to do it again next year!

Hamra Street Festival, Day 2

Hamra Street was quite packed for day two of the festival. I went at about 7:30 to check out some of the music and stayed until late. Hamra being Hamra you always tend to run into people you know but it was especially true during the festival when it seemed as if every one I knew was out on the street.

I had my first experience with Arabic rap which was quite entertaining.

arabic rap

The crowd for the rap performance seemed quite young.

there was a young crowd listening to the rap group

There were many vendors lining the streets.

vendors

Conversations among friends shouted over the music.

concert goers

Charbel Rouhana seemed to be a highlight of the musical performances. I had just heard his music for the first time on my road trip to the Cedars and was impressed with myself for recognizing it. You don’t have to understand Arabic to know that this man is quite a story teller.

charbel rouhana

The crowd watching Charbel Rouhana was definitely feeling the music.
feeling the music

It was a great night with lots of music and friends.

Hamra Street Festival 2010

What a better welcome to the neighborhood than a three day street festival leaving Hamra Street blissfully car free! I’ve been looking forward to this event since I arrived in Beirut two and a half weeks ago and saw the posters advertising the event plastered all over the neighborhood.

Yesterday kicked off the festival weekend with a parade followed by fireworks. Here are some of the highlights of the parade.

A very quiet and clean Hamra Street just before the start of the parade.

just before the parade

The Lebanon chapter of Harley Davidson made a strong showing and promoted a message of safety first.

wear a helmet, stupid

harleys all in a row

There were clown cheerleaders,

clown cheerleaders

zaffeh dancers,

zaffeh

historic costumes,

tantour headress

and a color guard (I read somewhere they were scouts?).

20100910-IMG_0823-untitled.jpg

And of course what would the parade have been without Miss Lebanon herself?

miss lebanon

The spectators all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

enjoying the parade

spectators

The evening ended with a fireworks display over Hamra.

fireworks over hamra street buildings

enjoying the fireworks

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the weekend has in store!

Eid?

It’s my first time being in the Middle East for the Eid feast. (I was in Lebanon last summer during Ramadan but left before Eid). Who knew that settling on the holiday date was so complicated? I’m new here so I won’t even begin to try to explain it to my readers who have no idea what I’m talking about but Sietske just wrote a post that explains some of the confusion we’ve all been going through trying to understand when the holiday is.

My first encounter with this phenomenon was when my friend who teaches in Egypt was trying to plan a trip to Beirut to visit me. She had it all planned for the 9th when the superintendent of her school said that the holiday MIGHT fall on the 10th in which case teachers would have to be in school even if they had made travel arrangements for the 9th. She was so frustrated that she decided to postpone her trip to a time where there would be a definite holiday.

This week at school the date of the feast has been all the buzz among teachers and staff. We haven’t really started working much yet but we are scheduled to go back Monday. That is unless the feast was called for the 10th because then our school would give us Monday off so we would still have a two day break. So now I’m totally confused. It seems some Muslims celebrated the feast starting yesterday but others starting today. So what does that mean for me? Do I have school Monday or not?

I still have a lot to learn about living in Lebanon it seems.

Update: I like Maya’s interpretation of the situation as well.

Welcome to Your New School

Yesterday was New Teacher Orientation at my new school. Wow! is pretty much all I have to say. We’re not in NYC public schools anymore, Toto!

We started the morning with an introduction from the HR director. She said that this morning she was reminded of herself being a new hire four years ago and all the excitement she felt to be working at this school. Then a few months later the excitement and newness started to fade and she wondered where it went. Then she asked herself where else she would want to work other than here and her answer was nowhere else. The room of teachers and administration new and old cheered. (Then she cracked a joke about asking the same thing about her husband: Who else would I want to be married to? And the answer was always the same: (dramatic pause) George Clooney.

Next the president got up and spoke about all the schools he had worked at in the world and how this was the best school in the world. OK, he might be a bit biased, but still, can you imagine working at a school that could even proclaim to be the best in the world? Then, person after person got up and while introducing themselves gushed about how much they love the school and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. It was pretty amazing.

We had tours of the school campus which is gorgeous. My friend’s fifth grade classroom has a wall of windows where you see nothing but the sparkling blue sea! (I’m a tad jealous I must say!) After the tour we took a bus ride up to the satellite campus in the mountains which has an even more gorgeous view of Beirut and the sea. After a presentation from the HR department we had a catered lunch of Lebanese food before heading back down to Beirut.

Beautiful campus aside I was just struck by the excitement of all of the staff that we met. The president said when he was speaking, “I have complete confidence and faith in each and every one of you. You’ve all been brought here to work at the best school because you are the best.” And you really felt that he meant it. What a breath of fresh air coming from NYC where as a teacher you feel as if you aren’t trusted to do anything without being micro-managed.

Today the foreign-hire teachers (there are eight of us) had a meeting with the president where he talked about life in Lebanon: politics, religion, emergencies, personal safety, and basically anything we needed in getting adjusted to life in a new country. He made us feel really secure in knowing if anything dramatic were to happen in the country we would be taken care of. He was also on top of any sort of requests that we had. No wireless in your apartments? We’re on it. Furniture in some of the apartments is old and dingy? We will replace it by the end of next week. The shipping company didn’t do a professional job? Thanks for alerting us, we’ll get a new one. Honestly I can’t imagine anyone being more responsive.  After our meeting we were taken out to lunch by the president and his wife and we all just chatted and got to know each other better.

Needless to say I am loving my school so far and feeling a little more than spoiled. Being an international school teacher definitely has its perks!

Contrasts

After six weeks in Lebanon last summer I definitely got used to the military presence in Lebanon. Still, it’s a bit surreal going for a morning jog on the Corniche with a view of the sparkling Mediterranean and fancy beach clubs on one side and two army trucks full of soldiers with weapons at the ready rolling by on the other.

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