Warm Welcomes to Lebanon
Well I’ve officially done the undone in my 21 years of life. Step on a plan to Istanbul alone, leaving me in an airport that for the last week has been under high precautions because of a dual suicide bombing/shooting attack, then to only watch the Americans dwindle away from the airport departure gate that hollered “boarding Beirut!”, flushed out by the chaotic mix of Arabic coming from children and parents. The flight to Beirut is when this whole trip kind of hit me. I’m about to go to the south of Lebanon, with an organization I trust and believe in but know no one in, and teach English for one month in a Palestinian refugee camp. Sounds exciting but also different than anything I’ve done before and will 100% be difficult. I’m living in an area of Burj el Shemale, which is about a 10 minute drive to Downtown Tyre. Tyre is beautiful. Right along the beach with palm trees and waterside cafes, I swear you’d second guess someone when they told you that the villages we would be working in, suffering from brutal conditions and economic hardship, were so close. I start work in a week so as for the next 5 days we have orientation. Getting acquainted to the area we’re living in, getting a phone and transportation card set up, and learning more about the context we’ll be exposed to: the plight of Palestinian refugees particularly in Lebanon.
July 4 airport
The drive down from Beirut to Tyre is about 1.5 hours, given traffic on the road which is basically a free for all. Horns instead of blinkers, mopeds practically an inch from your side door, and unheard of laws of cell phones and overstuffed passengers in a car. Ahmed (one of LEAP’s designated drivers that will be taking us to and from locations) and Dan (LEAP’s Project Coordinator) picked me up and we headed down. Exhausted from a days worth of flying and already sweating from the lack of A/C, there’s no way I would have missed the military checkpoints we passed through or the tanks and vans labeled “UN” or even the Hezbollah flags lining the highway for miles to the sight of banners with historic political and religious figures. Welcome to Lebanon I guess. A cluster of ideas, religions, socio-economic levels and peoples. I’m eager to learn more about this place and I know starting my work in a week will only deepen my understanding or even lack of for the way things are around here and the pool of emotions all existing in a country smaller than the size of Connecticut.
View from my apartment’s balcony