Saturday, October 19, 2013

This Summer!

This Summer was nothing short of amazing!  The first two days were rough. Michael brought Beirut Belly back to the States with him and I brought a low alcohol tolerance to Sonoma, which meant a lot of unpleasantness for us and our poor hotel maid.  We left her a big tip..=) The rest of the time was great.

Then it was off to Portland, which was perfect. We got to celebrate Shelby's big 30 and we got to meet the brand new addition to our Portland family Maribel. Who is perfect by the way! We were lucky enough to get days with the Asher family before and after the birth which was great. I also got my first girls only night with Mariana, something I want more of!

After Portland, it was off to D.C. I got a few days at home by myself while Michael visited his brother in Colorado. I was politely told that although he loves him he looking forward to some brother time without me..haha

D.C. was also perfect. It was not the usual 300 degrees and I got to do lots of fun stuff with my family and friends. Will only hit me a few times and spit at me a few more, quite the improvement. Just kididng, I love that guy more than I can explain and one day the feeling will be mutual.

A few short weeks in D.C. sent us off to Brussels. Our hospitality in Brussels was great. We couldn't have been more forutnate to have a place to stay with a friend. Brussels however, was not the most exciting city I have ever been too. They do have 100s of beers to try, each one served in a specialty glass with the name of the brewing company on it. This was my favorite Brussels tidbit! 

We also did Amsterdam and a soccer game, both fantastic! I would highly recommend a few days in Amsterdam



 Amsterdam!!









Then went rode the train to Paris and had another great place to stay. I got my picnic at the Effiel Tower, which was everything I wanted, as well as a trip to Champagne region, again something I have always wanted. The drive alone out to wine country is worth a trip. The little french villages are adorable and charming. I highly recommend Champagne region, but do suggest that you stay away from Moet and Chandon, for the price of the ticket and cost of the tour, the hospitality was poo-poo. We sat in the tasting room with two glasses of Champagne with two plastic chairs and the entire staff gone. It was super weird.

Then back to Brussels and Bruges, Bruges is really amazing. A quiet and charming town with some really fun stuff to do. A night or two is plenty but very worth a visit.


Finally, I got lucky enough to tag along on an Ireland trip with Callie and Allison and another soccer game. Ireland vs. Sweden for the chance at the World Cup. The game was not much to see but everything was fantastic. We did a really fun roadtrip through the South and found one of the cutest bed and breakfast ever, as well as a lot of great laughs.
 Ireland!!!


Although the Summer was probably one of the best of all time, towards the end an underlying concern about Beirut flowed. We read a lot of scary reports about Beirut and heard a lot of scary things from people that were currently here. We got a couple of understanding emails about not returning, we had more than one slightly drunken debate about the seriousness of returning. While I was in Dublin Michael headed back to Beirut without me, I hated having him here without me and President Obama threatening strikes in Syria. It was really intense. I didn't know if I should come or stay in Ireland another few days and Obama kept putting off his decision. The indecision is the worst part and it appeared to be in the only news story even in Ireland. Of course, Callie and Allison were beyond understanding for random freak out sessions.

It was very weird to have a Presidential decision affect you so heavily. Yes, his decisions might affect me financially or in my job security, but never had his decision put me in potential danger. It would have been very unsafe for us to be in Beirut if he had decided to attack. There were lots of school plans for getting us out and hidden away for a few days. And then of course the decision was put off time and time again, and just like that it was settled. I knew in my gut that things were more dramatic than necessary in the news but how stupid do you feel when you don't listen and you get trapped in Beirut?
Clearly things worked out and we picked up our life here same as before. We are in a new apartment this year, same building but top floor. Which is a nice change. My job is busier this year and I am taking two online classes, so boredom is not an issue right now, which is also a nice change.

We just got done with a nice visit from Michael's parents. It was so fun to show someone Beirut and put to rest of their worries. Then we got to go to Athens together and had a wonderful time. Athens is a neat city but the islands are really want makes Greece beyond special. We only did 1 island this trip but it was enough to get hooked. We went to Hydra, which has no motorized vehicles, but you can ride donkeys!

Athens. Michael said we always pose this same so all we could come up with was this! I call it the i don't wanna touch you pose!


Unfortunately, I don't have any funny stories to report yet, but give it time. It is Beirut after all.  I can't believe it's almost November. I think this year will shock us in how fast it goes by. We are already thinking about our Christmas travel plans. We are hoping Africa if prices work in our favor! It is fun to base your year on traveling.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The last one of the school year

First of all, Thank you to everyone who followed my blog through the whole school year. It really means a lot.

I thought I would finish this blog with what I learned about Lebanon and myself from the past 9 months.

1. Triple kisses is two too many kisses in a greeting and I am already dreading the first day back of school next year where triple kisses will be the only thing on the menu.

2. If a pedestrian does not respond to your first honk about needing a ride, don't give up and try at least 2 more time. You can never try too hard.

3. The beach and beach visits are requirements not just something pretty to look at.

4. You have to ask the price before you pay, because after all you are American.

5. I really like Iced Coffee with milk and sugar. This is a new thing. My tea was making me too hot these fast few weeks so I went for something new and it stuck!

6. I don't like to be bored at work and I am not great at entertaining myself. However, I have made great strides in this and found there are lots of ways to waste time..=)

7. A coffee shop on a Sunday doing odds and ends is not a bad way to spend a morning.

8. I can't say no to chocolate even in other countries.

9. You have to be very firm about saying no to food when offered and you must offer some of everything you have, even if you only have a little.

10. That even through scary stuff, there is beauty in Lebanon. The sea, the rivers, the mountains.

11. That I like to travel but your own bed is always the best bed to be in.


Here are some beach pictures to finish out the year!!






We also had a our end of the year teacher's lunch last week. I have been to 7 of them and never one like this. It was lunch and karaoke. The Lebanese can't resist it. It started immediately and lasted for at least an hour. There was dancing on chairs and singing, even the waiter got involved. It was hysterical. Everyone at school is inviting and wonderful but we will always clearly have our differences..=)

BUT SUCCESS...I mentioned in one of my first blogs I wanted to get a compliment on an outfit. It officially happened the last day of school!! It is a borderline compliment but I am taking it. A teacher told me I looked "cool" and another one said she liked the "ethnic print" of my skirt.  YAY!! Here is the legendary outfit.
I know my eyes are closed but this is the best one out of 5 Michael took, he wanted it to look natural..=)



Saturday, June 22, 2013

Awesome Road Trip

We took an awesome road trip yesterday to Baytroun (sp) which is a quiet town along the coast. It has a phonecian wall that is amazing, we have been there before but Jen and Tyson hadn't so we tagged along and Andree showed us a restaurant where you could have a table that was actually sitting partly in the water. It was a perfect day, Lebanon has so much to offer, if you stay in the right areas!

But first we went to a big ravine, also called here a pothole! Its called Goufree Batara. It was fully discovered in 1952. It is a 3 level ravine carved out by water over a long, long time. You can repel there and have picnics. But, I also saw a 3 foot, fat black snake, so I will not ever be picnicking there!

The walk to the pothole/ravine! We got there early and we were the only ones here for almost an hour!

Me next to the big ass hole! 

We crossed this bridge and then later read the sign that said not to. Oops!

Sitting next to the big hole.

Michael is dancing on the no walking bridge!

A restaurant in the woods. The tables and platforms are over top of a flowing river!

Just one of the platforms!

Our other restaurant in the Sea!





This time in 2 weeks I will be sipping wine in Sonoma! Life is going pretty good right now!

Friday, June 21, 2013

2 weeks left but holy crap it feels like 2 months!

Time for me has officially stopped moving. I am so excited about the summer that it is hard for me to go day by day. I truly believe we might be one of the only schools that is not year round still in session in the world!!!! The whole friggin world!

We have one more week with students then a week of professional development and then KHALLAS! We are out!

We are busy moving stuff slowly up to our new apartment in the Penthouse. We could not possibly let a new comer have the highest and of course now, the best apartment.  It is has bonus features that we are looking forward too, like built in fans, patio furniture, and light!
So, that will be a nice way to start next year. Inshallah (godwilling) this is used whenever there is doubt about something because hey, in Lebanon you never know what might happen or when a war will start.

It is officially HOT in Beirut. Low 90's but high humidity. You can not walk anywhere without breaking an extreme sweat. My hair will not be down for the next two weeks or it will grow to extremes I can not begin to imagine and not grow long and down but out and big! The schools have limited electricity since Lebanon has limited electricity, so there is a large portion of everyday where the air conditioning can't be on. So, even 4 year olds smell and our sweaty! It's grooosss!!

There are a few mixed emotions circling the end of the year, mostly the I can't wait to be home. We have such amazing plans this summer, I just want to get started.

However, this morning I realized why I am having such a hard time with my job. I know no one really likes to be bored at work, but there is more too it that than. I have narrowed it down to guilt.  I think teachers innately feel guilty, its a consistent conversation in your head, of am I a doing enough, did I get everything done, could I have done more to help that student, etc. I have that, did I do enough guilt but I also have the I work the least amount of anyone in my school and yet I am paid double guilt. I feel like I am constantly trying to hide a secret. I don't want anyone to know how little I am working because its embarrassing, since everyone is very well aware of my higher salary and benefits. However, I want to be helpful and when teachers say "oh you don't need to help, you are so busy," and I have to find a way without telling my secret, of oh my god, I am so bored, I would love to help.  It's a weird feeling. At least, if we all got equal pay I would feel less bad. It would be more of a hey, we all get paid shitty, so who cares how hard I work..=)  I feel like I am superman always trying to be Clark Kent. Wow, that is an exaggerated example of me and my life, but you get the point. Don't let anyone know exactly what you do or don't do. There is also the other side that not only do I get paid more but my life opportunities are triple some of theirs. Of course, lots of the teachers have money, which includes a nanny, a helper, and a driver. But, they still live in Lebanon and I always wonder, why don't they get out but then I hear about the process for getting U.S. or other countries citizenship and even a visa to visit and it all makes sense. So, now I have the added guilt of knowing this is a temporary stop for me, a learning experience and when I am done with it, I am free to go with no strings attached and without extreme measures. The United States will welcome me with open arms and that will be that.
I have decided this is why I am having a hard time embracing my "years-off" in Beirut.  I am finding ways to help with the boredom, but will I find ways to cope with the guilt? Will I harden myself enough to just not give a shit? I kind of hope for my own sanity, I can do this just a little.

One way or another next year will be interesting!

 We are doing a fun road trip on Saturday and then the beach on Sunday, so we have a great weekend ahead!

Then 2 more weeks!  Let's go team America!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Here is the puzzle I started in Sept/Oct...I have officially given up. There is too much sky left and I can't tell the difference in all the blues! So KHALLAS
 This is a video of one of our main street corners if you put in about 5 more cars and 7 more horn honks you get an idea of a typical 10 minute walk on Hamra.
video

Monday, June 10, 2013

Beach Days!

Are we there yet? That is what I keep asking myself about the end of the school year. We only have a month left but right now it feels like an eternity. Thankfully, I get to have perfect days like this one to make the wait a little less painful..=)


This is Lazy B beach. It is a Lebanese favorite. They created a pool in the sea!


Sometimes on days like this you forget you live in Beirut and there is a war at your neighbors house.

A Day well spent with friends in the sun!! We had our own little hut to stay covered in if needed.


This is Michael's favorite Lebanese meal. Our friend Carla's mom made it and she shared with us. It was a very special happy day for Michael. It is called Mloukheih. You have to say the kh like you have something caught in your throat. I really have no idea how to do it. But good luck trying! =)
It is a type of green, kind of like spinach but not, with chicken and lemon, sometimes vinegar, and white onions served over rice and scooped with Lebanese flat bread. I have asked to learn how to make it and it sounds simple but there seems to be something about how you make it that seems to make people think Americans are not capable because no one will give me a recipe. Maybe they are born knowing.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

May!

I can't remember if I posted yet in May. May went by so fast here. It is unbelievable. We are officially on the countdown to summer. We have 5 weeks left of our first year. It is amazing. I am ready to get started since we have such an perfect summer planned and next year our trips are going to be better than ever!

First, I have one more thing to add to my missing list. THE LIBRARY! I know it is nerdy and surprising because it sure surprised me, but I miss free books. I miss a place to go and browse the shelves for free! I have only been able to buy books since we have been here and I don't wanna do it anymore! I know there are libraries on campus but I want a big free library with adult, non-educational fiction! I want to read some crappy Chick-Lit for free, not for the 2.99 single kindle price. Crappy chick-lit for free is justifiable but crappy Chick-Lit for 2.99 or more is unacceptable!! I get my t.v. and movies for free, now I want my books! Due to my extensive library fines in both Portland and Virignia, I probably am not even allowed to check out books but I am sure gonna try!

On to the important stuff. It was Michael's birthday weekend and although we did not do anything wild and crazy, afterall he was only turning 29, =), we had a nice time!
It started on Thursday night out in the more hipster part of town Gemmayze.  We really like it there and it is about a 10 minute, with no traffic, cab ride from where we live!  So, we went there for happy hour and got introduced to a bar that has several varities of Arak from different parts of Lebanon. Arak is a liquor and when mixed with water, it turns white. It tastes like black licorce and I do NOT like it. The bartender even mixed it with blackberries for me but it still tastes like medicine. So, I had a fresh watermelon martini and it was amazing!  Michael and Tyson, however, sampled a few Araks and loved it!  Pictures are below



Then on Friday night we had a Foreign Hire BBQ at the President of our schools house. It was started out as a lovely evening with drinks and good conversations, however it ended not so well for me! I met up with my old enemy beef! Let me give you a little background. Sometimes, when I eat beef too quickly or in too big of bites, it gets caught in my throat and I can't shallow. Super weird, I know! Usaully, it passes with a small sip or two of water and maybe worse case the hiccups! But, occassionally there is a night where it does not pass so easily, it has only happened to me 3 times in my life. All, of course, in public places. Once, on a date in college, once at a bar in Portland and all through the neighborhood, and now at a Foreign Hire BBQ in Lebanon.  Awesome!!!  We had just sat down to dinner at a table of 6 and the beef struck!  Thankfully, the table had just been complaining about how dark it was and hard to see their food, but I still proceeded to throw/spit up at the table, not once, twice, but three times before I got away.  It was humiliating. I excused myself to the bathroom, started to cry and was too embarassed to return to the table. HAPPY BIRTHDAY  MICHAEL. Thankfully, he took me home, then went back to the party said my apologies and got to play soccer after dinner. All ends well. And I was completely fine an hour later! I also proceeded at 30 years old to call my Mom and cry to her about it!

Michael's second birthday dinner!

Another Beach Club

Arak!

My Watermelon Martini!

On Saturday, we went to Michael's first Beirut beach club. This is quite an experience and the thing to do in the summer months.  Almost every Friday or Monday, I get asked if I am going to the beach or if I went. If the answer is no, a very quizzical look and a lot of sympathy follows, because it is immediately assumed that if you weren't at the beach or were either sick or incapacitated in some horrible way. However, the truth is the beach clubs are an expensive adventure. They range in price and quality. There are 5 that we can walk to that range in price from $20 to $35 to get in and then there are the drinks,  you can't not have a drink, and then food.  It becomes a pricey day. However, the people watching is well worth the price of admission. The best made of up of Beirut show up. There was a lot of work spent on getting ready to go the beach clubs, and people stay all day. They supposedly at night become quite a crazy party. But, it is incredibly relaxing and fun.  The beach club hires a dj for the day and there are constant waiters at your beckon call.  I think Michael and I were the only people there using sunscreen and not baby oil.  I really, really enjoy the days we get to go but it is definitely costly. However, it costs less than the 10 boob jobs, 20 nose jobs, and 100 gym memberships or steroid injections that everyone else spent to go.
We then went out to dinner again in Gemmayze to an Argentinain restaurant and had a rooftop meal and then back to the Arak place. It was excellent.


The Saturday beach club! The sea is just beyond that bar. You had to make reservations to sit by the sea. Who knew!

This is a random picture but these are the smallest necatrines ever..Lebanon doesn't believe in adult sized fruit!


Do we like more world-traveled and a year older? BECAUSE WE ARE!
I still can't believe in less than 30 days, I will be able to say that I lived a year in the Middle East! Who does that!?!  I am not sure how I will feel about returning next year and doing it all again, but I am optimistic, especially with a bunch of cool trips on the horizon. I know I will never ever regret this decision. Although it has slightly delayed by baby plans..=) Michael and I are a stronger and better couple now and I just feel more aware. I came to this country assuming to find a sandy, conservative, slightly hostile, environment and have found some of that not to be true. Yes, this place has a huge list of deficits, but it also is so full of life and charm. We sat a beach club yesterday, where we had a swim up bar and the ocean in front of us, and war torn, broken down buildings behind us. It is hard to describe. I know I don't want to spend my life here or even more than 2 years, but these 2 years will always be a positive and important part of who I am!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Things that I miss...

The countdown to the end of our year has begun. It is a little early still but within the last few weeks things that I miss from home are flooding to me.  The "seriously, I live in Beirut" moments are fading, still attainable but fading. They are slowly being replaced with the "oh my gosh, I can't wait to have..."  I am pretty much only talking about food and drink here which does not sound nice to my friends and family but please know that you all are the obvious bonuses of coming home! I am talking more about the taken for granted bonuses at home!

So here is what I have so far...

1.  Not mixing my poop toilet paper with Michael's poop toilet paper. It just doesn't seem like the thing a married couple should do especially one where the husband still believes his wife doesn't go number 2 and he won't pee in the shower.  Both of those are things about Michael encase you didn't get it.

2. Por que no. This is so obvious I shouldn't even mention it. I just want good Mexican and a margarita. Since, I don't drink as much here as I did in Portland, I am pretty sure one margarita there is going to be my undoing, but I am willing to risk it. Michael used to say I was a fun drunk from those margaritas, I think this time around might change his tune..hahaha

3. Slurpees. Truthfully, I have not thought of a slurpee in months! Since, there are no 7-11 reminders but the other day on my walk home from school their memory came flooding back to me. They used to be my go to for all occasions, driving home from college, the weekend, Monday. It didn't matter. So, I am surprised this void did not hit me earlier but it is definitely hit me like a ton of bricks!
 I wonder if I could make a replica in the blender. I will look into it!

4. I do not miss driving a car becasue I have never really liked it and it instantly makes me tired, not to mention I am bad at it. This is a fact many of you can attest to. But, I feel like I am 15 again waiting for the moment I turn 16 and get complete freedom. Of course, that is not exactly how it worked then and it won't be this time either, since we are only borrowing cars, but the freedom of just going is a really exciting idea. I don't have to talk in Arabic to anyone and settle a rate before I get in the car. I don't have to then argue that rate when I get out of the car. It is a luxury I completely took for granted when I was Mrs. Fancy with a car.

5. I miss understanding everything that is said in a group setting! I am not sure how my ears will adjust to being able to understand everything said everywhere I go. No hand signals and one word sentences. I might go into sensory overload and block out everything!

6. I miss quiet street sounds. I know everywhere has street noise but the noises I hear here are not the usual sounds. I have grown a slight hatred towards cats because here they seem to be in prepetual mating season, which means screams louder and more awful than any person should bare. I will not miss them this summer! Sorry Ryan and Stephanie!

7. I miss DVR..although I can download anything I want, whenever I want I have to wait until midnight so it is free and sometimes I don't want to wait. So pppffff.

8. This one might sound mean and out of place but I miss my independence, especially from Michael. I love him so much but here he has become my whole world. A few times a month or so I will go out with just the girls and do something but it is rare and not very often. When I have  hard time here or a bad day at work, I come to him and he is amazing, but at home with a phone at the ready, I had other outlets for support. Of course, everyone is still supportive and amazing but timing is a real challenge and I get to talk to everyone so rarely, that I don't like to weigh down the time with grievances.  So, Michael bares the brunt of it.  I look forward to us being able to do things separately without concern and conveniently. There isn't much I will do where I can't walk by myself. I am not in danger by any means, but it is just a hassle. I am intimidated to bargain with the taxis and I am unsure of where to go and what I would do when I get there.  We both have very little me time that isn't forced because of Michael's school work and I miss that. I can't wait to go somewhere with someone other than Michael or by myself that is more than half an hour away from my house!   Please don't take this as any indication that we are not happy, we are doing wonderfully together and I think this move has only strengthened our relationship but such a heavy reliance on each other can be overwhelming.

9. All in All I just miss America!

10. I am sure this list will continue to grow but for now its my main misses!!!!

To encourage you all to visit and all and all miss Beirut, here are some photos!