I'm in Beirut now and very behind in my posts. What's new? I've been to the childhood romp of Beit Mery, to South Lebanon, have spent the afternoon with my old friend Mansour and his family and have also managed to go to Tripoli, none of which is posted. I'll catch up eventually.
At this moment I feel like I am in some pre-war Left Bank cafe excitement as I sit in this hyper cool cafe/bar called the Prague checking my e-mail and blogging at the bar with my capuchino and chocolate cake. The place is buzzing with activity and unfortunately smoke but that may just make it all the more European and artsy. Jazz is loudly skipping, prancing and thwarting out of the speakers. Sentences include bits of Arabic, French, and English. I try very hard to use French instead of English just to stay on the safe side but people keep on talking to me in English and so it is hard.
The pre-war ambience may also be due to the fact that Evelyne's sister, a warden for the U.S. embassy, just forwarded me a warning that she received right before Christmas. I had mentioned that the U.S. embassy had issued a warning earlier. I debated not including it in my blog but I want this blog to represent my experience here as much as possible and unfortunately, this is part of my experience. I welcome any comments you may have...
December 22, 2006 > > > This Travel Warning is being issued to alert American citizens to the> ongoing demonstrations and political tensions in Lebanon. The Department> strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Lebanon and also urges> American citizens in Lebanon to consider carefully the risks of> remaining. This Travel Warning also alerts U.S. citizens to the ongoing> safety and security concerns in Lebanon. It supersedes the Travel> Warning issued on September 28, 2006. > > > The Department remains concerned about the personal safety and security> of American citizens in Lebanon. American citizens traveling to or> residing in Lebanon despite this Travel Warning should exercise> heightened caution. Since the August 14 cessation of hostilities between> Israel and Lebanon, political tensions in Lebanon have increased and> have become a cause for concern in recent weeks. Hizballah maintains a> strong presence in many areas of Lebanon, and there is the potential for> anti-American actions by other extremist groups in Tripoli, Sidon, and> the Palestinian refugee camps. Americans are urged to avoid large public> gatherings, including the Martyrs Square and Riad El Solh areas in> Beirut when demonstrations occur. Conditions in Lebanon can change> quickly and dramatically, including with regard to access to Beirut> International Airport and the ports. Sporadic violence has occurred and> there remains the possibility of further violence. All U.S. citizens in> Lebanon are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut where> they may also obtain updated information on travel and security> conditions in Lebanon. Registration details are discussed below.> > > U.S. citizens in Lebanon should at all times be aware of a possible> deterioration of the security situation. Americans should pay close> attention to their personal security and consider fully the necessity of> remaining in Lebanon at this time. Accordingly, Americans and their> family members should ensure that their passports and U.S. travel> documents are up-to-date. The lack of valid travel documents will delay> the ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide assistance. > > >
I am so angry at my government right now. They allowed the situatio this summer to continue for over a month. According to some like Seymour Hirsh, they even knew months beforehand. The US even supplied the military aid and the weapons that caused so much destruction and death in Lebanon. The attacks this summer and the U.S. support of Israel also made Hizbullah even stronger here in Lebanon. And now look, I am in the middle of a bustling cafe wondering if the country is yet again on the brink of war. I need a glass of wine. Lebanese wine.
So what should I do? I have one more week here? Tomorrow I am going to spend the day with Mansour, Josette, and their kids Jimmy and Valery. Mansour also ran into my friend Pascale whom he hadn't seen in nearly 20 years and we are trying to arrange a time to meet. Next week I have made appointments with the local Family Planning Association and a project that works with sex workers. I also am planning to call Laure, whose blog and drawings I have frequently referred to in this blog. I also will probbaly be meeting with a domestic violence project called Kafa, No More. I have no desire to leave yet.
On the other hand, I do not see this as my last trip and I want to be able to come back and to also have something to offer.
Evelyne has told me many times how much people appreciate the fact that I am here, despite it all. I am once again being a sort of informal accompanier. The longer I am here, the longer I feel comfortable here. It makes sense to me and I cannot begin to describe how amazing it is for me to finally walk on landscapes, urbanscapes, tiles, and stones that I walked on as a child. I hear words and I just know them. I eat certain foods and I feel so comforted in ways that I imagine people feel when they eat their favorite childhood meal. I tell everyone that I lived here during the war, that I feel that this is my country too, because it is despite my infintessimal spoken arabic vocabulary (I can understand alot more than I can say.)
Should I be leaving at the first threat after it has taken me so long to come here? Will I lose it forever if I do?
Tomorrow, I will spend the day with a good friend that I trust and I will think. I welcome your insights.