Roumieh El-Metn is the town where I lived from age nine until thirteen. 1976 to 1981. My two closest friends were Mansour and Pascale and with a little help from chance, I was able to see them both as well as the town I grew up in.
The first chance occurrence occurred 3 years ago when I once again tried to find my old friends. I tried the Lebanese online phonebook with no result and then I tried Google. Over 5 years ago, a group of tourists were bicycling around the Middle East they stopped in Lebanon and were looking for internet access. Mansour helped them and they wrote about it in a blog. I e-mailed the company mentioned. Mansour no longer worked for them, he wasn’t even living in Lebanon anymore; however, they forwarded him the e-mail in Dubai. I eventually received an e-mail, “It’s me, Mansour.”
Second chance occurrence- Evelyne invites me to stay with her in Lebanon and guess where she happens to live? In the town right next to Roumieh.
This isn’t all. Mansour goes to pick up some photographs of his children. Pascale was at the same location waiting for photos. They hadn’t seen each other in nearly 20 years and guess who happened to be in town after 26? I had tried to find Pascale, but did not have any luck. And guess where she lives? Right down the hill from Evelyne’s. Small world Lebanon is and also a world of chance, lucky chances as well sad ones.
And so, for one of the first times in my life I get to look back very far back and reconnect with people from my childhood in the place where we did our growing up. This reconnection also has given me the opportunity to experience change in a way that I really haven’t before. Mansour and Pascale look very different. I see the Mansour that I remember in Jimmy his nearly 7 year old son. And Pascale now has straight long hair and not the short very curly hair of her youth. I myself feel that I look the same even though I suppose I too look different with darker hair and glasses.
This whole trip has been about how little and how much change has occurred since I left Lebanon and became an adult. It is also about looking at the past. I have moved around so much, so have many others that I know. Moving doesn’t stop change but when you are not seeing people and places change over time, change seems less obvious. Perhaps this is why I feel so young, so much younger than I actually am. I haven’t watched and experienced time go by in the same place with the same people around me for more than about four years, until now. Now the progression of time is magnified. One minute I am a young prepubescent 13 year old and the next I am a 39 year old woman.
Now, for the first time in my life it is not just by looking at my parents' hair turn grey and then white or by following the wrinkles, stretch marks and blemishes on my body that I can record the passage of time. Now I can see it all around me. The difficult part is trying to record it as faithfully to the experience as possible.