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just some thoughts... [Jan. 17th, 2013|08:16 pm]
i spent much of the day in hamra, at Cafe Younes, which is the better part of 100 years old and was my favorite place to work or just fuck about when i lived in qraytem, a neighborhood nearby.

on the way there, in a taxi, the passenger in the front began arguing with the driver as he drove us onto bliss st, which borders the american university of beirut, and parallels hamra.

as usual, there was a lot of traffic, and apparently this passenger was going to approximately the same point my backseat companion and i were.

he asked, in arabic, why the driver had gone this way. there is always so much traffic there, and it didn't make sense.

then the driver said something to the effect of, "you're not lebanese. you should be happy to be here."

now, my arabic isn't that great AT ALL, and i'm not very good at sussing out people's accents, but i'm pretty sure this passenger was syrian. there's an influx of syrians in the city right now (for obvious reasons), and the lebanese are pretty divided on their presence, and more frighteningly, whether or not assad should fall.

and i had this thought, as i was walking home tonight: i have been in love with beirut for a while now. but it's key to hold in mind that part of my enchantment may have had to do with issues of both space and time. space: the fact is that i've not really approximated any semblance of fluency in levantine arabic. and there's a distance that comes with that, a comfortable distance. what i mean to say is that there's a certain level of romance in which one can indulge when one cannot speak the language of the place one is living/visiting. time: unlike so many of my friends, not to mention my family, who live here, i will not likely end up living here for the rest of my life. i'm embarrassed to admit this, but i sometimes catch myself in these moments where their everyday frustrations become my little amusements. all that traffic? oh well, at least i get to catch a better, more evenly-paced view of the city. expensive flats? ha! not by american standards. slow internet? keeps from fucking around on facebook so much, God bless it.

and that's just it, isn't it? i live here, but it's more like an extended visit. and as much as i love the idea that i am doing fieldwork, that i am connecting and making friends....well, eventually i'll leave. and this makes me sad and ashamed.

but this moment today, in the cab. well, it was a crack at that shiny veneer beirut has always held for me. because i *am* getting better at the language, and so people's everyday conversations are becoming audibly legible to me. and with that audible legibility comes an intellectual legibility. and sometimes what i read there isn't pretty.

but maybe those unpretty - and yeah, those downright ugly moments - are where something beyond enchantment can happen, where connection lies. like i wrote about here: http://erininbeirut.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/snapshots-of-an-afternoon/ the context of the moment is being built up for me in different ways every single day.

anyway. i transcribed today, and in the 15 minutes i got through, so many interesting issues came up. tonight: art opening, hanging with roommates, going to hear a friend play in a bar just down the street.


[User Picture]From: starcruzer
2013-08-30 01:44 am (UTC)
Found your journal randomly. So far, wow.

What brought you to Beirut?
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[User Picture]From: tendertalons
2013-08-31 01:44 am (UTC)
wow. i was just inspired to pick back up on here today, and there was your comment. what a nice "welcome back." :)
i'm half-lebanese, and ended up, through many strange and happy turns-of-fate, figuring out a phd research project that would allow me to spend a lot of time in my ancestral country.
how did you find me? :)
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