Until next week

Andrew (Boston, MA) and Caz (London, UK) at the “Solidère” development downtown Beirut

note: We’re going to the Cedars this weekend, so I most likely won’t be able to update until then.

Tomorrow after class (and after our test) my class (which consists of 4 people) will be going to the “Blue Note” Cafe with our professor (uustethz) Hisham.

My first whole night here, we went to the Blue Note and found it an absolute novelty: a Jazz bar in the heart of Beirut, with a Lebanese singer (named Shadi) singing to a room full of American students in Spanish (Santana’s “Oye Como Va”). It turns out that Hisham, now an American citizen is very good friends with the owner of the Blue Note, thus prompting the trip.

It’s very hard to describe life here, because it is so close to what I know, mixed with some of what I expected, some of Europe, and some things I never would have expected. I’ll leave it there for now as I am still trying to work out how to articulate it myself.

My fellow students are, for the most part, amazingly accomplished people in their own right, putting much of what I thought was exceptional about me to bed. We have a contingent representing Harvard, Columbia, McGill, Oxford, Boston U, University of Chicago, The Monterrey Defense Institute, Macalester, George Washington and the University of Minnesota among others. A slight majority of them are Graduate students, either pursuing an M.A. or a Ph.D in various fields, mostly having to do with either Middle Eastern Studies or International Relations.

But the most amazing thing about them is that they are very genuine people. Living with people constantly, eating with them, going to class with them, and just talking forces true character to the surface. I have been pleasantly surprised that, for as much as they have done, they don’t become intellectual snobs.

In response to some comments:

I know shiisha (narguileh) is bad for me, but then again, this is the Middle East. Not only is it (and has been forever) a featured part of culture, but if all this is going on around you, you learn that enjoying your time is what matters.

I will try to update this about once every couple of days. The problem though, is that schoolwork and time available is never uniform here: I could have a solid three days of homework where it would be impossible to write, and then go on a trip for the weekend. On a sidenote, I hope hope hope that the Damascus trip will end up working out: they just opened a second border between Lebanon and Syria which significantly augments the chances that we’ll go (which are still fairly small).
Great NYT article on a resurgent Damascus.
Comments really do help…there is an infinite amount of things to talk about, but I have to keep remembering that this isn’t a journal, it’s a publication…I want it to be entertaining, so please, leave me some feedback.

I should be getting a phone soon, I’m thinking about buying myself one as a birthday present…we’ll see. Don’t be surprised if some of you get a midnight (midday my time) phone call…who knows.



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