Sunday, August 29, 2010

Not stocking up for our move to Lebanon

For the past three years, our summer home leave has entailed a lot of shopping. It became pretty evident our first year in Cairo that clothes, toys, certain foods, such as some of our favorite spices, baking powder, good wine, cocoa powder, etc. were hard to – or sometimes even impossible – come by (at least to a price we could pay – anything is available in Cairo if you have infinite wealth). Our first summer back in the US we therefore bought all our wardrobes for the next year, all Christmas- and birthday presents, various food items, beauty products, electronics, and whatever else we knew we couldn’t get in Cairo or that we could get cheaper in the US. We did the same thing the next summer. For someone who doesn’t like to shop – me – this is not such an awful arrangement, because I can just work off my list, and then all my shopping for the year is over with, all within a few weeks; no stress before Christmas, no squeezing through crowds during sales, and no constant search for pants that fit. When soccer season starts, August’s new cleats are waiting in a closet. Christmas? Just get all the presents out and wrap them. New baby? Why, everything we need is in the dresser in the bedroom.

This summer, however, contrary to what has become almost an intuition, I haven’t stocked up. I’ve got a couple of things here and there (things I know I can only get here, or things I know from experience will be more expensive anywhere else in the world), but I don’t have full wardrobes for all the boys, and I don’t have a suitcase full of Christmas presents. I haven’t even bought candy canes. I don’t know what we’ll find in Lebanon, but we’ve decided to trust people that have told us it’s not like Cairo; that we will be able to get most things we might need. I hear there’s an H&M, a Spinney’s, and a Virgin Megastore. Add fruit and vegetable vendors, and we should be all set!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why in the world are we moving to Lebanon?

I'm Jenni; a mother of three boys, an editor, a professor's wife, and I’m in the process of moving from the American University in Cairo, Egypt, to the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Considering the time constraint and the circumstances, I would say we’re having a fairly smooth transition, so far. I would know, because I’ve done this before.

My husband and I never thought of ourselves as people seeking to live abroad. Our studies in Belgium were quite the hullabaloo by themselves. A country house with a pumpkin patch in the outskirts of a Midwestern university town was always where we thought we would find our happiness.

A little over three years ago however, we were presented with the option of moving from our (for-the-past-11-years) home in Leuven, Belgium to Cairo, Egypt. After much consideration, we took the shot. Why? might you ask, seeing that we are no globetrotters. You’ll find the answer to that question here.

Well then; now why Beirut? Practically, our prime motivations have been: 1/ cleaner air and more reliable living conditions, 2/ a secure, four year contract (we would only have another year at AUC before being brutally thrown out on the economically constrained job market, something that is quite scary with three boys to feed and a hefty, monthly student loan payment), and 3/ most importantly, academically it is a step up and a new interesting challenge for Courtney.

More than anything however; although that country house with a pumpkin patch might still be our dream one day, our life has unfolded differently, and we are, well, interested in these kinds of challenges. We are not moving to Beirut because it is something we always wanted, or because it is part of our grand plan to live around the world. We are certainly not moving there for wealth (in fact, we are taking quite a pay cut). We are moving because there was something about this specific opportunity that appealed to us. Lebanon – the work and the prospective life there - awakened our curiosity, and we decided that we want to see what is behind the door - door number three.