Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween in Beirut, 2010

We found out from other families that there isn’t really any organized trick or treating here. Apparently there was a few years back around the faculty housing apartments, but it got so out of hand that now the guards don’t allow people to do it. So instead of trick or treating, we made it a special day for the boys. We had a fun Halloween lunch. I made busted eyeballs (eggs) and ghost toast, among other things. While we were having lunch we noticed two hearses pull up in the alley behind our house by the hospital, and two coffins were brought out and placed in the cars, that soon after left again. The boys watched, interested, bewildered, and wondered if it was a Halloween stunt; although it most certainly was not, it was definitely a seasonal coincidence.

In the afternoon we took the boys to the Michel El Murr stadium to play laser tag with their friends. For 25,000LL per boy per hour, they got to wear glow-in-the-dark laser gear with a laser gun, divide into teams, and run around in a dark room with padded walls and fight battles, shooting at each other (I know; my boys thought they had died and gone to boy-heaven!). When an orange player hit a green player, it registered on the score keeping board on the wall. It was nicely organized, and there was always a guy on the room with the kids to help them figure out the game. As you can imagine, my boys had an absolute blast! When we got home they ate the candy I had got them while watching “A Nightmare Before Christmas,” and we had dinner and cake. It wasn’t your regular hallows eve, but everyone had a good day.

Tomorrow, All Saints Day, we will go through our books on Saints, as well as remember our passed loved ones. If we were in Sweden we would go to the cemetery and put candles out on my father’s and grandparents’ graves. I always enjoyed it when I was little – in the evening the cemetery would look like an ocean of lit candles, flickering in the dark, crisp cold fall night, representing all the dead and their souls, ascended. Here in Beirut, far away, we’ll light a candle after dinner, and send a special thought.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Making friends in a new place; on friendships in general

This afternoon I went to a new friend’s house with the boys. My friend has four boys in the approximate age range of my boys, and they’ve played together at the playground or at sports thus far. This was the first time we went to their house though, and my boys were really excited about the visit. As was I. My friend is one of the people I’ve met at the playground who has been helpful and kind, and who seems to have similar ideas about child care; nursing, etc. and so I’ve been looking forward to talking to her beyond the usual playground chit-chat. It has been a while since I spent time with a friend – any friend, really - and it was great just to hang out with someone. I love my husband, we’re best friends, but I find female friends important as well, and these past months have been absolutely and completely female-friendless. It was a great afternoon, and the boys and I, all, had a good time.

When I think about friendships, I someimes envy the people I went to school with who stayed in our hometown. My big brother for example, stayed, married his high school sweetheart, and they went on to have kids, build a house, work a career, start a business – everything – along with their childhood friends who also stayed. Now their kids are grown, have left home, and they do things together again as good old friends. My brother’s best friend at the age of almost 50 is one of his best friends from school. That’s a long, lasting friendship.

I have good friends from school, friends that I grew up with that I stay in touch with, but we live thousands of miles apart, and I only see most of them every so many years. When we meet up, it’s like time never passed; there’s no awkward catching up. We just continue as great friends regardless that we live separate lives on separate ends of the globe. But that’s the thing though; we don’t get those everyday moments together. These are good friends for life, but you need something else as well; you need friends to share your everyday life with.

As a foreigner in a community, I find, you can form very close friendships with people over a shorter time, because you share a certain setting or experience, and you end up spending a lot of time together. There has to be a certain chemistry too, of course, but these are major factors. Throughout our years in Belgium, because we were so close to other couples in our situation (as graduate students in child bearing years, to put it bluntly), and because everyone’s families were so far away, we spent every holiday, occasion, pregnancy, birth, birthday, party, illness, good day, bad day - through sickness and sin - together, and we’re tied together for life by this certain bond. These are really close friends, and the knowledge that even though we are very far apart, we’re living the same, almost parallel, life, keeps up close, always. I miss these friends, scattered across the globe, every day.

So here we are in a new country, and we’re trying to make new friends; find people that we can share our everyday life with. It’s hard. Maybe because I’m older, or because we know by experience that it’s hard to find good friends. It’s harder here than in Cairo because there are no social set-ups like the ones we went through there, where the faculty services basically acted match makers. Here, because of the lack of faculty housing, we also live separated from other faculty families, and it seems like most everyone is settled. It takes time, and effort, emotional investments, and it’s hard work. Today though, I made progress, and it felt good. To friendship!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Midweek reflections - October 2010

…on the weather (always my favorite subject!)
It has cooled down a bit since last week, although it’s still definitely shorts & t-shirt weather, as well as humid. Courtney doesn’t come home from work drenched in sweat any more though. I keep wondering how cold it will get in the winter. When we lived in Cairo our neighbors kept telling us “Oh, you just wait! It will get COLD!!” and then it never did. (Only later did we realize that they were from California, and probably had a different perception of what signifies cold weather.) Here I’ve noticed they’re selling winter coats at H&M, and boots, hats, mitts and scarves in the stores, which seems to indicate that it will get cold. I guess I’m about to find out.
…on the city
I’ve been venturing out a bit more with the kids. If I want to go into any stores I’ve learned not to bring the stroller. All grocery stores have several floors without a lift, and in most other stores there’s simply not enough room for a stroller. Since we’re close to most stores though, it’s all right for Abraham to walk. The sidewalks are good (enough), and if we’re going to campus, we’ll take the stroller. We’ve discovered that we can walk through the Medical Center and avoid the busy traffic on Souraty street. Campus makes for a nice green haven, and the boys love going there.
…on the people
I’m still trying to figure out the Lebanese people. Some are so friendly and generous, but then we run into others, such as the taxi driver the other day, who thinks it’s perfectly all right to steal from us. The other day Courtney went to buy roasted chestnuts from the man on the corner, having watched many a Lebanese men and women do it before, and had estimated the price from having watched several prior transactions. The man gave Courtney a small bag with obviously some of his less nice chestnuts, and asked for an amount that tripled that of the regular. And it wasn’t that playful beginning-price you would start off with in Cairo at the souk (to bargain around); it was obviously what the man thought Courtney should pay. Why did he think that it was OK for him to rip Courtney off? Honesty was such an important feature in the Muslim society in Cairo (I'm not saying Christians are thieves, but there's something to notice in Egypt; be it terror or whatever that keeps crime away); although everyone enjoyed a long and sometimes feisty argument over a price, there was never a feeling of dishonesty or mistrust. Is it the class system? Is there a difference between the religious groups? Is it cultural?
…on our home
Because our house is so big it’s hard to keep clean. By the time I’ve managed to get through the entire house tidying, cleaning the floors, or finishing the laundry, I have to start all over again. I’ve been thinking about making daily chore lists, but Courtney is so busy right now with finishing his book, working on his classes, and preparing for his trips this fall, that I don’t want to burden his mind any further. I know he wants to help, but the way his brain works, even when we have ‘cleaning time’ he ends up following me around the house talking, while I work. The boys will work under direct threat or with an extraordinary and instant reward awaiting them. People keep telling me to get a maid, but we have this idea of privacy that is not quite compatible with a stranger spending hours on end in our home. I’m open to solutions!
…on family
We’ve been spending a lot of time together since, well, pretty much since the beginning of the summer, and with very few friends right now, we end up spending practically all our time together, doing whatever needs or wants to be done as a family; grocery shopping, errands, playing, going to the movies, sports, etc. Luckily it hasn’t worn us out, and the boys still play really well together (as do Courtney and I, ha, ha). We miss our extended family though, of course.
…towards an education
The boys started learning French this week with a real, native speaker tutor. I am excited to have them learn something well without having to be the only one there to teach them. Not that I don’t enjoy teaching them other things – I love homeschooling - but after Math, English, Science, Music, Art, History, Geography, Latin and everything else we do that has to be done, I’m glad that someone else, competent, is able to inspire the boys for a while.
…on the past
We miss our friends and family, probably more now that the holidays are approaching; we think of parties we threw or went to in the past, and the yearly traditions we developed first in Belgium, and then in Egypt. When moving to a new country I find we always have to create new traditions and rituals, and for some reason this does not quite seem to compute with the idea of a holiday; isn’t it supposed to be ALL about friends, family, and tradition? Well; no, I’ve concluded, because we always find the spirit to create new customs with different people and strange foods in a new place, regardless, and I’m confident we will this time around as well. Still, I always get a little sentimental this time of the year: I loved the Halloween festival at CAC in Cairo and I’m sad we won’t be there this year. I remember our last Thanksgiving in Leuven so well; we had dinner with our good friends, as every Thanksgiving for the past five or so years. We toasted to the words “This is probably our last Thanksgiving together here in Leuven,” knowing that, as our studies were coming to an end, we were all getting ready to move on, away from Belgium. I will always think back with joy at Sinterklaas celebrations at Sancta Maria and in Alma. I wish I could visit the Kerstmarkt in Leuven, and there’s nothing more awesome than standing in a dark, open, moon-lit, crisp freezing, snow covered field in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Sweden, nostrils freezing, and hear the faint ringing of church bells in the distance, along with fireworks, marking the beginning of a New Year. Should old acquaintance be forgot? Oh dear, I had better stop here.
…on the future
On the same note, we’re excited to celebrate the upcoming holidays for the first time in our new home country. We don’t know yet what we will do this weekend, but hopefully we can get the boys together with other children and do something fun. We decorated our house today, and Abraham enjoyed playing with all the little “mon-yuh” [monsters] the boys put out. Whatever we do we’ll still dress up. The boys have been more excited to come up with a costume for Abraham this year than for themselves. At first they seemed to assume that he would be a skeleton again this year as last, but since I pointed out that he has way grown out of that baby suit, they’ve been plotting Abraham’s costume. Especially the idea of his little body wrapped in a robe, topped off with a Yoda mask, light saber in hand, is really amusing to them. We’ll see what we can find.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We found a good bookstore in Hamra

On Monday I took the boys to the bookstore August got a gift certificate for on his birthday from one of his friends. It’s called Antoine and is not far from our house, on Hamra Street. It’s a nice, big bookstore, with lots of schoolbooks. August picked out a few Jack & Annie books (The Magic Treehouse) and the rest of us looked around. Because Abraham has not been well we couldn’t stay as long as I might have wanted, but it was still nice to explore the city a little and find such a treasure. We’ll definitely be back again!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Going to the movies in Beirut

Today we went to the movies for the first time in Beirut. We have been planning it for a while, since we live just a few minute’s walk from a movie theater. Today though, it turned out the movie we had planned to see didn’t play at “our” movie theater, so we took a taxi to Sodeco Square, about a ten minute drive from our house. The taxi driver who took us there though took *the long* way (meaning, he drove way out of the way to get there), obviously in an attempt to rip us off, and when we finally got there, he wanted $10 for the ride, which would cost anyone else not-so-fair-skinned half that price. This is not the first time we’ve been discriminated against because of our skin color here, and it’s really annoying. Anywhere in the world, done to anyone.

We got our tickets (LL14000/person) and looked around the mini-mall that surrounds the movie theater, which seemed to be catered to kids; caf├ęs serving marshmallow cakes, candy shops, and toy stores. We got some candy at a small shop, but then when we got into the actually movie theater regretted it, because they had a perfectly nice concession stand with free refills on popcorn for LL4000.

The theater was small but nice, and the 3-D glasses were nicer than the ones we got in the States. We had great seats right in the middle of the theater. Our movie, Legends of the Guardians, was all right. Just perfect for the boys, who truly enjoyed every moment of it.

On the way home we got a taxi driver who drove us straight home and didn’t try to rip us off. A good ending to a nice outing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To you, oh annoying driver, who repeatedly asked me "taxi? taxi?!" yesterday

La-a shukran!! No, I DON’T need a taxi right now, thanks. In fact, your car isn’t really a taxi, is it? It doesn’t have an official plate or a sign on the roof. And curiously, I’m not considering getting into a random car with a strange, large man driving just today, thank you. I’m sorry but I have this odd idea that it might not be a good thing to do. In addition, as you might have noticed if you had not been so busy honking at me over and over again, I am getting my badge out as I am five yards from the AUB gate, and about to enter. This is why I was waiting for you to pass so that I could get across the street and onto campus. Yes, when you slowed down, honking loudly, blocking my way to ask me if I wanted a taxi. It was obvious that I was looking to cross the street, yet there you were. So thanks, but no thanks.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On the mistakes you make…

…when you are not paying attention in a new country.

We had just got back from our weekly, big grocery shopping at TSC when I realized we had no milk, and that I had completely forgotten to buy milk at TSC. So I took a boy with me, I forgot which one, and ran over to Idriss. Just as we got there, they closed and locked the last gate. Now what? We are a family that cannot go without milk for more than a few hours. I asked the guys that were closing up, and they told me there was a night shop just a block away. There, I didn’t see any milk however. I interrupted the cashier who was involved in a very engaging and long phone conversation, to ask for milk – a word I know very well in Arabic - and he, annoyed, got four little bottle out for me. Not quite what I was looking for, but it would have to do for now. All the while, the boy I had brought is continuously asking for this or that treat, and the baby that I was carrying and hadn’t even realized I was carrying until he started trying to get into anything within reach at the tiny night shop, started whining. So I grabbed the bottles and headed home.

While putting the bottles in the fridge, I opened one and had a swig. Eeeeuuuuhh! “That’s not milk!” I announced. Goodness. How could I not have noticed?

Turns out I had got four bottles of that disgusting yogurt drink the Lebanese drink continuously throughout the day. It tastes sort of like Activia only it’s salty (Why?!). Yuck!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Labels - Funny English in Lebanon #2

I got these labels for spice jars that I bought at the "dollar store" here in Hamra. Since most spices come in plastic bags and will get all over your spice cabinet while you're looking through them, I bought little jars and labels.

Looking more closely at the labels today; I was sniffing the spices and trying to decided what to write on the label, I noticed some interesting things. What exactly is a "Glutinous Label?" Are they referring to gluten? Or have they misspelled the word "gluttonous?"

Moreover, "may stick on anything at will" certainly sounds like a warning to me. I'm glad they put that on there, prompting me to be more cautious while handling the labels.

Courtney made a profane joke about the "the goods need cleaning" part.

Under the heading "Household utensil..." the picture looks to be based on a Miro or Picasso when it comes to perspective.

Lastly, notice the heading involving hospital equipment. I'm glad they found a use for a semi-colon somewhere in the middle there, without spaces or anything. It's really what had me sold.

Settling in is a lot of work!

Time is passing by so quickly this fall. Between trying to process all the new impressions, and everything else that comes with moving to a completely new place, we’ve dealt with bad tummies for a while now. It seems to go up and down, although over this past week, most everyone has got better. Hopefully this is the last of it.

I remember having this very same feeling that I have now when we first moved to Egypt three years ago. While trying to get into everything from sports activities, schoolwork, and establishing a routine, to making friends and finding a good grocery store, we were continuously hit by diversions, like birthday parties, Halloween, Thanksgiving, sicknesses, trips, any other special occasion, etc. I felt like our finding our way in our new country was disrupted over and over again, and I was frustrated. Yet in the end, what happened of course was that all those challenges I was faced with, like trying to find a good pharmacy, an understanding, English-speaking doctor, even turkey in a strange country, are what helped me get completely settled. Knowing this now, I’m not as stressed out as I was then, although it doesn’t lessen the actual work. I still have to find a place to get a turkey. I’m still looking for a good toy store, a pork vendor, a place to buy Christmas ornaments, and a good way to get our gym time in. I’m also still looking for a good baby sitter, and it’s getting a bit pressing now that Courtney has E-tickets printed out for his two trips this fall. Do you know anyone?

The things that we need

When we moved from Cairo to Beirut we had to make some hard decisions on what to take and what to leave behind. Firstly, we didn’t have a very large shipping allowance, and paying extra to ship things was just out of the question. Secondly, Lebanon, as Egypt, has very strict customs regulations, and as much as I wanted to bring my vacuum cleaner, beaters, my food processor, and our DVD player, it was simply not possible.

Packing was difficult. Giving things away was, at least, rewarding. In the end, it all went fairly well. This post is not about our move though; it’s about things.

What is interesting when you are forced to pick and choose among things you keep in your household is that it makes you decide what you really need, or what you cannot live without. Some things that we got rid of we knew we would want to – and just as important; would be able to - buy as soon as we got here; like an iron, beaters, pots and pans, towels, plates, cups, glasses, kitchen utensils, etc. Some things we made sure to bring with us because we knew from experience or suspected they might be hard to find, like a Swedish potato peeler, a ricer, our amazing bottle opener, measuring cups, and our water pick, etc. Some things we decided we would buy here because they make our lives so much easier and more effective, like a dryer and a microwave oven. We actually didn’t have a microwave oven in Cairo, because when we got there I didn’t think it would be necessary, and then when I started realizing that we would do better with one, we were closer to leaving than coming, and I didn’t want to spend the money. Here in Beirut I bought one within our first few days, and it is totally worth the money. We eat a lot more leftovers, saving lots of money on food, and cooking is easier and involves fewer dishes, which saves time. Many people think a dryer is unnecessary, but there’s no way I am hanging up 15 pairs of little boys’ underwear, 21 or more sets of socks, 22-30 pairs of pants or shorts, and closer to 30 boys’ shirts every week (that’s all on top of Courtney’s and my clothes), so we bought a dryer within our first week. It has been running ever since. We also bought a coffee maker. Only Courtney drinks coffee, so in Egypt he didn’t feel justified to spend money on an expensive machine. After three years of using the French press however, he put down his foot; brewed coffee is just so much better. SO we got him a coffee pot. It too, has been running ever since.

What was left behind? Our huge television; we can definitely live well without it. A lot of boys’ clothes and toys; some I would have liked to keep for Abraham, like the boys’ bikes, but I know it will be a while before he’ll want to get on a bike, and wherever we live then, I’m sure we can get a new bike. We left our large set of IVAR shelves. It had been with me since I left home for college in the beginning of the 90’s, and when we moved to Cairo I simply couldn’t part with it. For our move to Beirut, however, we decided we could use the kilos on something better. Surely they much have cheap bookshelves in Beirut! Ha! Boy, were we wrong! We wish we had kept that one!

What would you bring with you? What can you not live without?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mosquitoes in Beirut?

Since it started cooling down a bit, we’ve started using our large balcony a bit more. Last night Courtney sat out there for his Skype call with a colleague in the US. They are working on a book together, and as the deadline is drawing near, they need to go through all the edits. Not only is it nice to be able to sit outside on a cool late-summer night, but also, connecting through the university network, our internet reception is optimal out there.

At first I was skeptical about spending our evenings outside on the balcony, because I can’t stand mosquitoes. I am very sensitive, and get giant bites that itch terribly for months. Even after I've scratched so much and so hard they've turned into open wounds, then scabs, then scars, and finally healed completely; even then, they will occasionally itch. But then, over these past few days I’ve noticed; there are no mosquitoes. How is that possible? We’re right by the sea. Do they spray the city? I wonder, and will have to investigate. Why are there no mosquitoes in Hamra?

August's birthday cake; made by two young boys

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Celebrating our first birthday in Beirut

Today was our oldest son’s birthday. He turned nine years old. Nine?! It's strange to think that it was nine years ago Dr. Schroyens pulled a little cone shaped head out of my body, changing our life forever.

We got a couple of gifts for our boy in the US this summer before we came to Lebanon, and I’m glad, because not having explored the shopping possibilities here yet, I wouldn’t really have known where to go. He was very happy with what he got: Bionicles, Pokemon, and Bakugan. I have a feeling we’re starting to move out of the toy phase, but for this year, he was still easy to satisfy. I wonder what comes next.

To celebrate, we had invited some of his new friends here in Beirut. For a couple of hours this evening, our house was filled with boys; hamburger eating, cake eating, Nerf gun shooting, wrestling, screaming and yelling boys. They all had a blast. I chatted with the moms, and it was nice to finally have someone over at our new house.

Next major event, lurking around the corner: Halloween. I wonder if or how it is celebrated here in Beirut.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

...and thus commenceth our common life in Beirut.

We spent our first week in Beirut waiting to find and then move into our own apartment. Then we spent another almost two weeks waiting to get our shipment. The day after it arrived, we all got food poisoning, and so we spent this past week recovering, while waiting for our bookshelves, and trying to sort out the house. I feel like our first month here in Beirut was spent in limbo; we waited at the mercy of some uncontrollable force, unable to make plans or take charge.
Tonight our house is tidy, most of our books are on shelves, and nobody has thrown up since yesterday. Our cabinets and fridge are not full, but contain enough food to last us a few days. We have everything here that we need to start our normal life.
What is that? What kind of life is it that we want to be leading here? I have been reading books, articles, and my favorite blogs to get inspiration; how to organize our time and effort, and what to prioritize. I have thought about our goals and aspiration, and what we need to do to achieve what we want. The professor and I have talked about everything; are continuously discussing what our direction is. It’s difficult, fun, scary, and exciting to think about these things, but very refreshing.
For the boys’ well-being and school matters, our most pressing and one of the most important issues at the moment, I still need to finish last years’ report cards and write out the curricula for this year, but the boys have already started their academic work for this semester, and are doing well. We have been debating the possibility of putting them in school, mainly for economical (homeschooling is straining our budget) and social reasons, but they are thriving so nicely, that we’ll continue with our home education for now. This week the boys will start a couple of new sports activities at the AUB campus, and hopefully with a house that is in order, we can give our family’s social life a push, starting with a small party to celebrate August’s birthday on Tuesday.
As for everything else; I need a little more time before I can write out exactly what it is that we are doing here. I know my list will contain a lot of exercise and outdoor exploration, as well as learning and reading. There are things I want to do, things our family can do, and whatever comes first and we end up doing, we are all excited about our new life here in Beirut.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Finding affordable bookshelves in Hamra

It took a lot of searching, asking around, walking, and discussing to finally find affordable bookshelves for our apartment here in Beirut. We asked our employer’s carpenter, who offered to make us shelves for an astronomical amount. We looked in a few furniture shops where the prices where even higher. Finally, a colleague of the professor told us to go on, and there we found the cheapest shelves so far. We could order them online, they were delivered to our home within a week, and we paid after they had been installed. Awesome!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Funny English in Lebanon

We went shopping today at Idriss, and got a lot of things. We're still stocking up on thing our cabinets usually contains, and today we got one step closer to a complete kitchen. When we got home I noticed however that I had made one small mistake:

I had meant to buy the TASTIEST Burger Bun Ever! Now we were stuck with the slightly lesser "Tastier Burger Bun Ever." Sigh.

Recovering from food poisoning

It has been five days since our devastating meal at Roadster Diner, and we’ve somewhat recovered. The boys are still in need of absolute proximity to a bathroom, but after about a day and a half, at least our fevers broke and the aches went away. What remains is diarrhea. Once that’s gone, well be able to go to the playground, and everywhere else, again. I can’t wait for this family to get healthy!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Roadster Diner on Hamra Street - never again!

Yesterday we went to have dinner at Roadster Diner on Hamra Street. We didn’t mean to, but we were out looking for shelves before going to the grocery store, and the timing was bad. Everyone got really hungry, and nobody was going to last through the shopping. So, we decided to try out the restaurant. Free refills on drinks, if nothing else, sounded enticing too, in the heat.

We all had Buffalo BBQ chicken wings for an appetizer, which was tasty, and for a main course Courtney had the chicken burger, and the boys and I had the classic burger. Courtney ended up eating part of August's burger. Abraham only ate the fries. The food was nowhere near as good as the diner type food we had a Crepeaway a few weeks ago. The cole slaw was too salty, the burgers were hard, and nothing special. They even had a slightly funny taste to them. The service was really bad as well. They announce free refills on drinks, but there was never a waiter around to ask, so we really couldn’t take advantage of it. When we finally got someone, they acted annoyed. All on all, it was a bad experience, especially taking into account that it was very expensive. Everything was extra, and overprized.

Oh well, we thought, we’ll just never go back there again. Right, we won’t! Around 3 am I woke up with horrible stomach cramps and a high fever: chills, diarrhea, and nausea. When I went to the bathroom I noticed that William was on another toilet, with the same thing. Soon thereafter, August got up. It was a night from hell, with everyone running back and forth to the bathroom, drinking water to try to keep the fever down. It’s all in a haze now; it’s 5 pm and I just managed to crawl out of bed. The house is a wreck since we got our shipment, and everyone is just sitting around sick. Misery.

Only poor Abraham (who didn’t have any of the burger) hasn’t shown any symptoms and hopefully it will stay that way.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Our shipment!

We called and called, begged, pleaded, threatened, cried; we tried everything, yet our shipment was simply not coming. Not only did we end up waiting over two weeks for it, but we were continuously given false hope. “It will probably be delivered today,” we heard for days, waiting, staying at home keeping by the phone, and then, “Sorry, not today, but probably tomorrow.”

Then on Friday afternoon while at soccer, I got a call from a man saying he would be delivering 30 boxes to our house within an hour. By now, I had heard “Wolf” so many times however, that I couldn’t entirely believe him, although it sure sounded more positive than any other phone call we had got, so I went home. Two hours later I had almost given up hope, when it suddenly arrived. There they were, our boxes that we last saw in Cairo mid-August. They looked like they had been through a lot; some of them were coated in an oily substance, and most of them were so beat up they literally just fell apart when the men put them down. Some boxes had been opened, and virtually all of the boxes were put upside down. But they were all there, and we all started opening them as they entered the house, like Christmas. "My Darth Maul!” and “Ahhh, my Groundworks, how have you been?” Abraham’s high chair, his bed, my cups and tea pot, the boys’ toys, our pictures, sheets and blankets, our books; our dear personal belongings had finally arrived. Home, sweet home!

Retail rents in Beirut

Confirming my point the other day, this article talks about retail rents in Beirut...