Stories from Afar & Up Close

Filtering by Category: Lebanon

How can you tell…

… that you’re back in Beirut? It’s when you run into 11 people you know in the first 6 hours after leaving the house. It’s when you wake up from the sound of construction works and the smell of foul. It’s when you can have a cup of tea in a hidden place on the seaside. It’s when you walk past a bar called ‘Starbuzz’ that has all its TVs tuned to the ‘Fashion TV Arabia’ channel, including the one underneath the floor in the entrance.

It’s when you can’t think of anything else to do except go for lunch, go for coffee, go for dinner, and go for a drink – and you don’t even mind. It’s when you agree to meet people and they don’t show up, but it doesn’t matter because others do. It’s when you see an ad for ‘Philippina woman wanted to help 55 year old man in small house’ right above a poster for the weekly Filipina Disco; Sunday from noon to 7pm.

It’s when you wonder why everyone stares at you until you realize you’re the one sticking out again. It’s the sound of honking cars is louder than your own thoughts. It’s when you can satisfy your craving for both donuts and saj 24/7. It’s when there’s always someone saying ‘you didn’t eat enough, have some more’. It’s when you see a billboard for diet pills that promise to ‘cut the fat and burn the calories’ with free delivery, so you don’t need to move to get them.

Beirut, it’s good to be back (even if it’s only for a short while).

P.S. I have some trouble uploading pictures to my blog, but if you click on the light-blue parts of the sentences you will see examples of what I am talking about.

A phonecall from hell

My friend Iman, afraid that I might start missing (an idealized version of) Lebanon too much, forwarded me the following joke: Queen Elizabeth, Bill Clinton and the Lebanese president died and all went to hell. After spending a few weeks in de house of the devil, Queen Elizabeth says: “I miss England. I would like to call my country and see how everybody is doing there.” The devil hands her the phone. She calls and talks for about 5 minutes, hangs up and asks: “well, devil, how much do I owe you?” The devil answers: “5 million dollars.” “5 Million dollars?” She writes him a check and sits down on her chair.

Then Bill Clinton, a little jealous, gets up from the couch and says he, too wants to call his country and see how everybody is doing. He takes the phone and talks to the United States for about 2 minutes. Afterwards he asks: “well, devil, how much do I owe you?” To which the devil answers: “10 million dollars.” “10 million dollars?” He writes him a check and sits back down on the couch.

The Lebanese president gets extremely jealous; he wants to call his country too! “I want to see how everybody is doing!” he says, “I want to talk to the prime minister, to the deputies, I want to talk to Lebanon!” The devil hands him the phone and the Lebanese president talks and talks and talks, he is on the phone for almost 20 hours. When he hangs up, he asks: “well, devil, how much do I owe you?” To which the devil answers: “2 dollars.”

Queen Elizabeth and Bill Clinton jump up and scream “only 2 dollars?!?!”

“Well,” says the devil, “from hell to hell, it’s local!”