What I miss most about Lebanon (part I)

“When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but your childhood” Sam Ewing

I realized when thinking about the subject matter of this blog that it would have been much easier had I chosen the opposite title, “what I miss least about Lebanon”. That would have been quite concise as an article. Where to begin listing what one likes about one’s home. How do you quantify nostalgia for a place you spent your adult life running away from? How do you verbalize intense longing for streets where you ran as bullets ricocheted on your way to and from a shelter. Is it possible to have an intense feeling of loss when not living in a place where one saw death at a young age, senseless death of friends, in a war one understood nothing of, and lived through like a spectator forced to experience the whole drama. But that is not the part that springs to my mind when Lebanon is mentioned. I drift to thoughts of friendships, too strong to be waned by distance and time.

I think of the music, going out to dance, and then seriously and wholeheartedly dance till dawn, going for an after party breakfast before heading home, laughing and recounting the events of the night with a friend, and waking up a few hours later to go to work or university or whatever people do when they are not partying. Living life to the full was a fact we all accepted as the antidote to the horrors that were happening around us. You had to live it up, even if you died trying. A few of our friends did, die trying. I got kidnapped trying. With a group of friends, now scattered all over the world. They are forever my partners in that adventure, we cemented our friendship when we said goodbye to each other in that dark night in Beirut, battles raging around us, at a moment we were certain we were going to get shot. I appreciated that night what sheep must have felt when led to the slaughter. Not unlike us that night, they adopt a resigned attitude, they accept the eventuality of it all. I don’t miss that part of life in Beirut.

I miss the humanity that unites friends being kidnapped together and saying goodbye to each other, accepting the destiny that was to unite them. In a moment of survival instinct that night, I blew it. I went to one of our kidnappers, and asked him if he would let us three girls go free and take our two male friends instead. I didn’t think of what I was asking, I just wanted not to be raped by the horribly smelly men with beards who were threatening to kill us. My two friends who I offered as a hostage in our place remind me of what I said until now. One of them is still my best friend, and I love him dearly, but I could have lost him if the heavens did not intervene to keep the five of us together with the gruff men, who turned out to be after our money and jewelry at the end of the day.

with my cool bro, who takes me out to the best clubs in Lebanon

I loved my life in Beirut at all times, the good and the bad, the sense of recklessness that defined everything we did, defying death many times, and having a warped sense of who we were, and how oblivious we were to our insignificance in the grand scheme of things. How expandable we were back then, the very definition of collateral damage. I still miss Lebanon despite everything. There is more to reminisce about in future entries, but this experience came to mind tonight and had to be recounted. Maybe because I spoke to one of my kidnap adventure friends when I was recently in New York, and how happy I was to hear his voice. You rock, Arian Doc. Thanks for teasing me about my brainlessness that night, my humanity is strengthened each time we talk about it.

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6 Responses to What I miss most about Lebanon (part I)

  1. Mich says:

    It’s like reading my own experiences! It took me 20 years to go back after them, and now I can’t stay away and can’t wait to go back for good. It’s really a place you live life to the full, with the good and the bad, but mostly with people… it is the people who make all the difference 🙂

    • Brigitte says:

      So profound and so true. It’s the people who make all the difference, and the Lebanese despite all their quirks have got it. I don’t quite know what ‘it’ is, but they’ve got it nonetheless. Thanks for reading, Mich. Miss you xxx

  2. Youssef Bassim says:

    You reminded me of similar adventures in Beirut….I will never forget the rocket that hit my room (105) in Newman’s dorm when we were in the shelter…I will not forget Abou Abdou , the nick name we gave to the one who was daily loading that mortar in the nearby AlNahda playground…I will never forget when we were almost about to be kidnapped at one of the west Beirut Militias checkpoint until somebody came who was able to read our names in English on our AUB Id….I will not forget when a member of another west Beirut militia who was chasing me to teach me a lesson because I criticized his party and he hit my roommate instead by mistake… I will not forget when I was hit and threatened by shooting on my car by an army officer at Mathaf crossing just because I am from a specific town…I will not forget when I was called to AUB Emergency Room and saw pieces of dead bodies of President Mawad and his friends who were all my friends ; may their souls rest in peace …I will never forget running & hiding from snipers every time we had to pass the borders walking and carrying our luggage and we were so insistent to do it every week to go up to north and spend Saturday night at Magnum….I will never forget when the situation escalated and became so dangerous that we had to sleep in Diana Tamari Sabbagh Medical School Building in the same classroom where we used to take our lectures… I remember all these events with sadness and sorrow but I also remember Bliss Cocktail “cha2af”, and Manakich Afran AlWataniya next to it, also Flying Pizza, Blue Note, Uncle Sam, Universal Snack, Socrates & Faisal Restaurants, Marrouch chicken sandwich, I remember Tarte aux fraises from Candy that I used to bring every single day to my girlfriend at that time who is now my wife, I remember Malik who used to sell us photocopied quizzes on the stairs of the box office just beneath the campus cafeteria, I remember the open house in Vandyke and everything related to Vandyke!!!!…you can see that there are maybe some sad memories that reflected the atrocities at that time, but I cannot but miss Lebanon!!!…I cannot live being not Lebanese….every time I come back from a vacation from Lebanon I start counting the days for my next vacation…I cannot explain that magnetic effect of Lebanon on us which is also clearly seen in your blog and in the mind and heart of every Lebanese….
    I always refer to that quote “So live that your memories will be part of your happiness” when I remember sad memories. I thank you Brigitte for bringing back old memories of Beirut and looking forward to read your part II…
    For that anonymous person, ahahah really I agree with Brigitte that you’ve got to be careful for what you wish !!!!!

    • brigittekm1 says:

      Thanks, Doc. you bring back a lot of memories yourself, about the shelling of our dorm rooms with mortars, and the insistence with which we crossed that green line despite the snipers. I was invited to an alumni event in AUB in May. It was amazing how memories were rushing by on every corner while walking the streets around the University, and going on campus. Malik, the Yemeni photocopy guy has an establishment as large as a Kinko’s copies across from the main gate, the cocktail joint in Bliss street is newly decorated, flying pizza is not longer there, it was like walking back in time, strolling slowly and remembering the panic at the beginning of each shelling episodes when those that are in charge in the country now used to terrorize the citizens of that country with their militias and their death machines. I was laughing out loud when our speaker of the house, Berri, the war lord par excellence asked that we go into a civil state, abolishing confessionalism in our system of governance. That was rich, especially that his group is armed to the wazoo while the other religious groups are not, a great formula to start negotiating, with the gun on the table.
      My memories of Lebanon are not all bad, and not all good, but they are passionate and that mix of both is what makes them real and makes them ours.
      Thanks again for commenting.

  3. Anonymous says:

    wow brigitte i want to sit down with you one day and just listen to you talk…

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