1 Some sounds.
During both of my flights I listened to what sounded like a chorus of pissed off babies. Driving to Beirut from the airport, I listened to a milder form of that fitful car honking I would often hear in Cairo. A few minutes ago I was listening to an actual catfight, and moments before that I heard, from a distance, call to prayer.
I heard my favorite Nina Simone song playing in the background at a Beirut bar. As I was speaking with a woman I had just met, the lyrics “Do what you gotta do, come on back see me when you can” played from speakers. Oh, rejoice! I’d been listening to this song back to back for the past month; many people can vouch for this fact. Nina Simone? Do what you gotta do? Beirut? I’m in the right place.
2 No need for a cup of coffee, I had a full night sleep.
I’ve been apartment hunting all day. A woman named Leila brought me to the property she’s looking to rent out. We met outside the Starbucks on Hamra Street (a street full of cafes, clothing shops and booksellers). She is a French lit. professor, we had a nice conversation about her work and then the housing market in Beirut, not cheap. Anyway, I loved the space: big glass windows that slid open, washer, no carpets and cute furniture. And, to be vague, it had a good energy. But, surprise! I can’t afford Leila’s apartment (and thus am looking for a roommate to split the cost with). More significantly, many people who are actually from Beirut can no longer afford to live here. Few jobs, little money, no housing. In other words, I’m getting acquainted with the financial privileges I have being an American tourist in Lebanon.
3 Falling asleep after sunset, staying asleep after sunrise.
I woke up wishing I had a full night of sleep directly ahead of me, mostly because I had actually woken up six hours before my alarm.The culprit that kept me awake: a mix of jet lag and apartment obsessing. Once my alarm did go off, I pulled myself together, left Iman’s apartment (Iman is from Seeds of Peace, she’s letting me stay for a week), and shuffled down the street looking for the Chammas apartment building (to look at a studio). The owner told me that I would find the building “Right next to Socrates restaurant.” Alas, I did not. After asking many people for directions, in English and broken Arabic, I found a woman who knew exactly where to point me… three blocks away. I visited and concluded that the first apartment was better. Then off to another spot, “Residence Diane.” As I was walking, I kept seeing people on the street looking just the way I do, baggy eyed and irritable. We should have all known that the other couldn’t sleep last night, texting one another at 3am to provide encouragement…“Fall asleep before sunrise, you can do it! Yalla!”
Anyhow: The entrance to “Residence Diane” was marble. And inside, even more marble. It was too nice for my price range, so I smiled at the concierge and turned right back around to the street. While continuing my part of the insomniac shuffle, I found myself in good company as I passed a cute round kitten with a big furry head. I really wanted to scoop it up and take it with me.
OH WOW! The electricity just shut off. Not enough energy to run the entire city at once and so there are rotating three-hour power cuts 24/7. Maybe Obama should try that in the U.S., I’d really like to see people running out into the street shaking their Snuggie covered fists at the sky because their television sets/treadmills/microwaves suddenly became temporarily unavailable.
4 Oh! Hello great sea!
At some point this weekend I took a wrong turn walking around the neighborhood and ended up at the foot of the Mediterranean. Knocked out of my sleepless insensibility, a rush of thoughts like “OH! THIS IS INSANE,” “I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M HERE,” “#@!#$^*#” came over me.
I’m wicked excited.
5 circadian blues
“While the body’s ‘master clock’ is centered in the hypothalamus, different parts of the body adjust to time-zone changes at different rates — with the kidneys, stomach and other organs lagging behind the brain.
‘Jet lag isn’t [merely] a lag between you and the outside world; instead, it’s a lag between different parts of your body,’ explains Thomas Wehr, chief of the biological rhythms section at the National Institute of Mental Health. ‘If you’re flying east to Europe, your brain could be in Ireland, and your liver could be in Iceland, so things are not cycling in sync with each other.'”