Monday, December 1, 2008

In Beirut

We arrived in the early morning, on Saturday. The flight was relatively short and of course the cabin life eventful. First a guy couldn't figure out how to make his six bags fit into an already overflowing overhead bin. Then he had a problem with his seat, insisting at least four times that someone else was in his seat. Another guy in the emergency exit would just not let go of his bag. "No man, I'm going to p-U-tit hear ahndrr my seat." The German steward was lost in trying to explain to the guy that he was in an emergency exit and that no bags allowed. The pilot kept talking about BAIRUT..."za temperatura im BAIRUT ist 17 degrez." Where the hell is BAIRUT I kept thinking?

Landing in Beirut reminded me of Abu Dhabi. Once in the terminal building, I felt relaxed. Everyone was nice and greeted us with "Welcome in Beirut." The visa process was speedy. Actually there was no visa process. The stamp guy took his time flipping through the pages of my passport, front to back and back to front. He didn't have a clue what passport I'd given him. Slavania, Slavonia, Slavakia, Rusiya, it didn't matter as long as it wasn't Israel, and as long as I had no Israeli stamps in it. When Paola gave him her Mexican passport, he got excited. "Welcome in Lebanon," and off we went. Our driver greeted us at the arrivals, with yes, "Welcome in Lebanon," and a limp handshake.

We got into his car, a '98 Mercedes S500. It looked very luxe, but as soon as the engines were on, I felt like I was on one of those propeller flights from Sarajevo to Zagreb. He paid his toll, gave the toll collector a "merci habibti" and off we went towards Lebanon "downtown." Thiz hear iz za palace of Prime Minister," he said. "You know Siniora?" Ya sure, I said, but I wanted to know more about Hariri. He is from Saudi. That's all he said. I guess he didn't really like him.

Today we got up late. Our hotel is on the waterfront, right next to the marina. Some of the yachts are unbelievably large. I don't understand why in the world someone would want to park their 20+ million toy in the marina in Beirut? What about security? Honestly, I was a little apprehensive coming in but spending the day on the streets of Beirut, I feel the city has a deep character. How would it not; like Sarajevo, it's been through a lot, hard times and good times. Beirut is calm now, but I wonder whether the power-sharing agreement recently brokered with the help of Bahrain will last beyond the next presidential election. We'll see in eight months. Today, streets are full with youth- some studying, others partying. We made a short stop on the AUB campus. It's a gorgeous site, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. We picked up our bibs and chips.

Tomorrow is the marathon. We're both running, for life against cancer. This one is for Sam; and for believing in life.

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