For those of you still following my trip blog, I do apologize for the delay. there is just such a finality to writing this post, and I honestly haven’t wanted to deal with it. While my post-fellowship plan includes extensive blogging of my trip research, this is really the last “Today we did X” kind of post, and it really does end the trip in some ways.
Originally planned for our last day in Beirut was a wrap-up session with the LRF and a farewell dinner at Le Péché. Through some discussion of our goals and some amazing flexibility on the part of the LRF, we were able to have several extra meetings, including meeting with Druze Princess Hayat Arslan, one of the coolest women I’ve ever met. Arslan met with us at her home in Aley, a beautiful mansion overlooking Beirut. It looks a little something like this:
Arslan and her two daughters spent about an hour and a half with us, discussing women’s place in politics in Lebanon. Currently, there are only four women in Parliament, which Arslan sees as a huge problem for equality. She proposes a quota system requiring a minimum of 30 women in Parliament at any given time. Without the quota, she argues, women will never have the opportunity to run for office effectively. Right now, the few women who do choose to run for office are often bullied out by a much stronger, better financed good-ol’-boy system. I’m honestly not quite sure how I feel about that. I can see both sides of the issue. I’m planning to do an election-related piece later on this blog when I’ve had more time to think about it.
I was also able to cross “make an idiot out of myself in front of a Princess” off my bucket list at Arslan’s house. Totally tripped and spilled tea all over her patio. Saved the china though. Go me.
ANYWHO, after that, we visited the Lebanese American University, who hosted us for a goodbye lunch of falafel, a tradition in their SINARC program. Our study visit escort, Linda Funsch, had helped start an Arab Women’s Studies a program at LAU, and it was really cool to go back with her after 30 years and meet with people she knew then. We also were able to interact with students in the summer Arabic program, talking about Model Arab League and our joint experiences in Beirut.
Originally we were then supposed to visit Shatilla, the Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. Unfortunately, we were not able to do more than drive by, but the sight was heartbreaking even from the street. Beirut is a city where the buildings are fairly close together, but nothing prepared me for the cube-shaped concrete apartments crammed together in Shatilla. As the camp was supposed to only be temporary, the land it is on cannot possibly accommodate its current numbers, and residents have had to build up, not out. I plan to do an entire post on Palestinians in Lebanon at some point, so more on this to follow.
After a marathon of packing and photo-swapping back at the hotel we left for our farewell dinner at Le Péché in Junieh. The restaurant was stunning, with a open air area overlooking the water, mountains, and city below. Dinner consisted of different types of fish, grilled calamari, mezze, dessert, wine and arak. We stayed far longer than I think any of us anticipated, enjoying our last night with our wonderful hosts.
We arrived back at the hotel near midnight with only an hour and a half to get back to the airport to depart. It was both exciting and sad to be going home, and I think we were honestly all pretty tired as well. I flew home with the same group of 6 I came over with. It was a completely different flight this time, with all of us knowing each other so much better than on the flight from DC.
In the coming weeks, I will continue to blog about Lebanon. I’ve only barely begun to think and process this wonderful study visit. This blog will continue to talk about Lebanon, and really anything else that pops into my head. Next on the agenda definitely is a post comparing the pros and cons of traveling with a laptop v. an iPad.