Tag Archives: Lebanon

Day 1 (June 23) – Live Achrafieh Festival

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Stage at the Live Achrafieh Festival. Sorry the pics are so awful.

Last night, our hosts surprised us with a special outing, just up the street from our hotel. A square in Achrafieh (our suburb of Beirut) had been closed to traffic, and a full stage/sound system/jumbotron system was set up for the Live Achrafieh Festival.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Years ago, I attended the Jerash Music Festival in Amman, so I suppose I was expecting something along those lines–everyone in an amphitheatre, little to no dancing…

I was completely wrong. It was such a loud, noisy, joyous event. Free concert aside, people of all generations were in the streets singing, dancing, and waving Lebanese flags.

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I can’t think of a concert would get a cross-generational attendance together in the same way in the States. Our group immediately integrated into the crowd, with many of our members dancing and interacting with people. I’ve got a short video here that really doesn’t do anything justice, but will give you a feel of the sounds of the concert.

The square in Achrafieh that the event was at has a memorial in honor of Bachir Gemayal, former Prime Minister of Lebanon assassinated in 1982. And yet, at this place commemorating such a sorrowful event, there was so much joy last night.

This type of event is part of why we are here on this fellowship. I think some people picture any sort of crowd in the Middle East as something violent, unstable, and unsafe. Throw flags into the mix, and you’ve got a horrible situation. And yet last night couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I’m sure I had a ridiculous grin on my face the entire night, just watching these people be so happy and joyous, enjoying their country’s music and showing pride in their home.

June 22 – Traveling Update

8:42 AM local time. I don’t have Wi-Fi situated very well yet, so updates may be few and far between at first. Managed to dash off a text to the family while on the airport’s wi-fi. I had expected immediate access at our hotel, but that has not occurred as planned, so hopefully someone disseminated the information to all y’all.

Landed in Beirut last night at 8:30 PM local time (1:30 EDT). I don’t intend make this a running advertisement for Turkish Airlines, but wow, were our flights nice! Flight 1 left Dulles at 11:30 PM and landed about 10 hours later. Two full meals of excellent food (salmon, cheesecake, mashed potatoes, stewed tomatoes and eggplant; a full breakfast of scrambled eggs, fruit, cheese). Excellent Turkish wine. Our 1.5 hour layover in Istanbul involved mostly walking and finding our terminal. Another 1.5 hour flight, where they fed us *again* (cheese/tomato/cucumber sandwich, salad, cherry pound cake), and we landed in Beirut.

We were met at the airport by Melkar El-Khoury, a representative from the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, our co-sponsor, who had arranged transportation to our hotel, the Hotel Alexandre.

All-in-all, I’m fine. We have orientation and a tour of the city today. I’m not terribly jet-lagged (landing when we did, I was able to immediately go to sleep and sleep 8 hours), but I am still pretty tired. I am very much looking forward to a pot of Turkish coffee this morning!

“A Country of Contradictions”

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LSF 2012 Participants with Ambassador Antoine Chedid at the Lebanese Embassy, Washington, DC

Sitting at Dulles, 9:13 PM EDT. Thought I’d get some thoughts down from today’s orientation at the National Council on US-Arab Relations.

It was a truly excellent day. The Council provided us the opportunity to speak with many individuals from all sides the US-Lebanese relationship. Meetings included a trip to the Lebanese Embassy, a meeting at Al Arabiya, a representative from the State Department, an individual from the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation (our co-sponsors), and other experts from the area.

It was incredibly awesome to reconnect with Josh, Dr. Anthony, and out of nowhere Mark, who had been the National Council Rep for MAL when I was a student, as well as a fellow Chief Justice of the ACJ. I have been connected with this organization since 2004, and I swear, I doubt I’ll ever *not* be involved with these programs.

There were so many themes woven throughout today, but the phrase I heard more often than not was that Lebanon is “a country of contractions.” In the same country, there are Shia, Sunni, Maronites, Roman Catholics, Jews, Druze; moderates, liberals, conservatives… All jumbled together in a democratically elected, Confessional government. It’s mindblowing.

My own research tends to look at personal status law, namely marriage, in Palestine and Israel. I had been wondering how much I would be able to look at this issue being in Lebanon, but judging form some of our conversations today, it seems that there will be a wealth of information in country.

I found it interesting that several of our speakers believed that Hezbollah is the most powerful non-state actor in the world. I suppose that makes a lot of sense, but I’d honestly never thought about it before. Hezbollah has a stronger military and far more missiles and weapons than many state militaries. And yet, Hezbollah’s popularity has gone way down since 2006, given their current support of Syria.

Speaking of Syria, another conversation turned to the role of the Arab League should any of the violence in Syria escalate or cause issues in Lebanon. The Arab League has changed dramatically in the last 18 months, for instance sending monitors into Syria from other Arab nations. For any of us who have done Model Arab League, the word “sovereignty” gets thrown around, you know that this is a big step for the Arab League. So the AL definitely has the ability to step in in some capacity, should Syria escalate further, based on this precedent. Then again, given the absolute slaughter that has happened so far in Syria, and given that the Charter of the League allows for the protection of all Arab people, the AL can easily have a leading role in the future.

So all-in-all, it was a wonderful, informative day. I have a cohort of fellow travelers that seem like so much fun, and I honestly can’t wait to stuff my face with Lebanese food. 9:58 PM EDT now. Boarding at 10:20; flying at 11:25. Insha’Allah, we will have a wonderful flight!

I’ll try to check in in Istanbul (layover). Otherwise, hellllooooooooo Beirut!

Prepping (But Not in a Zack Morris Kind of Way)

So much happening in the next few days. At work at the moment, but will be teaching a philosophy class at 11, then driving up to Baltimore to stay with my brother. Side adventure to Annapolis tomorrow to get the G key reattached to my Macbook. Then off to Target to buy all of the things left on the list…

Wednesday, I’ll head into DC to stay with my lovely friends J and B. Thursday is orientation, followed by my flight on Turkish Airlines at 11:30 PM EST.

I’m kind of nervous, but mostly in a “not knowing what to expect” kind of way. Packing was a new adventure in “omg I need this and this and this!” I do hope I have everything I need.

Sometime between now and Wednesday, I need to finish reading House of Stone. I’ll post my thoughts later.

Bye for now!

Getting Ready To Blog

I started this blog because it seemed like every class in my life last semester had some sort of requirement about it.  Now, with no assignments, I found my voice was gone.  Do I really have nothing to say?

Um, have you met me?

A month from now, insha’Allah, I will be in Beirut on a Lebanon Summer Fellowship  (cultural immersion/travel) sponsored by the National Council on US-Arab Relations.  My goal is to blog the entirety of the trip, from the pre-planning through my year following my return.  Part of the fellowship is that we share the knowledge we gain over our 10 days in Lebanon with our communities.  Well, with a blog, my community is anyone.

A few comments.  VT’s WordPress site does not work well on the iPad.  Creating links is a nightmare.  Edits are equally problematic.  I am using a Logitech keyboard I just got off Amazon to update this, and so far I really like it.

It is my goal to be constantly blogging and updating Twitter while I’m there.  Follow my hashtags on Twitter (#lebanon2012, #LSF2012) to keep up with me in real-ish time.

To be 100% honest, though, I may have to migrate to official WordPress if this is going to work.  This lack of editing could be a problem.