My dear college friend moved to Lebanon with her husband about a year and a half ago, and I told myself that if I wanted to go to Lebanon, now was the time. I wasn't sure of what to expect, as I had been conditioned somewhere along the way to be a bit wary of this country, and probably with good reason. I read the news about it obsessively before I bought my plane ticket, but never after that.
Lebanon is full of contradictions and surprises. From the super-polite passport controller who told me I would not be allowed to enter the country without my friend's address, then walked with me to the waiting area so he could get it from her, to the traffic (I'll get to that in another story), to the checkpoints on the highways, to the mosque beside the church just a few blocks from a bombed out hotel, even when you're there it's hard to know what to expect.
"Oh, come on, Lebanon," Francis says as we sit in a traffic lane that is meant for cars turning left AND going straight, as the cars honked behind us (they wanted to turn, we wanted to go straight) and a traffic cop directed us into the intersection to get in front of a car in the going-straight-only lane.
"You just got Lebanoned!" Laura cackles as we answer the hotel door only to be handed a fruit plate at 9:00 pm. "Is this common in Lebanon?" I ask, having never been at a hotel where a fruit plate is delivered before bed anywhere in the world. "It's never happened before," Francis says, and Laura agrees -- and they've stayed in numerous hotels in Lebanon, including a previous visit to that one.
"Good morning, Lebanon," Francis sighs as the electricity flickers off for about 20 seconds. Again.
You got Lebanoned. It's a phrase that was repeated at least once a day during my time there, but always with the deep affection of ex-pats still bewildered by the place they're learning to call home.