One day has passed since my arrival. After longing to return to Lebanon ever since Valentine's Day of 2005, I am finally back. I have to admit; I hadn't announced my return earlier because I was afraid. I was afraid that with all the bombings and all the talk about "uncontrollable security services" (which even I contributed to), something would happen to me at the airport. I would be pulled over to the side and made aware through unpleasant means that my words in this blog were not welcome and forbidden.
Could this have been a bit egotistical of me? Was I assuming that I was larger than what I really am? Most likely, yes. But after growing up under the fear of people carrying guns, who have no compunctions against using them, I believe my behavior was understandable.
Now that I am back and feeling a bit safe, I have begun to conduct what I recently termed: My "Rituals". Since its around 3 o'clock in the morning, and I'm in this miserable zone that is somewhere between being asleep and awake I'm going to type up these rituals and share them with you. Hopefully, by the time I'm done, I'll be able to sleep, and you'll be able to enjoy a detailed recollection of some parts of Lebanon (specifically, Beirut).
My Rituals: A Drive Down Memory Lane
Today, I went down Beirut's Corniche and jogged from the Movenpick in Raouche to the Mc Donald's in Ain Mreiseh and back. For some reason, I am left with an unbearable headache for the rest of the day almost every time I finish the jog. In fact, the rest of the day is usually ruined after I'm done (especially after going through it for the first time in a long time). Nevertheless, I can not stop myself. Jogging down the Corniche is part of what defines Beirut for me. The waves... the people... the breeze... the smell of the Mediterranean. There's simply nothing like it. The memory of the jog is one that lasts months and even years after leaving the country. I cherish every second of it.
The other rituals include a visit to my wonderful Almamatter - AUB. Entering campus through the Main Gate, and the Hardees Gate are a definite must. The Hardees Gate brings back some strong memories because I used to park my car next to the Smith supermarket and walk to campus. I especially remember Math classes... probably because they were so close to that gate. The benches and trees in its proximity are also harbingers of powerful memories....
The other spots in AUB that I will visit are those benches next to Jafet library that overlook the tenis courts, soccer field and the Mediterranean Sea. The number of times I selfishly wished those benches were empty during my college years so that I could be the one sitting down and enjoying one of the most beautiful views in this planet are simply innumerable. It is so easy to take certain things for granted, as I do with most.... However, I made it a point never to dismiss the wonder of that view - which on certain harsh days almost had a therapeutic value.
A walk down the long corridors of Nicely Hall and a visit to Jafet are other things that I long to do.
Analytic Skills: Down to Naught!
I am a wreck! One of the temporary downsides of traveling to Beirut (or anywhere 7 time zones away from where you currently reside) is the messed up sleeping habits and the consequent numbness, or heaviness of the mind.
A more permanent downside of being in Beirut, however, is that "I'm basically in the thick of it". I'm no longer thousands of miles away with almost zero emotional interaction with other Lebanese. Now, I speak to cousins, friends, uncles and parents. Each is emotionally involved in political developments. Each rubs off on me. Unfortunately though, the division lines are clear - sectarian. Furthermore, I am a party in that conflict (whether I like it or not).
Firas made a distinction between politics of power and politics of agenda in his last paragraph of his latest post. Thus far, I see a clash inside of the people I talk to. A clash between their desire for reform as a means of change, and the political loyalties which are accompanied by their own rhetoric. Unfortunately, the latter supersedes the former in almost all discourses.
This is not going to change while I am here. It is unfortunate. Extremely unfortunate. Okay… I think I’m ready to go to sleep now… it’s 4:06 AM