Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Smells, sights, sounds and tastes +

Anton has asked us to work through some reflective questions after our two weeks in Lebanon. I'm going to post a few of the questions and my thoughts over the next few days. Here are the first couple of questions.

1. Take a moment to describe as many sites, smells, sounds, and tastes as you can from your trip.

Bullet holes everywhere. Buildings riddled with gunshot and others with gaping holes from bombs.

No wood construction. All brick and mortar. Rebar sticking out of everything. I hear you don’t have to pay land taxes if there is rebar sticking out waiting for an addition.

Hint of sewage smell everywhere. Garbage is prolific. No recycling here. Plastic bottles will degrade over time, I’m sure of it.

Honk Honk!. The sound of the road. No traffic signals, no lines, just horns. Used to let people know you are mad at them, or that you are coming along side and butting in, or if you want someone to watch out for you.

Lots of Roman ruins. Cool stuff. 2,000 year old structures.

Fruit! The valley is filled with all kinds of fruit and vegetable farms. Beautiful. Vineyards everywhere.

No houses! Everything is apartment based.

Huge billboards of faces. Faces of those assassinated and lost their lives for Lebanon. Many are Christian. Many say “We will never forget.”

Tastes are many. A Lebanese meal has multiple flavors and textures. Lots of yogurt and sour cream mixtures. They say “meat” lots! Whenever I asked what kind of “meat” they just stare at me with a blank look. I would say, “Beef, mutton, pork, dog or horse?” The blank looks never go away. They couldn’t figure out why it mattered.

Lots of parsley and garlic, not a lot of spices. Lots of goat cheeses to choose from. Some stronger than others. All good.

2. What did you find most shocking or surprising about Lebanon?

The political landscape is much more complex than I originally thought it would be. You are one of many sides. Every side has a color so every color has a meaning. Don’t put on the wrong colored t-shirt, or wear the wrong colored scarf. It’s a statement of who you are for, or who you are against.

There are political lines that are religious driven, but then there is also nationality and surrounding country factions. Are you Syrian? Are you Palestinian? Are you Bedouin? Are you Lebanese? Are you female or male? Are you registered with the government and have papers? Do you know anyone in power? Are you Muslim? And if so, are you Sunni, Shia or Druze? Are you Christian? And if so, are you Greek Orthodox? Greek Catholic? Armenian Orthodox? Armenian Catholic? Evangelical Believer? Each of these titles have further definitive sects. I’ve even heard the term Muslim Christian here.

There is a vast matrix of political, cultural, and religious diversity here and everyone seems to navigate it with great skill. They know who to shun, who to hate, who to tolerate, who to love by the look in their eye, the way they dress, the way they talk. A country of 5 million people, all living together in a form of chaotic rhythm and order.


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