ROSE AND ZAATAR

A TASTE OF A LIFE IN LEBANON

Month: July, 2013

A Tale of Two Countries

Two weeks ago I made the journey between two countries, and suffered the jolt of reverse culture shock.

At Beirut airport, travelling on my own and carrying a baby in a sling, I had a kind of celebrity status. It was as though we glided through the airport on an invisible red carpet rolled out for us: help offered; suitcases lifted; queues waived and baby photographed by a Saudi tourist.

But as soon as I arrived at London Heathrow I became anonymous again, just some woman walking miles along bland blue carpeted corridors, baby on her front and bags on her back. Then manoeuvring a trolley and a buggy through baggage reclaim, between the sideways glances of people noticing but not offering to help.

And all I could think was: Lebanon, I miss you.

But then my mum met me at arrivals and bought me a cup of earl grey tea, with milk (that was free and not hot and frothy), and the traffic was so well behaved and the fields such a lovely shade of pale pear green that slowly my heart eased, and I felt myself slide into the long summer evening and the light that never seems to end.

And I realise: England, I’ve missed you.

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Two from today

Two babies, only two weeks apart, spending the day head to head (or cheek to shoulder or toes to elbow), competing, over who can ‘sing’ loudest in the car, or stay awake longest between naps or crawl fastest to knock down the tower of coloured cups.

Two mamas, spending the day together, not competing, over who knows the most baby songs, or who has the least sleep, or who makes the best cup of coffee, just sharing it all between them like the huge square of brownie big enough for two.

Useful Arabic 1: Ma fi karaba

Ma fi karaba

There’s no electricity’ is one of the first complete sentences I learnt how to say in Arabic and it has come in extremely useful ever since, as a tentative question, an exasperated exclamation or a resigned statement.

Lebanon has electricity issues,  to say the least. I won’t go into the ins and outs (or the ons and offs) of them here, except to recount a brief episode from the other night, when not only was there no government electricity (normal) but no private generator either (not normal). I lay awake at 2am wondering why. Then I realised with a certain degree of satisfaction (only a certain degree because it was nearly 30 degrees in the room without the air con) that I actually had enough Arabic to ask the conciege for an answer in the morning.

In the end there was no need as our English speaking neighbour was there to translate for us but if I had had to use my Arabic I would have said:

Bil layal, kan ma fi karaba bass kan ma fi motor kamen. Laysh? 

In the night, there was no electricity, but there was no generator either. Why?

Apologies to any Lebanese Arabic speakers for my terrible phonetic spelling and probably grammar too (corrections welcome), but I felt it was important to record my sentence somewhere as I have a feeling it may come in useful again.

p.s. The answer to the question I didn’t have to ask was:

the concierge couldn’t switch on the generator because he was sleeping

(wish I had been too)

 

Edges

You have discovered edges.

If something has one- the bed, the mat, the table-you will try to reach it.

You are a curious crawling explorer, wanting to know what happens next, beyond, under.

You have also discovered your own edge.

Understanding for the first time that we are separate- me and you.

That the space between us can stretch, as far as you can crawl and more.