ROSE AND ZAATAR

A TASTE OF A LIFE IN LEBANON

Month: August, 2014

Four returns: she’ll be coming round the mountain…

The fourth and final return was ours. We went back to the Shouf Cedar Reserve, where we haven’t been since I was 7 months pregnant and unable to follow any of the footpaths for fear of falling forward onto my belly.

This time we were part of the Vamos Todos hiking group and even though I was still a little afraid of falling forward with my 22 month old daughter strapped to my front, they encouraged us to take the 8km trail rather than sitting on the bench by the entrance (where I sat the last time).

I asked the guide, who held my arm firmly and picked flowers for my daughter delicately, how long he’d being doing outdoor activities like this one:

Since ever!

His answer made me smile and reflect on the fact that my daughter has also been ‘hiking’ since ever, as the very first time we took a trip with this group, snowshoeing in Faraya, I was pregnant without even knowing it.

Another part of the return was remembering a song that I haven’t sung since our daughter was a few months old. When she was born the only childhood tune I could remember was ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’. which I sang to her endlessly, inventing verses beyond the ones I knew about wearing pink pyjamas and riding six white horses. Fortunately (for us both) I soon replaced it as I remembered other old favourites.

But as we rounded our own mountain at the end of the hike, it came back to me again and since then we have been singing it every night at bedtime, with the old verses, and some new ones inspired by our day amongst the Cedars:

She’ll be wearing mama’s socks (over her sandals, because it’s so unexpectedly cold, and I forgot to bring any for her!)

She’ll be singing all the songs that she knows (trying to keep her busy and distracted from the cold)

She’ll be looking for the bus (which finally appears as we come down from the clouds)

and finally she’ll be drinking lemonade, fresh and cold (homemade by another guide and offered in plastic espresso cups to congratulate us on completing the hike).

 

Like Mother Like Daughter 2

Today we said another farewell to another lovely lady and her baby.

A bye bye Beirut cupcake

A bye bye Beirut cupcake

This is a card I made for her, to go with the shopping bag I gave her as a gift from Magnolia Bakery where we have spent many lunchtimes in the company of other mamas, trying to eat our cakes as quickly as possible before the babies in the buggies wake up and want some.

We had lunch there today, and I bought some cookies to take home for an afternoon tea with an old friend, who recently returned to Beirut for a visit (another one- they can’t keep away!).  We only arranged it this morning so I hadn’t had the time to bake anything, and it is almost unthinkable for me to invite someone over when both the biscuit box and cake tin are empty.

But I needn’t have worried as my daughter has recently come up with a new imaginary game where she puts her plastic cakes into a pan and then in and out of the oven, over and over again, always making sure she uses a tea towel as they are ‘hot’.

Oh where does she get it from I wonder?!

p.s. as I write about yet another farewell and return I remember that I am still missing a post for the fourth of my ‘four returns’– it’s coming soon, I promise.

Like Water for Chocolate

Yesterday morning I mentally added a new addition to my daughter’s ‘rhyming dictionary‘ when I realised that water sounds like chocolate, reminding me of the book with a similar name.

The whole day then seemed to take on a chocolate flavour:

Chocolate Icecreams

Mid-morning drawing session

Me: What colour are the ice-creams?

Her: Chocolate! (not water, and not brown as I had expected the answer to be)

Then while she napped (and probably dreamed of chocolate ice-cream) I made my first ever raw brownies

DSCN2319

Raw Chocolate Brownies

which she taste tested with me when she woke up and despite the fact that the cocoa is subtle not strong, she recognised it instantly as deto (chocolate)!

Waste not, Want not, Why not

Waste management is not one of Lebanon’s strong points, and neither is gardening, but last week we witnessed an enterprising example of both.

It was a public holiday Monday morning and we were sitting in an almost empty Byblos bar, sipping lemonade and watching a waiter with fascination as he delicately arranged shards of ice in a flower bed. We wondered why he was using it instead of water, and speculated on its potential botanical benefits, until finally my friend asked him outright.

Turns out that the ice was surplus from the night before and he didn’t know what else to do with it, so why not ‘water’ the plants with it?

Why not indeed?

Well actually, if you search the internet, you’ll find a lot of opinions on the matter, and not all favourable. But I liked the waiter’s creative thinking and the longer I live here, the more I see it as one of Lebanon’s strong points.

Four returns: the key

The third return was our concierge who finally came back from Syria, just in time to save the day, or rather my poor mother, who thought she had locked herself, and the sleeping baby, out of the house. Before I left in the morning we had gone through all the possible things that could cause complications in the four hours I would be away, from nap nightmares to power cuts to cuts and bruises. But we didn’t foresee that she would temporarily mislay the key.

Miraculously, with no Arabic except shukran (thank you) she managed to get the concierge to understand the situation and miraculously he managed to ‘break in’ to our apartment from the seventh floor, without breaking any doors or windows. And perhaps most miraculously of all, they didn’t wake the baby (maybe helped by the fact that they were mostly miming), and she slept on for another hour, giving her grandmother just enough time to turn the house upside down in search of the key, to the point of giving up, only to find it at the bottom of her bag after all.

The lights are always brighter on the other side….

We live opposite a block of furnished apartments, very swish and swanky, where everything always works, even the electricity when there’s a power cut.

I’m not just saying this, I actually know, as my parents once stayed there for a week on their first official grandparent visit. We all felt like we were on holiday, and kept crossing the street to their place to enjoy their wall to wall wifi and air conditioning, and a lift that was always on. Since then, whenever things go wrong in our building, I imagine going to stay there instead, even just for a night of not worrying about things not working.

But this evening my ‘safe haven’ started billowing black smoke (apparently caused by an electrical fire, of all things) and I was reminded once again that there is no such thing. Even though the grass may appear greener- or in this case the lights brighter- on the other side of the street, nowhere is immune from the dramas of daily life. And while they put out the fire and safely evacuated the building, they cut the electricity to the whole street, leaving the dilapidated and the luxurious standing side by side, sharing the same darkness for once.