Friday, January 29, 2010

A new travel experience

This is the view from where I live, or at least the view to the east looking at Abel Aziz Street. Yes, I have a view. A view. Am I getting older, or what? I mean, here I am, standing on a balcony, taking pictures of a view. A balcony of an apartment I rent. Alone. In another country.

Bye, bye, hostels. Bye, bye, cheap hotels. Here I am in my new world, renting an apartment in another country by myself with a balcony and a living room and 24 hour electricity and cable television and a maid (and laughing from the cafe a block away while a girl proudly displaying a nose job walks by.)

Here's another view from my balcony. I took it in a t-shirt drinking a beer. In January. Evan says I should get a grill. (Evan is friend and former co-worker who is going to grad school here.) I think it's a fine idea to get a grill for my balcony to the apartment I rent by myself in another country with the living room and the 24 hour electricity and the cable television and the maid (the maid is a little excessive, but it's included in the price. I'd rather not have someone come in and touch my stuff, to be honest.)

Here's a view of the balcony from the bedroom where I had a very nice sleep last night, a very nice and very long sleep in which I missed the opportunity to go out in Gemmayze with a bunch of grad students and some couchsurfing Americans living in Ankara, Turkey because after I got ready to go, I sat down to see what television stations could help me learn Arabic (or relearn, I guess) and what do you know, I feel asleep, waking just long enough to drag myself to the bed. Stupid jet lag. Unless that disgusting chemical air freshener that lets off some horrific flowery scent every 15 minutes is actually sleeping gas put there by Lebanese intelligence. Or Mossad. Or both. I got that turned off today. We'll see if I fall asleep there again.

Here is the kitchen where I doubt I'll do very much cooking, what with me being afraid to light things that have gas going to them. That and I'm just too lazy. I mean, why on earth would I try to cook something when I've got hummus and tabouleh and fatoosh and kibbe and all of this wonderful food prepared by other people? And the orange juice...the freshly squeezed orange juice that makes me embarrassed I ever thought Tropicana Pure Premium was good. And the stand on the corner where they bake fresh croissants every morning...I guess I'll need to use the burner to heat water to make coffee since my tongue cannot take the bitterness of the stuff here.

Here is the living room, which was the difference between this and another place. Not that I plan on watching much television - I only have four months, why waste them? - but it will help with my language skills (I have French channels, too.) Still, it's nice to have some place separate from a bedroom to work, read, and blog. (Though I don't have internet in my room. :( I can still type up what I want to say, hit up Cafe Prague a block away, if I can mind the communist wannabes, and have high speed access better than what I had in my apartment in DC, which is unreal here.)

Look for this bookshelf to be filled by the time I leave. UPS is gonna love me.

A view of the kitchen from the living room. I even have a table for eating, which I've already turned into office space. I do need to get one of those pen organizers.

Even though the sun never directly hits my apartment, there is plenty of light, as you can see from the scintillating glow emanating from the balcony to the apartment which I am rented by myself in another country with 24 hour electricity, cable television, and a maid. Oh, about that electricity thing - Beirut rations electricity so everyone loses it in three hour periods every day. The losing time varies, but many places have a generator. Thanks, corruption! Thanks, Israel! Thanks, sectarianism!

A view of the living room from the other side. Yes, that's my Reds blanket on the couch. I have to do some streaming video tests from Cafe Prague to see if this is the place from where I will be watching our Holy Opening Day or if I'll have to go to another country for such an important holiday. I also have the baseball Billy Hatcher threw me in DC last summer and a little Reds sundae helmet, as well as my Reds cap and jersey. Despite everything, I am still pumped for baseball season as much as if I were in the States.

Here's another view from the balcony, this one more typical of what I'll be posting here. This building stands abandoned, yet one (obviously) squatter hangs laundry outside. I felt the squatting was juxtaposed with the palm tree, the latter being a symbol of prosperity in so many places in the world. The building itself is juxtaposed with the others around it, as the whole block aside from it is under construction. As I was marveling at the situation I found myself in, that being standing on the balcony of an apartment I've rented by myself in another country with 24 hour electricity, cable television, and a maid, I felt a guilt looking at that one occupied apartment among trash-strewn ruins. But hey, I'm here to help Lebanon overcome such an injustice as a squatter in ruins among wealth. We're going to fix this.

This photo is what I think of Beirut, with the contradictions and the absurdities and the imbalances of life. How among the new high rises and the furnished apartments for foreigners can a ghost of a building house someone who has no place to live? Of the 18 different gods who rule over this place, can't one of them dish out some justice?

And so I will live across the street from this squatter, neighbors by location only, and I'll pay a rent equal to what I paid in DC to have much more. I am going to enjoy every second I am here. I mean, look at this photo - how could you not? (Just don't look at the enlarged photo - there are two ships participating in the salvage operation of the plane crash from Monday. This is what's going on.)

Oh, and HA HA - I'm getting tan and you're not!


  1. Awesome! fantastic idea, but will this really work?

  2. Wow looks great! And the view of the Mediterranian Sea from your balcony! You sound thrilled now send us your address.

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