As I count down the days until I leave for Miami, I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the things I’ve learned (a little bit about myself but mostly about Lebanon) since I moved here 9 months ago.
So here they are. 40 things I’ve learned since moving to Lebanon. I’m pretty sure there are more, but I think 40 will do for now.
1. I’ve learned that I can live without a car, central AC, internet at home or on my phone.
2. I’ve learned that just because toume looks like mashed potato, it doesn’t taste like mashed potato.
3. I’ve learned that I prefer to sit outside my apartment building and wait for the power to come back on, than climb up 6 flights of stairs.
4. I’ve learned not to flush any paper down the toilet because it will clog the plumbing.
5. I’ve learned that a hairdresser is a man’s job, that it’s normal to smoke in a salon, and that “a brushing” means a blowdry.
6. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly acceptable to wear six inch heels, low cut tops, curve hugging pants or short skirts to work…However.., it’s equally unacceptable to use other people’s mugs.
7. I’ve learned that “Super nightclub” does not mean “really big nightclub”..but strip club.
8. I’ve learned that not liking kaak is a crime.
9. I’ve learned that I still (and always will) prefer espresso to Nescafe.
10. I’ve learned that I secretly wish my mom packed my lunch in a tupperware, even though I give my co-workers hell about it every single day (“So what did your Mommy pack for you today?!?! huh? HUH!).
11. I’ve learned that I will never be able to afford to buy property here.
12. I’ve learned that a Lebanese breakfast of labneh (with olive oil and mint), zaatar, foul, fetteh, halloum, fresh vegetables, arabic bread, and man’ouche beats an American breakfast of cereal, pop tarts, eggo waffles, or even (dare I say it) bacon and eggs ANY DAY.
13. I’ve learned that it’s pointless to try and convince my friends to stop smoking when the habit is so deeply ingrained into society that no one cares about the potential side effects. (“Why do you smoke?” I ask. “It keeps me from eating” she says. “But you’re killing yourself.” I say. She shrugs.)
14. I’ve learned to conserve units by miss calling people (annoying I know!)
15. I’ve learned to always double check (or do my own research) before taking any medication that was given to me by a “pharmacist.”
16. I’ve learned how to use a gas stove.
17. I’ve learned that it’s normal to take 10 cigarette breaks, 5 coffee breaks, and then pull an all-nighter at work.
18. I’ve learned that twitter is a wonderful place to meet great people and make meaningful connections in Lebanon.
19. I’ve learned that the beach (although it should be) is not free.
20. I’ve learned that you can get anything delivered to your house: food, groceries, dry cleaning, and even coals for your shisha.
21. I’ve learned how to take criticism (the negative comments on this blog have helped me with that).
22. I’ve learned that there is a Jewish community in Lebanon and that a synagogue is currently being restored in Downtown.
23. I’ve learned that you don’t go to Sky Bar to dance.
24. I’ve learned that I prefer to take taxis every day than to drive in Lebanon. I’ve also learned that honking is its own language.
25. I’ve learned not to expect good service when I go shopping.
26. I’ve learned that it’s normal for parents to call their children (even if they’re in their 30’s) multiple times a day to ask them if they have eaten.
27. I’ve learned that there are no emissions regulations for vehicles or factories (and if there are, they are ignored), which is resulting in toxic levels of pollution in the air.
28. I’ve learned that Lebanese people hardly ever stick to plans (unless it’s a tweetup!) so, it’s better to make plans last minute.
29. I’ve learned that summers in Lebanon are as hot and humid as summers in Miami.
30. I’ve learned the difference between fireworks and gunshots (finally).
31. I’ve learned that going to the bank never takes less than an hour, and that there is always a chance they closed your account but neglected to tell you about it.
32. I’ve learned that there are more types of cheese than employees at the grocery store.
33. I’ve learned that there is a very healthy gay scene in Lebanon.
34. I’ve learned that soldiers don’t like it when you take pictures of buildings.
35. I’ve learned to love listening to the call to prayer.
36. I’ve learned that families take out loans to pay for their children’s wedding.
37. I’ve learned that men wear engagement rings too.
38. I’ve learned that I can’t blow dry my hair, run the AC, and do a load of washing at the same time – the power will cut.
39. I’ve learned that there is no sense in worrying about things until they happen, and to live every day like it’s my last.
40. And lastly, I’ve learned to appreciate where I call home.
*updated to include one more (I can’t believe I forgot it the first time!): I’ve learned that every ailment, from back pain, to headache, to stomach ache, and head cold..is, in fact, caused by the AC.