February 13, 2017

Hail

Hail in Beirut, and little rivers

Cleaning Sidewalks


Yes, I wrote last week, it does snow in Lebanon, but not in Beirut. And that remains true, but it does hail. Now and then.

But today, while walking home from work, I got caught in this massive hail shower. It was the mother of all hail showers, and although not the size of ping pong balls, it still came down most impressively. The hail fell and bounced around, and left everything, for just 5 minutes, white.

Rain in Beirut results in rivers. How do I get to the other side of the road AND keep my feet dry?

Happy camper (with slightly inappropriate footwear)

With childlike enthusiasm I continued my way. Maybe not the exact same feeling you get as a child when you wake up in the morning to a hushed world and an orange glow, both signs of snowfall during the night, but still, a happy moment.  

The gentleman on the left decided to cross, the man on the right is still contemplating

And as I slithered through wet and slippery Beirut, wading through rivers as I crossed the streets, I noticed everyone was smiling. The hail cleared both sky and mood.

10 minutes later, clear skies

February 12, 2017

Slow February

Early Sunday Morning Hikes

It is February. I was supposed to go skiing this weekend but the weather wasn’t great and I got lazy. Instead, I ended up in another part of the mountains above, without snow. And over there, I hike at 6:30 AM.  There’s all kinds of research out there that proves hiking makes you happier. Besides, it is supposed to enhance your problem-solving skills by 50% , and increase your creative output by about 60% . I never had much trouble with solving problems, although I am a little low on creative output these days, granted. February is a slow month.

Someone left a heart in a tree

I remember at my parents’ house, after (or before) big dinners with guests, we would go for a walk. This winter, while preparing for a Christmas dinner, I went for a walk around the village with some friends, and we met quite a few families that were walking. From the grouping, you could see that these were families that were together for the Christmas dinner (grown-up children with partners in general do not live with their parents in Holland), so this seems to be a typical Dutch thing. Lebanese do not seem to hike for fun, unless it is on the Corniche. Or sometimes in organized group on Sundays.  Either way, we hardly ever meet anyone while hiking. It may be the early hour. What idiot goes hiking on a Sunday morning, at 6:30 AM?

catkins (a sign of spring)
Here in the mountains we walk our dogs. And we walk because it is beautiful here. There is this little secluded valley-like forest that you can walk through and around, and there are no roads, so no cars, and no noise All you hear is the sound of running water, (always reminds me of Narnia) and crows. The screeching of hawks, if you’re lucky. Or buzzards, whatever you call them. There are some houses around this little valley, but most belong to Arabs (apparently we, the Lebanese, do not qualify as Arabs. When we talk ‘Arabs’, we mean the people living in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia), and they have not been around a lot. They got their first scare in 2006 (Israeli bombardments) and then the war in Syria (2011) did it for them; no more Lebanon. Their houses stand empty, their gardens maintained by janitors from Syria.
A friend of mine does business with ‘Arabs’, and she maintains that they will all show up this summer. I hope not. I know it is better for business, but I like the quiet of the area.


And although winter lasts officially for another two months, somehow it seems like spring has started here already. The catkins (elzekatjes in Dutch), the male flowers of the alder trees, are blooming, and I ran into an early Iris historia.  Now don’t think I am like a train spotter, going out into the woods with this extensive flora knowledge; I have to take pictures and Google extensively for color identification.
With a recent storm, the parasol pines have dropped their cones. I used to pick up all pine cones, but now I only pick up the closed one; they still have their seeds, which we add to dishes here.
Not much else to tell. As I said, February is slow.


Probably another reason why not many people hike here: Beware of mines. It is an old sign though

February 06, 2017

Why Ski in the Cedars


A slightly over-processed picture (I love Snapseed)

I went skiing in the Cedars this weekend.
The ski slopes in the Cedars are an interesting social experience.

When I first came to Lebanon, many years ago, I had been reading up on the country, and a number of books, such as Kamal Saliba’s House of Many Mansions, talked about a ‘tribal’ society. I never really understood why they would characterize Lebanon as a country of tribes, until my very first ski trip to the Cedars.


It is quite clear from the faces on the slope, that there is some serious inbreeding going on there in the mountains. Stocky built men with broad and meaty shoulders, chiseled faces and aquiline noses.
All of them. And I mean, all of them.

Somewhere some very productive patriarch put his stamp on the entire male population here.
Add to that the military style crew cut, and aviator sun glasses, and you’ve got your typical christian mountain man. Proud men too. The kind of men, that if you’d want to marry their daughters, you better make sure you come from the right tribe (read religion & village), or else they’ll lynch you once upon exiting their house. It sounds scary, but if you don’t mess with them, you needn’t worry.
Somehow, massacres like this don't seem so unbelievable here.

Empty slopes down . . .  The little green patch in the middle is the famous Cedar Forest. 

Of course, their understanding of ‘being messed with’ is slightly more sensitive than most people’s understanding, so tread lightly. Think Deliverance.
One of my fellow skier was talking to the hotel owner, who explained to him how his cousin had dealt with some men from the Beqaa Valley trying to steal his car. “He got his machine gun out and shot them. Dead? Of course dead.” That the cousin is now in jail, probably for many years to come was a side note. Don’t touch our cars, is the message.

My first ski experience, way back when,  was the line-up for the ski lifts (there were 3 then, if I remember correctly. Not much has changed; now there are 4) some 20 years ago. There was no such thing as a line up. Someone just walked to the very front of the line. And if anyone in the back as much as sighed, they’d turn around very slowly, ski jacket open, and a revolver suck in between the belt of their pants. You, of course, think I am making this up, but I kid you not; this was my very first line-up experience, somewhere in the nineties.

That kind of set the tone, and ever since that day, I store my usual assertiveness while lining up in the Cedars, and wait meekly with the rest of the pack, in hopes that I get sort of pushed to the front by the people behind me. This works quite well, and I have never run into any problems.
I even took my dog on the slope in the old days, a sheep dog, that made a concerted effort to keep all skiers together in a group, and ‘herded’ everyone together as they came down the hill.  Not a problem.
“If anyone complains,” said the lift operator,  “tell ‘em Charbel said so.”

. . .  and empty slopes up. (It looks really groomed, but it is an illusion :) 

A social experience, as I said. The Cedars was the very first ski resort in Lebanon, and as such, received the ‘beau monde’ in the fifties. I know people who have had their original chalet since 1969, and although by now an absolute dump, will not part with it. I know of people that snub their nose at Faraya, because they consider Faraya to be where the peasants ski; The Faraya skiers are the ‘common folks’. When Faraya got its first ski lift, that’s when it all went downhill with Lebanon, as far as they are concerned.  

Unfortunately, being the first in the country resulted in a fixed mindset. Why grow if you’re the best?  And as such, the Cedars have forever been stuck in the seventies, including the colorful one piece ski suits, the ski lifts (seriously, there is only one lift to the top), the cafes and hotels at the bottom of the hill, and the snowploughs. Slopes do not seem to get really groomed, and if there is an attempt at grooming the hill, it is done in such an odd way, that it is clear what they think here of groomed slopes; Groomed slopes are for sissies. ‘Real skiers’ do it ‘off-piste’ style.



The hotel I stayed in must once have been the absolute center of ‘après-ski’, the place where it was all happening. But as people moved on, the place did not. A serious make-over some years ago somehow stalled, and never got finished.  

The ski instructors can be morose, they do not take credit cards, they don’t have ATM machines, their rental equipment dates from the 80’s, there is only one real lift to speak of (the other 3 all cater to blue slopes, which are considered baby hills in the business), which operates erratically, because if they do not have enough customers, they do not open, or close early, they have no real slopes to speak off, and the après-ski establishments are grimy.

Yet, it all seems so much more real in the Cedars than anywhere else.
There are no hipsters in the Cedars, no over the top ladies in Dior ski-outfits who do not actually ski, and no restaurants that charge $200 for a bottle of champagne. Heck, they didn't even have white wine. It is the real Lebanon.



So why ski in the Cedars?
Well, I am nostalgic, and I like things that hint at a once illustrious past.
The slopes are (relatively) empty.
And then there is the scenery.

Aaaahh, the scenery. It is absolutely stunning, as you are on top of Jabal El Makmel, 2,829 meters high (that’s what my phone said), and you look over the white lands, Qaddisha Valley, the Cedar forest (park, more appropriately) at the bottom, and the dark blue in the distance hinting at a sea. 

Nothing can beat that.
If you want to see how Lebanon was, maybe not the sixties, but definitely pre-millennium, go ski in the Cedars.

You can clearly see the scar in the landscape that is  Qaddisha Valley

But it seems even that is about to change. There are, apparently, plans, to build a resort on top of the mountain there (more info here). Not everyone seems to agree with it, and petitions are being signed.
We’ll see.


And now I will be accepting lots of angry comments from people who will say I have no idea what I am talking about. That is fine with me. 

January 30, 2017

On Lone Puppies and Good Men

Two lone puppies, abandoned in the snow. One had such cold paws, he was constantly climbing on top of the other

It is all my husband’s fault. He wanted to walk the dogs, but then didn’t wear the right shoes, so now he’s wearing shoes that aren’t waterproof, so he cannot walk in the snow, and because of that we’ve got to hike up the mountain along the road. I don’t like walking on the road with dogs, because although in general cars will slow down when they see the dogs, some do not.

That’s how it started.

My dogs, sniffing them out

So here we walk on the tarmac, snow piled up on both sides of the road. It is 4:00 PM, the sun is about to set and it is getting colder. And in the distance we hear a dog. It is in an area where there are no houses, so what could be yelping? We ignore it. There are stray dogs in these mountains, and entire packs of jackals come out at night, howling as they roam around the mountains in search of food.

But our dogs go after it. And then there’s obvious yelping in fear. Some animal is cornered. When I follow them, into the snow, and through the bushes, I find two puppies, left alone in the snow. No shelter nearby, not even a box.

It is clear that someone had just dumped them there, out of sight, where no one will notice them. They’re maybe two months old, and very cold. They try to climb on top of each other, because their little paws are freezing in the snow.


Two brothers

Why is this always happening to us? Why do abandoned and lonely dogs always cross out path?  It’s like they’re lurking around the corner, waiting for us suckers to pass by. There’s lonely dog  #1, lonely dog #2, and lonely dog #3. We’ve got like a whole pack of them at home now. This is about the last thing we need; more lonely dogs.

We want to continue our walk. But the sun is setting. It is cold, and it is clear they are not going to survive the night out here. It freezes at night in these mountains, and even if they’d survive the cold in the snow, without a shelter, there’s the jackals roaming those hills at night. They move in packs, and a little dog would make a good dinner. We’ve had jackals snatching away little puppies right under our eyes in the past.
So what do you do? Ignore it? Had we not chosen this path, they would have died too, so what is the difference? 

I once watched an interview where a grandmother explained to her granddaughter how she decided to marry grandpa. “I asked him where his dog slept, and he said in his bed, and I figured, if he’s that good to his dog, he’ll be good to his wife.”


Is it mom?
Another story.
A friend of mine, on her very first date with the man she eventually married, some forty years ago, told me that her dog had been sick that day, and the dog had left a long trail of diarrhea all over the living room. My friend told him she could not go out with him that evening because she had to clean up the mess. He helped her clean everything up, and it was only later she found out he didn’t really like dogs. “If he hadn’t helped me with my dog right then and there, I probably would never have married him.

The moral of the story is that men who treat animals decently make good husbands. The Good Men Project, some American initiative that explores what it means to be a ‘good man’ also mentions that  real man love animals.
So what am I getting at? I am married to a good guy.

They check out of it is their mama. But it is not.
Yep.
We took them home. Bathed them. Fed them. Sheltered them. From the looks of it, they’re probably the offspring of a street dog somewhere, who lives at a construction site (one of the puppies was covered in cement) , and the workers may not have enjoyed the idea of having too many dogs around, so they picked them up and dumped them in the snow.

It is incomprehensible to me that you can just leave a living creature out there in the snow where you know it will die. No compassion. If you can do that to an animal, you can do it to a human.

So ladies, the moral of this story is, be with a guy who is good to animals. Cause he’ll be good to you.

January 29, 2017

Yeah, We Do Get Snow


This morning at 900 meters

While in Holland over the Christmas break, and it was -1 C°,  I was talking to a lady in a shop, and when she learned that I had been living in Lebanon for over 25 years, she said: “I bet you miss the cold and snow.”

Well, I can’t complain really. It is -4° as I speak, and I just came back from an early morning hike through the snow in the mountains above Beirut. It was a lovely sunny hike, and I did slip on ice (while scrambling back for the car because the last person to arrive gets the unpopular back seat), so no, we get ice and cold weather and snow here in Lebanon. 
You do have to go a little up into the mountains, but I am currently at 900 meters, and it snowed here all last night.  So yeah, we do get snow.


It is a common misconception among people not familiar with the Middle East that this place is an everlasting hot desert with camels. And I guess with Trump’s policies, these misconceptions are not exactly going to change any time soon.

But no, it can freeze in pretty much all over the Middle East. And although snow in Saudi Arabia still makes headlines, snow storms in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and Iran do occur in winter time. Granted, our snow does not last long (2 months if you are lucky), and where I am, it will be pretty much done by next week if it doesn’t snow again. But it isn’t that different in Holland these days. The last white Christmas we had was in 2010.

jackal trail in the forest

So now we have snow in the mountains as low as 900 meters today (The highest mountain here is some 3,000 meters). I should be skiing, but I’ve got a teenager in the house with a science research due, so that was the end of that. But a 7:45 AM hike through the snow is a good replacement.

There were some traces of jackals in the snow, but other than that, wildlife has been pretty much obliterated here, with more hunters than citizens in place. I read somewhere that a bear and cub were spotted in the mountainous border region near Syria. And I guess that is the last we will ever spot of that bear. If it moves, they shoot it. Even the sea gulls roaming the garbage belts near the airport are being hunted down, because of the danger they cause landing airplanes. That devising a long term plan about proper garbage disposal might actually be a more logic plan is not a consideration here.


Anyway, at 7:45 AM in the forest in the snow, and everything is white and beautiful and peaceful, was a pretty impressive experience. For some reason, snow never seizes to mesmerize me.

I think that now, more than ever, it is important that misconceptions about the Middle East are debunked. When I was active in journalism, you did not always get to show the human side of a place. There was always the focus on the government, and political decisions and how the relations between the various nations complicated matters. The power of hobby-blogging however is that you get to look (or lurk) into the lives of common people.
So what about common people? Although Lebanon is not (yet) on Trump’s list of unwanted, we’re pretty close, and my kids might become unwanted people pretty soon.  I mean, how different are we really from Iran and Syria? You may argue about state terrorism, but the fact that yesterday I had no electricity all day, that I have to buy water, that my Internet does not work and that my monthly G3 bill equals the yearly bill of my son in Holland, is state terrorism as well. 


 Anyway, yeah, we do get snow.

January 25, 2017

On VW Vans, T2's and Inspiration

This looks just like the one I got. My daughter I mean, The one she got. 

Inspiration.
It’s a fickle thing. Used to be that small conversations in the store inspired me. Wall paintings. Arguments at government offices. Anything.

Now I need substantially more input in order to warm up to something. “You’re getting old”, claims a friend. I don’t think so. Maybe it is a sign of the times? Or maybe I am planning different projects. Projects that will take place in the future? No idea. Anyway,  will try.

So I am in the process of restoring a 1969 VW van. My hubbie will get a heart attack if he sees me write this. “I? I? Excuse me, can you rephrase that? WHO is restoring the van?”

Ours look just like this one. :) 

Fine, okay, so it is not actually me, but to be truthful, it isn’t him either He’s only pointing with his finger. He ‘delegates’, so to speak, which is a characteristic that the Lebanese have perfected to a T.  Granted, he’s got to make phone calls, and he needs to drive up and down to the Beqaa Valley, to pick up things and drop them off, but it is not as if he’s on his back in a cold garage under the chassis of a 1969 van welding parts together. I was looking for the name of a part to insert here, but truth be told, I have no idea what’s at the bottom of a VW van.

Let’s go back to the beginning. 
I have always wanted to be a hippie. I was born slightly too late to join the long-haired fair maidens during the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury, but I spirit I was there. And with a hippie comes a Volkswagen Van.

Need spare parts? A VW graveyard in the Beqaa Valley

I had a van for quite some time. I would take my children, then still small, and wander around Europe during the summer. First a green one with flowers, later on a brown one. Both my children speak fondly of those summers, when my son would roll out of the van in the morning, play hard all day, build fires, jump down rocks into water holes, float down rivers in a truck tire, catch tadpoles, climb trees, play in jeux-de-boules tournaments against the local fire fighters of the village, and climb back into the van at night to sleep. Only to repeat the entire process the next morning.

These days I have a more luxurious version, but my daughter has decided that she too, shall be a hippie when she grows up.  And with a hippie comes a Volkswagen Van.
Now in Lebanon, the old hippie van (which would be a T2, T standing for transporter) is a common vehicle, still used to transport schoolchildren in the public school system back and forth. 

Go find what you need yourself. 

The school next door to me has three. And every morning, as I walk to school, the natour (janitor), he also doubles as the school bus driver, drops off his first load of children of the day. Some 12 girls get out of his – rather dilapidated – bus. I am not sure how much he charges, but I reckon it should be something like 2,000 a day. It couldn’t be much more, otherwise they can take the regular service (shared cab system). That would add up to some 40,000 LBP a month per child for transportation.

Anyway, my daughter wants a hippie van for her 18th birthday. I am secretly happy for her ‘modest’ request. A hippie van is better than a Porsche, no? Of course, the whole ‘I want a car for my 18th birthday’ is a complete alien notion in Holland.


Doors? Doors anyone?
But that is still a good number of years from now. And her dad, being the conditioned Arab father that he is, understand the “I like this car” of his daughter as a “I want this car,” or even better “I want this car NOW!” 
And so he acted upon that. Regardless of the fact that she cannot drive a car, and is not allowed to drive on either. While driving in the Beqaa Valley, he stumbled upon a 1969 VW van, which the owner loved to part with. A deal was soon struck.

Not only was the van from 1969, it had obviously not been repaired since 1969, nor had it been indoors since 1969. You could see the ground under the clutch while driving it. The ‘driving’ is a bit of an over statement; it didn’t really drive. It’s got 44,838 km on the counter, but that is because there isn’t more space. It’s probably closer to 244,838 km, from the looks of it.


Anyway, he’s been immersing himself in the Lebanese world of VW vans. And boy, that is a world in itself. 

The most accomplished VW van mechanics are clustered around Zahle. Spare parts are to be bought in two places in the Beqaa Valley. The best plate workers, however, can be found in Aley. There’s a guy somewhere who will change original T2 engines for Volkswagen Polo engines (for that extra boost) somewhere in Shtoura. There is someone in the Palestinian camp Sabra & Chatila who can replicate original seating colors. And the list goes on and on.




But each Volkswagen aficionado in Lebanon will tell you the same; best car ever made. EVER! (I sound like Donald Trump) Come rain or storm, heat or cold, mountain or desert, these cars just do not break down. Maybe that is why they still, after some 46 years, still hauling Lebanese school children around town.


The only thing about this car that still is automatic is this logo
44,839 km. or is it 144,839 km? Or 244,839 ?

We’ll see where this project will end. I understand they’re quite wanted in Europe, even in the state that ours is. I’ll keep you updated.

I thought about rereading this post. I usually do before I publish. But I think for today, this is as good as it gets.

November 21, 2016

In which My Dad Kicks ‘A Lebanese out of the Car’

There are many things I like about this country. One of these things is its relative safety. The news, especial if you have never been to Lebanon, will insinuate otherwise, but if you’ve been here once, you will understand that this society has an overall safe feeling.

So safe, that I do not think twice of giving my car keys to a total stranger .
You see, finding a parking spot in this town is like mining for gold; they are so rare, especially in front of the premises where you need to be, that it is always an occasion of great joy when I manage to find a space right in front of the store.  
This has created an intricate industry of valet parking and abandoned lots that are turned into makeshift parking lots. But the demand is so high that they will invariably cram more cars into a parking than it can possibly accommodate, and so they ask you to leave your key. This allows them to shuffle cars around, including yours, during your absence. 

And so this evening, while buying an ear thermometer, I left my car, and keys, at aparking lot next door to a shop.


My dad, 101 years old, is visiting from Holland, and he was in the car. He had just been in and out of the supermarket, and since this thermometer thing was going to be a quick stop, he chose to stay in the car.
And as I hopped into the store, I left the car keys with the parking attendant. I told the parking attendant that there was someone one the car.

When I got back to the car, some 5 minutes later, he did not want my 2,000 pounds. He looked rather ‘odd’, I’d say. “No, take your car,” he said.

When I got into my car, my dad said, rather alarmed, “There was this Lebanese that wanted to start your car. At first I thought he might have made a mistake, but he started the car!
The parking attendant, I thought. He must have had to move my car.
So what did you do?”
“I told them to get out of the car. ‘This is not your car,’ I told him.”
“And what did he do then?”
“Well, he got out of the car.

Well, that explains it.
 101, and he kicks people out of the car. 

November 20, 2016

When Life Interferes with Blogging

Sohmor. It looks all idyllic, but this was one valley I would't hike again. They had some very interesting fossils though.

I am not really productive these days. Well, I am productive, but not on this blog. It is partially because I am also participating in a #365grateful project on Instagram, so that’s where some of my inspiration goes. I need to publish one picture a day that makes me grateful. And although I could publish many on most days, once it is out on the web, the desire to write about it has dissipated.

A horse I encountered on the road somewhere near Qaraoun
Another factor is that I have a new job, and I am really into this one. But as I am new to it, it requires a lot of preparation time. I work with a different group of clients: A much more responsive group, but also a group that requires more intensive groundwork.

I ran into some goats as well, on the road somewhere near Kubbeih

Besides that, I am busy with a number of projects outside work and blogging, so there’s goes part of my energy.  I have started a crochet course, for instance. Not that I will be a granny anytime soon, but I have always wanted to be able to crochet. My mother knew how, my grandmother knew how. But I did not. I have books, hooks and yarn, but never had the skill. So now I have found someone (a very lovely and hip gentleman, no less) who is teaching me the finer aspects of double crochet, slip stitches and waffle patterns. And I greatly enjoy it.

The weather is perfect for hiking

And I seem to be doing an awful lot of hiking these days, courtesy of hubbie, so the lounging on the couch (which greatly inspires blogging) is kind of over for the moment. Maybe in winter time again. The weather has not been exactly conducive to ‘couch sitting’. It is almost December, and I still haven’t gotten my winter clothes out of the closet.

Aregu Sisay Abateh, 3rd place on the half marathon 

It is not that I am not doing anything interesting either, quite the opposite. I did the marathon (well, 7 kilometers of it). Our housekeeper, Aregu Sisay, ran the 21 kilometers and won 3rd place. Quite proud of that. And I’ve done road trips to the Beqaa valley, Laklouq, and Lake Qaroun, and visited some mysterious fossil field in a gorge of the Litani River (which, by the way, is horrendously polluted). I hike a lot. We’ve acquired a fifth dog (!) which has caused the old aunt that lives in our house to abandon us, as she hates animals. And then there’s friends that organize dinners. And my daughter's social life. Boy, don't get me started on that.

A different view from Beirut

And then I got a little boat. I should say ‘we’. I did not pay for it, nor did I do anything to restore it. But I sit on it now and then. And it is the most awesome little boat there is. It’s a boat from the sixties, it has this huge ‘French Riviera Alain Delon James Bond’ feel to it. 

And talking about the sixties, I just heard I have another project coming up; the restoration of an authentic Volkswagen Van (T2) from that era. I saw it on the road to Rashaya, you know the ones, they transport school children I it. My daughter and I have wanted one forever - she has decided she will become a hippie. Now we will have to complete fix it, restore the inside, and turn it into an original camper van. I intend to do it myself, so there goes what's left of my weekends.

A Pumpkin stand in the Beqaa Valley

And the bizarre fossils I found in Sohmor. If anyone can fill me in on this one, I'd be much obliged.


And my father is currently visiting. At the ripe age of 101. He was here in May, but hey, at the age of 101, time is of importance. I think he is also tired of his own cooking, and since one of my sisters in-law, the one that often cooks for him, is currently on a holiday, he figures he might as well eat in Beirut for a while. So he requires some time and attention.


And yet another dog has been added to the tribe

Now you know why I have not been posting that often at the moment. It is not that I am planning to quit. I’ve maintained this blog for 10 years (!) now, and intend to keep on going for many more years. It’s just that life has been interfering with my blogging. 

November 01, 2016

Fall

My favorite street with the picket fence

The rains have come; the first of this year. They hale the end of the Indian Summer.

The rain always comes rolling in from the sea. It starts with the wind picking up, slowly at first, but soon it turns into gusts of wind, and sand and debris from the past 8 dry months are whipped through the street. I like that moment, just before the rain rolls in. It is usually very early in the morning when the wind picks up. I am on the street, and you have to squint against the wind, as you are pummeled by city dust. You hear doors slam left and right in apartments and buildings, as people are still used to the summer season, and all the windows are open.

The walnut trees in the park are losing their leaves

Plastic bags fly through the air like lost balloons, and sometimes bits of laundry soar around as well: someone forgot to bring in the laundry the night before, and no clothes pin can stand this force. And then, just as I enter my house again, the rain starts.
I like the rain.
Very conveniently the clock has advanced an hour, and so now it is dark when I come home from work. Fits with the season.

The Virginia Creeper is fabulously colored. Indian Summer is over though.

And it seems we have a president. It took a good two and a half years. 
While driving to Beirut yesterday, my daughter and I got caught in the orange traffic jam surrounded the whole process.

"Are they going to blow this guy up?" she asked.
"Well, the last few survived the job, so it is safe to assume this one will too."
I think I would make a very good president," she adds.
"You can't be president," I reply.
"Why not?"
"You've got the wrong religion."
"Swear."
"No, you must be a christian."
"I celebrate Christmas and Easter. Doesn’t that count for something?”

Poplar tree lanes

Not in this country it does. And so I leave you with the last fall pictures up in the mountains.


Late night walk in the park . We were lucky there was electricity. Impossible to walk here in the dark.