Having lived in Beirut for such a long time, the place loses some of its ‘strangeness’. That’s a pity, because it’s the ‘strangeness’ of things that gives you this holiday feeling. And I am not talking about lounging away on the beach; you can do that in Holland too (provided the weather & traffic cooperates). It’s the odd things, the non-Dutch, and usually very small things.
Once the routine of daily life sets in, you slowly loose that feeling. But every now and then, it suddenly pops up. It is unpredictable – a bit like a Proustian memory – but the sudden holiday rush is quite pleasant.
It could be the shade of the iron wrought balconies on a yellow wall in the sunlight of the afternoon while you sit in traffic, (No iron-wrought balustrades in Holland), or the cricket on my balcony; anything that breaks the routine and is unusual to me in Beirut, or Lebanon.
Today, while picking up my daughter from school, some men were trimming the palm trees by the side of the road. The ground was covered with palm branches and dates.
In Holland, you only buy dates with Christmas, and they’re always dried; you cannot buy the fresh version. Heck, I never even knew what kind of trees dates grew on before I came to Lebanon. Now I know there’s ‘balach’ , the fruit that grows on the date trees, and ‘tamar’ which is the dried dark version.
My daughter dragged a branch with ‘balach’ with her, sweeping everyone off the pavement as she made her way home.
My daughter noticed that if you keep the branch against your ear as you walk, it sounds just like when heavy rain falls on a tin roof. (you gotta try this, I tried it and she’s totally right!)
And suddenly this holiday feeling popped up. So unreal! So un-Dutch, a little school girl walking through town with a palm tree branch with fresh dates on it. It was good.