Back home, back in Beirut and back in business. And it is good to be back. The summer isn’t over yet, but the holidays are. I have changed jobs, and am super excited about it; this year I should be a more productive writer.
It can take some time to get back into the Beirut mood, for this town can at times be like its heat; repressive, especially after two months in an environment where it does not get above 29C, where there is no humidity, where there are no traffic jams and where no one really cares what you wear or if you’re wearing anything at all.
However, this time, I was right in the mood even before landing.
My phone broke this summer. And while at the airport in Amsterdam, waiting for my flight to Istanbul, instead of playing Sudoku on my phone or flipping through Instagram images, I really had nothing else to do then to observe my environment.
And it was a quiet environment, almost demure.
People sat around, each in his/her own personal space, doing their own thing. No one was really interacting with others, and conversations that did take place were in very hushed voices. No eye contact. No loud noises. Very quiet. Very peaceful. Very lifeless too.
And then you get to the Beirut gate at Istanbul Airport (which somehow often gets placed right next to the one to Tel Aviv, and so the two peoples are quietly ogling one another with some fear - from one side -, and lots of curious glances from both sides), where things are slightly different.
A profoundly different atmosphere.
Personal space? What personal space? It is loud and ‘in your face’ communication. If you do not know anyone, you make sure you find someone you know, you are either related to, who’s from the same ‘dai’a’, who knows someone you are related to or whatever. You will do whatever it takes to find someone you have some sort of connection with. Any connection.
And then you talk. And laugh. And share your opinions. And you do this very loud so everyone can listen in, whether they like it or not, and join in.
If the flight is late, everyone complains out loud. If there is food, everyone shares. If you need help, everyone will advice.
I was looking at 5 older men, in their late sixties, sitting together, who had absolute laughing fits. One of them was telling either a joke or a story, and you could just see them shaking in their chairs. It was like looking at a couple of teenage boys, you could not help but laugh along.
Maybe it was because the majority was Lebanese going home, or visiting, but it was a good atmosphere. An ‘in your face’ and loud atmosphere. A joyful atmosphere.
And it was fun. There was this love of life that is so evident in Lebanese. This joy, this feeling that people really make the best of what they have, this ‘Life is short and you may not have been handed a very good deck, but what the heck, you make do with what you have’.
And it was good to realize that. Good to come back to.