Greetings from Beirut

Random thoughts while traveling.

  • Sunday in the fall is one of the better days to be in an American airport. At least they’re showing football instead of Fox News. Saturday, of course, would be even better.
  • Dubai’s airport is basically a shopping mall that people fly to instead of driving to. That said, it’s still a lousy place to spend twelve hours waiting for a flight.
  • My taxi driver who brought me from Damascus to Beirut hit 160 kilometers per hour. You can guess whether he was being paid a flat fee or by the hour.
  • Beirut’s a happening place, but it’s giving me a bad vibe. Damascus is nearly as active, in terms of numbers of people out and about, but feels more laid back. Folks in Beirut walk faster and smile less. It’s also about three or four times more expensive than Damascus. On the upside, it’s right on the Mediterranean.
  • Did I mention that Beirut’s right on the Mediterranean? The Freaking Mediterranean! Midwestern Farm Town Boy here can’t quite get over seeing the Mediterranean again. It’s my second time now, when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get a chance. The Mediterranean…words fail me. Long time dream, life goal, etc. etc.
  • I’ve been invited to talk to a class at Lebanese American University here in Beirut. Midwestern Farm Town Boy…lecturing in Beirut. Nobody predicted that in my high school yearbook.
  • I’m not looking forward to the trip back to Damascus. The border crossing wasn’t really bad, but had all the trappings of dismal Hollywood flick about third world government/military bureaucrats. I did manage to get through without paying any baksheesh, although the soldier/customs agent obviously wanted some. Americans are famously stupid about such things, and I used that to my advantage.
  • When in Damascus, it’s important to keep lots of small bills on hand to pay baksheesh, which doesn’t just mean bribes, but tips, too. I ended up paying 200 pounds ($4) for a guy to carry my bag from one taxi to another, just because that was the smallest bill I had. But it’s hard to keep small bills on hand when so many things cost so very little. You either use them up quickly, or you pay for tea with large bills, suffer the annoyed looks, and wind up with a wallet so thick you can’t sit on it.
  • Al Jazeera is a much better news network than either CNN or Fox. Not that that’s so hard to do. But those Ay-rabs have a much less biased news source than we Amurricans do. Suck on that, angry white Americans.
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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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4 Responses to Greetings from Beirut

  1. lukas says:

    Welcome to the San Francisco of the Arab world!

  2. Kolohe says:

    Sounds like a great journey. Al Jazeera* is indeed very good, but it is peers with CNN International and BBC World News which are also rather good- and all three of which are immeasurable better than the output of ‘regular’ CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC.

    *English, that is, not sure if you may be talking about the Arabic version of which I no nothing.

  3. James Hanley says:

    Lukas,

    Actually, it does kind of remind me of San Francisco. Fewer Thai restaurants though, to my regret.

    Kolohe, yes, the English language version. My Arabic is somewhat below rudimentary. And you’re right about CNN International. My hotel TV has that, too, and the difference between that and regular CNN is remarkable. It kind of looks the same, but then you realize it’s much smarter: more newsy and less gossipy. It’s kind of like looking at identical twins, then realizing one of them suffered brain damage while the other’s an honor student.

  4. lukas says:

    Well, you can’t have everything, I guess. Lebanese cuisine more than makes up for it though… I miss mezze platters.

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