Notes from a globetrotter: Beirut and the predictability of lightning

A bumpy introduction to Beirut…

candles-beirut-wikimedia-300x190I’m having one of those moments where you go to a new place thinking everything is going to be just peachy – I have a taxi waiting for me there, I know Arabic already, I have friends in town who are going to take me out on my very first evening.

No. Wrong. False. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh. I hear one of those buzzers in my head when you get a question wrong on Jeopardy.

So far I’ve been overcharged about 20 bucks by my taxi driver and I arrive to my apartment and the power is shut off because the generators for the building overheated. Forget about power in Lebanon. State regulation has made it so that the simplicity of receiving 24-hour electricity – something we take for granted in the States and Europe and elsewhere – has now has become a luxury. Power is as unpredictable as the wind.

An hour after the first power outage I’m out looking for phone credit. I’ve forgotten my passport, which is apparently a prerequisite, so I go back to the apartment, then back to the credit store then back to the apartment only to realize that they’ve given me a SIM too large to fit my phone. Til tomorrow then. Hanshoof. We shall see. Inshallah. God willing.

Grocery shopping goes well, though I fumble through Arabic conversations in a dialect I do not know, putting me back to square one in that department. I’m also confused as hell about the money and still not used to paying for things in quantities of 20,000 or more. I go home and make pasta that’s little more than noodles in broth and I sit in the room with the AC and check my emails. The power goes out again.

It’s amazing how quickly your eyes adjust to darkness. It’s amazing how quickly your body and sanity and lifestyle adjusts to what you are provided with. The second power outage lasts less time than the first, but I am ready this time with candles, which are already burned down to their wilting brown wicks and are adorning every surface of every room.

I have learned one thing from my experiences abroad in the Middle East: nothing comes easy. But this time I am ready. So darkness please, come swift and strong.

EL Stephens

About EL Stephens

I am a recent graduate of the George Washington University and majored in International Affairs and have spent a considerable amount of time abroad including a semester studying in Paris, a year studying in Cairo leading up to the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, three months living in Amman after being evacuated from Egypt, and several months living in Berlin. I spent the first five years of my life in Bamako, Mali and currently work in Lebanon for the United Nations. I hope to be able to combine my passion for writing and travel into a cohesive exploration of what it is to be an American and a female abroad, while still highlighting the excitement of discovery and adventure on an international scale. Some of my previous adventures may be found on my travel blog.