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Have you ever noticed how familiarisation with a place changes your perspective on it?

I've been here a month now, and the daily sights and smells no longer seem quite so foreign. Nothing seems as dirty as it did when I first arrived and the things that were infuriating, like the circuit breaker in the apartment, now just seem vaguely annoying. Most of the time.

We have visitors soon. Both Hayden's parents and mine are touristing their way around, and coming to see us… making the most of the fantastic opportunity to explore a part of the world that has A LOT to see. Having their visit so imminent has re-opened my eyes a little to how our adopted hometown might seem to a stranger. Not that any of them are naive, but there are some things here that are a bit of a shock, especially after a 24 hour flight. The coast road, with its potholes, Lebanese drivers and Lebanese driving was a first impression I don't think I'll ever forget. As was the entrance to Tyr. Where now I see the ocean and the palms along the corniche, when I first got here all I noticed was the condition of the road, the incomplete buildings and the fact that everyone likes to use their horn here. A lot. Especially the taxi's who use it to beep at potential customers (and by that I mean every single pedestrian) to tout for trade. To be honest I still haven't quite got used to that and still get a fright when they come up behind me when I'm pushing the stroller. I'm just so used to people using a horn in anger.

Speaking of the taxi's, in Tyr, they are all late1980's model Mercedes Benz. While there are a handful that look like they should have been RETIRED from service in the '80's (difficult to do when there isn't any apparent Warrant of Fitness schedule) most of them seem to be fairly well taken care of. They just look cool, and add a certain je' ne sais quoi to the town that the bright green eco friendly prius at home will never get close to. Beware though, taking a taxi in this country isn't like at home either. Expect to have the driver stop to pick up other fares on the way. He won't care if everyone has a seatbelt. And he'll probably smoke in the car.

Oh yeah. People still smoke inside here. You have to have a shower after a night out unless you want to wake up hungover and gagging on the smell of your own hair. Remember that?

You want to know something else weird about Lebanon? Those reflective triangles that you get in the back of a car to slow people down if you have an accident or a flat? Here, you use them if your car is for sale. Just prop it up in the window. Even car yards hang them on the fence to attract attention. My husband, for the first few weeks he was here, thought there were an awful lot of accidents until he had it explained. Funnily enough, despite all evidence to the contrary, and all expectation, there aren't many accidents at all.

Which is a nice segue back to where we started, because, if you think about it, perspective has quite a lot to do with expectation as well. I suppose people that visit New Zealand expect it to be 'clean and green' so they have their eyes open to things that are clean and green - the mountians, the braided rivers, the glaciers, the pacific gently lapping at golden beaches and the sheep. If they ventured into parts of South Auckland they would find things appeared not dissimilar to certain areas here - except for the fact that HERE the people won't steal your shoes. Here, you expect things to be dirty and show evidence of a war or two, and in a way, thats what you get. Having the situation explained to you changes your perspective. Little by little you understand why things are a certain way and you just become blind to the dust and the smells. Immunity, from experience. Your memory for comparison fades and you just accept things for what they are. Classic human adaptability.

Posted by karicketts 09:52 Archived in Lebanon

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Thanks for the post Kate ! Always enjoy reading them. I might be lucky enough to be having dinner with your parents tonight but I don't suspect anyone will end up gagging on the smell of their own hair !! (You're right - that's SO old school) All the best.

by Mike Maloney

Great post. I can concur with everything you say both in regard to living in Malaysia in the 90's and our backpacking through the Middle East. Your idea of normal melds to your surroundings and your cirucmstances very quickly.

by Sarah

Mike, uber jealous! Tell mum I miss her cooking. You might actually wake up a little hungover just quietly (less the smell of smoky hair). My dad has a lot in common with Rob in that regard! :)

by karicketts

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