A Travellerspoint blog

If it walks like a duck.

Have you ever heard the expression "it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but isn't a duck"?

That is kinda like Lebanon. Take our apartment. This place is INCREDIBLE. I'm talking $1500 a week styles at home. Huge, brand new (we are the first people to live here) three bedroom, three bathroom, gas kitchen, a/c in all bedrooms and living room, two balconies... the list goes on. BUT... its not quite what it seems.

The finish just isn't. It looks like the landlord went out and bought the most expensive materials (including marble bench-tops and fully tiled bathrooms) then got my six month old sons to install it all.

The power in Lebanon is provided by the government for 6 hours a day only. The rest of the time you're on a generator (if you're rich enough to afford to run one), and there are always power cuts. Power cuts when the power switches from one system to another. Power cuts when it fails to switch. Power cuts when the Government power browns out - which it does a lot at the moment because its so freaking cold and everyone is trying to get warm... and then there's the power cuts when you use too much power. Our landlord has put 15amp circuit breakers in all the apartments (fairly typical practice)... which means you can run 'two big things' as well as the lights. i.e. two a/c units, OR an a/c and a water heater, OR both water heaters... you get the picture. We have chosen to have no hot water in the kitchen to help get around this problem.

You have to put the toilet paper in the bin rather than flush it.

People park on the road. I don't mean, there aren't garages so they park on the road. I mean, they just pull over and stop the car to do their shopping. Often in a one way street where no one can get past them, or, my favorite, next to another car, blocking them in and meaning there are now double parked cars blocking the main street. Its incredible. Also, the speed limit, one way street signs, road marking of any kind, the correct direction on round-abouts, and seat belts for children are suggestions rather than the law here. Most times I see the kids sitting on their parents lap in the front seat - usually more than one child at a time.

Shia women believe that Allah wills everything. As a result, they have kind of fatalistic attitude towards life. They walk on the road (which is understandable actually, seeing everyone parks on the footpath), they cross the road, seemingly without looking, and they also drive their cars like there is no one else on the road. My defensive driving classes have never been so useful. Its quite an arrogant attitude, but I guess if you believe that god will take you when he wants you it does take away some of the responsibility of looking after your own safety.

There is a whole (massive) section of the population that doesn't exist. The Palestinians arrived here after the war in '78 in such large numbers that the government was too scared to give them legal recognition. Not even refugee status. They live in ghettos and do menial work that couldn't even be considered under the table - because they don't exist they can't get taxed anyway. Its astonishing. And really sad.

And those, my friends, are my observations from being here less than a week. No doubt there will be more.

Quack quack.

Posted by karicketts 21:21 Comments (1)

On the wings of a dove

Salaam Malaikum

It wasn't much fun, but its done now. We are here in LEBANON. A country that is everything I thought it would be and utterly contradictory in the same breath.

I love it here. This is not an exaggeration and should be given the caveat that I also find it the most annoying place I've ever lived. Yes. Perhaps I should back up and talk about the plane trip first.

We got adopted by a Korean grandma on the Chch to Sydney leg. She didn't speak a word of english, and still managed to tell me off for not changing my son's nappy! Actually, in the way of many Asian (and, as it turns out, Arab) nationalities, the love of children of any kind made this the nicest part of our journey. As well as managing to make a Swedish woman who also didn't speak english swap seats with her so she could sit next to me in the bulkhead, the Korean woman, who's name I never got, rocked my son for three fractious hours while all he wanted to do was explore the plane. She was an angel and all I have is a photo.

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In Sydney, we got some tummy time in a quiet(ish) corner, before boarding the flight to Dubai. It was long. The crew were in training, which meant they were freaked out enough about spilling the coffee and handing out the hot towels without having to worry about me and my two. The good thing about a novice crew was I just illegally installed the car seat rear-facing-reclined with confidence and no-one questioned it... which meant that one kid got to sleep quite comfortably and stayed that way (kinda). I did learn a lot on this trip. One thing (which I should really have worked out earlier) was that when the captain turns on the seat-belt sign you have to remove your sleeping baby from the bassinet. This is uncool. Seriously uncool. Especially when the novice crew also removes the bassinet from the bulkhead every time this happens and then forgets to put it back up - and is then running meal service so you are literally left holding your baby for hours. A sleeping child does not sit well on a full bladder. Just in case you were wondering. I should perhaps note that I will, from this point on, reserve my nasty comments about fat people on planes. The fat lady from Switzerland and her ridiculously skinny husband sitting next to us were lovely. Not very helpful, but certainly not complaining when Harry decided he needed a bit of air, and the best way to achieve that was to shout. For (what felt like) half an hour (but was probably only 5 minutes).

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Dubai airport was cold and really big. Especially big when you manage to get a bit lost and walk the length of the international terminal before you find your gate. Doh. We did meet a nice ex-military type from the states on his way to Bagram who watched the lads for a bit there while I found a toilet and some space. I have discovered that you feel a bit woozy when you are that exhausted. Its kinda like being seasick, but your vision goes blurry too.

Dubai airport is so big that the Emirates planes don't wait at the terminal, they wait on the tarmac, a good 15 minute bus trip away. When Ben decided he was over this traveling lark and screamed the whole way to the plane I could see the other passengers faces fall. Luckily, the screaming only lasted till we boarded the plane and all was quiet for the three hours to Beirut.

So we arrived. To one of the worst winters Lebanon has had for 20 years. The runway at Rafic Hariri is built out in to the ocean and the waves were breaking over it. Emirates planes have nose cams, which are quite cool, until you can't see the runway because of the salt spray.

I was done.

I said to Hayden 'you're in charge' and the adrenaline kicked in long enough to get me to Tyre where I collapsed. I have NO idea how it happened, not being able to remember much after getting on the plane in Dubai, but I/Hayden managed to lose the passports at the airport. Lucky we have a spare set but the whole thing is annoying. Nothing is easy here. Even just getting a report from the Police station involves having to go to Saida, which is about half an hour away, just so they can send the paperwork to the police station here. Crazy... and very Lebanese.

Posted by karicketts 20:45 Comments (1)

Getting There

...why not to take advice from your superiors

For those of you that don't know, I'm still here in NZ while Hayden is getting to know Lebanon without us.

What it does mean is that we're hanging out in Queenstown with my folks. This is not a complete disaster as the weather is stunning and its raining in Lebanon. It also means my mum can be a Granny for a couple of months and store it up for the year we're away. She's loving it and the free baby sitting is ace! I climbed Brow Peak with my brother last week (it took five hours) and its nice being able to pop out to the shops whenever you want to.

The slightly less appealing side to this equation is I'm now doing a 22 hour (not including lay-overs) flight from Christchurch to Beirut on my own - well, on my own with the twins.

The drama setting this up is a story in itself. All the major airlines that fly through the UAE will only let you take two infants if they are over six months old - and one has to be in a forward facing car seat that is FAA approved - and they don't make forward facing car seats for infants under 8kgs (mine are only just this weight) in NZ. Add to this the drama of trying to get a Bassinet seat on an airline that won't let you book bassinet seats more than 48 hours out and you might appreciate its been a tense time. I finally found car seats by the way. They cost $500 each, and its still touch and go that the lads will be big enough to sit in them. I figure its a calculated risk. If the plane crashes I'm pretty sure we'd all die anyway.

Hayden, meanwhile, is having the time of his life. Apart from missing us (and getting to see his sons roll over for the first time) he's basically having the best time ever. He's managed to get himself posted to the outpost furthest away from Tyre - which is where we'll live - that he possibly can, but I have my toes crossed this will be mitigated by getting to swap with a 9-5 desk job in Tyre as soon as possible.

But this is all just the prologue really. I am getting itchy feet and am pretty pissed off about having to be here when we could be 'there'... we're booked on a plane on the 28th of Feb though. Not long to wait!

Posted by karicketts 14:08 Archived in New Zealand Tagged flight plane emirates twins Comments (0)

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