Friday, April 27, 2012

Maurice, the Comic, and the Movie Star

my blog posts are emails that I've been sending to close friends about my trip. Here is the second one.

I'm finally over my jetlag which meant that last night I got massively drunk, was hungover all day, and probably going to fall asleep as early as I have been with the jetlag.

Yesterday we went to the Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve. I've uploaded all of my photos to my flickr account. Since I only got a camera charger on Saturday afternoon and was in bed most of today, I don't have any photos besides from the hike yesterday. You can check them out here.

The hike was great. Not too difficult, but enough to get the blood going. Quiet with perfect weather. I wore long sleeve shirt and never had to put on a jacket though we found snow in several places. I even drank from the origin of a spring at the top. Blissful!

As we were driving up the mountain Hussein almost drove off the side when he saw a sign that stated caution: landmines. Ziad, one of the people whose home I am staying in, said that oh yes, during the war the military had put landmines all around the cedar reserve in order to protect it. The Cedar tree is over harvested and the governments is trying to protect it. If you look at a Lebanese flag, it is the cedar in the middle.

Maurice: Maurice is one of Hussein's closest friends. He is a stout wild hair loud Arab with a black girlfriend from Houston who works at the UN office in town. At first meeting he embraced me and kissed me and told me I was beautiful. It's quite lovely meeting Maurice. We ran into him last night at a dance club that only played 1960's and 70's music. A lot of bars in Europe do the same. You can't beat dancing to Superstitious and Preacher's Son with a bunch of Lebanese. Though it turns out there were a number of Americans in this group many from Houston oddly enough. Several of Hussein's friends are moving to the states this coming year and they have all vowed to visit me in New Orleans. I always spread the gospel. 

Maurice, Sammi and Myself

Upon seeing me arrive in the club, Maurice grabbed me and kissed me and told me I was beautiful. He pulled me on the couch to sit next him and chatted me up. Then introduced me to everyone before pulling me off the couch to dance. Seriously the only appropriated way to be greeted. Maurice and his girlfriend Christina are moving to Philly in August. Maurice is going to get his MBA at UPenn.

On Saturday Hussein and I spent a couple hours sitting on Maurice and Christina's balcony. Soaking up the sun and drinking beer with lime juice and salt. My new favorite summertime cocktail. Another of my favorite new things is carrot sticks sprinkled with lime juice and salt. It is offered during socializing, before meals and with cocktails at bars. Much better than chips or nuts like in the states.

The comic: We returned home last night around 2am to a living room full. A friend of Ziad and Ghallia's (his girlfriend who also lives here) were helping build a facebook page for a friend, Edmond, who was recently sentenced to a month in prison for showing his Superman underwear during a fundraiser for children's heart disease. There are all these old laws on the books that are starting to be enforced. Their friend is so sad and so scared to go to prison. Ziad and Ghallia are organizing a protest on Wednesday outside the courthouse where he has to face the judge again to get the sentence thrown out. I of course was very drunk and played the fool when I returned home. But that's just the way it goes. Hopefully I will attend the protest on Wednesday. Since his joke included boxer shorts, there is a thought of asking everyone to bring a pair with them to show the absurdity of the situation.

The movie star: I have been so lucky to be invited to friends' families' homes for lunch over the past week. Lunch with family is a several hour affair with a large roast, many sides, dessert, and coffee. On Friday after meeting Ghallia's mother and Aunts for a second time my food coma lasted hours where I was questioned by many if I was ill.

Ghallia's father passed away three years ago from a sudden heart attack. Her parents had gotten married when they were really young and her mother was devastated. She had a very hard time dealing with the lost of her spouse. After some time passed her kids pressured her to move on and since they are very wealthy and she didn't have to worry about money, this was an opportunity to follow dreams that had been interrupted by raising a family. She had always wanted to act. So through a friend of a friend she landed a part in a local movie that went to Cannes last year. Ghallia's mother strutted her stuff on the Cannes red carpet and has made three other films.

She is now mulling around an idea to produce a film of her own. She has had 50 young men offer marriage to her since her husband died. Maybe this is exaggerated, maybe not. She is quite charming. And she wants to make a film about the mindset of young men who like older women. I think its great!

One of Ghallia's Aunt's recently had a stroke that ended up taking the lower part of left leg. She is speaking but sometimes only nonsense. I've had this conversation many times over the past seventeen years, but sometimes the worst thing about a stroke is surviving it. Ziad said that Ghallia's aunt is really struggling with having to depend on other people for her very survival now. She was independent before, lived alone and didn't exactly need people to do things for her. Now she lives with her sister and can't even go to the bathroom by herself. It was tough to see her though she was obviously happy.

Of course I can't help but think about mom's stroke in 1996 and her most recent one that took her life. (Not that everything brings me back to that anyway) In 1996 mom struggled so much with being told to give up her car keys while her brain healed and not being able to communicate after having taught English for so many years and being such an avid reader. But there is some peace that she doesn't have to do that again. Meeting Ghallia's Aunt though did remind me that it could have been much worse.

Refusing to end on that note . . . . One thing that I do love about the city is the coffee shops. It is very much a cafe lifestyle. Tomorrow I will start taking photos of the shop I love the most, including the mobile carts, which are really just large bookcases on wheels with storage on the bottom half and an espresso machine on the top part. I have yet to see a bicycle coffee cart though.

ReneƩ Claire

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