Goodbyes to Lebanon

My last days in Beirut were lovely. I spent the weekend in a tiny Druze village in the Lebanese mountains with a group of friends. We spent all night discussing Lebanese politics, language and video games. My farewell to the Lebanese mountains was the most difficult. As we drove down the mountain with Beirut and the Mediterranean in the distance, I couldn’t help but cry. I really didn’t want to leave. My final night was spent walking the corniche with close friends and drinking nescafe. I then took my final crazy taxi ride to the airport and proceeded to take take the worst red eye known to man.

I’m now sitting in a Parisian McDonald’s, utilizing free wifi anywhere I can find it. No longer am I surrounded by Arabic, now I hear twenty different languages a day in a bustling city full of more foreigners than French (apparently that’s what it’s like every August). Every time someone speaks to me in French, my brain immediately takes me to Arabic and I attempt to speak to them in Lebanese. No one seems to appreciate my Bonjourain response to daily hellos.

While France is great, I find myself missing Lebanon an incredible amount. I miss the comfort of Hamra, the crazy taxi rides, rooftop hookah, and cheap shawarma. It’s amazing how at home I felt after two short months. The biggest comfort is that I know I’ll be back. My trip to Lebanon solidified my academic interest in the country and my passion for the culture and language. Hopefully during graduate school I can spent a larger chunk of time in my new favorite country.

My next two months will be spent exploring parts of Europe. I keep studying and reviewing Arabic to ensure that I don’t forgot anything and I maintain all the skills I picked up after living abroad.  My goal today is to find the Arabic Cultural Institute in Paris and make some new friends I can speak Arabic with.

McDonald’s is getting pretty crazy as the lunch rush begins. When I have wifi again, I figured I would share some of my best packing pointers since I learned a great deal in the last few months.

Merci Katiir

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Allison Swaim

About Allison Swaim

Allison is a senior at Portland State University majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. On her 22 birthday, she will make her first trip abroad to Lebanon. While the emphasis of the trip is to expand her Arabic skills, she is excited to experience the culture of Beirut. She is interested in post-colonial political movements, nationalism and conflict analysis. Having strayed very little from the Pacific Northwest, Allison is ready for a new adventure. While she has prepared as much as she can for her journey across the world, she accepts that she has no idea what she's getting herself into.

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