Fresh squeezed juice: one of the perks of wandering the streets of Beirut. As with the produce markets, there are permanent juice shops and then there are those operating out of more mobile venues. In the juice shops, you can buy the most amazing concoctions potentially including: carrot, avocado, pineapple, mango, coconut, you name it. Street vendors lack that kind of variety, but their product is undeniably fresh and produced right before your eyes.

Here's a shot of a very nice juice vendor with a workstation on wheels, who I found in a little alleyway in Hamra. For $2 he made me an orange/pomegranate cocktail--completely delicious. It took him about half a minute to make it, a great business model with a great product. It's too bad the rainy season is picking up now because that won't be good for business. Good thing it doesn't last forever.



I've always loved this view along the waterfront.


A New Sidewalk

Where there are sidewalks in Beirut, they are certainly for the sure-footed. Lengthy stretches of uninterrupted, smooth walkways are rare outside Downtown. Now that I'm not trying to push a stroller through this town it isn't a big deal. And anyway, with all the construction going on all over there's a good chance some of the sidewalks will improve. And if they do, this is probably what it will look like:

I took this picture a few days ago on Rue Rebeiz in Hamra, where the workers were paving in front of the shops on one side of the street. That odd, flat volcano on the right is cement, mixed by hand, right on the road. Practical, if you ask me. When I walked by yesterday the new sidewalk was all but finished.


Will He Jump?

By 7:45 am, a crowd had gathered on the Corniche, heads tilted back to get a good look. There were TV cameras, sirens too. A jumper clung to red scaffolding near the 9th floor of an unfinished high-rise luxury apartment building.

I had only been there for five minutes and I was already an anxious wreck. I hadn't come to see a man die. I'd come to see what the fuss was about. Now that I knew, I couldn't leave without knowing how it would end. Not very many people can actually go through with it, after all. I had to know if he, this jumper, was one of those who could.

I waited. The jumper teased the crowd, letting go with one hand and maintaining only a tenuous grasp with the other. Other times he gestured wildly at the soldiers who had arrived to attempt a rescue. Did I want him to be brought to safety or did I want him to get it over with?

I looked around the crowd. What about everyone else standing there, staring at him like I was? Did they want him to jump? Is that what they were there to see? Maybe just the opposite. Maybe they were staying nearby to pray and hope him back to safety. Or were they there for the reason I was there? Maybe all they wanted was to have the question answered, to not leave the scene before they knew how it would all end.

As I waited one bystander said the jumper had been there since 6:30 in the morning. That's it, I thought. He's not a jumper. If he was, he would have finished the job long ago.

Shortly before 9:00 am, the crowd on the Corniche was cheering. Soldiers at the scene had successfully taken him into custody and brought him safely down to the ground.


Corner Store

Wow, for being a concrete jungle, Beirut sure looks green in this picture.

Some things, like say, a deadbolt for our apartment, can be hard to find in this city. Not so with fresh produce. There are plenty of produce shops on every street (or so it seems to me). Their stuff is local, fresh, inexpensive, delicious, everything it should be. In addition to permanent shops with walls and everything, there are the guys in the picture, selling the same farm-fresh goods out of a truck or van.


At this time of year

You can expect intermittent showers in October, which is exactly what we got this afternoon. Rain fell from a sky that was only partly cloudy, with so much sun streaming through that it made a rainbow.

This shot was taken heading east on Bliss street, toward AUB's main gate.


$2 Treasures

Just the sort of thing that can be so hard to find at the department store back home . . .
Pillow cases from Amir in Hamra, $2 each. Lovely.


Hummus. Seriously.

Today we went to see Lebanon break the world record for the biggest plate of hummus. I'm so glad we didn't miss this event. I was reading an article about it the other day. Apparently, Israel won the world record last year and that annoyed the Lebanese enough to motivate just about every restaurant, caterer, culinary school, or food producer in the Beirut area to contribute a huge amount of the stuff too this event. Because hummus is Lebanese. Period. They even made an impressive/massive dish to hold, chill, and weigh it simultaneously. WOW! I don't actually know how many kilos of hummus you have to amass to break the record, but the dish was able to hold, weigh, and chill up to 3 tons (!!!) of it. They certainly pulled out all the stops for the world record.

Not that you can tell from my picture, but the atmosphere in there was crazy-excited. In the screen Matthew and the girls are watching, you can see half the hummus-chefs - the white blob on the screen is a mass of hummus-chef humanity - all uniformed. The remaining hummus-chefs were on the side of the room opposite the giant hummus dish, and part of that (the red/orange thing) is also on the screen. The chefs were chanting and pounding on the tables and it was a delightful racket if there ever was one.

Perhaps I was delighted by it because really, very truly I love this fight and how it's playing out. I would like nothing more than for the nature of the struggle between Israel and Lebanon to someday be nothing more than this. It could be like the thing France/Britain have, where both countries believe that the other is completely insufferable but wouldn't dream of taking up arms in a conflict. That's what I see in this, in sports, in increased communications between civilians on both sides of this boarder and other troublesome boarders. I see an opportunity to trade violence for good-natured rivalry. I want them to uniformly chortle into their coffees about the imbeciles on the other side of the boarder, to weep with laughter telling jokes about their closest neighbors, to hang their heads in shame when the other beats them at soccer, to mock long and loud the others' claim to the origins of hummus. All this, instead of ever dreaming of taking up arms in a conflict.


Hello, Beirut

We arrived in Beirut on Sunday afternoon. Nearly a week has passed so I guess it's time to resume blogging. We came here from St. Louis and you can read all about that at the blog I wrote while we were there.

Since our arrival, the kids (Star and Dandelion) have had a very fun time in and around our neighborhood. For Star, this is something of a homecoming. We left just after she turned four. We now live about two blocks from our old apartment. As we've made the rounds through most of our old haunts, she has called out, "I remember this place!" . . . and that's comforting to hear. Listening to her talk in St. Louis, you'd have believed that nothing left an impression but the chocolate croissants.

Dandelion was only two when we left Beirut in 2007. She has no memory of these places, but she's seen them in our home movies of her baby-years. Everywhere we go, Dandelion has asked if this place, this food, this activity was something she liked when she was a baby.

Today, right now even, the girls are midway through their first day of school. I get so nervous about first days and I really hope that this school will be a good, building, comfortable environment for them.