Last Day

My Arabic lessons have ended. Term's over. I'm going to miss it even though honestly, I'm ready for a break.

These missmatched panes of obscured glass are to be found in the stairwell at school. I like them.



It's so common here that eventually you quit noticing it; the plants that spontaneously spring up out of rocks. Remarkable, even if it isn't rare.

Plants are survivors, just like we are. They get the job done with what they've got to work with. I'll bet there's a lesson in there for me . . .


Shoe Shop

I'd like to share this picture because there's some arabic in it and I can read that stuff now.

Except that I actually can't read this stuff--not the black sign. I absolutely can't tell what it says even though I've been able to recognize and name all the letters for weeks now. I'm actually kind of good at the alphabet. But I can't read the sign because learning the letters and being able to sound things out does not make me literate. Literacy is something else entirely, a distinction I didn't know mattered so much until now.


Before it Got Cold

Before it got cold Matthew took the girls out to sea in a little inflatable boat. That's my shadow in the foreground, on the rocks where I was able to take as many pictures as pleased me and stay perfectly dry.

It's been a week and a half since the picture was taken. It's strange to think that it was decent swimming-weather so recently. Winter had to come eventually.


I Guess We'll Have to Go Through It

Bear hunts; they're a kind of chant-along activity that you do with kids. Here's how it works. Everyone sits crisscross-applesauce in a circle. The grown up is the leader and talks the kids through tracking a bear. There are hand gestures involved, and there are obstacles along the way, tall grass, a river, etc. For each such obstacle, the leader of the hunt announces, "we can't go over it . . . we can't go under it . . . I guess we'll have to go through it!"

This doorway, with that great big hole drilled through the left-side post, reminds me of the bear hunt. Who was it who decided that it was a good idea to drill right through? It makes me wonder if they really couldn't wire up the building any other way. Or maybe it could have been done differently, by less conspicuous means, but there wasn't a compelling reason to leave the stone post alone.


Tea Cups and Top Hats

Christmas decorations in City Mall. I'm not sure what tea cups and top hats have to do with the holidays, but so what.



I don't post pictures of the kids often enough. They do exist, they are in fact here with us, and they're happy.

See? Merrily scampering down the street.



It's something I always feel conflicted about--photographing people who don't know me and don't know they've been caught in a frame of mine.

Catching strangers like this never fails to remind me of a daydream that my mind replays evey so often. It goes like this: I move to a far-off place and start meeting new people and making friends. One of them has traveled to some of the places I've traveled to, maybe Vienna, Yellowstone, or LA. It doesn't matter where. This new acquaintence starts showing me their travel photos. Typical tourist snapshots of monuments, architecture, notable places. And then, shockingly, unbelievably, there I am. In a snapshot of the Washington Monument or the Trevi Fountain or near a pillar at Baalbek, I'm recognizably present; a stranger caught in the background of someone else's life.


A Castle by the Sea

While we were in Sidon we climbed to the top of the Sea Castle. It's a crusader ruin, situated on a small island just off shore. It is so lovely, a perfect spot to go exploring with the kids.


In Sidon

Produce markets are so eye-popping. I took this picture in Sidon when we were there recently. I'll post a few more Sidon pictures over the next few days.

What wasn't so eye-popping was the mosque. I'd be tempted to call it a hidden mosque, but there's a brown 'historical building' sign that identifies it. The brown sign is by the open door just to the produce vendor's right.


Haj Decorations

Here in Beirut we recently had several days of vacation for Adha, a holiday that I know nothing about. I do know that it coincides with Haj, the pilgrimage to mecca that every able-bodied muslim is expected to make at least once in their life. Anyway, all over town, people have returned and decorated to celebrate the completion of this significant religious journey.

There's a pretty big variety in the decorations around town. Multi-colored streamers are common, so are banners that picture Mecca and include text about the pilgrimage. You'll also see lots of palm fronds adorning doorways where recently-returned pilgrims live. These decorations are my favorite.

They feature miniature Saudi flags (Mecca is in Saudi Arabia) and mini Mecca cubes folded out of paper.


The Marathon

Beirut hosts a marathon annually at about this time of year. The race took place yesterday. This is the first time that I've been a spectator--and it was really something to watch the elite runners zoom past, followed up by the 'fit' crowd. They were trailed by the 'still trying to run' folks, and after them in a seemingly unending chain, the walkers carrying balloons and banners, wearing jeans.

I was very surprised to see a runner on two artificial legs. I'd never seen legs like his before (the runner wearing the British flag on the lower right), and I couldn't help noticing how different his gait was from the other runners. I was socks-knocked-off impressed by it, that he could do it . . . that he was doing it.


Closed Door

Back in 2004, our first apartment in Beirut had a metal outer door to guard or block the actual apartment door for extra security. I believe we never actually closed (much less locked) that 'extra' security door the whole time we lived there, but anyway . . . these metal outer-doors are common throughout the city, and though you'll find them everywhere you'll notice that there are very few alike. There must be some creative metal-workers in town.

I liked the symmetry, right angles, and repetition in this door. And I'm feeling a bit gray as I write this, so it fits.


Soap Charms

Soap originated in this part of the world many centuries ago. It's still made the old-fashioned way in Tripoli and Sidon. The Audi Foundation maintains a lovely, informative museum in Sidon that shows the complete soap-making process.

Throughout Beirut it isn't too hard to find soaps just like these.

Here they are, all dressed up for a special occasion. You can buy the same soap in an unadorned box too, but these photogaphed better.


On the way to School

This is one of my favorite houses along the walk to my kids' school.

I'm an American Mid-westerner, accustomed to long, cold winters. It is with that legacy in mind that the second-story windows thrown wide fill me with a deep sense of contentment.



I took this picture at ABC, a big shopping mall in Ashrafieh. It's hard for me to imagine what this picture would look like without the red and purple holiday decorations.

Poor kid, sitting there with two old dudes. He seems bored, lost. Or maybe that's just a trick of the picture.


Is it Love?

I can't decide if I love stores like this or not.

Koko in Bourj Hammoud

The first glance gets me every time; the thrill of the visual overload. Wow, I think to myself. Look at it all! And, looking at it all I initially feel sure that in there somewhere, there's something perfect for me. But then I take a closer look, I examine their products. And wouldn't you know, it turns out that I don't need a hat or an umbrella. I've got too many scarves already. And I'm way too picky about purses to commit on-the-spot. So, yeah, I never end up buying anything at places like these. That can't be love can it?

But then, I do LOVE the air conditioners overhead, the mess of wires, the retro mannequin heads. I love that everything is jammed together, spilling out of the shop onto the street. And I'll never get over the landscape of grime and grit from which this bouquet of colorful consumer possibilities has emerged pure like a lotus flower.

Maybe it's love after all.



While shopping, I caught a glimpse of this lone cart. It tugged at me, waiting so patiently there.

Happy December.

This photo is part of a theme day for City Daily Photo. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants