Guide to Lebanon Blog Posts

It’s hard to believe how much time has passed since I was in Lebanon. Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday and other times it feels like it was all a dream (yes, I know that sounds cliche!). Whenever I think back to those incredible ten days in Lebanon I always have a smile on my face.

In a few weeks I will be presenting again on my time in Lebanon. This presentation will be at the Hudson Library and Historical Society on Tuesday February 5th at 7:00pm. Again, I hope for those of you in the area, you will consider attending.

For anyone who is new to my blog I thought it might be helpful if I repost the links to each blog post that I made while in Lebanon. I have included a brief summary of each one.

Enjoy!

Oreos with the Ambassador = Pre-departure, reflection on orientation in Washington DC

Details from pre-departure = more information on our pre-departure orientation sessions

Walking Tour = Our first day in Lebanon we took a walking tour of downtown Beirut

All around Lebanon = Big day of touring including Khalil Gibran museum, the Cedars, and the Roman Ruins at Baalbek

Day 4 – Our first meetings = met with Michael Young, Hanin Ghaddar, Ousama Safa and Lokman Slim

Day 6 – More meetings = met with Youssef Fawaz from Al Majmoua (microfinance NGO) and toured American University of Beirut

Parliament Meeting = met with Simon Abi Ramia, member of Parliament and head of the commission for Youth and Sports

Tour of Byblos = visited Jeita Grotto and Byblos

Just Checking In = photos at the border with Israel and with UNIFIL

Music in Lebanon = details on Najwa Karam performance at the Achrafieh Music Festival and our visit to Skybar

Visit to the US Embassy in Beirut = details on the life of US ambassadors in Lebanon

ANERA = met with Bill Corcoran, president of American Near East Refugee Assosciation, who does work with Palestinian Refugees

 

Flower at Baalbek

Back to School

One of my pet peeves is bloggers who apologize for not posting for a while. So I’m not going to do that! But here’s what I’ve been up to recently:

After Lebanon, I went right back into my internship which was AMAZING. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better summer. I learned so much at IPM. I really need to post soon about what I was doing and all the cool projects I learned about. Lucky for me they enjoyed having me there just as much as I enjoyed being there, so I will be continuing to work a few hours a week there throughout the fall (and probably spring too).

August rolled around and that meant moving back to JCU for SRA training and RA training. This was my third year doing RA training, but it was like a brand new experience with the majority of my staff being new RA’s, as well as being in an Upperclass residence hall for the first time. I have nothing but positive things to say about everyone I work with. I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by my fellow RA’s who I consider to be the most interesting, motivated, dedicated, and determined group of students on campus.

The highlight of the past month though has been my brother moving in to JCU to begin his freshman year! I am SO happy that he’s here with me. I love watching him figure out what college means for him and what choices he’s making to shape his John Carroll experience. So far he has been busy with ROTC. I’m proud of him for choosing to do something he believes in and I’m grateful for all the guys who are watching out for him now.

And then yesterday we finally started classes. I feel like I’ve been back on campus forever and I was 100%  ready to start classes. I have three regular classes on my schedule (which is very few compared to most students) because I’m getting credit for my internship and also doing my Senior Honors Project (more on that another day). Yesterday I had Intro to Microeconomics and Arabic 201. This is my first time ever taking an Econ class so I’m a little nervous, but I’m choosing to take this because I want to be better prepared for graduate school in the future. And Arabic, well I still need to get back into the swing of things for that… I’m hoping with some focus and determination over the next few days I can regain my knowledge from last year! Today I had Intro to Peace, Justice, and Human Rights. I’m really looking forward to the material we will be covering in this class. I think it will be a really interesting class and relate a lot to the work IPM does. Hopefully I plan to blog here about the material we cover in class.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. All great stuff! It may seem hard to believe, but now that classes have started I think I’ll have more time to devote to this blog. In the mean time, here’s a funny picture I found from Lebanon. When we visited the Cedars there were lots of little souks/bazaars outside the forest area that sold souvenirs and hats. I tried this one on, but I didn’t buy it. I hope all is well for my readers near and far!

Day 6 – More Meetings

Today we had two more meetings. I will tell you a little about each, but first I want to talk about electricity.

I haven’t mentioned electricity so far on my blog. Beirut has the appearance of a modern European city, however the infrastructure is seriously lacking. When the Israeli’s pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, they did their best to destroy as much of Lebanon’s infrastructure as possible. Some things have been repaired and redeveloped, but the electric grids have not. The issue of electricity is really coming to fruition this summer while we are here because people are unbearably hot without AC. There have been protests with people burning tires in the streets. Our very first night in Beirut we experienced two power outages while we were at dinner, each lasting less than one minute. Nearly everyday we have experienced similar power outages for short amounts of time. Anyone who is slightly well off and all restaurants and businesses all have their own generators for back up when the electricity is out. The issue of electricity shows that while Beirut is trying to become a modern European city and travel destination it still has a ways to go.

So for our two meetings today:

Our first meeting was with Youssef Fawaz, the Executive Director of a non profit called Al Majmoua, which is a micro-credit program founded by Save the Children in 1994. In 2003 Al Majmoua became financially self-sustainable and is the leading microfinance NGO in Lebanon. I really enjoyed this meeting because Al Majmoua primarily gave micro-loans to groups of women in the beginning. The loans that they give run from as low as $100 to $5000. Starting in 2001 they began giving loans to men and individuals. Al Majmoua currently has 32,000 clients with a $32 million portfolio. The average loan for a group of women is about $600 and usually goes towards hairdresser or food processing supplies. The average loan for an individual is around $1500 and for men usually goes towards woodworking or some other similar handicraft. Al Majmoua has grown to 19 offices across the country and a staff of 225. One of the issues they currently deal with is recruiting female loan officers. They must have a certain number of female loan officers so that they can go out and meet with the groups of women who are applying for loans. Although Lebanon is more liberal and progressive than many other Middle Eastern countries, it would still be unacceptable for a male loan officer to meet alone with a group of married women.

It was disappointing that Fawaz came off as very pessimistic in his hopes for the Lebanese government. He said the “country is politically bankrupt” and that it is a zero sum game trying to get anything done through the central government.

Our second meeting was at An-nahar which is the primary Arabic newspaper. It was very interesting to hear their optimism about the future of newspaper. When many say that newspaper will obviously face an end, they believe that through adapting to new conditions the newspapers can still exist. The men we spoke with shared that they future role of newspapers is more focus on analysis and less on breaking news because breaking news can easily be shared on Twitter and other online media. Our primary reason for meeting at An-nahar is a program that they have called Youth Shadow Government (YSG). This is a very cool program for youth approximately ages 20-26 to shadow the actual Lebanese government. These youth are assigned Ministers or more than one depending on what makes sense. They follow what policies these Ministers are focusing on and then develop their own individual projects that are often picked up by the Ministers and given national focus. The purpose of the YSG is to empower the youth to be active and involved in their government. The program has been very successful so far in accomplishing its goal and has had alumni of the program go on to many levels of government involvement.

A new program that has grown out of YSG is Lebanese Young Leaders for Tomorrow. The young man who was speaking with us had graduated from the YSG and is currently in the new program.

Oh in between our two meetings we had a tour of American University of Beirut’s campus. It’s very beautiful and just a minute walk from the beach. If I had longer than one year left in my undergrad I would love to study abroad there. Explanation of photos: 1. Graffiti in Beirut outside of Al-Majmoua office. 2. Me on AUB campus in front of main entrance. 3. Banyan tree on AUB Campus. 4. Pretty flowers on AUB campus. Well I think that’s enough for today! Peace and blessing 🙂

Walking Tour

The highlight of Saturday was a walking tour of Beirut. We went inside two churches and one mosque. I had never been in a mosque before. The men in our group were able to walk right in after taking off their shoes. The women however had to put on black smocks and cover our hair with black scarves, which were all provided by the mosque. We put our shoes in a cubby along the wall. There was a huge gorgeous chandelier in the mosque and several smaller ones too. The mosque cost $22 million and was completely paid for by Hariri before he was assassinated in 2005. Hariri is buried right next to the mosque and there is a tent with lots of photos of him on display. Rafic Hariri was Prime Minister of Lebanon 1992-1998 and 2000-2004. He is regarded as a hero in Lebanon for reviving the country and especially the city of Beirut after the civil war.

Some other random things to note:

I learned that Pepsi has the corner on the market in Lebanon. Coke usually has less than 20% of the market. I can’t remember when exactly Coke pulled out of Lebanon, but I’m guessing sometime around the civil war and then they came back later than Pepsi. Also Pepsi gives store owners more incentives to purchase with them, like a free case for every ten you buy.

Everyone in Beirut drinks bottled water instead of tap water. For this reason bottle water is very cheap. My roommate and I bought 6 large 1 liter bottles of water for $3.

Also everywhere takes US dollars and the exchange rate is accepted to be $1 US for 1500 Lebanese in all small shops.

I’ve been surprised by how much French is spoken. But this has been a plus for me! I’ve used a little Arabic so far, but I know more French so I’m able to use that too.

Tonight we are going to a music festival so I’m going to get some rest before we go to dinner at 9PM! Tomorrow will be a long day too so I may not update for a while.