Thursday, January 7, 2010

A post in which I do not gloat about several things, not the least of which is the 75º weather that we're having here, because that would be unseemly.

Not to brag or anything, but I just got back from a fairly fabulous European vacation. And before any family members (a.k.a. 95% of my readership) ask themselves, “And what am I, chopped liver?”, let me promise you that I was very sad to miss Christmas and the associated activities, and that really, if I could have gotten home for the cost of going to London, Paris, and Amsterdam, I would have.

That being said, I had a wonderful time in Europe. I flew into Paris on the evening of the 23rd and spent a foggy Christmas Eve morning walking up to Sacre Coeur, then hopped a train and a ferry and another train to London to see my friend Rachel, an art history master. We spent a quiet Christmas in London (complete with the YouTube Yule Log video crackling in the background), watched movies, and wandered about. It was absolutely freezing, but in a good way. London also included some cheeky gingerbread men, a visit to the Natural History Museum, and a trip to the Wellcome Collection (which was, as suspected, a transcendent experience). After a few days of that, we hopped another ferry (this one overnight) to Amsterdam, where we met up with our friends Molly (from NYC) and Edwin (from Utrecht), saw lovely museums (the Rjiksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum), delighted in Dutch design, giggled at 15th century carvings in the choir stalls at the Old Church that illustrated Dutch sayings (including “Don’t try and out-yawn the oven door” and “Money doesn’t come out of my arse”), and generally soaked up the gezellig atmosphere that is Amsterdam in the wintertime.

For New Year’s, we went to a party with Edwin’s friends and stood on a bridge over a canal at midnight as the entire city erupted into an impromptu celebrations of all things fireworks. It was like the 4th of July, but everywhere you stood was a good spot. The next morning, slightly hungover, I made my way back to Paris to meet up with Marie-Louise, Diarra, Ousmane, and Papis, my Senegalese host family. It was absolutely wonderful to see them again after (almost) 5 years, and I had a lovely time catching up with the family in their warm (in every sense of the word) apartment just outside Paris. I also loved seeing how independent Diarra is now(she was still in university when we were roommates) and really loved this video of her paragliding back in August!

The next morning, Diarra drove me to the airport and I began my 17 hour journey back to Beirut. It isn’t that the distance is so great, it’s just that the connections aren’t remotely convenient, leaving me with 8 hours to kill in the Rome airport. Once back in Beirut (at 3:00 a.m.), the passport gods—a.k.a. Lebanese bureaucracy—decided that I had gotten off easily earlier and confiscated my passport at the border. Luckily, they still let me in, but I’m off to Beirut tomorrow to apply for a residence card and (hopefully) get my passport back (without a bribe). The good news is that a) the incredibly nice man who was confiscating my passport knows Sheikh Sami (my boss) and his sister is one of the teachers that I work with weekly, so at least my passport was in good hands, and b) it was 68º at the airport—I was definitely happy to be back in a Mediterranean climate!

Since then, it’s back to regularly scheduled programming—classes, trainings, and visiting. I’m going hiking in Jezzine on Sunday, which I’m super excited about. Pictures to come soon, because while now my camera is working, my DVD drive just broke and won’t let me reload the camera software. Much love to all of you!

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