Sunday, July 16, 2006

July 14, 2006

Some time after midnight, before I had fallen asleep, Raja called from Syria on my cell phone. He had left Beirut with his family earlier that day to visit his father in an already planned trip. He sounded really tired and depressed and asked me if I was planning on sticking around or if I was planning on leaving Lebanon. I said that the best thing to do seemed to be to stay put and keep your head down; I had no intention whatsoever of panicking and getting in a taxi to Syria. That's just as well, Raja said, since there was no no way out of Lebanon; the Israelis had just bombed the Beirut-Damascus highway. I reassured my troubled friend that it would all blow over in a few days, and he would be able to return to Beirut in peace and quiet. But I'm not sure I believed it myself.

I woke up at 4:45 am from a powerful explosion not far from my place. I got out of bed and found my roommate already up and about in the livingroom. No explosions followed, however, and I soon went back to sleep. I woke up four hours later, feeling encouraged by the fact that we had power in the apartment. I turned on the TV and went online to find out what had happend throughout the night: more attacks on the airport; bombings of the southern neighborhoods of Beirut; and threats of more violence to come.

It is strange how a place can change overnight. Walking in the streets of Beirut now is an eerily quiet experience. I never thought I'd miss the loud, chaotic Beirut, but I do. The other night was sitting in Jamazeih, the trendy new clubbing area, relaxing with some friends and a cool drink. Today, all I'm trying to do is stay as close to TV-news and Internet connections as possible. All the joy I felt over being back in Beirut is gone; everything I love about this place has been eclipsed by a dark cloud. It can't go on forever, I tell myself, while knowing perfectly well that it could, in fact, go on for a very, very long time.

I contacted the housing people at the American University of Beirut regarding the possibilities of moving in on campus. I don't really want to, but it would mean a stable supply of electricity, since AUB has its own generators. Should Israel bomb the main power plants supporting Beirut with electricity, I'll be completely in the dark where I live now. Perhaps I'm being childish, but it almost feels like a betrayal to move in on campus and give in to the terror campaign. At the same time, these are days to be pragmatic; the access to power, air-conditioning, and a daily shower is worth way too much to be ignored.


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