Every year that I've been here on holiday and commented on how wonderful Lebanon is, people living here have always said to me, 'Yes, it's wonderful because you're here on holiday. Come live here and then you'll see what it's really like.' Well, tomorrow marks my four-month anniversary of living here, and so far it's still wonderful.
But there's one problem...
I miss that holiday vibe. Now, when I go down to Jounieh and pass the Bel Azur hotel where I stayed last year and in 2005, and catch a glimpse of people swimming in the pool beyond the reception area, I think of the nights my friends and I sat around there smoking the arguile, or the days godfather uncle and I took a dip to relieve ourselves from the blistering sun. Today, when I bumped into someone from Joburg at the Bel Azur who was part of our tour group five years ago, and he told me of the rest of the group going off to Baalbeck while he and his wife ditch the bus for a day of shopping, I felt a pang of jealousy.
Yes, I too was shopping in the streets of Jounieh today. But mine was not a shopping spree filled with the carefree feeling of being on holiday, being fascinated by the 70-percent sales and taking pics of old buildings along the street. Even the croissant and manouche guy that godfather uncle and I were obsessed with last year seemed like an everyday sidewalk business to me today. I was the insider viewing those ordering a cheese manoushe in a British accent as outsiders, imagining their holiday weekend of partying with locals, their fascination with raw kibbe, their sruggle with the hard 'g' of the Arabic language - the way everything is looked at with fresh eyes.
I didn't like that feeling today. I was on a mission to buy a top for bride-to-be cousin's bachelorette party while others were idling about swapping stories about their latest Lebanese experience. I wanted to be on holiday too.
And so I did what I do whenever I'm on holiday. I ate an ice cream. A Lebanese ice cream at that. One of those in the square cone, filled with a myriad of flavours in a rainbow of colours. And I sat on a sidewalk chair and soaked in the feeling. For five minutes, I was on holiday in Jounieh.