Lebanon loves hitting me with a surprise when I'm feeling down. She (and I know she's a she because she has just as many ups and down as any girl I know) knows how to give me a lift when I'm sick of public transport, ogling men, rude shop keepers, lousy waiters, loud hooters, queue skippers, old-school thinkers, pay-for beaches and littering taxi keepers.
Take yesterday for example. I was on www.travelstart.co.za checking out prices for a ticket back home - back to Ava, men who don't even know I exist, chatty kafee tannies, Knead's energetic waiters, robots that serve a purpose, diligent queues in Home Affairs, way-out radical ideas, Muizenburg's ever-long beach and dustbins on every street corner.
But then Lebanon threw two incredible things my way. They both happen to be fashion related (and you still think she's not a she?!) and they both rocked my world, clothing me in happiness.
The first came in the form of Botox. The kind Lebanese ladies love injecting into their faces. But yesterday's Botox came in a bag. My interview with Mauro Orietti-Carella, creative director and CEO of Zagliani, an Italian handbag brand established in 1947, had us exchanging 'oh it's so fab' comments about each other's handbags - mine from Tokyo (which he loved because he grew up there, and has also designed a bag in the same shape); his a croc-skin tote bag injected with his signature silicone Botox concoction, in a colour he created to resemble the moon. Soft to the touch, yet durable when you rub them up the wrong way, his python- and crocodile-skin bags (all injected by him and his dad) can be seen strutting down Rodeo Drive, dangling on the arms of J-Lo, Cindy Crawford, Rihanna, Janet Jackson and Kylie. They're up for grabs at Aishti too, making Lebanese women more Botox-obsessed than ever before.
The second fashionable encounter happened by chance. Beirut Souks are having their official opening this week, and I happened to be taking a wander through them after my Botox-bag interview. A huge grandstand was being erected down at the end of one corridor, and the journalist in me just had to investigate. A security guard informed me it was for Elie Saab's fashion show last night (apparently his first show in his home country in 18 years!).
'Ooooh, how exciting!' I squealed. 'Yes, that's him there,' said the security guard, pointing to a black-suited back five metres away from me, happy to have made my day. Of course the camera was swiftly hauled out of the Tokyo bag to take a shot of this international fashion designer's back and shiny grey hair. But the security guard, keen to make my day even better, insisted I go closer and get a photo with Elie (did I mention that I was not loving Lebanese people three hours before this star-struck incident?!). I moved in for the kill but, being the queuing South African that I am, did not have the guts to bring out the Lebanese in me and interrupt his conversation.
I waited patiently (well, as patiently as a person who's about to meet a designer whose dresses always feature on top of her designer list) next to a very handsome, slickly suited man, who, it turned out, was his assistant who travels up and down with him between Paris and Beirut (and everywhere else in between, like, um, Cannes). He called Elie up to us (yes, Elie Saab came up to me!) and took a photo of the two of us. It may not have been the red carpet, and there was no evening gown in sight, but it turns out Elie Saab thinks I'm quite a starlet - I mean, he didn't take his sunglasses off!
I got the purest taste of Elie Saab, the man behind many of Angelina Jolie's gowns. A gentle, welcoming and friendly man, whose hands (the same ones that draw sketches that become creations such as Halle Berry's 2002 Oscar-winning dress) touched mine - twice!