It's taken me 5 months to write my first post about Lebanon. I'm pretty sure that I spent most of that time being sad about not being in Ukraine any more, instead of really taking in my new country. I'm done with that now, although I do still miss Ukraine immensely, I'm turning over a new leaf by taking in everything I can about this diverse, historically rich, friendly land they call Lebanon.
As with any place, really, we didn't know what to expect before coming to Lebanon. The first thing that surprised me was how friendly people were. Like really, people here are so nice, and not in a fake way, they are sincerely happy to welcome you to their country. The people we work with, both local and expat staff, are all just so nice. The shop owners in our neighborhood were incredibly welcoming when they found out we had just moved in. Smiles are met with smiles and you start to feel right at home.
Beirut is a densely populated city, and is definitely rough around the edges. With the recent civil war, so many of the beautiful old Lebanese homes were severely damaged and very few appear to have been restored to their former glory. A walk down the streets of Beirut will bring you a mix of ugly modern buildings, pretty modern buildings that look like they just don't belong, crumbling Lebanese villas, and fully restored villas that make you imagine what this city might have looked like in her prime. The traditional architecture, the attitudes, and the sea are all very much Mediterranean, and I can definitely see why Lebanon is called "Middle East Light." It's not really the middle east.
Two of our favorite outings quickly became walking along the corniche (the seawall by the Mediterranean), and walking through the American University of Beirut (AUB). Watching the waves along the corniche can soothe the soul on the most stressful of days, and AUB is just a little garden oasis between our house and our work. Also, AUB has a program to take care of the many cats that get dumped there by their evil owners, so I enjoy making new friends as I stroll.
So Lebanon surprised us... in a good way! Yes, there are still issues with infrastructure, politics, and a refugee crisis, but the country itself is a gem!