Ok, so our trip to Lebanon happened back in April and since then I haven’t checked in to share what our trip was like.
It was great.
Despite pneumonia (my husband) and bad colds (the kids and my mother-in-law), despite a couple of work crises (both my husband and myself) and, frankly, crappy weather, we had a great time.
When you spend most of your time alone as a small family unit it’s easy to forget that being around family in a really intensive way has lots of upsides. There’s always someone to hold the baby while you take a shower. There are always other people to help you give baths, feed children, entertain them while you do something else. True, privacy is limited, but you’re also never lonely. And it was such a wonderful thing to see how the relationship between the children and their grandparents bloomed over the month we were there.
And how was Lebanon? Ah, Lebanon. Lebanon is like that really smart, talented, good-looking friend who is slowly sliding into alcoholism, or sinking into depression or an abusive relationship. You’re torn between pity for their situation and irritation that they can’t seem to get their act together. Lebanon is a beautiful country slowly being eaten away by corruption, greed and poor management. It hurts to go back and see less and less forest on the mountains and more and more concrete in the cities. And yet, there’s so much to love. The beauty of the country, the kindness and friendliness of everyone, the joyful and vibrant nightlife of Beirut, and the Lebanese’s kindness to and tolerance of children are unsurpassed—at least in my book.
There’s something very gracious, in an old-fashioned way, about the way people live there. They work fewer hours and spend much more time in family groups, having elaborate meals or just dropping by for coffee. Families are so closely entwined (adult children live with their parents until they get married, even if that means living at home until they’re fifty) that’s both sweet and to a Westerner, slightly creepy. Everybody knows everybody else’s business, everyone feels free to comment on what in the West would be considered deeply personal or potentially hurtful things, and that’s all perfectly normal and acceptable.
Every time we leave, the question of whether or not we could or should move there comes up. Every time, my husband is more convinced we should give it a shot. Every time, I’m more convinced I couldn’t ever live there—for more than an extended vacation, anyway.