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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 11, Tuesday - Beirut

Have you ever played the game Frogger? I haven’t, but from what I’ve seen, it’s something like trying to cross the street in Beirut. You sort of have to time yourself with the flow of traffic and be a little bold. If you don’t, you’ll never get to the other side of the street. Now, I’m not saying you just run out in front of cars… well, not exactly. It’s more like a carefully timed ballet. You do sort of have to just step out sometimes, though. If you just stand on the sidewalk, they’ll never wait for you.
I have found that you have to sort of step off the curb, then look for a break in the flow of traffic before stepping out, and the cars will slow down enough to let you go. Or, if the cars are stopped, or moving slowly, you just weave your way through. I learned from a friend here that locals will act very insistent but they don’t actually want to throw the first punch, which is how I survived my closest of calls with a moped. 

So when crossing the street, you really have to be especially careful of people turning right, because they will try to go between you and the curb if necessary, especially if they are a small car or a moped. I was just trying to get off the street after crossing five “lanes” (they don’t really have lines of the street, you just kind of go wherever) when a moped tried to challenge me. I kind of started him down, he stopped a foot away, and I made it across safely. Don’t worry, I don’t usually make of point of confronting motor vehicles. 

The sidewalks tend to be rather narrow (though I think wider than the ones in Leiden), and on really narrow streets, cars park on the sidewalks so that you have to step out onto the street to get around. You sort of get use to walking in the street a bit and the cars never get that close. The way that people and traffic mingle around here reminds me a bit of Europe, although there is the noticeable absence of bikes and a little less of following road rules here.

View from where I am staying now
By the way, I still don’t exactly have a map. I do use Google maps when I have internet, but when I am walking around and actually need to reference one, I pretty much have to guess (no, I don’t have internet on my phone, that’s expensive). This resulted in me getting “lost” twice yesterday, once walking to work and once walking back. Okay, I didn’t really get lost since I did make it to where I wanted to go, which was the result of having a good idea of the direction I wanted to travel. It is a little over 1.5miles from the apartment where I am staying to the AMIDEAST office where I am working and the temperature around the time I am walking is something like 85F with high humidity (mind you, I also wear long pants but I can wear tank-tops while I walk and put on a sweater at the office). 

Well, with the way I walked to work it probably was closer to 2.5miles, maybe 3, because I thought I had gone too far so I doubled back a bit and then had to redouble back once I realized where I was. Anyways, the way back I didn’t get quite so far away, but I ended up on the wrong side of the hill which the apartment was on (though I didn’t know for sure I was on the right hill), so I walked up it, figured out where I was and found my way back safe and sound. (Not to mention that if I really got stuck I could always take a cab, which I have been told is pretty easy to do and not expensive.) “All’s well that ends well.” 

Just some ancient ruins I walk by on my way to/from work everyday...

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