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Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 9, Sunday - Beirut

One of the main challenges for me thus far has been staying cool. I slept in late since I am trying to get over my cold and I was exhausted from my day of traveling. After getting up, I took a cold shower to try to cool off. I actually had only intended to wash off my feet and cool off my hands, but ended up taking a full shower because it is so hot (and muggy). I have also been using the old trick of getting my arms, neck, and face wet and letting the breeze help cool me down (though, unfortunately, my room does not get much of a breeze nor does it have air-conditioning or a fan). 
My room at the foyer

View from my room
I had three goals today: 1) find somewhere cool, 2) find something to eat and drink, and 3) break my larger local currency into smaller bills (yesterday on my walk I got local currency out of an ATM, but it gave me rather large bills, so it is hard to pay for small things). I also wanted to get a map, which has proven rather difficult. 

 I headed back the same direction as yesterday (after talking to my dad again and having him map where I was – the slow internet has make mapping rather difficult as well – I learned that there was a shopping center and some large hotels that way). My plan was to find a large hotel where I could cool off, eat, and use the internet. 
I walked past the mosque (Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque) and found the Place de l’Etoile (where I later got some coffee from Starbucks, just for fun).

"The Mosque" (which became a major landmark for me

Passing through there, I ended up finding the Beirut souqs, which is like an outdoor mall, and an excellent way to stay cool. Inside the shops are air-conditioned, which is how I found where a lot of people go to “beat the heat”).

Place de l'Etoile

"Silver" where I ate lunch

I ate lunch at a place called “Silver,” and then wandered through some of the stores. I also tried to break one of my larger bills to pay for my lunch, but they gave me change back mostly in American and only a few Lebanese pounds. Prices here also tend to be quoted in US dollars quite often, and the currencies are used pretty interchangeably.

The view from my table
I also must be blending in a bit because no one gives me any trouble and I actually had a few people ask me for directions today, both in Arabic and in French. I try to respond in whatever language people speak to me in, but when they go too fast I tend to default to English. Also, my answer to questions about directions is fairly simple: “I don’t know, I’m sorry.” It is my goal to try to rely more on my Arabic (or French as the case may be), but of course, when people realize that I am struggling, they switch to another language until they hit English. (This was also the case in Europe, I had a lot of people speak to me in Dutch, which I only vaguely understand because parts of it sound a lot like English.)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am starting to feel more comfortable here. I noticed on my way back to the hostel, that when I reached a particular part of the neighborhood, I quit thinking so hard about where I had to go, I just went. Things are starting to look familiar, which makes me feel more comfortable. I am still struggling with the heat a bit and I am learning the importance of keeping cool and hydrated (I try to always have a bottle of water with me). 

The main street near the foyers

Well, I am off to bed soon as I start work tomorrow at the AMIDEAST office!

P.S. I will add pictures when I get internet that can handle that. In the mean time sorry for all the words!

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