Tuesday, February 4, 2014


We have been gone from our homeland almost five months and I am not going to say "boy where did the time go"; I know exactly where the time went ~ in Beirut! The two months I spent in Beirut were not only life-saving but also life-changing. I needed to get away from the quiet of Ifrane, I needed to head back to the city, I needed to be part of a hustling urban life again, I needed to be with a support system beyond my husband, I needed to be out and about, I needed good food and much love. And, I got more than I bargained for staying with at my uncle's house, sharing a three-bedroom apartment with him and his wife and live-in maid and my cousin, her husband and their baby.

I got love, I got food, I got family. I also got perspective. I got perspective on paying attention to what matters most. On sitting still and watching the world go by. On surviving rainstorms, cold waves and uncertainty. On spending hours in the kitchen, days at home and nights awake. I got perspective on doing things I enjoy, slowly, deliberately, with intention.

I witnessed my uncle's wife cooking away so that we can enjoy her labor, serving us only the best of what she made, setting aside what did not meet her expectations. I saw her start making a dish from scratch because the end result was too runny, too tart, too doughy. I saw her mixing love with joy with sweat to bring forth elaborate meals and wondrous dishes. I saw her heart and soul and pride at the table and in every dish. I saw that and marveled.

I saw my aunt making her way to her beauty salon religiously every morning. At 8:30 she would stop by on her way to work, talk in a loud voice, open bedroom doors, wake up those who are still sleeping, "force" feed those who have not eaten, dress those who are still in their PJs, catch up on the previous day's events and heads out promptly a few minutes before 9 to open shop. She rarely had appointments that early but she still made sure the salon was open at the expected time. She also rarely had late appointments but she also made sure she closed shop at the expected time. Even during the day when work was slow and there was a lull in customers she would stay put loyal to whoever may show up unexpected.

I spent time with a friend whose husband works in a different country and who is raising three kids on her own. She spends her mornings and evenings and at times everything in-between with her dad making sure he sees his grand kids as much as possible. She and I met on the street as we were walking our kids to preschool. We immediately connected and became almost inseparable for six weeks. We talked, walked, baked and hung out as much as we could, rain or shine.

I spent time with another friend, one I did not think I would reconnect with after years of separation who is raising four kids, one of whom has a learning disability. She and I grew up together, moved apart, reconnected a few years back, slacked off in connecting and then came together again. Every Wednesday and Saturday we would come together and watch our kids play. We chatted about life, the present, the past, the future. We shared mothering tips and tricks. We fed the kids. We looked at old photos and thought back to when we were kids; those were the days!

I spoke to my mom on the phone; she was sad and lonely. I checked in on my dad; he is old and sick. I missed them both, the kids missed them both, they missed us. Yet, they were both going about their days as best they could: my mom waking up in the morning, getting dressed, walking to the bus stop, having her morning coffee, heading to work. Working her shift, bundling back up and heading home to dinner and sleep.

I spent time with family; a lot of time with a lot of family. I saw my Teta and Jeddo; they are old, and live by themselves in the same house they married in. They met the kids; that made the move to Ifrane worth it. I connected with my cousins and their kids, with my uncle's wife who had a double mastectomy, with my uncle's wife's family who are welcoming and very loving.

I spent time with my kids, walking the streets, visiting the stores, being outside. I saw rich relocated Syrians and poor displaced ones. I chatted with the rich and thought often of the poor. I helped where I can and watched, amazed, grateful, speechless and breathless as JR did the same; sharing her change, her snacks, her thoughts with the children on the street. Her questions, ponderings, and reflections on their situation made my heart swell with love, joy, and pride. I remarked at the little boys who stopped at nothing to get a few pennies; standing in the way of cars, chasing after them, hanging from the open windows as they started up at a green light. If only they would take this determination with them when they grew up.

I also spent a lot of time inside, surrounded and alone. And I learned, or rather I re-learned, lessons that have always been in front of me. I learned about perseverance, patience, love, generosity, hope, faith, letting go, relaxing, dedication, loyalty, sacrifice, loneliness, old age, sickness, health, finding a way, getting past setbacks, giving and getting second chances, and starting over - always starting over. It is amazing how one can go through life side by side with valuable lessons and yet never really see them until one is good and ready. I think I am finally good and ready.

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