I don't remember the last time I went to a restaurant where smoking was allowed. oh wait, that was last night (and everyday of this trip). Smoking is still very popular here in Lebanon. Wherever we go, people smoke. It was shocking, really, cause in the states almost no one smokes. It is practically shunned. Smokers are sent to a "smoking area" where they get to infect other like-minded individuals with their toxic fumes. Even if they are accepted as normal humans, they are not allowed to smoke inside any confined space. All restaurants and buildings do not allow smoking. Most bars restrict it, if I am told right...
But here in Lebanon, anything goes. That is a pretty general statement that applies to most everything in Lebanon, but lets use it in the context of smoking. Wherever you feel like smoking, you better believe that you can. Actually, that is incorrect. The Lebanese are very religious, whether Muslim or Christian, so smoking in a religious building is not allowed. That is probably the only exception. The biggest reason for this, I believe, is that everyone smokes. Why would a restaurant owner ban smoking in his place when he smokes there all the time? It doesn't make sense. He doesn't want to go outside to smoke, so he won't make his customers do so either.
Cigarettes aren't all that is smoked, argile (or hooka, as americans call it) is extremely popular wherever you go as well. But let me just clarify, before the states started seeing it as the cool thing to do, the Lebanese have been smoking it for hundreds of years. It is nothing new, although it is popular. There are many different flavors and sometimes they mix them up to get a new taste. There are special people in the restaurants whose sole job to make sure everyone is enjoying their agile. There walk around with the coals and make sure everything tastes fine.
Now since Synthia and I are not used to the smell of smoke, especially cigarette smoke, going anywhere irritates us. Our eyes bulge out and our lungs collapse. It is quite serious. We went with our cousin to a pub (a Lebanese version of a US bar) and within 20 minutes we couldn't see each other. Then we went home two hours later coughing and unable to see. I might be exaggerating a bit, but you get the picture.
The funny thing is that everyone that we meet asks us if we smoke. When we tell them 'no' they take a nice big puff of their cigarette and tell us it is better that we don't start. I don't get it. They know quite well the dangers and consequences of smoking, yet don't care to stop. I know that most are addicted, but even then, its not like they are trying to stop. Our cousins' cousin has been smoking three packs a day for so long than he now needs to be on an oxygen tank for 10 minutes in the morning and evening. He is 30 years old. Not only that, but he still smokes three packs a day. And even more, he takes a break from his 10 minutes oxygen session to smoke a cigarette. That is bad.
Now onto other matters: I really don't care if global warming exists or not. I think it is a stupid debate that takes our eyes of serious stuff, like 'tom and jerry'. But I will agree that there is a climate change occurring. I mean it snowed multiple times in Houston this year!!! Multiple times! That has got to be something new.
Also, here in Lebanon, this has been the hottest summer in at least 30 years. Temperatures were soaring for days at a time. In the coolest places in the country people were buying fans for the first time (not many have ac, b/c it is never hot). People aren't able to fall asleep because of the heat. And the power is going out more because the few people who do have ac are using it so much, and it takes a lot of power.
We don't care anymore because we will be up in the plane tomorrow morning and then back in Houston, where even if it is hot, we have full time ac. But while we were here it sucked. And I feel bad for the Lebanese who are having to endure the heat still. It has been luckily cooler the past few days but I hear next week is supposed to be hot again.
So if global warming is real, it is working in Lebanon, but not Houston (woo-hoo!!!).
thats all for now. there may be one more post from Synthia, or not. We may also write a bit more when we get back if we remember anything or to talk about culture shock (even though I don't know what that is).
until then, this is your best friend serge reporting from Ballouneh, Lebanon.