A Travellerspoint blog

We're back!

sunny 32 °C

Hey everyone! Synthia and I made it back two days ago. The plane ride was awful. I swear from Greece to Jersey took 2 hours longer on the way back. And our travels through the airport made the whole trip complicated and tiring. But thank God we made it back and don't really have jet lag. We get tired a little earlier than normal and wake up a bit earlier, but overall, we are doing fine.

I wanted to comment on gas in Lebanon. Here we sell it by the gallon, so I assumed that Lebanon would sell it by the liter. But that is not so. It is priced by the tank. I couldn't get anyone to properly explain it to me. It is the equivalent to 3 gallons, I think. Or 4. No one really knew. I really just wanted to know what the price difference was and my uncle explained to me that it was about double the price of the states. Well, double Houston's prices, probably the same as California.

Also, it is all full service. You just pull up tell them how much you want and they do it for you. They also clean the windows. :) It was good. You don't even have to tip them! How awesome is that?

One more thing about gas, the prices are set by the government. Every single gas station in Lebanon has the same price for gas. That was interesting. So people wouldn't shop around for the lowest price, they just take whatever station they knew best. Usually they would somehow be related to the owner.

Money is also different. Although it is rumored that you can use American dollars wherever you are, most still use the Lebanese lira. If you follow money at all (i dont) you probably know that most different currencies, like the euro change in respect to the USD. But Lebanon has set its Lira to be exactly lined up with the dollar. So where the euro to dollar conversion may change daily, the lira to dollar conversion is always the same. 1500 liras is equal to 1 US dollar. I wonder why they dont just make it 1 lira to 1 dollar, but i am sure there is some economic principle beyond my understanding. It's all good.

Well, thats all folks


Posted by serj n syn 13:17 Archived in USA Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Our superhero cousin

overcast 28 °C

Well, it's our last day in Lebanon. It's bitter sweet. We had a lot of fun, but I really am missing Houston. So overall, I'm ready.

The last time we came to Lebanon, 7 years ago in case you forgot, we did not have a good time at all. We were stuck in a village where we saw almost no one for a month. It was depressing really. It was also hard to do things because we couldn't all fit in one persons car and it was hard to find someone else to drive another car with us. We have been resistant to come back because last time was so horrible. Everyone that would come back from a vacation in Lebanon would tells us that things have changed and we should really go and see it. But we made up our minds that Lebanon was boring.

This time my dad really wanted us to go and see for ourselves. Since we are older, and wiser, maybe we appreciate it more. So we decided to try it out. If you have been keeping up with our blog you probably have noticed that we have done a lot of things. Also, that we have been having a lot of fun this time. I don't want to minimize what our entire family has done, but honestly, if it wasn't for our cousin, Elie, we probably would not have had as much fun. Our family tried, but it's hard when they have their kids and jobs to do things with us.

Elie took time off from his work and planned a whole day of things to do. I mean seriously, we'd wake up around 9:00 am and not come home until 10:00ish pm. It was non-stop. He is studying Food and Beverage Management so he knew of all the good places to eat every city we went to in Lebanon. Not just that, he knew so much history of each place we went to. So as we drove from place to place he would teach us about the different sights we passed by.

People knew that last time we didn't enjoy Lebanon as much so every time they saw us they'd ask if we were having fun. Once we told them all the things we did they were shocked. They said that he took us to places they had not ever seen or heard of. We started to know more about Lebanon then the people living there. When one of our cousins took us to Byblos we were her personal tour guide. We showed her the different churches and the fort. She was surprised that Lebanon had so much history.

We didn't know how to thank Elie for all the great things he showed and taught us. Without him our trip would have been just like last time, boring. So Elie, thank you, although that is not enough to show our gratitude. We really do appreciate you taking time off of work and with your friends to show us our country. It is because of you that we enjoyed our trip this time. WE LOVE YOU COUSIN!!!!

Posted by serj n syn 01:53 Archived in Lebanon Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

thank you for smoking

also inside: is global warming real?!?!

semi-overcast 30 °C

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.

Posted by serj n syn 01:11 Archived in Lebanon Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

A day at the beach

sunny 37 °C

We got to spend a day at the beach yesterday. The water was perfect. We spent 4 1/2 hours in it!!!

My brother and I like to go to the beach pretty much only because of the waves. We have fun jumping into them and floating in the salt water. Unconsciously we would be in the middle of a conversation and see a wave so we'd stop the conversation and jump in. Once we got up we would pick up the conversation where we left off. It wasn't something we planned, but it just happened.

My brother starting thinking this was similar to what should happen in life. We can't always have adventurers, but as we live our lives opportunities come for us to have fun. We can either chose to stop for a minute and take advantage of the excitement or we can continue living in our ordinary lives. Now on the other hand, we can spend all of our time just looking for waves to jump into and not experience normal life. It is possible to simply have no conversation but still find many waves. It is the balance of each that makes going to the beach (and living life) exciting. Just some randomly deep thoughts from my super-duper awesome brother of mine.

Overall, it was amazing to swim in the Mediterranean Sea and right next to Byblos.

Posted by serj n syn 01:10 Archived in Lebanon Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Watermelon and cheese

overcast 28 °C

every night when we are in my mom's village of june my grandpa closes his convenient store at 9 pm. Usually one of my uncles is there and goes to pick him up. when he gets back we all sit at the dinner table together and enjoy a plate of watermelon and cheese, with pita bread of course. This was a strange concept to me when I first saw him doing it 7 years ago. But this trip i decided to try it, and wow is it good! The tastes mingle together just fine. :)

But this post is more about my grandparents than the food they eat. My grandpa is 78 years old and has lived through a lot. He remembers the Germans bombing the shores of Lebanon (cause the French occupied Lebanon at that time). He is full of wisdom and loves to share his thoughts with us. He is very quite and doesn't hear well, so he has a lot of time to think. Usually when he speaks it is with caution, but always truthful. He is not a fan of lieing, but more than that, he believes in telling the truth (which is different).

My grandma is also pretty old...And she is a lot more eccentric. She spends most of her day in the garden or cleaning the house. The garden is her livelihood. This isn't just a pretty garden of flowers, but a real garden with fruits and vegetables. Everything has a purpose, even if it is medicinal. And all she talks about is her garden. It's not always interesting or fun, but I love hearing talk about it because I hear the joy in her voice when she talks about it. She comes alive and that is cool. She is also very religious and devout in her religion.

That is just a little tribute/tidbit about my grandparents. I don't know why I felt like I wanted to write about i, but I did. They are great people who love me and Synthia very much. I was sad to say bye to them a few days ago, but hopefully we will be able to see them again. When we are here I feel like they are so alive and happy. They have nothing to do in their village but work the convenient store and garden. But I am glad to come every so often and give them a little joy. Only a couple days now. Almost home.


Posted by serj n syn 01:29 Archived in Lebanon Comments (0)

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