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Lebanon, December 21, 2005

Rue Bliss Ain't Happiness

And we're talking traffic, not shopping

honk for love
Think they use blinkers?
X marks the spot
Or traffic clears at night?
Do you feel that stop signs are suggestions vs. requirements? That stop lights are advisements vs. law? That one-way streets are too restrictive? Then you'd love Beirut driving.

No rules, no though, all balls and bravery, Beiruties don't slow for stop signs, don't stop for stop lights, and find one-ways' disgusting instead of directional. Into any intersection, at anytime, they drive, not slowing for others, not even looking in your direction less they show a sign of weakness and be required to stop. If you stop, a chorus of honks erupt, people impatient and annoyed that you might respect a red instead of thinking green.

Maybe it's a result of the civil war, when kidnappings at red lights were common and snipers popped caps in stopped cars, maybe its just because they can, but Beiruties make driving a blood-boiling fear-inducing white-knuckled experience for anyone not used to the tight spaces and constant high-stakes game of chicken that automobiling requires in this small city.

And everyone drives here. There are no buses really, no public transport to talk of, and with a such a hilly city, its one car per person everywhere. Not only does this produce crippling gridlock, especially with the lack of road rules, there is a constant smell of exhaust hanging over the city. Exhaust that forms a backdrop of smog when the wind doesn't blow.

So do yourself a favor, get your boss to drive everywhere when you are here. If you're luck like me, and he's Egyptian, you'll be safe and happy, and he'll think he's home.

Lebanon, December 19, 2005

Monday Night = Beirut Party Night

Monday night, midnight, so maybe even Tuesday morning, and I am in Cuba Libre, the Beirut bar, not the drink, and Ali and I'm out with friends pouncing on a bottle of vodka. Che might not be happy, think we should be on the rum wagon, but I don't care. The hottest Beiruties are here and my eyes are soaking up the beauty.

Lebanon, December 16, 2005

A Vodka Gimlet Is All I Ask

I stopped in the little shop across the way and for some odd reason, felt it was high time I tried arak, the Lebanese moonshine.

Whoa, damn! Burning my throat, blurring my vision, and blunting my brain, it had me stumbling blind drunk across town to my hotel. Screaming at the Ministries building for being in my way, until the nice men with guns chased me off? Check! Babbling Russian with a random cab driver as he was changing a tire in the middle of Rue Bliss? Check! Being questioned by armed security guards three times in three blocks? Check thrice!

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Lebanon, December 15, 2005

Its Beer Pong - Not Beirut

Back in my first days of DC residency, I was introduced to this most American of games; Beer Pong. Meant to be a drinking game for college kids, it's a skill-less game of bouncing ping pong balls into plastic cups as an excuse to get wasted on bad beer. While its so foolish its banned in Virginia bars, the NoVA kids still hold it in high esteem, and beer pong tourneys are hotly contested.

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Lebanon, December 13, 2005

Bang Bang Beirut

Arriving in the Beirut airport to super-tight security, we head to the hotel in a somber city. On the way there, I look out on a wild city. Half-finished buildings compete with half-ruined, and half-rebuilt ones, the legacy of a decade of civil war followed by a decade of rebuilding, and decades of neglect. Poverty next to opulence, Christian next to Muslim, church next to mosque, it is a land of differences defining logic.

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Lebanon, December 7, 2005

Lebanon - Here I come!

It's 4pm today, and I'm in a meeting with the VP of Field Operations and the CFO of my company. We're talking about this new Geekcorps program we just won in Lebanon - Access to International Markets through Information Technology (AIM-IT), and how the VP is going to Beirut to start the program Monday. I'm excited, for not only does this project mean Geekcorps doubles again in size, but that I get to go to Lebanon in January to start the programmatic cycle of the project. Or so I thought.

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