I grew up in Lebanon. To many people that don’t know this place, it’s portrayed to be a land of chaos and turmoil torn by machine guns and war. The images of splintered bodies, crying children with ripped clothes, and wailing, veiled mothers haunt the TV screens all around the globe. The CNNs and SKY News’s of the world have branded it as an unhallowed ground of plague and death.
I’m not going to talk about the geography and history of Lebanon. I’m not going to talk about the infamous cedars of Lebanon, how they are mentioned in the bible. I’m not going to talk about the mountains and coasts of Lebanon, or it’s weather, or how we have 4 seasons and how in the late days of February and early days of March you can actually ski and swim in the same day ( it takes less than an hour, if there is no traffic, to drive from Faraya, a skiing resort, to Beirut’s beaches). I’m not going to talk about the beauty of Lebanon. All this information can be found on Wikipedia, Google, and any touristic pamphlet you can pick up from any touristic site there, yet the the global media seem to deem this information unworthy of air-time.
I’m going to talk about Lebanon through my eyes. The place I grew up in. The place I’ve loved in. The place I’ve had my heart broken in. The place that I’ve experienced joy, sadness, ecstasy serenity, anger, and many other countless emotions in. The place that I’ve dreamt in…. The place that I’ve lived in….. AND… the place that I’ve left.
For me as a child, I remember Lebanon as a land of love intertwined with death. I remember being surrounded by a loving family living in an apartment in Beirut lit by candlelight. I remember going to school, walking under rain and bullets. I remember sleeping to the music of my mothers lullabies and AK 47’s. I remember having picnics with my relatives in underground shelters. I remember celebrating Christmas’ to the bellowing laughs of a fat Santa and canon bombs.
It wasn’t a sad childhood. On the contrary, I genuinely remember happiness and love. We were, and still are, a very close and loving family and, probably, I was too young to understand the atrocities of war.
At my early adolescent years, the war had ended. I remember going to school and finding my passion in football. I remember playing football all the time, in school, on the streets, in the building’s parking, basically any place that can fit 6 to 10 screaming kids who wanted to be Baggio, Romario or Klinsman ( those were our heroes back then). I remember going to trips outside Beirut visiting the villages where my parents hail from and discovering the marvel and beauty of this country, the white mountains or the green forests or the sparkling blue seas.
I remember visiting relatives and spending summers and weekends there camping, walking through the woods, playing video games, attempting to learn how to hunt while getting bit by mosquitos and of course jumping on beds, playing wrestling and playing football.
I discovered music as a teenager. I will not elaborate too much about this now since I will write extensively about the eternal love affair between me and music later on.
Besides music, I discovered the brotherly bond of friends. Friends that I’ve shared many highs and lows with. I also discovered introversion and loneliness and my tendency to shy away and hide from the world alone with my thoughts. Naturally, I discovered love. I discovered that unquenchable fire in my heart, that mesmerizing sensation that always haunts my thoughts, that total immersion into another. Love will be another companion through out my life. It will morph into many shapes. It will take many forms and it will have a plethora of faces. However, it will always have the same essence and it will always sprout from the same root; the vulnerability to another person. I also discovered heartache, not only through discovering that the person you loved is in love with someone else but through disappointments, through having dreams shattered, through realizing that you can not have everything you wish for.
In college, I discovered clubs, parties, sex, drugs, Rock’n’Roll, the vices of life, more falling in love, more heartache, more of… everything. I discovered being away from home by either living in the college dormitory in a rural area in Lebanon or traveling abroad with friends for vacations filled with parties, adventures and , sometimes debauchery, or serving in the army to complete my mandatory military service. I realized there is a whole new world out there unchartered by my innocent soul.
Slowly, reality started to check in. I tried pushing it away but with every push it hovered back stronger and firmer assuring me that it won’t go away and telling me that it’s time to grow up.
While it has been away, hiding in the deepest wells of my memory, the everlasting, forever eternal anti-thesis of life emerged from its deep slumber. Death, in both its literal and metaphorical forms arose from its hibernation. Suddenly, loved ones started to disappear. Our paths crossed no more. We became “friends” on Facebook and we met in either weddings or funerals ( their’s or common acquaintances).
In Lebanon, I have dreamt. In Lebanon, I realized that, in order to achieve my goals, I have to leave . This place that gave me life, this place that nurtured me and molded me into the person that I am today has released me to worlds unknown.
“I’ll hold you back if you stay… I’ll bury you with your dreams and hopes…. I’ll teach you the most important lesson of all… Learn to make it on your own…. You can come and visit… I’ll nurture new life…I’ll end old ones too… I’ll build new hopes… I’ll build new dreams…. Our paths will intertwine… maybe in life…. but certainly in death.”