February 2010

Whenever you are in a new place one of the things you need to figure out is how to get around a city and its transport. This region we live in is not know for its public transport, and Beirut is no exception, so here is my take on getting round this city.

You have five modes of transportation: On foot, in a private car, by bus or van, a service, and finally a taxi. Each one of these modes offers its perks and its perils. My favorite of them all is being in a bus or van and I will save my explanation till the end.

Let me start with Taxis and Services, why am I lumping them together? Because they are interchangeable. The same car can be a car pooling extravaganza or your private experience. Either way you start off in the same manner, at the curb side waiting. Once a taxi pulls up you shout out to the driver where you are going, it is totally up to him if you are worthy of his time and his chariot. Sometimes, without a second glance, they speed onwards and sometimes they just nod. But if you look like me and talk like me (or in other words don’t look or sound Lebanese) they most likely will start to negotiate. And this part I hate! You see its 10,000 LL for a taxi, 2,000 for one person in a service and they usually try to ask for anywhere between double (servicien) or 10 dollars! I find the whole process stressful and sometimes even rude. If you are in a service you should also expect to be dropped of near but not at your destination after going through a circuitous route to get there just in case they may find another fellow passenger along the way. But truth be told I kinda like the concept of carpooling, I think it makes sense. I only wish they could be nicer about it.

On foot is perhaps the most hassle free form of transport and it can be quite pleasant if you can find ways to tune out all the noise around you. The sidewalks in most places I’ve been are wide enough, flat enough and pothole free. I only have to untrain myself from walking in the street as I do in Amman , and repeat my mantra “the sidewalk is my friend”. Another major difference is that the majority of the roads are flat and inclines, if they exist, are gradual and easy with very few exceptions. So if you have the time I would recommend that you walk, and when you do duck into a side street, it can be much quieter.

Finally the big red buses and the small 10 seater vans place the highest in my ranking. I love that they run all the time, there is a set nonnegotiable route and fare and its easy! The hardest part is figuring out which bus goes where, which you can do by asking the wonderful drivers of the big red buses. They not only tell you which bus to take, but will give you a lift to the nearest corner too! So far I have done well with the number 2 and the number 4 getting me across town in the most efficient manner. I think I now need to familiarize myself with the others that I see on my journeys in the city, maybe even take a detour or two!

A big part of getting to know this city is learning to get around. Its been weird not being able to navigate the streets and know where I am. I cant tell you the number of times I’ve looked around and felt completely lost and sometimes even panicked until I see a familiar site. But those instances are lessening with everyday. I now just need to get out of the two neighborhoods of Hamra and Ashrafieh and really get to know the city a bit better.

So I’ve realized that I haven’t written in a long time and I have made the decision to try and put up something no matter how big or small and get back into the habit of writing. So here is a shot at something from my new life.

Over the last few months I have been trying to acclimate in this new city I have adopted as a home for the time being. But it is a difficult place to acclimate to and I am going to be very honest and say that I have been in a funk (aka depression). I have also been very uninspired. I seem to find Beirut an uninspiring city. I know a lot of people who would disagree with me, and to the Ammani’s of them I say, try living here instead of just playing here on the weekends. To the Beirutis of them I say, please show me otherwise. To the rest of y’all tell me what you find inspiring about this city? I have been unable to write, pick up a camera or even doodle!

A blogger/ writer I know watched Lord of the Rings with subtitles on to try and unblock his writing freeze. I don’t know if it has worked for him, but I am more than willing to try something, anything, to get me back to a new state of inspiration from within this new city I call home.