That is to say, a final predeparture post. Two days until the flights that will take us from Detroit to Amman and Amman to Beirut. We leave mid-morning on Thursday and, due to the time change, arrive early morning on Friday. I got some very smart advice to eat lots of yogurt and drink lots of bottled water during the days leading up to the trip. Most Americans get sick soon after arriving in the Middle East, a combination of breathing germy airplane air for fifteen hours and getting used to different bacteria in the water. Before departure, staying hydrated and ingesting the good bacteria in yogurt can at least help reduce the likelihood of getting sick. I suppose having some orange juice on the plane could help too. Anybody have further suggestions?
Last night my sister Anna threw a great going-away dinner party with lots of delicious food and great company. My mom made stuffed grape leaves. She doesn't have a drop of Lebanese blood in her, but she makes the best dolmas I've had. Anna made pasta and Greek salad and loads of sweets. Best of all, though, lots of friends and family saying bon voyage. Thanks everybody.
Needless to say, we'll miss people the most this year, but being away from other, familiar comforts will be strange. Going to Mass at Gesu. Knowing that virtually everyone I meet will understand the language I speak. Being able to get a delicious, sinus-clearing bowl of pho when I'm under the weather (although for all I know, Hamra might have great Vietnamese restaurants). Turning on my laptop with little concern that the electricity might cut out at any moment. Watching bad tv. I hope a little time away from the most familiar things will make me more aware, more deliberate, more thoughtful about day-to-day life.
I've also been thinking of those things I won't miss at all. Ten months without driving a car, "commuting" to work, or breathing exhaust on the Southfield Highway. That sounds pretty good. No big box department stores or cable news or intersections with three drugstores and two gas stations. No shoveling snow, all winter long.
Stay tuned for pictures and a first post from Beirut in a few short days, Insha'Allah. Expect stories of airport security, language mishaps, Mediterranean hospitality, and much more by week's end. Ma'as-salam.