07 September 2015

J'aime Paris, je t'aime à Paris

K and I closed out the month of August in Paris. It was a gorgeous weekend full of laughter and tears and scrumptious, indulgent food.

It's hard to put into words how important, how essential it was to see one another after more than two months apart. And then how devastating it was to get on separate planes and travel in opposite directions.

But let's focus on the beauty of our cheeky long weekend in Paris.

I arrived in Paris at Charles de Gaulle six hours before K. I was looking forward to wandering through beautiful Terminal 2 and maybe getting a massage or even paying to access a first-class lounge. I didn't realize until we were all shuttled off the flight into a dark hallway that arriving planes drop off passengers in an entirely different area than the gorgeous halls full of duty-free that I was expecting.

We had a short, dark hallway, a quick line through customs, and then were spit right out into baggage claim.

What a disappointment!
I mean, seriously, CDG, I was hoping to spend a bunch of money in your airport while I waited for my partner to show up. I can't be the only one who's ever wanted that!

Luckily, things started looking up when I found a Paul's with seating overlooking the Grandes Lignes trains. When I heard a solo piano piece start playing, I was impressed at the choice of music in the train station. A trip, a pause in the music made me realize that it was live! I looked around and spotted a piano tucked underneath one of the escalators and a frumpy, wrinkled, young traveler playing those beautiful pieces.  It was a combination of classical easily-recognizable tunes and more contemporary pieces, some of them probably of his own composition. That was a lovely way to enjoy an espresso and a pain aux raisins.

video

After we finally found one another, K and I made our way to the hippest of the hip hotels in Paris, Mama Shelter.  Somehow we roused ourselves from our jetlag nap to make it out to a beautiful little grocery/restaurant that K had found called Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie where K had foie gras ravioli (who knew that existed?!?!) and then we wandered out into the rain and stumbled upon the glass pyramid of the Louvre.


We turned and, exclaiming with joy, found the Eiffel Tower, lit up and sparkling with its nightly light show. It was a magical start.

On Friday, we found the most delicious bakery just outside the door of the hotel. Fortified with quiche lorraine and another pain aux raisins (for me - they just don't make them the same outside of France!) we braved the metro system and made our way from the 20th arrondisement to the 8th arrondisement to check out the Palais de Tokyo. We loved the two major exhibits - acquaalta by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot - and l'exposition de Patrick Neu.  But unfortunately we were left disturbed and uninspired by the others. K lamented that she wished Sarah Urist Green from PBS's The Art Assignment were there, she would undoubtedly help us plumb the depths of the art we'd experienced and find something meaningful.

As it was, probably the most exciting moment of our visit for K was spotting the dead drop.
"I've been looking for these for almost a decade now!"
My favorite moment was getting to be the gondolier in the acquaalta exhibition. It brought me back to reading The Passion aloud with K on our New Year's trip to Williamsburg.
My favorite orange summer jeans didn't match the dark and brooding atmosphere.

To be continued...

09 August 2015

Ramadan

I arrived in Beirut during the month of Ramadan, a Muslim religious celebration that includes strict fasting from dawn to dusk - from not only food, but from anything that passes the lips including water or even cigarettes.

Once the sun has set and evening prayers have been said, families and communities host huge meals called Iftar where people of all ages gather to break their fast together.

I was particularly lucky to be able to attend a Ramadan festival that recreated the beauty of the Old Souks. 
Whirling Dervish statue

I found a camel!

Themes of each night portrayed on the skirts. 

Abaya fashion show

The lantern (fanous) of Ramadan - a traditional symbol, made kid-friendly :)

Wedding dress fashion show



18 July 2015

One month in Beirut

It's been nearly a month in Beirut now.

This city is gorgeous and fascinating. I feel so lucky to be in this part of the world and yet in a stable and prosperous city. Don't get me wrong - there are certainly aspects that show this isn't the US or Europe. In fact, right as I typed that, the electricity went off for the third or fourth time today.  But the sun shines so brightly that I hardly notice the blackouts most of the day.

I've already gone on a couple of adventures - excursions organized by the CLO (Community Liaison Officer). I'm hoping to go on at least two every month and explore as many corners of this beautiful country as I can.

Our first stop on our adventure a few weeks ago was the teleferique, a mountain cable car, that reached from Beirut directly up into the mountains. It was more than a little nerve-wracking as it shuddered over the iron wires.


But we made it!
And then continued walking up the hill to the gorgeous church of Notre Dame du Liban.
Of course, I took an iconic selfie from the very top of the mountain too :)
And we finished up a day in the heights by going to the deepest depths of the city - Jeita Grotto

We weren't allowed to take photos inside the caves, but there are beautiful professional images on this website. It was absolutely astounding and made me feel very nostalgic for my inspiring and gorgeous visit to Luray Caverns with K. I miss this amazing woman so much!

26 March 2015

Camp UNITE .... in Arabic

In class, we've been working on short presentations on health, the environment, and education for the past few weeks. So one of my chosen topics was Camp UNITE. I recorded myself and added some photos from past years in order to make it more interesting. and voila!

Enjoy!



And please note that The UNITE Foundation is hosting a very exciting event on May 9th to celebrate the start of a new Camp UNITE in 2015 and to gather all of our supporters together to have some fun. Stay tuned for more information.

EDIT:  Just listened to this again and found 3 grammatical errors in the first sentence. oh well! It's the effort that counts, right? My apologies to anyone who actually speaks Arabic!