Greetings from Lebanon! (Day 4,5,6)
Thank you for reading my journal, I appreciate your time. Please excuse any grammar or spelling mistakes, I have typed everything with my two thumbs on my blackberry.
Ya Atiki alafee! (Good Health to you!)
As my home country is unraveling before my very eyes, I can feel my inner spiritual roots awaken inside.
May 19th, 2009
We spent the morning transferring family land to the younger generation, it’s quite an exciting feeling to own land in the oldest country of the world.
We then traveled about 30 minutes north of Beirut to a famous fish restaurant that overlooked the entire Mediterranean Sea. We had an amazing feast and the good vibes we’re shared amongst us all. As I enjoyed the freshest kiwi that I had ever tasted, I watched my family argue over who would get to treat the meal. I really like the traditions here.
We then headed to Jbeil for some coffee and sightseeing, we sat down in the middle of this beautiful courtyard in the old, but modernized fish town close to the harbor. We ordered coffee and discussed family secrets that had seemed to of fallen through the cracks for all these years.
Imagine growing up your entire life and still not knowing when you were exactly born. My dad just celebrated his 50th birthday on October 18th, 2008 because he thinks he was born in 1958. I had just found out, however, that he is still uncertain to this day, how old he really is. In 1958, Lebanon suffered a devastating earthquake. Many forms of documentation were lost and no one could remember exactly when he was born. This trip, we have put on our detective helmets and hope to figure out his true age.
In the last email, I mentioned us all visiting Grandpa Chafic’s grave site for the first time. I never got to meet him because he passed away on December 14th, 1986. Chafic was building a house in Garifi so he and my grandma could store their belongings and move to the United States. He didn’t have much money so he took some shortcuts and didn’t properly build the foundation. The cement support columns had collapsed and crushed him, he died a couple hours later. My uncle Mucrum, the oldest brother and my grandma had found out five days after the incident, but did not communicate the news to the rest of the family for protective reasons. My uncle Raja found out when his friends started coming over to his house to give their condolences, imagine how confused he must of been. My dad, the youngest brother, found out six weeks later when he called his brother Raja to tell him that Janet, my mother was pregnant with me. During the same conversation, Raja had related the news that their dad died had passed away.
It is Lebanese tradition to name your children’s middle name after the fathers first name, however, my dad broke it and gave me the name Christopher Chafic Saad, in remembrance of my grandpa Chafic Saad.
After the great arabic coffee had re-energized our souls, we walked through the town with small shops while I listened to the sun set from the melodious-friendly Muslim chants that flooded the streets.
On the car ride back, my brother tried to convince my dad to get a tattoo of the famous Lebanese cedar tree on his shoulder. If it were anything else, I think my dad would of had a heart attack. To my surprise, he didn’t seem to oppose the idea…
When we finally returned home, we grabbed our matches and immediately lit the candles for light. The country runs on conservation because there is not enough electricity for the entire city. It would seem outrageous in America if a third of our day was spent without electricity, but a couple million people here in Lebanon deal with this everyday. I honestly am coming to really like not having electricity. It has forced me to completely disconnect myself from any electrical distractions and enjoy the quite natural state of living. The main reason for the power outages is because they use fuel to run the energy, and when prices are too high, and supply is too low, the Lebanese people are left back in the dark ages.
May 20th, 2009
The theme of the day was visiting family and friends within our home village of Garrifi.
But first, my father, uncle Mucrum, his son Adam, and my brother went to see the land that was just given to us. As we followed Mukrum down the hill, we noticed the abundance of olive trees. My family use to make a living by selling the olives and olive oils from the olive tree farm. The land had been neglected for years and was in horrible shape. We kept walking to the center of the land and saw the collapsed support columns that had killed my grandpa. My dad tried to hide his emotions as I could see him analyzing and replaying the accident in his head. We then planted a flower and walked around the rest of the land. My dad and uncle talked about re-vamping the farm and bringing back the famous Saad Olives that our family had once been known for.
We got back in the car and went to visit my great aunt Lorice. It is Lebanese custom to greet one another by kissing each cheek three times. Every household has a room made especially for entertaining the company. It is also tradition to serve the guest some type of drink like tea, coffee or lemonade (made with rose water). Right after we sat down, she pulled out a small handwritten book called The Hikme, the religious book for the Druze, similar to the bible. This book definitely had some precious information in it. My uncle and father started looking deeply into the pages when all of a sudden they found what they had been looking for, the Saad family birth dates. After deciphering the hand written arabic that my grandfather had written down, my dad realized that he was actually two years older than he had thought. His official birth date is October 17th, 1956 and this explained why the 1958 earthquake destroyed his documents. His brother Raja then found out he’s actually a year younger than he thought he was. This was a surprise because he didn’t even know there was any discrepancies within his age.
We went to five separate houses afterwards to catch up with old family and friends. Lots of sweets, Arabic speaking, cheek kissing and coffee drinking.
Later that night we went to Music Hall in downtown Beirut, a live music production in an old time theater. We met up with Adham’s girlfriend Rafah and her family. The theater was classy, sounded great and had a spectacular light show. They had red suede lounge chairs and everyone was formally dressed. We greeted the family and celebrated the quality music that was accompanied by custom made drinks. Their was a house band of about 12 people with an array of all types of instruments. The band would perform two songs with a featured singer, close the curtains and then bring out another singer. Almost like a live version of American Idol. All genres of music were performed, Arabic, American, Latin etc. Halfway through the show, a very famous and respected Arabic singer named Tony Hannah came on stage. Everyone in the building went crazy, got up all out of their seats and danced the night away. Did I mention there was a $ 50.00 minimum drink charge per person? Yeah, we were feeling very good. The music went till 3:30 am, we then left to take Adham’s girlfriend and sister back to their home in Hekmay. By the time we dropped them off, everyone was tired so I volunteered to drive. The feeling of driving in the mountains of Lebanon at 5 am in the morning with the sun rising was like nothing I had ever experienced. Everyone passed out in the car so I had to call Rafah to have her GPS my way back to our house. I somehow made it back.
May 21st, 2009
Everyone woke up pretty hung over. We took it easy all day and prepared for a party that Rafah’s family was hosting. As soon as we entered her house our jaws dropped deeper than the Marriana’s trench. It was the nicest house I had ever seen! Four stores, spiral staircase, huge entertainment rooms, pool, and a massive patio with a gorgeous view of the entire village. The Mediterranean styled house reminded me of some palace made back in the Egyptian days. The food was great and their entire family was so nice. We socialized a bit. I overheard someone say Jo Biden was in town preparing for the Lebanon elections on June 7th. I also heard that there was a drum set in the basement so I found my way down, grabbed it and waited for the perfect time for my brother and I to work our magic. After the Lebanese songs and dances, we did our thing. BAM!! DrumJam was in our hearts and we gave Lebanon a great taste of it. Baby powder on the toms, beat boxing, dirbekki tricks, behind the back drumming, stick throwing and tribal drumming-Lebanese style of course. We didn’t plan any of it, I just think there is something about siblings being able to perform together really well. I knew exactly what my brother was going to play and vise versa. Dr. Maya Angelo once said “People will forget your name and people will forget what you do, but no one will ever forget the way you make them feel.” The Saad brothers definitely put on a show these people would never forget. The best moment of the performance was when I looked over to my cousin Basaam who had the biggest smile on his face. Basaam has a mental dissorder but seeing him feel our beats only confirmed that listening to my heart and following my passion of playing music is the path I shall forever stay on. Thanks Basaam.
Adham and Adrianna (my cousins) leave for Texas Saturday night. We will spend the day shopping in Beirut and then send them off on the steel bird. Who knows what we’ll do afterward. I do know that I love this country!
One week down, one more to go.
Shoucrun!!! (Thank you)