Why We Come Back to Lebanon

9 كانون الثاني 2014 | 00:00

Last week, I gave a welcome speech at my company's new employee orientation. One girl with a distinct accent introduced herself as Lebanese-German, having recently transplanted to Lebanon from Frankfurt. A week later, we ran into each other in the hallway, and I pressed her for her motives in moving here. "Oh, this and that." Her guardedness was evident, and after a bit more probing, I came to understand that she was here because she’d always dreamt of settling in the country of her heritage.

After work that evening, I spotted another colleague having a drink at the local pub. We got to talking about his move from Toronto to Beirut just six months earlier. He’d come back to relive his childhood memories of a beautiful Lebanon.
And that nostalgia, that homesickness, is understandable, as we are likely to forever be attached to the place we lived during the first decade of our lives. But what about others of us, like me, who were born and raised outside of Lebanon, perhaps spent summer vacations here, speak Arabic at best but whose first language is a foreign tongue? Those of us who were educated in top schools abroad, could easily pull six-figure salaries elsewhere, but instead choose to take a considerable pay cut, endure electricity and water outages on a regular basis, and accept, by our own volition, an abridgment of rights?

We have our reasons, whether they are comprehensible or just plain foolish to locals here. It's an inexplicable calling, a craving to live in a hotbed of activity, opinion, dynamism, and contention. A land where adventure is guaranteed, stability almost uncertain, and any notion of peace punctuated by erratic unrest. Lebanon is a country that packs more cafes, restaurants, and food outlets per square meter than anywhere else I've been, where creativity and hospitality are the name of the game, and where the facade of a street morphs from year to year. It's a place where people protest vehemently, where driving is an exercise in defense, and where the importance of the environment has only recently grown apparent.
But where else can you enjoy the coolness of fresh mountain air and half an hour later, be sunbathing on the Mediterranean shores? Where can you wolf down a street-side falafel wrap and then head inside a patisserie for a delicate tarte aux fraises? I live for that contrast: East meets West, modern married to traditional, conservative swirled into liberal.
Lebanon may do nothing for us in the way of professional or career-building, but it does stretch our mind, our patience, and our tolerance in ways no place else can. Lebanon wets but it doesn't quench, and that's why we become hooked for life.

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يلفت موقع النهار الإلكتروني إلى أنّه ليس مسؤولًا عن التعليقات التي ترده ويأمل من القرّاء الكرام الحفاظ على احترام الأصول واللياقات في التعبير.

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