People! Yes, today was orientation on the country club-esque AUB campus, with highlights including a tour conducted by two girls who were endearingly walking backwards whilst talking the entire time. There really are cats everywhere too. Rumour has it you get expelled if you kick them, a challenge I surely would have accepted if I was staying in halls.
After a communal meal in the evening, some of us skulked off to Gemayze, the start of East Beirut, to have some drinks on a rooftop bar – all the more the rage since the smoking ban, thus far rigorously enforced, came into effect. It seems to be one of the only things the authorities seem able to enforce at times, with designated officials checking. Law enforcement here seems to follow the British model, whereby the actual police/‘security forces‘ sit in their quarters or at checkpoints whilst ‘community support officers‘ are the often the only real visible presence on the streets. Except without the community support officers. It will be interesting to see how the smoking ban holds up as the rooftops tend to close from mid-October and profit margins that must have suffered this summer already are further diminished. I have already heard some seriously technical loopholes involving air-con specifications being suggested…
We meet some second year masters dudes from AUB end up in the ‘Captain’s Cabin’, an excellent Hamra dive bar that will stink of smoke regardless of subsequent ban developments for years to come. Its great. The landlord seems to be the only guy who works there, and he chats away with regulars at the bar. It has darts, the beer’s cheap, the walls are all scrawled over, its open until whenever the last guy stops drinking, and there is a beer garden. Me and my friends Matts (yes, two of them) regretted turning down an offer from the guys us for a day trip the following morning to, “go fishing, get some drinks, shoot some guns…” (“don’t worry, only shotguns”). Theres always next time, for sure.
On reflection, The UK was perhaps surprisingly under represented in terms of the international students, many of whom are just visiting for a term, and certainly vastly outnumbered by French, Germans, Gulf nations, and of course the ubiquitous Americans. Orientation day also meant that got to meet our first disillusioned expats – love/hate seems to be the default setting if you are to indulge in a long term relationship with this country – namely the student council representative who prefaces his explanation of how to navigate the minefield of getting a residence permit with the helpful and comforting words: “I never actually bothered doing all of this, I just took the chance that they’d let me back into the country without one”.
Highlight: Cruising at night through downtown for the first time in a local friend’s car
Lowlight: Trying to pick up cats to stroke them is not considered cool nor attractive here
Beautiful Lebanese Girl forecast: Fairly calm, occasionally off-the-chain
Sweeping Orientalist statement: East Beirutian bourgeoise still revere the French language highly