Bye Bye Beirut

Azar Nafisi - Leaving

Yes, it’s time.

That’s how my husband’s job with the United Nations works—three, four or five years in a place, then it’s time to set our sights on a new adventure. We are headed to take another bite out of that beautiful Big Apple, New York.

Westchester County to be more precise. Because life in New York with two kids in tow just isn’t the same as it was when my husband and I were footloose and fancy-free (and could fit into a one-bedroom apartment).

These last days are frenetic, selling 220V appliances, sorting out clothes and household goods to donate to Syrian refugees, seeing every doctor one last time (three filling replacements last week, a check-up was today, kids’ pediatricians later this week). Thankfully the mundane trials of moving have been punctuated by great gatherings with friends – several farewell meals, plus:

The beach

A little of Beirut’s famous nightlife

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The famous BO-18 in Beirut, an underground club with a retractable roof.

A vineyard picnic

The kids have been asking questions about what daily life will be like. What will be different, what will be the same? Will there be consistent 24-hour electricity? Potable tap water? Yes and yes. (Yaaay!) But the days of a full-time cleaner/cook are over, and everyone is going to have to pitch in with chores. (Booooo!)

Many friends have commented that I must be happy to be going “home.” But home for me is Seattle,  and it’s a five-hour flight away from New York. We’ll also be doubling the time it takes to get to the in-laws in Italy, so overall, that one is a bit of a toss-up.

And yes, I’m a little apprehensive about returning to an America that seems increasingly divided and increasingly dangerous. (Does that sound strange coming from someone living in Beirut? Petty crime rates are low here, and school shootings are unheard of. See this earlier post and this one for more about safety in Beirut.) But the challenges facing the U.S. today are also a motivation for me. After thirteen years of being a bystander, I look forward to being able to speak up, to engage, to exercise my civic duty. No single person can change the world, but if we each do our part…. This will be a chance to do mine.

Even if it’s Westchester, and even if the weather is pretty sucky compared to the places I’ve been living in recent years (sunny Lebanon, tropical Honduras, mild Ecuador…), I’m sure I am going to have a great time in New York—because it’s still NEW YORK BABY!

But right now, as I wind things down in Lebanon, it’s hard to get excited about NYC. Yes, Beirut has terrible traffic and an ongoing garbage crisis and a refugee crisis and learning the language has been about as easy as climbing Mt Everest. But the way I feel about the place reminds me of the way I feel about childbirth. In the end, the hard parts fade while the good things remain bright.

And good things abound:

Extraordinary hospitality (which is usually accompanied by an abundance of delicious food).

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Everything from wineries to skiing to ancient ruins just a short drive away.

Of course, the beaches

And the most important—the dear friends I have made.

Thank you Lebanon. I’ve loved living here.

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7 thoughts on “Bye Bye Beirut

  1. I will miss your blog very much. It reminded me so much of the wonderful time I had living there in the early 70’s! All good wishes for your future.

  2. Sylvia Wallen says:

    Hi, Amy, sorry you are leaving as I’ve loved getting to know Lebanon through your eyes. Glad you can return home even though your new home is far from your Seattle and Italy families. I live in Gig Harbor, WA and my daughter is just arriving in Beirut in August to teach at Wellspring Learning Community. Hope she can access your blog as she is coming home from five yrs. teaching in Jeju, S. Korea, and hopes to read all your back posts this summer to familiarize herself with her new home. Please let me know if your back posts won’t be accessible. Again, thanks for your beautiful, insightful writing!

    • cupcakeamy says:

      What funny coincidences – I will send you a private message. The blog will remain accessible (there’s a lot of good info there, I don’t want it to disappear!) so your daughter can definitely read it all over the summer.

  3. Judith Cross says:

    Hello my dear cousin, What a big change for you and your family – New York! We have never met but I look forward to a time that we might. I have so enjoyed your “Gardenias In Beirut” and look forward to more of your writing. Hoping that your move will be successful in every way. Fondly, Judith (Judy)

    >

    • cupcakeamy says:

      Thank you for reading, and for your kind wishes! Perhaps now that I’ll be stateside we might have the chance to meet! I’m glad that we can at least stay in touch online. Warmly, Amy

  4. This post sounds like the basis for an essay in a NYT blog or Real Simple. (As if you have time right now to think about writing…!) Perhaps once you’re sort of settled, you’ll have the energy to combine these thoughts with how you feel about the America you’re returning to, and becoming more than a bystander. With my best wishes…

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