I am just coming back from a 2-week conference in the US. I hadn’t been there since last year when we moved to Beirut and this was also the longest I have been away from Lebanon since I arrived.
I spent a couple of days by myself before and after my conference. I noticed during these days that things seemed unexciting and I was bored and slightly numb. There was an overall sense of monotony.
Being usually an upbeat and active person, I kept asking myself what was wrong. I couldn’t really figure it out. This was not my usual self. And then I remembered a comment some American friends had made upon their return to the US after living for years in Beirut. Things were predictable. There were no surprises. Life was dull.
On a bus in the US, I was feeling tense and uneasy. I wasn’t really sure why. Then, I realized that the bus was there exactly on schedule, and it left me exactly at the bus stop. “Why am I so nervous?-I asked myself- There is no need to be nervous or on edge on public transportation here. In the US, things work.” There was nothing to figure out.
Yesterday, I was walking in this amazing mall. Full of amazing stores. Full of pretty, new things that you could only find there. As I was walking around, I felt tired and empty. I just couldn’t do it. The ads, the sales, the stuff. I was completely overwhelmed and anxious and had to leave.
Finally, today on the plane back, as I was watching the news on a tiny TV screen, I realized – to my surprise- that I hadn’t watched the news for over a week. I say to my surprise, because when I am in Beirut I usually read the news in the morning, at lunchtime, and sometimes in the evening. Yes, in Beirut it is totally normal for me to follow the news all the time. Because if I don’t, not only am I totally out of the loop, but also, I have this feeling that I missed something important that could prove key in times of crisis.
In the US somehow I felt disconnected. Not really sure what that meant. I felt isolated and alone. Very far away from everything. I felt like I was not at home anymore.
So now I ask myself… Have I become used to Beirut? Have I become an adrenaline-addict, car-honking, chaos-loving, person? Have I pushed comfort and order aside, to embrace the unpredictability of Lebanon? Wasn’t the US the ideal, what I wanted all along?
This is completely unexpected.
But as I am on the plane, I can’t help but feeling relaxed. And strangely safe. A bit more free. And yes, the flight with Lufthansa was more orderly than the flight with MEA. But as the saying goes “Home is where the heart is”. Well, I guess I am going home now. Because it is now clear to me that my heart is in Beirut.