miércoles, 8 de febrero de 2012

Afraid of the unknown

Being from Mexico City, I have always bragged about being "street smart" and  knowing when an urban area is safe or scketchy.

In my mind, places are divided into 2 categories: safe places, meaning well-lit, clean and modern-ish looking, and sketchy places, with a dirty, dark or packed feel to them.

Sketchy places are to be avoided, because they are unsafe and God-knows-what can happen to you when you drive through them. Safe places are big avenues, where there is plenty of space to run in case of an emergency. 

In a way, this is not entirely crazy, as criminality in Mexico City IS high, and the probability of being jumped in the street (knock on wood) is there.

When I moved to Lebanon, I brought myself along with my suitcase. And with me came all my ideas, opinions, and perceptions of the world; what I know to be true and untrue, right and wrong.

So, using my Mexico City standards, I started avoiding places like this one like the plague.
Jam-packed. Nowhere to go. No functioning street lights. Bullet holes on the walls.

 Decaying buildings... And trash everywhere!

***

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine took me in her car through this street.
As a matter of fact it is near my office, and as it turns out, it takes me directly to where I live. She told me she goes though it all the time, as it helps her avoid the most congested streets and the crazy rush hour traffic. I was a bit nervous at first, but since I was not driving, I got a chance to pay closer attention to my surroundings.

And I was very surprised when I realized that we were going through an antique shop district!

Note: Pardon my photos, as they were taken from the car...

As I was saying, I start realizing that this is actually an amazing area. Can you see the gorgeous lamps in that store?

 And those chandeliers back there?

 Look at that gorgeous balcony up there!

Since that day, I take this road all the time, and sometimes hope the traffic won't move too fast so I get to see something new in the stores. And Beirut gave me yet another lesson: sheckty and safe are very restrictive in terms of what I allow myself to experience in Beirut (and in life).

This place is different, with different rules, and different standards. And I guess the only way to learn the new rules and experience this place is to step out of my comfort zone and allow myself to go to places that I normally wouldn't have gone to. 

After all, Beirut has been pleasantly surprising so far... Why not be open to what it can offer?

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