A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘rain’ Category

summer rain

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 4, 2008

I’m in Boston for the weekend, celebrating the 4th today and my father’s 60th birthday tomorrow. (H is in the Carolinas, where his older siblings are having a big holiday weekend reunion. We had a very romantic weekend-getaway cab ride to the airport together, but parted ways at our boarding gates. Its okay – we each wanted to see our families, and we’ll see one another again on Sunday.)

I arrived in Boston yesterday evening, just in time to join my parents & grandmother for dinner with some family friends at a seafood (what else!) restaurant on the waterfront (where else!). And we in turn arrived at the restaurant just in time to watch a summer storm come in across the water. It was beautiful to watch, and lasted only 15 minutes or so, but it made us lose our wistfulness at the restaurant’s decision not to set its outdoor tables.

This morning, I awoke to the sounds of a gentler storm: a soft steady summer rain. I can hear the hushed sound of rain falling on leaves and grass, and the quiet rustle of wet greenery as the wind blows it in one direction or another. And every so often I hear the rubber sound of car tires on asphalt as early morning 4th of July’ers head out to meet friends for morning coffee or to help set up the town parade, which starts at 10.

After spending so many summers in Beirut and Damascus, summer rain totally delights me. Cool wet mornings and booming early evening thunderstorms, which we’ve been having in New York, are a wonderful surprise.

Its now 9:30 – I started this post around 6:30, but took a break to go for a walk with my mother. We’re off to see the town parade – I’m betting that the red white and blue of the Fourth will stand out beautifully against the grey sky :).

Posted in Arab world, Beirut, Brooklyn, Lebanon, rain, weather | 3 Comments »

wintering in Lebanon

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 16, 2008

This winter has been full of surprising weather – including a number of hailstorms. I love hailstorms – they remind me of Iowa, which has a few each year, and also of Jerusalem. When I was there in 2005, a freak weather pattern descended upon the city, with the result that one Saturday we had rain, snow, hail, and sun all in the same day.

I remember anxiously asking a friend there what would happen to the city if a real snow hit it, since (as with Eastern Seaboard cities like Washington D.C.) Jerusalem did not appear to be rolling in snowplows or trucks of rock salt.

My friend looked at me and frowned. Bulldozers, Diamond, he said. If there’s one thing Israel has, its plenty of bulldozers. Argh.

Anyway – back to Lebanon. This particular hailstorm happened on a weekend afternoon in early February, when I was home and able to grab my camera. After snapping a few pictures, I uploaded them and promptly forgot to post them. The hail is small, but the storm lasted quite a while.

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As you can see, my “gardening” abilities skew more towards tending dirt than plants, but the lovely leafy one above grows away despite my ineptitude.

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My neighbors try to liven up my yard by having their maids sweep clothespins and other debris onto it. There’s not much neighborhood spirit here, let alone any civic pride, so when I ask them not to they huff. I suppose sweeping the clothespins and dirty kleenexes into a pile and then transferring it to a trash can really is too much to ask.

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One thing I love about winter is the starkness of its beauty. I love the elemental look of tree branches – nature stripped to its bare bones.

In Arabic, the word “winter” is used as a verb, and it means “to rain”, since that is what defines winter in most parts of the Middle East. There is a verb for “to rain”, and there is also a verb for “to snow”, but “wintering” is the one that people use, even in English.

I can’t wait for summer, an acquaintance told me last month.

I agree, I said. I get tired of the cold and the rain.

I don’t mind the cold or the rain, my acquaintance said. But I hate it when it winters.

We’re both happy these days – the sun is shining, temperatures are in the 60s, and spring is here.

Posted in Arabic, neighbors, photography, rain, time, weather, words | Leave a Comment »

Lunch with love and protesters: Valentine’s Day in Saifi

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 16, 2008

Like many people in Lebanon, I had Thursday off, thanks to Prime Minister Siniora’s declaration that February 14 would be a national holiday in honor of Rafik Hariri.

I didn’t mind – it would have been difficult to get much done on Thursday anyway, with half the country staying home for fear of roadblocks and political tension, and the other half turning out in force either to the March 14 rally downtown or to Imad Mughniyeh’s funeral in Dahiyeh.

With two dueling politicized commemorations scheduled, not to mention Valentine’s Day, Thursday was the perfect day for a holiday – and a luncheon.

M & M live in Saifi, just below Gemmayze and a few blocks from Martyrs’ Square, where the March 14 rally was being held. None of us is ardently March 14, especially on a rainy winter day – but we all do like to eat, and we all love to keep up with current events. So when M invited H & I for lunch, we happily accepted.

Outside the downtown area, the city was largely deserted. I took this photograph of Hamra at 9:30, when the street is usually packed with honking cars & trucks:

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Ghost town.

We left for the M’s early, before noon, assuming that it might take us ages to reach their neighborhood. But we had almost free rein over the roads – at least, over roads like Basta, which were far from the scene of either side’s gathering, and heavily policed by army patrols.

In fact, the only trouble we encountered was the usual kind: parking trouble in Saifi/Gemmayze. Pasteur Street was blocked to non-neighborhood cars, and most street parking was taken by Ouwwet and Kataeb supporters who had come for the rally. Luckily, I had worn “walking” heels, and H had brought an umbrella – so we were well-prepared, by New York standards at least, for the long walk to M’s.

What amazed us were the number of people leaving – it was 12:30, and the rally was only half over, but the cold and rain were clearly sending some people off in search of warmth and dry clothing.

People leaving the rally on the near side of the divided road; people going to the rally on the far side:

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For us, the afternoon was all about warmth and dry clothing – not to mention good food. M had made a thick vegetable soup, followed by mjaddara with raita for me, and beef lasagne with salad for the normal (i.e., meat-eating) guests.

As we ate, we listened to the speeches and tried to discern who was speaking and what was being said. Since we heard both the rally’s loudspeakers and the Kataeb headquarter’s rebroadcasting, it was mostly a wash.

I think he just said “Hariri”, J said at one point. J’s Arabic is limited to “hello”, “thank you” and “all of it”, for when he goes to the barbershop for a head shave – but given the day and the occasion, “Hariri” was a good guess. (And when we needed confirmation, H would check with the television in the living room, where all the news channels were broadcasting the rally.)

Looking towards the northern edge of Martyrs’ Square from M’s mezzanine terrace:

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Looking towards the upper center of Martyrs’ Square (the white tent covers Hariri’s grave):

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Looking down at Pasteur Street and the lower end of the Kataeb building:

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Looking across the way to the next building, whose rooftop had been rented by France 24, according to H:

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The square emptied quickly once the rally ended – by the time we left the M’s, the neighborhood was as empty as Hamra had been that morning. But as we spooned up the chocolate mousse-cum-praline that M had made, round after round of machine gun fire reminded us that quiet is a relative term.

Does someone in Gemmayze love Nasrallah, who was just finishing his eulogy/call to war? We couldn’t figure it out. And what I can’t figure out is how five utterly sane people can hear sustained machine-gun fire and consider it so normal 😐 .

Posted in Beirut, food, French, friends, Lebanon, media, neighbors, photography, politics, rain, television, time, traffic, umbrellas, vanity, weather | 2 Comments »

fish for a day: lunch in Jbeil

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 11, 2007

I feel like getting out of the city this weekend, M said to me earlier this week.

If I said this, it would be one of those “wouldn’t it be nice to …” idle statements – but M has wheels. Excellent, I said. Where shall we go?

Sundays in Lebanon are devoted to big family lunches – long leisurely gatherings at home or out that anchor the weekend. As someone with no family here, I often feel lonely on Sundays (unless Charles Malik is willing to meet at Kababji, or G comes into the city). So planning a Sunday lunch out of town sounded perfect to me.

Jbeil (also known as Byblos) is a beautiful little town 45 minutes north of Beirut, known for its beaches, its Roman ruins, and its fish restaurants.

Of course, its winter now, and the beaches and some of the fish restaurants are closed for the season. But that was fine – we aren’t a Lebanese family, and we weren’t looking for a “typical Lebanese” meal. We decided to lunch at El Molino, Lebanon’s only real American Mexican (i.e., Tex-Mex) restaurant.

The salsa could have been a bit hotter, and I missed the oh-so-traditional-Mexican “Mariachi Burrito” I order at Las Brisas, but the chips were crisp and the fajitas were sizzling, and the company – eight friends divided between two cars and one taxi – could not have been better.

We walked around the harbor a bit after leaving the restaurant – or rather, drifted slowly down from the restaurant, engrossed in various conversations and ignoring the impatient drivers honking at us to move to the side of the narrow harbor-front road.

As we stood chatting, I noticed a large … antenna? could it be? bobbing gently on the other side of the jetty.

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The antenna soon revealed itself as the fishing rod of a local fisherman, intently moving from one spot on the jetty to another.

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We moved slowly around the harbor and I forgot about the fisherman until H pointed out the stunning sunset, with the sun spilling onto the water as it sank.

Sadly, the photos I took of the sunset turned out to be utterly pedestrian, but I did find my fisherman again.

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Its been difficult for Lebanon’s fishermen since the July War. The polluted waters mean fewer fish, or at least fewer edible fish, and the political instability has meant crackdowns on boat fishing and dynamite fishing (environmentally unfriendly, but lucrative for men who must feed their families on the few hundred dollars they earn each month). I hope this man goes home tonight with a decent catch.

Posted in food, friends, holidays, Lebanon, photography, rain, time, travel | 2 Comments »

morning glories

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 8, 2007

This morning it rained again – a brief but intense sprinkling that left the air fresh and crisp. I walked to the gym smiling at the clean just-after-the-rain air, scented with the jasmine and other flowering bushes that grow on the grounds of my neighborhood mosque.

K is just back from Damascus, and talking about the city we both love over dinner last night made me nostalgic for its many charms. One of the loveliest things about Damascus is how green it is – not only in terms of the many parks that dot the city, but also in terms of the lush flowering trees and bushes that spill out from ground floor terraces onto the sidewalks.

When I think of Damascus greenery, I think of the jasmine that fills the city, and I think of the countless times that I have seen someone – young woman, old man, child – reach out and break off a jasmine flower to carry with them, holding it to their noses as they walk away. I rarely see it here – although now and again I have seen someone reach out for a sprig while passing the mosque. I see them, and it makes me smile.

While buying bread on my way to work, I made the usual Midwestern pleasantries with the shopkeeper.

The weather is nice today, I said. Its not too hot – or too humid.

Yes, he replied, but did you mmfmfmmmf?

What? I asked.

Errrr, he replied. “Raining”.

Ohhhh, I said, grateful for the English word. I realized what he had asked – whether I had noticed that it had “wintered” this morning.

I have a friend from Damascus who studied for several years in Beirut. This word was one he would use to highlight the differences between Lebanese and Syrian Arabic.

When it rains in Damascus, we say “its raining”. When it rains in Beirut, they say “its wintering”, K would say. The Lebanese are so dramatic.

Remembering K’s words made me smile as I replied to the grocer. I missed his use of “wintering” because to me this morning’s rain was only a light shower, lovely though it was.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Arabic, Beirut, friends, humor, Iowa, Lebanon, mosque, rain, weather, words | Leave a Comment »

The south the south the beautiful south

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 19, 2007

Yesterday my friend S took four of us on a lovely tour of south Lebanon. S’s father escorted us much of the way, from just south of Saida all the way to the border at Adayssa, back up through Marjayoun and Hasbaya to Khiam, and back up again towards Saida for lunch at S’s maternal grandmother’s house.

The skies were moody – beautiful tone poems of cloud and grey.

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I took this photograph looking a bit further into the valley that separated us from Beaufort Castle.

 

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This photograph I took a bit further south, in the rolling hills just past the “enter in peace and safety” sign erected to mark the lands recovered after the 2000 Israeli withdrawal.

 

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Naturally our day also included a sheep crossing :-).

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This photograph requires a bit more explanation. My friend K, whose apartment view I posted in “Your goal the sky”, has a partner whose greatest fear is being killed by a piece of rebar, the lengths of steel used to reinforce concrete buildings.

Although I sympathize greatly with fear-of-death phobias (mine are more of the fear-of-deathly-embarrassment variety and generally involve staircases), the incredible specificity of this one struck me as funny.

As we continued southward, however, it struck us all that in Lebanon at least this might be a more logical fear. Between the shattered bridges and buildings we passed, their destroyed floors and supports hanging from odd angles, and the intensive reconstruction efforts, rebar is everywhere.

Rebar is everywhere – including in the back of this old station wagon. K took one look at this car and said, I wonder what would happen if I said: when we get married I want to leave the church in a car like this?

I think the wedding would be off.

 

 

 

Posted in Americans, Beirut, childhood, citizenship, family, food, friends, holidays, home, Lebanon, mosque, photography, rain, tourism, traffic, travel, weather, women, words | 4 Comments »

The song of rain

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 30, 2007

Whether for Imam Hussein or for the sake of preserving national tranquility, the heavens above Beirut opened this afternoon, sending thunder, lightning, and a pounding of rain down to this earth.

In his “Hymn of the Rain”, Badr Shakr al-Sayyab asks:

Do you know what sorrow the rain can inspire?

In me this rain inspires no sorrow – only awe, and delight. As a midwesterner, my first thought when seeing rain is “oh, how wonderful for the farmers”, though I don’t know whether the farmers here truly need more rain. It might be good for cooling tempers in Mazra3a, though (patting myself on the back for that pun).

I took photographs out my patio:

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Looks like this weekend will be a good one for planting flowers (and rearranging the soil that will have migrated to my patio tiles).

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This one I took when the sky was clearing and the rain slowing from torrential downpour to ‘string’, as a long ago host in Innsbruck described the steady Austrian regen.

Posted in Arabic, art, Beirut, Iraq, Lebanon, music, news, photography, rain, religion, weather, words | 3 Comments »

rainy day grumpies

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 20, 2007

The beautiful sunny skies of the past week have given way to a steady, rather Seattle-like drizzle. Ordinarily, I love rain, but this morning its steady fall as I walked home from the gym made me grumpy. grumpy, and also wet, because I have no umbrella.

I lent my apartment to a friend this fall, while I was in the states. On the whole, it is just as I left it, and I am grateful – I love this little warren of white-walled rooms.

My favorite umbrella, however, seems to have been a casualty, though whether of the war or the winter rains, I’m not sure. I like to think that it made its way across the street to the park, and helped to shelter some of Sanayeh’s refugees from the summer sun.

In Seattle, people often walk heedlessly through the rain, and when I am there I like to simulate some West Coast cool by doing the same. As a New Yorker, however, I have learned to care deeply about my umbrella.

Most New Yorkers carry black, standard-issue, $5 or $10 umbrellas, whose cost and manufacture make them easily disposable when the city’s winds turn them inside out. After a rain, the city’s trash cans are littered with exploded bumbershoots, their spines sticking mournfully out of the barrel.

Inside shops and restaurants, these umbrellas are almost interchangeable. You place your umbrella in the canister just past the door when you enter, and … take an umbrella when you leave. There is no guarantee that you will take the “right” one – nor that someone leaving before you will not have already taken yours.

Not being a fan of either disposable umbrellas or Manhattan’s umbrella roulette, I realized that by moving beyond the city’s black parapluie palette I could purchase an umbrella that would be both, to quote Mary Poppins (another umbrella fan), “a thing of beauty and a joy forever”.

During a brief visit to New York last April, I found the umbrella of my rainy day dreams in one of my favorite off-price haunts.

Automatic opening, strong hinges and steel construction, yet light, compact, and easy to carry. The handle was a burnished gold (rendered in plastic, which softened it from the zoot suit styling my description suggests), and the umbrella itself a refined grey plum color, with a lightly contrasting geometric print. It was distinctive and elegant, and I loved it.

I carried it with me to Florida, Iowa, back to New York, and on to London before finally returning to Beirut, where I hung it on the hallway side of the door to my salon. Oh, I loved that umbrella.

Several times this fall, during particularly aggravating rains, I thought of my umbrella and missed it. In December I saw another beautiful umbrella at a Seattle department store. I was tempted, but reminded myself: save the room in your luggage for something else. You have an umbrella in Beirut already.

Its absence was one of the first things I noticed when I returned, and I emailed my friend to ask her where I could find it. Oh no! she replied. I’m so sorry – I must have lost it.

Of course I told her that it was okay – I can always buy a new one. Of course now my childish heart is whining snottily that is not okay. I have seen the umbrellas here, on the streets and in the shops. They are either of the $5 New York sort, or of the loud primary color solids or intense florals sort.

I miss my umbrella – I miss its grace, and I miss how ‘me’ I felt under it. I will buy a new one (I will have to, if the forecaster’s promise of days of rain comes true), but first I will pout.

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a photo taken after a rainfall in Beirut last winter (standing on rue de France, overlooking Wadi Abou Jmeel)

Posted in Americans, Beirut, friends, Lebanon, rain, Seattle, travel, umbrellas, weather | 3 Comments »