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Meera Shamma 30 Apr 2018

25 Things You’ll Remember If You Grew Up Abroad And Would Visit Lebanon Every Summer

If you’re like me and you spent the greater part of your childhood living outside of Lebanon, you’re sure to have experienced a lot of culture shock every time your parents would force you to spend entire summers in Lebanon.

From everlasting family lunches full of investigative questions directed at your young self about your life in the states or elsewhere, to spending a lot of time in Lebanon’s mountains and being forced to become acquainted with your distant cousins of the same age while not being able to communicate in the same language, here are some things that you must have experienced on those oh-so-awkward pre-teen trips to the motherland.

The seemingly week-long airplane/layover journeys…

Day-long layovers in never-before-visited countries around the world – where, if you were lucky, your parents would check you into the airport hotel for a much-needed snooze and an even-more-needed shower. But, if the layover wasn’t long enough, you’d walk around the foreign airport like a drugged up sloth with a backpack full of Barbies and your dad fighting with all the ticketing clerks for not putting you on the earlier flight to Beirut.

Culture shock at the gate to Beirut

Once you entered the vicinity of the Beirut flight gate, you had instantaneously stepped foot in Lebanon. Loud speakers, loud bizir eaters, long head-to-toe stares, your parents saying hi to people you’ve never seen before but they then tell you that they went to AUB together and then, just like that, you were forced to create an instant bond with their children for the duration of the imminent flight.

Being paraded at the Beirut airport with balloons, chocolates, and an entire family-tree joyously waiting for your return

Which one of these was your family?

Being confused by the call to prayer while you’d be intensely jet-lagged and awake 5 AM

You’d ask your mom why someone was singing so loudly in the middle of the night.

Uncomfortable summer camp experiences

A lot of culture shock

You’d never know (and still probably don’t) the quota of how many cheek kisses to give someone upon meeting them, you’d constantly be told how you look like your long-lost Lebanese ancestors, and you’d be shocked at how much people here eat – and drink coffee before, during, and after every meal.

Instantaneous immersion into day3a life

Where things get weird.

Intensive Arabic language courses

You’d be forced to sit with an aggressive Arabic tutor for an hour a day who relentlessly tried to teach you (while screaming at you) your mother tongue.

Overwhelming family breakfasts, and lunches, and dinners

Basically everything was overwhelming.

Sleeping on your distant aunt’s pull-out couch

With your siblings.

You’d be confused by the amount of housekeepers there were for every household

And your cousins would laugh when you told them that back home you had to do house chores like washing the dishes and cleaning your room.

A lot of lost in translation moments with your cousins

Thinking that Hamra was Lebanon’s equivalent to Times Square

So loud, so many cars, so many people, so much noise, always.

Crying every time you had to eat malfouf

Your teta forcing you to try a bit of everything on the table

Which would consist of at least 5 different meals, with several side dishes and a variety of salads. She’ll look at you with the sweetest, most concerned eyes, and say “Habibte please try the kibbe, it’s nice. Please, for me?”

You spent a lot of time on these with your cousins, and your ankles took most of the damage

Your parents would all-of-a-sudden become really, really Lebanese

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Your dad will have only smoked cigarettes when back in Beirut. Your parents, who only spoke to you in English when you were abroad will have only spoke Arabic to you and your siblings when in Lebanon, and your mom will have brought out all of her fancy clothes for the most mundane daily events.

You’d embark on all of the Lebanese touristic experiences

Jeita Grotto, Raouche Rocks, Harissa, Telefrique, Bekaa visits, journeys to Tyre, journeys to museums…Every. Single. Year.

Your aunts and uncles will have openly been analyzing you in front of your face at every family gathering

Your fondest memories of going to the beach were during these summer visits

Ain’t no summer memories like those at the old school Riviera Beach, Sporting Club, and those long journeys to Sour and Jbeil.

You craved ice in your drinks, but were terrified of being struck with the world’s most aggressive form of food poisoning as a result

You’d make choreographed dances with your cousins to perform in front of your entire family

Usually to Backstreet Boys, N’sync, Britney Spears, or Genie in a Bottle by Christina Aguilera.

You’d reach your yearly quota for shawarma, falafel, and hummus by the end of every summer

Your friends abroad would ask you about your camel-riding, tent-dwelling, desert-wandering journeys when you returned back home for your first day of school

“It’s not like that okay?”

And once you were back to school, showing up at lunch with Za’atar and Nutella sandwiches

The Za’atar sandwich got you weird looks from classmates who’d be munching on peanut butter and jelly, but the Nutella swiftly made you the most popular kid at school.