The beauty of a public beach

The beauty of a public beach

Lebanon is on the Mediterranean Sea.  Miles of coastline, some rocky, some sandy.  And yet, public beaches are few and far between.  There are a handful throughout the country that I’ve heard are nice and clean.  The ones that we have tried out are dirty.  Ramlet el Baida, the sandy beach in Beirut, is full of cockroaches, trash and the signs as you enter warn against swimming in the water because it is toxic.

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Most of the coastline has been privatized – beach clubs and restaurants build right on the shore and then charge an entrance fee… There are some absolutely beautiful ones.  Lazy b has always been a favorite, but it’s gotten so expensive to get in and you can’t bring your own food in, which means they can charge you 6,000LL for a bottle of water and you have no choice but to pay.  We haven’t been in a few years because of it.  There are some more reasonable options, but the less you pay, the less clean the beach ends up being.  And with small kids, when you pay for entrance, you feel like you need to spend the whole day to get your money’s worth, which can make for a really long day for littles who are used to taking naps.

This summer we went to the beach once a week with the SH girls.  When you’ve got 13 kids and 5-6 adults, paying per person is just not do-able.  So several days we ended up not letting the kids swim in the water at all because it was so bad.

IMG_3345We’ve just come back from a family holiday in Cyprus and it was a beach lover’s dream!  The water is the deep turquoise you expect from the Mediterranean, there are wide sandy stretches and hidden rocky coves.

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And best of all, the beaches are all public.  They are free to enter and you can bring your own food.  They are maintained by the municipality, so super clean with lots of facilities available.  You can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas for a reasonable price or just bring your own if you’d prefer.

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We stayed in a small house just a few minutes walk from the beach.  We’d head out early in the morning, take some sandwiches for lunch and head home once the girls needed a break.  It was the perfect vacation… sand, sun, water, rest and fun.

IMG_3569I would highly recommend Cyprus to anyone in Lebanon looking for a holiday.  The airline tickets were super reasonable, and if you go in the off season (which we couldn’t because of work), you can get some amazing deals on a lodging.  We will definitely be going back, now that we know!

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Second summer

Second summer

There’s a saying in Arabic that between October and November comes the second summer.  I don’t know if we can call it “second” summer this year, because the weather has basically been amazing for the past two months.  The sun is out, the breeze off the sea is cool and we leave our windows and doors open basically 24/7.

In true Lebanese fashion, however, it is still considered “winter.”  Ice cream is no longer available on every corner and the kids are sweating buckets in their undershirts and long sleeved shirts.

It’s perfect beach weather, but the beaches have all closed down until next summer.  Swimming is now only for the men who gather every day to hang out on the rocks, tanning, sleeping and smoking arghile.  Every once in a while their wives and daughters join them for lunch and a smoke, but they stay completely covered and don’t get in the water.

DSC_1066It’s funny to see Christmas decorations up in the stores when we just want to sit outside and barbecue and play… but the rains will be here soon enough and we’ll be wishing for the golden days of Beirut’s second summer.

The dirty side of the story

The dirty side of the story

And this is why we pay money to avoid the public beach in Beirut.

Flush a toilet in Beirut and the waste water is piped out a kilometer into the Mediterranean and expelled into the sea. Flush the toilet just about anywhere else, however, and the waste is deposited just a few meters away, using the nation’s coastline as a giant toilet bowl.Beach-goers are swimming in dangerous levels of their own filth at many public beaches and resorts in the country

It really is a shame.  Lebanon has such great potential, but corruption, lack of infrastructure, and a rapidly deteriorating political situation are very quickly going to destroy many of the good things this country has left.
Top ten blog posts

Top ten blog posts

I’ll share my favorite blogs soon, but today’s list are my top ten favorite blog posts of 2012.   Some are from blogs I’ve been reading for a while, others are blogs I don’t normally read but stumbled across via facebook or a news article or who knows how else.  Some are funny, some are challenging, some are moving, some are informative.

In no particular order, my top ten blog posts of 2012:

10. How to Load a Dishwasher by Faith on Domestic Kingdom: A really challenging piece about the mundane things in life needing grace the most.

9. YouTube Video Date (aka 2.5 hours of free laughter) on Friday We’re in Love: A fun playlist of funny YouTube clips… some I’d never seen before.

8. If I Grew Up in Gaza on inexhaustible significance: We are really careful how we talk about events going on in the region, especially when politics are involved.  We obviously have a very different perspective living here but we feel conversations dealing with things like the bombing in Gaza are best had over a cup of coffee, not through a blog post.  But every once in a while we come across something that’s too good not to share.  This is one of those posts.

7. I Am Not a Human Pacifier on Nurshable: A sweet letter from a mama to her three week old from an attachment parenting blog I enjoy reading.

6. On Insulting Muslims on Beirut Spring: When all the violence broke out in response to the film Innocence of Muslims, many in the west were asking if the violence was truly an extreme reaction, where are all the moderate Muslims denouncing it?  Here is one (of many).

5. where is the mommy-war for the motherless child? on Rage Against the Minivan: A beautiful post on what we Mamas should be fighting for.

4. Pumpkin Patch Babies on Pinstrosity: Okay, everything on pinstrosity is just hilarious, but I crack up every single time I see this post.

3. Flat Out Segregation at Lebanese Beaches – part II on Anti Racism Movement: A video depicting the racism against domestic workers at beaches here in Lebanon.  Just one example of the rampant racism those from the Phillipines, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and many other countries face.

2. 46 Reasons My Three Year Old Might be Freaking Out on Jason Good: I think this man is spying on our life and writing about Isla.  I cried I was laughing so hard!

1. The Mom Stays in the Picture on Huff Post Blog: I cry every time I read this post.  A must read for every mom out there!

The naughty and the nice list (but way more serious than Santa)

The naughty and the nice list (but way more serious than Santa)

There are certain topics that I just don’t blog about.  I avoid politics… not that I don’t have lots of thoughts, because I do, but I find it’s one of the “conversations” that is just too difficult to have over the internet.  Too many misunderstandings, judgments and frustrations.

For those of you who know what I do, you’ll notice I don’t share pictures of the girls’ faces or details of their lives… that’s for their protection.

I try not to generalize my experiences… that is, I don’t want to assume that just because I had a certain interaction or experience that it defines Lebanon or the Lebanese.  Just like I was so dumbfounded and annoyed when a psychologist I had a meeting with yesterday didn’t believe that I was actually American because “Americans aren’t that white” (talking about Ruby… she hadn’t even seen Isla… that would have apparently totally rocked her world, ha!), I don’t want my Lebanese friends reading my blog and being frustrated at my generalizations of their society and culture.

Sometimes I’ll type out a whole post and realize it sounds too negative or too judgmental to actually post, so it sits in my draft folder until I finally just delete it.

One topic I’ve been wanting to blog about for a while now is racism.  I actually wrote one post a few years ago, but every other post that broached the subject since then has ended up in my draft folder. Some of those posts shared personal stories – like the time I was in a Burger King play area with Isla while one of the girls was at a birthday party.  A Filipina maid and I started chatting and she just opened up to me, sharing story after story about her life.  I typed up one story that she told me about how when her Madame poops, she doesn’t flush the toilet herself, but actually calls for this girl to come flush it for her.  But then there was no way I could comment on that story without being incredibly negative, so I just left it in my draft folder.

My blogging friend Ginger Beirut has a couple of really good posts about racism in Lebanon – she has great tact and yet doesn’t shy away from the subject.  I’m still figuring out how to blog with tact, I guess.

Right now, the news is full of stories about racism at beaches in Lebanon.  Many, many beaches in Lebanon do not allow maids to swim in the pool – whether or not they pay full price to enter.  There is actually a recent circular that has been passed out to all that states it is against the law to discriminate based on race, but most beach clubs are just ignoring the law.  Lots of excuses are given, many along the lines of “our customers wouldn’t want to swim in the same water {as an African/Filipina maid].”  (ugh)

The Anti-Racism Movement has posted a few videos showing the blatant disregard for the law (you can watch them here and here).  They are also working on compiling a list of all beaches that either practice discrimination or that do not discriminate.  Which brings me to the point of the post… if you are in Lebanon, consider checking out the list here before choosing the beach you want to spend the day at.  Maybe if enough of us boycott the beaches with racist policies, we could see some real change!  Although the pessimist in me wonders if publishing the list will send more people to the racist beaches, knowing that they will be “safe” from having to mix with people they’d rather not.  (There I go again… but you know what, I’m just gonna leave that sentence in.)

On a side note, I’m happy to report that our favorite beach, Lazy b, is on the good list!  Two summers ago, when I first started realizing that many beaches didn’t allow domestic workers to use the facilities, I actually asked the girl at reception if they let anyone swim. She looked at me like I was crazy.  So I clarified, “would you let my friend from Ethiopia swim?”  She laughed like it was a ridiculous question and said “of course.”  I skipped to the car and promptly reported to Caleb that we could continue spending insane amounts of money at Lazy b!  :)