I was in the vegetable section of the local supermarket when I heard a lady, around 55-60 years old saying (loudly) to herself that prices have really gone up with the global economic crisis and all. I nodded and we started to chat about how the prices of basic commodities have gone up even here in oil rich Dubai where our economists and leaders say we are not that badly affected by the recession.
She asked me from where I am and I asked her too (typical expat conversations here start that way). Olga is from Lebanon and since she had a cross pendant on her necklace, I told her I thought all people living in the area (Gulf area and the Middle East in general) are all Muslims. No, she says. Her family is Christian, just like so many other Lebanese.
Lebanon is situated near Europe so they have relaxed attitude towards religion, that you can wear anything you like in Lebanon, marry anyone even outside of religious/cultural groups. Our conversation even escalated to discussions regarding the weather in Lebanon, how you can ski and go to the beach in the same day, how the Mediterranean sea looks magnificent all througout the year, the European influence, the large French speaking population in the country, the delicious food. She shared of her beloved Beirut being the playground of the Middle East in the 1960s, a role that it lost during its 17-year civil war which ended in the early 1990s. She talked about the clash between Syria-Lebanon-Israel and how it has affected not only the tourism industry but also the residents there, how she lost some of her loved ones and friends.
Her story-telling was almost endless until her voice trailed off a bit on the last topic.
Beautiful landmark of Beirut, Lebanon
My phone rang. My husband called to ask what took me so long to choose a bunch of bananas. He did not know that I haven’t even touched anything in that veggie and fruits section yet and instead chatted with a stranger and learned a lot more than I can ever learn in geography or history class.
This is one of the reasons I love about living here because up until that unexpected meeting with Olga, the only thing I knew about Lebanon is that The Matrix actor Keanu Reeves was born there (well, I actually know some other stuffs about that country but Keanu gets the biggest impact, that’s all).