Beirut, December 2012
In Beirut, go to the main street of Furn el Shebek, find About Moussad’s grocery store and make a right, after a 100m you will see a sign on the right side that says “Flight services”. There, press the bell “Nursery Au Paradis des Anges”.
This is where I live and this is maybe what you’d have to write on the postcard if you were to send me one.
Thanks to GoPro featuring one of my #OsloBeirut projects on their Facebook page earlier this year I arrived in Beirut with a place to stay; a few weeks before arriving my soon-to-be-new-friends Elsy and Pauline contacted me and told me I could stay in their apartment the first days on my arrival. This allowed me get to know some really cool people and have a struggle-free apartment search.
Even though there isn’t any proper apartment rental website in Lebanon, it took me only five days to find a place to rent. I started by walking in the streets giving my phone number to concierges, shop keepers, and random people that crossed my path. I also put an add on a Facebook group dedicated to helping people find places to rent, but the old school analog mouth to ear technique was the one that worked. My hosts introduced me to Hussam, a 31 year old environmental activist with a special interest in water. He wears a cool hat, is a vegetarian and is looking for a roommate. Pretty fucking good match.
The flat is an old kindergarten with 3 large bedrooms, a spacious living rooms with a projector, a fully equipped kitchen, and a small guestroom. The standard is nothing to brag about, but we like it and with time we’re going to make it very cosy, specially the outdoor area is going to be very nice in the summer. It has normal (i.e. governmental) electricity 18hours a day and for the other 6 hours there is a generator. This is normal in Lebanon. Every once in a while you can hear the sounds of the electronic gear rebooting and the tic-tic from the fluorescent light on the ceiling; we’re going from government to generator powered electricity. The other day I was peeing when it happened and I just continued, whisteling through the darkness as if nothing. I guess I’m getting used to it :)
“it’s funny because the things that surprise you are the contrary as the things that surprise us: we’d be surprised if there was electricity 24h in a row.”
Beirut: With only a million inhabitants, it has a good size and plenty of neighborhoods to discover. The other I was buying dried fruit in an Armenian very lively part of town, then I went to the shore to find some peace and rest. Being able to go from one atmosphere to another like this is pretty priceless. I really like the city and have already found some nice places where I like to hang out.
There is a lot of traffic tho. All these people stuck in the traffic don’t seem to realize that they are traffic. But who’s to blame when there isn’t any proper public transportation system?
I got myself a bike, chopped he handlebars shorter and am really enjoying biking around town when it’s not raining. They say people drive like crazy in Lebanon but IMAO because people don’t obey traffic rules, everyone has to be a bit more responsive and reactive in order to avoid accidents. That’s exactly the way I like to ride and I’ve always been defending my bike riding style as quite safe. (even when my school sent me to a psychiatrists when I was 16 because of my biking style).
Otherwise it’s a bit hilly but I guess I’m used to that with Oslo. On several occasion drivers have let me hang on to their cars with one hand on the bikes’ handlebars and the other on the car like if it was perfectly normal. I love that. Maybe the most dangerous thing is just the pot-holes.
So life here is pretty sweet, I feel safe and I’m starting to get to know the city and can navigate without a map more and more. I’ve made some good friends already and have been on the set of a music video as a backstage photographer. In a week I’m gonna be on MTV Lebanon’s morning show to talk about my trip from Oslo to Beirut. I hope I will be able to talk about how good people rather than arguing against the idea that it’s crazy to hitchhike.
I have started looking for work, I want to find some journalists who want to do specs/reportages on the theme of water with me or maybe work for NGOs that work with water-related issues. But off course I will probably have to do less interesting “commercial” photography as well.
For the first time ever I didn’t do anything for Christmas. I just had a beer and went out to buy popcorn. All my friends were busy celebrating with their families. I got several invitations but kindly declined. Instead I used time to continue working on my #OsloBeirut book. I’m ordering it through Blurb so it might take some time before I have it in my hands, but I’m really looking forward to having it.
By the way, did you know Lebanon is considered third world? I had no idea before somebody told me. I guess the lack of postal + transportation systems and the electricity cuts are some visible clues. The contrast between third world and developed world can be quite funny:
Sometimes I use an app on my smartphone to check when the next electricity cut is :)
That’s it for now! thanks for reading.