In this scene from A Beirut Heart: One Woman’s War I reflect on what it means to know two cultures and lead two lives and how grateful I am for this privilege.
I lead two lives. I know two cultures and both inspire me as a writer. My chance to walk in two worlds came forty-nine years ago when I met a handsome young Lebanese doctor. When I accepted his proposal of marriage, I also agreed to move to his country. A rebellious and restless young twenty-five year old, and by then already mother of two, I said good-bye to my homeland and in 1969 moved to Beirut, Lebanon. While I now live in Wisconsin, a refugee from Lebanon’s fifteen year long civil war, which began in 1975, my heart still beats to the daily rhythms of vibrant, chaotic Beirut. I tell people I cannot help myself, but the truth is I do not want to give it up. I continue to speak French and Arabic. I love the sounds as they come out of my mouth. They make me feel like I’m back there talking to my friends. Every time I fix hummus and baba ganouge, savoring the nuttiness of chickpeas and the smoky eggplant with tahini, garlic and lemon, I feel as if my feet are firmly placed in the culture and country I continue to call my own.
In Beirut I found my place to grow, my place for inspiration. My commitment to stay there during the war was a consequence of a deep love affair. I had married into a family that was for the most part loving and accepting and it was exciting to wake up every day as a foreigner embraced as a Lebanese. This is the kind of love which develops a Beirut heart, one which never dissolves.
Here I am some thirty years later, a frequent visitor to Beirut, and still filled with this love for a city that continues to struggle to recover from civil war and which, by its dysfunction, its political intrigues, its assassinations, religious conflicts, regional menaces and skulduggery, inspire me as a writer.
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