Adonis Diaries

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The Orient Queen was capsized during Beirut port conflagration: My cruise experience

Note: I had posted my experience on the Orient Queen for 3 days cruise to Alanya (Turkey) last September 2019. I expected a good vacation for a dream since it was my first travel by sea.

Actually, the Orient Queen is the only sea ship from all Lebanon ports. If you want to catch a luxury cruise, you need to travel by air to where the cruise is launched. Sounds like a monopoly in this mafia plagued State.

This ship was parked by pier 9, very close to pier 12 where the conflagration originated, and it was Not the regular place to stay until the summer season.  Many crews dove into the sea  during the first explosion. Three crews died and many injured.

I read an ad for 2 cruises to Cyprus on the last week of September. Since I have never been to any sea cruise, I decided to try one, and experience a “5 star hotel on the sea” and check if I get seasick.

It turned out you need paperwork to submit to a visa that cost $60 for a 7-hour landing. It was Not my cup of tea, since I have already visited Cyprus before and I didn’t like it that much. (It was during Christmas and Larnaka seemed empty and the hotel to be desired)

Fortunately, the Orient Queen was also going to Turkey (Alanya city) for a 3-day cruise and No visa required, and that clenched the deal.

Sure, as I am single on that cruise I had to caught up $100 more for a room (a total of $450). And I was allocated a room on deck 6, instead of the underground deck 4, where many felt seasick. And with a western-side window that looks on just the vast sea.

The climbing on the cruise was facilitated by the security services and it was quick (should I be suspicious of any wrongdoing?)

Well, the cruise aligned half a dozen girls in Brazilian attire. I can’t remember that I saw them again or if they danced in an event that I failed to attend. In any case, here they were lined up with the Captain for the farewell of the port of Beirut.

The food service was done by Egyptian males (sofraji). The front desk was catered by Egyptian males. The casino was handled by a Russian girl and 2 Ukrainian girls. The bars were attended by Indonesians. My section for room service was allocated to a Ukrainian girl and an Indonesian male.

Our passports were hoarded, and when I read in my room that the passport will Not be returned until our room service was paid at the end of the cruise, I got furious.

I recalled all these facts and stories of foreign workers in the Gulf and Saudi Kingdom, and house maid in Lebanon for keeping passport.

And then someone offered me a convincing reason: it is all about Schengen procedure so that no customer will jump ship when landing in Turkey and getting lost.

Though this reason is very convincing, my gut feeling is that the higher echelons in management have a mean spirited streak of humiliating their clients, by anyway they possess. Apparently, a routine they “nailed down” since 2005.

And this gut feeling was supported by the many successive indignities we suffered throughout the experience, this feeling of trying to “milk the ant” for any profit margin that the management was ordered to cash in.

My first decision was to tour the facilities of the ship.

I located a miniature, a hole of (5 by 3 meter) swimming pool. I discarded this fact, wishing to find another larger swimming pool. That’s was it, and had to deal with, and all my expectations went downhill since then, and nothing elevated my spirit, no matter how I tried for positive attitudes.

There were 2 sizable Jacuzzi at the other end (tribor, babor, babour…), each welcoming 4 persons and pretty good.

At lunch, I was allocated a table for 5 persons, older people and none with wives on board, and for the entire duration. These persons spent their time in the casino, nothing else for them to waste time on. One of them who patronized this cruise 5 years ago claimed the food was much better. These guys can sense the onset of seasickness and take the appropriate pill.

I told them that I was allocated a cabin with a window on deck 6 because I was found funny. One of them tersely replied: “all cabins on deck 6 have windows”.

I cannot recollect having looked out the window more than twice for a few seconds, but the cabin was flooded with natural light in the afternoon, a great setting for leisurely reading in a cool place, though I was denied that luxury the last day, since we were ordered to vacate the cabin at 3 pm.

Once, as I made friends and they invited me to join them at their table, the server said: “Please, please“. Kind of not willing to serve an additional client.

Nevertheless, the Egyptians are fine waiters and quick funny. One of the elder on the table was dozing off, waiting for his desert, and the waiter said: “bjeblak battaniyeh?”

I realized that the liquor servers (serving anything liquid), allocated to particular set of tables, were meek and worried that any clients might get totally frustrated and brutal with them for “selling water“. Worst, tiny slices of breads were “counted” for each table: no way to demand more bread.

I distributed tips for these liquor servers without ordering anything, just to send them the message: “I feel with your predicament“. Actually, I learned to give tips before receiving the service: it works and performance follows.

In the afternoon, the nasty sound of the emergency alarm lasted for a long time. I told myself: “hopefully, they are Not going to make it a habit to test our readiness.” And then I heard persistent banging on my door. I was to get out and bring my life-jacket with me and join everybody in the restaurant of deck 6.

On the couch, a saw a scared beautiful young girl, her head all wrapped tight with several layers of veils, and looking at me as if I were a cruise pro. She asked me: “What is going on?”. I replied: “Probably, they are going to throw us overboard to test which safety jackets are still functional”. Her face turned grey and I resumed: “Maybe not now. They’ll go through the routine of describing the safety measures to take when the alarm sounds next time”. She was Not convinced.

Her roommate girl was pale and in a phased out attitude. She did bring her safety jacket but didn’t wear it. I said to her: “As for you, you failed the test. You didn’t wear the jacket. Probably, they’ll select you to throw overboard for punishment”. It turned out she was already feeling seasick.

Then followed a description of the various tours when we land on Alanya as taken from the photo on my mobile:

  1. Shopping tour, 4.5 hrs, at $15
  2.  Jeep Safari 4 hrs, at $35
  3. Shuttle to Cleopatra Beach, at $20
  4. paragliding experience 3 hrs at $90
  5. Diving experience 3 hrs at $70
  6. Turkish bath 3 hrs at $50
  7. Dolphin show 3 hrs at $40

Most of these activities I had in Sharm al Sheikh and the dolphin show I watched in Disneyland in Orlando. And I set my mind to subscribe to Cleopatra beach.

I asked the front desk for Internet connection on the ship. We had to pay $25 for our mere two days, another harsh let down from how this ship is run. It then that I met the seasick girl at front desk and she told me: “moush merta7a“.

The clerk brought her a piece of bread on a platter and said: “Since you vomited, you stomach is empty. eating this bread will improve your state”. I was doubtful because I surmised that eating is the nastiest activity for seasick people. I said: “On checking deck 8, I discovered a door marked “Hospital” and I may show her the way”. The clerk didn’t appreciate my joke.

I put to practice the navy gait, legs spread wide. I wondered “why they promote alcoholic drinks if people are unable to walk straight?”

In the evening I decided to do the best of what’s available and got dizzy swimming dozen of times, back and forth, the “lengths” of this miniature pool. People looked at me saying: “That’s a wonderful kid, enjoying himself by any means”

Once, I was smoking with a heavy smoker acquaintance on the deck of the pool and he said: “this is a nasty smell”. I said “you mean the smell of cigarette?” He replied: “No the burned smell of oil from the turbine exhaust of the ship”. It is then that I smelt it and from then on I spent my time on the other side of the ship, where everybody gathered as we were arriving to the port of Beirut.

Actually, it is on this side of the ship on the last hour that I attempted small chats with the gathered people and how they felt about this experience.

People pass-time was to set up arghili (hookah) around this swimming pool for $14.

The Orient Queen arranged for 5 buses to take the customers to various sites in Alanya, one of them to the “famous” Cleopatra beach where it is claimed that Cleopatra did swim long time ago. I have been told this beech stretches for a mile and the sand were imported from South Africa.

I thought of signing up for this trip, but the weather condition changed to rainy day, and I was happy I didn’t sign up (I would have lost my money, since there would be no refund).

I was also lucky Not to sign up on time for a meeting with the Captain on deck 7. One of my table companion told me that they take a group photo for $20 for the cruise promotion.

I was the last person to step out of the ship and had the lunch room all for myself.

An experienced woman attendant on front desk filled me with details: most of these sites can be reached cheaply by public transport, and most of them are actually at walking distance.

At 2 pm, I descended the ship and boarded a City Tour “train”, kind of a car remorking two children trains at 10 TL or less than $2.

This tour lasted 45 minutes and we passed the Cleopatra beech, the bazaar, the teleferic , and many adjacent main roads. Nothing to it. New ship acquaintances told me they borrowed bicycles and electric motto to tour the city.

Apparently, none of the groups were happy with their guides or the tours: they ended up taking taxis to return to the ship. And it poured cats and dogs for hours until 10 pm, and they arrived totally drenched.

Not only the “tourists” were drenched but the ship was “drenched and leaking” from everywhere.

The employees were exhausted collecting the leaks and disposing dozens of buckets. A few cabins were leaking too.

I had arrived at 4:30 and it was drizzling: I was tired of walking to the bazaar and buying unnecessary clothes to the female members of my clan: we have so many unworn clothes that are taking so much spaces in our closets and cannot get rid of them.

Suffice to say that I bought an “Alanya sherwal“, just because the lady was dynamic and wouldn’t desist from showing me what her shop held. And I laughing my heart out for her activities, she even shortened one of the 3abaya for mother.

That rainy day and night might have hurt the profit margin of the cruise, since no one could venture outside on the upper deck to “enjoy” an arghili or have a drink… Maybe this is one reason management forced on the customers an additional $10 for room service?

There were no outside exits to have a smoke, but I discovered an exit under a tiny shelter facing the pool. A good looking woman wearing one of the headgear, promoted by “Princess” Mozah of Qatar, wanted to displace the huge sound buffer from under the heavy rain, and the employees were afraid of being electrocuted if they touch the cable, but the cable was long enough to move the buffer under the shelter..

In hindsight, I observed 3 ladies wearing this kind of headgear, in white or black, and I conjectured that maybe a minority “Muslim” sect is using it overseas. Actually, one lady was very “classy” in her behavior, her attire and the soft way she eats and talk on her table. I conjectured that she might be a foreigner. And she turned out to be from Damascus and refused to talk but in “Arabic”, though she understood English and appreciated my compliment.

The day of our arrival to Beirut, we were ordered to vacate our cabins at 3 pm in order to prepare the room for the next trip on the same night.

Thus, we were left outside for 5 hours and we were denied swimming towels.

I met people at one of the Jacuzzi and they said it is “fresh water” (thus no need for me to take a shower afterward) and they told me to ask the front desk for towels. Not only the front desk does Not deliver anything, they don’t even carry small changes for tips.

But I hoarded a Jacuzzi all for myself for an hour and watched people sweating and totally bored.

I waited for the lines in front desk to dwindle, paying for their room service before getting their passport back.

The main sticky point was why charging $30 instead of $20 as stipulated in writing? One of the lady claimed that she has already paid upfront $30 for room service and she had to wait until this problem is resolved (the clerk said they had no direct commutation with headquarter in Beirut, and I assume the Captain is in charge of all decisions on board?)

I did my best in these long line to dissipate the accumulating anger and was trying to be calm and funny with Ibrahim. I even suggested to him whether I can bring him a sandwich for the long haul (as if this cruise has bread for sandwiches).

I met with my table companions around a table around 5 pm: the casino was closed and they had no idea what to do next. I ordered a large water bottle and a non-alcoholic beer. The barman said that I ordered the last beer and (may be the single such beer he received for his reserves). Actually, not a single bar on the ship ever admitted having beer sh3eer.

I will always be grateful for this barman for showing me the closest of WC, otherwise I would have been in big trouble, for the countless times I used it within 2 hours: beer and swimming keep me busy visiting WC.

Before leaving ship, I passed by the Free Market room to buy a few bottles. And it was closed: al jomrok came and closed it. Why we were Not warned of these khouza3balaat?

It was a mere 2 nights on the cruise and most of the “tourists” I talked to said they cannot count on them for a repeat.

I wonder how the “tourists” handled 7 days on this cruise, touring the Greek islands.

I conjecture that a few committed suicide at landing, out of total disgust: they quit Lebanon for an “honorable” vacation and they received the same kind of crap of indignities and humiliation as the Lebanese State extended to them in the last 3 decades.

Still I had my experiences being confined at sea and how people behave and spend their time, and what is available and what is delivered.

It is doubly satisfying since I executed my dream before the Covid pandemics set in, the total bankruptcy of the State of Lebanon, the scarcity of hard currencies, the inability/difficulties of travelling oversea,  and the instabilities we are experiencing.

Note 1: My note to Pamela , in my first reaction, was how I felt in this cruise:

Hola Pamela. I miss your smile. I wish you stayed in the cruise to observe and feel the indignities, frustration and humiliation of the clients and the service personnel.

I waited till the end of your last cruise to Cyprus to avoid you further exacerbation and headache from overseeing the last cruise.

I write reports of my experiences and impressions and post them on my blog adonis49@wordpress.com. If you care, I might send you a link, in due time.

Ya 3ammi, add upfront what it takes for standard room service charge (supposedly to repay the employees?), all you can drink water and eat bread, and swimming towels.

Ya 3ammi, add extra for non-alcoholic beverages, including non-alcoholic beer sha3eer and save the clients and the service personnel the hassle, the rebuke and humiliation in long waiting lines. And attach the appropriate bracelet around the wrist of clients.

What is the purpose of kicking us out of our cabin at 3 pm when the arrival time is estimated at 8 pm? And denying us swimming towels too? We pay for vacation and Not to submit to more frustration.

I will consider your explanations for my article, specifically what kinds of procedures you intend of “reforming” since 2005.

Note 2: My reply to the note of Hana Abu Mer3i, operating manager

Hi Hana: just quick few replies since I’ll be writing an exhaustive article on my experience on this cruise.

In the print it was said $20 service charge per person and not $30. A family of 4 had to caught up $40 additional charges.
I was practically kicked out of my cabin and was Not allowed to retake my swimming towel in order to spend a few hours waiting for arrival
The liquor service people meekly approach our tables at lunch and dinner, sort of worried that someone will pick up a tantrum for selling them water
I doubt that you ever reconsidered your procedures and  rules since 2005.
I was under the impression that there was an underlining mean spirited pleasure to humiliate these “ratesh” paying clients who do Not deserve an honorable and comfortable vacation
It was plainly a succession of various indignities and frustration that added up to a feeling of brutal behavior by the organizers.
In any case, the customer speaks louder: the dozen of clients I talked to were adamant that they will Not be repeat client to Abumer3i cruise.
At least the cabin was decent and plenty of hot water for showers

Here we go again: Five Majestic Outdoor Destinations in Lebanon. Every country has Majestic sceneries.

The Wilderness Project. June 30, 2020

Nature is a gift to us and we should preserve it well! If you go on an amazing hike do tell us about it and share any pictures, too. We always love to hear from you!

Lebanon is a country truly blessed for its unique topography rich with gorgeous green landscapes throughout, and unlike the rest of the Middle East, it has no desert. (Though desertification and polluted water sources are catching up)

Its temperate, weather and abundance of lush rolling hills, natural waterways and diverse flora makes it an ideal country to explore by foot, pretty much anytime of the year. (This lush rolling hills and natural waterways are exaggerated description with the failure of this pseudo-State to shoulder its responsibilities)

While hiking and camping outdoors have always been popular activities in Lebanon, since the pandemic, more Lebanese than ever before have turned to nature looking for safe ways to unwind and to get some exercise.

As a hiking enthusiast myself, I always suggest to others that the best remedy for stress is a long walk amid beautiful surroundings. It certainly works for me.

In Lebanon you also get to see ancient ruins along the way thanks to the country’s rich and storied past. This could be anything from centuries old water mills, Ottoman arched stone bridges, Roman era terra cotta pottery pieces embedded in the soil to rock structures engraved in Latin letters

(During the second century A.D. the Roman Emperor Hadrian carved more than 200 rocks as boundary markers to control the logging of Lebanese Cedar trees, which were the most highly sought after building materials at the time).

Many hiking trails are also adjacent to historic Lebanese villages, which means if you finish your walk early you can benefit from additional sightseeing for the day (visit the local landmarks), stop by for a beverage or a meal or buy some local Mouneh (homemade preserved delicacies) before heading back home.

Now let me share with you five wonderful places in Lebanon that are definitely worth walk touring “à pied”.

Cedar Tree in Tannourine

Cedar Tree in Tannourine

Mill Trail

Mill Trail

1- Tannourine

Tannourine is perhaps most famous for its cedars forest covering 12 square kilometers which is also one of the country’s most picturesque and pristine areas for walking, some even growing on extreme vertical slopes),

You can spot grottos and plenty of vibrant wild flowers. If you prefer a more rugged terrain with some sightseeing, try the Mill Trail of Tannourine.

You can start this hike at the centrally located historic Medieval Church of Mar Challita (famous for having two alters). Then head towards the nearby Mill Trail, which is alongside the picturesque Walnut River (Nahr el Jawz).

Like the trail’s name suggests, you will come across several old mills (Al Aabara, Al Nsoub and Emm Zahra). You can also visit the impressive Baatara Sinkhole, a natural phenomenon, and sit and marvel at the 255-meter-deep Jurassic limestone cavern.

While it is mainly dry during summer, in winter and spring a dramatic waterfall flowing into the sinkhole can be enjoyed. After a long morning hike this place is great to rest and have your picnic lunch (it also has a few snack areas serving sandwiches and mezza).

2- Qadisha Valley (Holy Valley)

Also referred to as Wadi Qannoubine (Valley of the Saints), this place has an incredible vibe, landscape and legacy (all three).

This place is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (Lebanon has five in total) so it is a protected zone, with the few people living on the premises comprised of those in the monasteries and churches.

Qadisha valley is a breathtaking gorge marked by rocky hillsides covered with natural caves, which have been used as shelters and burials going back to the Paleolithic period. Later on it became a refuge for those in search of solitude or escaping religious persecution, from Sufis to Christians (It has hosted monastic communities since the earliest years of Christianity, and again in the 12th, 17th and 18th century, for those fleeing persecution at the hands of the Mamluks and later the Ottomans).

Often penned the Lebanese mini Grand Canyon, this utterly peaceful sanctuary is 1,400 meters above sea level with sweeping views all around and has a river that carves out the floor of the valley with water flowing through it in the springtime.

There are various entrances to begin a hike in this valley, but the most commonly used is Mafraq Qannoubine (the main road in Bcharre).

Once you enter Qadisha you can follow the signposts and walk towards Mar Elisha monastery or Qannoubine monastery. Otherwise you can plan ahead and seek the advice of Lebanon Mountrail Trail (LMT) which has mapped out most hiking trails in the country www.lebanontrail.org.

(I did this hiking expedition with the steepest and awkward of stairs for many miles)

Rocky cliffs dotted with ancient natural caves

Rocky cliffs dotted with ancient natural caves

St. Marina the Monk Church

St. Marina the Monk Church

3- Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve (JMBR)

Our next hiking gem is a biosphere reserve. JMBR has an exceptionally rich biodiversity hosting 750 species of flowers and trees.

In addition, 137 migratory and soaring bird species and 25 mammal species make this mountainous area their home (among them are foxes, squirrels, hedgehogs, wild boars and the very rare striped hyenas).

You can also find historic sites, such as Roman era stone stairs, a Byzantine church, a centuries old watermill and olive press, several ruins of old houses, an abandoned Ottoman settlement and rocks with the famous Emperor Hadrian’s inscriptions.

The reserve covers an area of 6500 hectares and offers 10 different trails, which can be accessed from three main entrances: Qehmez. Mchati and Chouwen.

I highly recommend the hike to its highest summit Qornet el Mzar (1600m) that shelters the ruins of a Roman temple; it offers sweeping panoramic views of the entire country, and on a clear day you can see as far as Cyprus and Syria.

There is a small entrance fee of 8,000 Lira (4,000 Lira for the under 16) to enter Jabal Moussa. On your way out check out their kiosk selling Mouneh and handicraft products made by local women. You can support them with your purchase!

Floral diversity of Jabal Moussa

Floral diversity of Jabal Moussa

Remains of an old house

Remains of an old house

Forest boundary marker of Emperor Hadrian

Forest boundary marker of Emperor Hadrian Picture Credit: https://followinghadrian.com/tag/jabal-moussa/

4- Jannet Chouwen

If there is a place to be crowned heaven on Earth, Jannet Chouwen on a sunny day might come pretty darn close. This stunning area is ideal for hiking, camping out, going for a swim and just basking in nature for as long as possible.

The hiking hotspot is most famous for its stream that runs down the mountain and flows into the Nahr Ibrahim River, also known as the river of the God Adonis (a.k.the river of immortal love!)

A year ago I swam in this pristine stream and I can assure you, being in this fresh invigorating natural bath outdoes any spa! This river is accessible through JMBR’s Chouwen entrance. From there you need to walk downhill for about 45 min until you reach the area.

(You may read my humoristic trekking adventure on this supposed Promised Paradise)

https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2020/03/30/trekking-to-the-promised-paradise/

Aerial view of Nahr Ibrahim

Aerial view of Nahr Ibrahim

5- Darb El Mselha (Mselha Walkway)

This hiking destination takes its name from the Mseilha Fort in Batroun, which was built by Emir Fakhreddine II in the 17th century to protect the city from enemy attacks.

The actual walk begins from the Mseilha Fort and is parallel with the picturesque Nahr El Joz so you can also enjoy the beautiful water canals as you stroll along. The trail can take you all the way to Kaftoun village, which is approximately 12 kilometers away.

This is actually a new hiking spot in Lebanon and has been immensely popular with hikers and families alike looking for areas to have a nice walk and even stop for a picnic along the way.

Parts of the trail have cement blocks with small gaps in between which can be unsafe for younger children, so just make sure they are well attended to if you bring them along with you. Dogs are also forbidden on this trail.

Darb Mseilha is easily accessible from the Batroun highway before Chekka. You can conveniently park your car at the entrance of this well maintained public trail and see where it takes you!

Glad you enjoyed reading about five of my favourite hiking areas in Lebanon. While I only mentioned a few, the country has countless excellent nature destinations so you are spoilt for choice.

You can read more about the various trails via LMT, which I previously mentioned. So, wishing you all happy trails if you go for an outdoor adventure! Remember wherever you go, keep the area clean and respect the rules in any reserve or outdoor area.

References:

First Picture: Arz Hadath El Jebbeh in Bcharre taken by Alia Fawaz. All pictures (with the exception of Hadrian’s Rock in Jabal Moussa) have been also provided by the author taken during her hikes.

Trip to Paris and Oklahoma?

Note: Re-edit of “Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown (Part 1, June, 2004)”

It was May of 1975.  I had just graduated in Physics from the Lebanese university.

I secured a student visa to the United States of America. I was to study English for the summer at a university in Oklahoma.

I did not know then that there was more than one university in Oklahoma. It turned out there were several and the university I applied for graduate study was Not the one I landed for English summer schooling.

The trip was not that urgent, but the civil war in Lebanon started to look serious and I dreaded Not be doing anything for the duration..

My inborn stubbornness clenched the deal and off I left.

Logically, my destination should have been France for graduate studies, but I was tired of theoretical education.

I figured that the US educational system was more hands on, practical… with upgraded labs and “stage” at factories…

I was wrong. It was mostly of the theoretical stuff.

It was my first trip away from family and home. I learned later that my mother played the fundamental role of convincing my father that it is time that I learn to be on my own and fly with my own wings.

My mother told me that the night I flew away my father cried his eyes out in his bed.

My father offered me $5,000. Two Lebanese pounds at the time was worth one dollar (Now, a single dollar is worth 1,500 LP)

I stayed in Paris for a couple of weeks, supposedly to visiting a student cousin of mine. My cousin Nassif happened to be vacationing in England with a girlfriend.

At the airport, no one searched me or welcomed me.

Before I exited the airport, an agent asked to search my luggage. Why me? No, it was Not a random search. I had to rearrange everything in my beaten suitcase.

Even then, France pinpointed specific passengers to be searched.

I met my friends Ghassan and Moussa who helped me rent a room where they stayed at a university complex for foreign students.

I toured Paris alone in metro and mostly on foot. Paris was gorgeous.

Strong with maps of trains and buses routes, I crisscrossed Paris from Mont St. Michel to the Louvre, and almost everything in between. Alone, all alone.

I walked Champ Elysee, Quartier Latin, Pigale…When I get tired walking I would join the closest train station and hop to another destination.

Breakfasts were delicious at the university low-ceiling breakfast restaurant .

Breakfast was the time to see all the various international students. The smell of fresh coffee, milk, bacon, eggs and fresh bread was appetizing.

The buffet was scattered with many varieties of fruits and drinks.

( I still dream of waking up to such a breakfast environment)

There was another restaurant for lunch and dinner, but the menu was dismal and Not tasty.

I landed first at New York at Laguardia airport. We were flying over the Oklahoma Territory, 22 hours after leaving Paris. We still had one hour to land.

It was pitched dark outside and I might have been feeling cold in the plane. One stewardess might have realized my haggard quietness.

An angel, no more than twenty years old, blonde, blue eyed, beautiful with a refreshing smile, and compassion transparent in her welcoming face.

She brought me a blanket without any request on my part and suggested to bring me some orange juice.

I felt then that it is okay to live in America and to know Americans. I wished I told her that I was scared, terrified, and numb at the magnitude of the unknown waiting for me.

I wished I told her that I needed to throw myself at her mercy and be helped.

I was lacking conversational skills and lacking practice in English.

I was not basically a social guy, though I enjoyed being among crowds.

Friends suffered me on account of my quietness: I painfully resigned myself for their impression of my “aura of bookish knowledge“.

Trip from Norman (Oklahoma) to San Francisco

Note 1: re-edit of my story from my autobiography: “San Francisco: Soothing recollections, May 31, 2009”

Note 2: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips stories.

The trip to San Francisco from Oklahoma on Greyhound bus to attend the Human Factors convention in 1991 lasted almost 3 days and I spent my money on junk food.

I borrowed the fare for that trip from a friend.

We crossed flat Kansas and had a break in Santa Fe that looked pretty much Spanish/Mexican feeling. We pushed forward to Flagstaff, a major change in scenery. I am under the impression that high in Flagstaff there was snow.

Other than that I don’t recall what I saw or observed on the route before I reached San Francisco.

This is a period I’m still not ready to face, much less to write about. But I finally came around to tell it when writing my autobiography (Of Not famous people).

Suffice to admit that I roomed with my adviser in the hotel and that he woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that my snoring was loud.

After the convention was over, I was on the verge of joining the file of the homeless.

I stayed at the studio of a referral that I got in Norman for one night in Ashbury Heights. I had later many occasions to walk this famous street during the period when the hippies selected it as headquarter for their movement.

The next morning I was feeling sick because of too much nervous tension. I called my cousin Nassif in Vancouver and all that I got was a reprimand “Adonis, you are always in trouble”.

I called Ali who was working in Canada but he had no referrals in San Francisco to stay over. I used an old number of Ali’s in Houston and it seems that this number connect him everywhere he relocates.

I know that I slept one night at an Algerian student who was the manager of the restaurant “Marrakech” that served Moroccan dishes; it was one of the longest nights and the most nerve wracking wait for this Algerian student to show up and pick me up.

It was a cold night and I waited for over three hours sitting on my suitcase wondering if he is ever going to show up. I had nowhere to go and no money for any decent lodging facility.

The next day I slept at a hostel for foreign student visitors for two nights in Downtown San Francisco.

The Algerian student referred me to two Spanish students living in a foggy neighborhood; the fog enveloped this quarter 20 hours a day. I had shelter for a week at the foreign students from Spain and they were very nice.

I managed to be hired in a full-service retirement hotel, for room and board in exchange of 4 hours work a day.

The Spanish students could not believe that I landed a job that quickly. I accepted all the overtime I could get in all the departments, until I was offered the job of assistant to the manager three weeks later.

I was fooled by the offer of $1,200 a month which turned out to be less than $900 after all kinds of deductions, but I fulfilled my “word” to stay a whole year in that position.

My cousin Patrick visited me once when he was attending a conference in San Francisco for the anesthesiologists.

I enjoyed my stay in this lovely city of San Francisco and visited frequently all its parks and waterfronts and beaches, carrying a book with me.

I had also located a nearby covered swimming pool that I patronized three times a week.

I had the opportunity to tour the neighboring towns around San Francisco with co-workers and a French older woman called Michelle that I helped secure a part-time position at the Hotel.  The red headed Michelle carried all her belonging in the trunk of her small beat up car and she invited me on her many excursions out of town.

I saw many famous locations because I was responsible for arranging tours to the elder residents and I was to be part of the trip for supervision purposes.  The City offered a van with a driver and we toured San Francisco once a week and I took pictures and described the tour in the monthly promotional brochure along with the monthly events in the Hotel.

I was caring for elder persons, mostly ladies, but in my state of confusion for my future and frustration in not finding within my spirit of what I loved to do for a job didn’t leave much space in my soul for sincere compassion.

Practically, I cared better than most of the managerial staff because I was new to this environment of human spiritual misery and I was highly respected by the “clients”.

The retirees knew of my higher education but never asked me “why are you working in such an institution with your degree?”. Iit is as people in the US are accustomed to see all kinds of individuals working temporary jobs that turned out to be more permanent than proclaimed.

One elder man of over 80 of age, tall and of powerful constitution, committed suicide a week after his “incarceration” by falling in a stairwell from the eighth floor.  Many of the elder ladies whom I cared for passed away during my job, but the manager made it for no one of us to realize how the dead person was vacated. I was not shaken emotionally, or that what I thought at the time.

I think that I read most of the famous authors who lived in and around San Francisco. I had a Mexican girlfriend. (You may read my post in the addendum to my introspection “Chica Lupita”)

I have toured Marin County, the forest of the highest Red trees, ventured to Monterrey, Big Sur, Little Sur, Carmel, and all the environs.

There was old Jake who was a gambling addict; he used to receive invitations from the casinos for free rooms in Reno.  Jake persisted in his invitations and I joined him twice because he needed company or to fulfill a condition of bringing someone along.

I played little and ate a lot in Reno; food and drinks were cheap and in abundance, and enjoyed looking at pretty servers too.

We traveled on two occasions as a group in a van belonging to an employee and spent glorious days up north and tasted wine in wine counties and farmhouses.

I recall that I had an interview for a job in statistical analysis and had to board several ferries to reach destination; luckily, I didn’t get the job but it was a good exposure for various transport facilities. All in all, my stay in San Francisco was the loveliest and most enriching experience in the US.

I recall taking the BART train to Menlo Park, an hour trip. I was to meet my ex-girlfriend Rose and we walked for a couple of hours in Downtown Menlo Park. She rejoined her ex-husband on reason of her two kids growing up. Her daughter Shannon was about to join a university.

During my stay in San Francisco I took the bus Greyhound to Boulder because my adviser sent me a letter that he was to deliver part of my dissertation to the convention of Human Factors Society and I wanted to attend it.

You can follow that trip on a separate trip story to Boulder, Colorado in my sub-category “Travel/Excursion”

The return trip from Boulder felt even longer.

A week later I was to confront a discrimination case battle.

There was this girl who claimed that I harassed her sexually and the case was dropped after weeks of hassles; she had no one to testify on her behalf.  This “American” girl , of a wealthy family, was pissed off that I got the position of assistant to the manager.

I had no hints of the power struggle that went on before I arrived to this hotel.  I wanted to resign but the manager convinced me that when I finish the whole year then I would be eligible for unemployment benefits of around $450 a month.

I finished the year and started to look for a steady job commensurate to my education.

I thus patronized an office on Van Ness Road that was funded by the City and aided with unemployment cases, such as writing CVs and how to tailor make your resume, and checking on the latest openings for work.

In one of my articles titled “Are you searching for a job?” I wrote:

“I recall that in 1991 the US was in serious recession during the Bush Sr. Administration and jobs were frighteningly scarce.  I had graduated with a PhD degree in Industrial/Human Factors engineering and missed better periods for hiring academicians.

I was working as assistant to manager at a retirement community in Downtown San Francisco and visited an employment center on Van ness Road. It was a center meant to help you out re-write your CV for the nth time, anytime you wanted to apply for the scarce job announcements posted in the center.

People swarmed this center just to feel busy and serious about searching for a job but Not that hot for finding one.  I guess the center was one of the hundreds of facilities with the sole purpose to blaming the citizens for failure to doing their due diligence and compete, since no one is about to beg you to work for them.

If you failed to re-write your CV and spent more money on useless stamps per day, then you are not making good use of this “valuable” help facility, or receiving a monthly stipend for trying to find a job.

This was the period when ridiculous denials were the custom of the land.

For example, this custodian at NASA who claims that he is contributing to sending astronauts to the moon; or redefining their jobs as sanitation “engineering”.

I recall during my graduate study that I was forced to accept a job cleaning and vacuuming the main library while working on my dissertation. I fooled my spirit into believing that as long as I am doing my job perfectly and with excitement then I am learning the value of a job well done, sort as a training period for toughening my character.

A state of denial is Not a bad reaction; it is successive states of denials that can be deleterious to your development”.

I was very curious and enjoyed being among crowds; I attended the public events such as Shakespeare in the park, the free open concerts, joined the homosexual yearly celebrations for curiosity reason, and the Latinos Days of Independence.

Unfortunately, I was mugged on a wonderful evening, just 50 feet from my hotel and at 10 pm, and I was hospitalized.

I never believed that I might be a statistics of the frequent mugging events.

Nobody in the hotel heard anything or even noticed what happened when I returned from the hospital.

I refrained from going out for three weeks.

Walking in San Francisco, even during the day, was no pleasure anymore: there were too many beggars along the streets and they were Not a peaceful lot.

I was glad to move to Washington DC for a change, but no city compares to San Fran in variety, beauty, and recreational facilities.

I never walked as much as in my two years stay in San Fran.

This was a wonderful period when I devoured all kinds of books on a daily basis. I had the pleasure to be acquainted with most of the famous Bay Areas authors from Henry Miller, to John Steinbeck, to Jack London, and the Beatnik movement.

Trip to Boulder in Colorado

Note 1: Repost from my autobiography  to Convention of Human Factors Society in Boulder

Note 2: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips stories.

During my stay in San Francisco I took the bus Greyhound to Boulder because my adviser sent me a letter that he was to deliver part of my dissertation to the convention of Human Factors Society of 2002

And I wanted to attend this convention for a change in scenery.

It was a long trip of two days and we passed through Salt Lake City and I visited the temple of the Mormons. We crossed a long stretch of salty land.

There was snow and the University of Boulder was lovely.

During the second day of the convention my advisor failed to show up and I had no copy of my dissertation and I felt frustrated for not being prepared to deliver anything.

Actually, I was invited by the chairperson of the session to do the presentation and I felt totally stupid. I declined the offer.

The convention offered my side trips which I accepted. For example, a tour to Palm Spring and the US Olympic training center.

I had the opportunity to tour Denver by night and boarded the spacious and large bus that crosses Main Street.

The return trip was long.

A week later I was to battle a discrimination case.

There was this girl who claimed that I harassed her sexually and the case was dropped after weeks of hassles. She had no one to testify on her behalf.

The girl was pissed off that I got the position of assistant to the manager. I had no hints of the power struggle that went on before I arrived to this hotel.

I wanted to resign but the manager convinced me that when I finish serving the entire year then I would be eligible for unemployment benefits of around $450 a month.

I finished the year and started to look for a steady job commensurate to my education.

I thus joined an office on Van Ness Road and funded by the City of San Francisco that aided with unemployment cases, such as writing CVs and how to tailor make your resume, and checking on the latest openings for work.

This facility was useless since during Bush Senior unemployment was deep and widespread.

Trip to Nashville.  April 1, 2020

Note: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips and adventure stories.

I learned that a young couple of my acquaintances at the university were leaving to Kentucky and would drive through Tennessee.

I had just graduated with PhD in industrial/Ergonomics engineering in 199,1 after 6 long grueling years of toil. I worked 4 part-time jobs within the university confine to pay tuition and make ends meet, in addition of a half-time student assistant in my last 2 years.

You know, I obey to regulations, even if most foreign students work outside and have much better pay.

I had an open invitation from my ex-girlfriend in Nashville. She once got pissed off of me and transferred her job from Oklahoma City to Nashville, along with her two kids. (No, the matter was Not of any cheating stories: just a nervous laugh in a funny situation. Told that encounter in my post on Rose)

I asked the couple to give me ride in their tiny VW Beetle. They dropped me in Nashville where Rose lived.

(I wrote about this trip in “An inch taller than her country women“, reminiscing about the women I got this lucky of befriending. A hard working and resilient divorced woman) .

I guess that I spent about three weeks in Nashville but I never had the opportunity to tour “Graceland“, even though Shannon, the daughter of Rose, worked there for pocket money.

I guess that I could not afford the $40 entrance fees.

I tried applying for a position in that period of acute recession during Bush Senior Presidency that lasted until he lost the renewal of his tenure to Clinton. Yes, I also endured this deep unemployment period in San Francisco.

I applied to Nissan plant at Smyrna? and other positions.

There is not much to see in Nashville and I was not in the touring mood since Rose was working hard to make ends meet and I was feverishly applying for jobs.

I recall that I paid a visit to this “famous” record company of Hall of Fames of country singers and gold records . I didn’t care much, but just for curiosity reason.

I even experimented with selling books for a multilevel scheme company.

Rose reluctantly let me use her brand new Japanese car. I don’t drive other people cars, but I was dead broke. The company allocated me a neighborhood to sell the “book of the week” that was to be promoted…

The deal is that you don’t miss a house or a business office in the area allocated to you and you tour the streets clockwise to close the loop.

You leave the customers the book of the week for three days for their perusal. You come back the next week to retrieve the book or sell it to the client.

We had to be at the warehouse at six in the morning, followed by a military style pep talk and then we are trained to memorize definite phrases to eliminate hesitations and how to close deals.

At six in the evening we had to learn the accounting procedures for our business and stay way after eight or even nine.

Supposedly, a few of our role models who were poor in math learned to add and subtract, to harangue, and to get rich.

I lost money in the final analysis because a few books could not be accounted for.

I think this “company” made money by charging the high priced of “displaced” or non retrieved books , when it didn’t cost it a fraction. Maybe they got these books for free just to spread them around.

I once got a traffic ticket for over speeding in Rose’s new Nissan car; it is impossible to know whether you are speeding in these smooth driving cars.  I never paid the traffic tickets.

The woman graduate student, Sara, picked me up on her way back to Oklahoma in her tiny beige VW.

I don’t recall that I spoke a word on that return trip. Sara didn’t attempt to talk either. I guess we both were Not in the mood of sharing our disappointment or frustration.

Sara reluctantly let me sleep overnight when we arrived in Norman: I had no place to sleep since I had vacated my rented apartment

Two days later, Fakhry (a close Lebanese friend whose parents worked in Africa and was married to an American) lent me $100 for the Greyhound bus fare to San Francisco.

I was to attend the American Human Factors annual convention.

It was an excuse to let go of Norman town, a “boring hole” and start afresh, though I had no acquaintances in San Francisco.

I figured that sleeping two nights at the hotel with my advisor might open up new opportunities for survival.

Trekking to Sadd Shabrouh: A dam in Keserwan Lebanon

Note 1: Re-edit of “Trekking about Sadd Shabrouh”. Written in July, 2007 and posted in August 2009

Note 2: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips stories.

Note 3: We have conducted an excursion in the the valley before it was inundated a couple of years before this trekking. We had enjoyed our excursion and ate at a “restaurant” there.

I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and the weather was sunny and hot.

I read the daily “Al Balad” that we received for free for an entire year as a promotion campaign. I performed my exercises and fed the chicken.

Joanna was busy calling: she was programming a walking trip to “Sadd Shabrou7” around Faraya.  Joanna was also planning to end the day at Cherries’ for karaoke night in honor of her sister Ashley’s birthday.  She asked me to join the trekking expedition and I agreed.

I packed a spare of undershirt and socks and a light rain jacket and some biscuit and peanuts and I waited for everybody to be ready.

We waited for Ashley to come back from mass because she was not aware of this “surprise” excursion.  Cedric could not go because he hurt his fingers and the skin of his feet while playing wild basketball yesterday.

We drove off in two cars. Joanna took Ashley and retrieved Tony at St. Elie Movie Theater in Antelias. William took Adrea, Chelsea, David and I.

We met at Aoun supermarket in Zouk and they purchase a few items to eat.

Adrea waited in the car in the underground parking lot because she is pretty lazy.  We resumed our travel around 2 p.m. and William picked up Hanane at her home at Ballouni and we met at Yuhanna’s house in Ajaltoun.  From there, Yuhanna drove his car and carried Joanna, Ashley, Tony and Chelsea.

We arrived and parked our cars in the monastery parking lot and started our walk after getting some information and references from a passerby.

I wore a small towel under my cap and took the lead, hunched in a comfortable stature, and distanced the straggling group for 5 minutes and stopped and took off my top clothes and dried in the sun until they joined me.

I again advanced the group because I felt that keeping a fast and steady pace is relaxing for me, otherwise I will slacken off and my back might ache from slow walking.

I tried to investigate a promising path off the beaten road which was starting to bore me. Ashley asked me to backtrack.  I figured it was a good path that ultimately would merge with the beaten road.

We waited for the rest to join us and it seems that Adrea had trouble with her shoes that she didn’t wear for quite a time.

I took the lead again and decided for another off path and William came after me, looking very frustrated and said that we should stick together as a group and keep to the road. 

William and I took shortcuts to rejoin the group and then Joanna asked a driver for the best place to sit down near fresh running water and he gave her the direction of the path that I had already climbed before William came after me.

Thus, we retraced our walk; I suggested a path among the apple groves but they decided to take short cuts and climb a hill which took my breath out and had to sit down for a couple of minutes to recover.

We reached an area with a small waterfall “shalal” and a flat rock with no trees around.

Yuhanna and Joanna decided to go down among the apple trees to investigate the area.  It was the same apple grove that I intended to cross before I was desisted from in order “to stick to plan”.

Meanwhile, William climbed the rock opposite the road to check if there is a nice area and I removed my tops and my shoes and washed my face and dipped my feet in the icy trickle of water running across the flat rock.

David stored in the icy stream the amassed small apples and pears that he gathered from the trees and we also let our water bottles cool in the water. I had a pear and enjoyed it.

While the remaining group was anxious to go down to the apple grove where Yuhanna located a “nice place” to have lunch, I felt as happy as a clam tanning in the sun, walking bare feet and cooling my feet and rubbing lavender flowers on my hands and having a smoke.

William was pounding on a stone and it turned out to be of silex and he wanted to transform it into a stone knife; he had seen a big silex stone, but when he climbed to retrieve it he could not find it again to bring it back.

Within 15 minutes, Yuhanna asked us to join and we went down to another stream of running water among the apple grove and Yuhanna was frustrated with Chelsea because she was venturing far off the group.

We had lunch. The chips were first to go and Joanna prepared us cheese sandwiches and then we ended up with the Oriole biscuits and other kinds of chocolate covered biscuits; I had also raw peanuts and kept belching for the rest of the trip.

Joanna tried her hands with the kite that she had sent to Yuhanna from London. She failed to make it fly.  David and William drenched Hanane with icy water. I had a comfortable nap while people were chatting away.

Chelsea was a pain for the group in her wandering off, climbing and jumping off walls and rocks and being “har2a”. Obviously, she was a close second to my pain in the ass behavior for discovering new paths. We stayed and rested until 6:30 p.m.

The return path among the apple groves coincided with the path that I had suggested before we climbed the hill.  I took the lead again with Tony who was anxious to terminate the trip. And I never stopped for an hour and a half.

William joined Yuhanna and Joanna to check on a camping area and Chelsea joined them.  After a while we saw Chelsea coming alone grim faced and clutching her right hand and not stopping to talk to us: she had hurt her hand and was furious with Yuhanna.

Ashley decided to walk with Chelsea for the remaining walking trip.  Ashley was even jogging in order to advance me. I kept my fast steady pace and even jogged for a short distance but could not catch up with Chelsea and Ashley. Thus, I arrived third to the parked cars.

William gave us a summary of the statistics of this trip, collected on his cellular. He said that he walked 17,000 steps and the round trip was 11 kilometers and it took us 5 hours and a half, including the resting period, and the average speed was 5 kilometers per hour as a group.

At the suggestion of Yuhanna we had dinner at “Istira7at Al 3erzal” in downtown Farayat.

I refilled many cups of hot tea. We had labheh, baked potatoes, hummus and cucumbers.  I lent Hanane my light jacket to warm up.  Chelsea would not relent and never gave the gang peace or any quietude.  Tony brought up his dish to where we were sitting William and me, at the other end of the table.

Tony said that he usually sit in front of a wall at home to enjoy what he is eating and that when in groups, people eat a lot without noticing; William agreed with Tony and I sat next to Tony and we had a cigarette (the only two smokers).

By the time we paid the bill of 40,000 LL ($25) around 10 p.m. (I didn’t pay a dime: I had none) most of the gang members were exhausted and sleepy.

They decided to drop the karaoke part and go home.  I sat in the back seat: David needs to feel entirely comfortable; William was driving.

Chelsea made herself comfortable and slept on my lap while Adrea was sleeping in the other corner, all crumpled up. David was sleeping in the front.

I was feeling good and full of energy. We arrived at 11:30 and the public electricity was still out since noon.

Mother was awake because she watched the interview with General and Deputy Michel Aoun along with Raymonde and Victor till 11:30.

I watched TV till 12:30 a.m. David slept at Ashley’s. Ashley and Joanna gave Tony ride home.

Note: In that period, Ashley and Tony were sort of boyfriend/girlfriend. They are now married with a girl.

Trekking to the “Promised Paradise”. This “Trekking syndrome”

Note 1:  Re-edited version of the previous post “Promised Paradise way on Nahr Ibrahim (Lebanon), April 2010”

Note 2: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips stories.

My body is aching from yesterday horrendous adventure.

In the last three weeks, my nephew William has been trekking sections of Nahr Ibrahim (Abraham River, in the district of Byblos) in company of the wonderful and non complaining dog Misha.

Last Friday, my nephew blundered in my earshot that he is going trekking on Saturday.

I invited myself to be part of the trekking party.  My nephew didn’t respond: he was hoping that probably I am jesting. The next day I got my tiny backpack ready for the adventure; my nephew was pretty much lukewarm confronted with this readiness on my part.

(He might have had serious reservations (you might read my post on trekking in Sad Shabrouh for preliminary reasons.)

Obviously, I am wearing my swimming trunk: It is a matter of trekking by a river bed, but my nephew warned me that we will have to “wade” in sections of the river.

In my mind, wading means being submerged to the waist at best; I didn’t take into account reasonable factors such as slipping or falling into deep holes.

We left around 12:30 pm and quickly the mobiles brought news of a jammed highway which means most of the members will be late a couple of hours to the meeting place.

The Armenians in Lebanon were demonstrating/“celebrating” the holocaust they suffered by the Turks around 1915 and on.

William, Hanane, Misha, and I parked on the road of Nahr Ibrahim and ventured to the river shores.

William, Hanane, and Misha decided to push forward in the jungle; I opted to dip my feet in the cool water.  Half an hour later a group of five showed up; among them Clown Me Sabine and her Mexican assistant Gabie.

I told Gabie: “Ahora, me lise Jorge Amado, el Brazilian de Bahia”:  I am currently reading the French version of “Navigation de cabotage” (navigating along the coastal ports of seas or rivers.)

The newcomers promptly clowned lizards on the river rocks for 20 minutes (sunbathing). Then, feeling degraded by lizard behavior, they raised their adventurous spirit by one notch: They started to move from one rock to another very cautiously.

The mobiles brought news that the larger body of the trekking party is heading toward destination, to the lonely small village of Chowan in the bottom of the river valley.

Thus, William, Hanane, Misha showed up and we got on the move.  We met two men carrying towels where we parked: they are to simply descend a few stairs, reach the river, take a swim and leave.

The party was of around 20 members in 5 cars.

We parked in the lowest valley village I know.  It was a road to damnation, fit for barely one car but you had to backtrack for miles to let the opposite cars pass you by.

To my surprise, we were not to head straight to the river but along a long detour of 45 minutes walk: This is called “trekking syndrome” to first base.

We reached a section on the river to cross; it is about only ten meters wide; it is not a roaring Amazon by any stretch of the imagination.

Big George hopped leisurely to the other side; he is wearing just a swimming trunk and a tiny backpack.  I was encouraged to be among the first strong hearten members of the trekking party, as is usually the case.  I tied my old pair of khaki sneaker around my neck and raised my jeans to the knees; that should do the trick.

The first few steps got me face down; I am all wet and thus nothing mattered anymore.  I hurried my “wading” exercise and fell down several times before I reached destination.  I am bruised, physically and emotionally.

The few cigarettes I had in my shirt pocket are ruined; I decided to remove the cigarettes from the wet box to dry out the cigarettes. I gently picked one cigarette from the box; the filter part did easily separate from the body of the cigarette; it was the same case for the other cigarettes one by one. I had the pleasure of a discovery: the process of manufacturing local made cigarettes is basically gluing the filter part to the finished cigarette.

I undressed completely save my swimming trunk.

A few members were aligning a tree trunk to permit female members to cross the river safely.  Someone said to wait for my nephew since usually he brings a rope for that purpose. I cursed my hastiness, only to realize that my nephew wanted to emulate this adventure as Seal or Marine exercise: “you have got to feel the pain!”

George was in the middle of the river playing the school or scout guard in case of emergencies.

Suddenly, George exclaimed “I feel cold.” George remedy to warming up was to run like Tarzan to the promised paradise.

It goes without saying that I was the first to follow George.  I was not running at all: my wet sneakers weighted 20 pounds.  Then, I saw George hiding behind a bush up a mount like Tarzan; I was climbing to rejoin him when he pre-empted me: “Don’t climb. I lost my way” (Or maybe he was pissing?

Now George climbed a high rock in the river watching for any arriving company.  I ended “wading” my way by the river side to paradise land..

I am glad to report that “bodily navigation of cabbotage” by river side made much sense to me.  A few members of the party advanced me by using a secret path to a meeting location.  I said: “Better not stop. Let us move on to the Promised Land.”  Karim said: We have reached destination!”

That was a major letdown.  Apparently, the goal was to reach a puny and sickly waterfall.

George hopped behind the Nahr Ibrahim “Water fall”, climbed a rock and sat like a Buddha.  I lacked the energy to remove my sneaker and my Jean (weighing 50 pounds), then climb a slippery stupid rock and emulate Buddha.

I was the first to vacate Nahr Ibrahim Paradise and got lost on my way back; I got entangled by lichen and other sorts of nasty prickly branches.

Here, I am back to “wading” by the river side. I realized that both my sneakers’ soles are floating free; held miserably by the tip of the shoes.  I was no longer fooling myself: a military helicopter should land and take me home.

I reached first “base” wetter than a disgruntled cat.

One of the soles had vanished in the river. I didn’t wait and immediately re-crossed the Rubicon wading using my favorite technique known around the world as “Adonis super efficient wading technique”, to be emulated by Marines and Seals.

I reached second base and harangued the dozen members who smartly refused to cross the ridiculous ten-meter wide section to get going and follow the leader: I wanted to locate a sunny spot to dry my clothes.  A smart girl reminded me that the sun is no longer in vigor and barely could warm an ant.

Nothing could assassinate my plan: I have got to be first back to the parked car.

On second base there was a dying bonfire left by two dozens of foreign youths we met previously.  A plastic bottle was still sending fumes; someone said: “You are burning toxic materials”.  Oh, I forgot to mention that most members of the party are lovers of ecology and of the strictest kinds; many are by far more vegetarians than cows.

I lost my way again and waited for a member to show me the correct secret path.

My nephew picked up the second sole on his way and volunteered to relieve me of my weightless backpack: any pound less is a great boost to my morale. The last 100 yards to destination was the most voluptuous and rewarding trip stretch ever.

When we arrived home my nephew placed my sole-less sneakers on my room threshold along with one sole.

I asked him: “Why did you do that?”

I thought that I left my useless sneakers where we were parked as a warning to trekkers in the village of Chowan to cancel their project.

Devilish William refused to leave any material evidences that might discourage trekkers in those damned vicinity.

I made the last effort to visit my sister just to tell her “I think it is a miracle that I am back”.  My sleeping sister could not but chuckle and interject: “You are supposed to know better than anyone what a trekking project means to William.”

This trekking was a well planned project to inflict most pains and humiliation, but I turned out to be a leader on my way back; and second to the leaders in most of the adventure.

Barbara made me walk on air

Note: Re-edit of “I Should Have Told Barbara (Jan. 2003)”

The day before my trip to Los Angeles in the summer of 1976, Sue, the girlfriend of a dear friend of mine studying at the same university, asked me to get in touch with her sister Barbara.

I were in the USA since June of 1975, my first trip ever outside my country.

The International Office at the University arranged a group trip for one week to California, for some of us new international students. We were to meet families in this exchange program.

I did not care meeting any American families for the time being, but I needed to get away in my first summer and wanted to see California.

The International student advisor knew about my origin. The program matched me with an old Jewish couple in Pasadena without warning me. I do consider Israel as our existential enemy and anyone who support Israel financially could never be a friend of mine. I did assume this family supported Israel.

The family had a fourteen-year old boy, or maybe he was their grandchild.

I was Not that curious: They looked pretty old to me. The husband was very helpful and friendly, but his wife gave me the impression that she agreed reluctantly to join the program.

A student from Nigeria was assigned to the same family. The house was large with a garden.  The interior looked old, traditional, gloomy, dark and smelling like it was never aerated and reeking of old people.

The same evening they asked the Nigerian student a few questions, but I was spared this torture, may be because I didn’t look that forthcoming. Or that they figured out I’ll be very sensitive to whatever pertinent questions they might ask.

It is a crime to surprise youth among old people. Youth has to be forewarned, to be prepared on what to expect from elder people. Youth has to be reminded that elderly can be wonderful and much active, That older people are great people, still very much living humans And who could be funny, charming and could be very functional…

We had a general gathering the first day with all the host families and various students. Then we were given the daily program of places to see and I barely paid attention to the program.

We were to see Disneyland the next day for free. I declined the invitation: Disneyland is for kids.

I remember that I had another chance to visit Disney for free, two years later. And I again declined. Disney was still just for kids.

Many years later, I discovered that everybody liked to see Disney, including kids. I never saw Disney in California, but the smaller version in Orlando with my nephews. My little nephews and nieces, five in total then, loved Disney.

Not as much as I did enjoy it that day.

My host drove me for an hour to the meeting place with Barbara, living in West Hollywood. He drove two hours to pick me up, three hours later.

Youth: ruthless, mindless, uncompromising, and unappreciative.

I still can visualize Barbra after thirty years, coming toward me, in white shirt, long brown skirt reaching below her knees, almost touching her long brown cowboy boots.

Her boots must have added a couple inches to her stature. She is shorter than me in an afterthought. But the vision is always of a tall and grand lady.

She appeared taller than me but my pride increased correspondingly, by her side.

Her then long blonde-brown hair was raised over her beautiful head. She looked glamour incarnate.

She hugged me and made me feel I was a dear friend, of long time, whom she missed.

She spoke with effusion and earnestness.

She wanted to know all that is to know, instantly,

About how her sister is doing, what about her sister’s boyfriend who was my friend, About their relationship, about Oklahoma her home State…

About everything, but nothing about me, or how I feel or felt that moment.

I was glad that I was not the object of the conversation then, but not so glad now.

We walked together so close, and I was walking on air.

I felt that I must look the most envied guy, a most glamorous guy in the whole wide world.

I asked permission from my host family to move at Barbara’s, for the duration of the program, and they agreed.

Next morning was warm and sunny and I walked to Beverly Hills to see her in the fashion store she managed. I did walk on stars’ hands and the walk was Not that long.

She received me like a VIP and was happy at my surprised visit. And I toured Downtown Beverly Hills: Pretty empty of clients, boring, clean, expensive for no reasons… I cannot recall if I waited for Barbara to finish work or that I returned by myself.

I wanted to be with Barbara every second of my trip in California.

A couple of years later, I accepted to attend a conference in Los Angeles hoping to see Barbara again.

It was an important political conference but my heart was not in it.

My friends drove me through Beverly Hills, where the rich and glamorous live, but I was not impressed.

Finally, giving up, they gave me a lift from Anaheim to West Hollywood.

I called up Barbara and I invited myself to stay overnight at her apartment.

She had many friends. She was attached at the moment to a fashionable young man, working in fashion and with fashion, but they had problems.

She appeared depressed and disappointed and not in the mood for me. Her TV was on 24 hours.

I slept and woke up with the TV on.

Six years later, during my second extended trip to the USA, I had another opportunity to visit with Baraba

Sue was leaving to Little Rock with her boyfriend had she told me that Barbara was married and living in Oklahoma City and she gave me her phone number.

I met Barbara on Thanksgiving and she did not look the Barbara of my vision.

Her skin looked darker, her face emaciated, down to earth, resigned and decked in simple blue jeans and an old black sweater.

She was married to a full-blooded American Indian, herself a half-blooded lady.

A soft spoken husband, a polite artist who toured the USA exhibiting his paintings.

She stayed at home designing jewellery and managing her man’s business.

I accepted her invitation for a Thanksgiving lunch.

I went down to Oklahoma City for an important and specific purpose of mine: I was determined to tell Barbara my secret.

I went down with my steady girlfriend at the time. I had to because I had no cars: actually, I spent most of my University education on a bicycle.

Barbara’s eyes had an ironic shine looking at my oriental (Filipina) short friend.

She asked my friend all kinds of questions about our relationship,

How we met and what are our plans.

Barbara said to me: “You know, someone needs news about your friend”.

She meant that her sister needed to know the whereabouts of her ex-husband.

I had lost track of the whereabouts of my friend too and could not be of much help.

Barbara was entitled to know the truth, that the first time she walked with me, she made me feel that I was the most glamorous guy in town.

But I did not tell Barbara the truth.

I don’t recall that I talked during my two hours stay at Thanksgiving.

Maybe it did not feel right at that moment, but I should have persevered on my initial decision:

This truth is hers no matter what.

She could be eighty, but age does not erase the feeling, that to my young eyes, she was the most glamorous woman I set my eyes on.

She could be a hundred, but age does not change the fact,

That Barbara made me once walk on air.

Maybe if I had told Barbara, I wouldn’t have written this story.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

December 2020
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