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|The Long Flight to Beirut|
Thursday, February 18th - EN ROUTEI left Austin Airport at 12:00 noon and landed three hours later at Dulles Int'l at Washington D.C. 4:00 p.m. local time. There was a six-hour layover in the airport. Long haul! But I'm on an exciting trip.
Snow Washington D.C.
|I left this snowy spot at about 10:00 p.m., and flew nine hours over the Atlantic and much of Europe to Frankfurt. We landed at 11:40 a.m. on Friday the 19th. There, I had to wait ten full hours until 9:30 p.m. to catch my connecting flight to Beirut! Ten hours! Ugh! Then I will be arriving in Beirut at 2:15 a.m. on Saturday, February 20th. This was more difficult than I had realized when I made my reservations.|
Friday, February 19th - FRANKFURT AIRPORT
The ten-hour wait in the Frankfurt airport was very difficult. I was in the international area so not free to come and go. My ticket was not eligible for upgrade which would have allowed me to use the "executive lounge" to stretch out and rest and perhaps sleep.So, I sat upright in a plastic chair for the better part of the time.
A chatty Arabic woman (from San Francisco!! - small world!) sat by me and proceeded to tell me about her life, her husband, her parents, her children, and her parents' fiftieth anniversary party. She took out her digital camera and showed me all the family - one-by-one - that she had just told me about. Then she started her complaints about the long wait. Sigh! I was too tired to get up and walk away and she was friendly. She trusted me enough to go for a walk and a cup of coffee while I stayed and watched her things. After she had been gone, I had second thoughts about my situation--watching the bags of a stranger--but I just waited for her. My gut had told me she was what she seemed. Sure enough, she returned. The last I saw of her, she was hurrying because she had a gate-change and had lost track of her flight time! I hope she made her flight.
Beirut from the airplane
Saturday, February 20th 2:30 a.m. - THE BEIRUT AIRPORT AND TAXI RIDE
Once we landed at the Beirut airport, I "flew" through passport control, visa control and customs. No payments, no problems. I walked to an official who directed me to a taxi driver. I gave him Wadad's printed address and he said "Yes! Of course!" He put my bags in the trunk (one bag, one laptop case) and we took off. He stopped once we were underway and said "Price fixed - $60 US". I said, "No! My friend told me $10 to $20 at most."
Long story short, I was tired. I agreed. Then he drove me at break-neck speed to her area in Beirut. A ten-minute drive at 3:00 in the morning, down dark streets, boulevards, past bombed-out buildings, and modern buildings, slums and better areas; quite a mix! He drove through the narrow alleyways of her neighborhood, "Achrafiey", with parked cars on both sides, barely leaving room for one small car to pass slowly, let alone at the speed of sound!
He stopped several times to ask directions in Arabic of course. I couldn't understand his words. Once, he provoked a fight with another man in the street, but they didn't actually fight. At one gas station where my driver was using a pay phone, a man whom he had been talking to came up to me and began speaking kindly, but in Arabic, so I couldn't understand him. When he realized that he could not communicate with me, he sadly shook his head and walked away. It seems to me as I look back on that night, he was trying to tell me that my drive was a crook. I guess I had already come to that conclusion when I agreed to pay the $60.
I sat there in the cab ruefully thinking, "I made it half way across the world, through twenty-four hours of flying in these dangerous times in the air, and now I could be shot in a taxi in the alleys of Beirut!" But life has been so good to me, and I've had 69 interesting years..... let come what may! As it happened, the two bellicose men were satisfied with only words and gestures. They parted without violence.
Ashrafieh Night Scene
A few moments later, as we were driving down a narrow street, the driver said in English, "There she is!" He was looking up at Wadad, waving at us from her second-story balcony.
Apartment Building Shrine
I believe I was guided here by the Lady in the shrine in the lobby. The cabbie immediately asked for his $60, then parked and got my bags and brought them through her lobby, up the elevator and into Wadad's lovely apartment. Then, I'm embarrassed to say he extracted another $10 for a tip for the "difficult trip". He asked for $20, but I have him $10. I knew I was being ripped off, but I had no idea at the time how badly. But I didn't care. He was a great driver through those streets, it was a thrilling ride which I won't forget, and he had a large personality and showed me one aspect of Beirut. May he spend the money wisely.
Wadad had a fit when she found out what I paid!
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