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Lebanon Naturlizes again


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Thoughts from the Middle East - Yardbarker

Thoughts from the Middle East
Hey everyone! So guess where I am…(Twitter followers already know)…..Give up?....I’m in Lebanon! Beirut to be exact. Ya, crazy random I know (didn’t exactly see myself living in the Middle East any time soon…or ever).
But I’m here playing basketball for the Lebanese National Team for the next three months. No, I’m not Lebanese by birth but somehow it’s legal so Ima go with it, haha. It’s nice to be back on the court and although it’s not at WNBA level, it’s a good place to get my rhythm back and get some game film to play in Europe afterwards. I’ve been here almost a week and I love it so far. So I figured I’d write and give y’all some initial thoughts and insight into my life over here.

My first reaction when walking out of the airport: OMG y’all have palm trees here! Yay! Second reaction: What?! Y’all got Krispy Kreme?! (upon seeing a billboard for my fav donut place). Yep, they sure do. In fact, it’s so Americanized here I didn’t even have to exchange money. I can pay with dollars anywhere I go. Too cool. In addition to Krispy Kreme, I’ve also seen Ace Hardware, Osh Kosh B’gosh, Shell gas stations (they’re called
Coral here…get it? Coral, Shell, haha), Crocs, GNC, GoodYear, Dunkin Donuts, and Radio Shack. And of course McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC are givens.

The city is absolutely beautiful. Sunny, modern, and right on the water (I can look out my window and see the Mediterranean Sea). And the food here is delicious. Usually when players go overseas they end up losing lots of weight because of the lack of acceptable food options; but I don’t see that being a problem here. We also only have one practice a day so I better not eat too much because I will be spending lots of time in a bikini. Might even post some pics from our team outing to the beach next week ;-)

My teammates are very nice and all speak English. Actually, lots of people here speak English, but French is the most prevalent language, other than Arabic of course. Many people speak all three and it’s not uncommon to hear words from each in the same sentence. I have two tattoos in Arabic and I’ve gotten lots of questions about them. Thankfully they say what I meant them to say because I’m in a place where people can actually read them. The only thing I've found so far that sucks: everyone smokes everywhere. I DETEST cigarettes. If I'm around them too often I get sick, so I have to be extra careful.

I haven’t seen any Black people since I got here. In addition to being tall, I think my skin color is why everyone stares at me. There aren’t exactly a lot of people that look like me walking around here. Actually, I take that back.
I have seen a few Africans here. But the first year I played overseas I discovered that many Black Africans don’t necessarily care for Black Americans. I guess that’s still the case because they rarely acknowledge me in passing or even return my smile. So I just stopped considering them as Black people overseas. It’s funny how when I played in France and some French people didn’t like me because I was American, I didn’t really care. But for some reason I’m more offended at (some) African people’s reaction – or non-reaction – to me as a Black person. Gotta love racial politics.

I met a boy named Abbas the other day. He’s originally from Iraq but was visiting Lebanon from Syria (they share a border), where he’s going to school for engineering. He began our conversation by asking what it was like to live in America. I told him it was cool but I had lived there my whole life so it was just something I was used to. His view of
America: a beautiful country with unlimited freedoms, nice people that readily accept and embrace other cultures, and the best rap music, lol (his favorite artists are 50 cent, The Game, and Eminem). The conversation was pretty
standard until he asked if I minded him posting a picture we had just taken on the internet. I asked if he was gonna put it on Facebook (several of my teammates have pages). He told me no, he didn’t have a Facebook page because the government didn’t allow them. Wait, what? I had never considered such a thing as not being allowed to have a Facebook page. But yes, in 2009, in Syria, sites like Facebook and You Tube are outlawed. And if they find you’re using a proxy to get around it (I didn’t know what that was but Abbas explained it’s a way to trick the system) they will cut off your internet connection. Ya, that was a wake-up call. We take so much more for granted than we realize. It made me think about how I might get shot for some of the things I write here on YB! My next thought was that preventing people from talking to each other, both locally and to those in other places (like America), is the best way to control their thinking. Isolation makes it difficult to aspire to better things and find ways to make them happen. And how much easier would it be to be yourself if you had the freedom to figure out who that was? Man, I never thought Facebook was a big deal. But for Abbas, and those like him, the overall issue is so much more than a social networking site.

One thing that’s really different in Lebanon is that it’s custom for children, especially women, to live with their parents until they get married. One of my teammates thinks it’s funny that we move out at age 18 to go on to virtual adulthood. Living with parents until marriage isn’t required, but if one moves out, people will talk about the family having problems or the child being sexually promiscuous. That is one custom that would never work in America. Thankfully in Lebanon, the families are very close. Many people spend every Sunday with their entire families, extended family included.

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