Monday, 29 September 2008

Arriving to Southampton

The plane landed in London Heathrow Airport at 11 a.m. Going through immigration was a peace of cake! I thought they would make a lot of hassle (given my country of origin) but the guy just stamped my passport and told me to register for the police within 7 days (which i already knew because it was written in CAPITAL letters in my visa). I went to collect my luggage and passed through customs where a man asked me it I was coming from Beirut. I answered yes and he started asking me: "Do you have labneh?", "No" I said... at this time another customs officer came dragging a black dog which immediately started sniffing my bags while I was still being asked if I have "labneh", "jebneh", "samak" ... (and I am using the words of the customs man!) . I laughed and said: "They will get spoiled anyways!"; the man finally said "just go!" and I did.

I directly found the representatives from university, they greeted me and checked my name and took my luggage and asked me to do whatever I want but report to them at 1:30 p.m. because the coach will head towards Southampton at 2:00 p.m. I wandered around a bit, bought a sandwich and ate it, read a bit in my book, wandered some more, read some more ...
A girl approached me and asked me if I was from Turkey, I replied saying No and that I was from Lebanon. It turned out that she was from Turkey and had met a girl online who was also from Turkey and the other girl was also gonna study in the University of Southampton and was supposed to arrive on the same day of our arrival. She then introduced me to a guy who was from Malta and was going to Southampton to study Civil Engineering.

When it was finally time to leave the representative from university divided us into groups based on where we will be dropped off. The Turkish girl joined another group and another girl approached me asked me whether I was going to the same destination as she was. She was from Germany and her name was Verena - pronounced Veghena. She was going to the University of Southampton to study Computational Fluid Dynamics. Anyways we queued in line outside the airport and it was a bit chilly and then it suddenly started to rain. I was kind of happy with the rain because it produces a certain smell in the air, the same smell of the rain from back home!

We finally got on our buses and I sat next to Verena and we chatted for about an hour. The coach ride was for almost 3 hours and after the first hour we were tired and sleepy so we kind of kept quiet for the rest of the journey. We finally reached the halls of residence a bit after 5 p.m. where we queued again to be handed our room keys. Luckily for me I was the first in line and I was handed my room key quickly. I had been hoping all the way on the coach that my room won't be on the ground floor; so when I asked the reception guy what room my floor on and he replied the ground floor I was very upset. I asked him if I could change rooms and he said I have to wait for two weeks then inform then because by then all students would have arrived and they can check the availability of other rooms.
A girl from the 'Meet and Greet Program' walked me to my room. She was very nice and showed me around everything. After I put my stuff I remembered that I forgot to take my bedding pack from the reception. I walked back to reception where I asked for a bedding pack. As I was waiting Verena walked in because she had also forgotten her bedding pack. After we both got our bedding packs she asked me about my room and I said it was OK but she said her room was awful and offered to show it to me. I walked with her to her room and it was actually awful. We were standing there and talking when another girl got out of her room and said she was glad to hear some noises because it was very quiet. She introduced herself as Fleur from Holland. She also showed us her room and it was also awful. So, I offered to show them my room and we all walked back to my room. We then decided to go get some food and water. A guy who Fleur met on the ride back home also came along with us. He was Peter from Poland.
We went to Burger King and ate some food then we passed by a small shop and got some water and fruits. We then walked back to the dorms and agreed to meet the next day in the morning to walk together to the presentations held for the International students.

I went back to my room and I made my bed. It was a weird feeling getting the pillow, pillow cover, duvet, duvet cover, and bed sheet out of a pack and putting everything in its place. Putting a duvet in a duvet cover is a somewhat tricky task hehehe. I took a shower and I checked my emails for a while and then I went to sleep. However, the pillow was very squeezed so I put some t-shirts under it and went to sleep.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Travelling out of Lebanon

Tuesday September 23rd, 2008: I woke up at 4:30 a.m. I dressed and said goodbye to my youngest brother because he was too sleepy to head to the airport with us. My father and my oldest brother took the very-heavy-bags to the garage and put them in the car. My Mum made two cheese sandwiches for me and put them in a bag with a cucumber because she was afraid I would arrive to my dorm room late in the evening and that the food shops would have closed (even though I already had some snacks to eat because she had made me buy some biscuits the day before).
We headed to the airport at 5:20 and got there at 5:35 and I tearfully said my goodbyes to my family and went inside. I was looking for a particular person because the day before an acquaintance of my father had given me two names of people who work at the airport who would assist me in case my luggage had a lot of extra weight (assist translates from Lebanese directly into: allow me to check them in without paying extra weight fees). My Mum and cousin had been telling me and assuring me that my bag would weigh at least 45 kg and maybe even 50 Kg; so I was pretty scared that I would have to paid a bunch of hundreds of dollars if that was true. I had to wait until 6:20 for the person (let us called him Y) to arrive. I kept asking the staff about person Y because I didn't even know how he looked like. Then when person Y finally came I went to him and told him that person X (my father's acquaintance) gave me his name and that he (Y) would assist me with my extra weight. To my surprise and terror he simply said: Who is this person X ,,,, I have no idea who he is! And he walked away! I followed him a bit then I approached him again and I told him that person X gave me his name and another person's name and that both of them were supposed to help me. To my disappointment again he told me he didn't know person X but I didn't move so he told me to go weigh my bags anyway. So I went to weigh my bags and I told the check-in person to call person Y. Fortunately for me my bags only weighed 35 Kgs. So, person Y told the check-in person to just let me in. And so I was let in without paying the extra weight fees.
After I finished checking in and got my boarding pass I turned around to go outside and signal to my parents that things worked out. Then a person approached me and told me that he knew my father and that he will help me access the Cedar lounge so I can rest there before my flight. He also escorted me outside to tell my parents what happened. Again I tearfully said another goodbye and headed inside to the Cedar lounge. It was 7:00 a.m. already. I had some coffee and my last two bites of mankoucheh zaatar. I surfed the net a bit and then it was 7:30 a.m. and time for me to board the plane. I packed my laptop and headed down and started walking very quickly because they started urging people to head to the plane. I didn't buy anything from the duty-free. But then just before the gate I passed by a Virgin store and I remembered that the flight was a 5-hour-flight and that I should get a book to pass the time. So, I went back to Virgin and bought a book and sprinted off to the plane. Just as I came face-to-face with the plane and the pilot and the hostess I realized that I was ACTUALLY, REALLY, and TRUELY leaving Lebanon for a WHOLE year and tears started pouring out of my eyes. The pilot tried to cheer me up by telling the hostess: "ma eltellek ino manzarna bebakki :)" but it was too late and it was like a door was opened and all the silent tears came rolling down my cheek. Then I found my seat - which I had read somewhere on the boarding was 32F. But there was no space in the compartment to put my hand bag and so the host helped me by sorting the other bags and squeezing mine in. I had just settled in when, two minutes later, a host said: 32F please show me your boarding pass. So, I showed it to him and he told me I was in the wrong seat, my seat was actually 24F. I had no idea why I saw the 24 as 32! So, I gave my seat up and moved to the front where to my bad luck my seat was a WING seat. "Great", I thought, "now I can't see anything outside the window :( "
The trip took 5 hours, I spent it watching TV, reading a bit in the book I bought, but mostly wiping silent tears off my face! I had no idea I would be this emotional about leaving Lebanon especially since I was doing something I had planned for and was very happy making the decision about.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Last day in Lebanon

Monday September 22: I still had some packing to do. Basically I spent most of the day packing. I also spent a lot of time taking cooking instructions and notes from my Mum. AND.....I cooked 'bazilla' - peas. It looked easy (no laughing please :p). I mean come on ... most Lebanese cooking of 'yakhni' is as follows: cook some meat using oil until they are well-done, then cook some chopped onions until they change to the desired color, the add the 'kizibra' (no idea what that translates to in english) along with some garlic and then finally add whatever thing you are cooking with some tomato sauce, a lot of water, and some salt and pepper. Once the water boils, turn the heat down and leave it between an hour and two hours. Then it is ready to be served with rice.Then came Iftar time 6:30 pm. My mum had made and/or bought several traditional Lebanese mezze dishes (AMAZING food): 'warak 3enab b zeit' (= vine leaves), kebbe (some sort of meat that needs a lot of processing), hommos b theni (chick peas), rkakat (cheese spring rolls), fattoush (lebanese salad), etc ... so I was enjoying the mezzi so much I didn't even touch the bazilla I made. My cousin had also come to have dinner with us and say good bye to me. Then we sat with her a bit and I continued packing a bit. Then my two best friends Noura and Souha came and also my uncle (father's side) and his children came. I also called my grandmother (father's side) and my grandfather (mother's side) and my uncle (mother's side). Then my friends left and our neighbors next door came in. My Mum started complaining that I had so much weight in the bags and my cousin joined in and they started saying that I won't use some of the stuff I was taking or wear most of the clothes I was taking. At 11 pm my Mum and I left to drop my cousin off. My Mum made me buy some biscuits and crackers to take with me because she was afraid that I would arrive to my dorm room late in the evening and that all the food stores would be closed. Then we went home. But at that time I was really worried about my luggage weight and so I decided to empty some things from the bag so I removed some liquids which I thought I can buy from the UK and I removed some t-shirts and my Mum made me remove three purses.
A lot of my friends SMSed me goodbye messages and some called and asked me how I was feeling. I explained to them that I didn't have any particular feeling becuase I didn't have the time to feel anything - I was just running on the program. I was so busy running errands and packing my bags and saying my goodbyes that I hadn't started yet to feel any particular emotions.
Eventually we went to sleep at 2:30 a.m. and we had to wake up two hours later at 4:30 a.m. because I had to be in the airport at 5:00 a.m.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Cooking your own food

well,i knew this was gonna happen one day or another! the looking back and regretting my total lack of experience in cooking (& the fact that i wasn't willing to place a foot in the kitchen either) ... it is a good thing though that I still have a few days in lebanon that I can make use of by making my mom dictate some cooking notes!
i cooked 'loubyi' yesterday, of eight family members only my mum and my uncle had the guts to taste it (i didn't cook the rice;i left that task to chef souad - my mum :p ) ... they said it tasted good ... i tasted it too but i wouldnt yet trust my taste buds to dare & inform me my cooking was bad ... i am sure they would be shy ...i think that one time after another they would gather some courage to demand that i throw the contents of the pot in the trash can & order a delivery from domino's pizza :Din addition to my mum, my friend shirine emailed me & gave me some recipes, my cousin suggested a few recipes ... so i am armed & prepared for the world of kitchen .... i will definitely add new posts at my early cooking stages - just because my sense of humour allows me to laugh at myself and invite others to do that too :P
stay updated on any cooking posts :D

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

First Post

Finally, no?
I've been talking about creating a blog for the past month. I woke up today & headed directly to the laptop to create one bcz today is my LAST tuesday in Lebanon -- & now I am wondering if there will be 7-last-(insert day of the week here)-in-Lebanon blogs :p
so, how does it feel...: a lot of mixed emotions, some are intense and many which I will be able to identify later.
anyways, i don't want to write everything down in my first post; so keep coming back for more :D