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Expats’ aftershocks the moment they set foot on the Lebanese ground. Part 1: What it’s like to be a Lebanese expat waiting at a foreign country Gate (The folklore)

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You’re already in Lebanon the instant you reach your gate at the foreign country you’re leaving. How? 200 pairs of eyes give you the once-over, checking you from head to foot to place you in a specific category: rich, poor, middle class, handsome, ugly, old, young, fit, unfit, trendy, untrendy…You sit, read or check your mobile, trying to isolate yourself from the crowd but you simply can’t! A mother is trying to educate for the first time her breed of 3 children, almost wrenching the hands of two of them while shouting in a badly controlled voice (in French or English depending on the country she’s coming from) at the 3rd one who was straying. Her voice rising in crescendo, she threatens the culprit, using blackmail and dire threats but the new subject of her wrath is bent on shouting and playing all over the place. Mad with rage because an interesting audience is eying her efforts with obvious disdain, she reverts to Arabic (phonetics are scarier in our language) to brutally end the matter, forgetting her attempts to appear as a pedagogic mom.

 

Facing you, a bald sugar daddy with 3 hairs parted next to his right ear, is attempting to start a conversation, in a language reminiscent of English, with a European girl who is trying to give him the cold shoulder. A few feet away, a middle- aged man dressed in a wannabe-suit is talking loudly on his stark new mobile. He’s using business technical words meant to impress, shouting orders and looking at the unimpressed sea of blank faces (Us, Lebanese are masters in the art of disdain)…

Let’s get a glimpse at the business class lounge: You rarely hear any Arabic. Only French and English are allowed unless your Arabic is highlighting the French vowels “u”, and “e” otherwise, you’d better whisper if you want to belong to the place. Kids are proficient in both language and take their cue from their parents. At the buffet you belong to 1 of 2 categories: You’re either a business class regular so you take what you need and resume your work or you’re not and you want to stuff yourself with as much food and drink as you can to get your money’s worth. You go to replenish your plate and glass as many times as needed till they call for boarding.

Some of the regulars are loud, talking importantly on their mobiles or starting a conversation with other ”regulars” who belong to that exclusive club.

A few ladies are just as loud, flashing their branded clothes, bags, shoes, comparing, competing and checking if the male community is ravaged by their ”natural” beauty and elegance. They wouldn’t be caught dead with a plate of food, leaving the “hunger game” to the vulgar, common people. They cling to their “Perrier”, “Evian” or glass of champagne as if for dear life.

Some rare specimens seclude themselves from that crowd, minding their own business, praying for the trip and the show to be over.

Back to the gate where the hostess announces that it’s time to board the plane and asks the Business class crowd to come forward and the economy class to stay put until called according to zones A, B, C…. The business passengers walk nonchalantly, eying no one, barely acknowledging the hostess who welcomes them with affable expressions and seems to have a back and mouth ache from so many bows and ear- to- ear smiles. She recovers swiftly to summon the passengers of the following zones. You would think the whole plane is zone A since almost everyone has joined the line. Only a few people remain in their seats. Elbows, shoulders and hips are at play to make place for the strongest and most enraged. Supernatural forces are almost pulling them into the arms of the hostess. Outraged, she reminds everyone that “only A, B, C” will be allowed to cross the line but, to no avail. Fighting for her life, determined and coriaceous, the hostess is true to her word and allows only the fore mentioned zones to proceed. The others are determined to stand on the side; ready to pounce whenever a mere sound is proffered to take precedence over all the others. When the battle is over, the remaining little number of passengers comes forward, pitying the hostess, almost presenting their excuses on behalf of their predecessors yet envying her for staying behind. They still have a few hours to endure on the plane and at the airport before they reach their final destination.

 

 

 

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