We received our first paycheck on Thursday and are happy to report that we are now millionaires. We may be millionaires in Lebanese pounds ($1US = 1,500LL), but what the heck, we can still say it. For a few weeks anyway.
Yesterday, we joined a group of ACS people, mostly administrators, who were invited to lunch at Karim’s home in the mountain village of Hammana. Hammana is about 45 minutes east of Beirut. Our favorite taxi driver, Mohammad, drove us and two other ACS people who live in our apartment building. Mohammad has a nice air conditioned vehicle, and he charges very reasonable rates. He speaks excellent English, is very friendly, and is used extensively by people in our building for all kinds of trips in and out of town.
As you can see from the pictures, this is rugged country. We climbed the steep, winding road towards Damascus out of Beirut, passing through numerous villages on the way. Our route back to Beirut was just below a ridgeline, giving us a spectacular view of the valley and adjacent range.
Karim is the Middle School principal. He grew up in Hammana and now spends his weekends in a beautiful villa built by his father 50 years ago. Karim and his wife Nicole, with the help of their gardener, maintain an extensive garden that includes fig, peach, walnut and apple trees, grape vines, as well as many vegetables common in the US. Their home sits below steep, rock faced cliffs and has a spectacular view of the mountains. Karim and his wife also have a place in Beirut where they reside during the work week.
Lunch was delicious. Sorry I can’t give you the names of dishes. We enjoyed a bean dish, green salad heavy with parsley, lentils, rice with chicken topped with yogurt and some Lebanese wine. Dessert consisted of fresh grapes from Karim’s garden, and small pancake like pieces covered with a curdled cream, and if you wished covered in a light sugar sauce. Dessert served as a birthday cake for George and Karim who both celebrate birthdays soon.
Nicole wanted a picture of everyone, thus the pictures of the men and women. The people are all very personable and fun to be with, and most have extensive international experiences. Notice the number of Vermonters! (The ? after a name indicates my uncertainty of their nationality) In the men’s picture, the back row from left to right you see, Karim from Lebanon, Nick from Vermont, Hadi who currently lives in Morocco, Phil (MS Asst. Principal) from Indiana, yours truly, and Assistant Head of School David. David is from the US but has lived and worked overseas for decades. Bottom row, left to right you have Wade from the US, George from the US and the Head of School. He has been at ACS for about 10 years and has worked in Turkey, at least one country in Africa and the states. Next is Tim from upstate NY I believe, the head of PE. He and his French wife Francoise spend their summers in France. Finally, Fabio is Canadian and is the HS principal.
The ladies are Megan from the US and a HS counselor, married to Wade… the Kate and Ben clones. Beside Megan is Karim’s wife Nicole, who is also Lebanese(?). Buffy is a Vermonter, as is Andrea. Andrea has not lived in the US for years as she has worked in Tunisia, Bulgaria, and Latvia. Daisy is a David’s wife and is Lebanese(?). Front row is SWF, Tim’s wife Francoise, and George’s Syrian(?) wife whose name I cannot recall.
A fun day in the mountains.