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Published:July 16th, 2006 11:16 EST
SOP Reporter - Live in Beirut Lebanon chats with Judyth Piazza

SOP Reporter - Live in Beirut Lebanon chats with Judyth Piazza

By Ashley Marinaccio

Life still goes on...

There are some things you won`t see on the news... things that aren`t as exciting as explosions, people running into the streets and hysterical confused girls who cannot contact the US Embassy... it`s all of the people who go on with their lives despite the war. People who adapt and allow these conditions to become the norm for themselves and their families. It`s not as exciting to focus on these things as it is to see the big kaaaabooom. But these people are all around and they go on with their lives despite impending conditions. If there is one thing I admire about the Lebanese people (and this goes for my Palestinian friends too) is their resilience. They are completely unbreakable. It`s amazing to see how strong people are in the face of complete destruction. They cannot be broken.

I haven`t updated in awhile but here is what`s been going on in my life over the past few days:

Yesterday we took a field trip to the Jeita Grotto. I have been sick with a miserable cold and I know I shouldn`t have gone out but I have been waiting to see the Jeita Grotto since I first found out I was coming here. I couldn`t take pictures inside (because the flash ruins the bacteria in the caves) but it`s seriously outerwordly. I now know where the inspiration for the crazy horror and alien movies come from... the stalactites and stalagmites are just incredible. Walking through the caves and taking the boat ride through the caves is like being on a completely different planet. It`s hard to imagine that a world like this exists within the mountains on our very own Earth.

It makes you wonder what else is out there that we haven`t explored yet. The Jeita Grotto was founded in the beginning of the 1800s by an explorer... actually, scratch that... there is evidence that Neolithic people had been there thousands of years before but as always these things are officially "founded" when the western explorers discover them. hehe. We took a boat ride thorough the caves... it was about 85 degrees out but 40 degrees in the caves. I loved the complete silence and peacefulness of being in there... the only thing you could hear was the dripping of water off the top of the stalagmites. Being inside the Jeita Grotto makes you forget all about the problems of the world and the bombs that are going on outside. As always, the Grotto was open and ready for business. There were other Lebanese tourists there too.

The first stop yesterday was the ancient ruins of Byblos. I LOVE ANCIENT RUINS! Okay, I know I`m such a dork... but I live for seeing how others live. I`m the obnoxious one on the guided tours who is always stopping the tour guide to ask questions, "well, how exactly did that work?" etc. These ruins date back from 6000 BC, before the Phoenicians. I really liked our tour guide at the Byblos ruins yesterday too. She was explaining to us how there are still people today in Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq whose blood line can be dated back to the Phoenicians. She kept telling me that I "looked Phoenician". "Are you sure you are American? You don`t look American?" she asked me. "Well, I have family in Sicily... I`m Italian," I replied. "OH! Well, that explains it," she exclaimed joyously. "There are a lot of relations between the Italians... especially Sicilians and the Phoenicians... through trade etc..." she kept going on and then we made the collective decision that I come from a Phoenician blood line. Hehe... actually, I made that discovery a long time before coming to Lebanon. hehe jk. Anyway, we continued our tour and saw parts that had been rebuilt and broken down by the Crusaders, Mongols, Muslims etc. There is this one spot by the water where EVERYONE just came around, occupied the previous group and rebuilt... it`s so fascinating. This goes on today still... of course not on these particular ruins but throughout the world as we all very well know.

The ruins are also famous for their fish fossils (I got to see all of the fossils). I heart fossils! Apparently millions of years ago those ruins had been underwater and all the fish died there and therefore became a haven for fish fossils. There was even a small souk but I didn`t buy anything (except for some batteries for my camera) because there is no chance I can get the stuff home if I evacuate. However, I may return tomorrow afternoon to the same spot (it`s about 6 minutes away down the mountain) and go through the souks and look at some other things I didn`t really get to enjoy because I was sneezing and snotting all over with my cold.

The only gripe I really had was that so much of the best sites and soccofogusses, artifacts etc. had been moved out and put in museums around the world... so basically you`d be walking along in the ruins and the tour guide would say "well, right here use to be the burial site and soffacagous of ... but it has been moved to the museum in -insert city here-" and it`s like "Well, it really should be here in Lebanon because these things belong to the Lebanese people not the museum of Natural History in New York!" I have a huge problem with this. I always have. It`s the same problem I have with zoos. If Aseel and the rest of the anthro majors are reading this they are probably laughing so hard (HI SAL!) because they know exactly what I`m talking about. Need I even make a reference to the ethnography we read about taxidermy? haha!

We had this wonderful dinner at the Grotto. Mezze... and guess what... I can now get through all of the courses of the mezze and I don`t even get sick. My body has completely adjusted. whoo hoo. There was another excursion to a natural bridge in the mountains I wanted to see but I wasn`t feeling good and couldn`t breathe well enough to hike up another mountain so I went back to LAU and took a nap.

Okay... and my favorite part of the ancient ruins (bare with me) was the amphitheatre (of course)... which the Phoenicians had built as a tribute to Baccas (the god of wine and theatre). Now imagine this... the people would arrive at the theatre at 4:30 am just before sunrise and wait and as the sun was rising the play would begin and it would go all day... straight through the day and end at night when the sun went down. So they would be there for 12 hours. It was a huge event for them and part of their society and culture. The Greeks also did this. I think this is better known for the Greeks (because I remember this from theater history) but I loved sitting in the Phoenician theatre in Lebanon. I sort of wished I was there 2000 years ago. Our guide also use to inform us that as a tribute to Baccas they would have orgies in the theatre... it was just what they did. Anyway, I found it absolutely necessary to share that bit of info with the world. History lessons are fun. I will post pictures as soon as I can!

I`m sure nobody really cares about my excitement over the ancient ruins and caves and would so much rather hear about bombs and Israeli airplanes. I figure you must see enough of that on the news. What I am telling you now is a bit of reality. Boring, yes... but still reality. Life still goes on in Lebanon.


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