Tuesday, December 28, 2010

posting thoughts from Christmas Eve

Seeing people
watching people
entire cultures of... people

An hour and a half on the train passes so quickly, especially when there are many other passengers, and especially when it is Christmas Eve and all are travelling in family

A couple of hours in a Beiruti mall are also fascinating times during Christmas season, when everyone has a little bit of a chance to let loose, just a little bit

Yesterday a Beiruti mall
Today an English train

Families out and about, going to and from fun things, similar in so many ways but intimately different

On the surface, the colours. The train is so bright: white, sky blue, red, pink, purple, green and yellow are just a few of the colours in one quick glance about me. The Mall was a rather pure, unquestioning matching up of brown and black. Sure, there were other colours, just not many.

But the lights, oh the lights! In Beirut we saw little Christmas lights everywhere, here and around. Creating shapes of sleighs, angels and bells. The lights were white and blue and yellow. The Christmas lights were contrasted against green and purple spotlights. No effort was spared on a dazzling display of beauty in Beirut. Meanwhile, the Christmas decorations in this Christmasyest of most Christmasy countries are sparse and spare.

What tells me the most, though, are the people. In front of me, an immigrant woman speaking a combination of English and her native tongue, travelling with her university-aged daughter who speaks in a perfect London accent. They are talking about deep issues like inter-family marriage, and also catching up on family gossip and covering many topics in between. Across from them are four women. Or is it three women and a man? I'm really not sure what the gender is of the heavyset figure in white. But he, or she, seems to be a very kind and friendly person, a loving and entertaining mentor to the two young women perhaps better labeled 'girls' travelling with her – or him – and a motherly woman dressed in a blue sweater. Next up is a family of three: silent father, mentorly mother and engaged young-adult son.

In Beirut, there were families, sure. Everyone was there with family. Mothers chasing babies, big sisters taking little sisters shopping, fathers snapping photos of their sons on Santa's lap, couples staring at each other over coffeecups. But it was all staged, and much of it marked by a sense of the need to be a family and get it over with. Because this is what we do.

Perhaps I should have recorded the people more diligently in Beirut. The women's boots, in and of themselves, joined together to tell a fascinating story. Cowboy boots, hipster leather boots, kneehigh socks in plaid under boots, boots with leggings and boots with leg warmers, high high heel boots, flat boots with fuzzy tops and boots that looked like homemade knitting. How much time and energy went into the primping for the average Lebanese woman's afternoon doing some last-minute shopping at the mall? How much time did the women around me prepare for spending a day on the town in London or to take the train down to the south coast to be with family? Is it possible, just possible, that the women here used the time saved to save their love of just being with people? Or is it just because it's Christmas.

1 comment:

angel of lust said...

you were in beirut?! why didnt you tell me?
merry christmas :-)

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