Sitting in the plane bound from Beirut to Amman.  To my surprise, the sight of the cedar tree emblem on the jet outside the departure lounge made me burst into tears.  Suddenly I was overcome with such a sense of loss mixed with a sort of national pride—for a country I’d only stayed in for 17 days.  I’ve never experienced that sort of feeling even for my own flag.  In the gift shop I’d felt like buying everything in sight to have reminders everywhere I turn at home—oud magnets for the fridge, cedar tree ashtrays for the living room.

The sadness and loss I felt was not for a particular person—I didn’t see faces in my mind or hear voices, I just felt love for a country as if it were a man or woman I’d fallen for and had to leave.  A while later as I blew my nose and sniffled trying to compose myself for the flight, faces did start to flood through my mind.  First, of course, Reem and Aida and their families.  Reem’s cocky-shy smile on the balcony.

Narida in her hijab talking about how she likes ‘the films e-ro-tique’!

Baby Hamad pleading and crying and trying to pry open the elevator doors as we left.

Then others.  The Qur’an seller at the Sunday market who bought me a juice for no other reason than that I was a visitor who looked thirsty and hot.

(Taken by a friend; it’s a great pic, is it not?)

The workers on their lunch break who rushed across the street with a chair they’d hastily fitted with cardboard in place of a missing seat, because I looked tired and in need of a place to sit.

(Not me, that is my friend with the chair they made for me.)

At that point I gave in and opened my laptop to look through the pictures from the last few days, smile and cry at the same time, and shake my head at my incredible good fortune to have landed in such a schizophrenic nirvana as Lebanon.  I thought about the country itself, the land, the energy, the way it’s been torn apart and put back together in a way that can never be anything but off-kilter no matter how many luxury shopping malls you put in it.

I thought about how this sadness that we feel sometimes leaving a place may come from something like this… there’s a way that people live that I was happy enough before I knew about, but now that I know it, how can I be satisfied back at home?  And worse, what if I’m always an outsider to that lifestyle?  Then, worst of all, am I even capable of deserving it?

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