The driver didn’t know where he was going. Beirut is like that. The streets wind until only the sun can tell which way is north, south, west. I do know west. It’s towards the Mediterranean. We stopped once, twice, maybe thirteen or fourteen times. I’ve never wished harder that I spoke Arabic or that my phone would find a signal. But then I sat back. The taxi driver had a small wooden cross on a string with wooden beads hanging from the mirror. “I feel safe with him,” my mom said from the seat next to me, “You don’t just display that in this country unless it means something to you.”
We stopped again. The driver had started muttering to himself—sometimes in Arabic, sometimes French, and a few obscure words in English. “He say to me this, and now he say me that… never… crazy…” The driver got out of the car and popped the hood. The engine was overheating on the hairpin turns and steep hills. He pulled a five-gallon water jug out of the trunk. I let out a long breath and said a little prayer. Ok God, if this is how it’s going to be, this is how it’s going to be. And I heard him whisper back, let go.
We listened. The stories we heard both encouraged and saddened me. The Lebanese people are generous and open. They feed us first and ask for our names later. “You are welcome in Lebanon.” I heard this phrase over and over.
But the Syrians…
The Syrians are taking the jobs. They’re changing the culture. They’re having too many children. They’re taking government handouts. They don’t work. They work too much.
I’ve heard this story before. It ends with dull chanting, “Build the wall, build the wall.”
There is nothing new under the sun.