Saturday, September 11, 2010

Part IV: Multiple Problems: A few Solutions

Thursday morning, as promised the Chair picked me up and we drove around the mountainous campus.  What you notice first of all, is that the ground is rock and dirt--lots of rock.  What I noticed, when the sun was up, was that my apartment did have a view of the Mediterranean...when you were standing up and could see over the cars in the parking lot.  Furthermore, being on the ground floor meant that the constant breeze bringing in the dirt and dust and traffic in and out would become part of my living space if I was not careful.  I decided that the kitchen curtains could be open only when I was completely ready for the day and that the patio curtains probably never would, nor would I open any of the windows.  As you saw from my pictures, the "garden" area is not planted and the dirt rides on the breeze all the time.  It would not be a problem in one of the upper apartments, I think.  The other issue is that multiple families of children use the parking lot to play in so, with school still out, it can be noisy.  Most of these children are precocious and gregarious.  When they see you, they will say, "Hi!  Where are you going?" and "Are you coming to visit us?"  The Dean of Business lives right above me and has 5 or 6 children.  He's already asked if I babysit!

After driving around, the chair parked and we went into the building for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and up to her office.  If you remember and were reading back then, like Jordan, there is someone usually available to make tea and coffee so the chair ordered Turkish coffee and we sat in her office to chat and to wait for the Dean to have a minute to meet. When the Dean called the chair into his office, she offered to let me use her computer to check on and send an email to my friends and family.  I did that as quickly as I could, begging them to pass the word on to whomever I'd left off the list.  I noticed a number of posters advertising performances of oratorios, cantatas, and other music  with the Chair as the main soprano.  Then my eyes were drawn to a whole bookshelf loaded floor to ceiling with CDs,  music texts and scores.  Clearly, that was going to be a first question when she returned.

I think we've hit it off right away.  For one thing, she has an MM in vocal music and then switched to Education, while I switched to Literature.  She's hoping we can get some musical events going.  There isn't a music department but there is great interest, as there was at LCC, proving that the Arts are a necessary part of one's life if not one's formal education.  But I'm not a choral conductor so I'm not sure what will happen.  Nevertheless, finding a fellow musician is a huge plus.  The dean is an Arab and said all the right things about being pleased to have me aboard, hoping that I will be happy, hoping that I will stay, looking forward to my contributions, etc. Then he said, "I wish you hadn't shipped anything but, well, it's too late now!"  That definitely put a damper on things.  Oh my!  Later, I clarified with the Chair that I do not own a home in Lithuania from which I'd just traveled.  They were under the impression that I'd left from the US and had made choices about what to bring.  The chair said that I was not the only one to ship things, that it would all be worked out eventually, but that there was a mile of red tape between me and my belongings.  The man who took my passport to get things finished ended up with a family crisis so now I have neither things nor passport.  The Dean went on to say that personal safety is not an issue here.  People are generally very honest, generous, hospitable, and helpful.  So true!  As far as national safety?  The chair said that they are fairly oblivious up here about things that happen in the south and off the mountain.  I responded that I thought the endurance of a 12th-Century monastery was a very good sign.

After that we went to IT to try to get the internet connected at home.  They said they couldn't do it that day but would come first thing in the morning to do it on Friday, the next day  Despite my frustration, there was nothing more to do or say about that so we left the campus so I could pick up some necessities--towels, food, a pan, a couple of utensils, a lamp, an extension cord and most critical of all--some hair gel.  I'd dumped absolutely all my hair products to save on weight without realizing it so here I was, meeting folks for the very first time with the wildest, craziest hair possible.  Really!  I don't think I've ever allowed anyone, even on a skype call, to see me this way but I could hardly sit at home waiting for hair gel to drop into my lap before going out.  May I never do that again!

We went to Bou Khalil, a mini mall on the outskirts of Tripoli.  Had we not driven to the center of town first I would not have known what kind of miracle it was that we had arrived safely without a scratch on the car or ourselves.  Though the dean's advice for me included encouragement  to purchase a car, I am less than enthusiastic about it.  I'm not sure I could survive the stress. I think it was much better in the dark, the night before when I couldn't see as much.  In the bookstore, I found a number of bestsellers in English but since I don't usually read the NY Times Top Ten I took the recommendation of the chair and we left another new prof up there, still perusing the shelves to go downstairs to the supermarket.  I had been looking forward to labneh (yogurt the consistency of heavy sour cream, but healthier) ever since I left Jordan so, after the other things I mentioned, I picked up labneh, hummus, and flat bread as well as some vegetables, couscous, and pasta, and chicken.  In the midst of all this, the professor from the bookstore came down and finding me, handed my debit card to me.  It seems it fell out of my wallet in the bookstore and the mall manager, hearing his English called, "Geri Henderson?"  Jeff replied, "No, but I know her." Honesty?  Indeed, twice proven when a cab driver would not take the amount I believed he'd said, instead, returning change to me for the bill I'd given him.

To answer questions you've asked:
The HR director who'd promised me internet on arrival, a balcony, 2 bedrooms, etc. is no longer here.  Furthermore, none of what he promised or said was passed on to anyone so that when the requests for on-campus housing poured in, families who absolutely needed the beds were assigned those apartments.  I have been promised that as soon as something else is available, I will be given priority.  Plans are to have new faculty housing built in the coming year.  They see this as an important recruitment/retention tool and know it's important.   In the meantime, I will stay here.  I have plans to add a futon in the study and give guests the master suite when they come--as I am planning that they will!  Pay attention to this, one and all!

To cover, briefly, the issues in Part III:
I met some amazing people who live in the town next door to the university as a result of wandering through the monastery and meeting a daughter-in-law who was visiting.  She was gracious enough to offer to show me a bit of the area around the university.  Meeting her family, I was invited to spend two days in the company of women who were intelligent, strong, educated, and  members of  the Lebanese Orthodox  society: One, a professor of Arabic at the Lebanese American University and the other, a member of Lebanon's Supreme court.  Another, a sister-in-law who lives in the village has also  taught.  All spoke English well but the judge told me, "You understand French and enough Arabic and I am tired so I will use them all!"  She has offered to take me to an electronics store on Monday in Tripoli.  I need to price TVs, an iron (which I need more than a TV), and another extension cord.  I am hoping that the inexpensive lamps I ordered will have arrived  by then as well.

Perhaps these women will become friends or perhaps they have been angels, dropped into my week to help save my mind and keep  a space on the planet open for me.

Hugs to all of you!  I have appreciated your comments.



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