Tuesday, August 23, 2011

XI, A Long Time

It has been a long time, it seems, since I updated this blog.  Funny how time slips away--especially for those things we love, like writing, for example.

A Happy Accident
I had checked the rear-view mirrors and even looked back.  Then I carefully put the car in reverse and slowly pulled out of the parking space in front of Bou Khalil, the little shopping center/grocery store...Crunch! Not loudly, nor even very suddenly.  Just, Crunch!  I quickly looked back and there was a lady standing by her car with several other passengers, in and out of the car.  I immediately jumped out of the car and ran over to her, apologizing profusely.  It didn't matter that she pulled up into the pickup lane, right behind me when my back up lights must have been on.  I did all the American things:  Suggest calling the police--She was appalled.  Then I suggested I'd call my insurance company--No, that wasn't any good either.  Finally, I offered to pay for the ding, cash.  She was shocked.  At last, I asked for her name and address and she gave me her business card.  All the while she was smiling and begging me not to be upset about hitting her.  That seemed a bit backwards but I drove off, trying to think about how to thank her, at the very least, for being so kind, so generous.

A couple of days later, my friends and I ended up having a celebration at a restaurant I know people really like here, Punto Alto, Italian, on a mountain with big windows overlooking the sea so I purchased a gift certificate, wrote a note, and started to address an envelope when I noticed that her card only showed the business address of a shipping company in Beirut.  I decided to let her know I was trying to mail something to her, sending her an email; and then I waited a few days.  I was beginning to give up when the phone rang one evening.  It was Natalia, the lady said, the one you hit in Bou Khalil, she added.  Oh yes!  Of course I remembered.  Instead of giving me an address she wanted to meet me for coffee.  She explained that I was a guest in their country and she wanted to be friends.

One morning over a break in classes, we met.  She really did need a friend and told me her story.  Only recently separated, she was a single mother trying to manage on her own. It isn't easy.  Wages are low, costs are high.  Over and over I was thanked (yes, thanked) for meeting her.  When she read the note and saw the gift certificate she almost cried and wanted me to use it with her.

Another accident, sans car, on a sidewalk in Beirut brought this experience home once more.  I had taken a visiting university guest and close friend, Marty Townsend, to Beirut.  As some of you know, the sidewalks in this part of the world are very uneven.  I tripped falling down in front of a sidewalk cafe.  Before I could get all the way up, a chair was brought over, a cold glass of water, wet wipes, tissues, with apologies.  People are generally extremely polite.  Marty said that would never have happened in the States.