Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Hashish Trail - Chapter 10 - Where East Meets West

It was mid-August of 1970. Since we would be travelling by public transportation on The Hashish Trail, we decided to sell "Our Everything". The plan was that Gidonia and Adonia would take the car up to Germany and try to sell it on the base where the two young soldiers we had met in Rome were stationed. Vosharnia and I would go on to Lebanon and look up Hebert whom we had met in the Bahamas. We planned to meet in Beirut September 15th. Vosharnia and I arrived in Beirut and checked into a hotel until we could get in touch with Hebert and get some advice about where the best place to stay would be. The hotel was expensive and we hoped to find a hostel. We were advised that camping in Beirut would be dangerous for 2 young ladies, if indeed there even was a campground there. We had been cautioned about even going to Lebanon as the war was heating up there at that time. In a letter home I wrote, "Well, here we are in Lebanon where it's not supposed to be safe because of the war - but I see no war and no danger - in fact, it's peaceful and beautiful here." We would later see things in a different light.
After a couple of days we were able to contact Hebert and he insisted that we move to his family's condo in a very good area. This was some condo! It consisted of the entire top floor of a huge apartment block. There were at least 6 bedrooms, multiple baths, huge living areas, immense kitchen complete with cook's quarters and maid's quarters. The enormous bathrooms were such a treat after our weeks of camping. I was unfamiliar with bidets back then, and I remember thinking how civilized they were! In the months of "squatty-potties" to come on our Eastward journey, we would often yearn for a civilized bathroom! Hebert's family had a maid to do their work around the condo. I offered one day to help her, and she was most upset. The family asked me not to offer to help because it threatened the maid's livelihood. But after all, I was just an ordinary girl and felt sorry for all the hard work that maid did for us! We were invited to go to the family's farm several miles out in the country. The Lebanon of 1970 was a fertile, semi-tropical land rich in every way, and the family's farming business was growing marijuana - fields of that lovely plant gracing the countryside! They didn't smoke it, however - that would have been illegal! Rather they shared their tobacco hookahs with us after dinner in the evening. It was this family that taught us to love the cheeses of Lebanon. For each day of the milk's freshness, they make a different cheese, so from one batch of milk perhaps 6 kinds of cheese are made. We especially loved a cheese called lubne (don't know the correct spelling, but this is how it sounds). This cheese was soft and very mild, and was eaten dipped in white sugar - sounds awful but was divine!! The first night we stayed at the farm (which featured a large, modern house), Hebert's mom noticed that we had been barefoot during the day and then went to bed without bathing. So she told Hebert to tell us to bathe before we went to bed the next night - she was worried about her fresh white linens, and I don't blame her now. Then it seemed a little over the top!! We were henceforth more respectful of our hostess's sheets. We did indeed go barefoot much of the time - it was part of the hippie statement! We weren't really dirty, but were used to bathing in campgrounds, out of pails of purchased water, or in the ocean, and I guess dirty feet just came with the territory.
But in spite of our dirty feet, Hebert's mom and her elite friends loved our clothes! We had kept a couple of long designer dresses for special occasions, and they had their dressmakers copy the designs for them; they loved our handcrafted leather pouches that Hebert helped us put together so we could carry our passports and money without need of a purse, and our jeans and sandals. I think they all wished they were hippies!! We became curiosities among the Beirut socialites. One day Hebert took us to see Omar Shariff who was giving interviews at one of the classy hotels in downtown Beirut. The security there thought our leather pouches contained tape recorders and ushered us right in to the great one's presence! We were actually able to stand with the reporters and see Omar up close and personal! A special lady we met in Beirut was named Collette Mattar; she was the wife of an Ambassador and had travelled extensively in the East. She cautioned us many times about going to India. She said that if we went, we would never really return. We would be changed forever and wouldn't be able to fit back into our own culture. (Indeed, it's been a tight fit!) These sweet ladies wanted us to stay and live in Beirut. Sometimes I think about all the places where we were invited to live, and I speculate about how vastly different our lives would have been...

1 comment:

  1. Sweet...You got to see Omar Shariff up close? Wow Aunty :)