I didn't start writing everyday like I should have, I have now been here for 17 days and I am afraid if I don't try to remember and write down the small details now I'll forget forever, and this frightens me more than I would have ever imagined it could. I'm going to start with the day I arrived and go from there, I don't think I will be able to piece it together properly, but fear and love are making me try.
Here we go . . .
Scared shitless, I get off the plane, it's around 5:30pm and getting dark, I have little to no information about where to go, who to meet, and what will happen after, and if, I finally find someone, (an unknown someone) who will somehow know I am me and that I belong with them. I wait for my suitcase and look around at all the people, I automatically get the feeling women aren't treated equally because the men kept pushing me behind them so I could not see the baggage coming out at the claim. Still not sure if this was fear making me perceive it this way or if it was real. I have no ability to use my phone, no wifi is in the airport, or if there was, my phone would not connect. I get my little suitcase, finally, and head to customs, I am nervous as hell that they will ask me a question I don't know the answer to, but they did not, they simply stamped my passport and I was in.
I begin to walk into arrivals and pretty quickly see a thin, sweet-faced, extremely exhausted looking guy holding a white piece of paper with ANA KILANI written on the front.
A sigh of relief came over me, I am officially not stranded in Lebanon.
But wait . . . who is this person and where will they take me? No idea really. I do not ask where we are going, I felt somehow like I should already know, and as well, his English wasn't the best and my nerves were getting the best of my vocal chords.
I follow him out of the airport and we get into a pretty newish looking SUV, this made me feel a little better somehow. There is another man sitting in the drivers seat and I get into the back. We drive for about 15-20 minutes and arrive in a rather shitty looking place, go down into the parking garage, get out, walk up to a door, go in, press a button for the elevator, wait, get in, go up to the 12th floor, get out, walk into an apartment that seems rather nice, then he (the thin-sweet faced man) takes me to a room with two normal twin beds already in it, he opens up a foldable cot and gives me a bag with a cheap leopard print comforter and pink flower sheets and tells me this will be my room for now. To be honest, I didn't have the slightest clue where I was. I could have been in Beirut or Sidon (or somewhere else entirely). Soon enough a girl emerged from another room, she, as well, had arrived that day and was a new volunteer. Her name was Zenia and was from Washington DC. The thin, sweet-faced man asked us (in broken english) if we were hungry, I said yes, Zenia said yes, and then he left.
Soon after, some other people arrived - these were the volunteers that had already been there for a month, and it became very clear, very fast that they were not happy (at all) about us being there and being in their space.
Shortly after, the thin, sweet-faced guy came back with two pita's stuffed with meat and I don't know what else, to be honest, I didn't like it very much but I ate it nevertheless.
After eating, I went to my little cot bed and fell asleep for the next 12 hours.
That was the end of my first day here. I felt fear, excitement, curiosity, courage, and anxiety - but thinking about that now, 17 days in, now knowing very well who the thin, sweet-faced man is, his name is Weal, he is a refugee himself, a survivor, and the director of the center in Beirut (we just celebrated his 28th birthday with a surprise cake and fruit, an occasion that brought many secret and discrete tears to my eyes) but thinking about Day 1 now, it seems so silly, the fear and the anxiety at least, most everyone I have met so far has been blessed with hearts of gold and the inner strength of diamonds.