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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Sunday, February 29, 2004  
    Today is the last day of the annual Lebanese Shopping Festival commemorated throughout February.
    Several years ago a friend of mine was living in furnished apartments across the street from the American University of Beirut.
    The street is quite appropriately named Bliss Street (after a past president of the AUB) – a wonderfully chaotic strip lined by the university on one side and shops, restaurants, cafes, bars etc on the other catering primarily to the cosmopolitan polyglot students from the university.
    The 30 something year-old manager of the apartments/hotel wasn’t much of a sophisticate or polyglot though (an exception among Lebanese).
    My friend witnessed the manager in action with a group of Nordic tourists.
    The manager approached them in the lobby and introduced himself by way of repeatedly patting himself on the chest with an open palm and saying "me manager" after which he'd then wave his hand around a bit to express God knows what – probably the expanse of his territory or maybe it was his sign language for management.
    The tourist said something like "hi' at which point the manager felt compelled to repeat the whole aforementioned process.
    The tourists then said something like "pleased to meet you".
    The manager then me managered again.
    Eventually the tourists somehow managed to get him past that point and to tell them about the prices.
    Me Manager answered "yoojewely (usually) 40 dollars but now…shaher el tasawek (as the Shopping Festival is known locally)…buying things, 20 dollars".
    The hotel also featured a middle-aged male gypsy receptionist who's only English seemed to be the phrase "youuuuu telefooooone".
    Example, an English speaking guest would return to the hotel after being out and would be informed by gypsy man that someone had called in his absence by saying "youuuuu telefooooone".
    "Ok, do you know who it was?"
    "Youuuuu telefooooone" (with a slightly different intonation).
    "Did they leave a number?"
    "Youuuuu telefooooone" (with yet another slightly different intonation).
    "Did they say they'd call back?"
    "Youuuuu telefooooone" (what can I say? this man was full of slightly different intonations).
    And so on and so forth.

    8:21 am

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