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#1 of 17 Old 10-13-2010, 08:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My Lebanese husband and I continuously toy with the idea of moving to the Arab world, likely either Lebanon or the Gulf, in a few years. We are lucky to have real opportunities if we want to do it. I was born in the US and, though very knowledgeable about Lebanese culture, I wonder how it would turn out for us. I have some Indian friends moving back to India soon for similar reasons as mine, and it got me thinking again.

If you and your family made the move, can you share your experience? What surprised you in good and bad ways? Did you stay or eventually return? How did the move affect your kids? Your relationship with your spouse, your spouse's family and your Western family? Did you work in your spouse's country? How was that? What do you wish you had known before you moved?

Some of our reasons for considering moving:
  • My husband's culture is very family-oriented and family-friendly. People seem to have warmer relationships with one another. We like the kinds of relationships we see between teens and their parents there.
  • We have dear friends and family in Lebanon. We could see them daily or often if we lived in the region. Our daughter would be exposed to that culture and language.
  • We would like to serve needy people and solve resource challenges of Lebanon/the region. (But there are plenty of needs here, too!)
  • Schools in the region are of good quality, and our daughter would learn Arabic as well as American English in school.
  • It is hard these days being an Arab/Muslim in the US.
  • I have a deep desire to explore the culture/terrain of the area.

Of course, on a practical, physical level, life in the US is much more comfortable and safe than life in Lebanon, especially. Not to mention the more than occasional outbreaks of civil disorder and international war. In the US, at least, any consumerist desire is attainable, and there are an infinite number of subcultures to choose to participate in. But there is more to life than comfort and safety and buying things and expressing one's uniqueness socially.

Another issue is that I am not fluent in Arabic (working on it, though), which means that, while I could get around with my Arabic and English, I would be partly cut off from the culture for a while. When I visit Lebanon, I tend to get homesick and worn out from trying to keep up with conversations and social developments. Although in some ways it feels like home to me, I always feel "foreign." I wonder if that feeling would fade with time and linguist and cultural fluency (which would take years but would increase gradually, I guess).

(Note: I have never been to the Gulf. What I know of it isn't very appealing. I'll be going for a visit to a Gulf country in the next couple of months.)

Thanks for your thoughts on this!


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#2 of 17 Old 10-18-2010, 12:57 PM
 
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I have lived in Peru for 3 years now, on and off. Fluent in Spanish and have been the whole time living here.

Each time I leave, I miss it horribly and make plans to move back. Each time I move back, I end up being so frustrated with living here that I make plans to get OUT. But, I think this is the last time I will live here for a long stretch of time. Long visits, yes, living here permanently, no.

Let me also say that in comparison to most of the foreigners I know here, I have definitely gotten accustomed to living here and the things that usually bother foreigners do not affect me. Frankly most foreigners I know seem very stuck up and judgmental--I have very little in common with them.

I have lived in a small rural town (50,000) and a big city (300,000) with a child who has been a baby, a toddler and now a kindergarten age child. I love small town life, I am raising animals, we go out into the countryside every weekend, I love how tranquil everything is. But I realized that this is a great place to visit, but not a great place to live permanently.

Here are the major reasons I want to leave:
-Job opportunities for myself and my DP are not as readily available as in Western countries. When available, the pay is low enough that we would never have the opportunity to leave again if this was our permanent income. It would also mean I can't visit my family back in the states. The working conditions are totally not family-friendly (6 days per week, up to 12 hour days...and that is for professional "good" jobs) and there is no job security or benefits.
-Health insurance is unaffordable. Basic medical care is affordable, but take any major catastrophe/illness and we would be broke very quickly. Not to mention that the quality of basic care isn't up to Western standards, even at the very expensive private clinics.
-The "good" and very expensive private schools here cater to elite students who are very stuck up, sheltered, and flat out racist. The style of teaching is old fashioned--some physical discipline, lots of shaming, lots of homework, teaching is very repetitive, lots of copying from the board, very little emphasis on creative thinking. The decent and less expensive private schools are the same, with more physical discipline. I thought my son would adapt to the teaching style and that it would be a valuable experience for him to make friends. It was a total failure--he was terrified of going to school because the teacher might yell at him or hit one of the kids, meanwhile his homework was all copying, nothing in the way of independent thought.
-Close families are great, especially when you have little ones. However, close families can also be gossipy, judgmental, all up in your business. My inlaws are great, but my partner has also been really careful to keep them at a healthy distance.
-I have some serious qualms with some of the cultural values here. The culture is very machista, which is normally something I can just write off as a cultural difference and I don't even find the whole cat call thing annoying. But, it's totally different when you can't make friends with other couples because none of the men are respectful towards their wives (cheating, or demeaning the women in public). These are highly educated, liberal guys who still can't escape that mindset.
-There are very few parks, libraries, bookstores, free cultural events, etc. No playgroups. Raising a small child can get very tedious without these kinds of institution around.
-The way children are raised is very different. Children are often disciplined using violence, shamed in public, allowed to watch a bunch of TV, not treated with any sense of personal will. This is something that doesn't bother me as much as far as the culture as a whole, but it means that my son has a way different personality than his friends. Kids here are much more cruel, bullying, teasing, hitting each other, because their parents do that, that's what they see on TV, etc.
-Prenatal care/birth care is either pitifully bad (public hospitals) or good but totally medicalized (private clinics with 80% c-section rates). The midwives that exist are untrained and very hard to find (the medical profession here has done a good job of getting poor women into hospitals for their care, and midwifery is dying out...which i find sad, but at the same time, i don't think i would trust a completely untrained midwife to attend my birth). i ended up going home to birth my last baby and i would probably end up doing the same for any future babies (or i could travel to the capital city which is 15 hours away!...there is a natural birthing center there)
-Job experience here doesn't necessarily transfer abroad. My DP has worked for years at the government in a high ranking IT job. He's definitely going to have to start from scratch when we move abroad, study a new career, etc.
-Food safety standards are totally different. I used to get food poisoning all the time (like every 2-3 weeks) and lost a lot of weight. I was down to under 90 lbs. Now I cook all my food at home from scratch, and we don't get sick. But it also means we are very limited, because we don't eat at restaurants, we don't go to other people's houses for dinner, when we travel, I bring my own food. Some people say you adjust to the bacteria here, but I don't believe it, the Peruvians I know get food poisoning pretty regularly (although not as often as I was) and the foreigners I know that have lived here a long time and eaten out at restaurants etc never adjusted. It is tiring though to have to cook all the time or to have to worry constantly about getting sick if we eat out...

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#3 of 17 Old 10-18-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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I've been watching you thread for replies, because DH and I talk off and on about moving to the Middle East for the same reasons. We've done the pro and con lists, and it's funny - a lot of the 'cons' that ended up on our list sound like la mamita's cons. Healthcare, low salaries in our fields (even in the Gulf - at least compared to what we're used to), high cost of living compared to salaries (and again, we live in an area with high salaries and a relatively low cost of living, so this could be different, depending on where you live), and the cultural difficulties the kids would face (rough kids, pressure for the boys to act a certain way, difference in schools) always end up tipping the scales away from going. Who knows though - if the right opportunity came along for a year or two, it could really be a great experience.
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#4 of 17 Old 10-18-2010, 02:20 PM
 
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I am American/Mexican married to Lebanese DH and living in Abu Dhabi, so I feel like you're talking directly to me In our homeschool group here are at least four other Lebanese/American couples. We wanted to move here primarily to be closer to Lebanon without being stuck there should violence break out. We're planning my (and the kids') very first visit there soon and we couldn't be more excited. We also have close friends and beloved family to visit there.

So I can't speak about Lebanon yet, but here in Abu Dhabi we are very happy. There are some frustrations (it took us 2 months to get our Internet hooked up and from what we hear we were lucky. But we expected to run into more of that and have actually been pleasantly surprised.

However, you will not get much exposure to Arabic here unless you actively seek it out. DH has reunited with many childhood friends and some family that lives here, plus has met several Lebanese through work, so visiting with them is the only Arabic we hear. The locals speak it amongst themselves, of course, but there are so few locals compared to the huge foreign population that you really are better off speaking English. I understand that in the city of Al Ain as well as the other emirates the locals are more plentiful. They are for the most part extremely friendly. This place has its challenges like any country does, but we're overall very happy with the circles of friends we've found here and our life. I feel strongly that this experience is the best gift I could give my kids, along with frequent visits to Lebanon and travel to so many other awesome places we have easy access to from here. I'm happy to stay here long term, though for now DH is thinking 4 or5 years and then onto somewhere else (though not necessarily back to the US).

You should pop over to the Middle East section of Find Your Tribe, there are quit a few MDC mamas in the Gulf and in Lebanon.

We homeschool, but there are several Lebanese schools around that you could try
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#5 of 17 Old 10-18-2010, 09:07 PM
 
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Dh and I took our dd to Vietnam to live when she was in Kindergarten, and brought her back to the US halfway through 2nd grade. I'm glad we did it but also glad we are back in the US now.

Things to think about:
-One of our main priorities in the move was exposing dd to the culture/language. To this end, we did not send her to an international school, she went to a local Vietnamese school (albeit a private one that was fairly tony by Vietnamese standards). In my experience with the expat families I know, the kids simply don't learn conversational fluency in the local language unless they have to. If they are going to school with kids who speak English, they'll speak English. I have friends in China whose children go to a very expensive international school that teaches both English and Chinese, their daughter is in the advanced Chinese level, and the dad speaks to her mainly in Chinese. And yet when we went out to a restaurant and she had to talk to the waitress, she could barely put a sentence together! I'm sure she can read pretty well, but her spoken language skills weren't at the level of my dd, who has had less schooling in the language but more exposure.

The downside of the local Vietnamese school was that I really did not like how it was run, either socially or academically. Learning was mostly by rote, and there was no focus on teaching the kids social skills. The focus was on teaching kids how to compete--everything was graded, even their naps! Even after we moved our dd to a more international school that taught half the day in English and half in Vietnamese, she still struggled socially because as la mamita said, she has been raised so differently from the other kids.

-If you are going to be living in a city, what is the air quality like? When I lived in Hanoi back in 1990, I LOVED it. But back then people went everywhere by bicycle. Nowadays they go everywhere by motorcycle and the air quality is really bad. I came down with severe sinusitis that the doctor said pretty much couldn't be cured except by living someplace where the air is clean. Sure enough, when we moved back to the US my sinusitis cleared up. Between the heat and the pollution, I found that I could not enjoy a day at the park in Hanoi, and kids need days at the park, you know?

On the plus side, I love the sheer energy of Vietnam. Of a country just emerging from communism and absolutely bursting with entrepreneurial energy. I really do want dd to be bicultural and bilingual so when she grows up she has the option of living there if she wants to. If she has those skills, there are so many opportunities there she could take advantage of and so much she could accomplish.
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#6 of 17 Old 10-20-2010, 11:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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la mamita, thank you for your detailed and exhaustive post. Thank you to Owen'nZoe, LauraN, and Thao for your thoughts, suggestions and insights as well. I am far too brain dead to continue the discussion at this very moment but will return to the thread soon. This is so helpful to me, and I hope, to others with similar concerns.


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#7 of 17 Old 10-21-2010, 03:17 AM
 
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My experience differed from what you're looking at in some major ways, obviously ... I had moved and had my own life set up prior to marrying, and left just before having children, so any thoughts I might have on marital/family stuff would mostly be irrelevant. But I have noticed that among people I know personally who have moved from America or Britain to Arab countries, and in particular people who have briefly visited and feel sort of homey towards their destination country, all have gone through major periods of disillusionment with regard to the (usually religious and family oriented) advantages they perceived prior to leaving, and most have not remained for more than a few years. Whenever I get a bee in my bonnet about moving back to Egypt that's a major stopping point with me -- thinking about whether I'm looking at reality, or whether I'm trying to solve experiencing a problem here by escaping to a place that may not really have a solution to that problem, or may have other problems which overwhelm the solutions they do have.

Some thoughts on particular things ...

I was really enamored with the Egyptian family unit when I first moved there. And with the relationships between women, and between generations in general. But over time the gendered nature of the idealized family structure and roles within the family really started bothering me, and the ways that played out just in terms of socially acceptable behavior was bothering me a great deal, particularly with regard to women's culture (not because it was likely so much worse than men's, but just because as a woman that's what I had access to). I went in very lovey, "oh look, wonderfully close knit multi-generational families!" and went out telling my spouse that if our child was a girl there was no way I was going to be ok raising her there.

I was also very surprised at the level of classism and level of racism I encountered, and at how open it was -- how if I said anything about it I was mostly met with the blank stares of people who really had no concept of those things being wrong. I think Lebanon is a little more diverse and a little more integrated demographically than Egypt? So perhaps there is more acceptance of difference? I really have no idea. I just know that it is a complaint I have heard over and over again as a part of the script of Western Muslims moving to Arab countries expecting to find a certain level of our religious values of tolerance being lived out. I also know it is not something I really perceived after being there for a week or a month or two months, but rather something that unfolded over time. So it may be something to really discuss with your spouse and other people already familiar enough with the culture to know its pitfalls before going in with hopes high.

Like I said, I think Lebanon might be a little more diverse, but in Egypt there is a pretty strong mono-culture that really started to wear on me ... all of the things that were wonderful! foreign! novelties! when I arrived got a bit old and there just weren't alternatives. Were it not such a segregated society that would likely not be true, but since everyone just about kept to "their own kind" having access to other arts, other media, other points of view, etc, was difficult. And I didn't expect that, or expect how frustrating it would be after coming from this background of a "modern enlightened Americana" (<-- yes, tongue is in cheek) in which diversity is so, however sometimes over-the-top self-consciously, celebrated.

Socially, I came from having the friends I selected from a wide pool into having friends of circumstance -- people who I knew through work or family, people with whom I could cobble together a conversation. The resulting lack of conversational intimacy was kind of a hit. I was suddenly swimming in friends who thought it was weird that I read books for pleasure. There was some definite adjusting to do there, and again I didn't really anticipate that.

Medical care ... let's just throw that on the list of things I didn't anticipate and leave it at that. I know it differs widely between country and social strata. It's just something to be aware of before moving anywhere.

Anyway, I'm going on a bit ... what it all boils down to is (shockingly, given all what I said above) that I absolutely would move back. But I would only do it for tangible reasons this time, not idealism. When I went before I was a great activist saving the women of the world , rose-colored glasses perched firmly on my nose, with little awareness of just what day-to-day-to-thousandth-day life would really be like. And now I know. And I'm basically cool with it. But the idealism I showed up with all went down the drain. And like I said, most people I know who have gone to similar countries with similar motives have become at the very least a little jaded.
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#8 of 17 Old 10-21-2010, 01:58 PM
 
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I think Liquesce summed it up nicely!

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#9 of 17 Old 10-21-2010, 11:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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La mamacita's covered so much pertinent ground. Every point you made is critical and full of food for thought. Especially useful to me were your comments on schooling options, "machista" culture, public children's space, and food poisoning issues. I think all of these things could potentially give me the sense of feeling "trapped."

Owen'nZoe, good to hear from another person with similar concerns. We'll see what the future holds!

Thao, your observations about expat families and language are good to consider. In Lebanon, I know that there is a challenge for even 100% Lebanese kids to have good Arabic because English and French so pervasive socially and in schools, so much so that there is a public campaign to encourage kids to speak Lebanese.

And the air quality and environmental health issues are a real concern for me. Our families have histories of asthma. I know that bad air quality encourages the development of asthma, so if we lived in polluted Beirut at this point, we would be risking our DD's health.

Another point you brought up--the "energy" of the country--is important to consider. The energy of Lebanon, and especially Beirut, is chaotic and stressed, in my experience. Army checkpoints pop up all over the place at different times, and the sectarianism of the culture can be depressing. Despite the efforts of Fouad's family not to engage in sectarian politics, at this point I'm Lebanese enough that even I automatically wonder about a person's sectarian connections when I meet a new person.

One the weird issues is that part of our desire to go to Lebanon would be to "do good." But citizens don't have much influence. If we could accomplish anything useful, then thousands of others would have been successful before us. While that wouldn't keep us from trying to make a contribution, it feels pretty tricky. In the end, moving there is about us putting our lot in with the rest of the population, even if the personal results are not superficially desirable.

LauraN, thank you for your post! I will have to check out the ME forum. I haven't been there in a while and will definitely look now. It's too bad to hear that living in the Gulf won't necessarily make it much easier to learn Arabic. But it's nice that there are Lebanese people around, at least.

What do people with kids do there? I have heard that the only excursions available are to malls and shopping areas.

Liquesce, your post was beautiful. I think Egypt and Lebanon might be very different in many ways, but the racism you speak of is very present in Lebanon towards the immigrant workers in the country. The issue of "foreign maids" really troubles me, in that almost every middle class family has one who is paid relatively little. It is through the labor of maids that Lebanon's families maintain time-consuming "Lebanese traditions" (social traditions like impromptu visits, traditional foods, overwhelmingly clean homes) in the face of acquisitive, double income households.

I feel like I have already become enured to the unromantic reality of Lebanon. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, really. But, like you, I would still be glad to go there... for a while, at least.


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#10 of 17 Old 10-29-2010, 10:55 AM
 
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Wow, interesting post. I'm an American married to a Lebanese man, living in France. He really, really wants to move back to be closer to friends and family. I really, really don't. Things that would make living there long-term impossible for me, in no particular order:

-- Civil unrest/ all out war
-- Pollution
-- Driving situation (I would only feel safe driving a tank!)
-- Lack of infrastructure (no sidewalks to walk on, no free parks to go to, and what on earth do you do with young kids if you live in the city or the near suburbs???)
-- The social crap-- the snobbery, the racism that I see every time I go. Our son actually speaks Arabic, but when we're there, people insist on talking to him in French or English, and some cousins don't speak any Arabic at all, which their parents are proud of (!!!).
-- The corruption on every level
-- The lack of access to culture and other viewpoints

Anyway, this is an ongoing discussion in our marriage, because we'd dearly love to have more friends and family nearby...
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#11 of 17 Old 11-01-2010, 04:16 PM
 
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i was a western child living in a "developing" country, not a spouse, but some of the things brought up here have really struck a chord with me, especially since living in foreign countries as an adult and really finally getting some of the things my mom experienced. for us, we lived in a very poor muslim country and left when i was 13. the racism, sexism and classism are reasons enough not to live in certain other countries without some fairly concrete reasons.

i will say, you will always be "other" to them, and your children will probably also experience some of that, depending on how deeply you enter your host society, how they look, and what your circumstances are.

that said, my experiences growing up deeply and positively affected me and i wouldn't ever want to change them. i had some amazing local friends, loved my local school experience, really felt quite at home. but i don't know if i could handle the same situation as an adult. i had a hard enough time moving 6 hours away from my family to a francophone province as a pregnant woman and new mother. it would be even harder to do that again, as much as i crave travelling and living in other countries.
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#12 of 17 Old 11-02-2010, 04:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Marylizah View Post
He really, really wants to move back to be closer to friends and family. I really, really don't. Things that would make living there long-term impossible for me, in no particular order:
It's great to hear your perspective. All the things you mention as "why not" are unappealing issues (though the dislike of Arabic is not much of a concern among our family and friends, nor is access to other viewpoints--I guess our people are pretty diverse and yet "proud Arabs"--still the rejection of traditional culture is a real concern).

I also think it's sad to see the lack of access for kids to public space and nature. My husband's family, like many, do have a village home in a rural area, though. So weekends and summers offer something, at least. Also, there are actually ecotourism companies in Lebanon, so I know that hiking and camping are not out of the question. (My DH did some camping and hiking as a young man, but he's been out of the country for more than 10 years now...)

The main concern for me is civil unrest and war. My DH grew up in Beirut during the war. Actually, a lot of our courtship was about understanding what the civil war was about and what happened and what it was like to live in war. While actual fighting and bombs falling are possible problems, because one can end up dead or injured through no fault of one's own, it seems like the main challenge with war is the breakdown of the economy. I feel confident in my DH's families abilities to stay out of trouble as much as possible physically, but unless one is wealthy, it is hard to avoid the economic repercussions of war.

In my mind, I am caught between thoughts like, "it is my job to keep my daughter from any potential harm..." and "what about all the kids in Lebanon that have no option to avoid the war? Is your daughter more worthy of safety than her cousins in Lebanon? Is being isolated from them worth 'safety?'" Life is not really about safety, and for me, God is the one who determines my living or dying, not war or a drunk driver. But it is still chilling to think about. After watching the movie "Under the Bombs," in which a Lebanese mother living abroad loses her young son in the July war, I felt I could never send my daughter to Lebanon for the summer without me, I could never abandon her to that "dangerous place." It is so hard to work this through. On one level, no one in her right mind would choose to live where exposure to war is a likelihood. But there are other levels...

Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverFish View Post
the racism, sexism and classism are reasons enough not to live in certain other countries without some fairly concrete reasons. . . . i will say, you will always be "other" to them, and your children will probably also experience some of that, depending on how deeply you enter your host society, how they look, and what your circumstances are.
Thank you for writing! I love to hear your thoughts on this. Did some of your family come from the country in which you lived while growing up?

One reason I like the idea of living in Lebanon is because, while we cannot single-handedly address any of the country's problems, our presence there could be a kind of vote for a hopeful future, against the crushing sectarianism that threatens the country. The everyday realities would still be hard, but it might be a worthwhile kind of challenge.

Living in the US after having grown up here, I feel I have been "other" for a lot of my life. And our family is "other" for various reasons, some of which we don't have a say in, others we do. But you're right. Even when my husband returns to Lebanon, his friends call him "American." And the kind of alienation we may feel in the US is nothing compared to the big change and feeling of being "different" we would face living in Lebanon among Lebanese people who were mostly born and raised there. So I think you are very right on that count.


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#13 of 17 Old 11-05-2010, 11:32 AM
 
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On the village thing: while DH's family does have a family home in a village, it's still not a place where kids can run free. The cars... oh, the cars! The driving situation is bad everywhere, even in the village. And it's only recently that the countryside around his village has been de-mined. I don't know how comfortable I'd feel with a stroll in the hills, you know?

And the culture thing. DH comes from a solidly middle-class background, but there is so much pretension in Lebanon-- people pretending to be more European than they are, the race to get your kid into the right school (American or French)-- living in the right neighborhood, driving the right car-- I could go on. I hate it. It's worse than the US!

I hear you on the war thing. My feeling is that the children who live in Lebanon and don't have a choice do run the risk of dying in a conflict. My children have a choice. My husband also spent his childhood growing up in the war and it has deeply affected him, even though he wasn't wounded physically. So there's always an impact, even if it isn't a physical one, you know?

Best of luck with your decision, I certainly understand how hard it is to make!
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#14 of 17 Old 11-05-2010, 02:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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On the village thing: while DH's family does have a family home in a village, it's still not a place where kids can run free. The cars... oh, the cars! The driving situation is bad everywhere, even in the village. And it's only recently that the countryside around his village has been de-mined. I don't know how comfortable I'd feel with a stroll in the hills, you know?
The traffic in Lebanon is insane, no doubt about that. The country's historical sites are good nature-y opportunities, and are pretty cheap to visit. Some of the really tiny villages around my husband's village are not very trafficky. We have been walking around in rural areas around there. In that area, there are still a lot of uncleared landmines, but areas that are cleared, too. (It's crazy to even have to think about landmines! Readers, please support banning landmines--they kill and maim so many innocent people, especially children, long after a conflict is over!)

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Originally Posted by Marylizah View Post
And the culture thing. DH comes from a solidly middle-class background, but there is so much pretension in Lebanon--
It is horrifying! I agree it's much more visible in Lebanon. It permeates every level of society. Even people whose stated values (religious or political/social) should oppose such things fall prey to it. BUT there are definitely good friends who want to resist that mentality, and do. I used to find it really stifling because I felt that I should try to "fit in" even though I'm not that way at all. Then I realized that my outsider status gave me an excuse to ignore or even criticize it. Everything I did/do is "just the way Americans do things." I guess that might wear off if I live in Lebanon for a long time. But even before he left Lebanon, my husband was known for being kind of a hippy, and people seem to just accept that about him.
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My husband also spent his childhood growing up in the war and it has deeply affected him, even though he wasn't wounded physically. So there's always an impact, even if it isn't a physical one, you know?
Yeah, definitely. My husband, when he met me, said that whenever his mind wasn't actively occupied with something specific, he would drift to memories of life during war time. (Since then, his "new life" has largely replaced that tendency.)

For him, though, his family's challenges gave him a unique view of the world, and compassion for the suffering of others. Of course, some people go through war and come out cruel or indifferent. His boon was that his temperament and his family are unusually stable, emotionally (not to mention extremely good-hearted!). I also have a personal trauma history, and I have always found it crazy that I developed PTSD living in middle class America while my husband came through war shaped but not broken by the experience.

Yet even when there is no war or physical conflict, people in Lebanon are tensely waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Definitely not an ideal circumstance. People go on visiting, talking, enjoying life as much as they can, but I think everyone feels held hostage by the instabilities. Politics always provide a source of sitting room discussion, at least, but it would get tiresome. I guess my serious consideration (and hope) to move there proves I'm not much of a pragmatist.


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#15 of 17 Old 11-05-2010, 02:38 PM
 
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One reason I like the idea of living in Lebanon is because, while we cannot single-handedly address any of the country's problems, our presence there could be a kind of vote for a hopeful future, against the crushing sectarianism that threatens the country. The everyday realities would still be hard, but it might be a worthwhile kind of challenge.
That's a lovely but unrealistic thought. It's the kind of idealism I was talking about when I said moving for the sake of idealism is a mistake. The more plausible reality is that Lebanon will deeply affect you while remaining entirely unaffected by you, even in any sort of abstract way. And that's something you would really need to be ok with.
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#16 of 17 Old 11-05-2010, 05:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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That's a lovely but unrealistic thought. It's the kind of idealism I was talking about when I said moving for the sake of idealism is a mistake. The more plausible reality is that Lebanon will deeply affect you while remaining entirely unaffected by you, even in any sort of abstract way. And that's something you would really need to be ok with.
I appreciate your making sure I'm not completely delusional.

I guess I didn't fully express what I meant. I am not expecting any kind of response from Lebanon as a whole country to me. My spirit and intention affect how I approach things, but this does not force the world to care about my wishes. I know how depressing and brutal life in Lebanon can be. I tend to expect the worst and notice all the terrible possibilities.

At the same time, there are small humanitarian projects happening and reasons for small-scale hope, and if I were in Lebanon, I would work with friends on these projects and be content to be a part of it. I don't think that's naive. It's practical. It would be naive if I expected whatever I do to actually lead to any major change in Lebanon's bleak horizon. But being content to do something good (in addition just living my life) is sanity-saving for someone like me. (Of course, it is also sanity-trying, as I have learned from taking the same approach to life in general!)


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#17 of 17 Old 11-06-2010, 05:49 PM
 
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I don't think anyone thinks you're delusional. Just... a little starry-eyed, maybe? Here's the thing. I've been an expat now for most of my adult life. At first it was because I loved being abroad. It was neat, special, fun. After awhile it stopped being all those things and just became... my life. I know I'm not expressing myself very clearly-- it's late, and I'm tired, but I guess what I'm trying to say is-- you can move anywhere in the world and it's still going to be your life, only with a different set of issues/problems. I think it's neat that you are so into the idea of moving. I think you should try it. (Personally, I think everyone should have the experience of living outside of their home culture, it's really enriching.) I just want to warn you that it's a little like a long-term relationship. At first it's all hot and heavy and true love and roses and birds singing. Then it becomes normal. There are bad patches, times when you imagine divorce, and moments when you fall in love all over again.

Lebanon poses particular challenges, given the political situation. And only you can weigh whether the perceived risks are worth the perceived benefits to you. Being close to family is awesome. Being injured/killed/coping with war: not so much. And the real tragedy of Lebanon is that because it is always on the brink, as you say no one can really settle in, make plans, move forward. Everyone is always walking on ice. That's a hard way to live, long-term.
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