Time to go

above Beirut

above Beirut

That’s it. The decision is made. In just over a month we’ll be leaving Lebanon on a one-way ticket. The flights are booked. It seems incredibly sudden and yet we’ve been debating this decision for a year now. The fact that it took us so long to come to a conclusion is some indication of how hard a decision it was.

I would have loved to bring up my kids in a country where melons and green almonds are sold off the back of pick-up trucks, where old men sit on the pavement playing backgammon for hours, where you can tell the season by the stalls outside the grocer’s.

I would have loved for them to learn a language I can’t teach them, a language I can attest is difficult to learn late in life, and particularly hard to learn outside the country.

18 months ago we were still thinking of finding a family home out of town, choosing schools, settling for the long-term. We bought a new car, one which could take the battering of the potholes and poor drainage that had us swishing through water a foot deep on the so-called autostrade.

Back then, I remember reading about a westerner living in Lebanon who chose to stay throughout the July 2006 onslaught. Her loyalty was touching. And a lot of what she said made sense to me. Lebanon has come through a lot worse after all, and signs of trouble are permanent fixtures. Conflict is the small talk of Lebanon like the weather is the small talk of the Brits. Living here you realise that gunfights in the street here or there rarely impact your life. And above all, you invest in Lebanon. Easy to do, in such a warm, spontaneous country. Emotionally, your life is here and you belong here more than anywhere else. If July 2006 had happened in 2010, perhaps we would have stayed.

Post-motherhood, that has all changed. Not so much because of the pressure that has been building outside Lebanon’s borders for two years and is now seeping through. But because of a wriggly little being that has a personality and determination all of her own, and is soon to find her dominion of all things knee-high challenged by a sibling.

Back in September, I did a piece for BBC Radio 4 on how to know when it was time to go. We’ve now reached that time.

With small children, you cannot live as permanent tourists. You can’t be ready to up and leave at a moment’s notice. Because we would, leave that is.

Of course lots of people lived through the war with their kids, some by choice, many by necessity. But the difference is they have family here. The people they are closest to will be here for them throughout and to leave Lebanon would be to abandon them.

Not so in our case. If we stay in Lebanon through thick and thin, we won’t be there for our family when they need us and they won’t be there for us. I want my kids to learn three languages and live multicultural lives; to gorge themselves on swollen kaki and bleeding cherries; to have summers so long they welcome the downpour that soaks to the skin in seconds. But more than that I want them to grow up knowing their cousins, to spend time with their grandparents, to build a life and not have it stolen by some cause that could have been foreseen.

Lebanon is still more home than anywhere else right now. But we belong elsewhere, somewhere nearer family. I’m just not sure where.

10 Responses to “Time to go”

  1. Mustapha says:

    Goodspeed Georgia… It will be interesting to see the direction this blog will take :)

    • Thanks Mustapha, I’m not sure exactly myself, I’m thinking something centred on language acquisition, kiddie learning…also depending on where I end up! I have a few Leb-based posts to go online before I leave, then I’ll post any developments as they happen.

  2. Joelle says:

    I’ve always read your blog but never commented on any of the posts. Today I feel like I have to tell you how touching this post was. I left Lebanon ten years ago for the states. I miss everything about it and I still call it home but as you said, we belong elsewhere…
    Best of luck to you and your family!

    • I’m so glad to hear from some of those silent readers. I’m far from a prolific commenter on blogs myself so I understand. It seems Lebanon is the land of goodbyes for so many people, but it never lets you go completely. Or maybe it’s us who cannot let go.
      Thanks for your kind wishes.

  3. Lindsay says:

    Wow! I can understand that that was not an easy decision at I’ll. I’m leaving in July (for other reasons) but I’m not quite ready to go either.

    Would love it if your blog took the direction of language acquisition. I’m very interested!

  4. D. Kamal says:

    Wow! I shall be sad to not read your interesting and touching posts anymore, but I completely understand your position. We have our own little one now, and even thoughts of moving to a new state a short flight away are quickly curbed when we consider distance from family.

    Good luck to you!

  5. Hala says:

    I sympathize! I left years ago but unfortunately without my family. The plan was to re-unite in Canada, but I let time pass and I let down the family that was waiting for me to act on my promise. It’s lucky to be able to leave as a family, together. At least then you have each other. The alternative I think is to visit often, to never lose sight of our original plans.

  6. Claudia RATSIM... says:

    Waooow! Georgia, l really enjoyed reading about your experience. And it’s true! it is so touching…mostly for people like us who’ve had to live in different countries. It makes you richer, more adaptable, but at the same time it gives you the feeling of beeing a “world citizen” from every where and from nowhere at the same time, with your family as “a sole country”. But no matter what, you’ll have lasting nice memories and your daughter will probably have, even if it’s vague. When l left MADAGASCAR as a child, the lasting memories that l got was the scent of the flowers in orchads and fields in spring time, it was really saturating the air. I’m still amazed at how well l remember the perfume of green leaves on orange trees, the perfume of the flowers of banana trees, or l remember “the atmosphere and coulours of some places more than anything else…Even if l never went back even for vacation, l’m so happy that l’ve seen that at least. But you’re also right: people are more important than places, no matter how nice it can be…and anyway, you have a lot of friends and family dying to see you soon!!

  7. PeonyP says:

    Hello Ginger B, same as above it was a pleasure reading your blog silently.

    I offer my congratulations for Beirut Baby’s sibling and my sympathy for your brave decision. In the end when you are accountable to your children , to other beings, you learn to be selfless and put your horizon in their perspective.

    May God bless you and your family in this next chapter of your life!

  8. nicolette says:

    Congrats on your happy news!

    Sorry to see you leave Beirut, but looking forward to keeping up with all of your adventures!

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