Au Revoir, Beirut

Every time I find myself at Beirut International Airport, a torrent of feelings overtakes me. As locals, we constantly berate the country we live in, citing a hodgepodge of factors like traffic, pollution, economic stagnation, political backwardness, and the high cost of living.

But as soon as we depart from this little nation of 10,452 square kilometers, we start longing for Fairuz’ enchanting music, for a mankouche at the corner bakery, for the beautiful vistas to be had from any mountain perch, for a sight of the glistening Mediterranean. Our country of savages transforms into our country of life-loving pleasure-seekers who are perhaps the world authorities on hospitality and warmth.

Beirut - Rafic Hariri International Airport (photo source:

On every trip to the US, which is where I’m headed today, I’m clouded with conflicting thoughts of “where is better?” I love that my destination of Southern California is sunny with blue skies and fresh air, void of humidity, and bordering the cool majestic waters of the Pacific. I love that prices are so reasonable, and purchases rarely leave you feeling swindled. I love how pedestrians are given the right of way, and that cars yield to others ever so amicably.

On the other hand, I don’t love the artificiality built in to some people’s outwardly friendly salutations. I don’t love the robotic behavior folks fall into in their blind adherence to law, conformity, and rules. I don’t love the little room for chaos, for color, for character that is the inevitable product of a society governed by rules and regulations.

A few days ago over the phone, I was turned away by an American OBGYN’s secretary as soon as she determined I was nearing month 7 of my pregnancy. “The doctor doesn’t accept patients in their third trimester for liability issues,” she spat out, mechanically.

In Lebanon, that would never be the case. In Lebanon, you can contact any physician, any clinic, or any hospital, and request an appointment with your desired healthcare provider, no questions asked. In the US, it’s far more labyrinthine, and if you do get past the first hurdle, securing an appointment in a relatively short span of time proves to be equally onerous.

The light in all this is that I’m going to my childhood home, where a strong support system in the form of my parents awaits me. Despite how remotely foreign some of California living might feel by Lebanese standards—paying tolls to access roads, for example, or pumping your own gas at the station—this is where I was born, this is where I grew up, this is where I attended school and graduated from university.

My husband and I decided we want our child to be born on these shores, too. It wouldn’t be fair to deprive him of the virtues posited at our disposal and borne intrinsically of the Land of Opportunity. We don’t want his place of birth to ever be used against him in any situation, whether at the airport, on college applications, or in a brush with legal authorities.

The sacrifice we’re undertaking to deliver him in the grand old US of A is separation for seven weeks, compounded by a stretch of unpaid employment leave, costly travel arrangements, a daylong expedition in the skies from Beirut to Los Angeles, and, perhaps most paramount, the discomfort of the unfamiliar. I have yet to come by a willing OBGYN and to sort out my insurance coverage with the hospital.

But our decision was taken in the vein of Machiavelli, where the ends justify the means, where the benefits outweigh the costs. Down the road, all these drawbacks will seem trivial stacked up against the advantages of being born on American soil. That’s the hope, at least.

As a child, I often prodded my parents about some of their choices which, to a carefree kid unbridled by adult responsibilities, escaped me. My mom would tell me that one day, I’d understand; one day, when I had kids of my own, I’d empathize with her point of view and likely wrestle with my demons similarly.

Sitting here at the gate, shifting uncertainly in these stiff metallic terminal chairs, I realize that “one day” is upon me. One day is actually here and now. It’s time to get up, saddle up, and be an adult.

And I pray that one day our child will appreciate the effort.


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