Why do I love Lebanon so much? It’s a question that I have been frequently asked. Why love a country struggling for stability, lacking many of the daily needs everyone else has outside? Why do I, as a gay teenager, still love a country where being myself is illegal, a crime punished with up to a year in prison? Well, not everyone loves Lebanon, in fact few are the people who do, but it’s the country that I love the most.
Ever since I was a kid, playing through the unsafe mall in Venezuela where my parents had a shop in, I always felt different, like an outsider. It wasn’t just because my name was a very rare and even funny to the Venezuelan people, but also I my language and the way I look separated me from the rest of the world; but as a young toddler, I overcame it with the caring of so many people that broke the boundaries with love.
As time passed and I went to school, I started noticing that I was very different from the rest of my class. Yet this wasn’t a hindrance for me, I gained new friends and new experiences. Then everything changed to me when we were assigned to write about the place we came from. As a naive child I asked my father:
Dad, where do we come from?
The question surprised him, but his answer surprised me even more.
Ya baba, we came from a faraway place called Lebanon. Lebanon is our country, our home, our families, the place we are free. Baba you must not forget that you’re Lebanese, and that Lebanon is your home, the most wonderful place on earth.
And with those worlds my mind was blown away:
I have a home other than the one I had in Venezuela? Wow! My own home! My own country! I have two homes!
Oh, the childhood memories.
With those words my dad implanted a new place in my mind, a desire to see the land where I came from. I carried my new identity with pride, showing it off to everyone, the dream I wanted. And this dream stayed for years. We visited Lebanon twice, with each time I loved it more. Until one day it was decided, we are moving to Lebanon.
It was a shock to me. Leaving all my friends and memories behind wouldn’t be easy. That way I sticked more to Venezuela, making it my treasure I would keep. But that treasure lost its value once I came to Lebanon. Oh the green trees covering the mountains where the water splashed at its feet, a true paradise to me. And that is how I came to love Lebanon.
Today, I still love Lebanon the way I loved it before, if not more. However I still love Venezuela about the same, Venezuela is my second home, the place where I grew up, the place that shaped me to what I am today, the place where I spent so many happy childhood days. Everyday is a happy day for me as long as its in Lebanon. And when the electricity is cut out, I escape from the nagging and the cussing and swearing, to the balcony (or the window when it’s in winter),and I contemplate into the shiny stars, not bothered by the lights emitted from the homes. But these stars cluster around the luminous city of Beirut, none daring to shine brighter than the beautiful city, for the shine of the stars are faint and dull compared with the radiant light of my beloved city, Beirut.
Oh Lebanon, how I love you.