In Exile : Part 2
My Qatar flight arrived at Rafic Hariri International airport at 5.32 pm local time and the airport was bigger than I expected it to be. Beirut had taken me stunned when the pilot announced that we were about to descend. All I saw was corniche, and all the cliffs and the ocean. There were skyscrappers. I was getting excited for this task, although it was a simple writing for a traveling spread, nothing provocative. I walked to the immigration center and the officer assisted me friendly. He checked my visa before he stamped my passport and wished me a pleasant stay at Lebanon. I walked to the baggage claim to take my 25-kilo luggage that would suffice my two-week stay needs. Another officers checked my baggage tag and I walked out to the arrival hall. Greeted by currency exchange and car rental vendors, I went to Hertz counter to arrange my transportation. They gave me Red Nissan Tilda because I requested for a car that would allow me travel around with less petrol consumption. I knew I would travel more own my own, and I loved getting lost.
Randy gave me a slip of paper which contained address of a guy named, Sameer. He would be the host of my stay in Beirut. I drove out from Khalde to city center. The streets were hilly. I could see the town layer by layer as I drove far to the town center. As I drove closer to my destination, the town showed its pulse. The road was covered by brick tiles uncovered the upscale shopping district. The people dressed in their own freestyles, with fur coats and high boots, devouring a cup of tall coffee in front of American coffeeshop.
I should had taken Glenn along. How he loved amazing culture. He must see that Lebanon was not a violent city. He worried a lot about me that we were involved in a tense discussion before my departure to Lebanon. I told him Lebanon was no Syria and the aircraft would be avoiding Syria airspace. He failed to understand. I did not think if he was concerned about my safety, he must be having a hard time at work.
That's why I told him to quit the mad ad world and started to travel.
The city dazed me and I spend more time to circle the city before I arrived my guesthouse. My guesthouse was tucked betwen doors of three-storey Parisian apartment. A guy directed me to the nearby parking lot when I passed the entrance. It turned out Sameer was smaller than I had expected but friendlier than I could have imagined. He led me to the lobby where by travellers with giant backpack mingled with each other casually on the sofa. I looked at them with sort of envy. Those people were living my dream life. Young and carefree. I knew in two weeks, I had to deal with Jakarta's busy street again. The street noise and congested traffic that made my mobility crawled.
My room was pretty reasonable. It was equipped with a fresh linen sheet on the top of a single bed, vanity table and drawer. The room was facing the street of Hamra. Technically, I stood by 10 feet from the graveyard of civilians during the 70s. However, the street was furnished with long strand of pedestrian walk with localised cafe and eatery along the way. It was moderately busy in the daylight. I did not know what to expect during nighttime.
I went downtown to see Sameer. I hoped to have some travel recommendation for him. He navigated me to certain places that offer shopping malls, pubs and clubs. However, I was not that interested. Instead, I drove to the East to see Rauche or The pigeon rocks as it is known best among the tourist. I strolled the road again, and had mistakenly led myself to the wrong direction because my Arabic was awful and I did not read any of French. However, I arrived safely at my destination.
Boats were harboring and I knew I was close. I parked my Nisan on the rivera. I joined the barefoot and summer-dressed people down the steep. Some of the tourists were jumping from the cliff. The water splashed onto my cheeks. I wished I had prepared myself with a bathing suit so I could ride a boat towards two island of stones ahead of me. But the weather was hut enough to keep my distance away from the sun. I stayed inside my car until the day turned dark and I drove back.
Sameer was known as a very great host. As soon as I reach my guesthouse, he invited me to hang around with some other guests. Most of them were from the Arabian Gulf, Eastern Europe and there was a French couple. I passively joined the conversation whilst slurping fragrant black tea from the teacup which one of the tourist had offered me earlier. The bitterness sunk onto my tongue. Quickly, I finished the whole cup.
They begun to talk about politics, and as a journalist myself, I was the star of the conversation. People started listening to me while I am talking, even if I could not hear myself because I had realised I was talking blazingly fast like a thunderbolt. I was slurred. Then, one man from Kuwait dared me to compete with him on a sprint run.
"We run to the East, to the pigeon rocks." he said.
I stucked my tongue at him. "I have just went there. You have made the bet easy."
The next thing, I remembered, Sameer drove something onto the ground and the tourist applauded us enthusiastically as we bumped our fist into the ground. We started running as Sameer shouted on, "three". Not to mention, we had been shouting around like mad men too.
"Your country was built on conspiracy!" he shouted.
"Shut up! You are one of The States loyal allies!"
"Speak for yourself. Your monetary is funded by America!"
We screamed our lungs out and the offensive words were welcomed by even more applause and cheers when we passed streets.
Until we heard a sirene. The police. I ran backwards then I ran forward. In turn, I stumbled but I got my feet back easily and I ran like I have never done before in my life. I ran until the sirene faded.