The Rumor Mill in Beirut

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Yesterday, it rained. This was apparently a big deal. The nation of Lebanon was terrified. In this country of unabated rumors, people were convinced that the rain was dangerously radioactive due to the Japanese nuclear problem. (News Flash: it wasn’t.) But the rumor mill churned, and throughout the day multiple professors warned me of the impending danger. Finally the president of the university was forced to send out an email telling people to chill out.

It’s always a fun part of traveling to learn the silly little rumors or old wives’ tales prevalent in a country. It gives you insight on how a nation's culture and beliefs influence their daily lives (for example, how people might park a truck: see the picture above).  Here is just a taste of what can be overheard in Lebanon:
• One delicious dish found on any restaurant’s menu is Tabouleh, a chopped parsley salad. But people are convinced that due to the inherent dirtiness of parsley, this salad can make you ill. The only way to counter it? By drinking a very strong local variety of alcohol called Arak. So then you can eat a healthy salad AND get plastered…
• In Beirut and greater Lebanon the power tends to go out multiple times a day, sometimes for hours at a time. The reason? It couldn’t possibly be years of mismanaged public utilities and a lack of infrastructure development. You’re a thousand times more likely to hear people blame it on the Jews.
• If you are a former artist or masseuse trying to gain a visa into Lebanon, watch out – the government thinks you’re a prostitute and is likely to reject your application (Oh wait, turns out this one is actually true!).
And these are just the silly ones. Be prepared for a deadly serious argument if you discuss the Freemason’s planning 9/11 and controlling the world, which terrorists are monitoring your phone calls and how best to avoid Israeli spy sharks. I’d like to see that segment of Shark Week…

Junior > International Studies > Johns Hopkins University

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