Six months can be a long time. Six months is certainly long enough to make friends, live ebulliently, and call a place “home.” It is long enough to discover new things about yourself and about the world at large.
But there is one problem: once you settle into this new home, a new life uniquely constructed for a study abroad experience, six months is not long enough, not even close, to truly discover all that can be realized and uncovered in such an exotic place.
In any event, the last week of my time abroad in Lebanon finally arrived. I put together a to-do list of epic proportions – all the sights, sounds, foods, and experiences of Lebanon I had yet to see. To help me along the way came my grandfather, of Lebanese descent (but never having traveled to the country before in his life).
And we did it all. We traveled to every corner of Lebanon, for no other reason than to soak up the culture. We enjoyed mountains, beaches, deserts, forest reserves. We enjoyed the nightlife, casinos, the aptly famous Lebanese cuisine – all with the company of newfound friends.
Yet, by far the most meaningful experience of this final week was meeting the family.
I had known my grandfather was Lebanese, and I had known that there were some distant relatives still living in the old village. I had not known there were so many, and I had not known their conception of “distant relative” was pleasantly dissimilar from my own.
The family welcomed us with open arms and tables full of incredible food. Meeting them, including many of the cousins all my age, has become one of the fondest memories of my time abroad.
Not surprisingly, despite my meticulous list and my determined success in experiencing all of it, I left Lebanon with a discontent heart. Just in one week I had discovered so much… and realized there was still much more to see and do.