We arrived safely back at the Cavalier Hotel and the doorman took the car and parked it for us in a nearby lot. We were so happy to be back safe and sound from our first adventure renting a car outside of North America. There wasn’t a scratch on the car and we were in good shape too, despite our misadventure in the Qadisha Valley.
It was Friday night in the Big City, but we were too tired to even think of taking in Beirut’s famous nightlife. A hot shower and more Winter Olympics on television suited us just fine. We headed around the corner for another great meal at Kebab-ji, before settling in for the night. We slept early, but true to form, we woke up in the wee hours of the morning, turned on the television and watched the live Olympic events taking place across the world in Vancouver, Canada. We had never shaken the 3.5 hours time difference from India because waking up in the middle of the night allowed us to watch the games. Getting over the jet lag would have to wait for a later date.
At this point, I should tell you that while we were in Sri Lanka, I had managed to track down an old friend of mine, a woman I had met during my stint in Khartoum, Sudan during 1972-73. We had become friends during the time I was living there and I even visited her mother in England on my way home to Canada in October 1973. I had exchanged Christmas cards with Irene’s mother for almost twenty years until she passed away, and then continued to exchange cards with Irene as well until we both stopped writing cards and switched to email. I never did get Irene’s email address, and her postal address must be in one of my address books buried in a box somewhere.
When I realized that we would be spending some time in Beirut, the city that Irene made home after meeting and marrying a Lebanese man while working in Saudi Arabia, I thought it would be great to try and track her down. The only problem I had was, I couldn’t for the life of me, remember her last name. I toyed with the idea of contacting the British Embassy once we arrived in Beirut, after all how many Irene’s could there be in Lebanon, born in England and married to a local? It seemed to me to be worth a try.
Then one day while I was brushing my teeth, her surname suddenly popped into my head, Hodges! Irene Hodges! I decided to try and find her on Facebook, and lo and behold, on my first attempt, up popped Irene Hodges-Abdullah. I sent her a ‘friend request’ and waited for a reply. I knew she would remember me, but would she want me coming to visit her in Beirut. I didn’t have to wait long, she accepted my ‘invite’ and once again we were in touch, old friends from our youth, 38 years earlier.
We rested on the Saturday after arriving back from touring the country and Irene called to change our meeting plans from lunch in a restaurant, to lunch in her home. I didn’t want her to go to such a lot of work, as she is still working as a pre-school teacher and weekends are precious. She insisted she wanted us to visit her at home and we made plans for lunch on Sunday afternoon. She came along with her husband, Michel, and we had a great visit, catching up on all that has happened over the years.
Irene didn’t seem too different to me at all, and we were delighted to meet her husband at last. Unfortunately, their son Guy is away studying in England or we would have been able to meet him as well. Irene prepared a delicious meal of traditional Lebanese dishes and we ate and drank red wine until the early hours of the evening. Michel dropped us back at our hotel, just a short walk from their lovely apartment, which overlooks the American University of Beirut. It was great to re-establish contact; bravo to Facebook for making it happen.
Editor’s Note: Yes, Facebook!! I am pleased to report that you can now find me there. Did my wife have to do some arm-twisting? Your guess.