Volume XXI Number 1    Alumni Newsletter of the American Community School of Beirut, Lebanon
   Index | Reports | Alumni News | Articles

  A Middle Eastern Odyssey
  Sailing Trip?
  Three Articles from Lebanon
  Computer Haiku
Carol Schaub (Fac)  
Rolf Christophersen '56  
Carol Littlejohn-Johnson '71  
Allen West '48  
Philip Kearns '65  
Børre Ludvigsen '64  
Thom Moore '61  

by Carol Schaub (Fac)

Memories - treasured memories. That's what comes to mind whenever I think of ACS. During the six years my husband and I taught there (1969-75), our experiences with the diverse student body and knowledgeable, caring staff could fill a book. Most of the students and staff were well-traveled, and that spurred us to start seeing the rest of the world.

We were enticed into overseas life after seeing a double feature (remember them?) of "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" set in Japan, and "Three coins in a Fountain" set in Rome. This was in the early 1960s, and we discussed how we could see these places. TEACH! Although that was going to be our profession, neither of us had even graduated from college yet.

We kept that goal in mind. Memories! When we were hired by ACS, I dragged out an atlas to find out where Beirut was. I knew it was "on the Mediterranean," and when I found it on a map, all I could think of were camels.

How wrong I was. As both sets of parents accompanied us to JFK Airport at our departure, the looks on their faces (as we glanced over our shoulders en route to the plane) indicated that they thought they would never see us again. This was 1969. Beirut turned out to be an extremely cosmopolitan city with fine arts, fine dining, fine shopping, fine everything.

Life at ACS was a joy. Memories of friendships within the faculty (some of whom we still keep in touch with after 22 years - glancing at our Christmas card list, there are 15 ex-ACS faculty on it!), and the talented students who taught me a lot in the quest for knowledge. I recall one difficult 8th grade boy who continually disrupted general music class, and I finally asked him to leave the room. Many years later, we happened to be on the same plane; he recognized me and the first thing he said was: "You kicked me out of music class in the 8th grade!" Is this any way to be remembered? I think not - still learning from my students. Ski trips. Spring Thing. The "stinky steps." The birth of our son. Memories.

It is sad that there were "down" moments, too. A very special student/advisee died on vacation. I saw the article about her accident in the International Herald Tribune as we were standing in line to board a plane coming back from our vacation. By the time we were in our seats, I was sobbing uncontrollably. Robin told the stewardess what was wrong, and she brought me some aspirin. But, because we hadn't taken off yet, she couldn't bring water, juice, or soda. So she gave me a glass of scotch (her idea, and the only time I've ever had scotch) to wash the aspirin down.

Life in the "Paris of the Middle East" was a treasured experience. It showed us that there is a world out there. We have a billion slides, furniture and decorations in the house, exotic recipes, gold jewelry - and memories.

by Rolf Christophersen '56

The humidity is intense. Many westerners suffered. The windows ran rivulets of condensation; it was a comfortable AC-concocted 70F with low humidity inside our homes but the camp steamed like a bed of hot rice. Everything that touched our skin stuck; jeans chaffed, skirts stuck immodestly, and perspiration gushed!

We are out of school in August; it is the trimester plan and I still think, after all these years of teaching, it is a good way to dole out learning opportunities. Kids on long leave during the trimester attend half a day classes during the month off. Then they can chase the AC for the rest of the day. There are lots of beach parties, camp outs, and hobby farm activities scheduled early and late.

I still recall the drill: about 7:45 AM I call the taxi and while waiting I swallow a few salt pills (mom's guided practice). The driver drops me at the theater parking lot (SR1); I slip into the side door just as my pores begin to dilate; only out of AC for about seven minutes. I cut through the theater seats, back outside for just a few seconds and into the recreation office. From there I cut through the Fiesta room into the bowling alley, always following the AC. The pinboys do not want to set this early so I usually stay in back with them waiting for my friends to arrive. I can watch through the slots in the Brunswick facade that masks the lanes from the pin-setting equipment. My Arabic is limited but I have learned most of my daily words from them (fook, nozzle, tahot, yamin, yasir, seda, yallah, yimkin, haumi-haumi, lish hatha maaphi shugal, ta'al, ahlan, minfudlik, and more). I experiment: semich=fish qawage=face semiquage=fishface. They laugh. Booger phi moo= cow has moo! I rent shoes (SR.25) when my friends arrive and we bowl until I get a thumb blister (SR3), about three lines. Now it is early lunch time (10:30 AM) and we move to the Fiesta room for a tuna fish and Pepsi (SR1.25). I contemplate the walk (no AC) to the Bachelor club across the theater parking lot. Only outside for a minute but the air is so thick; it's like breathing rope. Once there, if no men are playing, I can practice snooker. If men are playing, I can go to the woodshop in the back and make something. This is free. From time to time I may slip into the side alcove and watch them play cards. The drillers only use $100 bills. They folded them 'v' shaped, longitudinally through the center, and when they bet, they launch them through the air with a finger tip, like tossing a glider. When the pots get big, it gets silent and you can hear the balls knocking from the other room. You never stand too close. If all else fails, I might play shuffleboard. But, it's too hot out and I elect to go upstairs to the library instead. This is my favorite place in Dhahran after my desk at home (Steve Furman gave it to me). I read National Geographic and Boy's Life. I hunt around for A Stork Didn't Bring Me but someone has hidden it again. I look over a few atlases and finally settle in with an adventure story by someone like Thor Hyerdahl. I sit in the AC's flow and use my towel around my shoulders when it gets too cold. Sometimes the night workers stop in, glance at a few magazines and tuck one under their shirt before leaving. As it gets toward 3:30 p.m., I headed down to the movie (price varies with age; I could sometimes slip in the side door but it is usually locked at movie time; I could crawl through the AC tunnel but decide otherwise). It didn't matter what film is showing. I love films; I can always find sometime I liked about a film, even musicals! I like Doris Day because we both have freckles. Sometimes it is just the AC I enjoy!

At fiveish I head for the pool; most of the noise is over and the office workers take the plunge as kids began to tail home for dinner. I save the pool for last so I wouldn't have to carry a wet towel and bathing suit around all day. They never dry in the humidity. By now I am out of money and must face the humidity...if it is beastly hot, I put the wet swimsuit on my head, the waistband as a hat band. I trudge home using the damp towel to cool my arms and face while thinking no money left, tomorrow I'll have to make my loop through the office area, or just stay home and work on my models, maybe read Zane Gray or the Hardy Boys. The heat is boiling up through my sandals and I walk a little spread-legged to minimize the rasp of the denim. Western underwear is not made for an Arabian August! I notice the Arabs never perspire. They must think of us as a real weenie bunch. In retrospect, what amazes me most is how anyone can expect me to be a success in life? My only job is mowing the lawn! I don't even pickup after a sandwich; Gabriel is elbowing me out of the way to retake control of his kitchen counter. I consider my existence precious because I have seen refugees and I have a sense that with a little tweak to reality I could be one of those faces or maybe Usef could be chasing the AC and I could be behind the Brusnwick facade waiting for the westerners to start my day. Maybe life can't be measured in success; maybe it's all about timing (and AC of course).

A Middle Eastern Odyssey
by Carol Littlejohn-Johnson '71

Greetings from Seattle! We recently returned from a ten-week sabbatical to Europe and the Middle East. It was an incredible journey! We spent two of the weeks in Lebanon, and on our way through Scandinavia we looked up Alice Ludvigsen-Mogens '70, Barre's sister, and Karl-Ivar Tronstad. We enjoyed dinner with them at a Lebanese restaurant in Oslo, and we reminisced about our early childhood days in Sidon. Our purpose for this trip was three-fold: For Carol to see Lebanon again and look up old friends, to show the kids (Kevin, age 11, and Krister, age 8) as well as husband Randy where mom grew up, and to do a bit of volunteer work for our church at an orphanage as well as to scout for other service opportunities. Following are excerpts from the reports we sent home.

"We received a warm welcome from he Arab Seminary in Monsourieh, where we had arranged housing for our two-week stay (Sheila, Chris, or Rosemary Graham: we met your former chauffeur,Adel! He took us on excursions to Byblos and Baalbeck, as well as to the airport at our departure!). It is really amazing to see Lebanon after 29 years. So much has changed, but many things are the same (or worse - like the traffic!). All the Lebanese we have talked with seem delighted to have visitors from the States. They break into broad smiles when Carol speaks Arabic. What she knew has been quickly coming back to her, and we all depend on her as our translator in those situations where English was not understood.

Beirut and its environs are one grand construction project. Randy's description is that Lebanon is a work in process. Evidences of large financial investments are everywhere - apparently from the Gulf states, Europe and Lebanese ex-pats. Lots of apartment buildings have sprung up inall the surrounding hills and up and down the coast. There appears to be confidence in the future of Lebanon. Although many shelled and badly damaged buildings remain from the war, it seems that every third building is being renovated or rebuilt, with dust everywhere. Another reminder of the war is the cemeteries bristling with monuments and the stories of tragedy or deliverance that several people have shared with us. Our first day in Lebanon we headed over to Ras Beirut (most of which is now called Hamra) to see ACS and the AUB campus and to stroll on the Raoche. It was great fun for Carol to show the kids for the first time where she went to school. We returned a few days later to visit with Catherine Bashshur, who personally gave us a tour of the campus. Carol was surprised to see reconstruction going on in every building--she didn't realize it is being so extensively renovated.

In his first visit to Lebanon, Randy has observed lots of paradoxes. Lebanon is a mix of a developed nation and third world country. In some ways, this is the most "American" place we had visited thus far in Europe and the Middle East-- English is widespread, dollars are readily accepted(even being available in some cash machines), ATM's are everywhere, there seems to be a bank on every corner, it seems everyone has a cellular phone,but there are few public phones, American brand name products are readily available, but it is the Middle East with Arabic the first language, mosques, etc. From our place in Monsourieh we even saw fireworks in the distance on the 4th of July, evidently put on by the American Embassy! We ate at Pizza Hut (the children insisted), saw the Hard Rock Cafe by the St. George, and drove past the future site of McDonald's in the north end of town.

The infrastructure is not all restored. You can't drink the water, and the phone system is sometimes faulty, so most people have cell phones. The neglected or broken down sewage system has resulted in many polluted beaches. The Daily Star reports that seafood here is unsafe for consumption. Ambitious highway projects are underway, but meanwhile the traffic in Beirut is often at a standstill. The traffic is indescribable (we thought Seattle had bad traffic jams!),and must be experienced to be believed. Randy and the kids were astounded with all of the creative driving strategies, including passing on the sidewalks. There are very few traffic lights and drivers navigate intersections and roundabouts using a system of negotiation and intimidation, coming within inches of one another. Pedestrians jaywalk with abandon, but there really is no alternative for getting across the street. The biggest surprise occurred on a Sunday when friends of Randy's took us to Sidon and Nabatiyeh for the day. It took us around three hours to make the trip that used to be a one hour's drive. We noticed that partof the way there was a low-tech reversible lane that was created when the police stepped in, diverted and escorted a lane of traffic into the oncoming lanes. The shocker came when, on the way back that evening, we were the FIRST car directed into the oncoming traffic, WITHOUT an escort!

The next weekend we went a second time to Ein El-Helweh, Sidon, the Littlejohn's home for seven years, to visit our dear friends, the Ne'oozis. We saw Abu Samir, Samir, Samira and Mohammed whom Carol remembers from her childhood. We were very sad to hear that Im Samir, our Lebanese "mom", died of cancer in 1980. Abu Samir married her sister Miriam. Samir has a very nice apartment in Ein el Helwi, and a lovely family. Samira hasa daughter and five sons, two of whom are starting their own families. We had a great time visiting everyone at Samira's modest home. They baked fresh "menoosh" (pita bread baked with olive oil and spices), and we concluded the evening by dancing the debke. We noticed that Muslim Saida (Sidon) is much more conservative than Beirut, and most of the women, including the Ne'oozi women, wear head scarves and sometimes long gowns.

Another highlight was our time with the 24 girls at Beit el Arzi (Cedar Home orphanage). Carol taught some ESL and some songs by Kathy Troccoli; Kevinand Krister came along one day and helped put on a puppet show which the girls loved. We also got to know director Shadi Melki and his wife Joyce.Randy helped to develop an accounting program for Shadi. They would welcome more visitors--they are building a new facility outside Beirut and canal ways use more workers.

In addition to visiting the orphanage Cedar Home, we visited the offices of Dr. Salim Sahiouny, President of the SupremeCouncil of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon. He is a retired pastor and dear friend from our days in Lebanon. We also dropped in on and surprised our old friend Adeeb Awad, who pastored a church in Damascus for 16 years and is now Synod General Secretary. Rev. Salim and Rev. Adeeb welcomed us very warmly and showed us around the beautiful new National Evangelical Church next to their offices in Rabih, a suburb north of Beirut. Also located on their campus is the new Evangelical school for Boys and Girls, which used to be downtown Beirut. The old church, school and mission compound downtown were completely destroyed by the war and the subsequent rebuilding of a highway through that area. When we were in Beirut, we also saw the beautiful new downtown Evangelical church, rebuilt with only the bell tower remaining from the old church.

On Tuesday we went up to Byblos -- our guide at the ruins observed that Lebanon's cities have been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the last 5000 years; the current events in Lebanon could be just one more cycle in this pattern! On the way back we stopped for dinner at a seaside restaurant in Jounieh Bay where we watched the sun set over the Mediterranean.

The last Sunday afternoon we went to see another site from Carol's childhood: the summer conference center at Dahour Shouer in the lovely mountains northeast of Beirut. Carol had mixed feelings: two of the old buildings, as well as the old missionary duplexes, were in bad shape from the war, but the main buildings, the chapel and some of the bunk units in the woods are being remodeled and will be very nice indeed. Randy remarked that many of his images of these sites were incorrect - he was surprised to see how all of the buildings are built on such steep hillsides. Overall we feel the mood in Lebanon is optimistic. There are all kinds of enterprises starting up everywhere. There are lots of luxury homes and apartments being built in the mountains. It looks like lots of people are being employed in the construction. One friend told us, however, that they are foreign laborers rather than Lebanese, because the builders don't pay wages commensurate with the cost of living here. Unemployment might actually be around 20%, but the entrepreneurs are still betting that Lebanon has a bright future. "We also hope that it will be!

After our sojourn in Lebanon we went on to spend five days in Jordan and two more weeks in Palestine/Israel, but those stories will have to wait.

by Allen West '48

In a strange land, in a city
strange yet home to half the world,

in a strange house on a clear night
when moon and starts were silver ice

the siren moaned more lonely
than wind outside an empty home.

Huddled in a hallway, we heard
a distant drone when the siren died.

Were there searchlights? I remember
only sky and drone and siren

and a still night. In the fall
half a world away came words

to match the mood of that night
and music to match the words:

"Hoo-ee Hoo-ee . . . Hoo-ee Hoo-ee"
Blues in the night, far from home.

Sailing Trip?
by Philip Kearns '65

Hi everyone,
I've enjoyed all the activity on the ACS ListServe lately. I haven't "spoken up" before this and I don't think I know any of the people who have, but I've had fun listening in and remembering. I was a day student at ACS for 2 years and it's great to have this connection. It's reminiscent of conversations I overheard between classes 35 years ago-the subjects have changed but something in the diversity and tone of the "crowd" remains familiar. I also enjoyed William Webster-Garman and Lisa Moore's "Parallel Days."

When I left Beirut in 1965, I lost track of most of my friends, except for one visit to Seattle in 1966, where I got together with an old classmate, Sam Tichnor. My memories of the two and one half years in Lebanon are highlighted by the traveling I was able to do on holidays and during summer vacations. In the fall of 1963 I went with Steve Davies and some other ACS students, with Mr. Sutton's explorer scout troop, into the mountains of northern Lebanon on a three day hike that took us through a small village accessible only by foot or donkey path. When we returned to Beirut we learned that President Kennedy had been killed.

In the summer of 1964 (I was 17), I took a third class train trip, alone, from Beirut through Syria and Turkey to Istanbul. The train car was filled with long wooden benches (like park benches), with a single aisle that went along one side of the car next to the windows rather than down the middle. My fellow passengers (none of whom spoke English) were mostly poor Lebanese and Syrian and Turkish families, the women dressed in black with big smiles that showed off several gold teeth, traveling with their children and grandmothers. (I seem to remember someone having a box of live chickens in with the luggage, which was kept with us) After three days I arrived in Istanbul where I changed money and trains and traveled second class through Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to Austria. There I met up with my older brother David (he was a student at AUB and was working at a United Nations summer youth camp, building houses for Yugoslavian refugees). From there we hitchhiked through Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece staying in 50 cent a night youth hostels and camping on rocky Greek beaches. We finally took deck passage on a Mediterranean freighter from Greece back to Beirut in time for the next year at school. I also had two younger brothers who attended the ACS Elementary School for two years, 1963-1965.

I have been thinking about organizing a sailing reunion for a week or two in the Caribbean sometime. Let me know if anyone's interested. I'm currently living in South Carolina.

Three Articles from Lebanon
by Børre Ludvigsen '64

On the sixth day God turned to the Angels and said: "Today I am going to create a land called Lebanon, it will be a land of outstanding natural beauty. It shall have tall majestic mountains full of snow beautifully sparkly lakes cutting forests full of all kind of trees high cliffs overlooking sandy beaches with an abundance of sea life."

God continued, "I shall make the land rich so to make the inhabitants prosper, I shall call these inhabitants Lebanese, and they shall be known as the most friendly people on the earth"

But Lord," asked the Angels "don't you think you are being too generous to these Lebanese?" "Not really," replied God, "just wait and see the neighbors I am going to give them." !

2. A Visit to ACS
I have been at a couple of meetings at ACS. The halls and stairs make me feel 17 again, but the questions make me feel old. They ask me about computer things and I keep thinking that "this where I learnt mathematics and how to smoke, they should be telling me things". Having spent half a lifetime away from ACS charging people for good (or bad) advice - as the case may be - coming back to ACS and being asked about things one is paid to know has that really sobering effect of "this is the one time you better get it right, as they seemed to have got it pretty much right when they did me".

Much was said about the gulf between the "two ACS's" - the one up to 1975 and the one after 1990. The war generation student body seemed to be the lost generation. Those who either loved ACS for being a safe haven or hate it for coinciding with the worst years of the war. One idea was that maybe writing about those war years might be a way of bridging the gap. Just sitting down to think about those years is a very special effort for many people, let alone write about them.

Those of us who never were here during the war can never even come close to imagining the sheer terror, no matter how many collapsed buildings of shell-pocked walls we have seen around town. As reconstruction speeds up and the war ruins pull further and further down the old Damascus road, as Beirut reemerges with many of the old sights, sounds and smells, that gap grows older and more entrenched.

I'm hoping more alums will use the listserve mailing list and the Pot to speak out about what might they might have in common and what the war meant. My feeling is that we'll have to wait some years before the postwar students work up any interest for AA/ACS. Most are barely out of college and need some time to afford to pay their AA/ACS dues. Pre and post war ACS is a sensitive issue for many, specially with the gap being what it is. For many a time of personal trauma and as they mature a very special political enigma.

3. Taxi Prices In Beirut
There are links to taxi prices in Lebanon under the travel sections on Al Mashriq.

A note: at LL 35 000 ($23) the price for a taxi from the airport to the nearest point in town is a bit steap. There are two, MUCH cheaper alternatives if you don't have too much luggage. Walk to the main airport road (100 yds from the arrivals doors) and take the bus at LL500 to any point in Beirut or catch a service a bit further down the road at LL1500. It's not that $20 might not be a reasonable first time contribution to the Lebanese economy from all arrivals at the airport, but the whole thing is a rip-off organized by the syndicate of taxis closing out any form of competition at the airport.

Computer Haiku
by Thom Moore '61

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.
With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.
You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.
A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.
Stay the patient course
Of little worth is your ire
The network is down
Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.
The Web site you seek
cannot be located
but endless others exist
A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a simple stone.
Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.
Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.
Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that
Rather than a beep
Or a rude error message,
These words: "File not found."
First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.
Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

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