Finally, the last day of February! In my mind, when March is here, it means the beginning of Spring. It's been a long dreary winter,and I am more than ready to see green grass and flowers blooming.
I plan to head to Arkansas one weekend in March to shoot some new waterfalls. I'm more than ready to take my Border Collie mix, Hunter, and my Great Dane, Juno and go exploring in the hills. They are wonderful companions,and it will allow us to once again enjoy nature at it's finest. My hiking boots and camera are ready and waiting!
It has been a busy year so far. My work has been featured on 2 issues of The Ozarks Mountaineer magazine this year, and my photo of Glory Hole Falls was featured in the Louisiana Hiking Club newsletter a couple of months ago.
I recently received my passport, and am preparing for a trip to Beirut, Lebanon in February. I will be doing landscape/nature photography, capturing the unique architecture in photos, along with digital documentation of several aspects of the country, including damage from the 2006 war. I am looking forward to this trip, and am counting the days.
I have done some research and purchased some new software, and am starting to do HDR editing with my photos. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. The short explanation is taking 3 photos of the same subject, but with different exposures. The software then combines the photos to bring out the range of lighting to make an almost 3-D effect. I am loving the software, and loving the results even more! The photo featured below is an HDR photo that I recently took of Boxley Mill Pond in Arkansas. I look forward to working with this software even more in the near future.
Speaking of the near future..... I have purchased my ticket to Beirut, and will be leaving Feb. 3rd for 2 weeks of traveling the country. I will have a 5 hour layover in London, then will finally arrive in Beirut after 25 hours of travel. I am really looking forward to the experience. The scenery there is beautiful, and I can't wait to taste the Lebanese food and experience the culture. During my travels ;I will keep this journal updated frequently, so check back often in the month of February. (Feel free to check back often anyway...) :-)
A couple of weeks ago I took my mom to Arkansas for our annual fall trip together. My mom loves the fall colors and her birthday is in November, so I take her with me for my fall shoot and take her out to a birthday lunch every year when the fall colors peak. This year I had a wonderful time with mom, but was disappointed in the colors. It seemed the trees were one extreme or the other. Either they were still green, or the leaves had fallen off the others. The most color we came across was during a drive up Cave Mountain Road. However, the rest of the day was awesome, and it was a trip I will never forget. I absolutely love having that bonding time with my mom, and we laughed all the way home.
THE FOLLOWING BLOGS WERE TAKEN FROM MY FACEBOOK PAGE AS i KEPT A TRAVEL BLOG OF MY ADVENTURES IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 2:33pm
Beirut, Lebanon Trip
Wow....after starting the countdown at 126 days, I finally reached the day I was supposed to leave for Beirut. Well....due to snow in Chicago closing the airport, that was put off until the NEXT day. Before I headed to the airport for a 2nd time I found out that THAT flight was also canceled due to snow in Dallas this time. Luckily I finally did get off the ground at 3:30 Friday afternoon, and landed in Beirut 23 hours later.
My first meal in Lebanon was coffee from Dunkin' Donuts and a hamburger from Burger King. I think Dody wanted to break my stomach in slowly, and decided I should start out with Lebanese made American food. It did hit the spot though. We got to the hotel and stepped out onto the balcony and I heard the sweet sound of the Mediterranean Sea hitting the rocks below our balcony as the waves came in. What a wonderful relaxing sound.
I slept in this morning, and didn't wake up until 8:00. Dody had fixed me American coffee, and I stood on the balcony and watched the boats going by and the fishermen deep sea fishing. I was so relaxed. I could have stayed out there forever, but I had many WONDERFUL things to see.
For lunch we went to Dody's apartment and her mom, Mrs. Ayoub fixed WONDERFUL Lebanese appetizers...... Kebbe and Sanbousik. (FYI Janet, the Kebbe was with cooked beef..........it was absolutely awesome!) Rola also made a delicious salad and a HUGE lasagna. It tasted sooooo good! They are all very good cooks! By the time we had finished desert - znoud al set and halewit al jeben, I told Rola she was going to have to roll me to the car.
We later met up with Rola, her mom, and her sisters Rita and Loulou. We all went to the mountains to see the tomb of St Rafqa, St. Hardini and St. Stephan Nehme.It was a very interesting and very enlightening experience. I am a "Recovering Baptist"....yes, I'm in the 12 step program.........and was never educated about Saints. Dody is Orthodox but goes to the Maronite Church. They believe in the Saints, and especially St Mary. Trust me when I say that not knowing much of anything about it all, when we walked into the church / building where the tomb was, I felt a totally different energy. It is so hard to describe, but almost a feeling of euphoria. I didn't realize it at first, I just knew I felt really happy and at peace. As we were leaving, I realized it was the "energy" I was feeling. It was quite awesome! At the second place we went to I actually witnessed something really cool, but I will go into that at another time. it's now time for Dody and i to eat some dinner and get some sleep. Tomorrow is another wonderful day in a wonderful country. (By the way, it's true............everyone I talk to says "WELCOME TO LEBANON!")
Beirut, Lebanon Trip - Part 2
by Val Cooley on Monday, February 7, 2011 at 2:26pm
It was a typical winter day here.......about 60 degrees f., and raining. It wasn't a heavy rain, just a gentle slow rain. A type of rain that makes you want to crawl in bed with a book and just relax the entire day. I, however, couldn't wait to step out onto the balcony with my camera and tripod to catch the different morning colors in the clouds above the sea. Dody again made American coffee for me, and we had a Lebanese breakfast.........twice.
Dody then drove me around different parts of Beirut. We scouted out places to go back to when it's not raining so I can take photos. We stopped at a few shops, and went to a great restaurant where Dody treated me to cake, Lebanese ice cream and Turkish coffee.
After Rola got off work, she met us at the City Mall. We had a wonderful dinner of nachos and different flavors of chicken wings at Lord Of The Wings. As if I wasn't full enough after that, Rola treated us to Ice cream, strawberries, and chocolate. I am now a walking garbage disposal!
We are now back at the hotel trying to digest all the food we ate. I should be able to post more pics tomorrow. I'm going to get them downloaded before I go to bed.
Tomorrow will be a great day...........Grotto Jietta. :-)
Beirut, Lebanon Trip Part 3 Feb 8
by Val Cooley on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 10:03am
It has been a wonderful exciting day. Dody and I went to Grotto Jeita. There are 2 Grottos, the upper grotto was absolutely huge with many Stalactites and Stalagmites. We then went to the lower grotto which had a river running through it. We took a boat ride on the river, and it was breathtaking. I was unable to take my camera into the grottos, but Dody managed to sneak her small camera in and take pictures. She learned a new word today. REBEL. She agrees that she is a rebel.
After we left Grotto Jeita we came to Dody's Apartment and visited with her mom. We then drove to the school to pick up her niece Caren. She was very surprised to see me. One of her friends looked at me and then stopped her on the stairs and asked Caren if I was her friend from America. According to Rola, it is obvious just by looking at me that I am a foreigner. We got back to Dody's apartment just in time to see her nephew Christopher when he came home from school. He immediately recognized me from our video chat, and said what every else has also said...."You are much taller than i thought." Caren is now laying in the bed with me as I type this. She is proofreading my English for me. She and Chrstopher are very smart. They both speak 3 languages....Arabic, French, and English. Chris is 15.5, and Caren is 10.5. (I wrote 10, and Caren just typed the 10.5 for me to correct her age. Yes, she's 10 and a half.) She wants me to come back in October for her birthday. lebanon is very nice - from Caren. She's helping me type again.
Before I arrived, Rola had told Dody that she needs to put a camera on the dash of her car to film my reaction in the Beirut traffic. Now I know why! Traffic is crazy! There are very few traffic lights compared to America. People just push their way into traffic. A 3 lane road may have 4 or 5 cars across those 3 lanes. Many times there were only 3 or 4 inches between Dody's car and the one next to it. Dody showed me today where they take their driver's exam. It is in a parking lot. They don't let the people taking the exam drive in the traffic, only in the parking lot. Understandable! I have to day, these drivers are very good! Nobody panics, and I have yet to see a car accident! I have to give Dody many Kudos for being such a wonderful defensive driver. Now that I'm used to the traffic I have done much better at not holding my breath or slamming on invisible brakes.
We are relaxing after our meal and waiting for Rola to get here. We will hang out with her again this evening. She is a great friend to Dody, and a wonderful person. Of course, I haven't met anyone here yet that was not wonderful. Everyone is so friendly and accepting of me. I feel very welcome here. Even in the stores, if someone hears me say something in English, they realize I don't speak Arabic, so they then talk to me in English. It's pretty awesome.
Time to end for now. Rola should be here any minute. We'll have our Turkish coffee. Mmmmmmm
Beirut Lebanon, Part 4 - Feb 9
by Val Cooley on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 2:33pm
Yet another absolutely fantastic day! We met Rola, Rita and Loulou for breakfast. We had Manouche (dough with cheese or thyme.) We then made the trip up the mountain to The Cedars. In Lebanon The Cedars are considered The Cedars Of God. I believe it. Only God could have made a place so beautiful! I took many photos, but most won't be uploaded until I get home. We did a little shopping at one of the outdoor shops, then eventually headed back down the mountain. I kept asking Dody to stop so i could take more photos. I finally got smart and decided to walk for a while, as every few feet I saw something new I wanted to shoot!
About halfway down the mountain we caught up with Rola, Rita, and Loulou at a Lebanese restaurant. They had already ordered our food, and we sat down to a table full of appetizers! I about had a heart attack when they explained to me that the actual meal hadn't arrived yet! I tasted hommas, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh (the king of the table), sambousik, kebbe, ftayar, eggplant, goat cheese, and then finished the meal with grilled lamb. Awesome! Oh, with our meal we had wine made at the restaurant. We all enjoyed Hooka and listening to traditional Lebanese music. I had the most wonderful time! Rola, Rita, and Loulou were great to visit with and opened my eyes to so many things with the Lebanese culture. I certainly understand why they are so very proud of their country! It was a day I will never ever forget.
When we got back down the mountain we went to have Lebanese ice cream. Dody got a wonderful ice cream for me.....pistachio, almonds, lemon, chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. One layer of each flavor. We then came back to Dody's apartment and ended the night with a Lebanese hamburger. It puts our traditional hamburgers to shame! They have the most wonderful bread, and they top the burger with cabbage, fries, ketchup, mayo, mustard, and pickles.
I am sitting here listening to Dody and her mom have a conversation in Arabic. It is fun to sit and pick out words I actually know now. Her mom told me I really need to learn more Arabic.
I'm gonna call it a night and look forward to more wonderful adventures tomorrow.
Beirut, Lebanon - Part 5 Feb 11, 2011
by Val Cooley on Friday, February 11, 2011 at 1:09pm
No, I didn't get shot or kidnapped yesterday. I didn't update because I was feeling a bit under the weather. I think it was mainly because I forgot to take my meds, and one of them makes it feel like I have the stomach flu if I don't take it. When I realized why I was feeling so sick we were a couple of hours away from the hotel, so I just had to tough it out.
Yesterday Dody took her mom and I to Saida to see a very old castle in the Sea. It was awesome! I did take a few photos, but due to not feeling well, I didn't take as many as I would have liked to. On our way there Dody asked a guy from the Army for directions, then ended up giving him a ride to his town. I wanted so bad to have a picture taken in the car with him, but didn't want to push my luck. What a great pic that would have been to post.....Val with the Lebanese Army! LOL
We went back to the hotel and I slept for a while, then took a hot shower to get rid of the chills. Rola came to visit, then Dody and I had KFC delivered.
Today was absolutely awesome. We met Rola and Rita and went to St. Charbel. St Charbel lived as a recluse up in the mountains, and died in the 1800's. It was peaceful and beautiful. The view was fantastic, and I took lots of photos. Later we ate and I got to experience more Lebanese food. We finished the meal with more Turkish coffee. I'm addicted.
From there we went to Byblos. It has many ancient Roman ruins, and is so beautiful. I had seen pictures of Byblos in the book Dody gave me, and had been dreaming of going there for the last 9 months. I finally got to go. I captured photos of the Roman columns in the sunset, we went through an old castle, and I also captured photos of some old abandoned fishing boats. I was again in heaven! I told them I was in a photographers paradise!
We came back to Dody's apartment and her mom fixed another Lebanese meal for us, (including wara2 3arich, the grape leaves with beef and rice someone had asked about a few days ago....and mehche malfouf...cabbage with beef, rice, and mint.....very very good.) I have been spending time with Chris and Caren, and have really enjoyed my day.
Oh, a few highlights I forgot to mention........as we were waiting for Rola and Rita, we were approached by a Syrian boy selling movies. I bought 4 "new releases"....American movies and a cd with many current hit songs from America ....all for $ 5 USD. (Yes, they are copies, but............... I'm in LEBANON!)
Yesterday Dody and I rode in a taxi and when the taxi driver heard Dody and I speaking in English he changed the radio station to Radio One, which plays all American hit songs.
As soon as we got to Dody's apartment Caren pulled out her English books and began reading to me. She speaks English very well. I told her that since she now has a friend from America she will speak the best English in her school. Now Caren is teaching me to speak French. Eventually maybe I can be like Dody....using 3 different languages in one sentence! (Now that takes talent!)
Tomorrow we will have more big adventures. I LOVE THIS COUNTRY!
Beirut, Lebanon Part 6 Feb 13, 2011
by Val Cooley on Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 10:02am
What an awesome couple of days! Yesterday Dody and I went to downtown Beirut. It is absolutely beautiful there! So many new buildings and wonderful architecture. We walked around the city for a while. We visited a memorial for former Prime Minister Hariri who was killed in 2005. We then visited the city under the city...... an old city found underneath the streets of Beirut. Of course, we also took a break at Starbucks.
After visiting downtown we headed to the huge rocks that I've been wanting to see forever. The size was unbeilevable......as was the beauty. We watched one man jump off the cliff fully clothed for a $300.00 bet. He won. Several people were swimming in the sea. It was a beautiful day.
Later we came to Dody's house and her mom fixed macaroni. We then went with Dody's mom, Caren, Rola, and Rola's mom to Papaya's for dessert. Awesome food....as always. Oh, and by the way, Rola got a new car.....a 2011 Nissan Tiida. Very nice car. On the way to the restaurant, as we were following Rola, Caren and Dody taught me how to say "Congratulations. Nice car. I like it" in Arabic. I think I shocked Rola when I told her that in Arabic.
Today we met Dody's mom, Caren, and Rola early and headed to Baalbek. It is the ruins of Jupiter Temple from the 2nd Century A.D. Absolutely awesome! Photos couldn't even come close to the experience of actually being there! I can't begin to describe the experience! I will put one or two photos on here, but because the internet is slow, I will get all others uploaded when I get back home.
This evening Rola is coming to the hotel to stay all night with us. We will have drinks, relax, and do some laughing and story telling. Another great day will end with another great night.
Beirut Lebanon, Part 7, Feb 14
by Val Cooley on Monday, February 14, 2011 at 4:30am
Happy Valentine's Day!
I'm updating early today. (It's noon here.) Rola stayed all night with us last night and we had a great time. We ordered Chinese delivered and I taught them how to use chopsticks. We had a great visit and I learned a couple of Lebanese jokes from them.
This morning we relaxed, then walked around the area of the hotel until it started raining. We are at Dody's apartment now, and will be going to the mall and to see a movie later. It will be a very relaxing day.
By the way, for those wondering, yes, there is Military around, but it has been this way for years. You can't enter into any important area without being stopped by military gates. Military tanks sit on street corners where there has been unrest in the past. When we pull into the parking garage to the mall, the car is searched for explosives. The same when we parked in downtown Beirut. It is a normal experience for them. It doesn't bother me, as at least I know the military are being careful.
Beirut, Lebanon Part 8, Feb 16, 2010
by Val Cooley on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 3:34am
It's been a very relaxing couple of days. Monday evening Rola, Dody and I spent the evening at the mall. We did a little shopping, ate dinner, and watched a movie. Rola picked the movie.....Love And Other Drugs. Very funny..........with a very touching ending. Dody and I were wiping our eyes...... Most of the movies shown in the theaters are American movies. I think of the 10 movies showing at the theater we were at, only one was French, the rest were American. They subtitle at the bottom of the screen in Arabic and in French.
Yesterday Dody and I went to a few shops, then came to her apartment in the afternoon. Her mom fixed us a wonderful Lebanese lunch of Chich Barak, which is beef wrapped in dough, in a sauce made of yogurt, mint, and rice. It was really good. After a short nap, we went to Rola's house for the evening. Her sister Rita made a wonderful cheesecake! I thought I was in heaven! Rola then entertained us playing her guitar. She plays classical style. I was very impressed!
Today we are heading to the mall for lunch and a little shopping, then we are meeting Rola after she gets off work so I can enjoy Papaya's one last time before I head home. Tomorrow will be my last full day here. I will leave Beirut at 10:30 Friday morning, (2:30 a.m. CST.) I will arrive home at 10:30 p.m CST. The layovers won't be as long on the trip back. I will miss my friends in Beirut.
Beirut, Lebanon Part 9, Feb 17
by Val Cooley on Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 7:18am
My last day in Beirut. Dody and I slept in this morning, then hung out at the hotel and relaxed. The waves coming into the bay were quite big in comparison to how they have been, and it was so relaxing to lay there and hear the waves hitting the rocks. I could have stayed there listening to the waves all day. Nothing compares to that sound.
We then headed out to drive up into the mountains. Dody showed me some beautiful Villa's, some that she has worked on as an architect. Breathtaking! The views were absolutely awesome! From many you could see the sea and all of Beirut below.
Since I became a photographer and started looking at things through a photographers eye, I have become obsessed with doors. For some reason, though, I haven't taken too many photos of them. That changed here. Their doors are so cool! Unlike any I have ever seen! They are like two half doors...very narrow, and open like french doors. The top part is decorative iron and the glass swings out to let the air in. Most of the time in Dody's apartment, one of the doors is left open. (Yes, it's THAT WARM here. :-) Anyway, when we were in one of the towns in the mountains I began taking photos of doors in different villas and houses. As before, Dody had to stop so many times that I decided to just get out and walk. :-)
We then stopped at a restaurant and had chicken....Dody's favorite meal. One thing that surprised me about Lebanon is that fries are served at almost every meal. They brought us a huge plate of fries and a side of pickles, garlic and peppers. A very good lunch.
We are going to take a short nap, then meet Rola this evening to take hooka. Tomorrow I will be up early to head to the airport. I'm not ready to say good-bye to this wonderful country I have adopted, but will be glad to see my mom and my dogs.
.I'm a little frustrated.............
by Val Cooley on Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 9:53am
I just needed to get something off my chest. I am normally a very positive person, and refuse to have any negativity on my facebook page. However, I need to express my frustration about some people and their prejudiced comments. I do not welcome - and will promptly delete any negative or sarcastic comments about my friends or their nationality. If you feel the desire to post such comments, delete me from your friend list instead.
My trip to Beirut was a very enjoyable, enlightening, and fun experience. I couldn't have asked for better hosts and friends. The fact that they live in the Middle East doesn't make them any less of a person.... in fact, I admire them even more because of what they have had to endure in their 30 some-odd years on this earth. Unless you have been there, unless you have sat with them and listened to their stories.......... don't judge and don't condemn! We in America are spoiled. Most of us haven't had to try to sleep among the sounds of bombs going off in our neighborhood. We haven't had to walk among dead bodies on the street in front of our apartment to find our loved ones. We haven't had to deal with our cousin being shot and killed by a sniper just a few floors above our bedroom. We haven't had to hide in our home for months at a time because "soldiers" were trying to kill as many people as possible because they got money "per head" that they killed, and didn't care if they killed men, women, or children. We haven't had to miss school for months at a time because it was too dangerous to leave the apartment. We haven't had to deal with our own mother being injured from war in our own neighborhood. We haven't had to dodge bullets from snipers on our own apartment balcony. And we didn't have to endure having our bicycle shot out from under us by a sniper at the age of 8. (That happened to Dody.) The people you see in my photo albums PERSONALLY had to live through each and every thing I just mentioned. THEY didn't start the war. THEY didn't fight in the war. They were kids at the time! Innocent children!
The United States was there for a time to help these people. The U.S. soldiers were not injured or killed by my friends.....nor by Lebanese in general. Terrorists did that act. In short, I WILL NOT TOLERATE anything negative being posted on my Facebook.....regardless of who you are. I love my friends dearly and have more respect for them than I have for most people I know in the United States.
Final Travel Blog -Back To Life In The USA
by Val Cooley on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 6:29am
Yes, I'm typing this at the butt-crack of dawn. My body and my mind are still on Beirut time, as I have been unable to sleep past 3 or 4 a.m. since I've been back. Hopefully my internal clock will straighten out soon. This is wearing me out!
My last morning in Lebanon was sad. Dody and I woke up early and finished packing. I took a few final photos of the Mediterranean Sea from the balcony, then we headed to the airport. Dody called Rola so I could say good-bye to her. I'm still trying to convince her to come here with Dody in September. She told me she hoped to see me soon, and I replied, "You will......in September." She just laughed and said "We'll see." She has always liked the United States, and I would like her to have the same type of experience that I had while I was in their country..................experiencing a different culture, different food, and different scenery. Rola...................I am keeping my fingers crossed that you will decide to visit here.
I never realized how extreme emotions are in airport lobbies. At one end you see nothing but smiles and welcoming hugs from people greeting their loved ones as they arrive. At the other end you see people crying with sadness as their loved ones prepare to go through the security screening area. I think Dody and I said our good-byes 4 or 5 times before I finally went through the screening area. My experience there was so wonderful that I hated to see it end.
I arrived in London 5 hours later and sat in the airport and "people watched" while waiting for my connection to Chicago. London is the most interesting place to watch people. The crowd there is so diverse. I would catch myself wondering where they were from, where they were traveling to, and why they were traveling. I only saw one other person that was obviously a photographer. We were both tightly holding on to our huge photography backpacks full of camera gear.
Dody and I were pretty smart when we packed my luggage. We put all my clothes in my large suitcase that I checked, and the souvenirs in my carry-on luggage. I'm glad I did, as when I arrived in Chicago and waited for my luggage so I could clear it through customs, I realized it never arrived. I wasn't too happy that all my jeans were stuck in London, but at least I had my camera gear and my souvenirs. However, I was very upset that my tripod and a wonderful painting that Dody had made for me were also in my suitcase with my clothes. I just hoped and prayed that it wouldn't be lost forever. (Thankfully it was delivered to my house Sunday morning.)
The neatest thing about flying from London to Chicago was that I got to watch an 8 hour sunset! The sun began to set on the horizon shortly after we left London. We were flying at 38,000 feet at a "ground speed" of 505 miles per hour, so we were keeping up with the sun. I was able to take a nap for a couple of hours, and was surprised to wake up and find it still wasn't dark outside the plane. The sun was STILL just on the horizon. It was beautiful. I continued to watch the sunset as we flew over Canada, and it didn't disappear until we headed south toward Chicago.
The other nice thing about the flight back was the fact that I didn't have to sit with anyone else on any of the 3 planes I was on! On BMI from Beirut to London I had the row of seats to myself. I was very surprised to find it the same from London to Chicago, so I decided to stretch out and lay down on the seats when I took a nap. The plane from Chicago to Springfield was almost empty, so again I was able to sit alone.
I arrived at SGF at 10:30 Friday evening and airport security took my information for my lost luggage. The two officers seemed to be in shock that I had traveled to Beirut alone. They were even more surprised when I told them how beautiful the country was. I then called mom and Dody to let them both know I had arrived in Springfield. When I arrived at my house Hunter wouldn't leave my side. He was so excited. I guess he thought mom was never going to come home. My African Grey, Ratchett, is now talking in my mom's voice, and all the animals seem to be glad that I am home. Thank you, mom, Rachel, and Christy for taking such good care of my babies!
Saturday I spent the day visiting with Christy and Scott, and delivering gifts to them, Rachel, and my mom. The rest of the day I worked on downloading the photos I had taken. It will certainly take me a while to go through them all and get more posted.
I have spent the last 3 days answering a lot of questions from different friends. Most seem to be very surprised at the beauty of Lebanon. The perception most people seem to have of the Middle East is that it is all desert, and all Muslim. The country of Lebanon is about 50% Christian, and it is the only country in the Middle East that has a Christian President. The history of Lebanon is absolutely awesome! It is one of the oldest countries on record, and so many places such as Baalbek and some of the castles were from as far back as the 2nd century A.D. Lebanon has always been known as "The Paris Of The Middle East", and I understand why. The people of Lebanon are very cultured, and very. very educated. Most everyone speaks 3 languages fluently - Arabic, French, and English. I felt very welcomed from the day I arrived to the day I left, and everyone went out of their way to treat me with respect.....from the taxi driver to the waiters, and of course - my friends. I couldn't have had a more enjoyable vacation! I am looking forward to my next visit with great anticipation.
As I told a friend the other day, there were several reasons I wanted to go to Lebanon. One was to see Dody again and meet her friends and family. The second reason is obvious.............I am a photographer. The third reason was to learn more about the country, the history, and the culture. I knew by talking with Dody that the country is not at all what most Americans seem to believe. I knew that through my photos and my notes while I was traveling, if I could educate even ONE person that has negative feelings about the Middle East as a whole, and change their perception and negative thoughts, then I have done my job.
Thank you Dody, Rola, Rita, Loulou, Christopher, Caren, Mrs. Ayoub, Mrs. Harb, and everyone else that helped make this a trip of a lifetime! I love you all!
I finally made the trip to Beirut, Lebanon. It was one of the most fantastic two weeks I have spent in my life. The entire country is a photographer's paradise. I have added a gallery with my Beirut photos, and will be adding to them as I go through the 6000 photos I took. :-)
2011 is almost over. It has been a good year for photography. I signed a contract to have a photo book published of my photos of Lebanon. I'm working on finishing it up this week. Soon you will be able to find Lebanon: Through The Lens Of An American Photographer. Look for it on Amazon.com. I am looking forward to 2012. I have a few weddings booked, and plan to take a trip to the Smokey Mountains to celebrate my 50th birthday. I'm looking forward to renting a log cabin in the mountains and doing a lot of hiking and photography.