Brendon Gawel performed with CWB – USA during our 2014 tour to the Philippines, and he joins our 2018 tour to Lebanon. Brendon writes about the ways that an unfamiliar place can both surprise us and remind us of the familiar.
Hearing, But Not Understanding
I don’t understand Arabic at all. And yet…I swear, the Arabic I hear sounds like I should understand it. It has a familiar rhythm, and it sounds like my American English, but only in tone. I don’t understand any content. English and French words are peppered in, and I understand those (well, the English ones, and about 12 of the French ones). But dang if I don’t use every last French word I know!
How Does an Urban Refugee Camp Form?
There’s a refugee camp in the middle of the city. What did I know about refugee camps before I came here? Only what I saw on TV: sprawling UN tents in rural, dusty settings. But our first show is in a camp in the middle of Beirut. It looks like any other set of city blocks, just not as well maintained. How did this area become a camp? It doesn’t seem purpose-built. I wonder if these houses were abandoned before, or if local residents were pushed out to make the camp. I live in a city in the United States, and I try to imagine how this would work in Philadelphia.
Multiplicity of Religion
I read up on the history of Lebanon before coming here, but the visible presence of Christianity is still a surprise. There are so many churches, crosses and statues of saints. It’s all alongside Arabic signage, political posters of Imams and calls to prayer at 5am.