My time teaching English literature courses and conducting research as a Fulbright Traditional Scholar was a rocky year for Lebanon, as it followed Israel’s bombing of parts of Beirut during the summer of 2006. With that war going on as I completed my Fulbright application, I had considered postponing. Yet, I wanted very much to visit the country I had been reading about for some time, and I felt some urgency as I read about the bombardment in The Daily Star and other Lebanese news outlets. I planned to analyze literary memorializations of the Lebanese Civil War (1979-91) while teaching an undergraduate literature course at Lebanese American University. I was excited when I learned my application for the Fulbright had been approved.
Soon after my husband and I got settled in Hamra, Beirut in the fall of 2007, there were a series of car bombings in other parts of the city. We were worried, especially since we were expecting a baby; however, we stuck it out for the fall semester. Teaching at LAU was an eye-opening experience for me. Ordering books for my course was difficult, but I was so impressed with my students, who were wonderfully dedicated and seemed more politically and culturally savvy than their American counterparts. I changed my research plans and wrote an article (later published in College Literature) about Lebanese servant narratives after getting to know the Ethiopian maid who worked in our apartment building. My colleague at LAU, Professor Ken Seigneurie, also introduced me to the novelist Rachid Al-Daif, whose work I would later write about.
I also got to know wonderful doctors and nurses during my Fulbright experience, and I had my baby in a newly built, state-of-the art hospital with trilingual staff (speaking Arabic, French, and English). I still remember the endearing terms in different languages that the Lebanese nurses called my baby. It was a wonderful time in my professional and personal life that I often reflect on. My son (now 13) proudly tells his incredulous classmates that he was born in Beirut.
Rebecca Dyer – Fulbright to Lebanon 2007