Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Team Lebanon: A fragmented land

Beirut, Lebanon

We landed in Istanbul, Turkey on Friday evening (Dec. 11) and had an opportunity to see the city for a few hours. I am not sure exactly what part of the city we went to, but we hopped on the train and got off at the busiest looking stop to look around. We ate at a great Turkish restaurant and the meal included lamb and chicken shishkabobs. After a few hours in Istanbul, we finally landed in Beirut at around 2:00 am. We are staying at a beautiful hotel in a very central location. Our first morning ,we met with the Vice President of the Central Banking Control Commission who gave us great insight on Lebanon's banking industry. Since then we have met with a few Ministers of Parliament, the mayor of a town near the Israeli border, and visited a town near the Syrian border. We were also able to meet up with Notre Dame alums Naji and Jill who own the Chateau Belle-Vue vineyard near Beirut.

So far we have been able to conclude that all issues in Lebanon revolve around the 18 different political/religious sects in the country. Everyone here is very efficient at working alone, but when it comes to working as one towards a goal, little ever is accomplished. CRS has been a joy to work with and they (along with the many other NGO's we have met with) have exceeded our expectations. Thus far I would have to say the most intriguing part of the trip was visiting with an NGO in southern Lebanon which created a business incubator which provided support for businesses in the food and manufacturing industries.

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