Well dear readers… I have only one thing to say. Jimmy is back. Well almost, at least. I opened Al-Kitaab for the first time today in 2 months. I was scared. It’s bizarre for someone who has studied Arabic for 4 years to be scared of opening only the second book. But I was. It was as if memories of an old lover had made me associate the language with him to such an extent that I was scared to reopen even that. But I realized Arabic means more to me than that. And it was incredible at first. It was like 80% of the words I went through on the hundreds of flashcards I made over the course of last year… I had completely forgotten them. But then as I drove home I put these CD’s I had gotten from my Arabic professor at AUB last year – Al-Kitaab On The Go haha – and I it was like meeting an old friend again. I’m extraordinarily comfortable with the language (at least in Modern Standard and Lebanese) that I can usually distinguish a rough meaning even if I can’t pick out the words. The pitch and tone are second nature to me now. It’s great. Even after not touching a book or a flashcard for two months. I’m so tired of suffering over someone who’s turned into nothing less that a perversion of their entire culture. Arabs and Lebanese (one usually must distinguish between the two :-p) are known for being some of the most hospitable people. Some of the most kind people. Even if they don’t know you particularly well they will always extend a hand when you’re in need. They care and they feel things deeply in their hearts. This is probably one of the reasons I fell in love with the Middle East in the first place. And all the Arabs and Lebanese I know are like this except for one, whom I gave my heart to. People are strange. Which is also the name of a fantastic Doors song I believe. I was running tonight at the gym, indoors sadly – because it is so cold in Northern Massachusetts already, and I was thinking about one of my favorite Lebanese people. Guess who? No not you, if you’re reading this. Well, perhaps you are reading this Hasan Nasrallah. And if you are, please don’t cut anybody’s hand off, its just not nice and it totally would make you seem really mean when you always look so nice and cheerful. Anyway, I was thinking it would be rather cool to be the first State Department official or U.S. government representative to meet the big chief himself . I mean I think we all know A LOT would have to happen for U.S. policy to shift that dramatically, to engage Hezbollah, but one cannot doubt that it would be cool. And he honestly has just always seemed like such an interesting person to talk to – and not just because of his charismatic demeanor. I mean the guy really knows the political ideology behind Hezbollah’s Islamic roots. He really knows it. And it would be fascinating to talk to him, one has to admit. But I decided if I ever do get that chance, perhaps in 30 years when I’m Ambassador to Lebanon, I’m going to write a book about it and name it “Tea With Nasrallah.” I think there’s a movie with Judi Dench or one of those awesome British actors called “Tea With Mussolini”, not that I’m comparing anyone here. Wink. But seriously. It’s time to engage. Britain has already recognized Hezbollah’s political arm apparently. It’s time for us to do the same. It is completely within the realm of diplomatic possibility. Historical precedents already exist, if one looks to the U.S. recognition of Fatah and the P.L.O. If you offer people a seat at the table, they will come. Though that strategy doesn’t currently seem to be working all that well just south of the Lebanese border. I agree with a good friend of mine that if the Obama Administration really wants to get Israel’s attention, they’ve got to, er, how shall one say this. Ahem, grab them by the balls. (Balls = $2.7 billion a year in foreign aid). I mean honestly, if the U.S. wants to see its primary foreign policy objective in the Middle East finally put to rest, it has no choice but to do this, or find some way to politically influence events inside Israel so that Prime Minister Netanyahu is forced to reform his coalition with new partners, or a new government is elected. I mean, why can’t we just treat Israel like we used to treat states during the Cold War. God, I miss the Cold War (if you know what movie that is from, you get points!). I mean Israel isn’t even a true democracy, so why not just hop in a stage a coup. It would just solve all our problems over night and we’d probably get some serious credit on the Arab Street, not to mention the Persian Street as well. I doubt anybody would really know how to respond. Anyway, just a tangent. But I’m certainly glad I’ve got my Arabic groove back. There is a reason I want to go back to Lebanon after all. Since it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to the amazing cities of Damascus and Cairo. So, to wrap things up, hopefully there won’t be any hand chopping nonsense until I come back in February.