It was 1953 when I was sent to the International College in preparation for the American University of Beirut. Since we had no house in Beirut, I was a boarder student in the dormitories�Sage Building to be exact. I learned the first day I arrived, in the fall of 1953, that I had 2 other roommates. I had not eaten all day and was waiting for food to come, but to no avail. My hunger finally made me complain. The instructor, Mr. Sami Talhouk, started laughing and informed me that it was 9 pm and that the cafeteria only opened till 7 pm. The only other alternative was to shout SOS to Walid, the owner of a sandwich restaurant adjacent to the IC basketball court. In fact, this is what I did; I stood up on the fence, shouted �Walid,� and ordered 2 sandwiches worth 30 cents. Mr. Talhouk, who was also our chemistry instructor, then gave us a brief orientation, after which we went to sleep. This was the end of my first day at Sage Hall. Not only did I have to share my room with 2 other students, but I had to share a bathroom and a shower with all the other students and teachers. The showers were shared and had no curtain in between. I certainly felt shy, initially, to take a shower naked in front of my teachers. However, it did not take me long to adjust to my new life.
The first year came to an end and I went back to Marjayoun, my hometown, for the summer. I noticed the freedom I was missing in Beirut. Nowadays people go to college for freedom. In my days, college was more restrictive and discipline was expected from students, especially those in the dorms. Anyway, summer was quickly over and I prepared myself for the second year. I was disenchanted to leave my family but excited to go back to Beirut. This time I knew what to ask for: a private room!! Yes, a private room on the third floor of the building facing ACS. Watching those beautiful American girls at ACS was certainly on my agenda. I started this second year with a better attitude and more experience. Early that year, I got a visit from my mother and my grandfather, who brought me kibbi and some other goodies. Just before leaving, my grandfather gave me 20 LP as pocket money. This was a lot of money! That week, I was able to attend my first big concert: the international singer Dalida at Rivoli�s. We gathered our friends from the social club and went to see her. Around the same time, Mr. York, our English teacher, started to teach us how to dance to Rock-&-Roll. The Social Club was expanding, and we were organizing more parties, the first of which was at the president�s house. More parties were later organized in the cafeteria, courts and IC buildings. As I mentioned earlier, we were generally not allowed to leave the IC buildings, except on specific occasions. These parties were occasions for us to meet girls, since they were the only events where we were allowed to mix with them.
I remember that it was the 16th of March of that year�1956�that the infamous earthquake happened. I was studying in my room when I felt the whole building shake. The sirens were turned on and we all fled hysterically out of Sage Hall and onto the basketball court, some with clothes on and some without. We did not know what was going on. It was only later that we learned that a major earthquake had killed and injured hundreds of people in the Bekaa Valley.
Happier memories�often of classmates and faculty�stand out. Names of students that come to my mind from my section C are Amal Jaber, Mohammad Kabbani, Ziad Ghandour (a great basketball player) and Omar Arakji. As for faculty, I remember Mr. Hassan Baltagi playing the piano and Nabil Sukkar from Syria. I also remember Mr. Vitier, the French teacher, Mr. York the English teacher, Mr. Nadir the math teacher, Mr. Jeha for history, Mr. Talhouk for Chemistry, Mr. Alameddine for sports and Mr. Khoury for Arabic, a guy with an incredible sense of humor. The president was Mr. Levitte, a very serious man with a very good heart.
Sage Hall was a blast, and those days were the greatest. They were soon to end, though, and I graduated and was admitted to the American University of Beirut, where I spent the next 4 years of my life studying for my Bachelors degree in PSPA with a minor in economics. Time passed very quickly after that, and I spent some time in Saudi Arabia and then in Lebanon working for the Saudi Arabian Airlines for close to 30 years. A few years after I left AUB, I married Souad Ferzli. This was in 1970. We had 2 children: Sami, currently a physician in Reproductive Surgery and Infertility in Texas; and Tania, who has a Master�s in Public Health, and works for the American Life Insurance Company. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they would never end.