This was probably the third or fourth time I see her come in, pick up her drink, and walk out. Always loud. Always colorful; by what she wears and by the color of her hair. I’ve witnessed black, red, silver, long, short, and a lot in between. And that’s only in about 3 month’s time.
The woman of extremes walks in one day with another gentleman. They sit at the next table and she strikes a conversation. Within 60 seconds, she asked: “You must have walked the Camino (de Santiago). Haven’t you?”
“Yes!” I got all excited. We talked and became friends.
Wadi El Salib Reserve hike in the Lebanese mountains
Gino walked the Camino, wrote a book about it, and never stopped hiking since. In Lebanon, she’s active with The Lebanon Mountain Trail, Born2hike, Lebanon Outdoor Adventure, and the Lebanese Adventure Trails. The outdoors is home to her. She loves smelling nature, observing the wildlife, taking selfies, and standing still in a minus 6 Celcius weather to listen to the snowflakes crush under hikers’ boots.
29 years in South Africa and counting
Right after her wedding in Beirut, she took off to South Africa with her husband Gus (Son of Martha). She made a wonderful life there: 3 kids, 2 nannies, 3 dogs, one gardener, a mansion, 24-hour camera protection, electric fences, very good coffee, and yes, a husband. While she’s grateful for the life that she has, today she’d rather have a 100 m2 apartment that she can lock and leave for yet another world adventure.
After 29 years, she has had it all in South Africa. Yet, her heart beats for Lebanon. Her heart is with the Lebanese. She belongs in Lebanon. She belongs to Lebanon. She just turned 50 and feels the need to be home. This Armenian-Syrian-Lebanese-South African woman has no blood ties to Lebanon; yet she simply loves its people, their energy, their inner soul, and purity.
As her family is her number one priority after being true to her Creator, she struggles to be in person between Johannesburg and Beirut. Once, we’re over COVID, she will spend at least a 3-month summer in Johannesburg and then the summer in Beirut.
By the side of this wild and crazy woman, as she likes to call herself, is a husband who understands and supports her in every way imaginable. She is fire. He is earth.
“He’s always been super mature. I haven’t. Even until now.”
The 50-year-old child who consumes life
“Can I be honest Tony? I will never be mature. I have a child in me that wants to do everything.”
She has survived multiple sclerosis. The very acute kind that hit all her internal organs as they started to shut down. She had 6 months to live. She dropped to 45 kilos and couldn’t even brush her teeth anymore. She had given up on fighting for her life. Gino came to Lebanon to die. Saint Charbel saved her.
To know more about her survival, Gino started publishing her story here on medium. It’s worth following.
She promised herself that she will live beautifully until she dies. It means no negative energy, keep busy and enjoy life fully.
“There are no guarantees in life.”
God is with us in everything and He gives us signs.
“We, humans, are stubborn. We think that we know everything. Excuse my language. We know f*** about life.”
We learn every day; until our last breath.
Her clarity of thought, faith, and matter-of-fact attitude provoked me to dig further. “Do you believe that it’s planned for you? Your life?” I asked.
She believes that the day God created us and we came out of the womb, it is written on our forehead the day we leave this earth. In between, there’s room for free will, and He always sends us signs. She developed very strong antennas to read His signs. She believes that Jesus is God. He is the Savior. He is her Savior.
“I don’t know God. I know Jesus.”
She does not know whether she deserved to stay alive or not, she doesn’t even know why Jesus cured her through St. Charbel. Why did He send her to him? Why did He give her a second chance?
“Maybe because I’m so naughty and he didn’t want me up there. Not yet at least. He wants me here to finish my mission.”
There’s something in her that has to manifest itself. She feels she still has something to do and doesn’t know what it is. She is tirelessly serving when she can while seeking to find her mission.
She believes once we leave this earth, another life will start. We become floating souls. We go to our beautiful lives. Until then, she is squeezing every single drop of life out of her life.
On the road to support youth
She takes advantage of every opportunity to share her life testimony by showing up on podcasts, radio, and tv programs, by visiting students in high schools and universities, and by giving public speeches. She does this in Lebanon and all over the world. Being a natural at them, she enjoys those encounters. Words flow from her, uncensored, unprepared, impactful, and raw.
She talked a good while about the lessons she wants to pass on to youth. I took the liberty to summarize below:
- You are here for a visit. Make it worthwhile.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- If there’s something you don’t like, let it go. Forget and move on.
- Do not hurt people.
- Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.
- Do not regret anything.
- If you need to, get pissed off. Jesus did.
- Don’t judge.
- Love with all your heart and expect nothing in return.
- Say “I love you!”
She talks to her companions all the time. The day we did the chat at Starbucks was the 36th anniversary of her father’s passing. She knows that her father has been with her every single day since. He is her guardian angel and periodically sends her signs. She feels his intensity on her hikes. She did on the Camino de Santiago, on the Lebanon Mountain Trail, and on the Kazbek mountain at 5054-meter elevation. She talks to her dad, Jesus, and Saint Charbel.
The last chapter
One day, the period of roaming the earth would end for Gino. She will settle in one place. She will have a little cottage somewhere in the mountains of Lebanon where people will seek her for companionship and knowledge.
Food and wine will be aplenty! Do you see that open living space? And that huge wall with all sorts of picture frames? The ones that tell her road stories and world excursions? Do you feel the love she exchanged with the people on the paths she crossed?
And that picture of her big happy family with her unborn grandchildren?
And Gus… he’s somewhere on that wall; a tiny picture but holding it all.
Do you hear the giggles of her grandchildren playing in the mud in their Kermit green rubber boots? And grandma… She’s got her blue boots and her bright yellow hat, laughing and giving the little ones a hard time.
Until then, she has many young people to walk and talk with, many mountain tops to climb, and endless love to spread.
Starbucks drink: Grande skinny decaf almond milk latte (kids temperature).