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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Romeo and Juliet style

Living in Lebanon you continuously hear of different troubling news going on all over the city: A bomb over here, a gun fight over there, or simply the murders of different names.

When talking about bombs, we get different namings for different kinds (yes you have to learn them if you want to know exactly how much you need to freak out).

So we got the normal (read sarcastically) “humane” hidden explosives like that which killed Rafic Hariri and many others (naming Hariri for it is the most famous one in that type of bombings), where the terrorists hide the C4 under the ground or hide it in a random car on that street. With this type of bombs, you’re going to be fine, whoever was the target it’s done now and you can move on, just try and avoid the area from traffic and curious people.

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The “evil” hidden explosive takes the Lebanese and Syrians back centuries of civilization where we have the suicidal bombers that drive a car around full of C4 before killing themselves and the target (or sometimes just to scare the crowds). When these go off you should panic a bit, especially when there is no specific target, in these cases who knows where they will hit next and you should be careful. But if there was a target then be a bit worried from the crowds that might decide that they’ve had enough and decide to carry their guns once again.

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Or I this case have a wedding to show that love still exists.

Now that’s where the fun begins!

The shooting type and when to be afraid, when to be fine, and when to be very afraid:

The first type I would like to talk about is the “back-clash” gun fire, that usually takes place after a “evil” bomb, it’s when the crowds decide to try and take matters into their own hands by scaring off other crowds, shooting at random people or in the air (of course forgetting that what goes up must come down), and ensuring an interesting number of casualties and injured on the night news.

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These you need to be very afraid of; my father’s cousin was playing golf a couple of months ago when some guys decided to shoot in the air a bit, one of the stray bullets decided to lodge itself in her shoulder before deciding to head out the other side. In cases like these I like to keep a roof over my head and stay away of windows, however far I am from the shooting.

Now the other type of shooting would be the “Romeo and Juliet” style, where you have two random kids from over-excited families that fight over a woman, a seat, a parking space, or even an idea; and end up getting both their families in uproar, shooting at each other from different ends of the street, making the street dividing line a war zone.

Now these clashes are interesting in a way, if you’re close to the streets where either family reside, get away asap, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle (trust me, it could go on for days!), if you reside in the area avoid all windows for the duration of the clashes so not to receive a stray bullet, as well as move the TV and other breakable objects away from the windows and balconies (I miss our old TV!).

Another type of gun-fight, the “cowboy” shooting would be two random guys that just shoot at each other until one gets the other, or in the case where one simply attacks and kills the other straight up for some obscure and unknown past “règlement de compte”. These aren’t scary much at first, you have to wait until you get the names of the person that was killed, and base your decision on whether to be afraid or fine; if one of the people is from an important family, or known as a hot-blooded family, stay at home and avoid contact with the outside, a “Romeo and Juliet” might take place and you’re going to want to stay away from there. If it were some obscure person with an obscure family you’re pretty OK to head out, just keep your guards up just in case.

And last but not least you got the “happy” gunfire, where a proud father who’s soon just graduated wants to show his pride, or a bunch of friends celebrate the wedding of a friend by shooring a row of bullets as fire work. These are usually safe, just as long as you keep a roof over your head you’ll be fine (but you should know that some people were mistakenly injured or worse at some of these “happy” shootings).

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I know, the way I write it makes it feel so much less scary, and the simplicity in which I describe each scene can sound pretty inhumane as well, but after 26 years of being born and growing in this country, I can’t find any other way to be able to put it in without freaking out every second of my life and living in a bubble in the basement (of the building of course! No houses in Beirut!).

Now that we’ve cleared that out, next time you get a bit of news from LBCI, MTV, OTV, AlAkhbar, AlJazeera or any other channel on your phone, you’ll know exactly what to do. Meanwhile I’m going to hide behind my computer.

T.

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KAFA! Enough!

As some of you know, yesterday march 8 was women’s day. And if you’re Lebanese, you would have heard about all the Lebanese wives who have been murdered by their husbands in the last couple of years.

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Gathering for one cause

Yesterday the organization KAFA prepared a rally against these men who were released a week after they had beat their wives to death by our corrupt governments.

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In memory of a woman who was advised to death with a cooking pot

Nearly 500 people showed up, men and women, gay and straight, wives with husbands, and families with children of many generations.

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Look in the mirror, I could be anyone

Lebanese of all religions and social status united to walk against the atrocities.

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Whoever we are, we are women at the end of the day

It’s good to see so many people that have their eyes open to the injustice of abuse and are willing to do something about it.
I just hope they don’t forget about the crisis too soon and give up just now.

T.

Tears of hate

How do you know when you’ve had enough, when the annoying things have overflowed in the cup of your brain and patience?

I’m not sure if I have reached that level but it sure feels like it if not worse sometimes. Getting to my house or leaving my house have become a suffering process I have to go through daily, and most times two to three times a day.

It is not my home in itself that I find insufferable, but the process of getting there; it is not the traffic and the road that annoy me so much, but the process of security check point I have to pass through to get home; and of course it is not the safety check points that are being put all over the country to protect us from car bombers and drug dealers, but the checkpoints that a politician that decided to stick around in the center of Beirut keeps adding and enlarging, while making the roads smaller and tougher to go through.

It currently takes me 15 to 30 minutes to get in or out of my house through a distance of 7 meters (yes yes, you read that right). Imagine me forgetting something at home while heading out, I will need to have my car searched again from top till bottom, inside and outside, with no privacy or intimacy left for my dignity to hang on to.

Now it does make sense in some ways, I agree that having the outside of my car searched with mirrors to check for any harm that someone might have stuck to the bottom of my car. I have no idea who sees me driving in and out of this extremely secured area, so I agree, search the outside of my car with all the mirrors you can, and do a good job when searching please.

But when they search the inside of my trunk, ask me to open my windows in the middle of the pouring rain to see what’s on the seat next to me and in the back seat is annoying; and of course they never miss staring at my legs and breasts in the process, taking their time to take it all in before going to search the trunk, going through all my groceries, destroying packaging and such to make sure ‘you aren’t hiding a bomb or guns in there’; so I got a question for them, do you seriously think I might want to bomb my own home, destroy all my belongings and kill my family? (I hope I don’t look like someone who might, but who in his right mind ever might do so?). And of course searching your car’s engine (why? Most of the time you guys don’t even know how to open it, much less know what should and what shouldn’t be there).

Don’t get me wrong, I love and respect the Lebanese army a lot, but it’s the cops I don’t respect; these sleazy men that whistle at you and stare at point blank without feeling shameful or respecting you, it’s those souls that never had an education, those kids that used to carry guns during the war, those people who learnt that the only way to get something is to take it. I have no respect for such scum in my life (fortunately there are some very few whose parents gave a correct education to).

So here are my questions to this politician who’s been abusing power (like all the others in Lebanon) and is now afraid of repercussions. Why don’t you move up to the mountains and hills like all the others did before you? You have closed in 6 roads, already put two businesses on the street and now, with your growing fear, and multiple road closings, you’re putting another business on the pavement.

Second, they search my car, bags and all my belongings from top to bottom on the first check point, so why add a second one? I doubt my car or any of my belongings will change or anything will be added within 2 meters (makes sense? It does to me).

Third, you’re currently adding extra protection to the entrances; first there were a small gate and a small wall, then it became a larger gate with 3 meter high walls, where I can’t even see my house anymore; a couple of months ago you started digging a huge hole in the ground to add a metal springing road blocker with sharp points that ‘can stop a 3 ton truck driving 70km/h’. I’m not sure what you will need that for, the road up towards it is already paved and full of cement blocks making it close to impossible to drive through (worse than trying for your driving license!).

And now, yesterday to be precise, you started digging holes in front of the first road-block, making it close to impossible for my mum’s car (which is a big land cruiser tank- 1999) from passing through without one of the wheels slipping through the cracks. Turns out you want to now add towers and more gates, closing in 17 homes, 4 office businesses, a mall entrance, and a school entrance.

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In yellow is the ‘secure area’, in pink are all the road blocks, the yellow dot is the politician’s home, in red are the offices, purple is the mall, and green is the school.
And of course all the security cameras pointed at our bedroom windows, bathrooms and salon that makes your life feel like ‘The Truman Show’.

Trying to invite friends or family over for dinner is a huge hassle, either for having to call their “security office” so they would let them in after a 30 minute search, or most of the time not let them in at all saying it’s for our own security; honey if you weren’t here we wouldn’t need to fear anything; I wouldn’t have to fear someone that might stick a bomb to the bottom of my car, I wouldn’t have to fear the people that are fed up with you during black days when they attack and shoot their guns towards you, I wouldn’t have to hold in my pee for half an hour while waiting for you to drool all over my tights and try to understand how the car’s engine works, I wouldn’t have to hate going home or leaving it in the first place, because then I wouldn’t need to go through this terrible process and have to add it to the usual traffic of Beirut.

 

As some of you might have read in my previous posts about my love to this country, and lately have noticed how many things make me hate it as much as I love it; unfortunately it is not just hate that’s been boiling in my heart, but loathing, a feeling stronger than love. You are the ones making me want to actually leave this country at times, and it makes me so sad to actually say it out loud, and even worse write it down.

Sometimes I just want to leave this country and its stupidness, its immature people, its abusive politicians, its drivers, and its brainwashed crowds. I’m getting tired, and yet I keep fighting, still wishfully hoping that one day we Lebanese will take things into our own hands.

Tomorrow there is a rally that will take place for KAFA, I will be there, and hopefully many Lebanese, men and women will join us, let’s just hope that after the rally the government will take into consideration our pleas, and that the people won’t just give up saying: “yeah we went to the rally, we did our job, now we can go home and forget about it”. Let’s hope they will fight for once, and keep nagging our politicians who are supposed to protect us, as a community, as a country, and as individuals.

I put my voice out there. Maybe sometime soon others will stop accepting the oppression.

T.

Trashing Lebanon

Strangely very few Lebanese people are aware of what has been going on in Beirut and mount Lebanon specifically over the past four days. But questions have started arising with the smells and pollution increases around their homes and streets.
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So here’s the headline for those trying to figure out why trash has been piling up all over the streets and Sukleen trucks (whose job is to remove waste from the streets to the landfill) have been MIA: a sit-in has been taking place on the road leading to the landfill by residents of Naameh and Ain Drafill in protest over the lack of care and sky-rocketing degrees of pollution taking place in the landfill.

As some of you might know the landfill was excavated and ready to take in 2 thousand tons of waste for a limited time of 10 years until the government provides a new facility for the waste to be divided, treated accordingly, and made eco-friendly as to not destroy what is left of health in the country (which of course they still haven’t done anything about after 15 years and more than 10 thousand tons).

Now all I’ve read and seen are people protesting and not taking matters into their own hands; one blog post I read believes the best way to take matters into their own hands is by piling up the trash in front of our politician’s homes in the hopes that they will take action. But I believe otherwise.

If as many people as they say are protesting and feeling an unfairness when it comes to the treatment of trash in Beirut; the best way to treat the matter is either to provide a waste treatment plan for the government (who’s apparently too ignorant over what’s happening) or take matters into their own hands literarily and take action as NGOs in helping out Sukleen workers in the division of trash for later recycling.

Of course being Lebanese and thinking too high of ourselves, most of us prefer simply sending out the blame on others and/or getting Syrian, Sudanese, and Palestinian minority staff to do the “dirty job” for them.

I for one took matters into my own hands and got them dirty while growing up, by dividing my trash into plastics, paper, organic matter, glass, and solids over the years (a knowledge which I have learnt and acquired from my parents). Most of you will ask “then what? Now you have 5 different piles of trash but no way to get rid of them”. The answer is actually simple, we already have in Lebanon waste recycling facilities for plastic, glass, and papers; you simply need to look up the one that is closest to your home or arrange a monthly pick-up with the companies to help you out.

As for the organic matter, we Lebanese continuously use and abuse chemical additives as fertilizers for our plants, crops, or actual agricultural fields; which ends up seriously harming the environment as well as the fruits themselves. Why not instead make an organic compost in your back-garden; I know that you’re probably thinking we don’t have back-gardens in Beirut, just apartment houses; but in that case why not work with your building’s or street’s community and provide a space for you all to put your organic trash to be composted before using it as a natural fertilizer, or sending it off to those with agricultural farms in need of the nutrients it provides instead of spraying chemicals all over them.

When you look at it this way you realize almost 80% if not more of your trash will be re-used and going separate ways to different treatment facilities instead of piling up the whole load in one landfill and over-exceeding its size and limits.

As for the 20% of the non-reusable trash being sent to the landfill? Well the government will have to deal with them accordingly the same way all other countries treat their waste and dispose of it without harming the environment, water, or air; as well as providing the towns close to the landfill with clean living and a healthy future.

This kind of changes the perspective on things doesn’t it?

For those interested in a recycling plan, here are some companies that can help you out, not just by taking into their own hands your trash, but sometimes even paying you for it:
http://www.lebanonclean.org/uploads/4/6/0/0/4600018/management_of_recyclable_marterial_for_lebanese_municipalities.pdf

Still hoping for a greener Lebanon.

T.

A man’s work

Being a woman from the Middle East I always hear of men having to build their home before proposing to the woman of their dreams, unfortunately this habit has been lost over the years with the help of real estate and gender equality in some cases, but not everywhere.

Walking through a village or having a conversation with an old man, you hear his stories of years of work and endurance to build, by hand, a home for his future wife and children to live in.

Walking into these homes you see how personalized these spaces are, not just in the interior decorations, but in the basic architecture of the place; a man that loves watching sunsets will build a house with an outdoor seating to watch the sunsets from; and you notice that this room or space in particular is bigger than any other in the house. Same goes for a man that enjoys spending time in the kitchen will unconsciously make the space bigger, and divide it in a smarter way than a man that doesn’t care much about this space.

I met a man nearly 5 years ago, that finally got through to the woman of his dreams; that man works as a chef in a small restaurant off Hamra street, a restaurant where only hotel guests usually go; so they got engaged, and weren’t married until a year ago when he had finally finished building an apartment over his parent’s house for him and his wife.

The length of time that they take before being able to move in with a loved one tests their love in one way, while it also shows how well that man understands his future wife’s needs by providing her with spaces she enjoys spending time in, as well as common places where both of them can spend time together, and build a family.

The difference between this old habit and the new trends of renting or buying ready-made apartments or houses is the test of trust, knowledge, and time that each couple has to go through before committing themselves to each other; and as I have noticed (I won’t say statistically since I couldn’t find any study about it), from the people I have met to those I have heard of; neither of these couples (if not one or two) have gone later through a divorce; while couples that simply buy or rent end up having trouble sharing the spaces, or meeting in the same one, concluding their relationship into a sometimes ugly divorce.

Now I’m not saying men have to go through that habit again; though sometimes it is quite cute and romantic, but since we women have become more independent and thrive for equality of genders, I think the wait between an engagement before the wedding day is safer, as to learn more about the other, and both find a place that suits both of their needs; that being a personal space and a common one.

Still it keeps me wondering; how can a house become a home if each wall and corner isn’t personalized enough from the beginning of the journey? You might say its habit and building new memories on each centimeter of the space; but maybe there’s something more I haven’t figured out yet between the lines.

T.

Third world country you say?

The conversation I had last night was a debate between the different cultures and how much each know about the other.

Take for example Lebanon, a country recognised as a third world place, where wars keep raging and bombs going off. Yet have a cultural conversation with any Lebanese, you notice the extend of their knowledge about the others.

On the other hand have a conversation with an American about Lebanon, Europe, or any other country; their knowledge is limited to what the media shows them. 

I’ve got a half Lebanese half Swiss friend that had to travel back to Switzerland to continue her studies. A Swiss person taking the same masters degree as her asked her this simple question:
“what was the hardest part to get used to from moving to Switzerland?”.
Of course my friend being ironic replies:
“wearing shoes, they’re so uncomfortable and hard getting used to”.
To which he reacts by saying:
“Oh my god!of course! But isn’t walking in the desert all the time barefoot burn your heels? If you want I’ll help you out with all the technology such as computers and listening to music… [And on and so forth]“.

This is the funniest part I believe, the fact that this guy who’s supposed to come from a first world country with a history of education not even know the semblance of life people have in other countries. Lebanese teens learn of different cultures and their history throughout school and high school, as well as college; which is not the case for most European or American students that simply learn the history of their own country completely disregarding the others.

Moral of the rambling: I think human kind needs to rethink and reorganise what it means to be culturally intelligent versus economically advanced.

T.

Who’s a Martyr?

If you look through Wikipedia, you find an interesting explanation to the word that has taken over most of our lives in Lebanon:

“In its original meaning, the word martyr, meaning witness, was used in the secular sphere as well as in the New Testament of the Bible.[1] The process of bearing witness was not intended to lead to the death of the witness, although it is known from ancient writers (e.g. Josephus) and from the New Testament that witnesses often died for their testimonies.

During the early Christian centuries, the term acquired the extended meaning of a believer who is called to witness for their religious belief, and on account of this witness, endures suffering and/or death. The term, in this later sense, entered the English language as a loanword. The death of a martyr or the value attributed to it is called martyrdom.

The early Christians who first began to use the term martyr in its new sense saw Jesus as the first and greatest martyr, on account of his crucifixion.[2][3][4] The early Christians appear to have seen Jesus as the archetypal martyr.[5]

The word martyr is used in English to describe a wide variety of people. However, the following table presents a general outline of common features present in stereotypical martyrdoms.

Common features of stereotypical martyrdoms[6]
1. A hero A person of some renown who is devoted to a cause believed to be admirable.
2. Opposition People who oppose that cause.
3. Foreseeable risk The hero foresees action by opponents to harm him or her, because of his or her commitment to the cause.
4. Courage and Commitment The hero continues, despite knowing the risk, out of commitment to the cause.
5. Death The opponents kill the hero because of his or her commitment to the cause.
6. Audience response The hero’s death is commemorated. People may label the hero explicitly as a martyr. Other people may in turn be inspired to pursue the same cause.

Click here for more information. Being a Martyr in Lebanon has a whole different meaning though, it means dead in vain, it’s those that had different views, those that tried to free themselves from bribings, those poor souls that were around these free thinkers. it’s those who lost their lives before their time in drastic turn of events, bombings, gun shots, and random killings.

But I read this interesting post from joestencents where he depicts the lives of the Lebanese in the midst of wars, bomb explosions, and fighting. I fully agree with most of what is written in the post, except a few points that I believe are harder to deal with, or even explain.

In the part “With an opposition with the memory of a goldfish, that feels no implication when their own people are murdered, that continues business as usual when an explosive shakes the city, why would you feel the least bit of resistance? No one is asking you to lock yourself home and cry in your bedroom. But when your people are being bombed, murdered, dismembered… the least you can do is radiate a sense of concern.” I ask you Joe this: how much grieving can a human heart take in before dying out in your body?

I luckily didn’t loose anyone too dear to me in the last car bomb assassination; and I consider myself extremely lucky to have been spared; I never said I erased the names of those that died as well, I grieved for a brief moment, but if I were to grieve in extremes like you propose we do, I think I would have died a couple of years ago due to my heart dissolving.

I know your post comes from a fed-up sense of Lebanon, and I fully agree with you, but if we don’t limit the intake, how can you expect to be able to live a full and healthy life?

 

There is another part I would like to point out in your post: “When a car bomb exploded earlier in August in Roueiss, some of my European friends messaged me asking me if I was okay, as they had read that a “bomb exploded in the center of Beirut”. That night, I sent them a picture of Uruguay street in Downtown Beirut, bustling with people having a drink and not having a care in the world. Roueiss who?”

In this part you’re generalizing the Lebanese, trying to make them follow your own way of thinking, and even though I agree with you, I have to point out something else; if we were to stop our lives every time a bombing attempt takes place (which unfortunately happens way too often in Lebanon), how do you expect Lebanon, as an economic country, to survive? after all someone needs to keep the work going, people need to go out and use whatever fun the city has to offer to keep their minds off depression, bar owners have a business to run, so do parking lot keepers, bankers, and each and every market. Imagine if it were all to shut down for a couple of days everytime a tragedy hits our country; we’ll stay even more stagnate than we already are and kill all hopes for a better future, making young spirits leave their home even more than they already are, and keep our home a dark nightmare.

My view might be a bit extreme as well, but I like to view all options when looking at my home, especially since I’m still planning on staying here, living here, and raising my kids in the same streets I grew up in. So why not?

I love the idea of a Cedar Revolution, unfortunately I believe that the only way we would be able to do that is by removing all forms of political parties, all forms of outside sources (aka Syria, Saudi Arabia, USA, Iran and all those not 100% Lebanese), and of course all religious divisions before being able to find a crowd of Lebanese all carrying the same flag in their hearts.

So if by any chance you manage to find more people like us, send me a hint, I’ll be there with flowers and hugs, ready to grieve, laugh, love, and share.

T.

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