Thursday, July 21, 2005
A STITCH IN TIME
My cousin, Jihad Azour, is the new Finance Minister in the just announced Lebanese cabinet.
He’d recently ordered some suits from a Beirut tailor, who now wants to know if he wants the pockets made any deeper.Try saying that in any other Arab country.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
DAYS OF THUNDER
“So foul a sky clears not without a storm”
Two days since the Lebanese parliament passed an amnesty law for jailed Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and the celebrations have yet to subside.
The most obvious manifestation of this are the fireworks which I’ve been hearing day and night since Monday, although they have abated a bit since Monday’s ceaseless barrage.
The first such phenomenon I’ve seen in this country and the first instance of fireworks during the day that I know of anywhere.On my walks I see the remains of fireworks strewn across the road.
Monday, July 18, 2005
SKYROCKETS IN FLIGHT.AFTERNOON DELIGHT
Fireworks are exploding, church bells are ringing and car horns are sounding as Free Lebanon* erupts in joyous celebration of an amnesty decree for jailed Lebanese Forces leader Doctor Samir Geagea** that has just been passed by the Lebanese parliament.
The Aounists may have won all the parliamentary seats in this area but the Lebanese Forces still rule at the grassroots level.
*The self-styled yet accurate civil war era name of the Christian heartland.
*Pronounced "jah jah" (as in Zsa Zsa Gabor) not "gay gay" as a friend on mine once heard it pronounced on the radio in the UK.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Monkey season is well underway – as I write I can hear my cousins and their friends playing outside, enjoying their summer holidays.
Thud, thud, thud - man, Omar plays a lot of basketball.
He instigates just about every basketball game played in Harisa.
I’m afraid that the boy will wake up black one day.
There’s quite a community of baby boomers around here.
I don’t know whether there was baby boom after the civil war ended here in 1990 but it would appear that there was – there’s a gaggle of kids in the neighborhood and most of them are under fifteen.
Quite a community spirit around here too, as there is in most communities across the country – the whole community seems to raise kids in this society.
The manouchie man once threatened to slap Omar because he thought that he hadn’t responded as robustly as he should have when he was set upon by three older boys in the village.
He threatens his own son with the same fate too – if you’re afraid to fight back against bullies because you don’t want to be hit, you’ll merely meet the same fate back home.
Fortunately, it wasn’t a major incident – there isn’t that much violence or crime in Lebanon, particularly of the gratuitous kind you often get in Western societies.
For a people who spent fifteen years fighting each other, the Lebanese are quite a peaceful and pacific people.
When disputes do arise, they’re over and done with surprisingly quickly.
My friend Will observed that you’ll often see people cursing each other and squaring off for a fight (over traffic disputes for example), only to have passersby separate them and reconcile them – two people who were seemingly going to kill each other only moments ago kiss and shake hands.
Once at the pub, a British friend of mine observed that another British friend who was drunk and bumping into people left, right and center “would have been beaten up several times by now in a civilized society”.
The drunkard, now an accomplished Arabist so he must have been doing something right, was also asking complete strangers what religion they were.
No one seemed to take offence.
Imagine what would happen if you went around asking people at a pub in Belfast, or even in London, what religion they were.
We ended up bundling him off home in a taxi and carrying on without him – I don’t know what religion the taxi driver was but I’m sure that our friend does.
My friend Eli reckons that we should advertise this aspect of Lebanese tolerance – ‘’Come to Lebanon where you can act like a retard in total safety’’.
Said Arabist was once called a murderer by a famous Lebanese historian for suggesting at a conference that the Lebanese should have just kept fighting until a clear winner emerged.
He may indeed sound like a murderer if you view it in an ad hominen sense but, logically, it may be better than the chronic instability of the Lebanese ‘’no victor no vanquished’’ so-called solution.
Even Lebanese motor bikers are on the whole pacific.
At around midnight one recent night, my cousins and I were outside mucking around when two bikers tore past.
My younger cousin, all of twelve years old, cheekily screamed out some indistinguishable nonsense to them.
Lo and behold, they stopped, turned around and came back towards us.Not a good sign, but they merely wanted to know whether everything was okay – they’d thought that there was something wrong and he was screaming out for assistance.
The manouchie man also once refused to sell me ice cream and a drink when I was treating my cousins because they should have one thing only when someone is treating.
The boy monkeys have shaved their hair off out of the mistaken belief around these parts that shaving your hair off a couple of times when your young will prevent future baldness.
Don’t try this at home – baldness is the external manifestation of an internal process so external “remedies” like shaving your hair off are not going to have any effect on that internal process that is baldness.
One of my uncles did the same thing when he was a lad and he is now just as bald as the rest of his brothers.
At least it’s better than another baldness prevention folk remedy I heard of – having a cow lick your head.
How do you get a cow to lick your head anyway?
The hairdressing had a sense of humor – asking my cousins if they wanted hair gel after shaving their hair off.
The upshot of them shaving their hair off is that they must save a fortune on gel – the younger boy used to practically dip his head in the stuff and I perceive that know that he’s off it for a while, petrol prices will stabilize.
He also marinates himself in eau de cologne and deodorant.
The other day I let him try my deodorant on the condition that he spray it on in Guy’s room and not mine, as is my custom.
The monkeys have even fashioned their own rudimentary basketball court outside – complete with a graffitied message on the wall under the hoop asking people, in formal Arabic, not to park there.
I pity the fool who does.
One poor sucker once parked his car there, so the enterprising monkeys, unable to play basketball anymore, played on the car instead – climbed and stood on it.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
E.B: “Sometimes I get so frustrated that I just want to kill myself”
R.O: “That would be such a shame when there are so many people who’d like to kill you”.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
It’s always somebody’s birthday in Lebanon.
Let me clarify that, it’s always somebody’s birthday in any country but in Lebanon it seems that whenever you go out to a restaurant, pub, club etc, there’s someone celebrating a birthday – the requisite turning off of the lights, a waiter bringing in a cake with sparklers on it, birthday music playing and people singing happy birthday.In Lebanon, everybody and not just the members of the birthday party gets a piece of cake.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
“How am I supposed to recognize her?”
- a man in an elevator, leaving a social event where he had been asked by a veiled woman if he recognized her.
Friday, July 01, 2005
A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES
The Liberal/National Party Coalition, already a majority in the House of Representatives, takes control of the Australian Senate today.