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"Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.”
-Jane Perrone, The Guardian
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Say what you want about sleeping tablets but at least they work* when used properly which is more than you can say for natural sleep remedies especially for hardcore insomniacs.
When I was last in Sydney, I did something which still fills with me with shame to this very day – I went to a natural store (aka a gay pharmacy) and asked the saleslady for an insomnia remedy as close to sleeping pills as possible (in Australia you obviously need a prescription to buy sleeping pills and Lebanon has since gone that way too).
She wasn’t too impressed and gave me a dirty look and some drops to put under my tongue before I went to sleep, or rather before I planned to go to sleep because they didn’t work.
This somnus cure was the perfect cure for unwanted sleep and unwanted money (it cost fifteen dollars!)
I’ll give her something to put under her tongue!
*Sleeping tablets work but so does rat poison – both are poisonous and I don’t recommend either of them.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Just got back from my first visit to the north in over a year and since the war.
Thankfully I missed the monster traffic jam that has been the lot of everyone travelling to and from the north since the wartime destruction of nearly all the country’s infrastructure.
But I got a chance to see what was causing the traffic jams – bombed-out bridges and roads under repair necessitating snakes and ladders-type detours, deviations etc.
One part of the old road just north of Jounieh was particularly bad – nearly the entire road was blocked by some gigantic piece of road building machinery so cars had to, when directed by a soldier, mount the curb one by one via a small ramp and drive straddling the curb and the road for a couple of meters to get past that part of the road.
I can imagine that that would create a major bottleneck if there was a lot of traffic.
Yesterday was the last day of the Eid el Fitr.
My cousins were, as always, complaining about having to go back to school.
I pointed out to them that this holiday, like any other Muslim holiday, is a complete bonus as it has nothing to do with them, so they should be grateful for this freebie just as I suppose Muslim kids should be when they get Christmas, Easter and other Christian holidays off.
Monday, October 23, 2006
There’s always a magical eureka moment for me in the early stages of reading a book when I cross from uncertainty about the book and cross into the certainty that this book’s a keeper and worth continuing.
Most books I read ‘’turn’ this way because I select the books I read quite carefully and I like to think that I have a knack for choosing good books.
Until the moment a book ‘’turns’’ I always feel a bit lost and at sea in general.
After that moment I feel like I’ve reached the shore and am back in the business of reading.
When I was a kid I used to make parachutes out of garbage bags and throw my cats off the (one storey) garage roof.
Most of the times it would work and the parachutes would deploy and the other times, the cats were martyrs (albeit living martyrs) for science.
It amused me.
Just as amusing was watching the dumfounded expressions of amazement of the other cats (on terra firma) looking up at their cohorts dropping from the sky.
It’s raining cats and cats.
And I must stress that it wasn’t animal abuse but science.
If the Russians can send dogs and monkeys (and probably elephants for all we know - don’t expect full disclosure from the Soviets) into space, never to return, then surely I can throw a cat off a four meter high garage roof with a perfectly good parachute (albeit one made out of a big garbage bag).
In scenes that bring to mind Borat’s Kazakhstan, little Kurdish looking kids used to sell sheep on the side of the highway in Beirut in the run-up to the Muslim holiday of Eid el Adha (which commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac for God but ending up sacrificing a ram in his stead after God stops him at the last minute) and is often marked by the ritualistic sacrificing of sheep.
I remember a service I was in stopping so the driver could haggle for a sheep (the price was about a hundred thousand Lebanese liras as I recall).For some reason or other, the sale didn’t occur which was good because I didn’t want to share the service with a sheep.
But the driver was still determined to acquire a sheep and told me that it would be a nice treat for his son to pet the sheep for the few days remaining until Eid.
‘’Yeah great’’ I thought to myself ‘’he’ll pet it for a few days, get attached to it and then you’ll kill it – I hope you have a good pension plan for your old age because that kids going to hate you for ever!’’.
A hundred thousand liras for a live (albeit soon-to-be-dead) sheep is quite a bargain when you consider that the going price for a dead goat is a hundred US dollars.
A Lebanese/Australian friend of mine told me how peasants in her Western Bekka village used to push a live goat into the paths of passing vehicles driven by unsuspecting expats home for the summer and then demand a hundred dollars compensation for the dead goat from the driver.
I asked her whether such a ruse worked and she replied that it had already cost her three hundred dollars.
That was in 1991 and I’m no longer in contact with goat girl so I don’t know whether it’s still happening but I suspect that one wouldn’t abandon such a lucrative goat pushing career in a hurry.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
During the civil war, my aunty reproached a man she knew for renting out what was basically a converted chicken coop to some rich Saudis who had fled the fighting in Beirut to Free Lebanon (Christian Mount Lebanon) for an exorbitant amount.
‘’Do you really think that when they (these Saudis) say ‘all Christians are so-and-sos’’’ he replied ‘’they’re going to say ‘except Y___ C___ (himself)’?’’.
Ripping-off Saudis is practically a national sport here.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Insomnia is a nightmare you have when you’re wide awake.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Who knew that consecrated Communion bread can not be thrown away?
A priest performing a yearly mass I attended at a residential private chapel certainly did - he had ‘’catered’’ for more than the small number of us that were in attendance, so he had to scoff down the remaining wafers at the end of Communion as we watched (and there were enough of them to delay proceedings).
The attendees had to suppress their sniggers just as he probably had to suppress his indigestion.
Maybe he shops at the wrong supermarket - the Communion bread I saw at the supermarket (yes they do sell Communion bread at the supermarket I go to) had a six month expiry date although it wasn’t blessed.
Maybe they should have value-added blessing to it.
Communion bread wasn’t always so easy to come bye.
My mother tells me that, during her internal exile at a Lebanese convent in the 1960’s (prior to her and my father being exiled from the country – but that’s their own story to tell), the nuns used to make their own Communion bread and give her the scraps.
Poor little Muslim girl!
Even when I was a boy I had to ‘’steal’’ Communion bread.
I didn’t really steal it but misappropriated it once by secretly pocketing the wafer given to me at Communion at Sunday mass.
It mustn’t have been that secret because the officiating priest noticed and whispered to me that he wanted to see me after mass.
After mass I told the priest that I wanted my sister, who had yet to be Communed, to experience what Communion bread tasted like and the kindly priest told me that it was the wrong thing to do and that she would taste it ‘’legally’’ in due time and let me off.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
It seems that photo processing shops are an endangered species in Lebanon – frequented mainly by Sri Lankans, the only people who it appears still use traditional non-digital cameras.
An even rarer bird is the traditional Armenian photographer.
Armenians are a practical people and, years ago, most photographers, car mechanics, tinkers, etc, here in Lebanon were Armenians.
One such relict can be found in central Jounieh.
The proprietor, an elderly stocky gentleman who wears Coke bottle glasses and looks like an old James Bond-style Soviet villain, is a master of his craft but not a master of the Arabic language or diplomacy.
When I last had passport pictures taken there he told me ‘’shut your mouth’’ as he was posing me.
A friend of mine fared much worse there though.
Unhappy with the way he looked in his portrait shots, he remonstrated with the snapper who replied ‘’ you should thank God that they’re not worse – if I hadn’t have retouched them you wouldn’t have come out looking like a son of Adam (human being)’’.