Nearly all the posts are bilingual.
Presque tous les articles sont bilingues.

English spoken. On parle français. (وكمان منفهم عربي، حبيبي)

Most of this blog's contents is subject to copyright. For instance, many of the latest illustrations I've made myself. I'm the cooperative type. If you intend to borrow some material, please contact me by leaving a comment. :-)
La plupart du contenu de ce blog est soumis aux droits d'auteurs. Par exemple, nombre des illustrations les plus récentes sont faites par moi. Je suis du genre coulant. Si vous comptez emprunter du contenu, SVP contactez-moi en laissant un commentaire. :-)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Ya nahar abyad?"

''Ya nahar abyad!''
"Oh white day". Arabian expression.
It's not all dates of malediction. Surely, mutatis mutandis, if things keep getting worse either you end up dead or one day they get better!
In Burma, option 1. In Lebanon, looks like it's answer #2.
May 21st, 2008. For starters, in the morning, a sign from Destiny: my parents' lost suitcase (you remember it, right?) has been found, and is awaiting them at the Airport. Where we find out, because everybody's watching TV, that the Doha tourists chose to agree together so they'd be sure to be allowed back. On the way home, a traffic jam in downtown Beirut. The cause? The Opposition having gotten satisfaction, its demonstrators that had been camping there for more than a year are immediately dismantling their tents, mission accomplished (© G.W.Bush). A whole camp, it slowed the circulation down a little, but maaleysh, fadéhom! It's once in a generation (hopefully).
All this is so incredible that one has a hard time believing it! But another Sign from Destiny confirmed to us that yes, it CAN be. May the 22nd is Saint Rita's day. It so happens that around here, it is customary to make such celebrations THE DAY BEFORE. Our thanks to the patron lady of hopeless causes, and who made it a specialty of hers to intercede for calming blood feuds (it's in her official hagiography)! We've been praying that good lady for so long, looks like it finally worked.
The good news series goes on: I went for shopping on this glorious early summer day, and I found by chance a DVD that I really really wanted, but which I didn't expect to find one day in Lebanon, only in Europe. And at a very reasonable price, too! I also found, quite unexpectedly, one of the best possible toys for my kid nephew, also of high quality and inexpensive.
I was incubating an umpteenth flu. It was tasteful enough to wait until the next day before showing up, so as not to ruin that white day. To return home, I couldn't phone for the car to come and get me, because of a broken down public phone that ate 700 of my units for nothing. I barely had time to hang up and swear at it (noblesse oblige), when somebody I know drove by, recognized me, and got me home before I had a chance to wonder what to do next.
Furthermore, the Turkish Prime Minister managed to launch peace talks through his mediation, between Syria and Israel.
And to top it all, I found back a brand new chocolate chip cake I had misplaced, and while I was talking on the phone with my aunt who ALSO had some good news to share, a mosquito was flying around me, and I got it in mid-air, with one hand.
Aw, shucks, triple-drat! I should have bought a lottery ticket!
Ah well, you can't win them all. If the political resolving confirms, and the miracle isn't just a dream, it's the whole people of Lebanon who'll be winners. Even the rabid militants from this or that party, who will be forced to forget their urges to fight to the finish. As a consolation, they'll have recovered a country.


"O journée blanche". Expression arabe.
Il n'y a pas que des dates de malédiction. Forcément,
mutatis mutandis, à force que les choses aillent mal soit on finit par mourir soit un jour ça va mieux!
En Birmanie, option 1. Au Liban, on dirait bien que c'est la réponse 2.
21 Mai 2008. Pour commencer, le matin, un signe du Destin: la valise perdue de mes parents (vous vous rappelez?) est retrouvée, et les attend à l'aéroport. Où l'on apprend, car tout le monde suivait la télévision, que les touristes de Doha ont préféré se mettre d'accord pour être sûrs qu'on les laisse revenir. Sur la route du retour, embouteillage au centre-ville de Beyrouth. Cause? L'Opposition ayant obtenu satisfaction, les tentes du sit-in de ses militants (depuis plus d'un an) sont immédiatement levées, "mission accomplie" (© G.W.Bush). Tout un camp, ça ralentit un peu la circulation, mais
maaleysh, fadéhom! C'est juste une fois par génération (on espère).
Tout ça est tellement incroyable qu'on a du mal à bien y... croire! Mais un autre Signe du Destin nous confirme que si, c'est possible. Le 22 Mai, c'est la Sainte Rita. Or, par ici, on a coutume de céléber les fêtes LE JOUR D'AVANT. Merci à la patronne des causes désespérées, et qui s'est fait une spécialité de calmer les vendettas (c'est dans son hagiographie officielle)! Depuis le temps qu'on prie cette brave dame, ça a fini par réussir.
La série des bonnes nouvelles continue: allant faire du shopping par cette journée radieuse presque estivale, je trouve par hasard un DVD auquel je tenais beaucoup, mais que je ne pensais pas trouver un jour au Liban, uniquement en Europe. Et à un prix extrêmement raisonnable, qui plus est. J'ai aussi trouvé, de façon tout à fait inattendue, un des meilleurs jouets qui soient pour mon petit neveu, également de grande qualité et pas cher.
Je couvais clairement une énième grippe. Celle-ci a eu le bon goût d'attendre au lendemain pour se révéler, afin de ne pas gâcher cette journée blanche. Pour rentrer, je n'ai pas pu téléphoner à la maison pour qu'on vienne me chercher, à cause d'un téléphone public en panne qui m'a mangé 700 unités en pure perte. A peine le temps de raccrocher en l'insultant (noblesse oblige), qu'une connaissance passe en voiture, me remarque, et me ramème à la maison avant que j'aie pu me demander ce que j'allais faire.
En prime, le Premier Ministre Turc a réussi à lancer des discussions pour la paix, par son intermédiaire, entre la Syrie et Israël.
Et pour compléter la série, j'ai retrouvé un cake aux pépites de chocolat tout neuf que j'avais égaré, et pendant que je parlais au téléphone avec ma tante qui avait AUSSI une bonne nouvelle à partager, un moustique me tournait autour, et je l'ai eu en plein vol d'une seule main.
Ah, zut-zut-zut! J'aurais dû prendre un billet de loterie!
Mais tant pis. On ne peut pas gagner à tous les coups. Si la résolution politique se confirme, que le miracle n'est pas juste un rêve, c'est tout le peuple du Liban qui sera gagnant. Même les militants enragés de tel ou tel parti, qui vont devoir oublier leurs envie de combattre jusqu'au Finish. Ils se consoleront en recouvrant un pays.

6 comments:

Joe Dick said...

These posts of yours, a lot of them make it seem like you live on another planet because so much of it is so far removed from anything I have ever experienced. People here do not really demonstrate over anything, never riot (unless it's over hockey, and that was in the 50's - see the Richard Riots), never experienced any kind of political upheaval. ...Which is all good, but it makes it hard to understand how it is for people who do experience that kind of thing.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

It IS another planet, in a way.
I don't know if you intended it that way, but to me this is a big compliment. Precisely the reason why I thought this blog would be worth making, bringing something interesting to the world.
And if you liked the blog, just wait for the book! ;-)
And then the movie, and the videogame, and action figures, and... oh boy! I can't wait for the official coffee mugs to come out! (With MY mug on it, naturally.)

Joe Dick said...

It was a compliment. It's good to get another perspective.

Johnnie Walker said...

Thing is, it might give you the idea that this is somehow the way to live. I mean, why stay there when you could get out? I know I wouldn't be staying in a place where there was this kind of unrest.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

I don't know if it's living, but it's a way. ;-)

The "prevailing" local mentality, which I was fed since infancy, is that "there is no valid excuse for deserting, forsaking, betraying and abandoning one's noble-generous country, boo-hoo, yatta-yatta". To which I always mentally answered with the silent question: "Yeah, well, but IS IT a country at all?"
Jingoism, Middle-East style...

It's a funny thing, really. The majority of Lebanese who emigrated, because this here country was literally unlivable, who adapted to their adoptive land, and often got the nationality, keep clinging to the hollow pride of just "being Lebanese". An immigrant's reflex. I'm all for being faithful to one's identity (heck, I have at least two identities which I stay loyal to, three if you count religion, four if I consider myself a citizen of Planet Earth, five if.....), but what's there to be proud about originating from Lebanon, really? The world-famous conviviality inbetween two nationwide strifes? Our glorious past? First, its gloriousness remains to be proven: the "good old times" are even called so by those senile ones who lived during the Great Depression! My own father almost died from malnutrition in the Forties... And second, the past is over, finished, gone. If it's not continuing in the Present, it's meaningless, a mere pleasant memory. Examples of impressive pasts which are over: the Romans, the Egyptians, the Greek (even though it's quite a nice country overall), the Macedonians, the Persians, the Aztecs, the Arab world... the Phoenicians. Who can claim to know an Etruscan today? They lived before the Romans and were more advanced socially! Until they became extinct, courtesy of a military steamroller. Move along, people, nothing to see here, just some pretty ruins.

Today, Lebanon is a diminutive rooster croaking atop a festering pile of political manure, suffocated by a long-going complex of bitter inferiority, moth-eaten by obtuse communautarism, and gangrened by a latent racism which has always been there as far as I can tell. (But by stating this I'm flirting with high treason.)
Sure, it's got qualities too, and some great ones at that. Every country does. We've got our own Gandhi or Mandela. But overall, my lebanese pride mainly comes from one thing: the Lebanese citizen who smiles at me in the mirror, and tries to be some of the best that Lebanon produced. I make my own pride, as everybody should.
National pride is first of all the pride of being a nation. And that's everyone's job, every day, all the time.
When you think about it, Lebanon's greatest pride and accomplishment, is its immigrants, their hard work and frequent success abroad. Given a fair chance -by a homeland more worthy than our own- many of us impress the world, I'm not exaggerating! The name Carlos Ghosn ring a bell? Gen. Darrel Issa? Goncourt prize Amin Maalouf? Forbes laureate Carlos Slim Helù? Lebanese-born abroad are everywhere.

But... between one third and one half of Lebanon's Christians left since the beginning of the war in 1975. Two, maybe three generations. They're not coming back, no matter how "lebanese proud". Come back to WHAT? Nostalgic old country parents whose whole life was wasted in hollow dreams and vain hopes? Many muslims left as well. Basically, all disgusted by the "no future" syndrome, both economically and socially. The pride is not located here.
Leaving? I tried once. Didn't work then, but I'm still thinking very much and quite seriously about it. I want to contribute to the advancement and progress of the place I live in, not feel like Einstone in a place that's often more devoid of the basics than the American "deep South". It's not a role for me. No more than it's Michael Schumacher's place to be a driving instructor in Baghdad.

I'm staying here, for now, for practical reasons, because leaving isn't obvious and it's hard work. And also, perhaps for the same reason you'd keep a pair of old slippers: out of habit, they feel comfy, reassuring after those many years... until the day they're good for the trash bin because their days are hopelessly over and they're falling apart and tripping you every other step! But I'm quietly moving my own plans along.

What do you owe to a person, or a place, which raised you but asked for your soul in return? "You owe me your life, so I own your life"? I didn't have an abusive father, my parents were the best parents they could be. But I did have an abusive country. Which, still today, blind to its shortcomings, keeps repeating "I have always loved you like a son. (SLAP!) Now fetch me another beer, boy!".

Because I was only half-lebanese, I was given daily hell (well, sort of) in school for eleven years. No more, because I was only there for 11 years! Thank Allah I wasn't a "nigger" or a "yellow", or I would probably have gotten beaten up regularly and called animal names. Even when everybody started growing up a bit, til the end some kept calling me nasty things. It made them feel less inferior, to put down someone else... Ah well. We'll see when *I* get to pick the retirement home, ya old drunk bastard!
:-P

Oh sure, there IS theoretical possibility for this country to evolve. On the very long term. Same could be said about Zimbabwe! But I'm in my late Thirties, for me the time for patiently waiting is long over. High time to have a life of my own. I've given plenty enough.
Or, I could do what some others do: "dedicate my life to my country". Translation: become a party militant for some selfish bastard who'd readily send me into street gunfights. Lah shoukran, no thanks.

I'm still here, simply because, like many who are also still here, leaving didn't work out... YET! In the meantime, we just watch the highway pile-up and try to enjoy it like some sick show. Pretending that's not our car over there amidst the mess, and that we're not generously bruised.
Maybe, in theory, things will finally improve now. But that's wishful thinking. I think it's time for an inventory of my 2008 predictions list...

Joe Dick said...

but what's there to be proud about originating from Lebanon, really? The world-famous conviviality inbetween two nationwide strifes? Our glorious past?
It doesn't matter where you're from. I mean, say you're German - you want to take credit for great German scientists, composers, etc., but not the two world wars they started. People like to leech off the achievements of others, saying that by some accident of birth they (as an American, Scot, kraut, whatever) get to take credit for the achievements of someone who shares their nationality. How does that work? Take credit for your own accomplishments, if you have any. Most of us are not going to achieve anything worthy of being written down in a history book, so a lot of people want to make out like they somehow share in the accomplishments of their countrymen. It's ridiculous.

Examples of impressive pasts which are over: the Romans, the Egyptians, the Greek (even though it's quite a nice country overall), the Macedonians, the Persians, the Aztecs, the Arab world... the Phoenicians. Who can claim to know an Etruscan today? They lived before the Romans and were more advanced socially! Until they became extinct, courtesy of a military steamroller. Move along, people, nothing to see here, just some pretty ruins.

Well the Romans aren't really over because the entire West inherited their way of thinking. I think the way the Romans do, not the way the ancient Gauls, Britons, etc. thought. Funny thing about the Romans, though. They pretty much invented nothing. Even the arch was a Hellenistic invention. A lot of other things they stole from the Etruscans. The Romans deserve credit for perfecting many things. They took the arch further. The dome of the Pantheon is still an impressive achievement. You might want to also mention the Mongols, who were great at carving out an empire but didn't know what to do with it after that. The British too are over, though no one in England really admits the Empire is gone.

the "good old times" are even called so by those senile ones who lived during the Great Depression! My own father almost died from malnutrition in the Forties.

People are kind of funny that way. Take a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo
There are people who look back fondly on their service in WWII. As strange as that sounds.

Leaving? I tried once. Didn't work then, but I'm still thinking very much and quite seriously about it.

You should, because living where you do you've maybe become so used to people shooting into the air at the drop of a hat, but it's not normal! ;-)

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