Monday, July 31, 2006

Sunday bloody Sunday

I am sure you have all heard what a lovely Sunday morning we had....
I went to the demonstration that took place at around 11am. The demonstration was supposed to be against Rice's visit but it turned into one to show the anger at the massacre that had taken place in Qana.
I woke up on Sunday to news footage of murdered children and women and men.
I woke up to visuals of death and destruction.
Or should I say more images of death and destruction.
How can I explain what I felt? How can such a feeling ever be put to words?
So I decided to do the only thing I can do.
I went to the demostration.
Alone.

I sat on a concrete block. One of the ones placed in the middle of the road to stop people getting too close to the Esqwa building. And I watched. I watched the people...carrying flags...walking...looking... getting angrier and angrier...and the man next to me said...'I couldn't stay at home..I had to come down..I couldn't sit infront of the TV anymore'... and then they began to break the glass inside the building. One of the men standing next to me yelled...'Yes, yes....destroy that evil american building...'...I turned to him and yelled...'This is your answer? this will be broadcast all over CNN and BBC and you will loose...everytime...you will loose because all they will see is a bunch of 'crazies' destroying a building...your message about the massacre will be lost...you message about the war will be lost...'...I yelled at a man I didn't know...and then suddenly after about four minutes the breaking stopped...the Sheikhs had gone in...and told the young men to stop breaking and leave the area immediately...and the men did...it all lasted for a few minutes...but later that night what did we see on TV?...yes.... breaking glass....

But what are they to do? How can they ever cope with such frustration? How can anyone?...maybe the x-yugoslavians can feel what we are feeling..or east timorians...or anyone who has had war...but anyone else? how can they know how it feels...this whole thing? Does the 'west' see the real massacre images or are they too 'frail' to be allowed to view such things? Why do they not show them all over their TVs...why is it not allowed to be seen?...the rag dolls of dead children being carried with dust all over them? The limbs buried under rubble... You see these images because you are reading this... so you know...but what about all the rest? The one who should really see it? The ones who send to the BBC's forum...'Yes Israel has a right to defend itself and this is not disproportionate and Hizbollah deserves all it is getting...'...well if this is defending... I wouldn't like to see them in a real war.

I watched with disgust later that day the UN security council meeting... knowing that they will be unable to do anything...as always...a waste of time....all talk and then the american veto..as always...with anything to do with Israel...the veto...well let us veto Lebanon as a whole...that would be the easiest thing to do....why do we bother?...200+ countries in the world and only one controlling it all...where is the pride of these other countries...how do they allow it?
This feeling of disgust..anger...hopelessness...frustration...but mostly it is anger...anger...anger at everyone....anger that even images of dead children does not matter anymore... have we become so jaded that this does not even effect Ms Rice and she ops to go and play her piano...well play your music woman...you have been for my country for three weeks now....

I heard a man in the demonstration...he was saying...'They are martyrs...martyrs.. and we should celebrate them not cry all over them'....and I thought...no...no way.... a martyr chooses to be a martyr....these were children...they knew nothing....nothing...they had not even lived yet...that didn't have the choice...
How can such a feeling be explained? this feeling of yet again...this feeling of knowing that nothing will change....nothing will ever change...death means nothing anymore....

May they rest in peace.
May they all rest in peace.
May we someday rest....in peace.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Black white sand

I went to Ramlet el Bayda today.
It is the only free beach in Beirut.
The only sand beach in Beirut.
White sand.
The smell hit me the minute I opened the car door.
The acrid stench of oil. Heavy.Suffocating. Immediatley it gave me a headache. I felt the nausea spread from my stomache to all over my body. The more I smelt it the more dizzy I felt.
They had bombed people, buildings, ports, bridges, roads...everything...and now it was the environment's turn.
As I walked on the sand i could feel the tears welling up.
I couldn't believe what I saw.
I saw black.
The sea is black.
The sand is black.
And it will be black for a long long time.
The oil spill had happened when the Israelis bombed the fuel tanks in Jiiyeh.
And now...what? Hezbollah is hiding divers in the sea?
What will their excuse be?
'It was a mistake...'
'We didn't mean it...'
What?
I saw a crab moving on top of the sand.
The black sand.
It was digging a hole in the black sand.
There was black ontop of its shell.
Where is it to go?
What has happened to all those fish and animals in the sea from this disaster?
Shall we place them on that ever growing list:
-510 civilians killed.
-1850 wounded.
-Over 700,000 persons displaced.
-Massive destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure.
-Pollution of the sea.
-Death of fish and sea life.
It was not enough to ruin a country....now... also the environment....the sea...already we have heard that this oil spill has reached Syrian shores...and probably it will reach beyond...
So I sat on the beach....watching the black waves crash onto the black sand.
I watched and watched...there is nothing left to say. Nothing left to feel...it was like the final stab...the death blow....
And now...finally...
They took our sea from us...
What more can they do?
What is left?
And as for that poor crab...stuck in a world he didn't ask for...slowly seeing all around him die...we are that crab....we have oil on us...our home is gone...our lives destroyed...our neighbours dead....what will that crab do? Where will it go? How will it eat? What will it eat?
I couldn't keep looking at the sea....the smell was getting stronger and stronger...my dizziness was becoming overwhelming...I took one last look at the sea...black waves crashing...black waves crashing...it was intoxicating...I didn't want to watch it anymore and I couldn't stop looking at it...black wave after black wave...rolling in...white becoming black...white to black....
This is not another story for CNN and BBC...this is our home...our sea...our life...
I wish now I didn't go to the beach. I wish i had remained in my self imposed hope that it 'couldn't be that bad'.
I wish I hadn't seen the truth in front of me today.
I wish I had remained blissfully ignorant.
But since I am no longer ignorant...I want all of you to know...
Close your eyes..and imagine...
Imagine black waves crashing.
Imagine black white sand.
Now open your eyes...
I still see black waves crashing.
I still see black white sand.

Now imagine it happening for the next ten years.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This war is...

Do you really want to know what this whole war is?
-This war is about my friend who doesn't know where his brother is and he has not heard from him for over a week now. The last phonecall he had from his brother was just that he was leaving Tyre. And my friend has not told his parents yet.
-This war is about my friend whose young daughter woke up to the massive bombs dropped on the Fatima Mosque in Sidon and he had to give her a sleeping pill before she could stop shaking and stopped being as white as a sheet (after she showered because she had peed on herself).
-This war is about my sister's in-laws who are stuck in their house in Nabatiyeh and cannot make it out to safety.
-This war is about an overheard conversation between the American and Norwegian ambassadors where the American stated that it will be the electricity and Sidon that will 'get it' next.
-This war is about my friend who loves to skin dive and recently saw the pollution of the Lebanese sea from the oil and fuel bombardments and messaged me angrily stating that he cannot live in a country where he couldn't swim in the sea, and felt helpless.
-This war is about the look of the tearful woman who asked me where she could find medicine for her father because he had heart problems and they left so quickly they didn't manage to remember to take his pills with them.
-This war is about a person I know and the look on his face when he found out that his parent's building had completly collaped, in Dahiyeh, like a house of cards.
-This war is about my friend who saw the bombs falling next to his house and felt the shattering of all the glass in his house and the feeling he had that they 'just missed me this time'.
-This war is about the knowledge that this week will be the worst...all the foreigners have been evacuated...all the lebanese holding foreign passports have been evacuated...so all is left are us....people who the US believes are not in need of a 'ceasefire'.
-This war is about my young cousin who was happy because his parents told him that there might not be any school this September.
-This war is about all the people who have decided to finally emigrate because they see no hope and have finally had enough.
-This war is about the slow draining of hope and love.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Finally I ran....

I went finally for a run last night.
Not long...5km only.
On the Corniche.
It was not as empty as I thought it would be.
People might actually be coming out of their zombie state.
But I could feel the difference as I ran….I was not the only one running…which was good…people are slowly getting back to normal…but it feels like the eye of the storm…a bit of quiet time before the real storm. As I approached the lighthouse I kept saying turn around here…turn around.... what if it is hit again? When we had heard that the lighthouse had been hit we had immediatly thought that the whole lighthouse had been blown up...in a way we would have not been all that sad since the lighthouse is automated and architecturally it is an eyesore...Beiruties didn't like it ever since it was built (and we kept comparing it to the beautiful elegant striped one that was blocked by a new building infront of it...go figure)....the new 'grey-scale' lighthouse, as it was lovingly called by us, still stands...the Israelis couldn't even do us a favour in that issue!

Anyway to continue...
I refused to listen to the paranoia inside my head and I carried on towards the Hamma el Askarii….all the while thinking…what a way to die if they decide to bomb now? I could just see it on CNN and BBC....'a jogger was killed last night whilst she was...ummm....jogging....she didn't hear the people telling her that the F16s were bombing because her walkman was playing Jeremy Fisher quite loudly...at least she died fit albite deaf!…Ok ...Ok...but believe me it is not the normal thing I think about while I run!

I tried looking for the tell tale lights of the Israeli destroyers….but I couldn’t see anything…what do these soldiers think of as they bomb us?

It was a beautiful Mediterranean evening....waves lapped on the rocks…there was a slight breeze…and a quiet that was too quiet at times...I hated that I found a parking spot immediatley…..I saw all the normal Corniche sights….the boy and girl holding hands stealing kisses, the gang of guys smoking Aargileh pipes, the family with their children playing happily probably enjoying the freedom of being outside, the old men fishing, the corn on the cob vendors,the man walking with his very pregnant wife, the coffee sellers, the 'bizer' seeds on the ground….it all felt a little surreal….like it was real but wasn’t…it is like people want to get back to normal but there is a transparent layer that is not allowing them to as the war continues…

So I ran,and ran. As always, I wondered which house Robert Fisk lived in...I had read he lived on the Corniche somewhere...and everytime I ran there I wondered...I guess some things never change...that is comforting.

Now is the difficult time…the waiting game…to see what happens next…it is psychological now...from both sides….which population will crack first? Who will concede to the pressure first? Who will erupt first? We do not have a very good track record…..

Do you know how when two people are fighting and they are both stubborn and neither wants to give an inch…or reach a compromise when each has to sacrifice a little of what they want?…I feel this is us…with the Lebanese in the middle…unable to move….stuck…damned if we say this and damned if we do not….we are stuck in a continuous cycle.. what were they called in school? There was an actual name for it….

I have just learnt that the Israelis have called this current war in Lebanon 'Change of Direction'. Can you imagine? Is there an actual person whose job it is to come up with these things?… 'Grapes of Wrath,1996'….'Operation Accountability, 1993'…How poetic….I wonder what they base it on…current books being read? Irony? An inside joke? Is it voted on by majority or does the 'Major' have the final say? Do they think of it before the fighting begins or as the fighting is going on? I wonder…

And just for your info…the current Gaza assault is called 'Summer Rains'…

'Change of Direction'.
It is a little off putting that they actually name these things.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Never forget why

I just wanted to tell you all why we all love Lebanon and why we will continue doing so no matter what.....because these things have nothing to do with bombs, war, politics...they are intrinsic....they are purely us.....


What can I tell you about Lebanon?
It’s the contrast in everything.
It’s the handsome immigration officer at the airport checking my passport.
It’s the ugly box-like buildings creeping up the mountain slopes.
It’s the serene mountain villages with their red-tiled triangular roofs.
It’s the covered women walking alongside micro-mini skirts.
It is the spring gushing out of the massive cave entrance.
It’s the ‘roasted corn-on the-cob’ vendor on the seaside ‘corniche,’ with his toothless smile and his dirty hands.
It’s the smell of pine trees on the winding roads up the mountain that twist and turn and lead to nowhere.
It is the endless invitation to drink coffee.
It’s the fat red-faced policemen with the long moustache yelling at traffic to go faster.
It’s the attractive soldier at the checkpoint telling me to ‘drive carefully, miss.’
It’s the non-stop talk of politics on every street corner.
It’s the old men playing backgammon, wearing their ancient beige suits by the sea.
It’s the fragrant smell of oranges in summer, peaches in spring, tangerines in autumn and roasted chestnuts in winter.
It's the knowledge that all people have different opinions, about everything.
It's the ability to pick a grape from a grocers, eat it, and not get charged with theft.
It’s the feeling that things have not been fated and that anything is possible.
It’s the layers to everything.
It's the feeling of belonging.
It's about the details.
It’s the feeling of ‘not quite’....
But most importantly, it is the feeling that I am home.
My country.
My country.
Simply.

Monday, July 24, 2006

An essay

I woke up today and I didn’t know what day it was….no… no…it was not that I didn’t know what the date was…I didn’t know if it was a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday…whatever…I found this rather weird….I sat and thought and played back the last few days in order to try and find a trigger that can lead me to know what day it was…but I could not pinpoint any event that would guide me to know. I had no classes to gage to…I had no work…I had no activity….there was no real way for me to find out what the day was….and then I began to laugh…albeit hysterically…I woke my sister to ask her and she just replied 'shut up Rena.'

This worried me….not the 'shut up Rena' just the fact that days seemed to flow into others with no clear reference of beginning and end.

Actually a lot of things are worrying me but sometimes just picking one of them, the simplest in fact, and the most stupid, then obsessing over it is the best thing to do.
So I obsessed over what day it was.
It felt good.
Funny what makes me feel good these days.

I have tried writing this for the past week but it all kept staying in my head. Wael asked me if I was writing…I said no….he said you should… but I knew it refused to come out. I would discuss what I wanted to write in my head to myself, actually write it in my head but when I, in reality, do sit in front of the computer and begin…nothing would come out. All these thoughts in my head are so jumbled and contrasted that I do not even know how this essay will come out…probably a reflection of the turmoil in my head….a bunch of mixed up nonsensical sentences…

The normal rhythm of life has stopped. I have to force myself to get up in the morning and do the normal things I did once unconsciously. And I find it is a physical effort. This is what happens when your mind is in overdrive? When there is so much to think about it just breaks down...? or is it the other way round…now that we do not have to think about things like work…deadlines…lovers…mothers…cell phones…weekends…we are left with the bare truth…life is survival…but survival with pride.

I see all the people evacuating…how does it make me feel?...sad…angry…I keep having this thought that if they were not allowed to leave would their governments care enough to actually stop the bombing?...Is this what they call human shields? I guess so… and that is such a politically incorrect thing to think about...politically incorrect…that is funny…fits so many things happening these days…....I think of what would happen if the Israelis actually had the gall to bomb one of the evacuating ships…what would happen then? I find it ironic that the US, UK and France (yes I know, among others) are now evacuating their citizens just as the bombs they have created/sold to Israel fall on our heads…isn’t it ironic? Isn't it ironic that the lull in bombing in Beirut is happening as these people are being evacuated…although the South keeps being pounded….

I ask myself if I could evacuate would I? Or would my sense of pride never allow me to leave….pride? what pride?....it is a strange word to use….you are screwed if you stay and screwed if you go….if you stay…you might die…ok…simple…if you leave…I know this feeling…I have felt it and it is so much worse than living this madness…when something happens in Lebanon and you are overseas….that feeling of helplessness….the feeling of despair and being useless…the constant thinking of family and friends…and then…comes the feeling of guilt….because you are safe but Lebanon isn’t. So this time I find myself here…in Beirut, Lebanon …it is bittersweet…because it is an easier feeling…and I would rather be here than sitting in front of some computer somewhere in Kingston, Canada…I feel the people overseas who really care about Lebanon are now going through hell…. a worse kind of hell….

Shall I talk politics? Good question…I have decided not to…since it is truly the route of all arguments….

I went to the demonstration today. There were more people than I thought. I saw some friends…
Kiss kiss kiss…
Glad to see you are safe…
Are you leaving?
Staying?
The normal conversation I am sure most people are having….

What can I say…When at the end of the demonstration some people started yelling 'Hezbollah…Hezbollah' I left….it was not a political demo. As I walked away I was talking to my friend saying 'well now on CNN all they will do is air that there was a demo and then they will have the Hezbollah chanting…and we will appear to be stupid loudmouths who just yell blindly Hezbollah Hezbollah…..' The woman walking next to me looked at me in a funny way and I quickly explained to her I was being sarcastic…she said no…. no we were happy to hear our feelings being voiced…You see there was no political message in the demo it was just one to ask that the bombing be stopped. I couldn’t but feel disgusted. The population is split down the middle as you all know. The supporters of the Hezbollah and the ones who think that they were wrong….but in the end…who cares? You will never change the other's opinion so why bother? …after all this analysis…..we hear ourselves saying…'so and so…before the war'….before the war? That was a phrase I thought we had finally forgotten….but I guess it was a naïve hope…and a dream…..and like all hopes and dreams they will never come to anything….

Why the mass demonstrations for Iraq and now the international community seems to have all come down with laryngitis? Are we not good enough? Has Israel got such a good marketing campaign going that it knows it will never happen? Will it? ..I no longer have any faith in the international community …their governments….their NGO's…their citizens….no one…all I want is my country back…a country that will rely on no one and can simply live…

Live

What a simple word…right now we are not living…we are surviving….there is a big difference….

I have not cried yet.
Really.
I refuse to cry.
It is a pride issue. I feel angry and frustrated as most people do I guess….but at the same time…I feel pissed off….lost…furious….but mostly I feel rage. All that good psychological crap about 'put your rage to work'…'turn it into something positive'…ha…that is funny….

I have been helping some friends who have been given two schools to take care of. For those who do not know… this means we send them food…we get the bags….fill them with the allotted food…bread…canned meat…tuna…juice…honey….basically any food that we find to buy….is it depressing?...yes…but who will do it if we do not?...I have friends who...at least for the next few days they have food…basic necessities….I found I couldn’t just sit at home and watch the TV…this way at least…in the simplest ways…I feel I am doing something to help….not wasting time away….and that is a better feeling….each does what they can….

I also find I forget to eat…I go through the whole day without eating much….I have begun to drink Pepsi again…this was something I was trying to stop…is this akin to smokers who begin to smoke more?...maybe….but the few times I had eaten was not my own cooking as I do not have the necessary patience or effort to cook…..how do these other people bother to cook?...we go to the few restaurants that are open, tell jokes…try to forget…laugh over my cousin's postponed marriage (she has yet to find it funny but we are sure she will someday)…then a loud sound breaks the air…an Israeli bomb…and we are quiet for a second….no one flinches though….we try to find out where the bomb hit…and then we carry on the conversation….keep it simple…you see…when the bomb actually does fall on our heads…well…we will never know and we will be other bodies used on CNN…oh wait…no CNN filters its images so I guess…no only the audience tuned to Arab channels will get that particularly poignant image….maybe I should colour code ourselves…that way we will know…since they might have no faces….and when they are removed from the rubble we will know who they are….and not waste money on DNA analysis….yes yes…I know…but sarcasm rules these days….

I have wanted to go for a run for a week but I have felt guilty that I could do something so selfish….after talking to some friends they informed me that they had been going to the gym for an hour each day to relieve some of the frustration we all feel …I just thought running would be…I do not know how to explain…like I didn’t feel what was happening around me…like I didn’t care….and looking at the empty Corniche each day I felt guilty that all the people who usually spend time there are now refugees….so who was I to use it now? But I think I will go…tonight….a semblance of some bygone reality…

Actually there is a lot of funny things around…maybe this is the things we should concentrate on…the jokes are beginning…my friend who is going to do her masters in the UK in September…I saw her at the demonstration and told her…'this is our way to send you off with a big bang'…ok I guess it is not so funny…you have to be here I guess …well what can I say? If you loose your sense of humour then we are truly lost….I cannot…if I no longer try to find a joke somewhere then what else do we have left? We laughed for ever at the bombs dropped on the well diggers in Ashrafieh…my… my…that was really funny….can you imagine… the entire Israeli army and they bomb an old truck with a rusty drill? ...come on that is funny….'intelligence' at work…must have used a Syrian radar!!!

I love the way CNN and BBC are showing the evacuees…but what about the poor families who are now refugees in their own country?...what about the 40 member family living in a 2m by 2m room? Who is talking about that…with no electricity…running water…with children who are going stir crazy…who is thinking of them?...no no…let us worry about the poor Israelis living in the bomb shelters with all the facilities they need…they are the poor ones…they are the sad ones….we should truly feel sorry for them….they are getting distraught about getting hit by Katyousha rockets…ha ha…what a joke…the world is buying it….can you imagine?...can you fathom it on any scale…? Ok Ok…I will get political here…no matter what I think of Hezbollah I truly believe that all this talk about them starting this whole thing by kidnapping the two soldiers is utter crap… believe me….the Israelis have been doing that to us for years and years….and not just for Hezbollah members…they can over fly Lebanese airspace and all we get is the standard UN….'we are concerned about the ..bla bla bla….'…all the people that have been bombed in their cars, inside Lebanon…all the fisherman kidnapped, in Lebanese waters…all the times the Israelis have entered Lebanon illegally….when they bombed us for diverting water from a river, inside Lebanon…but all the people in the 'west' do not know this….they know nothing of what Israel does…really does… the great Israeli propaganda machine..…read the blogs…I mean…this entire world has been brainwashed and who gives a shit? Oh yes…Bush gives a shit…he found a way to 'end this shit'….

But honestly what is there to laugh about?....Families have been torn apart…people living as refugees again….the country is in ruin…but we will look for the jokes…..we have to… I just watched a report on TV that a box of cigarette has become more expensive…this is funny…the whole country is bombed to hell and he is worried that his cigarettes will become expensive…I thought…well at least there is some positive thing…..more expensive the less people will smoke…I think not…another naïve hope…..

The internet…wow…in all the wars we had had…the internet has never been used as a tool…well since technically it was not yet born….so now…for the first time in my life I sit and read blogs and letters people have sent to the BBC…it is very funny when you see all the pro Israel letters are usually from the US and UK…does the UK feel so guilty about putting us all in this mess? No…can you imagine if Israel was created in Uruguay? Wasn't that one of the countries on the list?...you see I shouldn’t even write Israel I should write Occupied Palestine….that is the politically correct thing to do….my politically correct….

Even this essay…such a diarrhea of thoughts and words…and I finally find…I have really said nothing….nothing of any importance anyway…I think deep down…I do not want anyone's pity.. in fact I want nothing from anyone…I just want them to leave us alone….all of them….I do not care who is right and who is wrong…and I do not care for ideologies and I do not care for anything except Lebanon….that is as straightforward as I can get….

I will end now.

I did find out what day it was.
It is Monday…it is Monday…and tomorrow is Tuesday….

See how simple life is?

Rena
Beirut
Lebanon