Car bombs, political assassinations, Israeli bombardments, 1 million men demonstrations, street fights and riots, army involved in full-scale battles, burning cars, closure of schools, besieging of governments, political debates that have spiraled into remarkable insulting sessions and politicians that assault one another during live TV talk shows, those are just a few of the things that have taken place in a matter of months.
And that is only on the public level of society.
But even on a personal level most Lebanese live in the fast lane. People are constantly traveling in and out of the country. To jobs in Dubai, meetings in Qatar, weddings in Virginia, spring breaks in Paris, conferences in London and business trips to India. I see people that were bachelors only last week, and now are married with babies.
They are constantly changing phones, cars, watches, wives and/or housekeepers. How they do it on the meager salaries that are offered I don’t know. Creative bookkeeping, maybe? Restaurants open up and close again before I even get a chance to realize they were there (let alone dine in them), and speed bumps appear and disappear (over and over again, I might add) within a matter of days.
How this society comes to move so fast in a system that is positively antique is beyond my comprehension. A simple rain storm causes massive flooding in the lower parts of Beirut, road works cause traffic jams that affect entire city neighborhoods, and the government is forever late in paying its bills, which results in electricity shortages or threats that the Internet gets cut off.
And these are major issues; I haven’t even mentioned ‘minor’ obstacles, such as constant power cuts, salty water in you pipes (and appliances), and the engagement of less than legal services in order to get decent TV programming, semi-fast internet, and electricity in times of power shortages. Janitors that are lazy, service drivers that stop in front of you to negotiate with 2 ladies over a trip fare or a destination, and assholes that triple park in your drive way.
It never fails to amaze me how mail gets delivered in town, despite the clear absence of mailmen and the fact that nobody has a mailbox (apart from the ones at the post office).
Some foreigners thrive in this environment. Others can’t hack it, and—if they’re expats—whine and vent their entire stay in Lebanon, or—if they’re here for the long run—end up divorcing their Lebanese spouse and run back home. I am a ‘thriver’. The more chaotic it gets, the better I function. I perform well under stress, although hubbie will probably disagree with that statement.
In Holland the government announces a weather alarm when it snows 5 centimeter. Things just don’t happen to us Dutch very often. And if they do, like an exploding fireworks factory, we still talk about it ten years later because the people that lived nearby are still having nightmares.
Beirutis can’t afford to reminisce over trivial things like that. I interviewed a lady, right after the war, who was more concerned with the situation of her hair, now that her hairdresser’s salon was obliterated by bombs, then by the bombings itself. “Oh hon, if I’m going to fret over every single bomb, I’d still be living in 1975.”
Why am I writing this? Because nothing ‘significant’ has happened in my life the past two weeks, and I am displaying withdrawal symptoms. Life is going too slow for me.