August 31, 2014

Green in Summer

Greener parts of Lebanon
 
You probably wonder where to find these green places in Lebanon. Because Lebanon is bone dry right now. Last winter was a dry winter to start with, and it hasn’t rained seriously since March. It is yellow and dusty wherever you go.
 
Yet some mountain areas are green, because giant aquifers inside the limestone still release water at a regular pace. Lebanon has a number of these giant aquifers. Water from rain and snow percolates through the limestone rock and stop at a harder layer deep within the mountain. If you’re interested in aquifers (which I am), here’s a link.

In the Falougha mountains, some 35 kilometers above Beirut, is the Sohat spring (where the Sohat factory gets it water from), one of the (minor) aquifers. And so in Hamana and surroundings, below that spring, you will find green patches with large green trees even now, and some people have actual lawns near their houses. A lawn is a luxury in this place. Being Dutch, I have an affinity with green lawns. I’d love to have a house with a lawn. With a lawn however, come spiders, and so I don’t nag too much about the lawn part.
 

Falougha Mountains

So when we walk the dogs in the morning in the mountains, you'll walk past all these lovely villas with green lawns, and I dream. If you wonder who lives there, I can tell you: janitors and gardeners. Most villas are empty. Some of them are inhabited by Lebanese, but the majority is owned by rich Arabs from the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia. They do not come anymore, ever since the war in Syria went full-force: Syria used to be there way out of Lebanon in case the Israelis would start bombing us, and so in case of a calamity now, they’d be stuck. The janitors and gardeners have sprawling estates all to themselves (the garden part, that is).
 
The fourth dog on the right (the white one) is not ours; he was a visitor over the weekend
 
The janitors and gardeners come in general from 3 places; Syria, South-east Asia, and Central Africa.
I like the janitors  and gardeners from India, or Sri Lanka, best: they do not fear the dogs and will talk with you. The Syrian ones are afraid of the dogs (and when running away, becoming an object of play for our new dog, which results in rather embarrassing situations), and do not talk to women. They have no problem ogling you though. Maybe they're surprised at my clothes; I tend to do the morning walk in my pajamas, and look not as composed as most Lebanese :) The Africans stay at a distance; they don't mind the dogs, and will greet you, but they don't seem to be interested in talking.
It’s odd, but there are no Lebanese janitors or gardeners there. The pay is probably the reason, although the surroundings are beautiful.

The green patches are few, however. Beyond those, it is dry as can be. The rains won’t come until November. It's nice to stay among the green trees, but my daughter's school starts tomorrow, and so I will be descending to hot, humid and overcast Beirut.
 
The Parasol Pines on the cliffs are green al year round.
 

August 24, 2014

Back in Town


Last view of Holland. That rainbow was temporarily.
 
Not ever will I complain about in the heat in Lebanon ever again! Never ever again!!!  The last three weeks in Holland have amended that problem forever. August in Holland was apparently the coldest one on record since 1980 (source), while August 19th was the coldest August 19th since 1924 (source). It rained non-stop, it was cold, windy, wet, overcast and swampy. But it is always good to be reminded of why one left a country.

 
First view of Lebanon; early morning in the mountains above Beirut
 
And now I am back in town and back in business. Suitcases have been unpacked, work has started, school supplies have been bought (still got to find a way around a newly introduced dress code in my daughter’s school which requires “plain collared/T-shirts, without logos”), son’s been shipped off to college, and I love the heat and the sun.  It is good to be back.
Lots has happened since I left in July, one is the tragedy in Gaza. Another one is the apparent sudden rise of ISIS. The Lebanese who I have talked to seem to think this organization will have no foothold in this country, since nobody is in favor of this life style, so they will have to fight against the shia, the druze and the christians to start with, while the majority of the sunni will join those unlikely allies in their fight against the bearded barbarians. I beg to disagree; I think a great number of Lebanese are in favor of this type of living. Maybe not the majority, but with a gun, who needs a majority? They’re just hiding under stones. I remember way back in 1996 - when an Israeli bombardment on the surroundings of Saida forced the police and the army to go into shelter - we were stopped on the main road of Saida, by just such a bearded man, with a gun. I was in the passenger’s seat with my bare feet on the dashboard, and the driver was told “tell that one to put her feet down.”  That one”.  I wasn’t even addressed. I was referred to as ‘that one’.
 
That was almost 20 years ago. Go check out Tripoli during Ramadan.  And you tell me the Lebanese will not accept that? You are accepting it right now.
 
The new dog, Moon, is the one in the middle


These ISIS people do not like dogs (they do not really like anything at all, that’s what you get from living a life under stones).  I wonder what they will think of my 3-dog household; Yep, you read that right. Hubbie, on his daily walks, picked up yet another stray. A mix between a huskie, a border collie and something small.
We’ll see what will happen in this country this year. I am not keeping my fingers crossed. Yet it is still good to be back.
 

August 17, 2014

Holidays Part 8

Playing backgammon in Basta Tahta

 
I have gone on my annual Trek to the Motherland: I have to replenish my body and soul with energy in order to be able to deal with another year of Lebanon. It is a country of incredible beauty and wonderful people, but the place is a paradox. What you experience in Lebanon in one year, you experience in another country in a life time. The pace of living is so fast, yet so relaxed at the same time, that it drains your energy like no other place. And so I have gone to re-energize.
 
 
In the meantime, I will leave you with a typical Beirut street scene - a different backgammon game - every week. I hope to see you again after the summer holidays.

August 10, 2014

Holidays Part 7

Playing backgammon on the Corniche (an old one, as you can see from the fence)


I have gone on my annual Trek to the Motherland: I have to replenish my body and soul with energy in order to be able to deal with another year of Lebanon. It is a country of incredible beauty and wonderful people, but the place is a paradox. What you experience in Lebanon in one year, you experience in another country in a life time. The pace of living is so fast, yet so relaxed at the same time, that it drains your energy like no other place. And so I have gone to re-energize.
 
 
In the meantime, I will leave you with a typical Beirut street scene - a different backgammon game - every week. I hope to see you again after the summer holidays.

August 03, 2014

Holidays Part 6

Playing backgammon at the Riviera Beach Club
 
 
I have gone on my annual Trek to the Motherland: I have to replenish my body and soul with energy in order to be able to deal with another year of Lebanon. It is a country of incredible beauty and wonderful people, but the place is a paradox. What you experience in Lebanon in one year, you experience in another country in a life time. The pace of living is so fast, yet so relaxed at the same time, that it drains your energy like no other place. And so I have gone to re-energize.
 
 
In the meantime, I will leave you with a typical Beirut street scene - a different backgammon game - every week. I hope to see you again after the summer holidays.

July 27, 2014

Holidays Part 5

Playing backgammon (in a suit) in Mar Elias
 
 
I have gone on my annual Trek to the Motherland: I have to replenish my body and soul with energy in order to be able to deal with another year of Lebanon. It is a country of incredible beauty and wonderful people, but the place is a paradox. What you experience in Lebanon in one year, you experience in another country in a life time. The pace of living is so fast, yet so relaxed at the same time, that it drains your energy like no other place. And so I have gone to re-energize.
 
 
In the meantime, I will leave you with a typical Beirut street scene - a different backgammon game - every week. I hope to see you again after the summer holidays.

July 20, 2014

Holidays Part 4

Playing backgammon in front of the butcher in al-Zarif
 
I have gone on my annual Trek to the Motherland: I have to replenish my body and soul with energy in order to be able to deal with another year of Lebanon. It is a country of incredible beauty and wonderful people, but the place is a paradox. What you experience in Lebanon in one year, you experience in another country in a life time. The pace of living is so fast, yet so relaxed at the same time, that it drains your energy like no other place. And so I have gone to re-energize.
 
 
In the meantime, I will leave you with a typical Beirut street scene - a different backgammon game - every week. I hope to see you again after the summer holidays.

July 13, 2014

Holidays Part 3

Playing Backgammon in Caracas , between the manakish vendor and the suitcase salesman
 
I have gone on my annual Trek to the Motherland: I have to replenish my body and soul with energy in order to be able to deal with another year of Lebanon. It is a country of incredible beauty and wonderful people, but the place is a paradox. What you experience in Lebanon in one year, you experience in another country in a life time. The pace of living is so fast, yet so relaxed at the same time, that it drains your energy like no other place. And so I have gone to re-energize.
 
 
In the meantime, I will leave you with a typical Beirut street scene - a different backgammon game - every week. I hope to see you again after the summer holidays.

July 06, 2014

Holidays Part 2

Playing Backgamnmon in Shatila, an old argileh café at the sea shore
 
I have gone on my annual Trek to the Motherland: I have to replenish my body and soul with energy in order to be able to deal with another year of Lebanon. It is a country of incredible beauty and wonderful people, but the place is a paradox. What you experience in Lebanon in one year, you experience in another country in a life time. The pace of living is so fast, yet so relaxed at the same time, that it drains your energy like no other place. And so I have gone to re-energize.
 
In the meantime, I will leave you with a typical Beirut street scene - a different backgammon game - every week. I hope to see you again after the summer holidays.

June 29, 2014

Holidays Part 1

Playing backgammon somewhere in Zokak el-Blatt
 
 
I have gone on my annual Trek to the Motherland: I have to replenish my body and soul with energy in order to be able to deal with another year of Lebanon. It is a country of incredible beauty and wonderful people, but the place is a paradox. What you experience in Lebanon in one year, you experience in another country in a life time. The pace of living is so fast, yet so relaxed at the same time, that it drains your energy like no other place. And so I have gone to re-energize.
 In the meantime, I will leave you with a typical Beirut street scene - a different backgammon game - every week. I hope to see you again after the summer holidays.

June 21, 2014

Abercrombie & Fitch

Hmmm. A change in my son's dress code is in order, I guess. He's fitting the terrorist's profile to a T. Where's my son anyway?


(More here)

June 18, 2014

Summer Season

We start early
 
You know that summer is in town when members of the extended family are flying in from all over the world.  And they all gather around the dining table. At this particular dinner table by the sea last night we’ve got Lebanon, Holland, the US, Greece and  Italy together.

At sunset
 
Sometime this summer members of the French clan will fly in as well and spent some time here. Australia comes in every two or three years, so not this summer. There are more Lebanese living outside Lebanon than inside, although exact numbers are not available. And every summer they come back to re-connect.
 
After sunset

 Like so many families, hubbie’s family is spread over 4 continents. Facebook and Whatsapp have significantly narrowed the communication gap, and so now we know what the others wear on weddings, when they meet with friends or what they do with Father’s Day. But still, the pull of the land is strong, and summer is the time when they all come home.
 
At night
And we all gather around the dining table. We start early, some of us have kids that still need to go to school the next day. Dinners here involve everyone, not just the grown-ups. Kids, grannies and housekeepers; everyone comes along. Night after night after night.
 

June 14, 2014

Smile! We're In!

 
At a Beirut pub, somewhere in downtown Beirut, the Dutch anxiously awaited the verdict; Were we going to meet our demise, just like 4 years ago? Was it going to be an early ending of a World Championship? The Spaniards are an opponent not to be taken for granted. Actually, they’re an opponent we kind of fear. So we went without a lot of hope. After all . . . we hold the record for playing the most World Cup finals without ever winning the tournament.





And indeed. 1:0 for the Spaniards. Well, we sort of expected that.
 
Oh. 1:1. Well, that is at least an honorable defeat.
1:2? Is this possible? Will it last? They just need one goal, and we're back to nothing.
 
1:3. Wait a minute, this is looking better. We actually might win this.
 
1:4 Are you kidding me? We ARE going to win this !
https://vine.co/v/Mj3xU1Mgjre1:5 No way!!! So we really did it!

June 08, 2014

Life's a Beach

SIL (sister in-law) and I are on the beach and talking; what to do when those kids have all left the house and gone off to distant horizons?
We still have a good stretch to go, I have another 7 years, she’s got life (almost: another 15 years to go), but one day, they’ll be all gone. And then what?
Travel with our hubbies? Not 12 months a year. We’ll hike to Santiago de Compostella with a donkey, hopefully from Lebanon if there’s peace in Syria by that time. If not, we’ll ship the beast to Greece and take off from there. The French Revolution lasted  some 25 years before things sort of settled, so the Syrians still have some years to go. But then what are we going to do? Charity work? We’re not the knitting kind. Gardening? We have balconies.
 
 
 
And then we figured it out. We’re going to buy ourselves a piece of land above Batroun, and begin a beach. 3 months of work per year, the rest is all preparation and maintenance.  Life on the beach, sunsets at sea, sunrise behind us over the mountains, sand between your toes, a fridge with ice cream, and wine,  and pondering about the meaning of life. We'll even learn how to play backgammon. We don't have to make any money; just pay for our expenses. And our grandchildren will love to spend time with their grannies. Heck, what child has a granny with a beach club?  
We still have to come up with a good name for our beach though. And a piece of land.
 
What are your retirement plans?

June 07, 2014

Hooligans

 
Bunch of hooligans, my daughter & friends. In most countries you’d get arrested for this. In Holland this would have cost me a 140 euro ticket (not included the price of the spray paint cans).
Here, we pay for our children to be trained in it. They have another session coming up next Saturday.