April 13, 2014

The 'ghabir' (damage expert) and the tow truck driver
I was going to write this amazing post about a fantastic hike in Mazraat el-Chouf, an absolutely beautiful region, especially now that spring has started full-force. But I wrecked my car on the way up there, and had to come down riding the cab of the tow truck.
The airbags didn’t even go off; yet the entire front of the car is in pieces, and it was leaking some gruesomely smelling liquid. I should be thankful for all the things that did not happen. But right now, you'll have to excuse me while I go wallow in my misery at the thought of the upcoming repair bill.

April 12, 2014

On Changing Times

Jesuit priests at the St. Joseph church for the memorial service, a portrait of Van der Lugt in the background
I went to a memorial service this afternoon in Ashrafiya. It was for Father van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest who was executed last Monday in the city of Homs, Syria.  He was about to celebrate his 76th birthday this week, and had been in Syria for some 55 years, making him a young man of 21 when he entered the service of the Jesuits. Apparently he learned the Arabic language in Lebanon, and then moved to Syria, where he spent his life in service of the church and the people.
Gunmen took him out of his house, and executed him with two bullets to the head, right on the street in front of his house. Why is unclear, although stories of extremisms have been reaching the world for quite some time now.  He was not afraid, one of his fellow Jesuits said during the service. He was at peace, not afraid to die, and aware of the risks.

 I am from Roman Catholic stock, but in Holland that doesn’t mean much. Most people I know (me included) never ever go to church, except for weddings, funerals and that one Christmas mass on December the 24th . Our village priest would even make a joke of it on Christmas Eve. “I will tell you when to rise, and when to sit, as most of you come only once a year, and are out of sorts, so to speak.” Of the Dutch Christians, only 13% go to church regularly. My parents stopped going to church when I was 11, the prayer before and after meals somehow disappeared as well, and over the years, religion has become a non-issue in our household. It is a non-issue with the majority of the Dutch nowadays. 45% of the Dutch claim to have no religion at all.
And therefore to put yourself in the service of the church is a strange concept to my generation. In the old days, the days of my parents, large families would have at least one or two children that would enter the monastery. From both my mothers and father’s side, there are priests and nuns, but they are all over 75. The younger generation is not interested and it is rare to see young nuns in Holland.
Here in Lebanon, it is quite a different story. It is common to see young men and women in the religious frock. I find their sacrifice commendable, yet difficult to comprehend. Religion is so much more intertwined in people’s daily lives here, regardless of what their religion is.
 A packed church
Vader van der Lugt, as a young man of 21, so I guess it was straight out of high school, traveled to Lebanon in 1959,at a time when airplane travel was not that common. Maybe he came by boat. He entered the folds of the Jesuits here in Ashrafiya, learned Arabic, and was eventually dispatched to Syria, where he spent the rest of his life working for the church. The Jesuits in his region run a number of projects, and in general it is to the service of the poor. They run schools for the poor, head institutes for the deaf and the blind, or organize workshop and help for migrant workers. Father van der Lugt was working with mentally handicapped children.
The church was packed. And when I look at this congregation of Lebanese Christians, I sort of think that this may be the end of an era. All the priests ware grey-haired men. The nuns equally so.
You can say what you want about dictators, but they do tend to protect the minorities. The Christians of Iraq have pretty much left the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  The Copts of Egypt are under fire now that Moubarak is no longer in charge. The Christians in Syria are in a predicament, now with the
Daash and the likes running parts of the country. Of the some 70,000 Christians in Homs, estimates are that some 100 are left. The rest has run away.
And the Christians of Lebanon see all of this happening around them. They are a minority at this point in time. They still have 50% in parliament, but they have to forge alliances with radical Islamic parties in order to get some points across. And somehow, this must strike a note. Are they the next group in the Middle East to be forced out? I don’t know, but times are changing.
It is a pity, because diversity is what makes life interesting. And so I attended a memorial service in Ashrafia. Not because I am a religious person. But because I see that times are changing. And it is not a good change.  

April 07, 2014

Getting Closer

And so the conflict creeps evermore closer. Today, a Dutch priest was killed in Homs, Syria. He was Dutch by origin, but had been living in Syria since 1966, and as such had lived longer in Syria than he had lived in Holland.

Picture taken from this blog post: http://glamroz.com/another-christian-martyr-father-frans-van-der-lugt/ 

For more details:

April 06, 2014

Positive Role Modelling

At the start line, Sunday morning 7:55 AM in downtown Beirut (May Khalil in pink)
On their way

While most people were still in their bed this Sunday morning at 8:00 AM. Aregu Sisay Abateh won yet another race, 5 kilometers this time, in 19 minutes and 23 seconds. The Bayroutya is a women’s race organized by her club, The Inter Lebanon Road Runners, and this was its 7th edition.
Almost flying. It's funny but in all the pictures I've got of her, both feet are off the ground
A few ladies came up to her afterwards, asking if they could take her picture. Aregu though that quite curious. What could someone possibly want with a picture of her when they don’t know her? Turns out that several of the runners have Ethiopian housekeepers, and they want to encourage them to run. Well, I am all for positive role modeling. “Not everyone in Ethiopia runs, you know,” she replied.
Saria Traboulsi (Lebanon), Aregu Sisay Abateh (Ethiopian) and Nadine Kalot (Lebanon)
Haha, I thought that remark quite funny. I can just envision this scenario. All these housekeepers are now going to be whipped into shape because, since they're from Ethiopia, therefore they must be good runners. But she's right. That just shows you. Even when you think you've got things figured out, turns out you haven't .
It is good to see many ladies over 50 and even 60 run.

April 01, 2014

Odds and Ends

Mountains above Beirut
 Things are warming up in Beirut. Nothing has exploded recently, but car bombs seem to be getting dismantled on a rather frequent base. The pressure is building up. And the overall well-being of people is not ‘well’. And so this is a post about the things we deal with on a daily basis.
The hike involved some mud

A friend of mine is planning her exit from Lebanon. This is my third female & single friend that is forced to leave the country, in the past two years, because financially it is just not feasible to live in Lebanon anymore. And these are not women that just came for a year or two; no, these are ladies that have lived here for 10 years or more. One lived here for some 30 years. They lived here through bombings and civil war, but the times are changing. This is not a county for single women.  During a conversation with friends recently, we realized that living on a single salary in this place is a virtual impossibility, especially if it is a ‘Lebanese’ salary (as opposed to people that work for international companies). Bit by bit, poverty sets in, and many are forced out.
Beirut Air traffic controllers were on strike today. They demand higher pay.  Women’s Rights groups also protested; they believe that the domestic violence law does not really protect women from domestic violence. And this AFTER the homicide of a number of women ( Fatima al Nashar, Roula Yaacoub,  Manal Assi , Roukaya Mounzer and Christelle Abou Chhakra) who were killed by their husbands. In some cases, mothers in laws were involved in the beatings as well. It can’t get more twisted then that.


 And they say that tomorrow is a general strike. The unions and electricity workers are demanding a pay hike.  Of course, I am working in the only company in town that is never ever on strike.
 Nothing has exploded recently, but because we (as in, collectively) feel that with tension running this high, things cannot hold much longer.

Because we know that moments like these are precious, my SIL and I went hiking way up in the mountains above Beirut with our kids (rephrase that: ‘with the kids that still will go out with us’) .
 There was some mud involved.
 The mountains above Beirut are teeming with man-made hill reservoirs. Apparently Lebanon has some 4,000 mountain springs that each discharge more than 10 liters a second. These reservoirs collect water from the springs and from melting snow. I am not sure if that is still the case after a rather dry winter, but here in the hills it was wetter than wet.
Hill reservoirs help farmers and local communities store water for the summer season, when water is scarce.  It is not used for drinking water, but for irrigation and farms. These reservoirs typically hold no more than 50,000 m3.  Apparently the construction of these reservoirs started somewhere in the 1960’s, but further development has been slow, even though they’re easy to build, easy to maintain, and cheap. ‘Despite the favorable topographic and climatic conditions, and the need for water, Lebanon did not significantly expand its efforts in the construction of hill reservoirs, due primarily to the circumstances in which the country has found itself over the past 17 years. ‘ Well, what else is new. (source)  
We ran into an old shepherd’s shelter. In the old days, shepherds would move with their flock for an entire season into the mountains, and they had shelters such as these where they slept. And from the looks of it, the flock as well. Most of them have been replaced by concrete shelters now, but this one was still in a relatively decent condition.
 We were admonishing (halfheartedly) the kids not to get too muddy. To avoid puddles. Not to romp through mud. Not to get wet.  Not to make their clothes dirty. Not to this and not to that.

And then my SIL stepped with her brand new shoes into mud. It sucked at her shoe, and then it was either she in the mud, or the shoe left in the mud. She chose for the shoe. (“My new shoe. This is my new shoe,” she moaned.)

The kids thought this was extremely funny.
Many people stay home over the weekend. I do not understand how they do it. If you do not unwind over the weekend, how can you endure the tension in this town over the week?
Let's see what this week brings.

March 30, 2014

Why the Dutch Rock

One of my readers suggested that what Lebanon needs is more Dutch  (last line). I could not agree more.

Dutch ambassador to Lebanon, Hester Somsen, in Tripoli for the Bikeathon

Here’s another example of why: The city of Tripoli is in a bit of a pickle these days. Two opposing political views in neighboring parts of town (Bab el Tabene and Jabbal Mohsen) are in the process of bringing down the city. The country is well aware that what happens in Tripoli, is a sign of times to come, and so it is of vital importance that we stop it now. The town needs our support.
Many initiatives are being organized to focus on the things that do work in Tripoli, rather than on the problems. One of these initiatives took place this Sunday; The Tripoli Bikeathon, organized to profile Tripoli as a ‘city of peace’. “The event aimed at reflecting the real image of Tripoli; a city that loves life and rejects all types of violence and fighting.” (Source)

 The Lebanese Minister of Environment was there (Mohammad Machnouk), as part of the green movement, and as he’s an avid photographer, he took a picture of the Dutch ambassador, Hester Somsen, who came to show her support for the people of Tripoli! Did anyone see Tom Fletcher or David Hale?
That's why the Dutch rock.
(Pictures taken by Mohammad Machnouk)

March 24, 2014

On Medieval Society and Accountability

I woke up Sunday morning to some distant explosions. Turns out they were fighting in Tarik Jdiedeh; a neighborhood in West-Beirut known (these days) for frequent confrontations between sunni and shia muslims, and lately it has the added flavor of anti-and pro-Syria supporters.

Spring has started, and so has picnic season, which we (the Dutch) inaugurated this Sunday
This time it was the Salafiya (an evil group of angry bearded men who believe the Taliban are the good guys) embroiled with the supporters of Shaker al-Berjawi (an equally evil man who believes Bashaar el Assad is a good guy). It started over a personal dispute between two men, and soon erupted into a full scale battle, with only one dead. Personally, I’m a little disappointed at that number. I’d rather have them eradicate each other, and one dead over a full-scale neighborhood battle that lasted several hours and involved mortar grenades, is not going to do the job.
It is an alien concept to me that people would pick up a gun and shoot other people because they are on the opposing end of the political spectrum. But then again, if you see their supporters (both groups), the word ‘alien’ does come to mind.
The simple pleasures of life; reading a book on the beach
These people come from a world so far removed from yours and mine that I sometimes wonder where they were all this time? For the past 23 years, I have traveled all over Lebanon, hung around in all kinds of neighborhoods, have talked to people of all parts of the country, of all religions and political convictions, of all economic backgrounds and all walks of life, but I cannot remember meeting men that told me they were going to shoot other people for their convictions and that they were willing to drag this country into a civil war and make everyone’s life utterly miserable because they thought their cause was more important than everyone else's.
And so here we are, our lives being made miserable by barbarians, who are trying their hardest to drag us back into the Dark Ages. There has to be a way we can stop this! I am not the only one thinking this: a Facebook friend writes “Random question: do citizens nowadays have the capability of preventing war from happening in their city, somehow? (thank you, Miss L.)
That's how we roll
As it happens, I am currently reading this book on Eleanor of Aquitaine (I love medieval European history), and it explains the situation in Europe at that time (we’re talking 12th century here): ‘In the 12th century, there was no concept of nationhood or patriotism, and subjects owed loyalty to their ruler rather than the state. Europe was split into principalities called feudatories, each under the rule of a king, duke or count, and personal allegiance, or fealty, was what counted.’
You can exchange Europe for Lebanon, and it would read like a 2014 account. They say ‘history repeats itself’. Welcome Dark Ages, here we are.
Another book I am reading (Medieval Europe by H.W.C. Davis), on medieval culture, states ‘This nascent feudalism was often brutal, always summary and short-sighted in its methods of government. The feudal group was engaged in a perpetual struggle for existence with neighboring groups. Feudal policy was aggressive; for every war-lord had his war-band, whom he could only hold together by providing them with adventure and rich plunder. Furthermore, as though disintegration of society had not gone far enough, every great ‘fief’ was in constant danger of civil war and partition.’
This book was written in 1923. It could have been written today. Because that’s what we got Sunday morning, two war bands in Taril el Jdiede, looking for adventure and plunder. And  there is nothing we can do about this?
This abandoned factory does not look like it has ever been used, nor will it ever been used, and it's standing on beach front property. What were these people thinking?
The prime minister is blaming it on the spread of arms. I blame it on the idiots willing to carry and use them.
But wait, there’s more misery on the horizon.
A friend of a friend wrote in an e-mail (BR, I hope you don’t mind me stealing your lines! But they are so spot on)  I think the numbness and sense of powerlessness of the Lebanese is truly scary.  It leads to a self and family-centered "living for the moment" - people don't think change is possible so there are few activists for community-building within a corrupt and ineffectual governmental/political system.  Such a sad place!  Even though there are still attractions, I found the underlying apathy and materialism to be oppressive.’
Corniche traffic (not that busy actually, usually it's bumper to bumper around this time; 6:00 PM)
Wow! That hurts.
Now read what this guy wrote (under the header “Barbarian Kingdoms’) about medieval society:  When the natural leaders (read: our youth) of society avow that they despair of the future, fatalism spreads like a contagious blight among the rank and file, until even discontentment is numbed into silence’.
With the incredible brain drain we’ve been dealing with over the past years, I’d dare say that shows despair among our future leaders. What we’re left with are the sons of sons of war-lords, who have no other intention that to maintain this feudal system.  And so the question remains: Are we going to be numbed into silence or do citizens nowadays have the capability of preventing war from happening in their city, somehow?’
I think we do have. Definitely as internet literate people, and bloggers.
Driving into Beirut at dusk after a day out in the country; the homing pigeons are still out
I have always found it mind-boggling that all these crimes committed during the civil war (should I say 'the previous'?) went unpunished. But who can figure out who did what when and where to whom? Who were the criminals that manned the check-points or the barricades during the civil war? (Other than the ones that are still running our country. Just check who might be running for the presidential elections. If that won't make you cry, what will?). Very little picture material was made, kept, or shared. We cannot even figure out who blows up people these days.
But what if we can do something? I think it is time for some accountability.
The Corniche at sun set
I, for instance, believe that anyone picking up a gun and using it against another Lebanese, is a criminal.
And in this digital day and age, everyone with a camera and 3G connection, should be able to snap pictures of those men carrying guns, and post them on the Internet.  This way, we should somehow be able to gather an immense photo archive of criminals.  And then when this second civil war is over and done with – which hopefully won’t last as long as the previous one - we can identify and prosecute all those absolute morons that have decided on their own personal level that this civilization isn’t worth fighting for, but that they'd rather fight for their feudal lord. Because if we can’t catch the big guys, at least we can nail the small ones. And if the small guys don’t work for the big ones anymore, then it is done and over with the big guys. Accountability is key.

And so the sun sets in the Mediterranean, and upon us as well, it seems.

Well, that makes for an optimistic reading, no?
Anyone any other (more feasible, maybe) ideas on how the web can instill some accountability in this place?

March 22, 2014

Driving Miss Daisy

School's out (for the week)

Spring has started, like clockwork. The impromptu rains of last week allowed people for three days on the ski slope, and then our winter, slightly belayed, was over again. When I picked up my daughter from school, we took the long route home, and walked along the seaside. I had that holiday feeling, which sometimes suddenly overcomes you, when living in Beirut. This realization that you live in a place that other people visit on their vacation.
Thus unusual trio of walkers caught our attention. Two men in black, one in front and one in the back - complete with shades and the ear piece - accompanied this lady while she went for a walk on the Corniche.

That is of course until you find out that some 25 people died during fighting in Tripoli this week. 25? 25! Wow! When did that happen? That’s what you get when you don’t listen to the news. 25 dead sounds to me like a full scale war out there. I ask the old aunt living in our house whether her friend in Tripoli is noticing this. “She’s not home right now,” is the reply. “She was visiting her parents in the mountains, and couldn’t go back because of snipers in the area.” I guess that’s a good thing. Sort of. It’s gone beyond gunfire however; now they’re shelling each other with mortars.  It’s odd how life goes on as if nothing is going on, some 80 kilometers south of Tripoli.

Time to sit outside in the sun

I had to teach my son today how to get the mecanique done for his car. The mecanique is the annual car quality check, a bit like the Dutch APK.  It requires a visit to the mecanique place, of course. I had done it earlier this month, but on a weekday, and quite early, so there weren’t that many people in the place. They’ve got like 20 assembly lines, so that process goes quite quickly. I had also totally forgotten about the positive discrimination in this place. When I do my mecanique, I enter the line for women. There’s usually only about 4 of them in front of me. Which is like a ratio of 1 : 250 to the men’s line.
But this morning, there were like a 2,000 men; they were lining up halfway down the parking lot. Holy moly!  And my son does not get to stand in the line for the women;  that was going to be a 8 hour job just getting to the front desk getting you number checked. And so we abandoned that plan and drove back home.
Sunset over the AUB beach (Corniche)
‘Driving Miss Daisy, ’ that’s what my son calls it when I get into his car. I object to the G-forces his driving style exerts on my neck, and apparently I inhale too sharply every time he passes too closely by another car. He stops too late, drives too fast, and honks too quickly and too long. At least, that’s what I think. I do hear – somewhere in the background – an echo of my father, when he would sit beside me in the passenger seat. Life comes full circle at one point, I guess.
The Corniche in the evening

March 16, 2014


Wanted to go to Feraya and ski, but didn’t go. Wanted to paint the bedroom white but didn’t do it. Wanted to find two flexible wall lamps but found only one. Wanted to buy and wear a dress, but couldn’t wear it because the sales lady forgot to take off the plastic anti-theft clip. Wanted to make a chocolate mint cake but couldn’t find the ‘mint extract’ the recipe asks for in the supermarket. Wanted to share a Google doc with colleagues on what to present in Monday’s 9:00 meeting, but left my notes in the office. Wanted to go to a Friday night dinner with friends but was too tired. Wanted to go and hike in the snow, but couldn’t decide whether I should go or not and ended up being indecisive the entire weekend. I think that sums about up my entire weekend. Next weekend I am going to do things! How was your weekend?

March 10, 2014

A Learning Experience

Today a (a no, yet another?) simple home & garden post. I have to say that the quality of my life has significantly improved now that I no longer listen to the news. As such, I live a rather un-integrated life at the moment, but with the incredible mess in this place, 'un-integrated' suits me just fine.
4 Sisamese kittens

 It wasn’t my plan to write yet another cat post, but as it happened, our cat decided to deliver her babies in the middle of the night. We had set up a nice delivery box in the house, filled with hay, in order to emulate a ‘barn-like smell’, hoping this would entice her to have her babies in the box. However, this is a cat out of the box, and in the end she decided to go there where she spends most of her nights. Where? In my daughter’s bed, where else?
A  walk in the fields near Batroun (the weather was lovely! Where was everyone this Sunday? At the mall again?)
My daughter had a friend sleeping over, and the two girls thought the whole process was rather ‘messy’. Questions such as “is this how we came out as well?” and “how much does it cost to adopt a child?” sort of indicated that – although an excellent learning experience – the girls thought it was rather gross. They are both excellent actors as well, and wondered aloud “What kind of a mother are you to expose our innocent souls to this,” and “we will now be traumatized for life.”
They'll get over it. And so we are now the proud owner of four Siamese kittens. For now, they look like white rats. The specific Siamese coloring comes later.
Aahhh, the embarrassment of being an 'almost' teenager in the presence of your more playful cousins who are pretending to be eaten by the shark boat.
The weather has finally cooled off, after a few days of khamsin (hot desert wind), and the sand in the atmosphere has been beaten down by some good showers. Most of it seems to have ended up in my water tank, as I have been taking showers in an orange type of solution, and the drinking water (we drink government water that comes through a filter system) seems to have a rather peculiar taste as well.
But I should not complain, because it seems like I live in the only building in Beirut that has not yet had to buy water from an external source. Friends of mine have been buying since last October. Other friends discuss their suppliers; who do they buy their water from, and at what price? After all, you cannot just pump it out of a river, because ‘The waters of all perennial Lebanese Coastal rivers were found to be clearly polluted with faecal coliform indicating significant raw wastewater input,’ according to this research. ‘Faecal’ you say? Look up that word and you’ll never bathe again in anything else but Evian.
I had a project this Sunday; I had to find stones with holes in them. One day I might share with you why. The almost teenager is visibly questioning my sanity.
We were – until recently – the only Middle Eastern country that did not have any water issues, with 15 perennial rivers that are fed by aquifers and rainfall. But the lack of rainfall this winter has everyone worried how we are going to get through the dry summer. There’s are interesting articles on the predicted water shortage it the Daily Star and in al-Akhbar.
 Some good news from the environmental front however is that our new Minister of Environment, Mohammad Machnouk, means business. His time as minister may be short (2 months until the next elections) or forever (if we cannot get to a compromise between the warring parties, which seems quite likely) but he’s busy drawing our attention  to some of the fantastic natural resources we have in this place.
But she's not too big to enjoy an ice-cream in winter time. Some unusual flavors they had, such as 'ashta', and 'rose'
This entire week, all Lebanese nature reserves will be free to the public. You usually pay a small fee to enter, but this week, all the way until Sunday, he is trying to get as many Lebanese visiting these reserves. The minister himself is an avid nature photographer (just check out his facebook page), enjoys the outdoors, and is now encouraging you to do the same. And I was pleasantly surprised when I read the long list of protected areas. Some of them I don’t even know they were protected. I have posted the list as it comes from the Minister of Environment Facebook page, as your Arabic most likely is infinitely better than mine. And if you do not know Arabic, pull them through Google Translate. Especially number 12, 13 and 14 should be interesting places to visit (according to google translate).
1- محمية حرج إهدن الطبيعية (قضاء زغرتا)
محمية جزر النخل الطبيعية (الميناء/طرابلس)
محمية غابة أرز تنورين الطبيعية (قضاء البترون)
محمية مشاع شننعير الطبيعية (قضاء كسروان)
محمية بنتاعل الطبيعية (قضاء جبيل)
محمية اليمونة الطبيعية (قضاء بعلبك)
محمية أرز الشوف الطبيعية
محمية شاطي صور الطبيعية
محمية وادي الحجير الطبيعية (اقضية النبطية وبنت جبيل ومرجعيون)
محمية كرم شباط الطبيعية (قضاء عكار)
محمية رامية الطبيعية (قضاء بنت جبيل)
محمية كفرا الطبيعية (قضاء بنت جبيل)
محمية بيت ليف الطبيعية (قضاء بنت جبيل)
محمية دبل الطبيعية (قضاء بنت جبيل)

اسماء رؤساء لجان المحميات الطبيعية والمسؤولين فيها:

محمية حرج إهدن الطبيعية رئيس اللجنة: رئيس البلدية المهندس توفيق معوض
مديرة المحمية: المهندسة سندرا سابا 871872-70 - 601601-70
محمية جزر النخل الطبيعية رئيس اللجنة: الدكتور غسان رمضان جرادي 689840-03
محمية غابة أرز تنورين الطبيعية رئيس اللجنة: نائب رئيس البلدية المحامي نعمة حرب
الدكتورنبيل نمر/الخبير العلمي 277618-03 - 819029-03
محمية مشاع شننعير الطبيعية رئيس اللجنة: العميد بطرس ابي نصر 345418-03
محمية بنتاعل الطبيعية رئيس اللجنة: المهندس ريمون خوري 838982-03
محمية أرز الشوف الطبيعية
رئيس اللجنة: المحامي شارل نجيم
السيد كمال أبو عاصي/منسق السياحة البيئية 308877-03 , 964496-03 , 350250-05
محمية شاطي صور الطبيعية
رئيس اللجنة: رئيس بلدية صور المهندس حسن دبوق
مدير المحمية: المهندس حسن حمزة 334600-03 - 876837-03
محمية وادي الحجير الطبيعية رئيس اللجنة: رئيس اتحاد بلديات جيل عامل السيد علي الزين 222251-03

And now that we're talking environment, this is a plant I run into every spring: the Arum dioscoridis , or spotted arum.