October 13, 2012

It Starts with a Broom

‘Avondrood mooi weer aan boord, morgenrood regen in de sloot’, they say in Dutch. It corresponds to the English ‘Red sky at night, farmers delight; red sky in the morning, farmers take warning’, ie a red sky in the morning predicts rain. And so it was. Red sunrises usually occur when the sunlight filters through an atmosphere that contains a lot of moisture.
Rain makes the Dutch (in Lebanon) happy; it makes them feel like home. The Dutch in Holland however, get depressed over rain. I had one of my brothers in Holland on Skype last night complaining about the rain. There’s a name for that: Seasonal Affective Disorder

There isn’t much news on the surface. Underneath however, things are sizzling hot. The situation in Syria – as it gets worse and worse on their side – is impacting us little by little. Very slowly, but every day a little bit more.

The people in Tripoli and the Beqaa Valley are closer to Syria, and therefore they experience more spill-over; constant fighting between neighborhoods (although that has been an ongoing issue), kidnappings in the Beqaa and cross-border shootings. 

But Beirut is being pulled into it as well. 
In the very beginning it was the sudden influx of Syrian children into my daughter’s school. It’s a bit of a posh school (compared to Dutch standards, that is), so it was the higher end of Syrian society that moved across the border. They rented upscale apartments in town. That was almost a year ago now.

Then you noticed more and more Syrian passenger cars in the city. A car is Syria is still much of a luxury item as they are heavily taxed, so they were not the most affluent ones, but still wealthy enough to afford a car and make it to Beirut. They managed to get their suitcases in the trunk, and were able to afford to pay for the rental prices of the more reasonable furnished apartments.

Now you see the shared cabs and mini-busses with Syrian plates; mattresses and tied-together plastic bags  stacked on the roofs. These people have no funds for apartments; they move into school and abandoned premises. They usually don’t make it as far as Beirut; too expensive; they stay in the Beqaa Valley.

Not a recent picture of Beirut in the rain, but it could have been (hence the odd marking)

Friends with Syrian links need to go to Syria now and then for funerals. Those will probably increase in the future.
And yesterday, it came even closer to home. The old aunt in our house needed a new broom. She uses the old style ‘mikinseh’, made out of straw; she doesn’t like the European style brooms. But the local supermarkets and dikkanah had none. So we’ve been searching now for a week now; how come no one had the orginal brooms? Today she came home with the news; they’re imported from Syria, and somehow the supplies are not getting through on a regular basis.

Eventually it is all going to impact us on a personal level. With us, it started with a broom. And from the looks of it, this conflict is not ending any time soon. It took the Lebanese a good 25 years (15 years of war and a good 10 years before we got back to reconstruction) to get back on their feet, and the situation is by no means normal. The Syrians are having a long road in front of them.


Anonymous said...

It has been raining nonstop for the past 3 days.
I don't get to hear the news here... nothing is reported about Leb. I hope you guys are all ok.
Miss you.
I hope I can get this comment....The "Prove you're not a robot" is not always clear... It took me at least 5 tries the last time!!!

Anonymous said...

watching the news about Syria and wondering... the similarity to what happend to Lebanon is terrifying ... hope god will forgive us for all our curses and wishes that we made during the lebanese war asking for the Syrians the same thing that they where doing to us... just terrifying

Sietske said...

Dear anonymous,
I was laughing at your comment. Oh yeah, didn't we all wish them all sorts of evil stuff when they were still in town, and behaving like the big bully? I am a firm believer of 'what goes around, comes around', so do not feel guilty and think it was your curses that send them into this mess. It is a natural consequence, I believe. Not a nice one, but what can you do?