|On the flanks of Mnt. Kniesseh . . . .|
Not inspired. Beirut is not at its best these days. The end of the summer usually leaves everyone in a flat mood. Tomorrow is the beginning of fall, and it’s time we get on with our lives, but after a long summer, many wonder if ‘getting on with things’ is what they really want to be doing for another year. After all, life is so short.
Beirut is not doing well. Too many people, it seems. A lot of them are not doing well either. A lot of them are Syrian refugees, and quite a few of those have hit rock-bottom. No income, their savings spent, no framework in place to help them all, and so they beg for a living. Quite a few have replaced the Bedouins that used to beg at stop lights.
It makes driving through Beirut quite disheartening; there’s four places in my part of town where they swarm the cars that stop for a red light with boxes of tissue paper or cheap gum. They’re not begging outright; they’re trying to sell you something that you invariable don’t want (gum) or don’t need (tissue paper).
You can see the cars that slow down at the stop light; suddenly all electric windows go up. They will knock on your window, but if you pretend to be on the phone, you can pretend not to notice them. I feel bad not giving them anything, as I sit in my fancy SUV, the price of which would probably feed them till the end of a life time.
But if you give, you’ll end up doling out 15,000 LBP on a regular day (I counted it once). So I give to the very elderly. Or the handicapped. But sometimes I don’t. I try to avoid those places where I know they will be, in order not to feel bad.
|. . . and like an oasis, it gives life .|
Avoiding, though, does not always work, as yet as another part of Beirut’s infra-structure has been appropriated by a warlord in fear of his life. So they should be. I am not quite sure who he thinks will blow him up. I should think that by now the collective Beirut thought is that they should all be blown up, all of them, regardless of what side they are on.
In my neighborhood, a political party has now resorted – after blocking off one street and appropriating another's sidewalks with their flags stuck in oil drums – to posting one of their guards with a kalashnikoff on a plastic garden chair in front of their door.
No police in sight to question this maneuver; I wonder what would happen if we’d all arm the janitors of our buildings with machine guns.
Another part of this city block has been cordoned off already since 2005; we’re not even questioning that one anymore.
It is a situation that of course cannot last. Or maybe that is from a Dutch perspective. Maybe the elasticity of this town is much greater than I think it is.
And so I find my peace in the mountains where it is empty and quiet and real. I like this particular mountain because it has innumerable spots where water just oozes out of the flanks. Lebanon is situated in a Mediterranean biome; a biome ‘characterized by hot and dry summers, while winters tend to be cool and moist. Most precipitation arrives during these months.’ (Source) Basically it is dry 9 months of the year.
But even at the end of summer, there’s water coming out of that mountain because inside this mountain is a huge reservoir that holds a massive amount of water collected over the years. “Lebanese aquifer-bearing formations are exceptionally extensive and are generally located underneath extremely permeable and karst formations. These formations have great storage capacities due to intense fractures, fissures and karst networks. Water in these layers often reappears as surface water in the form of springs.” (Source) What I wouldn’t give to be able to look inside this mountain.
SIL and I, while hiking with the kids last week, ran into a very small pond, fed by one of those streams. People have dug a great number of narrow tunnels into this mountain to collect water, and the run-off creates little oasis in the dry mountains. This particular one had a pond filled with green frogs and cattail, which is a wetland plant. Part of this area lies along the MLT, a 440 km long trail that runs all across Lebanon.
Cattails are common in Holland, but I’d never seen them in Lebanon. My SIL even knew their name in French, but had never seen them in real life.
The kids had a ball making it snow with cattail fuzz, until they noticed there were green frogs everywhere.
The day was spent in a mini swamp, while hunting fossils, looking at frogs, making cattail snow, discovering tunnels into the mountain with water, studying fox skulls, and practicing the perfect trajectory for a stoy to hit the water (red neck habit), while waiting for Beirut to turns to its old self again. Whatever that may be.