It’s been a while since the last post. I was not particularly inspired by Beirut of late. Plenty of things to be disappointed with. Incompetent politicians, corrupt officials, bodyguards and convoys of government officials that believe they can operate above the law, lack of transparency, and basically the knowledge that there’s enough money going around to turn this into a beautiful and livable country, if only. If only.
And then I wasn’t in country for a while.
But I know, from experience, that once I get back to Lebanon, something unusual and unexpected always happens, something kind and something beautiful, and that something always restores my faith in this place. (Some examples of that example 1, example 2, example 3). It is the reminder I need to know why I choose to live in Lebanon, and not in Holland. And then I can blog again.
Yet when I got back, and was standing, like everyone else, in the passport line of the Lebanese border police, I was reminded that in this place, it is the squeaky wheel that gets oiled. While absolutely everyone was waiting patiently their turn, one gentleman deemed that he – of all people – should not have to go through such ordeal. After all, why would he? And after much screaming and huffing and puffing and “ma’ouleh, ya zalameh?!” he was transported right to the front of the line, bypassing absolutely everyone. Had it been in Holland, he’d been handcuffed and taken into custody. Ah, if only, if only. It was definitely not inspiring.
So I was waiting for that one moment of inspiration to start blogging again. And you cannot force that moment. It’s got to come all by itself. Unannounced. Unexpected. Untampered. I was wondering whether maybe this time, that special moment, that random act of kindness, just wouldn’t happen. Maybe we have run out of kindness. Maybe finally even Lebanon has run out of its specialness. And then we are finally like all the other Banana Republics on Earth.
As nothing was happening, and we still have to wait for the Armenian Christmas (January 6) before we go back to work again, we decided to go to the mountains. A storm was brewing, we might even get some snow, so the mountains it was.
We get in the car, fill up, and get on the road.
Yet there is an odd smell.
“Yes, they probably spilled some while filling up.”
But the smell is overpowering.
“I think they forgot to close the tank.”
We stop and check. Tank is closed.
No idea what is causing this smell, but we decide to ignore it. We’re not very technically inclined. Just open the windows while driving, put the fan on high, and hope it will disappear. Only 30 more kilometers to go.
Obviously the smell doesn’t go away, but we’re pretty good at ignoring it.
And then this car passes by, with two men in it. They’re gesturing at our car, telling us to stop.
“You’re losing something, a liquid,” one of the gentleman says. “Aren’t you smelling gasoline or something?”
“Uhhhh, yes, now that you mention it.”
“Do you have a jack? I think I know what it is.”
We get the jack out.
It is wet, it’s been raining all day, and it’s not exactly very clean here beside a three lane high way. Yet right away he gets on his knees, jacks up the car, lies down on a plastic bag, and slides under the car.
“Yep, that’s it. There, the floater needs a new O-ring. I happen to have one in my car,” he says as he crawls out from under the car.
“You happen to have one in your car?” we wonder in unison.
“I am a car mechanic.”
I think it took a total of 10 minutes. And off we were again, with a car, and without gasoline smell. He took some money, but only because we insisted. It’s his job after all. But he didn’t have to stop and tell us. He didn’t have to get down on his back and slide under the car while it is wet.
That’s it. My faith has been restored.