March 08, 2015

Into the Country

Still ski-able, but spring has started
 
I guess I can pack up my skies again; the season was sweet but short. How these ski-operators survive on a business that basically only runs about 8 weekends a year is beyond me. But spring has definitely set in. I am sitting on my balcony now in a T-shirt. Yesterday I went into the country with some friends who have a similar project as I do. Actually, we do not have a similar project, but we both have a project set out for our future (I think we’re both thinking 10 years from now) that involves donkeys.
 
The donkey, called 'stubborn' (although they're not stubborn at all)
 
My plan involves the purchase of a donkey that I will then hike with; they plan to start up a project that will involve reviving the abandoned country side in Portugal, while at the same time creating a local economy, and allowing people to share ideas on how to live a more ecological friendly way of life. Basically making ecological living a sound alternative to our current consumer oriented economy. Anyway, word was that there was someone who had a donkey sanctuary somewhere in the hills above Aamchiit.
 
Near Jrabta
 
I thought I had seen pretty much all of this country, but I must have missed this part, which is crazy, because it is so close to Beirut really and absolutely beautiful. And it is perfect donkey hiking country. You see, every year in France, I rent a donkey, and hike through an area for a couple of days. I usually go with some other friends, and these holidays are memorable experiences. I don’t like carrying backpacks, so the donkey takes care of that. But having hiked now for a number of years with donkeys, I have grown immensely fond of these animals.
My daughter with her first donkey. She was 7 then.
 
My first time was in 2009.  It’s a big thing these days in Europe, hiking with a donkey. And I know that hiking in Lebanon has only just started taking off (the Mount Lebanon Trail is a good example for that), so taking it to the next step - hiking with the family ánd a donkey - is maybe taking it a bit too far, because we like our comfort and I do not see the Lebanese bunking in hostels and sharing bathrooms, but it would be so perfect to be organizing this type of tourism here.
 
The church at Smar Jbeil (we just drove through. Now that I look up what's in Smar Jbeil on the Internet, maybe I should have stayed a bit longer :)
 
Anyway, it turns out it was not a donkey sanctuary, but a bio farm with a donkey. This concept is also on the rise in Lebanon. It started with Souq el Tayeb, an original farmers market, and now it’s slowly flooding into the community; People who have a piece of land, and who like to go for a more environment -friendly way of producing and consuming, are starting up small businesses. We were given a tour by the lovely Rosie, who owns the farm, (From farm to Fork) and who run a restaurant in summer where they serve only their home-grown products. We spoke about the dilemmas of being environmental and viable at the same time, so do you say yes or no to aregilehs? The answer is yes, which is why I doubt that Lebanese will go for hiking with a donkey at this point in time, as you’ll need to do your business behind a bush while on the trail and this may be a dilemma for quite a number of people.
 
Another church, one village down the road from Smar Jbeil, Mrah Chdid (I think)
 
But it is a start, and it is good to see more and more people thinking of ways to slow down our way of life. I guess this last bit has to do with age, though. When you’re young, you’ve got this whole life in front of you, and things cannot go fast enough.  And then when you’re halfway, you suddenly realize, “holy shit, I’ve used up half already, better slow down.” Which is the point at which I am currently. I’ve got to slow down!
 
View from St. Rafka's tomb (had never even heard of this one). Interesting.
 
  On our way back, we kept running into these wonderful little authentic churches, and tombs of saints with supposedly miraculously healing powers, so we visited them all. So that was my Saturday.

2 comments:

jacob galama said...
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jacob galama said...

Here is an excerpt of Stevensons guide on how to purchase a donkey:

"It will readily be conceived that I could not carry this huge package on my own, merely human, shoulders. It remained to choose a beast of burden.
Now, a horse is a fine lady among animals, flighty, timid, delicate in eating, of tender health; he is too valuable and too restive to be left alone, so that you are chained to your brute as to a fellow galley-slave; a dangerous road puts him out of his wits; in short, he’s an uncertain and exacting ally, and adds thirty-fold to the troubles of the voyager.
What I required was something cheap and small and hardy, and of a stolid and peaceful temper; and all these requisites pointed to a donkey.

There dwelt an old man in Monastier, of rather unsound intellect according to some, much followed by street-boys, and known to fame as Father Adam. Father Adam had a cart, and to draw the cart a diminutive she-ass, not much bigger than a dog, the colour of a mouse, with a kindly eye and a determined under-jaw. There was something neat and high-bred, a quakerish elegance, about the rogue that hit my fancy on the spot. Our first interview was in Monastier market-place. To prove her good temper, one child after another was set upon her back to ride, and one after another went head over heels into the air; until a want of confidence began to reign in youthful bosoms, and the experiment was discontinued from a dearth of subjects.

I was already backed by a deputation of my friends; but as if this were not enough, all the buyers and sellers came round and helped me in the bargain; and the ass and I and Father Adam were the centre of a hubbub for near half an hour. At length she passed into my service for the consideration of sixty-five francs and a glass of brandy. The sack had already cost eighty francs and two glasses of beer; so that Modestine, as I instantly baptized her, was upon all accounts the cheaper article. Indeed, that was as it should be; for she was only an appurtenance of my mattress, or self-acting bedstead on four castors."