October 23, 2016


Civilizations tend to build on top of their previous accomplishments. At least, that was what they used to do. So there would be no reminder of what once was, unless you’d dig it up. And then you’d find the foundations, together with the kitchen midden.
These days we scrape our buildings into the crust however, and leave no trace of former styles and preferences. We’re pretty good on kitchen middens though.

Doesn’t help much that the garbage collectors are on strike. Just grant. First the government won’t pick it up, now the garbage collectors have thrown in their lot. I just read that a former Supreme Court Justice in the States is worried about ‘civic ignorance in America and the effect of that decline on the state of the democracy.’ If he’s worried, what about us?

Luckily the hot season is over, so the food is not exactly fermenting in its bags, but it is still not a pretty sight. Feral cats scratch open the bags at night, and strew the contents over the sidewalk. Due to our rather shoddy sewer system, most houses resort to throwing their used toilet paper in bins rather than flush it down the toilets. That's out there too. 
I’ve got to navigate in between that early mornings in the dark while walking my dogs. It doesn’t help much that most people do not bother to drag their garbage bags all the way to the dumpsters anymore; they just rather get it out of their front door, and then abandon it by the side walk. So it is no longer collected in one place but rather spreads all over the street. 
Add to that the fact that no one seems to have much qualm about dumping their food wrappers, water bottles, beer bottles and empty cans of coke from the local chicken restaurant right there where they have taken their last bite, and you get the picture.

 In the ‘old’ days, I’d meet a Sokleen guy in my street every morning at 6:15 , who would be sweeping the remains of our ‘civic ignorance’ of the night away, so that during the day nobody would notice our inability to clean up after ourselves. We'd look all tidy and nice and proper. Now that the government is in disarray, they’re no longer paying these guys. You get the picture.

What I find ironic is that lately, local residents have resorted to sticking papers on trees telling dog owners to leash their dogs and pick up after them. Just imagine the effort they put in finding a carton the right size, writing it in BIG letters, and then actually going out to stick them on trees with intricate designs of plastic tape. Not that I do not agree with them, but they somehow make that effort to point out the unpleasant habit of leaving dog poop on the side walk, but they apparently are not in the least bit bothered that everybody just dumps their trash wherever they happen to stand or walk.

So this judge is worried about ‘civic ignorance in America and the effect of that decline on the state of the democracy.’ Well, at least they still have their garbage collected. The trash situation is not going to be solved as long as we do not have a president. We haven’t had one for two years now, and most likely won’t have one any time soon. We have been pretty much abandoned by our government.

Another thing that is abandoned are the houses in the mountains in the villages above Beirut. I frequently walk there, and especially the areas where once the Syrians forces ‘settled’, as well as the villas purchased by rich Saudis and Gulf Arabs in better days, are pretty much empty. The Gulf Arabs won’t be back any time soon, but their houses are still maintained by a vast army of Syrian janitors, who now occupy the guard houses of prestigious properties all along Sawfar and Hammana.

What is more interesting are the houses that were once owned, or probably still are owned, but abandoned, by their Lebanese owners. There must be thousands of them. All empty. The owners do not have the money anymore to restore them, are dead, or are no longer interested in spending time up in the mountains. Before the war (we’re talking the 70’s and 80’s), families would spend their summers in the mountains. My husband still remembers school holidays that would last over three months. He wouldn’t start school until October, and spend all that time somewhere far away from Beirut. With the decentralization of the country, everyone wants to live and work in Beirut, and the summers are spent either abroad or on the beach. Very few people still move an entire household for several months.

And so all these houses just stand there, empty and desolate. You could probably house a good part of the Syrian refugee population in there. I’m afraid that might get people here up in arms though. But the garbage situation won’t.

I’m not trying to make a point here. Just observing.


Anonymous said...

mooie foto's.

Sietske said...

Met mijn telefoon! Koop nooit meer een camera. Nou misschien niet nooit meer, maar voorlopig niet.Tenzij ik een camera vind die ka doen wat mij telefoon ook kan, inclusief editing app.