February 26, 2017

Small Story

Mohammed and his oranges

I am running a bit behind on pictures and posts, as a fellow blogger pointed out, so I have decided to dig a bit through my archives and share small stories. Most of my free time seems to be spent outside of Beirut, if you follow my posts. This morning, as hubbie drove through the streets of Beirut, he remarked “These streets used to be mine.”  It was more of a lament than a remark, and no, I did not marry some obscure war lord who used to roam these streets with a militia. He grew up in Beirut, lived all his life in Beirut. He went to school here, and hung around with friends. The streets of Beirut - Hamra and surroundings to be more specific - were his stomping grounds.  

Lemon trees

But lately, he does not feel like Beirut is his anymore. The architecture, the landscaping, the people, it is all alien to him. Very few, and I stress on ‘very’, of his childhood friends still live in Lebanon. Most of them are in England or the States, a few in France, and the rest spread pretty much all over the globe; the fate of many of his generation. “I no longer recognize this town,” he added.

And these days, it seems we’re back to this migration movement. Beirut, or Lebanon, has little to offer to young people with dreams. You’re lucky if you make $3,000 a month. Young professionals struggle with real estate prices at $3,500  a square meter in the ‘normal’ neighborhoods. It is all a bubble, but it doesn’t seem to want to burst. You want kids? Prepare for a $9,000 price ticket per child per school year. I am lucky I have no debts, but both my kids would not be able to build a future in this town without our extensive financial help.


Where was I getting at? Oh, yes, I seem to spend most of my free time outside Beirut these days.
Some time ago I went down south where a Dutch lady owns an olive orchard with her husband. Actually, the husband inherited the olive orchard, and they have taken care of it.
Besides olives, she’s got ‘snowbar’ (pine trees), orange trees, lemons, pomelos, clementines and avocados. All in her back yard. All she needs to do is walk out of her kitchen and pluck. The wealth of that! She’s been in country for many years now, got wonderful tales about her family in-law, Israeli bombardments and local healers. It is a joy to listen to her. This country harbors women of a special breed.

The view from her house

She loves animals, so she takes in the abandoned neighborhood cats, and the tortoises. Whenever the tractor comes in to plow the soil under the olive trees, she walks in front of it, and rescues all tortoises that she finds. “If I don’t, they’ll plow right over them.” She’s got some 44 now. 
One year, she got a white magic marker, and numbered them all. She had 44. The magic marker turned out to be not that magic after all, and after one thunder storm, the numbers all disappeared. As she is still rescuing, she’s not quite sure where she’s at now.

Nabatiyeh, a town nearby. It looked like Cuba to me, at night

Not much for a small story, but still, a story.


Elie Touma said...

A very nice relaxing story. Always great to go through your pictures and stories. Many thanks and well done.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with the comments. Beirut is transforming into a city of high-rise towers, entire neighborhoods have changed character and that "special feeling" of living in the city is perhaps no more. One day I counted 47 cranes from the breakwater promenade!

Many of my friends also want to leave and feel the Beirut they knew is no more. Sad.