June 19, 2017

Summer Cycles

These are not your regular yellow dandelions, they're way bigger

Summertime in Holland is pretty much like the rest of the year. Sure, school is out and people go on holidays, but after the summer, you see everyone back again, just where they left off. There isn’t much movement in the country.

Summertime in Lebanon is a different story. Summertime sets an entire migration in motion. There are the families that move to the ‘house in the mountains’, often the ancestral home, or one occupied by the grandparents. There are the students abroad, who take a break from college to spend the summer home, and then you have the Lebanese immigrants, who mass to their families in the villages all over Lebanon.

And as Lebanese are flying in, expats fly out. Summer is when most companies and NGO’s - keeping school holidays in mind - make the switch, and right now is the moment when they leave. We lose friends every summer, and although we always promise each other to keep in touch, in general that means we see each other on Facebook and Instagram.

My daughter loses friends. The Dutch community in Lebanon loses members. But that’s how it is, if you live in a country that is perpetually in motion. And so this Sunday, we said goodbye to friends with a hike and a lunch at altitude (1,600 m).

At first we tried hiking through a patch of cedar forest, but the Lebanese army had decided to set up some target practicing that morning down in the valley, and some members in the company deemed it not safe. The machine guns were fine, but once they started with mortars, they did not think the safety record of the army had been investigated sufficiently enough to take that risk, especially since we had small children and dogs with us. So we tried the other side of the mountain.

The other side is rented out each summer to shepherds from Arsal who roam the hillsides with their sheep and Shami goats in spring and summer. And these guys have nasty dogs who, although safe for humans, like to have our city dogs for lunch.  

But the highlands are beautiful, because most of it cannot reached by car and as a result are void of the usual plastic plates, beer bottles, Pepsi cans and other remains of BBQs. By September, the news batch of expats will have all settled in, the Lebanese immigrants and students will have flown back over the oceans, and the cycle begins again.

Lunch tables that do not end


Anonymous said...

very nice post.

Zhu said...

Wow, that a lovely table! Such a friendly way to eat!

This is interesting on many levels because I can't think of any country where such "mass exodus" happens during the summer. France or Canada, like Holland, don't have that "perpetual motion" feel you describe.

I'm also culturally intrigued by these military exercises you mentioned... definitely not the norm around here, it's specific to this region of the world I guess.

Marjolein Ridderbos said...

I'm glad my friend will leave this Lebanese country too, so we can enjoy a European summer together! See you soon!

Emie said...

Veel plezier in jouw Nederlandse zomer!

Patrick Verlinden said...

Annual mass migrations are also typical for other countries in the south. Nevertheless, the problem here is the isolation of Lebanon: Thus everyone depends on airplanes. The ticket price, compared to other destinations nearby or even further, is rather high. A lot of Lebanese complained about this, but Middle East airlines couldn't care less. A long time ago there was Menajet, a low-cost society flying between Charleroi airport and Beirut, for some "unknown" reason (intervention Lebanese government?) they quit.