Thursday, October 26, 2006

The post war awakening of a traumatized girl

Dear World

I thought I would pop and drop a quick hello to each and everyone of
you. It has been a long time since we had a chat and honestly, I
missed you. Well, I missed pouring my mental chaos in a bundle of
meaningless sentences and send them to you so you can have a hint of
fun in your mornings.

Well, I did survive this war and apparently so did you. It is not so
bad after all, but why do I have the feeling that I am wasting my
time?

Yesterday, my mother was saying that the situation is really really
really bad and I looked at her with a numb expression over my face
because the only reason I have been following the news after the war
ended is to see whether it will be sunny on sundays so I can go
trekking. So, as updated as I was during the war, I happen to be a
total ignorant of the current political situation in the country. Well
I know a few things, for example that the "awniyyeh" are so happy
making little orange gadgets such as orange umbrellas and scarves and
water bottles with orange caps and orange shirts and drinking Crush
and Miranda so that they can have orange pee at the end of the day.
Well, I beat them all. I AM orange. Not that I am affiliated to any
political party, but all the carotene from the massive war-time carrot
eating has not left my body yet. I guess my body alone can buy me a
pass to be the party's president but who would want that?

Anyways, I feel that people around here are becoming less and less
sane. Driving alone is an overwhelming experience as cars jump left
and right and so do people, so I have been spending the last week
avoiding crushing people who, strangely enough, seem very suicidal to
me. As for walking on the street, same madness. I am about to be run
over by a car every second, except when the driver checks me out from
top to bottom and realizes that letting me pass could be an enjoyable
3-seconds visual experience for him.

As for work, I am currently there and I am trying really hard to find
a reason why I am sitting in the office and seriously thinking about
starting to work. I enjoy the warmth of the office as, in half an
hour, my design manager will arrive and find it incredibly hot in
here, and she will open all the possible doors and windows until I
freeze, get the flu and have a "day off" inhaling honey-lemon-ginger
infusions (I am a fan of natural cures, what can I say?) and becoming
best-friends with my Kleenex box.

This is pretty much it, I hope I didn't bore you too much. It just
feels too weird in here. Lebanon looks like wonderland, or la-la land
(as the Aishti ad says). We are having plenty of exhibits displaying,
with a mixture of pride, originality and weirdness, the "war-time"
artistic works, trying to prove to the world that we are creative
survivors... maybe not. Are we? Or are we simply nuts? I guess we
simply are whatever we are:

Terrible drivers.
Slow walkers, especially when a car halts to let us cross the road.
Bored employees.
Looking for wives or husbands.
Looking to get rid of our wives or husbands.
In love.
Depressed and proud of it.
Ecstatic with no reason.
Anguished.
Waiting for lunch break.
Craving for chocolate.
Endlessly waiting for that special someone to come back from abroad.
Making sure we don't gain weight.
Always checking if our best friend gained weight.
Surfing the internet during our working hours.
Wanting to leave.
Wanting to stay.

Looking for something we never manage to find, or do we?

Little habits left and right. Is this what life is all about?
Personally, I am fed up with it.

Until we meet again, I wish you the most un-boring life one can have.

Love,
A Lebanese Citizen

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The War Diaries-Day 9

Dear World

I am writing you to update you on the current situation in Lebanon…
I will not number the deceased, nor the wounded… They are too many.
I will not mention what places are being hit, Lebanon has become a non-place anyways…

Today, I will just focus on the people who are still alive. Lebanon is currently facing a huge social crisis. A quarter of Lebanon's population doesn't have a place to stay.

A friend of mine is volunteering in one of the public schools housing these people, and I went with him to see the conditions today. The school is housing 300 individuals: women, children, elderly. The volunteers are doing whatever possible to provide them with a decent daily life, but still all they eat is bread, packaged cheese, dry biscuits, and if they are lucky cooked rice and stew. There are over 50 000 people living like this in Beirut alone, this without counting the other villages and cities. The social crisis is huge, I just saw a sample of it today.

Today, a 100 people broke into our building's ground floor apartment because they have no place to stay, and our neighbors were complaining about them. I think that these people coming is a true blessing for us. Having the crisis closer to you actually makes you see the scale of it.

Over 100 villages are totally isolated from one another. Totally isolated from food sources, from hospitals, clinics or medication. People are starting to starve, children to get dehydrated. I just heard on television a phone call from the headmaster of one of the shelter schools in Bint Jbeil. The school has been bombed by Israeli forces, people are in the underground level. Over 100 people. Children have been without milk for 4 days. And this is only a sample… It has been nine days, it is too much.

The thing that tears me the most is that nobody is shaking a finger. This is not only about us… not about Lebanon. I simply hope that this kind of suffering is the last that happens on the face of this planet.

We want to solve this. We want to look forward. The facts are that the disaster is huge. We want to channel our energies the best way possible to do whatever is needed, the best way possible.

If the fire ceases now, we might start doing something. But they don't intend to make it stop. And the International community gave Israel one more week, enough time to finish up the country.

Please human being, if you can communicate this information to the world, to shake some human being who can actually make this stop. All we have left is our hands, our heads, and the infinite possibility within.

Sorry if I was long, whatever I say will never be enough.
Please do something, all I can do is write.

A Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 10

Dear World

July 21st, 10th day of war

Yesterday, the television was continuously posting ads of lost individuals, asking them or whoever heard of them to contact x person, on x number. Over 30 announcements of this kind appeared. It must be terrible to wait by the phone and jump in a blast of hope every time it rings.

This morning, the Tyre hospital announced that, due to the abundance of the deceased in its morgues, collective funerals will be held in the backyard of the hospital for the bodies that have been identified.

Today, I heard the story of an entire family that was bombed in Tyre swhile sitting at their dining table. The mother, father, children and grandparents were having their last supper before a bomb landed in their plates.

This is my second war. I lived my first one since my birth until I was 7 years of age, and I was trying to draw some of the differences between the two. One of them is that this war lacks human beings. Let me try to put it clearly.

In my experience, this war is falling on Lebanon from the sky, just like an inevitable natural calamity that you find yourself unable to stop. So far, all we have seen is planes flying and throwing bombs, as if the world has turned upside down and hell is falling over our heads. I don't even know if these planes are driven by human beings or programmed by computers.

They are fighting people and they cannot even see them. Maybe this is why it is so easy for them to bomb civilians, women and children. For them, these people are just another target, just another couple of pixels on a digital screen. As if they are trying hard to distance themselves from their humanity, to distance themselves from us.

What is happening in Lebanon is a blind war. Nobody with eyes could allow this to happen. Bush is blind, Rays is blind, Olmert is blind. (I will not name them all, I am too afraid to skip someone) Probably blinded by the camera's flashlights that transfer their empty faces on another newspaper's page, and their empty words in a long article, next to a big title that numbers and names the death quota of that day.

Fancy suits and plastic faces, what a waste! It is really, really sad for a person to look at another human being and only see him/her as some investment. For them, all the people dying here are nothing but a great investment to accomplish their wonderful intentions in creating a peaceful ( i.e capitalistic money-money-money) world.

Right now, I am facing my computer screen, expecting a terrible bombing sound at any moment. In the lobby, we have packed a small suitcase with our papers and a first aid kit, just in case we need to evacuate. We eliminated the image of the future from our heads. Luckily, electricity is available. Politicians are arguing on television while flash news of people looking for their beloved are circulating at the bottom of the screen. On the ground floor of our building, 100 refugees are awaiting the cease fire, to have the space to think about what to do with their lives. And I wouldn't trade my place for the world because at least, I still look at a human being and see a human being, rather than a suit or a dollar bill.

Whoever is reading this, I hope you are not blinded by your computer screen yet. You might think this is just another forward in your mailbox, another bunch of pixels on your screen. You can think whatever you want, but just take a small look into it.

Who knows? Maybe someday all these mails will be gathered in a very emotional book, about some girl in her house during the war. And you will buy the book for 20$, and wait impatiently to come to Lebanon and visit, with teary eyes, the house from where she wrote all of this. Ann Frank: The Revenge, what an irony. It is very easy to look back and regret. Let these mails shake you now, at least, you are still getting them for free.

Today, a dear friend told me that it is very important not to lose our sense of humor…

Love,
A Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 11

Dear World

22nd of July, 11th day of war.

I saw photographs of children who died in Marwaheen.
In one of them, the photographer focused on the face. Somebody was carrying the photographed baby, and the head was heavily inclined backwards. Half burnt, the lips were black, the eyes half-open, empty.

Today, as I was visiting one of the schools housing the refugees, I saw a young girl, about 11 years old, leaning on the pillar, looking somewhere. She didn’t look sad, she didn’t look happy. She simply looked.

Children’s eyes have something special to them, as if they know something that we don’t. Something we once knew, but we lost track of. Their eyes are constantly looking for something in the most intense and magical way. The most difficult thing is to maintain eye contact with a child because, as Francois Feldman said in one of his songs, they “undress” you. Not long ago, I developed the habit of staring at children’s eyes. Children’s eyes that look at you and ask you “who are you?”, even if they know your name, where you come from, what you do. Eyes that look and question, eyes that fantasize and sprinkle magic dust on whatever they see.

His eyes were empty and it killed me. It killed me because I couldn’t stop looking into them, hoping to find a speck of light. But burnt flesh was all I saw. After a dozen of photographs like this, I developed immunity.

I am starting to see this war as a possibility. A possibility that carries me away from the American sitcoms that I watched so regularly, away from glossy hair and perfect clothes, carved bodies and white teeth, dream houses and grid cities, cheesy jokes and fake laughter. Now, I am in a world of rubble, ruins, enflamed lands and smoky skies. Torn clothes, scattered garbage, fragmented bodies and masses of corpses. Maybe it is not the fanciest place to be, but at least it is no myth. It is simply the current reality. A reality that hurts somewhere, yet it awakens me to life. Now that I know, now that I see clearly that nothing is there to stay, I can start looking peacefully.

So, dear Bush, Olmert, Ryce (sorry if I am always mentioning the same people, I am not that fluent in politics) and associates, whatever you are trying to build, it is not worth it. Whether you build it today or in 10 years, it is still not worth it. Unless you start looking deeper into what you are doing, unless you look deeper in these children’s eyes before you blow them up, you are not moving an inch farther from the decadence of the Middle Ages. You might wear fancy suits, jump from one corner of the earth to the other in 20 minutes in your private jet or have the power to take decisions that affect billions of humans, you are still equal to everyone of us in front of life. I would suggest that, as long as you have that kind of power, knowing that anyways you will die just like the rest of us, better make use of it and start channeling it towards global human well-being. And on the top of the list your own well-being, because only a miserable person can support the happening of such a disaster. It would be really sad for you to die one day with the death of hundreds over your shoulders.

Peace,
A Lebanese Citizen

The Post War Diary

Dear World

August 17, 4th day of peace.

Peace is it? I wouldn’t know.
They announced the ceasefire on Monday at 8:00 a.m. local time. And since then, I feel empty.

I don’t know whether this is a dream or reality.
I don’t know whether this month of war was a short nightmare, or, as a friend told me, that all these days of peace were just a long dream.

I am just wondering where I was the last month. Somewhere ugly, somewhere beautiful, I wouldn’t know because most of the time I could not even feel myself. All I could feel was something constantly crumbling within me and a permanent heaviness I could barely drag behind me.

The war is over now, there’s nothing to fear. And I don’t want to believe it because I believed it once, I believed it for fifteen years and got betrayed again. I stopped trusting peace and gathered a permanent readiness for war situations, a permanent readiness for destruction and death. And it is okay, it can never go wrong.

Now, we don’t see the Israelis bombing on television. They stopped bombing and we will not miss them. The refugees on my building’s first floor have left. They all left from the moment fire ceased, ignoring the israelis’ threats and the warnings from unexploded objects and potential bombs left behind in scary quantities and went back home.

Home sweet home. How sweet it is to find the four walls of your house gathered in mass of rubble that covers potential bodies buried underneath? This is the case of hundreds of families who, despite all that, bowed down the moment they reached their villages and kissed the soil. A soil more precious then ever.

Slowly, things are going back to normal. Slowly, televisions are re-integrating non-war shows such as translated Mexican movies that emerged as a great trend after the civil war. It is funny to see Mexican-moving lips, with an Arabic voice over along with my dear Flash News Grey Band (Yes, it’s still alive) numbering the dead they found under the rubble today, the total number of war victims, along with what Junblat said, what Hariri said, what Lahoud said, what Olmert said, what Bush said, what Rays said, what Sanioura said, what Nasrallah said, what Asad said. So many people with so many things to say, it mesmerizes me because there is only one thing that needs to be said: that the world has officially gone crazy.

I am out of things to say, really. I am simply writing whatever is crossing my head. I simply hope that the violence is truly over. There was too much death and too much suffering, much more than anyone could have handled. Yet we have handled it and we are getting up on our feet, and it won’t take long before we get along with our lives. Because, simply, life is the only thing we want and we won’t give it up for anything.

I hope this is the last thing I write about the war. Whatever I have written before is useless now. Maybe at the time it was useful, but right now it is totally pointless. There is no point in looking back and regretting that we didn’t do anything earlier. So better discard them or read them as a story, a fiction. This is all they are now, a fiction.

This is all this war is now, a fiction.
1300 dead so far, but families are still lying under the rubble, bodies waiting to be uncovered and buried.
Slowly, the world will forget. We will just be another set of numbers, a grey memory everyone avoids to remember, a set of dates and events in some history book that a child memorizes late at night because he has to, not because he wants to.

But we will not forget. This war has been imprinted in the deepest level of our senses and even if someday our mind decides to discard it, fireworks will still traumatize us, and television Flash News will still carry the mesmerizing threat they have been carrying for the past month.

Outside, the generator is still on. And even if someday electricity is granted all day and night, my dear generator will still be waiting outside, just in case the city goes dark again. And I will hear its roaring once again, this soft roaring that has now become my silence.

I hope nobody ever experiences what we have experienced this past month.
But somewhere, I hope you do, if you have the nerves for it. There’s nothing more interesting that seeing the world madness eating you up, and then slowly receding… or not. How would I know?

All that I know, is that I know nothing.

With Love,
Hopefully my last post

A Lebanese Citizen

Friday, August 11, 2006

The War Diaries-Days 30 and 31


Dear World

August 10 and 11.

It has been a month since the first Israeli assault happened. Since then, time has stopped, our lives have halted and we have been living in a constant expectation of our own death.

In celebration of the one-month war anniversary, I would like to update you on the numbers, although I don’t think that the quantity of victims is relevant. The blindness with which our dear neighbors are bombing us is as revolting whether it hits one or one million persons.
1100 deaths
Over 3200 wounded
1 million displaced.

And the world is still watching, of course. More passively than ever.

Yesterday, around noon, as I was working on designing calendars in my office (it is as fulfilling as designing Ramadan Cards, as a matter of fact), we heard a huge bombing sound, closer than any that we had heard so far. I would like to report to you some of the conversations that happened after that little event. Bitter sweet talks. However, if you don’t feel like reading them, please scroll down until the line of stars that marks their end.

*************************************************************
CONVERSATION 1
Medium: cell phone

Me: “Hello? Mum?”
Mum: “Yes dear”
Me: “Where are you?”
Mum: “Home”
Me: “No, you are lying. I called home and there’s no one there”
Mum: “I am in the parking”
Me: “You are in the Military Beach Club!”
Mum: Hahahaha, yes.
Me: “Mum!! I told you that the sea is polluted and you shouldn’t be anywhere near it! Didn’t you hear the bombing?”
Mum: “Yes, dear. It’s the suburbs again.”
Me: “No mum, they are saying it’s the old lighthouse. It’s meters away from you!”
Mum: “Really? Funny… Maya, I am okay. Stop panicking!”
Me: “Mum, please watch out”
Mum: “Okay dear. Bye”
Me: “Bye”
Mum (thinking I hanged up, talking to her friend) “She always panics whenever she hears an explosion!”

CONVERSATION 2
Medium: MSN Messenger

Anonymous says: (11:58:20 AM)
maya
heard the sound?

? says: (11:58:27 AM)
yes
but no clue where

Anonymous says: (11:58:46 AM)
dawi infijar kawi 3ala shate2 el rawsheh (was heard a strong explosion in Raoucheh)
arabia just wrote it

? says: (11:59:39 AM)
shit
raoucheh?

Anonymous says: (12:00:44 PM)
hek katabo (This is what they said)
nobody knows still

? says: (12:01:07 PM)
mum bel hemmeim el 3asskareh, 2al ma fi chi (Mum is in the Military Beach Club. She says there’s nothing)

Anonymous says: (12:01:31 PM)
keef hal 7akeh!
kteer aweh el sot (Huh? The sound was too strong)

? says: (12:01:41 PM)
ma ba3rif (Dunno…)
Anything else on the news?

Anonymous says: (12:05:08 PM)
nothing
browsing

? says: (12:06:01 PM)
ouch

Anonymous says: (12:10:36 PM)
darabo el manara el 2adeemeh lol (They hit the old lighthouse lol)
manara

? says: (12:10:48 PM)
ana sme3et el manar (I heard it was the Manar TV Station)
oooooh mbala

? says: (12:16:05 PM)
non mich manara chaklo (It seems it’s not Manara)
my friend's aunt lives there. nothing

Anonymous says: (12:16:23 PM)
el manara el 2adeemeh (The old Lighthouse)
it's on tb

Anonymous says: (12:16:26 PM)
TV

? says: (12:16:34 PM)
oooh
3am bisawwwrouwa? (Are they filming it?)

Anonymous says: (12:16:47 PM)
non
bass all tvs wrote it
isn't it right next to hamem el 3askareh (The Military Beach Club)?

? says: (12:17:01 PM)
Mbala (Yes)

Anonymous says: (12:17:10 PM)
weird
all wrote it

? says: (12:17:16 PM)
ana my mum is getting a tan 

Anonymous says: (12:17:25 PM)
its 200m away max from where i am

? says: (12:17:33 PM)
ouahahaha

? says: (12:17:37 PM)
funny

Anonymous says: (12:18:09 PM)
yeah

Anonymous says: (12:18:12 PM)
na2azzouneh (They scared me)

? says: (12:19:17 PM)
looool

? says: (12:19:22 PM)
al mod7ik al moubki (The “funny-sad”)

Anonymous says: (12:20:12 PM)
they are correcting

Anonymous says: (12:20:17 PM)
some people are saying 2 trucks

? says: (12:20:25 PM)
where?

? says: (12:20:33 PM)
kamen manara? (Also near Manara?)

Anonymous says: (12:20:46 PM)
3al rawsheh yeah
w kassafo 3amsheet (They also hit Amsheet)
haydeh ba3ed Jbeil (After Jbeil)
w dad is going now to the north!
am scared

? says: (12:21:01 PM)
ouch

? says: (12:21:04 PM)
check on him

Anonymous says: (12:22:13 PM)
future sawwar el manara el 2adeemeh (Future TV is filming the old lighthouse)

? says: (12:22:32 PM)
eh
so, manara it is?

Anonymous says: (12:25:23 PM)
yes

Anonymous says: (12:25:28 PM)
Future 3am bitssawwir (Future TV is filming)
Anonymous says: (12:25:31 PM)
put future

? says: (12:25:33 PM)
ktir damage?

Anonymous says: (12:25:33 PM)
lol
sorry

? says: (12:25:38 PM)
victims?

Anonymous says: (12:25:39 PM)
enno 2 missiles

Anonymous says: (12:25:43 PM)
nothing yet

Anonymous says: (12:26:23 PM)
Borj el 2ize3a el libneniyeh el 2adeem.. (The old Lebanese Radio tower)

Anonymous Moz says: (12:26:28 PM)
between college and LAU

? says: (12:26:42 PM)
oh

CONVERSATION 3
Medium: mouth
Location: Office

Person 1:"So, you thought it was Dahieh?"
Person 2: "Yes... but the sound was different.”
Person 1: “How different?”
Person 2: “When they bomb Dahieh, it's usually Bwouhouuuuf. Now, it was Bwihiiiiiiiijjjjjj.”


********************************************************************

Yes, We are becoming experts in bomb sounds. And we are proud of it!

I didn’t sleep tonight. They bombed the southern suburbs around a million times, and I am sure they were using a new type of bombs because it felt like the bomb was exploding few centimeters away from us. No electricity to check the news, mum puts on her walkman and hears what the exact location is.

After a light morning sleep, I wake up with a pumping heart and spend my day jumping off my chair every time a door closes or a pencil falls on the floor. I have crossed the limits of alertness and entered the realm of hysteria, where a person sneezing can make me think that a bomb exploded nearby. I wish I was deaf, truly.

Today, at around ten in the morning, the Israeli threw some flyers over the Sanayeh Garden, that said: (I am actually holding one in my hand)

“Nasrallah is bluffing you and hiding from you the huge losses in the rows of Hezbollah. Here is a list of some of the deceased’s names that Nasrallah left out and of which he denied the death.” Followed by a list of 90 to 92 names in alphabetical order. You will find a snapshot of the flyer attached to this mail.

When I was in Kindergarten, once landed on my desk a small note from one of my classmates that said: “Lana is in love with Maher, but she is hiding it from everyone. This is what she wrote on the bathroom door: ‘Maher I want to marry you’”

Flyers are really very strategic and intelligent means of communications, especially when the message they carry is truly mature and well thought of. I really see that our lovely neighboring state is nothing but baby-brains with plenty of weapons. What can we expect from such people except destruction and more destruction? It’s just like giving a gun to a child and letting him mess with it.

The Marjeyioun hospital closed its doors today because of a total lack of resources.

And the world is still watching.

I am considering sending flyers to the rest of the world that say:

“God is bluffing you and hiding from you the huge losses in human beings’ brain cells despite the impressive-nonetheless useless- technological improvement. The truth is that we are in the Age of Stupidity and Mediocrity, and that we are far behind the Stone Age in terms of Human Intelligence. Here is a list of the ‘Historical Events’ that you chose to forget, ignore, deny or regret.” Followed by a list of all the wars and massacres since 1950, in alphabetical order of course.

After all, what is more important than the ABC of life?

Happy One Month
A Lebanese Citizen

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The War Diaries-Day 12

Dear World

July 23rd 2006, 12th day of war.

I am slowly running out of things to say. Slowly, my eyes are getting accustomed to the smoky and bloody scenes on television, my ears are getting used to the bombing sounds.

Last night, 1:00 a.m., the Israeli war planes bombed the southern suburbs for the millionth time, I could hear the sound very clearly, but still I managed not to jump out of bed and run to the television screen like I have been doing for the past days.

I remember the first night of the war, when I woke up to a loud bombing sound (the first I heard), I ran to the living room and saw my mother and brother watching the airport burn on television, in an expression of deep sadness and disbelief. Today, watching things burn has become a daily routine, I am even starting to wonder whether I will miss or not it once all of this is over.

Today, a journalist died, Layal Najib.

Slowly, Lebanon is becoming a tabula raza. Beirut's southern suburb is slowly getting reduced into powder and the emptiness overwhelming the place, although carrying a morbid smell of death and desolation, has a mesmerizing feel to it. They bombed a building there today, among other things of course. We spent hours watching it burn on television.

Right now, four men are negotiating on television, joined, from the four corners of earth, on a screen split in four. Riadh, Washington, Lebanon and Iran. To me, it seems like an absurd play. On the bottom of the screen, people are still sending announcements, looking for their beloved.

Today, I was faced with the painful fact that this war will last for months. And I decided that the world has gone mad. There will be no cease fire, they are even negotiating other parties joining the party, what a blast! More fireworks and dead bodies flying out of the windows of their own houses. Houses that once witnessed intimate moments. Mothers cooking, children playing, young adolescent girls combing their hair or toddlers learning for the first time how to tie their shoes. These houses have fallen apart now, and slowly neighborhoods are becoming deserts. Slowly, we are heading towards nothingness, the same nothingness that fills the brains of our dear international politicians. If we look at the only positive thing about this, we could say that nothingness is a wonderful place to start from. A clean, fresh Lebanon. A blank page where you can start from scratch. I am just wondering if I will still be there by then. I am starting to have doubts.

I am starting to get tired, yet I still feel writing can do something… Usually people start shouting the first one or two weeks of the event. Then, they start talking about it, then whispering. And a few weeks later, silence prevails. I hope we can keep on shouting, whether it accomplishes something or not is not important. This shouting is for us, an immunity to the numbness that might take over our minds and emotions, too much exposed to images, sounds, screams, and opinions.

A month ago, my friend and I were talking about designing a touristic map of Lebanon, and we were worried about how complex the whole research and design process would be. Flash news! We can draw it in just a few days now. Except that there are no more tourists. No need to worry. Our country has become stranger to us; we have become tourists in our own land…

with love,
a Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 29

Dear World

August 9, Day 29

I am sitting in my living room couch.

I could not write yesterday. I successfully reached the ‘blank head’ stage for a few minutes, but quickly got caught up by the presenter’s voice on television.

There, they are talking about the risk of diseases spreading because of hygiene problems and lack of water in the refugees’ centers. Some Lebanese political figures are vaccinating children and people are applauding. I don’t understand why. They are even wearing black suits and sunglasses. At the bottom of the screen, the Flash News Gray Bands keeps on hypnotizing me, and announces that the number of victims of the Shiyyah massacre has risen up to 42. They have been gathering bodies from underneath the rubble for two days now. People buried under their own roofs. I hope none of you ever tries this. It is not a very nice way of going.

Outside, the generator is on. Starting next week, electricity will only be available half of the time. I don’t hear the generator’s roaring anymore, it has merged with my experience of silence. Bomb sounds still haven’t, but they will someday. Baby steps.

I saw some photographs of South Dahieh today. I never saw so much rubble anywhere. The colorful ‘vernacular’ neighborhoods have taken a grey shade of dust and death. From time to time, a couch stands on the miraculously-standing balcony of a quarter of –what I think was- a house. Remains of street signs, shop signs, books, clothes, toys and other remains of household lives are scattered here and there and add specks of color to the de-saturated landscape.

Today, my neighbor told me that we have to get used to the war, that it might take months, so we better live with it.

We are, but it is not always easy. It is not easy to watch people die on television, familiar faces, familiar places simply crumbling before your eyes. It is not easy to entrap all your thoughts in a bubble where ‘war’, ‘bomb’, ‘dead’, are the only available words. It is not easy to wake up in the middle of the night to a deafening bomb sound, then force yourself to sleep again because we haven’t slept in a month; to wake up every morning hoping that no carnage has taken place during your sleep, thanking life because you are still breathing. It is not easy to sit and watch a war when all you want to do is shake those politicians so that they wake up and look, and hopefully see.

It is not easy to choose not to dream.

Yet we did it and we are doing it everyday. Because somewhere, we know that this war can be a great growth for us. Everyday, it is bringing us closer to life, closer to death also. Anyways our life is not guaranteed. It is just that these days, the war made it more obvious. The risk of dying has grown a little bigger, so what? This will not keep us from living, as wonderfully as we can. We will just look at this war as an intensive training in living skills.

I guess one of men’s biggest gifts is their ability to adapt.

I also guess that one of the Lebanese’s people greatest gifts is their ability to adapt to non-adaptation because anyways, life is never 100% certain. And that’s the wonder of it.

Alive,
A Lebanese Citizen

Monday, August 07, 2006

The War Diaries-Day 27

Dear World

August 7, Day 27

I don’t know what to write. I am becoming a big fan of silence and writing is starting to exhaust me. Yet, I do it, because there are still thoughts jumping in my head and I need to store them somewhere. I am sorry to throw my mental trash all over you.

I want to apologize to everyone I am encountering these days. I apologize for looking at them, dumbfounded most of the time, nodding my head with a silly smile or expressionless numb face when they talk to me, forgetting to answer their questions, agreeing with whatever they say or throwing comments that fit wherever you place them such as “what can we do?”, “what can we say?”, “we shall wait and see”, “aha” etc. It is just that I am in a ‘head break’. Talking is exhausting me and listening is draining me. I think that what I need the most after this whole thing ends is a long silence break. No boom boom, no hello, no television news, no conversations. Nothing. Most probably, I will be walking around the city with a paper bag over my head saying “Rôdage”.

I went to Sporting today, and I saw the disaster. The sea water is now a stagnant oily mass. I cannot say anything about it. I didn’t want to remember, it would be mental suicide. Okay. I remembered a little bit. I remembered how it felt to swim in the sea, especially when the waves are a little wild. The cold water pushing and pulling me, wrinkled hands and salty lips.

Oil. Lots of it. I simply sat and looked, then decided to focus my sight on the horizon, which looked cleaner. The Chinese say that staring at the horizon is good for shortsightedness, so I decided to take advantage of the situation. The horizon is also good for mental haziness. I highly recommend it.

This is all I can get from the sea now. Just a look at the horizon.

Today, Sanioura cried.
Some ‘tough’ people commented, criticized.
Others said it is not ‘manly’.

I looked at him cry and realized his tears were not a weakness. Any human being would have cried, obviously, but the problem is that there are not many of these left. I was so happy to see a politician-human being on television. So happy I started crying myself. Then of course my brother entered the room, nodded his head and told me I should definitely stop watching the news.

What can I do? The Flash News Grey Band had hypnotized me.

But hey, the Israeli explosions are still there to ‘wake me up’! I hope that someday, their absence will wake me up from this long nightmare.

Tomorrow is a full moon night. Just what I needed.

With Love,
A Lebanese City Zen

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The War Diaries-Day 13

Dear World

July 24th, 13th (or should I say 12th bis, to avoid bad luck?) day of war.

The number of deceased civilians reached 381 this morning.
Over 4000 air strikes

I just went out and looked at the sky. For the first time in 12 bis days, it was starting to clear. But this time, I couldn't really know whether the clouds were clouds, or simply some explosion's smoke coming from one extremity of the city, whether the stars were stars, or simply the careful lights of Israeli high-tech war planes.

On the television, Marcel Ghanem is interviewing a politician, and regularly receiving questions from observers via telephone, each one giving his private and precious opinion about the whole situation. If we were given a cent for every word spoken, all of the humanitarian problems in Lebanon would be solved by now. Too many opinions… Enough to drive you mad in a space of a month. On the bottom of the screen, the announcements band says "Israeli aircrafts bomb once again the southern suburbs." Now I am 100% sure that these planes are not driven by human beings. No matter how stupid he is, any human being would have known by now that there's nothing left to bomb in the southern suburbs. Who knows? Maybe miniature missiles are hidden somewhere in the powdered neighborhoods…

Today, Condoleeza-The Great paid us a small visit. Shiny teeth, sleek hair, impeccable suit. Some hands shaking, few polite smiles, lots of talking (of which we hear none. We only see moving mouths on television), plenty of cameras flashing. I really don't know how photographing Ryce one million times can help us solve the chaos we are in. I am assuming that plenty of these photos are targeted to go in a "World's Most Elegant Female Figures". Thank God we are in the digital technology era, film waste is the last thing we can afford right now.

Today, Israeli aircrafts bombed a motorcycle and killed its driver. It is such an admirable strategy, using airplanes to bomb motorcycles. Especially that the latter constitute very dangerous and solid bases for launching Hezbollah's missiles into the Israeli lands. Trucks, cars, motorcycles, they bomb it all. I just hope they are not targeting all sorts of wheels. Bombing a poor kid bicycling or roller-blading would be a really bad publicity for them. But who cares? International media wouldn't mention it anyways.

We are starting to develop war-habits. Daily routines that keep us going on. Mine: a glass of sparkling water and ice along with chopped carrots and cucumbers. My hands are starting to turn orange due to carotene excess. I do appreciate the color in the core of the grey city that surrounds us… No political insinuations! It simply happens that carrots are orange…

Love,
A Carrot-Flavored Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 14

Dear World

July 25th, 14th day of war.

It is weird how war gets imprinted in every one of your senses.

I started developing taste for what I call war-food. Things I never ate before. Things I will never eat after because they will be carrying the bitterness of the moment in them. Among these foods are baked chips, roasted chickpeas, Ghandour 555 biscuits, bottled juice.

Today, a friend was mentioning how we got used to the constant buzzing of the Israeli planes in our ears. Besides this sound, hearing ambulances sirens every 10 minutes has become yet another routine. The sky lost its color, weather forecast lost its meaning because anyways, we stopped seeing the sun. A constant smell of smoke and burning prevails in our noses.

Bint Jbeil fell in the hands of the Israelis today. It is sad to watch your country burn on television.

The sound is becoming louder and louder whenever they bomb the southern suburbs. It seems they are trying a new brand of explosives. Neomania? Desastromania?

Politicians are still talking on television. On the bottom of the screen, the red cross announces its inability to reach Rmeich, one of the surrounded villages that need urgent help. And the world keeps watching.

Two weeks now, war has shifted from being a big boom in our lives to becoming a daily routine. A daily sitcom we follow up in disbelief on television. Big booms stopped dragging us towards the television. After jumping from our chairs, we immediately guess the source of the boom depending on its provenance and intensity. "Suburbs, again". Or: "No! it's not a bomb! Just a truck passing on a bumper!"

I promised myself I will not look back. It is pointless and painful. I promised myself I will not become numb. It is against the principle of life itself. My senses might be getting used to all this, my being will never be.

I just hope that this war is an opportunity for everyone to see what a mess we have made out of this world. How nothing makes sense. Maybe politically it does, but in terms of human life, it is absolute madness.

I started to develop war syndrome. I jump over my seat every time I hear a door slam. My deep respects to Israelis who care so much about over-developing our reflexes, it will sure be a great benefit for the future!

Love,
A Jumpy Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 26

Dear World

August 6, Day 26

Hiroshima's anniversary.
My mother's too, strangely.

We entered the phase of apathy. We started getting used to this. And it is dangerous, nobody should get used to a war.
But we don't have another choice. We can either accumulate tension, day by day, or develop immunity against the sounds and images.

Yesterday, I went to a CD shop to purchase a gift for my mum, and I couldn’t help commenting on the displayed DVD “Lebanon War; so that History doesn’t repeat itself ”, an archiving of the 1975-1991 Civil War. Strangely enough, the guy in charge of the sales told me it was one of the most asked for DVDs during the past month. It sounded absolutely surreal to me, yet I understand, somewhere. We already have a 24 hours war on television, and we choose to watch more and more madness going on. So that History doesn’t repeat itself.

Then, I couldn’t help going into a war conversation with him. How we are getting used to it… And he told me that it is not fair for us to constantly live in wars with ‘peace breaks’ in between. Funny. He’s right. Some Lebanese people have lived more war than peace.

I remember my parents’ old photographs. Those shot during the civil war. Yellow-shaded photographs with rounded corners. Mainly shot in Raouche, Modca Café or Wimpy in Hamra, Rawda Coffee Shop or Arouss el Bahr… Places that became forever reminiscent of the war, carrying in them the bitter sweet nostalgia of extremely intense, yet painful days.

Coffee shop History is repeating itself. Modca disappeared few years back, it is true. But Hamra restaurants and cafés are slowly gathering their ‘deep intellectual’ clientele, and people are once again drawn to political discussions on the light of Beirut’s sunset. To this repetition is added the great comeback of the 80s.fashion. If it wasn’t for the cell phones in all shapes and colors, and laptops hiding consternated eyes, I would believe I am back in time.

On the television, the screen is once again split in four, four people discussing, gathered from the four corners of the planet. Discussing the problem. Discussing the solution. Discussing how the problem is a solution, how the solution is a problem, how the problem hides an ever deeper problem and how the solution hides a much, much deeper problem. In one word, a chain of problems crowned by the problem of idiots in power.

At the bottom left, an Egyptian general yells and shouts. The three others look at him, expressionless. I look at the four of them, and I really don’t know what to think.

I hope that by the end of the war, and with the help of all the absurd scenes that I see passing on television along with the mesmerizing Flash News Grey band, I will reach a state where my mind actually stops. I am looking forward to it. Thinking minds are not doing much these days.

Stunned,
A Lebanese Citizen

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The War Diaries-Day 15

Dear World

July 26th, Day 15

Today was my first day at work after two weeks of absence. Although everything was just the way we left it on Thursday July 10, nothing was the same. We weren't the same. For the first time, sitting and working in front of a computer screen became hell, although sitting home and following up the news on television was not less of a torture. My desk was s a mess, I didn't even have the desire to clean it up.

I was sitting at a friend's house when we heard about the attack on a 6-floors residential building in Tyre. People were running all over, covering their noses with their dusted shirts. God knows what chemicals the bomb had in it. The attack provoked a big mushroom smoke, and people were rushing out the scene with grayed faces, bursting in an explosion of sadness, anger, despair. The Red Cross members were rushing to help, transporting dismantled body parts on their carriers. Black and grey smoke, orange and red flames people running left and right in utmost panic.

And then I realized that I haven't grasped the reality yet, that war is once again happening to us. I watched it all on television like another American action movie. They are so good at making things look real that we now confuse our reality for one of their movies. Image after image, sound after sound, it builds within me a cumulus of anguish, sadness and chock, but doesn't get me an inch closer to reality. I watch, I burst into tears sometimes, but then again I am only watching myself as another actress in some drama. You always think something like this will never happen to you and then find yourself in the middle of the action, watching it, screaming words that eventually have the impact of a whisper.

There are three things currently playing on our national televisions: news, politicians talking or arguing, and national songs coming in between them. Basically, I skip the politicians, gather sadness during the news and burst into tears hearing the national songs. I can't help it. Today, an orchestra of young men and ladies was singing one of Zaki Nassif's songs, and there was something about this wonderful life energy within them that shook me from head to toe. It is that same life that animates Red Cross volunteers, and all the young people who are channeling everything within them to reduce, as much as possible, the amount of suffering happening around them. I might sound idealistic, but I feel this is what Lebanon is all about. The people. We have witnessed our buildings fall so many times, but the people here have always found a space to get up and keep on going. It is one of the things that pours hope in all of us. And they don't deserve this because they are wonderful. They had bombs as lullabies and shelters as parks in their childhood, and yet they refuse to bend and simply keep on going forward.

On the television, Marcel Ghanem has gathered a few young men and women debating about the country's situation. At this stage, I don't know how supportive talking is. I am in no situation to judge, I am kind of slow concerning politics. They are yelling at one another, repeating the same words I have been hearing for the past fifteen days. The War Vocabulary. Nation, Peace, Resistance, Nasrallah, Sanioura, Protection, Shelthers, Publicity Break and we continue. 'Fadi didn't fail. When Auxilia helped him, Fadi didn't forget. He grew up and became an architect, and now he is helping another Fadi through Auxilia.' Solution. Rays. Saudi Arabia. Christian. Muslim. Unity of the Lebanese people. Israel. Enemy. Displaced. Communities.

Sukleen is recruiting. I am seriously considering joining the night shift; Beirut's streets are very sad to look at. Never been dirtier. I could also use some pocket money. I do encourage everyone to do so. Mechanic work can be a great therapy for the madness that is starting to install itself in my head. Plus I really love the tweezers they use to pick up the trash!

Keep your country clean!

Peace, Peace Please!
A Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 16

Dear World

July 27, 16th day of war.

When I was a child, the 8 o'clock news were the most annoying thing for me. It was the moment where I couldn't communicate with my parents anymore, the moment where I had to stop watching my Felix the Cat cartoons videos. Silence prevailed around the house, leaving space to the speaker's voice, announcing the deceases and destructions of the war.

I remember one specific event, on some war night, where General Michel Aoun went on television and announced that the "Liberation War" was going to end, for the sake of Lebanon's children. I remember my mother jumping with joy, and I will never forget the relief I felt within, although I was too young to grasp what was happening. Of course, the next morning, we woke up to our lovely boom-boom alarm. And it took another interminable set of boom-boom mornings before the war ended.

Whatever I say, I will never be able to express how intense my thirst is to this sentence: "the war is over".

But everyday, we face the reality that it will not end soon. The most painful thing about it is that we don't know anything. We don't know where they are going to bomb, when they are going to bomb, what they are going to bomb. We don't know if we can plan for tomorrow. So far, all that we know is that fuel will run out on Friday. Fill up your Mazola plastic bottles so you can operate your generator for a few days before darkness prevails. Store up candles and matchboxes. Prepare a radio and spare batteries.

The eighties all over again. My father's silhouette is highlighted by the corridor's night candle. He carries me out of my bed and takes me to our vestiaire, the only safe area in the house, far from windows and balconies where gunshots are likely to land. Except that now, there are no gunshots, but bombs. No area in the house is safe. My father is not here anymore, and anyways I am too heavy to be carried out of my bed.

Today, while they were digging somewhere in the south to check if another UN officer was buried under the rubble, they found the bodies of a mother holding her two children. Once again, me deepest respects to the Israelis, who are so keen on freezing our intimate moments under masses of powdered concrete. Mummification Revisited.

The Ministry of Health announced today that the number of deceased reached over 600. What is the peak number before they ask for a cease fire? A thousand? A million? One American? 600 without counting the people in the South Villages surrounded without food, water, milk for 16 days now. 200 out of the 600 are still buried underneath the powdered households.

Today, as I was going back home from a friend's house, I took a glimpse at the sea, of which I could see a chunk, framed between two buildings. I miss the sea. Since they bombed the lighthouse and set the Beirut Port on fire, I have been avoiding going to that area. But it is only from a far distance that I can enjoy it now, since they have been pouring oil and petroleum, which set it in a disastrous state of pollution and killed most of the marine life

It is funny what God's Chosen People are doing to his creation. Having within something as intense as life, going on doing something as destructive as what we have been witnessing and enduring for the past two weeks.

Today, I realized that we might be totally out of electricity in the coming weeks. So I started calculating. No electricity, no fridge. Being myself a big fan of fruits, that cannot survive without refrigeration, I decided to start making fruit preserves.

These Israelis never stop surprising me with their avant-gardist visions. Training the next generation of Lebanese Grandmas, who would have thought about that!

With Love,
A Lebanese Citizen, and promising grandmother-to-be.

The War Diaries-Day 17

Dear World

July 28th, 17th day of war

Yesterday, the UK sent to Israel, as a token of appreciation for their initiatives towards peace in Lebanon illustrated by buried families and shredded children, a brand new bomb technology capable of digging 30 meters in the ground and exploding from the very core of it. This brilliant invention, carefully conceived by some brilliant scientist financed by an even more brilliant government, causes massive destruction in very little time. I bow down to all these brilliant people for their priceless efforts in making human massacres a swifter and quicker process.

I urge Blair and Bush not to include the word 'peace' in their vocabulary. It is really an offence to any human being's intelligence to even utter the word 'peace' when all you have in the back of your head is a mass of bombs and deadly weapons.

Everyday, as I encounter people, I hear new stories. Stories told by people who have left their houses and came running for their safety, bringing with them the most painful news from lands they were forced to abandon. One of these news is that, in one of the surrounded villages, and due to the lack of milk, parents were feeding their children collected rain water mixed with sugar.

The UNIFIL were able to reach one of these villages, where the inhabitants have been living with almost no food, water nor medication for 16 days. With utmost care and involvement, they managed to rescue all the foreigners, and totally ignored the 'local' dying elderly and starving children.

Since when is your right to live predetermined by the kind of passport you hold?

Since when are human beings left to die under the bricks of their own houses, while the rest of the world watches them on television with a bag of chips in their hands, and refuses to do something about it?

This war is not a disaster. Not yet. The disaster will arrive when this war is over, when the tension of the moment dissipates. The disaster of people digging in the rubble and finding the corpses of their beloved. The Health Ministry announced it today: 100 people are assumed to be still buried under the rubble. Another problem appears with all the refugees' psychological state, especially the children. Children who have been so harshly taken away from their homes, their cocoons, their safety. There's a lot to be done after this is over.

Today, two of my friends, who were abroad when the war exploded, came back after a long and stressful trip all the way from the Syrian borders, on the rhythm of bombs exploding every once in a while. One of them told me that on his way back, there was something about Lebanon's breeze and mountains taking life within him, circulating in his blood. This, they will never be able to bomb.
Bank Audi's advertisement on television says that the sun will shine back on Lebanon. I see it is already shining, everyday. We just have to catch a ray of it everyday and hold on to it.

Our sun, that's something they will never be able to bomb. As long as I know this, everything is okay for me. Almost.

Sunshines,
A Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 18

Dear World

July 29th, Day 18

Over 600 deceased.
Over 3220 injured.
Over 800 000 displaced.

I don't like to give numbers. I don't know how significant they are. I believe that, from the moment one person is murdered, from the moment one person is suffering, finding a solution is a must because people's right to a lead a decent life should not even be asked for. I should simply be there.

Today, a friend of mine told us a funny event that happened to her, and I have been hearing the same story from people around me. She received an international call on her cellular phone, at 3:30 in the morning. Being too tired to wake up and answer, she ignored the sound and went back to sleep. As the phone rang back at 4:30 in the morning, she answered and heard: "The State of Israel speaking." In a state of panic, she hanged up, refusing to hear what they had to say next. But all the stories I have heard give some insights about the content of the phone call being: "Beware of Hezbollah."

I cannot but express, once again, all my respects to the integrity and pride of the Israeli Government. Killing civilians is not enough. Nor is bombing bridges, roads, homes, hospitals, trucks, cars and motorcycles (which makes you want to live in a tent and move on the back of a donkey). Now, they start their psychological bombing, similar to the one expressed in American movies where the murderer traumatizes his victim with a series of threatening phone calls. My friend actually woke up in the morning, thinking she had been hallucinating, then checked her sanity by browsing the "received calls" section of her cellular phone. Brilliant strategy. I hope they are aware of how desperate their approach is. Personal phone calls? There's really nothing I can say about this.

On television, Marcel Ghanem is hosting the war photographers, who have been exposing some of their unpublished photographs and video shoots. Unpublished because, if people see them in the morning on their daily newspaper, their very desire to go through the day will be compromised. And I am seeing things I have never seen before. Hands, detached. Masses of flesh, what once was a human being living his life. A man killed in his own living room. An elderly holding a box with what's left of his belongings, trying to circulate in the core of his pulverized neighborhood. And that is only a selection. The photographers are talking about their experiences, how many times death skipped them by pure chance. They talk, and show photographs, and it sounds like a story, a nightmare, our current reality. I am thinking how beautiful it would be to organize a live exhibit of these photographs, not through the net, but printed, framed, exhibited in a glossy museum. So that people can look and see, so that nobody says that the media is distorting the facts and numbers.

An exhibit now, so that people can watch and actually react. If we do it in ten years, it will be just another human disaster that we regret and cry. It is just a thought… Because it seems to me that, if there's one thing that can (barely) still shake humans around the world, it is frozen moment of suffering printed on Kodak paper.

As a closure, I would like to propose to the Israeli Government other means of puzzling our heads via the phone, probably less costly:
Missed calls, our favorite Lebanese code system. One missed call: "beware". Two missed calls: "evacuate". Three missed calls: "too late, you're dead".
If missed calls seem too fuzzy, they can still resort to SMS. "Feeling safe? Don't! We are constantly watching" or "Please purchase candles ASAP, we will be bombing electricity plants soon."

So much care brings tears to my eyes, really.

"Allo? Hayeteh!"
A Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 19

Dear World

July 30, Day 19

Qana

Do I need to number the deceased? Do I need to number the children?

I woke up this morning to the sounds of screaming, crying and despair emanating from the television. No, sorry. Not from the television, from people; I am starting to confuse both already.

Then I saw.
I saw rubble, plenty of rubble.
I saw few families running away, screaming "There are children! Women! Elderly!"
I saw women crying. Men crying.
I saw traumatized faces of children wanting to understand.
Those were the living ones.

Then I saw the dead.
People drowned in a sea of broken concrete.
Children lying on their backs, dead.
Children lying on their tummies, dead.
Tiny dead children's fingers and toes emanating from the ruins.
Grey bodies and torn clothes.
Men holding little girls' bodies and saying to the camera, in an outburst of sadness and anger "did you film this?"

Did you watch this?
I hope you didn't, at least you will get to sleep tonight.
I hope you did, because it happened. Ruthlessely.

To the children of Qana, I am sorry.
I am sorry you didn't wake up this morning.
I am sorry your last moments of life were lived in fear, anger and despair.
I am sorry you weren't given the chance to grow.
I am sorry your mothers didn't watch you grow.
I am sorry you lived and died in a world ruled by ruthless idiots.
I am sorry you lived and died in a world where bombs are more valued than human life.
I am sorry your tiny hands had no pulse in them.
I am sorry your tiny bodies ended up being wrapped in nylon and labeled just like another supermarket product.
I am sorry you will see the world no more.
I am sorry my calls are not efficient enough.

Condoleeza Rays is also sorry, by the way. Israel is sorry too because their high-tech observation devices did not allow them to 'know' you were hiding there. The bomb that fell over your heads is also sorry.

Send more bombs, destroy more homes, kill more people.
Then, apologize. That will work.

To the 37 children of Qana, I am sorry.
To all the children of Lebanon, I am sorry you had to know anger at such a young age.

Over 700 victims already. Olmert asked Rays for 10 to 15 more days, enough to murder, proportionally (although there's nothing proportional here, but we still have hopes), 350 more people.

Dear Bush, Rays, Blair, Olmert and associates. Take your time. Drink your coffee in the morning with a clear conscience. There's no need to rush, really.

We will be waiting for you to make up your mind. You don't even have to worry about apologizing afterwards, we heard enough "sorry"s so far.

Who can blame unconsciousness anyways?

Love,
A grieving Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 20

July 31st, Day 20

National Grieving Day

Silence,
A Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 21

Dear World

August 1st, 21st day of war.

It has been three weeks already. The first day the war exploded, I could not believe I was going through it once again. And here I am, day after day, getting used to the repetition of images, sounds, news, words, actions, politicians' visits, routines. A few days ago, I asked my mother how she and my father were able to survive 17 years of war, and she said: "day after day".

Fuel is running out. Everyday, as I pass near gas stations, long queues of cars are waiting. I decided to stop driving. I left my car in the parking and realized, for the first time since I started driving, that I had feet. A tremendous creation, feet! They can take you anywhere you want. It might take a while, but walking through the city is the best thing I did these two days. For the past three weeks, I did not realize how much tension I had been accumulating and yesterday, 1 hour of walking from Gemmayzeh to Msaytbeh took it all.


The city was empty. For the first time since the assassination of Rafic Hariri, Beirut was empty. Once in a while, a car passed by but otherwise, all I could feel was the breeze (impregnated with remains of bombs chemicals that provided me with a constant feeling of dizziness) against my face and arms.

Silent Beirut. Some people are calling it "city of ghosts". I didn't see any ghosts. I saw nothing but few buildings, trees, sidewalks, closed shops, some men playing backgammon, a man listening to the news on the radio, a man talking on the phone and saying "No! The war is in the South!" and remains of concerts and plays posters, all cancelled or postponed, suspended. Beirut is not a city of ghosts, it is simply a city without people. And it is okay. Emptiness never hurt anyone.

The Israeli government gave us two days of break from bombing. A big joke, as usual. They pursued bombing the south, not as massively but still. These two days gave the Red Cross and Civil Defense members the time to find even more people buried for days in the bombed rural areas, to reach areas that were unreachable for 20 days and dig up more and more dead bodies. Two days of digging, before they come back and bury us again. The number climbed up to over 830 victims. 3200 wounded.

Qana's children were not 37, but 42, so far.

I heard rumors that today they will be using the 'smart bombs'. What is a smart bomb? A smart bomb is a bomb invented by an idiot. Why? Because, if he was smart enough, his need for a bomb to 'defend himself' would not even be there. But still, they call it smart because it can cause big damage in little time, or some technical war-language nonsense like that. Well, in case they use them on the southern suburbs tonight, I guess the ceiling will be falling over our heads. But hey, let us not panic. I am sure they will apologize afterwards.

Politicians are still negotiating, Blair and Bush are still refusing the cease-fire. I cordially invite them to come and stay in one of the suburbs' remaining buildings, I am sure they will immediately ask for this to stop. Nobody who is truly experiencing this would want it to last. People are still dying. Dead people are still being found. Refugees are still living by groups of hundreds in schools. Life is going on, we are adapting to it.

Outside, our generator is still on. My father purchased it in 1989, during the civil war, and we kept it, just in case. And there we are using it again, and we are lucky because the generators' prices climbed from 250$ to 1400$ in the market.

Outside, our generator is still roaring. And this roaring brings me back to 1989, to the sounds of gunshots and broken glass, the smell of cologne water and the taste of Zwan luncheon meat and Bacon Cheese, the sight of darkness. I learned to love the roaring, because it brings some light to my late nights and allows me to write and get out of my system all the mumbles happening in my head. I bless the roaring because, above all its benefits, it covers up the sounds of Israeli planes roaming above our city, suffocating us with their threatening sounds.

I am off to bed. I will try to find some symphony in the soft sounds coming to us from the heavenly sky. Who knows? I might even record them and use them as lullabies for my children to come. War-time drill never hurt anyone.

Good Night!
A Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 22

Dear World

August 2, Day 22

I am going to work daily now. Sitting and working actually helps me overcome the anguish resulting from sticking my nose on the television and constantly watching that grey band that keeps repeating the same news over and over again. But still, even at work, I can't help checking the news websites for updates.

"Israel is considering bombing the depths of the Lebanese lands, including Beirut."

That was it. Enough to ruin my whole day. I couldn't help it. Somewhere I wanted to see that this was just a psychological torture, but my heart started pumping and cold fever started running through my body. Bombing Beirut. Where would everyone go? There's no place left to go anyways. Then rumors started running, rumors that they sent flyers over Beirut for people to evacuate. Rumors are the worst. Nobody knows anything and yet people talk. This is when your neighbor becomes your worst enemy, and you become your mothers'.

It is at this stage that I started thinking. Why am I doing all of this? Why am I opposing this war? Is it really a concern for humanity or simply an instinctive self preservation?

I was talking to my sister when the war exploded, and I was asking her how it was possible for people to see a war on television and yet not move a finger. And she said "Well, we didn't move a finger during Kosovo or the Iraq war."

Self preservation. Maybe not exactly. It is just that it is only when disaster strikes you that you see the scale of it. I watched for years massacres on television and never felt concerned. I saw the most terrible photographs of the wars in Rwanda, Palestine, Iraq and didn't feel the revolt. And I am trying to see why. Maybe because these people did not resemble me. Their skin color was different, I could not understand their language, their dress code was foreign to me, so I excluded the priority of doing something for them.

I am not drawing any conclusions here, I am only thinking out loud. Why I it so hard to get an immediate cease fire? Why is it so hard for the forces in question to see the human calamity that is happening? Is it because these children dying are not Playstation and Bratz kids? Is it because the women dying don't look much like the international stereotype? Is it because they are not ashamed of screaming in anger and displaying their deepest emotions in whichever way they can? Is it because they dress different?

I have no clue. I have no clue what makes us look at another human being and yet be able to exclude him. All I know is that, once you know what pain is, you don't want anyone to go through it. And that is the problem. Israel, the US, everyone supporting this have not known enough pain yet. And they should because somewhere it's a gift. Simply looking at another human being and knowing what they are going through.

The electricity just cut. I lit the neon and, except for the laptop's light, the house is bathing in darkness. And I am unable to sleep, once again, because I don't want to wake up at another explosion's sound.

Day by day, this is how we are living now. Everything around us has stopped and we are moving in a slow motion. Slowness is not a problem, it is a space to look, hopefully see something. I am just wondering, when all this is over, if it is over, whether we will be able to go on.

What a question. Of course we will. There's no other choice anyways, better deal with it.

Day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment.

My deepest apologies if I am not making any sense today. 22 days of war can be really exhausting for one's brain cells. Anyways we are bathing in a totally mad situation, it is okay if we gather a little bit of madness within us at some point. It keeps us safe from the routine…

"When people run in circles it's a very, very mad world".

Love,
A Lebanese Citizen

The War Diaries-Day 25

Dear World

August 5, Day 25

In Arabic, the word ‘garden’ literally means ‘little heaven’. Heaven, maybe because it is a source of life. Whatever is planted there, it is simply wonderful to see it grow and take form, and no one can deny the beauty of seeing a flower blossom or a fruit ripen, all by themselves, without a direct intervention of men’s hands.

Lately, one of my mother’s war-time hobbies is gardening. The latest planted item was a baby tomato mini-tree, of which I get detailed updates everyday. Today, the flowers blossomed, and my mum was happy. No matter how messy things get out there, it is always nice to have a little heaven in a 10cm diameter pot on your balcony.

Yesterday, a slightly bigger heaven witnessed a massacre. 30 farmers killed. Simple people. People who, according to a friend, ‘simply pluck the fruits from the trees and store them is boxes and baskets’. They are not great thinkers or great businessmen. We might think they are not doing much, but they are the people whose hands bring fruits to our table everyday.

A man, a tree, a fruit… Simple life taking form. Then a bomb drops somewhere and transforms it into a display of flesh, blood, death. They really work on the romance of their massacres.

Fruits will never taste the same again.

I dropped my anger, and I am glad I did. It is with great consternation that I watch this masquerade go on, wrapped up with idiotic ideologies and surreal statements.

With Love,
A Lebanese Citizene