Hole in the Wall

In the US, we use “hole in the wall” to describe a small, unpretentious business, usually a bar or a restaurant. There are plenty of “holes in the wall” in Beirut…

Restaurants, the likes of which could fit in anywhere from Beirut to Boston:


Businesses, like this tiny shoe repair shop:


Bars, like this one whose tongue is firmly placed in cheek:


And then there are the holes in the walls that are entirely literal:



And the tragedy is that these far, far outnumber the figurative holes in the walls.

Despite the ongoing restoration of historical buildings and unending construction of sleek new towers, reminders of the ravages of the Lebanese civil war are readily apparent in just about any building in Beirut that existed prior to 1990.

What was life like for those who lived through all that gunfire?

A friend in Honduras, a country that is battling ever-increasing levels of crime, recently commented on Facebook about sociology’s “broken glass” theory, in which researchers found that crime was more likely to occur if a parked car had its window glass broken, than if it were intact.

Social scientists debate whether the broken windows theory is causal or correlated, and the reality in Beirut is that despite the bullet holes and bombed-out buildings, there is very little street crime. But do these unrepaired vestiges of war affect the Lebanese in other ways?

Day in, day out, locals walk or drive by buildings that have been perforated by bullets. What might the psychological impact be, for the people whose days and nights were punctuated by with the clatter of gunfire and the whistle of rockets?

Perhaps there is a visual “tuning out,” that is the only way to move forward. It scares me just the same.

That’s why I was especially heartened to hear about the work of Offre Joie (“the Joy of Giving”), a volunteer group composed mainly of youth, who worked to rebuild Ibrahim Mounzer Street – the street in my neighborhood that was bombed in October.



The third photo shows that repairs are not 100%, but they are pretty darn close. The government may not have been able to provide all the repairs required, but there were those who protested leaving the damages as they were, and were willing to put in enormous efforts to make the necessary repairs. Is there ever any doubt that youth are the hope of the future? No slacktivism here, but people willing to put their hard work where their heart is. (Here is a short video on their work, if you are interested to know more: )

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

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12 Months of Life in Lebanon

One year ago today, at approximately 7pm, I arrived in Beirut, ready to embark on a new adventure.

In honor of the occasion, I wanted to share 12 images, one for each month – random glimpses into Life in Lebanon.

And here I am, with my trusty Bradt guide to Lebanon, at the Beiteddine Palace just yesterday

(Moon Handbooks is my favorite guidebook brand of course, but they don’t have a guide to Lebanon… yet.)

 

The Scent of Gardenias

The scent of gardenias wafted through my window as I sat working at my computer this morning. Their perfume reminds me of our arrival to Beirut, when there were vendors selling gardenia chains at every stoplight. And in turn, that reminds me that at the end of this month, we will have been here one year.

There has been plenty of tension in Lebanon during that time, with a car bomb in October, and floods of refugees seeking shelter from the war in Syria. But those gardenias remind me of how many good things there have been as well. I hope that it has been clear from my blog posts how much more there is to Lebanon than the headline news.

To that end, I wanted to share with you to a blog post by David Lebovitz, a California pastry chef who is now resident in Paris and was here in Lebanon a couple of weeks ago to explore the country’s food and culture. I hope you have a minute to take a look.

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2013/04/lebanon/

Relishing the food, marveling at the hospitality, and with photos so fantastic you can almost taste the beautiful food. Or at least you wish you could. In fact, the ice cream shop he mention’s, Hanna’s, is just a few minutes’ walk from my home. Maybe I’ll head there now….