I have a blog post written about learning to read in Arabic, all ready to go. But the events of recent days have included deadly car bombs exploded in the north-Lebanon city of Tripoli, reports of chemical warfare in Syria, and Israeli-launched missiles landing near the valley near Naamé – a town I visited in June, to meet Syrian refugees that the Lebanese NGO Cedars for Care has helped support. Somehow blogging about spelling in Arabic felt a bit… disassociated from reality.
Disassociation is a powerful word in Lebanon. It’s the country’s official policy toward the conflict in Syria. Lebanon does not take any side in the conflict, in the hopes of preventing the country from plunging into strife. (Doesn´t take any side officially, that is – there are obviously countless individuals and groups that are fervently partisan.)
Sometimes it feels like disassociation is the only way to get through the reality. Lebanon may not yet have taken the plunge, but signs are sure indicating that it is slowly sinking into strife. As a foreigner, I have the luxury of jumping ship before it sinks. But for the duration that it manages to stay afloat, life onboard carries on as usual. Day to day living disassociates from the reality of the conflict. Billboards advertise backpacks and school supplies, and I stock up. I call sports centers about classes for the kids, and arrange to go to a trial session. Construction on new apartment buildings continues to clatter and send dust into the air. My husband had dinner at one of Beirut’s most exclusive restaurants last night – a Monday – and the place was hopping.
And at other times the seemingly disparate worlds touch. A quiet dinner, with the windows open to the warm summer air, is punctuated by the sound of UN helicopters practicing drills on a nearby landing pad. The car bomb of August 15th in the southern suburbs and the missiles just south of Beirut in Naamé lead me to scratch plans to go to the beach in the south, and I plan activities for the kids that won’t take me that direction. I read through the newly-revised parents handbook sent to me from the kids’ school, and see that along with the usual rules about school behavior and suitable attire, there is a new section entitled “Civil Unrest, Natural Disaster, Loss of Communication.” It informs parents that the school has enough “fresh water, powdered milk, cereal, cookies and tea in the event of an overnight stay.” (Tea for grade-schoolers? But I digress. That’s clearly the least of our problems.)
My plans for now? I’ll get my life jacket ready: I’ll make sure to have important documents organized and a plan B percolating, just in case things come to that. But for today the ship is, thankfully, still afloat, and my most pressing plans are what’s for dinner and how I’m going to keep the kids busy during these dog days of summer before school starts.
Truth be told? I’m glad to be here, still enjoying Lebanon. Heartbroken by the recent events, but glad to be on this ship.