Niam to Make Peace in Lebanon

From Japan with Love

I have been chosen. It is no joke.

There was a Japanese woman yesterday at the lower gate of LAU, who gave me a book and said I can make peace.

Details Below:

I usually don’t go to LAU on Tuesdays. But yesterday I went to help with the preparations for the Annual Theater Festival. I was almost at the lower gate when I noticed a travel suitcase outside. I thought it’d be for a student leaving to their country since the semester is over. Then I noticed this short woman carrying few books and wearing a badge around her neck.

I know these types. I always see them around Hamra Street waiting for victims to approach then they either want you to donate for a cause or answer a survey.

I am a Itani. Just saying. I saw the woman approach a student who just left LAU, but the student knew how to fend her off so she came back to the sidewalk. I noticed something strange, however. The woman seemed to be Asian from a profile view. I wondered, is it possible that Lebanese people are now using Asians for these jobs? I didn’t have time to wonder too much, though, because the woman’s next “victim” was none other than myself. She saw me and smiled. My smiley face. Grrrr. In my heart I decided that I will not surrender to this woman’s will to make me pay money if it is something I don’t want to pay for. Of course the part after the “if” was just to satisfy my ego, because I never succeed in escaping.

The woman and I had now become really close and she politely started the conversation:

– Hello, you speak English? May I speak to you for a moment?

I said yes, sure. Like a Lebanese child, I always become happy when an older foreigner knows that I can speak English. She also looked older than my mother, maybe my grandmother’s age. And she was obviously not in love with the heat.

– My name is Hayuko, I am from Universal Peace Federation.

She showed me her badge. Like an authentic Lebanese I pretended to be interested. I knew Hala would be waiting for me with a “yell” at the very least for being late, while this Missus talks to me about World Peace. Try to give Hala THAT excuse! But, anyway, it was too late to run away. She handed me one of the books from her hand.

– I am distributing this book here. I come from Japan, to make peace.

– “You came from Japan to make peace in Lebanon?” I laughed briefly but took the translated book nevertheless.

She nodded. I don’t know if the Japanese humour is not similar to Lebanese humour or if she seriously thought she was going to make peace in Lebanon. Bottom line is I couldn’t help but respect her passion for peace -she was hopeful talking to hopeless.

– And you think I’m going to read this book and make peace in Lebanon? You think I can make peace?

– “Yes, yes. This,” she took out a handmade card from her bag and handed it to me, “is from my friend Chiharu. She wanted to come to Lebanon but she can’t, so she sent you this.”

Things were getting better, but my mind was now consumed with two things: 1- I am definitely getting yelled at by Hala for being late because of World Peace. 2- Is she trying to sell me a handmade card on top of the translated book about some peace making Japanese dude?

– That’s very nice.

I noticed that the woman’s family name was “Watanabe” and I wondered if she could be Ken Watanabe’s sister. I shuffled the pages of the book and started thinking of possible excuses. The woman also had started getting restless at this stranger who wouldn’t buzz off, I guess. She took another thing from her bag.

– This is the Japanese symbol for peace.

– Oh, Origami!

– Oh! You know!

Her face lit up at my knowledge of Origami and she gave it to me happily.

– Thank you! How do you say, thank you in Japanese?

– Arigato.

– Arigato, Hayuko. Ok, so are you selling this book or is it just something that I have to read then make peace?

– No, no. I am not selling. You read.

– Ok, so then do I have an assignment afterwards? Like do I have to write to somebody?

I now know that this must’ve sounded like an idiot because I feel like an idiot and I remember that she looked at me like I was from outer space. Does this woman think that people don’t give books for free? Not in Lebanon I’ve never seen anybody give a smile for free, heavens forbid.

– No, no. You just read for peace.

– Ok, Hayuko. Arigato! Good luck!

I walked in to LAU and went directly up to the Fine Arts. Good thing Hala had given up on me arriving on time so she was out of her office!

But I was thinking, is the woman coming from Japan to ask me to make peace in Lebanon a good thing or a bad thing? And, out of all people, why me? Does she know that the thing that I want most in this world is to get out of here because of the absence of peace? Is that how messiahs are chosen? Like we write our protagonists? Identify their weaknesses. What is their darkest shadow, their biggest fear? Put them face to face with it. Make them arc.


إنفلع حذاء إحداهنّ

كنت في عصر أحد الأيام أمشي في شارع الحمراء قرب مكتبة أنطوان، وإذ بي أشاهد امرأة تسير برفقة طفل وطفلة، تقفز بشكل مضحك ثم تضع رجلها على الأرض وتصيح لهما “ماما نطروا”. وقد استغرق الأمر مني بضع لحظات لأدرك أن صندل المدام قد انفلع لأني رأيته فاغرا فاه. ولكن العجيب لم يكن أن صندلها قد انفلع، وانما العجيب في الأمر أن المدام، وكأنما حسها قلبها في بيتها أن صندلها مقبل على انفلاعة عظيمة، فقامت بحمل سابو أزرق احتياطيا ينقذها في حالة الفلع

ذلك أن المدام بعد صيحتها الشهيرة، “ماما نطروا”، قامت -عدم المؤاخذة- بالطوبزة في وسط الرصيف ومن دون سابق انذار، وانتزعت من رجلها صندلها الزحف لتضع فيها بدلا منه سابوهاً أزرق اللون لو كنت وزيرة داخلية لمنعته بنص القانون للونه الفاقع زرقة وكعبه العااااااااالي. وقد تسببت حركة المرأة الأكروباتية بزحمة سير في خط المشاة على الرصيف لأن الشاب العراقي الملامح الذي كان يمشي خلفها لم يتوقع توقفها المفاجئ بدون سابق انذار، وكذلك الذي يليه والذي يليه

المهم في الموضوع ان المدام استبدلت صندلها الزحف اللميع بسابو ازرق شامخ وعاشت عيشة حلوة وتوتة توتة خلصت الحدوتة

I am a Scared Child

Being outside the house has its toll on you. You get to know somebody. And then you start getting to know other people and people get to know you. Before you know it, you have social responsibilities and considerations. Things you can say and things you can’t say. Things you shouldn’t ever let anybody know.

The last few days were insane in Lebanon. The violent clashes that happened in Tripoli were the first that happen since I return to Beirut. True I do not live in Tripoli and I wasn’t there to witness any of it, but I am in the country. The sad part also was the fact that life resumed normally in Beirut. Some people didn’t even know something was happening in the North. This is how ignorant and resigned from politics we’ve become. I will admit that I am also sick and resigned of politics. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t follow remotely, vaguely, what is going on in the country.

Somewhere deep inside me, I always knew that the civil war never ended. Day after day, this becomes a certainty. The thing that I never knew was that I would feel one day that maybe I have the desire to try and end it myself. Nothing wrong with that, right? I am sick and tired of being scared and disgusted. I don’t want to walk into the vicious circle of political debate in Lebanon. I would like to propose a discourse that is higher in quality than the current sectarian discourse that governs every single decision taken in any alley in Lebanese cities. Sectarianism has brought us no good. But we want to know why people stick to their sects. And the question that we should ask ourselves is, what did I do to encourage people of the other sect to trust me? This trust building thing is going to take a very very long time. But it has to start somewhere. A single person, an MP or a minister who applies the same rules to everybody, who doesn’t favor a sect over another or a political opinion over another, who just wants to do good for the country for the sake of the country and because they love Lebanon and they simply want the best for Lebanon. Did we run out of people like that? Or maybe I should ask myself if all the people who are like that have already run out of Lebanon to other places where human beings are respected simply for the mini fact that they are human beings?

I am very sorry for myself and for my people. I am sorry for myself because the past two days were the days that I felt I live in a place that I know. This crazy gunfire deadly Lebanon is indeed my home. The strange calm place before that was not the Lebanon I know and I didn’t belong there. And then this thought scared me more. I have seen crazy people who declared on public TV stations that they don’t know how to live without war in Lebanon. Did I become one of them unconsciously? Do I link Lebanon to instability and chaos and fighting? Or is it this ego thing that I am happy when my bad expectations for my country are met and I can tell everyone, “I told you this shit was gonna happen”? Sometimes I feel pathetic. What I have  to say is, again, I am very sleepy before writing this so forgive me if I didn’t make any sense. Good Night & Good Luck.

Happy “Invisible Labor” Day

Because everybody was congratulating everybody today for Labor Day, I decided to chime in. Happy Labor Day.

I worked my butt off today just like most people who do their own gigs and struggling independent artists. The holiday didn’t really mean much to me. Although it certainly felt good that streets were calm and empty, everybody was resting. Awesome. Rest, rest. To be honest, I don’t think people in the Arab world get tired at their jobs, for the most part. So I am totally indifferent whether we get the day off or not. Most of them go to their offices to show up, do a minimal effort that keeps them from getting fired then earn a salary. So, yeah, whatever, Labor.

But one person did not rest today. That person is my mother. And your mother. To these people, invisible workers who do the toughest job of all, I decided to say Happy Labor Day today, like, for real.

So to my mother, your mother, and all stay-at-home mothers who go out of their way to raise their children, who work 24/7 whether its a work day, holiday, school day, or Sunday; to the mothers who wake up at any time of night or day to tend to our silly questions and funny complaints, to them higher souls with big hearts that don’t tire of loving and accepting us whatever crazy sh*t we do, to all mothers, whether they are with us or in a better world, I heartily dedicate this Labor Day. Which I know won’t be a holiday for them. It will probably be a tougher “work” day because everybody’s home.

As for the rest of us, you and me and the rest who work their butts off, sleep tonight and wake up early tomorrow ye smart ones for another “Happy” “Labor” “Day”.