This Too Shall Pass…

I have been working on “Twice Upon a Time”, a documentary film about my childhood during the Lebanese Civil War, for some years now. The film is finally about to come to a conclusion.

For the fact that you grew up during a war there is no changing. You will always have grown up during war. What can change is what you make of that experience.

On Friday, June 20, 2014, I got an opportunity to meet people who were making the best out of it!

I was invited to attend a lecture by Dr. Joseba Achotegui, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Barcelona, Spain, and author of “Ulysses Syndrome” and “Ulysses Scale for Refugees”. The invitation came from the Veteran, Immigrant & Refugee Trauma Institute of Sacramento (VIRTIS).

Between emails and in-person introductions, I managed to meet around 40 or 50 people that day at the lecture and the informal exchanges around it. That on its own is a fantastic achievement for someone like me, but it was not the highlight of the event for sure.

My favorite personal high note of the event was the fact that most of the people attending the lecture and all those esteemed professionals working and volunteering at VIRTIS today were war or trauma victims themselves.

At that time, this was a great unifying and defining trait about those in the room.

Today, when I come to think of it again, I find it all the more reassuring and uplifting.

These were people from all over the world who must have witnessed some war horrors or traumatic situations along the journey of their lives. Today, they are all doctors, engineers, professors, businessmen, or successful professionals working towards the improvement of other refugees and trauma victims’ lives.

When I wonder about their pasts, I see things I don’t want to know about. When I look at their present today, I feel that I want to raise them high and show them to all the sad refugees and war victims living in horrible conditions all over our planet.

Thirty years ago, in July of 1984, life was not beautiful at all for my family and hundreds of thousands of other families in Lebanon.

If somebody at that time had come and told us that we will be where we are today, we would’ve ignored them at the very least.

I wonder sometimes, when I feel so helpless towards all the refugees, specifically those living in Lebanon today, what can we do to tell them that even this, this too shall pass…

And will it?

Our IndieGogo Crowdfunding Campaign

To all readers and followers of this blog:

Yesterday, I launched a crowdfunding campaign for a documentary film I have been working on for the past three years.

I urge you to check the campaign out, donate if you can, but please please please SHARE it with as many people as you can, write about it, and help us put the word out!

Here is the link to the campaign:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/twice-upon-a-time-a-documentary

Thank you!

The Syrian Woman with the Glass Eyes

Yesterday, I drove down from the Bekaa Valley to Beirut. This is the default international road between Beirut and Damascus. As usual every Sunday, there was traffic on the road and most of the time when the cars stop, I steal glances into people in nearby cars. Sometimes we smile to each other, sometimes we exchange helpless gestures about the traffic and sometimes we don’t exchange eye contact.

In one of the brief stops on the roads of Arayya, I noticed a Syrian cab with lots of people in it. This has become a regular scene on the international road. And so I announced the regular, “More refugees.”

While my fellow passengers were saying that we were like these refugees not so long ago, and that it was THEM “the sooriyyeen” who caused a lot of our troubles, I noticed a woman sitting on the back seat behind the passenger seat of that car (the passenger seat had TWO passengers not one). The woman’s eyes were fixed on the front right side of the road, on nothing, I was certain. Her eyes were green. But they looked like glass eyes. They didn’t move right or left. “This woman is very sad,” I murmured as if to myself. I had tears in my heart for the sight of her and couldn’t help wondering how we looked when we used to run away from Beirut in the middle of the night to seek refuge somewhere else.

When did we start accusing the woman with the glass eyes of our Lebanese problems? Is it because she carries a Syrian ID? Why can’t people get over these limitations they created and view each other for what they are: human beings with hearts and past lives and future dreams and basic needs?

The woman with the glass eyes haunted me all day yesterday, and then all night, and then all day while I was working today I had her profile face in front of me. Looking at the nothing in front of the white car driving towards Beirut.

Where was she going? Did she know somebody in Beirut? Were the two men in the front seat her sons? Was she alone? Is she blind or did she just see too much?