Sunday, April 10, 2005

Where to start

It's hard to know where to start. I have never seen such a complex set of issues to be sorted out as Lebanese politics. And even if they get sorted out, and even if the opposition wins a majority in the upcoming elections, and even if the already elected Syrian-backed security people resign, there's no guarantee that the next government won't be just as corrupt in its own way and the pro-Syrian one is now. What a sorry state of affairs!

It explains a lot about Lebanese citizenry and why they act as they do. It's hard to get things done here. There is no sense of expediency. I have been told that there is no word in the Arabic language for "anticipation" which explains why nothing gets done until it becomes an emergency. For instance, I have a ceiling fan in my room that is hanging by the electric wires. For four weeks I have filed a Maintenance Report to get it fixed. Fan doesn't work either which is a good thing as it would really vibrate and perhaps fall. The first week I was told that after it was hot the fan would be fixed. The second week I was told that an electrician was coming on Wednesday. The third week there was astonishment that it still didn't work. Well the electricity part worked but the fan still wasn't attached to the ceiling properly creating an even greater hazard. The fourth week, this week, the shoulders were just shrugged, accompanied with, "Oh, well!" My solution will be to move the desks so that if the whole thing comes crashing down it won't kill some kid. Too bad! It was really warm this week but so windy we couldn't open the windows as everything would blow out the door. Could have used the fan, but the electricity to it doesn't work again anyway.

I am working out the logistics for my move to Cairo next year. Word on the street is that it is very difficult to get books through customs without an Import License for heaven's sake! So I will be lugging all my books again to Germany at the end of the month, our spring break, and leaving them there until I get to Cairo and scope the situation out for myself. I am told that books will get pages ripped out, a form of Muslim censorship. Remember the people there are Arabs too, so I don't expect much in the way of accurate information on shipping. My clothes and what few household things I still own will be shipped by DHL after I get there and name a ship date. They will be picked up here and sent. Then I can expect to spend a day in customs just clearing everything.

The payoff for all this is a nice big fat tax-free raise, free furnished housing, free transportation to and from school and so I have also heard, free internet. The Arab kids are a joy to teach after the street smart snots in American schools. It has been great fun to teach here in Lebanon and I expect that the kids in Egypt will be great also. This is a private school with an American curriculum. About 65% of the faculty is American, yeah! Class size is under 20. I think this will be a self-contained classroom again. Thankfully I won't have 44 students as this year. (Just imagine reading 44 essays a couple times a week!!! YIKES!)

I will be living in a Cairo suburb called Heliopolis with somewhat cleaner air than downtown or in Maadi the other living choice. The school is brand new, K-12 on one campus, state-of-the art, air conditioned. I am glad I won't be living on campus for the next two years. (It has been quite confining to live here in Lebanon behind locked gates 24/7. The guards know when we come and go and there is virtually no privacy. We are at the mercy of students who frequent the campus on Sat's for "extra schoo"l for the Brevet test given this summer.) Later I will post my address but I am guessing that mail will be a problem there.

More news as it happens.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

It's been a long few weeks. It seems as if there is a stalemate now. Each side is entrenched in its own propaganda and agenda. Neither seems willing to move. While it is true that the Syrian troops are moving East. They aren't going east enough to satisfy most Lebanese. They aren't going across the border for the most part. And the president is still a Syrian puppet.

Finally the Lebanese have come out of the closet, so to speak, and are standing up publically to voice their opinions about Syria. This rebirth of democracy, I've been told it is a rebirth and not a birth, is really difficult. The opposition party has a stated list of demands that they want enacted before they will come to the table for talks. The pro-Syrian President E. Lahoud has, I believe, returned the demands. Heels are being dug in. Now with the second car bombing who knows.

One person here has said this is the way to get division going in the country. He may be right. That could be the way to war. Let's hope not. Some idiot kids in the street right by my window just shot of a round of firecrackers, just as I typed the word war. Man, I jumped a mile.

Then there's the question of Hizbollah. Here it is more like an armed political party. Many MPs are from the Hizbollah. Seems like there could be a way for Hizbollah and the Lebanese army to merge, thus making Hizbollah seem more legitimate in international eyes. I know America has a hard-on about Hizbollah. But living here under the Syrial control and the threat of Israeli invasion gives new meaning to protection. Yes, Hizbollah has acted with Syrians. Now they will have to choose - Syrian control or become truly Lebanese (as they are by birth).

It's a little more tense now than for the first four weeks after Hariri's murder. It's a wonder there hasn't been more violence. Humdallah! Thank God!

Next weekend is the Christian Easter here, too, and we will have Fri/Mon off school. We've worked 2 Sat. now to make up part of the 7 lost days. Two more to go in April. While I enjoy vacation, and the weather is nice, I would prefer to work and make up the other days. But no one asked me. I will go to Beirut for a few of the days and come back up to Aley on Easter. Monday, if the weather is nice, maybe I'll go to the beach. I'll have to schedule a driver and they don't like taking us around on days off.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Don't Believe Everything You Read and See on TV

This has been a time of great turmoil for the people of Lebanon. You probably know from tv that there have been nightly demonstrations by the opposition party, mostly young people demonstrating. It was thought to be a good thing when the government resigned but as of yet there is no interim government. The pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, refused to resign and has continued to refuse to resign. He is the one who has gone to Syria today to talk with Syrian President Assad about withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. Let's see. How can we add two and two and get four with these two, one in the hip pocket of the other. My papers say that troop withdrawal will begin today. I'll believe it when I see it. There are Syrian troops all around the outskirts of Aley. I rarely see them unless I am out for a walk.

Tomorrow there is to be a pro-Syrian demonstration in Beirut. In a democracy, as we know it, all sides get to say their piece. Lebanon has been under the thumb of Syria so long, they don't remember how to be a democracy. There is the threat of violence now. The opposition doesn't want to hear what the pro-Syrians have to say. My guess is that the opposite is true too.

The Lebanese, while wanting Syria to get out, also need to maintain working relations with them. It's sort of like when your relatives come for a visit and don't know when to go home. Syria has been here about 30 years. They were needed at the time but now it's time for them to go home. Just as with your relatives, you'll still talk to them and maintain a relationship; so, too, Lebanon needs to be on good footing with Syria to protect their peace and do business. It's sticky.

It's also very complicated, on both sides. Then there's Israel to the south. Syria is still at war with them. They like the access through the south of Lebanon. And it goes on and on.

Because of all the days we've missed school due to this political upheaval and 3 days to snow (well, not Michigan's idea of snow), we now have to make up 5 of the 7 days. YUCK!!!!! So this week we work on Teacher Appreciation Day usually a fun holiday full of presents and flowers for the teachers, plus the day off. AND we work on Saturday this week and next and the first two Sat of April. Bummer!!!
Boo! Hiss!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Quiet Monday results in no government

From what I could tell from the TV Monday, all went peacefully. Thousands broke the army's barriers and went to demonstrate on Martyr's Square anyway. A civilized debate seemed to take place in Parliament. In the evening CNN International said that the government had resigned. All but pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud. I don't know how the new gov't will be formed but will be able to get more detailed news from the papers today. If we have school, then hopefully Wael will be here and I can get his first-hand account of the proceedings yesterday.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Last Sunday, February 20, 2005

The pictures below were taken last Sunday after church. Several of us walked over to the bomb site for a look see. There were so many cars going to drive by, we could cross the road between them with no problem. They were at a stand still. Traffic was incessant. Between then and today much has happened. See entry below pictures.

The west side of the Phoenicia Hotel with all the windows boarded up. This is one block from the bomb site. Posted by Hello

The actual bomb site right in front of the gray car on the left. The other cars were still there one week later, covered with plastic since all the windows were blown out in the blast. In the background between the palm tree trunk and the building just to the left is the Mediterranean Sea.Posted by Hello

Long distance view of bomb site. Posted by Hello

View of the St. Georges Hotel from the balcony of my church. Posted by Hello

The St. George Hotel from a half a block away.The other side has more damage. Posted by Hello

The wire structure used to support a huge banner, but now it dangles in front of the building. Posted by Hello

The Truth & Honesty Petition. I signed just between the words Citizens of Lebanon. This is located at the bomb site and is visited nightly by thousands during candlelight vigils. Posted by Hello

The Day Before

This is the day before the government and the country will close for at least 24 hours. Monday, February 28, the opposition party and the pro-Syrian gov't will meet at Parliament to discuss the mess the country is in. All this past week there have been demonstrations, rallies, protests, meetings and more meetings. The bomb site hosts a candlelight vigil every night at 7 PM; thousands are still paying their respects at the grave site daily/nightly.
There is the feeling that if someone so well protected as Hariri was, with six body guards and an armored car, can be killed at any time then any of the next-in-line leaders' lives are in danger also. Walid Jumblatt, whose father was killed nearly 25 years ago in similar circumstances, is supposed to be the second in line. He was taken out of Beirut this past week and kept at his home in the Chouf Mountains for his own safety. But Monday he will have to appear in Parliament as MP and as leader of the opposition. Perhaps the next in line after Jumblatt is Akram Chehayeb, also an MP, who is the president of the school board here at our school and whose son is our head accountant. There is also talk that Hariri's oldest son, Saadeddine (Saad, for short), would be a good leader but that is yet to be determined.
There has been no additional violence but no one knows what to expect tomorrow. Americans are NOT the target in this mess so we are fairly safe here in the mountain on the school compound where we live behind fencing and gates that are guarded 24/7.
I will post as news occurs so check often if you are interested.