As our days gradually advance in Lebanon, our experiences deepen with the people around us. I met and listened to many people about their hardships and their daily struggles. Stories of children unable to go to school, young adult men and women, taking care of their parents. Some dedicated 100% to this care and unemployed, others balancing, work, children and elder parent care, as there are no government institutions to care for the ageing and the ill, unless they are admitted to the hospital or in a private retirement home, to which people have no full trust.
This morning I went to spend some time with my two nieces and met their children, and made it back home to my sister’s apartment right on time, where my nephew was getting a haircut from a young Syrian man, who shared with me that he has started his emigration paperwork with the UN to move to Canada – that was 5 years ago and they have still not heard what is their status and when will they relocate to Canada. It is mind boggling how a young family with two children of 3 and 7 are in a limbo in Lebanon. This father had opened a small barbershop, and his son was going to school. Recently the shop was closed by the government as he had no status in Lebanon. It amazes me that one of the most corrupt governments is seeking law and order with these refugees. I am not sure how can a government whose leaders are corruption kings, are stopping hard-working refugees from working. So, now, he has no money to send his son to school, no place to work, and no place to live after October 1. However, people like my nephew attempt to help him out by asking him to come to his place and give him a haircut occasionally. I also got a haircut and encouraged Gary to get one as well and a shave – it was the best haircut ever – knowing that we arrived at home right on time for him to offer us his services. He left our place with a bag full of goodies, t-shirts for the entire family (Thanks to Life is Good – Jake by the Lake in Westport, ON) and some children’s medications (Thanks to Proxim Pharmacy, Nermine Wanis in Ste. Dorothee, Quebec). As my nephew said, “Aunty, the guy left our place with a renewed Hope in him”. That is our Call – To make Hope apparent, Joy Possible and Love a reality.
After the haircut, I had no choice but to take a shower. The last six days have been shower-less – baby wipes, antiperspirant, and dry shampoo have been our best friends. After the haircut, I stood in the middle of a 5×5 bathroom and literally took a shower by taking a large measuring cup filled with warm water, adding a little cold water and pouring it down my head. To all my North American friends, when was the last time you thanked God for a good shower? When was the last time you thought about parts of the world that have no such necessary luxury; maybe better yet, when did we move our governments where we live to ensure that our Aboriginal sisters and brothers have clean drinking, bathing, and washing water?
Gary and I survived six days without showers and had full tummies, beds to sleep in and fans to keep our sweat at bay – water and electricity are scarce, they are almost a game to the people. Numbers 10, 2, 6 and 12 are magic numbers here. Those are the times of day where your electricity and water be cut off or return. It is no joke, whenever the electricity or water have been turned back on, we literally shout with joy. And those who can afford to, besides paying the government what they owe for electricity and water, pay the second level of authority called “Ishterak”. This is a person who has a generator and has connected different homes to receive electricity when the government cuts down the hydro, and charges people double the amount of the regular hydro. Think about that the next time you complain about hydro bills. Moreover, there are water delivery trucks that you purchase water from, and also pay double the price – There are no regulations for such businesses who pay off government leaders to keep these corrupt activities going, but yet, a hard working refugee is put out of his barber shop, who is paying rent for the space and keeping his family fed and educated by blood and sweat. Visiting Lebanon after 35 years of exodus has made me see that these people are no longer running and hiding from bombs and snipers, but their struggles are from within – there is no way to run away to find shelter. The living pressure is different, no one person can see the end of this chaotic life unless they are rich and live in places where their area has no interruptions of water and electricity. People wrestle within their hearts, minds and souls to make ends meet and survive with a war within themselves where nothing can help except to find a way to get out of here.
In the evening of this day, my friend came and picked us up after her work and took us to KCHAG – this is the Summer Camp Area that belongs to the Armenian Evangelical Churches, where I was a regular youth attendee. The traffic was horrendous, however, after getting out of the city and going a bit higher to the villages of Lebanon, you see and remember the beauty that God has bestowed upon Lebanon. The groundskeeper at KCHAG invited us to go see the grounds. We went all the way to the top of the campground and saw that renovation work has been done, thanks to benefactors who have helped renovate most of the cabins, the chapel, and the cross that stands tall at the top, right where we used to have sing-along around the campfire. This place was really a place of Faith and a place of Hope for all the kids, youth, young adults, and adults who went there in the past and still go today.
What a day of pastoral care, memories, and wonders. Truly Lebanon is a beautiful place, where Faith and Hope are two sides of the same coin. Living in Lebanon is a beautiful thing, with all her natural beauty and glory and the people who are living and attempting to survive, remind me once again that this place of Faith, Hope and Perseverance and that my friends is a gift that we all have from the Creator, and that is worth more than any money can buy. Thanks be to God today and Always. Amen.
Sunday, September 17, 11:00 p.m. – Cinema Royal Building, Nor Marash, Bourj Hammoud.