Thursday, October 24, 2013

Especially to HIM!

Moist, cold and dark is the place where I sleep every night.
Water enters from the cracks in the walls. Wind blows through the broken glass. And darkness reigns all over.

I sit in my corner, motionless – hoping to catch the early rays of light.
Images from last night’s incident surface. I try to drench them but my rib aches from the fall and I’m too weak to resist any mental pictures.

Before dawn breaks, I hear footsteps. Someone must be awake. Then, voices, arguments and sounds of beatings alternate.  I hear him scream and cry. Today’s violent strikes must be very severe. His body is used to the torment, yet it gets more and more agonizing each day.

I sit in my corner, helpless – wishing to break both of us free.
He sits on the floor, but doesn’t glance my way. He is too ashamed to look at me. He counts a handful of coins and some paper money. He closes his swollen eyelids.
Another day will soon begin.

Later on, he chews his plain and unfancy breakfast. And with the first signs of morning, he wraps his arm around me and takes me away.
And just like usual, he never lets me leave his side. We roam the streets together. I accompany him wherever he goes. I became a part of him, his existence. With him, I feel valuable.

We go from one neighborhood to another. He talks to clients and shows off what we got. Most people know him. Few smile at us, others frown at our sight. They call him by his name, or by terms they invent. They hand him money in exchange of goods - but sometimes for nothing at all.

Life is cruel; especially to him.
After a long day of disappointments, shame and disdain, an old black car with no plate number and tinted windows honks at us. He hops in. And the minute he closes the door, he receives a slap on his cheek. He removes his arm off me and cups his face.
A head turns to him, scowls, and asks him if he earned the daily amount required. My companion remains silent. It means he didn’t. The question is repeated. He shakes his head signaling a No.
Then, all I can hear is tires screeching against the asphalt. The man stops, pushes my partner out of the car and throws me away.

We both lie on the cold wet pavement – the place where we will spend the night. He hugs me, puts his face down and starts to weep.
Life is cruel; especially to him: an unschooled nine-year-old with an empty stomach, a coldblooded father and with absolutely nothing but ME.
Me? A plastic bowl that he picked from a rich family’s dumpster. A plastic bowl in which he puts gum packs and cheap sweets. A plastic bowl that he is forced to carry around night and day in order to please a ruthless parent.

Could this be more inhumane? Life in a city where minors are obliged to work, child abuse is everywhere and kids are deprived from their most basic rights.

Photo By Nour Kabbara.

By Nour Kabbara

By Nour Kabbara

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Mediterranean vs. Theirs

Al-Mina, Tripoli. Photo by Lama Dabbousi.
So I was at the seaside getting some relaxation, soul power and serenity remembering that living on a coastal city is a true bliss. It is, especially for me, because for a Pisces [although I hate Astrology], water is a comfort zone. I was thrown in the sea since I started walking. I learned to dive and to hold my breath underwater for long and I was pulled out of pools by my wrinkly fingers because it got dark.

It’s also a blessing because you get to enjoy the charm of the sea. You can watch over and over again the waves kiss tirelessly the rocks and hug relentlessly the shore; and you also get to see where the sun sleeps every single night.

But just when I was in the middle of my appreciation, a thought hit me like a storm. It has always been there, hibernating. Yet a helpless citizen like me can’t do anything about it. However, I can write about it and this is how it goes.

I’ve been to Cannes, Nice, Monaco and Barcelona. Four cities that have one thing in common with my home town: the Mediterranean Sea!
However, my side of the Mediterranean is so unfortunate it’s not even funny.
And it feels to me like we are some kind of twins that had to be separated at birth. One was placed in Switzerland and another had to live in Bangladesh. So just picture the difference!

What does La Croisette have that we don’t? Why is Monte Carlo the most prestigious place to be in? Why is Barceloneta visited by millions every year?

Well, Cannes is like our Mina: a long pier that overlooks the beach. In fact, our sea is much nicer because the water gets deeper gradually. Unlike the French part; one second you’re on the sand and another you’re swimming ten meters deep.
- So why did Kim Kardashian spend her May vacation in Cannes and all we’re stuck with is Abou Fahad driving a 1976 Mercedes on a Sunday with his 7 kids eating corn cobs and “Termos”?
- Why can’t my city host a big festival instead of celebrating NOT getting killed by explosions and gunshots?

- Why couldn’t I meet P.Diddy and Johnny Depp in Tripoli, rather than coming across all these beggars and street vendors?

La Barceloneta, Barcelona.
Barceloneta is pretty much the same concept as Al-Mina: cafés, restaurants, a dock and boats. There, you can eat tapas, enjoy seafood, have some peace and quiet and ACTUALLY swim.
- Why are their beaches public and accessible to everyone while we have to pay 15,000$ (at least) to spend summer on a decent beach?
- Why does their beach get featured in films like Don Qixote while the biggest media coverage we receive is the 8:00 PM news on Télé Liban?

- Why can Spanish girls swim, sunbathe and sit by the coast peacefully and ours have to be harassed and disturbed by guys even if they’re just driving by? 

And as for Monaco, THE destination for people of high caliber and the dream place for all the Formula One lovers, it is not so different from my city in terms of scenery and weather. At least, in Tripoli, temperatures do not drop 5-7°C at night.
- But why does Monte Carlo have all these restaurants and hotels and all we have are “Yamani”, “Hamshari” and “Café Tari2ak”?
- Why do they have all these expensive yachts while most of our fishermen can’t afford to get new boats or even fix the old ones?
- Why is Monaco a major banking center and a sought-after location for new businesses while Tripoli takes in next to ZERO investments?

Monte Carlo, Monaco

My city, the second largest city in the world behind Cairo in Mamluk architectural heritage, the only place in Lebanon with surviving islands and home to the largest fortress in the country, means indeed “Triple City”.
But I’m saddened to admit that they are triple ‘I’s - Ignorance, Illness and Injustice.

Al-Mina, Tripoli. By Randa Al-Merehby.
It’s about time for me to leave the herd of sheep they are shepherding.
Yes, I am a sheep if I am a quiet follower of these inconsiderate “leaders”. I am tired of being manipulated by them.

We all need hope. We all wish for a brighter future. We all wait for that voice that tells us not to leave. But if my own city crushes my dreams, then I’d rather be a nobody in a place where there is room for me to grow.

Tripoli. By Randa Al-Merehby.