Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On My Head

19.On My Head (31 October 2018)
            One of those essential phrases anyone living in the Arab world needs to know is “on my
Inspired by Lark on the Move, you have to find
where Maria and Linda are. In the equivalent of
an ancient Roman narthex! (13 Oct. 2018 –
Baalbek, Lebanon)
head”, or, alternatively, “on my head and eyes” (3ala rassi/3ala rassi ou 3ayni). When I go to the grocer, I know he’s going to send greetings to my wife, and although I try to keep my conversation limited to onions and grapes, he inevitably throws pleasant chatter at me. Yesterday he sent the usual greetings, but I was able to fumble out an “3ala rassi” in response as I was leaving. Add that to the other things “on my head”, and you have a pretty accurate description of what’s happening in our lives these days.
            Still, even with the continually-postponed resumption of my Arabic lessons, I’m managing semi-well with what’s on my head and eyes. Although we’re no longer newcomers, we still have people looking at us as if (but denying they are thinking that) we are crazy for picking up and moving to Lebanon. But we also have people who are delighted each time they see us, and (we hope) are encouraged as much as they encourage us.
            As we become more aware of just how big a struggle it is for so many people to manage life here (although my focus is just on Armenians; it is similar for lots and lots of people), our hearts are even more broken. More frequently than before friends are sharing, quite openly, about their plans to leave Lebanon for Armenia. Others may have plans to move to Europe, the U.S. or Canada, but they tend not to share that with anyone but those closest to them.
Some young cedars of Lebanon in the background, and some
old guys (Mike and I) in the foreground. Guess which ones are
going to be around longer. (14 Oct. 2018 – Barouk, Lebanon)
            Things like not having a government (after 5+ months) doesn’t really get anyone’s attention, though it should – especially of those who are horse-trading the lives of their citizens for personal gain. Not that I’m a fan of politics, but the phrase from the 1992 U.S. presidential elections comes to mind: “The economy, stupid.” That’s what is grinding down individuals, families, communities like the Armenians, community organizations, and pretty much the entire social fabric. The biblical injunction to “pray for kings and those in authority” (I Tim. 2.2) is not just a nice, occasional add-on to personal and corporate prayers; it is an essential for us, something we continually cry out to God for him to answer. We pray not just for local authorities, but for those far, far away, too, who affect life here.
            A couple of days ago a friend mentioned how, because of the sagging economy in Lebanon, a cascading effect is happening. The central bank (just now?) has decided that it can no longer give loans to first-time homeowners, due to the economic situation and a bunch of other things. (Point of clarification: the “homes” I’m talking about are not the American-style
Bread on the cooling conveyor. Most of what you buy won’t
last the trip home-mmmm. (13 Oct. 2018 – outside Ainjar)
single-family homes with a lawn and a fence. It’s a cramped, sometimes brand-new, apartment in one of those ugly high-rises I regularly rant about.) So, with no home loan, young people are cancelling wedding plans because they won’t have a place to live aside from a room at their parents’ home. And that means all the related businesses are also suffering – those who would clothe, feed, photograph and entertain the wedding guests. And those who would sell furnishings to the newlyweds. And sell them cars. And later on, baby things. And later on, school tuitions and incidentals. (Again, I’m thinking particularly of the struggling Armenian schools and families, but it’s an overall phenomenon.) And so on, and so on. For someone like me to come in and share the message, “Place your hope in Christ!” that person must be willing to also, and first, listen to and care for those whose hope for a normal life is fleeing from them.
A Volkswagen from the Stone Age, complete with
prehistoric tires. (22 Oct. 2018 – Khalil Badawi, Beirut)
            But seriously, folks, reality aside (hah!), I really would rather be writing about all the interesting and fun things we’re experiencing here. And there is plenty that’s interesting and fun. Like receiving an official delegation and Armenia’s “caretaker” Prime Minister, Nigol Pashinyan, who visited the Armenian Evangelical Union leadership (interesting). Or like the visit of dear friends from Philly, Linda and Mike Sywulak (fun). They visited missionary friends of theirs in Kenya for a week, and then spent a week with us this month, getting introduced to Lebanon, its history, its natural beauty (I mean that), and its vital Christian ministries. For us, it was a welcome respite, and an occasion to reflect on our time here so far. For them, it was an opportunity to turn something abstract into a concrete picture that they can talk about and pray for.
The ashtray of no ashes. A Zen moment in a
Sassine Sq. diner. (12 Mar. 2018 –
Ashrafieh, Beirut)
            So, we got to be tourists! Finally! Nothing like visitors to provide you with an excuse to “see the sights”. We showed them all five Armenian Evangelical churches in Lebanon, plus their schools, plus the old age home (CAHL), plus KCHAG, plus more. They got to speak directly to workers in these ministries about their joys and burdens. We traveled to the ancient cities of Baalbek and Ainjar and Byblos. We visited some of the majestic Cedars of Lebanon (and witnessed the ongoing reforestation efforts). We got to see “Linda’s new favorite bakery,” with Arabic bread rolling out of the oven like big wheat pillows onto a cooling conveyor. And we got to treat them – and ourselves – to several different places that serve Arabic ice cream. All in seven days!
            Fortunately, aside from all these special events there are many things that tickle my brain on a daily basis. Like seeing an ashtray in a restaurant with no slots to hold your cigarette, and a “no smoking” symbol engraved on the side. Perfectly normal to locals – because that’s where you put your straw wrappers and zip-tops from your “pepsi” cans. Oh, and “Pepsi” is the generic name people use to refer to carbonated beverages, no matter what the label says. Like “kleenex” is for Americans.
            A frustrating bit of brain stimulus has to do with rampant Americanisms around us, like the adoption of that most worthless of American holidays, namely Halloween. In talking with a taxi driver a few weeks ago, after remarking on a huge billboard advertising some Halloween event in a predominantly Muslim area, he said, “We are forced to accept these American things because they are part of our children’s (American) textbooks. I do not like it, but my children learn it because it is there in their books.” Children carve jack-o-lanterns, dress up in skeleton costumes, and adults “dress up”, too. Thanks to social media, this vapidity (some would call it “evil”) is being copied the world over, including in Armenia.
LebCat 18 (black & white) and associates:
OK, so it’s October 31. What’s that got to do with
us? (31 Oct. 2018 – Mar Mikhael, Beirut)
            How about “Black Friday” sales in Lebanon? Its original American (and consumerist, in the worst sense) moorings are irrelevant here. It’s a catchy phrase that represents an American (and therefore, to many Lebanese, desirable) way of getting people to spend money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need. Does anyone believe that that will turn around Lebanon’s economy?
            But I have homemade fun, too, observing my environment as I walk from place to place, dodging between cars parked every which way – especially on the sidewalk – and avoiding other cars as they try to pass each other from opposite directions on a one-way street where cars are parked on both sides (welcome to my neighborhood… won’t you be my neighbor?). There are always a few cars parked in the middle of the street. Probably the driver came home very late last night, and probably there were cars between his car and the curb, though now it’s just empty space. Soon enough he’ll come down and nonchalantly get in and drive away, as if it’s the most unremarkable thing in the world to park overnight in the middle of an intersection. Recently when we were passing one of those “creative” parking jobs, a friend driving us around said (in Armenian), “One day he’s going to eat it.” Oh, it loses so much in translation!
            Now, back to my efforts at creating databases and websites and choirs and more! [LNB]

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Raise Your Voice

18.Raise Your Voice (29 September 2018)
First day of school at the Armenian Evangelical College, one of
the network of schools in Syria and Lebanon run by the Union.
Haigazian’s Philibosian Student Center (formerly “Webb”
building) is in the left background. (25 Sept. 2018 – Kantari,
Beirut. Photo courtesy of Rev. Hrayr Cholakian)
            Adjusting to a new environment takes time, and events around you or within you force you to admit that you are not “there” yet. If you are really smart, you’ll accept the fact that you will never get “there”, no matter how you define “there”. And you’ll do so sooner rather than later.
            The better part of adjusting consists of knowing how to keep your mouth shut, and continuing to observe and learn. But there are always a few things that perhaps you shouldn’t adjust to, that may be worth opening your mouth about.
            As I was trying out a new eatery (nothing to get excited about, sorry) a couple of days ago, the cashier directed me to their air-conditioned “eating room” (a separate storefront from the “ordering room”). I stuck my head inside the eating room, sniffed once, and
decided to cast my lot with the hot sun at a sidewalk table. The cashier eventually brought out my food, and asked, “It’s hot out here. Don’t you want to eat inside?” I responded with “Ma3lesh” (It’s nothing), although I did want to raise my voice in complaint to her about the cigarette stench in the eating room. O, Arabic lessons, why have I forsaken you?
A beautiful, old building that was being refurbished last year
collapsed before they were able to support its structure…
revealing another beautiful, old building. You can see the
remnants of the balconies lying askew on the ground.
(11 Sept. 2018 – Gemmazeh, Beirut)
            So, as I was eating (and sweating) on a sunny Ashrafieh sidewalk, watching cars go by, I noticed an older man (i.e., my age) on a motorcycle pulled up next to a driver’s window of a car that had stopped in the middle of the street. But he wasn’t asking for directions. He was yelling at the driver for several traffic infractions, including driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and probably almost running over the motorcyclist (who was not a traffic cop). I can only hope that he takes care not to break the same laws when no one is looking.
            I was pleased to see him making a nuisance of himself in this way, because people so often just shrug their shoulders at much of what goes on here when they should be speaking up. “Haideh Lubnan.” I hear it all the time, from friends and strangers. “This is Lebanon.” But although speaking out will never result in instantaneous or lasting changes, though it won’t turn those accustomed to decades and decades of ineffectual government and self-centered living into conscientious, law-abiding citizens. He was lighting a candle and cursing the darkness.
This is how the Union headquarters looked before
improvements began. It’s behind the trees, in case you
missed it. (6 Sept. 2018 – Geitawi, Beirut)
            Oops. I forgot that I’m not supposed to say anything but compliments about the government, as well as all other governments, save for one in particular that happens to border Lebanon. That’s what I put my signature to each year, when renewing my residence permit. But even without signing such a form, we are all facing similar pressures to keep dissent to ourselves (or, alternatively, to be loud and arrogant about our dissent and close our ears to other dissenters). This does not just concern the country of my birth, the U.S.A., for the past 17-plus years. In Armenia, post “velvet revolution”, the message being broadcast, is one, simple, unchallenged refrain: “The bad has left, the good is here; come to Armenia. ” Few dare to raise a dissenting voice concerning the “new”, save in private, or else risk ostracism. Even though they, too, care for Armenia’s well-being. It seem that criticism, especially self-criticism, is rare in today’s world, no matter what the side.
The old fence coming down, and the new going up.
(11 Sept. 2018 – Geitawi, Beirut)
            Yet people do speak up, and not just to point out flaws that they see. Here are some ways I’ve observed people in Lebanon “raising their voices”:
1. Tending your “garden”. The headquarters where I work, the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, formerly an Armenian-owned hospital (the “Christian Medical Center”), got a complete makeover, 30 years after its previous one. Rev. Paul Haidostian, president of Haigazian University, is overseeing another renovation project, that of the Webb (or Philibosian Student Center) building, the university’s original structure. Someone observing the work remarked, “Do you know how encouraging it is for your neighbors to see you making improvements because you want to improve, and not because you were forced to by someone else?”
2. Getting up and getting out. After a long summer indoors (with their air conditioners), lots of locals have donned shorts and sneakers. I see them running and jogging and panting along sidewalks and streets in the city, preparing for the Nov. 11th Beirut Marathon. I’m not sure whether they’re aiming for the 8 km fun-run, the half-marathon, or the full 42.195 km thrill. I’m limiting myself to the gym.
A panorama of the newly-refurbished exterior of the Armenian
Evangelical church headquarters, formerly the “Christian
Medical Center” (27 Sept. 2018 – Geitawi, Beirut)
3. Speaking up about health and pollution dangers. People continue to gather to publicly protest the government’s mismanagement of the country’s waste disposal, especially after the recent decision to create three incineration facilities along the coast, while cancer rates continue to spike. Meanwhile, cow carcasses, presumably diseased ones tossed from ships before entering the Port of Beirut, are gently floating along our Mediterranean coast. Swimmers and divers are exposing these shameful scenes through social media posts.
4. Speaking up about abuse. The prevalence of non-Arab faces in and around the city points to the widespread use of southern-hemisphere workers in construction, sanitation and domestic labor. There is a robust network of organizations decrying the near-slavery conditions many of them are enduring at the hands (literally – please understand) of their employers. At least one of them per month commits suicide. Rather than let this “modern slavery” continue, they protest, they write commentary, they hold memorial services, all in an effort to put an end to the unregulated flow of hundreds of impoverished, southern-hemisphere “tourists” through the airport.
Just write “extra” on it. It doesn’t have to mean anything.
(28 Aug. 2018 – Geitawi, Beirut)
5. Opening Armenian schools for the new school year. Despite the continuing downward economic spiral in Lebanon, and the departure of many families (not just youth) from the country, Armenian schools of every kind have pressed forward in continuing their educational mission, and have started another school year. It is a powerful declaration of their will to survive, and a message to Armenians everywhere that the Diaspora has a reason to exist.
6. Publishing Western Armenian books. In a couple of weeks Haigazian University will hold another “Armenian Book” evening, presenting all of the books published in the Western Armenian dialect (and a few in other languages) in Lebanon in 2017. Beirut continues to let the world know that it is a cultural center for Armenians throughout the world, despite the past and present efforts to obliterate our presence in this region. (However, these Armenian books continue to cry out for people to pick them up and read them…)
7. Calling everything by a superlative. No matter what the item, it’s always better if you add the word “extra” to it. Or sometimes just name it “Extra”. This week I saw a man carrying a 50 kg (110 lb.) sack of flour to the nearby “manaqish” bakery. What was the brand of flour? “Extra”. Why not?
LebCat 17: All of these toilets are mine. And the boxes, too.
(26 Aug. 2018 – Nor Amanos, Baouchrieh)
            Raising your voice, for a Christian, usually means you are offering heartfelt praise to God. But it’s important to have a complete view of “being heard”. Christians must also cry out for the oppressed who have no voice, or challenge the idol-worshiping that is so much part and parcel of economic systems here and everywhere, or lift their voices in prayers of intercession or repentance, or raise a call to turn back from the paths of death to the ways of God. There is a time to be silent, but also a time to speak (Eccl. 3.7).
            Especially as an Armenian, there are so many more things about which I want to cry out, as I adjust to life here. And maybe I will. But this much for this time. [LNB]

[Note: Last blog’s “LebCat 16 & friends” was photographed in 2018 (not 2017) as they were dragging Sevag into their thrall.]

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Like an Old-Timer

17.Like an Old-Timer (29 August 2018)

Togetherness (mostly) over kebab at the Bakalians!
This time with Sevag and a bunch of friends
(20 July 2018 – Geitawi, Beirut)
         When taking some visitors around Beirut recently, I realized that I was talking like an old-timer. Remember, you don’t have to be old to talk like a senior citizen. I was pointing to this place where there used to be such-and-such school, and the other place where so-and-so used to live, and on and on. I’ve only lived about a dozen years of my life here (and not even my formative years), but here I was, talking about the place as if I had been here all my life. To be fair, I can talk in the same fashion about nearly any place I’ve lived, but this place is nowhere near where I was born.
         So, here I was giving the “insider’s tour” of our neighborhood, from the post-Genocide era, to the pre-Civil War era, to the ups and downs of the past 3 decades. It offered a strange satisfaction, a deeper sense of belonging, while at the same time reminding me of the responsibility to pass along the heritage I have inherited (and chosen), particularly the Western Armenian and Armenian Christian heritage. The fact that I might know more than most people about this background is largely irrelevant. There is so little I know, and so much catching up I have to do to begin to grasp it all… even as an old-timer… or a perceived old-timer / know-it-all.
The theme-word for this summer’s youth
conference was “dukhov” (on the hat), a Russian/
Armenia word meaning “with spirit”. Ha.
(23 June 2018 – KCHAG, Monteverdi)
         One of my new favorite spots to eat is a little hole-in-the-wall kebab sandwich place, a 10-minute walk from home. The proprietor and sole worker there is a youthful and light-hearted, 70-something Armenian woman, whose friendliness and focus on providing high-quality food is a rare commodity. Eateries in this city can be pretty snooty places, even cheap eats, but Angele easily finds a way into your heart, and you into hers. She gets up before dawn each day, chops her fresh onion and parsley, gets to the butcher for fresh meats, switches butchers if she feels they are slipping in their quality, and lines up her skewers in small quantities in the refrigerated display for her regular customers. When I stopped by she talked about how, a few days ago, Persian Armenian visitors to Lebanon kept coming back day after day, even bringing friends to eat there. Sometimes Angele recruits willing friends to help with the chopping, but she is the one and only cook. Puts the charcoal on, sets the blow-drier to intensify the flame (they keep breaking down, and her brother keeps fixing them), peels the skin off the tomatoes after she cooks them, tosses on the right amount of spices to make a delicious sandwich… and charges almost nothing for it. At every turn she thanks the Lord for helping her. “It’s enough for me to live on – that’s all I need, praise God.” In a country of debt-based living, it’s an outlook on life that a lot more people need to share.
A heart for figs that grow out of the walls of Roman temple
ruins (25 July 2018 – Niha, Beqaa)
         The summer zoomed by us. We started out serving as counselors for the youth camp, then I got to be recording secretary for the church union’s annual meeting, and in between we got to see brother-in-law Vicken for a very brief visit. After that we spent a month (sort-of together) with our son Sevag, who was making his second annual appearance here. We enjoyed Lebanon for a few days, visiting Rayaq, where a lot of Armenians settled after the Genocide, until they emigrated to Armenia in 1946. We ate the most flavorful – not sugared – Arabic ice cream (in the Beqaa village of Saghbine). Sevag then did his second annual stint as a leader at the Armenian Evangelical Children’s Conference in KCHAG while we departed for Armenia to get ready for yet another big conference… “Zoomed” is the word.
Wrapping up the Armenian Evangelical Youth Conference
(15 Aug. 2018 – Hankavan, Armenia)
         Over the past months Maria and I had been filling our days and nights as directors of the worldwide Armenia Evangelical Youth Conference, organized by the Armenian Missionary Association of America for its 100th anniversary. (Read about Day 1 through Day 14 here.) Sevag, along with the Syria & Lebanon group, joined us a few days after we arrived Yerevan, with about 140 other youth and mostly young leaders from a bunch of different countries for a two-week conference. (Read his interview in Armenian here.) The most memorable part of the plan was, predictably, the service opportunities the youth had, in teams of 4 to 10 people, heading out to various cities and villages. Each team did something different, whether helping run Vacation Bible School, or making jam, or doing housecleaning, or planting rooftop gardens, or visiting lonely elders in border villages, or refurbishing dwellings, and on and on. The conference got them culturally enriched and spiritually challenged, and then provided them an outlet to give to others a portion of what God was filling them with. Good, good times.
LebCat 16 and associates: We will soon take over your planet
with our fuzzy bodies and our laser eyes. Meanwhile you must
feed us (18 Aug. 2017 – Mar Mikhael, Beirut)
         Emerging mostly unscathed through all of this, Maria and I realized anew that this kind of leadership is something we need to encourage, advise and challenge in others. Because, simply put, we are old-timers! Happily, there are at least a few out of the youth with whom we worked throughout the summer who will likely do very well as tomorrow’s and today’s leaders.
         News update: it seems the ants noticed that they were getting very little social media traction from their antics in our apartment, so they took a break from bugging us. That and a bit of spray from a store that sells organic stuff seem to have done the trick. For now.
         September has nearly made its way back into our lives, so it’s time for both of us to hunker down again for the new academic year. With the summer conferences behind us, we can focus on the tasks we were sent here to do. While we continue to be integrated deeply into the fabric of life here. And gladly fulfill our roles as old-timers.  [LNB]

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Something Familiar

16.Something Familiar (10 June 2018)
What? Hoagies? This isn’t Philadelphia. But not
to worry. It went out of business. (9 May
2018 – Beirut)
            I was as surprised as anyone. And all I can conclude is that people are overly polite, or they have no answers for ant infestations, or they no longer read my blog. After telling the world how bad things were in our apartment, I found that I had to approach others to solicit advice; they were not going to come to me. Even if they were also waging the same war. That’s part of my American cultural outlook, to share advice and suggestions without waiting for people to ask. Sometimes (a lot of times) it gets me in trouble. The outcome is that now we have a couple of possible solutions that we are working on. Stay tuned.

            When you leave a place where you’ve lived for a substantial amount of time, as we did last year, from time to time something kicks in that I wouldn’t call nostalgia. More like a global positioning function in your mind that either makes you notice things that look familiar, or makes you long for the familiar in your daily life. I fully realize that this happens no matter where you are at or where you have been. You try to locate yourself in the world you inhabit.
Kebab night at the Bakalians. Wrapping up a year of discipleship
meetings the right way. (8 June 2018 – Geitawi, Beirut)
            Objects are the first things to catch your attention when they remind you of something back home. Of course, “back home” is a rickety term, especially when you have made a series of major relocations, as we have. We are more than bi-cultural, and our children are moreso. To describe this, people have come up with a term called “third culture”, which doesn’t mean three cultures, but rather “neither this nor that”, neither belonging fully here nor there, but to a combination of locales and ways of thinking and being. That pretty much describes us, and can help us to identify with people like Abraham and Sara in the Old Testament, who picked up and relocated (and kept relocating) out of obedience to the divine command. Or like Moses, who fled his native Egypt as an outlaw, and named his son “Alien”. The Arabic name “Gharib” has this meaning, and once I actually met a fellow in Armenia with this name.
German pride, on the streets of Beirut. Why not?
(6 June 2018 – Mar Mikhael)
            Similarly, smells, tastes and sounds can also drag your mind back and forth, which is a particular challenge for us, because some of the smells (of food, for example) here are the same ones that filled our home when we lived in the U.S. But the thing that tugs the hardest at our hearts is the search for familiar people. Their faces, their voices, their presence. Sure, we can look at old pictures and remember, or do a video call and pretend we’re near, but the gift of being in the same room with someone dear to you… well, that’s priceless.
There’s even a Lebanese flag flying from a balcony. I guess they
didn’t hear that Lebanon didn’t qualify this time.
(2 June 2018 – Bourj Hammoud)
            Visitors from the U.S. showed up in recent weeks, with the AMAA meetings and centennial celebrations here, and they certainly enjoyed seeing us as much as we did seeing them. While I was walking to Bourj Hammoud to take care of some errands, and I cut between the cars stopped for a red light. I got slightly annoyed at one of those drivers, however, honking his horn in stopped traffic. Seriously, where was anyone going to move? As I continued walking, minding my own business, I heard, “Badveli! Badveli Nishan!” It was the honking driver. One of our visitors from the U.S., who was trying to get my attention. My annoyance quickly vaporized, and I did what any self-respecting local would: I held up traffic as we exchanged greetings, right there in the middle of the street.
A huge-screen TV stadium/pub, complete with bleacher seating,
under construction near our place, just in time for the start of
the World Cup (10 June 2018 – Mar Mikhael, Beirut)
            The other day when I opened up Facebook (bless its cold, lifeless soul), there was a picture of a family gathering in the 1990s – one of the memories Facebook thought I should be re-sharing. I didn’t. But I paused a moment to count the number of familiar faces that were no longer alive, and could only be accessed by looking at a photo or closing ones eyes and remembering. And a third of that group are no longer alive.
            Fortunately, and despite the longing for those who are separated from us by an ocean, there are a lot of others nearby whose familiar faces cheer us up immeasurably. Despite all the busy-ness of our lives here, those moments are what builds a new sense of “home” where we are. We’ll still rejoice when we go to meet loved ones arriving at the Beirut airport, like Vicken in 7 days, or Sevag in 40. But for our dear friends here (and one set of Maria’s cousins left in Lebanon) we are rapidly becoming part of their familiar surroundings. And that feels good.
The final rehearsal of the “Armiss” choir, with soloist and
flautist, before it’s “return” the next day. (2 June 2018 –
First Arm. Evang. Church, Beirut)
            A week ago it was a great experience to conduct the “Armiss” choir during the AMAA Centennial Worship Service. After an on-again/off-again decade, and a hiatus of three years, the group is back. They sang four choral pieces, and sounded cohesive, as a choir should. So many people were appreciative, and some were astonished that there are these talents in our community. Maybe they thought all the talented people had left the country? My favorite comment was, “Keep working. You have to give annual concert.”
LebCat 15: A protected species – cats on the American University
of Beirut’s campus (21 Mar. 2017 – Ras Beirut)
            Speaking of familiarity, it’s that time again. The time when you’re not sure what country you’re in, because every sort of flag is flying from all sorts of places. Yes, football’s Mondial (World Cup) is back. It’s the easiest way for Lebanese to be another nationality without the drawn-out application process. This is pretty important stuff – the church and youth retreats later this month have included the game broadcasts in their schedules, so as not to have a meeting during some of the important matches! [LNB]