Saturday, December 23, 2017

Bless, Don't Curse


11.Bless, Don’t Curse (23 December 2017)

Who says there are no snowmen in Lebanon?
(7 Dec. 2017 – Beirut)
            One of the hardest things to do is to follow directions. The Middle East is a shining illustration of that difficulty. We have seen an improvement in this area since the last time we lived here 10-1/2 years ago, and we’re appreciative of those changes. A positive example: people do not immediately blast their horns when stuck in traffic, or waiting at a traffic light. Nonetheless, it often happens that people ignore what is known as the “common good”. There is a fierce independent streak in society here, or perhaps it would be better termed a disobedient streak. A negative example: they still blast their horns, even when they can see a legitimate reason for a delay, like an old lady hobbling off of a public bus.
            It is very easy to react against these kinds of irritants, and express that irritation by cursing what is wrong in the world, or the country, and then fall into a lifestyle of complaining. To rue the pronouncements of some far-away ruler that set this region in turmoil. To dismiss any sign of improvement in public works as a fluke. To wish annihilation on the ants that have taken over the kitchen and bathroom in our newly-refurbished apartment… There are so many reasons to “curse, not bless” because of the things that go awry in our everyday life.
I got to meet a celebrity: LebCat 7, in the flesh! Or the fur.
(4 Dec. 2017 – Beirut)
            Last week we encountered both an indirect “blessing” as well as some veiled “cursing” while at a Christmas Fair near our home. One amazing young lady engaged us in talking about her handmade products, so much so that you could feel the caring poured into each item. Yet when talking to a couple who are manufacturing innovative Lebanese-made items, they told us, “No! Don’t ever encourage anybody to come to Lebanon. Dealing with laws here is impossible. Whoever relocates here, after the first year, the glow and excitement is subdued, and after five years it’s completely gone.”
The Beirut Christmas Marching Band in Mar Mikhael.
(17 Dec. 2017 – Beirut)
            Something else we notice: when those around us talk to us about Europe and the West, there is an almost exclusive “bless, not curse” mind-set. It matters little to them that they are ignoring vast amounts of negative information about life in their dream destinations, nor that they are casting underfoot the blessings of their (often difficult) lives here. The template has been determined, the categories are set, and all that remains is to sort their list.
            Agreed, it’s hard to choose to bless and not curse. It’s an active choice that you have to make, because it’s not based on the current climate of your life. It’s not based on comparative fortunes (e.g., “We’re/they’re better off than them/us.”). Nor is it a choice to ignore the reality around you and not be wise in your observations. We find it to be a daily choice, in our conversations, in our lifestyle, in our prayers, and in our attitudes. Plus (for Christians), it’s a command from the top-level management. It’s a matter of obedience. So, we do our best to bless so that we can be a blessing.
The last few boxes to be emptied... finally!
(17 Dec. 2017 – Beirut)
            All told, we’ve spent ten Christmases here, and now at our eleventh Christmas we are still bemused to see the infusion of popularized Christmas imagery in local observances. Like fake snow. And reindeer. And English-language seasonal music. At the aforementioned Christmas Fair, there was a mini-Christmas parade going around the Mar Mikhael train station (now an exhibition center), complete with mini-marching band (five musicians) playing, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. But since the marching band included a derbeke/dumbeg, I felt I could confidently consider it local!
            Tomorrow, (non-Armenian) Christmas Eve, local church services will be enhanced by Sunday School programs and pageants celebrating Christ’s birth, followed by (in the case of Armenian Evangelical churches) a week of evening services to reflect on the year soon to end.
LebCat 9: Does she look like she owns the
place? She does – the Nor Marash church.
Or is that her identical twin sister...?
(26 Mar. 2017 – Burj Hammoud)
            And what a year it’s been! A moving year, pun intended. We are just now getting our last things out of the boxes and into their places. So it’s feeling more like home, because we’re seeing more of our things around us. We would love to see the faces of our family members, too, but we’ll have to rely on technology to lessen the longing. Meanwhile, we’re looking forward to spending the first week in the New Year, including Armenian Christmas, with a young friend from our previous church. In 2016, Lara left her job in Philadelphia to spend a year (plus) in service to various communities around the world, because “now is the time”. For the last several months she’s been in Armenia helping at “Aleppo NGO”, assisting Syrian refugees. You can read her lighthearted and insightful posts at “Lark on the Move”.
            Wishing you... and our world… and especially the Armenian people… a better New Year, and the hope of Christmas. Because Christ was born and revealed! (Քրիստոս ծնաւ եւ յայտնեցաւ. ձեզի, մեզի մե՛ծ աւետիս։) [LNB]

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bullying


10.Bullying (12 November 2017)
The street where we live, dug up for new electric cables…
we think. Our building entrance is at the far left edge
of the picture. (9 Nov. 2017 – Beirut)
            One of the popular topics in various levels of society here is “bullying”. People are trying to bring some awareness to the topic on the local scene by holding seminars to help employees in difficult work environments, or by providing training for teachers to guide children to interact with respect toward each other. It’s a tough road to walk – to live without intimidating or being intimidated – because its expression in Middle Eastern culture is pervasive, and quite accepted. Having intrinsic rights as an individual, a very Western concept, is difficult to grasp in a culture that views groups and collectives as the basic building blocks of societal existence.
            But bullying is also the way that politics is done. And not just in the Middle East. Big countries bully small countries. We use sophisticated terms to describe it, and political theorists (from big countries) create ideologies and terminology to justify it, but it’s the same behavior you on view in any playground the world over. It’s part of what makes up our “unlovable” side, the side sorely in need of redeeming.
Arabic coffee and French toast, prepared on our new oven.
It’s what’s for breakfast. (4 Nov. 2017 – Beirut)
            So here we are, 10 days away from the 74th anniversary of the independence of Lebanon. And how are we celebrating? By wondering what happened to the country’s Prime Minister, Saad al Hariri. Someone in the royal family summons him to Saudi Arabia nine days ago for some reason, and before you can say, “Pass the tabbouleh,” the very next day (the very same day a purge happened in the political halls of the kingdom) Lebanon’s Prime Minister is sitting in front of a TV camera way off in Riyadh, reading a resignation speech that sounds quite unlike what he usually says. He claims he is being bullied, or threatened, and that Lebanon is being bullied, too. But big countries bully small countries. Powerful groups bully weaker groups. This is a reality that a seminar or training cannot easily change.
Sevag's and my view of the massive demonstrations twelve
years ago, protesting, among other things, former Prime
Minister Rafiq al Hariri’s assassination. (14 Mar. 2005 – Beirut)
            A lot is being said about what is happening, both in the local media as well as international. I’m not sure what is worth reading and what isn’t. (That’s why I’m not including a bunch of links here. Better that you read for yourself what’s current.) But none of that really matters, because the outcome is that everyone here is feeling bullied, and doesn’t know what to do about it. Except, maybe, to pick themselves off the blacktop and figure out what to do now. For some it means trying to leave the playground as quickly as possible. For others, it means finding a way to stand back up and not let the bullies have their way.
            Twelve years ago, the year the current Prime Minister’s father, Rafiq al Hariri, was assassinated, the Beirut Marathon Association decided to adopt the slogan “For Lebanon”, and to push forward with this international event to show the world – but mostly the Lebanese – that life will continue. This year’s slogan is for the anniversary year, “15 Years of Running Beirut”. Now, I don’t think that means what it says, but I have a feeling that in bringing so many disparate groups together for marathons in this country, May Khalil (the marathon’s founder and tireless promoter) and her crew might do at least as good a job as the professional politicians here.
After today’s 8 km race, with a slogan we can
believe in… (12 Nov. 2017 – Beirut)
            During the Prime Minister’s absence (he has since appeared in a live TV interview this evening), the organizers decided to dedicate this year’s run to PM Saad Hariri, to show a united front across all political and religious groups. This solidarity, being carefully expressed by political opponents in the country, may keep the Lebanese from any precipitous actions against each other. That’s a good thing, and it may also keep the bullies off the playground – for a while.
            Meanwhile, I ran/walked the Marathon’s 8 km “Fun Run” today, and lived to tell about it! There were tens of thousands of people in this race, so I got to the starting line 35 minutes after the actual start of the run. It took me 70 minutes to complete the course, and I only stopped once (to say hello to my favorite falafel maker, a young Egyptian fellow who was completely surprised when I went up to shake his hand). The weather was clear and beautiful, the participants happy and friendly, almost making you forget that you are living through yet another crisis.
LebCat 10: Surveying its kingdom in ruins. Actually the house
where Maria and family lived in the early 1960s, behind the
Armenian Evangelical College. Currently totally demolished.
(12 Mar. 2017 – Beirut)
            A friend of mine said yesterday (my paraphrase), “Enough of thinking defeatist thoughts. We have to move forward with a vision, convinced that we are doing good, and God will provide the resources.” Living in this environment is teaching us that “walking by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5.7) is not just an admirable ideal; it is crucial for our existence as Christians, as Armenians (in our case), and as humans who are determined not to succumb to bullying – whether ideological, or financial, or cultural.
            When I signed up for today’s race, it was mostly for me – to do a run two years post-cancer, to push myself out of my sedentary lifestyle, to see what my body can take in its sixth decade. But now I think that I’m not just running for the sake of the Prime Minister; I’m really running for Lebanon.
            Read my prayer letter and pray, too. [LNB]

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Here and There


9.Here and There (22 October 2017)
            “Oh, so you’re from Armenia?”
            When they hear I'm Armenian, what seems to them like an easy question to answer isn’t at all. It’s asked by people who do not have a circle of Armenian friends who will eagerly fill them in on the finer points of what an Armenian is, where Armenians are from, why the Armenian Genocide is such a crucial issue to Armenians and should be to as non-Armenians, where the language is on the Indo-European language tree, what Armenians typically eat (all of which they, of course, invented), why there are fifty times (Armenian hyperbole) more Armenians outside Armenia than inside, why there has been a steady decrease of Armenians from the Armenian Republic since independence in 1991, and on and on. Really, I can’t imagine how people can get through their lives without having an Armenian tutoring them on all these issues, and so many more!
You could probably seat 5 people across in this classic
at Republic Square (4 Oct. 2017 – Yerevan)
            This summer I visited Armenia on two occasions. A mere hour and some change flight from capital to capital, Beirut to Yerevan.
            My first trip, in August, was a six-day visit, during which I led a retreat for Armenian Evangelical pastors. I was delighted to discover that the retreat was going to be held in Artsakh, in the town of Shushi, a place I have not visited in 18 years. The second trip Maria and I did together, ten days at the end of September until early October, and I was the speaker at the annual assembly of the Evangelical Church of Armenia. And this was only Maria’s second visit to Armenia, the first one having been 16 years ago. Both trips were great experiences, challenging, enjoyable, friend-filled, refreshing.
Open-air performance of Armenian folk dance
and song, “Koutan”, at the foot of the Cascade,
on the day we arrived! (28 Sept. 2017 – Yerevan)
            But the question remains: am I “from Armenia”? When I’m in Armenia, am I from “here” or “there”? “There”, of course, is the gaping hole left in the lives, culture and heritage of Western Armenia, the region that the Ottoman Empire/Turkish nationalists attempted to scrub clean of its pollutants, the Armenian people. They did a pretty good job, too, because they ruined an ancient civilization and left them to die a drawn-out, confusing death scattered across the Middle East (to be finished off later by attrition and emigration), throughout Europe (to maintain an exotic, “oriental” flavor while being re-oriented), and across the Americas (to be tossed alive into the “melting pot” while forever arguing with each other over “American-Armenian” vs. “Armenian-American”). For Western Armenians such as myself, there is an inevitable longing for something irrecoverable, bewilderment over what “Armenia” means, and the clash of familiarity with foreignness when hearing Armenian spoken in the “homeland”.
Supplying the missing “N” to the mini-market’s
name, “Bakalia” – according to Eastern Armenian
pronunciation (5 Oct. 2017 – Yerevan)
            Here’s an example: before leaving Beirut, we borrowed two SIM cards in order to use our telephones in Armenia. While feeding some money to a payment kiosk on a Yerevan street, I must have said “ayo” (yes) to something related to one of the numbers, because after congratulating me via SMS for paying that amount, it then claimed that I had only half of the amount left on that SIM card. Hmm. Time to investigate. First, I asked an acquaintance what might have happened. Was there an unpaid debt on the card that I had just paid off? He didn’t know. So I asked another acquaintance if she could call the company and ask about it. (I wanted someone who could actually understand Eastern Armenian over the phone, something I find very difficult.) She spoke to the agent, then explained something to me that I thought I understood: yes, the missing amount went to pay for something or other. But I needed to know what that something or other was, so I found an actual store run by that phone company, took a ticket, and waited my turn to speak to a live human being behind a counter. When my turn came, I asked her to explain why only half of the amount I paid was shown, and although she spoke in Armenian, it was littered with various foreign (Russian and European) words, much like the litter of Turkish, French, English, Arabic and even Kurdish words blow about our Western Armenian speech. So I asked her if she could explain it again, which she did, with a bit less patience. Then I apologized, and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t really understand what you’re explaining. Thanks for your trouble.” And I left.
            Later on, as I mulled this over instead of going back to sleep, I figured out what had happened to the missing amount. I suppose the jumble of explanations and the various words from various languages finally sorted themselves out, and I concluded (correctly) that I had purchased a calling plan – the amount hadn’t just vanished. But it was emotionally exhausting to be in a place that didn’t exactly feel like I belonged.
            Perhaps this gave me a glimpse of the travails encountered by the latest group of “returnees” to Armenia, the Syrian-Armenians. Many sought refuge from the war in Syria, beginning in 2012, and in the intervening years some have gone on to places like Canada, others have returned to Syria, following the subsiding of military activity, and the rest have settled in Armenia. They have brought a distinct, yet Armenian, culture to the place, and one can sense it – if one happens to also be a “Western Armenian”.
Lara and us at the “Haleb” social aid organization, operating
out of a Northern Blvd. basement (6 Oct. 2017 – Yerevan)
            Maria and I met up with a young woman, Lara, from our former church in the U.S., who is now working through Birthright Armenia at an agency helping Syrian Armenians with various social needs. The restaurant we had chosen was not accepting people without reservations, so we went to one a couple of doors down. The waiter who greeted us seemed to speak a more intelligible version of Armenian, though not the Western dialect. Perhaps he was just accommodating us as Diasporan Armenians, something quite a few Yerevan natives are able to do.
            When he came to our table to take our order, he asked where we were from. “I know she (Lara) is from the U.S., but what about the two of you?” I said, “From Lebanon.” “Where in Lebanon?” “From Beirut.” “Where in Beirut?” “From Ashrafieh” (the eastern half of the city). “Where in Ashrafieh?” “From Geitawi” (a section of Ashrafieh). “Where in Geitawi?” The conversation was getting stranger by the second. “Uhhh… we live in the former CMC (Christian Medical Center) building.” “I was born in that building!” And so three Western Armenians connected on a sidewalk in Yerevan, feeling at home with each other because of the “there” that joined us together.
LebCat 8: “Excuse me, is there a law that says I have
to be inside the box?” (30 Mar. 2017 – Beirut)
            Often, when encountering people disgruntled at life in the Middle East (and in Armenia), we hear them complain about the “here” of their lives today: “This place will never straighten out.” “You can’t get anywhere if you don’t have powerful friends.” “Why bother? This isn’t our homeland anyway.” This multitude of comments are all a way of disengaging with one’s environment, and are usually followed by an announcement of departure to pursue a life “there”, far away from this region. We are amazed at how people can feel more connected to that distant, western environment than to what they consider the corrupt, future-less land of their birth, unable to see any redeeming qualities. I have no ability to read people’s minds, much less see what only God can see – their hearts. But I wonder if people can connect in a different way to the “here” of this part of the world, to experience joy and contentment in the midst of struggles, and find meaning in investing in people, albeit while dealing with undeniable hardships.
            This is something that matches our experiences “here” and “there” – when talking with those who are devotedly working to help others, they note, as we do, that the greatest need is to prepare people – leaders, especially – who will love their homeland(s) and serve with their strength, skills and wisdom for the betterment of all.
            So, Armenia, we’ll be back! We’ve made our home here, close by. We consider both places our own, and trust that they might also consider us their own. [LNB]

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Resource Management


8.Resource Management (26 September 2017)

Water delivery to NEST (22 Aug. 2017 – Beirut)
            If I were to choose one thing to invest in here in Lebanon (something from which I could easily get rich), it would be water. I would go out and buy a fleet of those big tanker trucks that were ubiquitous all over the city during the hottest days of summer, and sell water to all of these meaninglessly tall buildings that are filling up every inch of open space in Beirut. You might ask, “Are there no water pipes in the city? Aren’t buildings connected to the public water supply? Shouldn’t there be plenty of water, as the city is right on the sea?”
            Well, yes, yes, and yes. Lebanon is a country rich in water resources. It has rivers and rainfall, lakes and, of course, the Mediterranean. But it suffers from resource mismanagement. And not just the water, but all of its resources, natural, man-made and human. For example, in 2019 I’ll be writing a post about waste mismanagement, because there is a trash collection crisis scheduled for that year. But for now, I’m just going to talk about water.
The Mediterranean Sea, as seen from the American
University campus
(7 Aug. 2017 – Beirut)
            A recent study by the United Nations noted that despite the surplus of water sources in the country, people are still obliged to buy water or dig private (and mostly unlicensed) wells, or both. And all of that is resulting in an ever-increasing salinity of the water that comes out of the tap. So, late each night, and early each morning, and throughout each day this summer, one could hear the rumbling of water tanker trucks through the streets of the city, parking in front of this building or that, hoisting its hose up to the rooftop cisterns, and emptying its precious cargo. Not to forget, this is just washing and bathing water.
            Drinking water is a different story. You have to either buy single-use plastic bottles of water (more about plastic below), or subscribe to a local or multi-national drinking water company, whose trucks trundle through the streets all year round, delivering 18.9 litre jugs of water for your home or office water cooler/heater. We trust that these companies have done the necessary purification and filtration work, so that we do not also have to install a carbon or ultraviolet or some other type of purification system. Hopefully.
            Another study has noted that Lebanon only has the capacity to store 6% of its total water resources. In so many ways, Lebanon is a land of contradictions, and water is no exception. It has the highest average rainfall of any Middle Eastern country, has more water than it needs, yet has the least water storage capacity of any Middle Eastern country. And the impact of a couple million Syrian refugees in a country of four million significantly reduces the possibility of averting the projected “chronic water crisis” due to arrive in 2020 [info. from “Far off the target”, p. 70, Executive Magazine (Beirut), April 2017 issue]. Yet there are individuals and embassies that have a vision for a verdant Lebanon, and are working on projects that will help it reach that goal.
Some of the wetlands in the Ainjar spring, as seen from
an Armenian-owned restaurant (10 Sept. 2017 – Ainjar)
            So what about plastic and water? Or plastic in water? A news report in The Guardian on Sept. 6 of this year quoted an investigation done by Orb Media concerning plastic microfibers found in the water used and drunk in cities all over the world. Guess what? Lebanon came in #2 in contamination rates (93.8%), slightly behind the “winner”, the U.S., whose contamination rate is 94.4%, but well ahead of #3, India, at 82.4%... a race I wish we'd lose. The study recommends further research into the effect of ingesting, breathing and drinking plastic microfibers, but also suggests that in the meantime, until the results are back, the use of plastic be decreased the world over. “Plastic is forever” is a helpful, though simplistic, reminder of the challenge we face in responsible resource management. But what do you do when there are virtually no facilities in your country for recycling plastic and so many other materials? Ah… another topic for another blog entry.
            The most precious resource of all, however, is human, without denigrating the natural and other resources that cry out for careful management. We are seeing up-close the constant hemorrhaging of young, talented youth from the country. Some, though not all, make a wholehearted effort to establish themselves in a career, to plan marriage and family, but find the entrenched interests here an impregnable wall above them and around them. They often promise that they will only go away to work for a few years at a decent wage, and then return in order to help Lebanon progress, but we have yet to see that happen. What we have seen in our eight months here is several of our young friends make that move, to the Arabian Gulf countries, to Australia or Europe, or to the U.S. and Canada.
            As one of the most important (and last viable) centers for the Armenian diaspora, and a bastion of the cultural life and language of Western Armenia, the issue of human resource management here in Lebanon is not merely important; it is a life-and-death issue. Schools here are trying valiantly to continue their essential work of inculcating Armenian identity in the young, while all too many families are distancing themselves from that culture and pursuing a French, or Arabic, or English environment in which to steep their children’s inner worlds. This, too, is a form of mismanagement, based on the view that one must sacrifice one’s identity to live a “successful” life.
There’s a reason why you don’t hear
the term “watchcat”. Behold, LebCat 7.
(25 Aug. 2017 – Beirut)
            While Maria and I pour ourselves into our work, we are mindful that we are also doing “resource management”. Our aim is to inspire young people to live a life of purpose, and to fuel that, to live a life based on vision. In order to do something that matters, something that will strengthen others as human beings, and as members of a specific culture group (like Armenians), you have to first have an aim far above yourself, and thereafter you can make your daily choices and sacrifices. We try to show by example that, “Let’s try this path and see where it takes us” is a poor option for those who truly care about their people’s future. We are learning new lessons about trusting God in all of this.
            Enough musing. For now.
            There’s an expression in English, “Never send a boy to do a man’s job.” I’d like to coin a new expression, “Never send a cat to do a dog’s job.” Take a look at LebCat 7, and you’ll know what I mean.
            Our time as permanent residents of the Hamra area of Beirut has come to an end. We’ve been living here at the Near East School of Theology since our arrival on Feb. 1. Tomorrow we’ll be moving to the Ashrafieh area, to start a new set of adventures. More stuff to write about! [LNB]

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Humans


7.Humans (27 August 2017)

Random human, being
confused by his electronic
device. (28 July 2017 –
Brummana, Lebanon)
            Humans, especially in recent years, have forgotten the importance of networks. Things like “social media” have clumsily reintroduced the concept to people in the thrall of their electronic devices. But it is still not networking at its optimal, because it eliminates the face-to-face element that is the foundation of any society, human or otherwise. Like that thing called “church”, and those who pretend that their on-line gatherings are an appropriate substitute for fellowship. Or like that fellow, Mark Whatsisberg, who thinks that Facebook is going to replace community groups like churches and associations.
Human bringing goods to
his apartment. He didn’t
have any food; I sniffed
as he walked past. (26
Jul. 2017 – NEST, Beirut)
            Anyway, humans are like that. I should know. I’ve been following one of them for the past eight months… I and my network here in Beirut, that is. You see, we cats look like loners, but we’re really very much in touch (especially when we’re hissing at each other). In case you were wondering, I’m “LebCat 6”, according to Human, who’s been following me and my network.
Human sitting on a chair,
as he does for hours each day.
(18 Aug. 2017, Geitawi, Beirut)
            A couple months back, when a fellow cat sleeping on someone’s keyboard in the U.S. caught a glimpse of this page, and my photos, out of the corner of his eye (you thought he was snoring, didn’t you?), he alerted me, and we immediately informed our teams to increase their surveillance of Human. And we “borrowed”, shall we say, this blog in order to make our voice heard to all of you “socially-networked” humans.
Human carrying Clanging
Metal Thing (3 Aug. 2017 –
Monteverde, Lebanon)
            Since our street has been dug up for the past two months (the street next to where Human lives), my routine has been messed up, to say the least. I’ve had to rely on my colleagues to keep tabs on what’s been going on. And we’ve noticed that Human has been harder to track, harder than usual. My contacts have noted his comings and goings, sometimes in another part of the city, sometimes outside the city, and sometimes pretty far away. He was sighted in Canada a couple of months ago, blowing into some curved yellow metal thing, and just a few weeks back Human callously interrupted my colleague in Shushi (in Artsakh) while she was grooming herself, simply because he wanted to take her picture. Canada, Armenia, Lebanon – seems he’s been getting around. Sometime in late July/early August, he was also spotted in the hills outside Beirut, with a group of other humans, wearing short pants. I don’t know if he was trying to evade us with a clever disguise, but we don’t bother with externals. Smell is what matters, not looks.
Fuzzy Human attempting to deceive
one of our agents with buza 3rabi.
(7 Aug. 2017 – Ashrafieh, Beirut)
            We’ve also noted that Human spends a lot of time going back and forth in the city. And wiping off his sweat with a piece of cloth. They haven’t learned the secret of wearing a fur coat the whole year. It’s a built-in, grow-it-yourself sweat rag – pure genius, whoever thought it up. Humans have so much to learn about what true genius is.
           Human lives with Another Human, about whom we don’t know much, because she keeps avoiding us. But we keep tabs on her, too. For a few weeks this summer a third one appeared at their apartment, Fuzzy Human; the three of them were spotted in and around the city quite a bit. Fuzzy Human tried to offer his “buza 3rabi” (Arabic ice cream) to our colleague, but, come on, everyone knows that there’s no milk in it, so what’s the point? Meats and dairy products – that’s the stuff we like. We also like whatever else you humans feed us, like canned food or table scraps. Anything that will spare us from having to hunt for our own food. You may call it “lazy”. We call it “smart”. Smarter than those phones you clutch all the time.
Our colleague, after being rudely interrupted
while grooming, by Human seeking a photo
op. (15 Aug. 2017, Shushi, Artsakh)
            Our network has been following the news, and is convinced that humans are having increased difficulties because they do not truly network. Theirs is a utilitarian motivation, and they rely on each other only when they need something from another human. In our recent information-gathering operations, the only time we noticed a change in this mode of relation was this summer, according to our agent in KCHAG, the humans’ conference center in the hills above Mansourieh. There humans would sit together, talk and laugh, seemingly just for the enjoyment of being together. And they would also sit in groups and read from a thick Book, and gather inside a building and sing songs to Someone. Nothing significant for them to gain from doing all that, yet they looked like they were actually enjoying life, for a change.
            So, there may be hope for them after all. As long as they keep their networks healthy. And that’s all I have to say.
            Pretty soon Human will have figured out that we’ve hacked his blog. And he’ll change his password, and think he’s locked us cats out.
            That’s OK. Let him think that. We know better. [LNBCAT]