Thursday, January 24, 2019

Drip Drip Drip

22.Drip, Drip, Drip (23 January 2019)
A brief respite from the rain, the city, the daily grind… at the
Pastors’ Retreat at KCHAG. (11 Jan. 2019 – Monteverde)
            For the past two weeks, for more days than not, all we had been hearing was the sound of rain. Morning and daytime and evening and morning. Sometimes we had breaks from the wet, but we accepted the steady “drip, drip, drip” as a necessary part of the winter season. Each dark and dismal morning I would get up and look out the window to see if it were really morning, and if it were raining… again. Once we had ascertained the day had started, and once the haze had cleared for a brief respite, we would look out the other window to see a brighter, whiter quilting over Mount Sannine. What we experienced as drip, drip, drip, they received silently, in the form of heavy snowfalls.

Norma paying a visit to our balcony/rooftop.
(23 Jan. 2019 – Geitawi, Beirut)
            Our “early warning device” in our bathroom is the best indicator of the precipitation. When a single drop of rain falls, it pings on the “tarbouche” or “fez”, the cover on top of the vent pipe, giving us a more accurate weather picture than the TV or our phone apps. But it doesn’t show us the damage caused by the heavy rains, in a country whose infrastructure is not in optimal condition, and which won’t see improvement any time soon. All of this rain brought landslides to a number of areas, closing highways and causing traffic delays at every turn.
            Not only were the roads, drains and rivers unable to handle all of this, but the refugee camps, most of which are in the central portion of the country, were turned into swamp-like conditions. In some situations, the water flowing through them resembled whitewater rapids, which would not have been a problem for that farmland-turned-tent-city in “normal” days, but where in today’s world does “normal” exist?
            Schools, which closed for several days because of the storms, are now adding makeup “rain days” to the end of the school calendar. We in the city are awaiting the next deluge, and whose name will be heard over and over in the news. The big storm was “Norma”, followed by one with another Western name (which the Arab media changed to “Maryam”). Some are guessing that next, Norma’s husband, or boyfriend, or maybe even her “ex-” will show up…
The “tarbouche” on our roof. Actually looks more like a
Japanese-style wicker “kasa” hat. Which sounds pretty European
to me. But then the Japanese call Euro-style hats “boushi”.
Go figure. (10 Mar. 2018 – Geitawi, Beirut)
            Over last weekend, “drip, drip, drip” was replaced by “thump, thump, thump” – the familiar sounds of the Huey helicopters, audible from miles and miles away. Lebanon hosted an economic summit of Arab leaders earlier this month. Considering the ever-worsening economic state of Lebanon, this was probably a good thing to host, to give visibility to the problems the country and immediate region is facing. Most of those leaders said they were coming, but then after some locals tore down and burned one of the flags near the venue (and posted a video of themselves doing it, of course) to express a decades-old grievance, they canceled and sent lower-level ministers to represent them.
Graffiti that blesses and challenges passersby, long after the
artist’s death (Samuel Pashgian’s home,
22 Jan. 2019 – Geitawi, Beirut)
            But the summit went on, and again roads were closed (for security purposes), and people stayed home. So, instead of traffic jams on the ground, there was the incessant “thump, thump, thump” of the Hueys overhead. For soldiers in Vietnam in the 1960s, this meant that help was on the way. For us here in Lebanon, I’m not sure what it means.
            But the dripping sound is more analogous of things that we face, such as the steady closure of small businesses in favor of “outlet”-style stores in western-style shopping malls, and the emigration of their owners to Armenia. Like a slow leak under the kitchen sink, you don’t notice it until it’s already damaged the floor. This is just one of the indicators of how a sub-group of Lebanese society, such as the Armenian community, is being stressed. The society overall will be the worse if these small, industrious communities disintegrate.
A pointed message on an electrical post
(6 Jan. 2019 – Geitawi, Beirut)
            The slow attrition of church members, something seen around the world, can be seen here as well. People, for whatever reason, tend to leave very silently, such that only the very alert notice, and then have a window of opportunity to reach out to them. Fortunately, there is an active and committed group of church members, including many young people, who are taking note and trying to think of ways of keeping people connected and integrated to their churches and communities. They’re even thinking of ways to keep young people who find work in other regions of the Middle East to stay involved in the life of their local church, possibly making use of new technologies to bridge the physical distance. It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to ideas that will emerge.
            I’ve resumed rehearsals for the Armiss choir, and we’re preparing to give a full concert in June. It will be hard work, especially to build their cohesion. Drop by drop (not drip by drip) we’re gathering singers, young and young-ish (my peers) to be a part of this, and hopefully for all four voices. Notice I did not liken the choir to a bucket. That was on purpose.
LebCat 21: A fat-cat, similar to the non-feline
variety so prevalent in the country, waiting for
a burger to fall to the ground.
(17 Jan. 2019 – Mar Mikhael, Beirut)
            There’s some very interesting graffiti around the city, and I don’t pretend to understand all of it. Some is ominous. Some is humorous. Some is objectionable. Some is a nuisance. And some is thought-provoking, like the wall in Hamra on which is scrawled “Free your mind – Kill your television”.
            It has been two years since we moved to Lebanon, and the excitement, the challenges and the rewards continue. It’s exciting that I am resuming my Arabic studies, after a 20-month “break”. It’s challenging to focus on just a few things, work- and personal-related, and to say “no” to a bunch of other things that legitimately need someone’s attention. (Something about praying to the Lord of the harvest…) Meanwhile, it’s rewarding to be part of a network of friends and colleagues who do their best to support each other. Early in the month I was part of our semi-annual Armenian Evangelical pastor’s retreat, in which colleagues from Syria and Lebanon came together for a 48-hour experience. It’s things like this that keep me grateful for God opening up the way for us to be here.   [LNB]