Saturday, March 03, 2007

Of Cats and Men

Just returned from a trip to Beirut, the jewel in the crown of Lebanon and the Middle East. I simply had to go. There was no other way I could take a decision concerning my sons' future. Regardless of the political ramifications of the current stalemate, where protesters of the Nasrallah camp are squatting in and around the Solidaire area of downtown Beirut, that human spirit to have fun never wanes. With argileeh and coffee, music and tents, its festival time of a different kind once again in Beirut. Although the tragedy of the recent confrontation and the callous Israeli war crimes of the summer of 2006, can never be forgotten, there appears to be a ground swell of human determination to live a 'normal life', to put politicians on notice that enough is enough, and a reawakening of the citizens' right to call the shots. It's now become a 'board' game, with political slogans appearing on billboards all over Beirut from the traditional camps and counter arguments by the new movement for civic action, appearing in response. The silent majority appears to be silent no more.

As an adult living in the Arab World one has learnt to face fear square between the eyes, to confront it, to challenge it, to search into the inner core of its being and to come out fighting. It has been an enlightening lesson in political realities nurtured by decades of western hegemony, arrogance and the ease of man's inhumanity to man

Though when it comes to the wellbeing of one's children, it's a completely different ball game ….. and the thought of sending my sons to university in Beirut was a confusing one, but one that found resolve in a most surprising way. Enter stage right, one over protective mother strolling around the campuses of Beirut's foremost educational institutions; enter stage left, a band of cats, hundreds of them, well fed and cared for, sitting and strolling around the AUB campus, mingling with smiling and studious young people with heads held high. Just glancing around at the incredible landscape and trees whose branches seemed to embrace you with grace wherever you walked, seemed to be saying, "it's ok". There was a vibrancy of positive energy all around and I left, comforted by the experience. But I was the foreigner with a different criteria; and I am sure for the Lebanese it must be quite a different experience as the 'brain-drain' continues unabated. This is the current tragedy of Lebanon and one cannot help but feel sad.

So with mixed emotions of joy and sadness I can now proceed to plan for my sons future wellbeing – I have found peace of mind under the strangest of circumstances in one of the most volatile regions of the world at the present. That can only mean one thing … hope is still alive.

J

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