Thursday, June 26, 2008

The lower class

There is one solution which always works when someone is unable to fix a problem or doesn't wanna bother: 'Just bring a Syrian.' The Syrian/Sri Lankan/Bangladeshi/... workers are everywhere and excellent for cutting trees, fixing roads, building things, and so on. It's really amazing how much they work for only a few hundred $'s a month.

Just throw them in the back of a truck. They don't care!

The concierge

The first time I met one of them was when I lived in an apartment building with a 'concierge' from Bangladesh. He lived in a 2x2 metres room on the ground floor which is actually kinda luxurious considering that many workers live in a 1x2 room (just big enough for a single bed). Some of them live next to the parking lots they manage and wake up whenever a car comes. (Luckily though, everyone has a tiny tv so they don't get bored). Usually these guys will have a wife and family in their home country to whom they send money.

The concierge is really handy to have around. He can bring a maid to clean your apartment for $5-10, get groceries for you, take your garbage bags outside and fix any other problems (for example if cable tv is not working at 4 am). Just tip him like $5 at the end of the month. He gets a salary of a few hundred $ each month from the building owner.

As for the more 'invisible' workers, they'll be doing things like fixing streets and picking up garbage. All of these laborers (including teenagers) don't really have rights but are willing to do almost any job. The Sukleen (cleaning company) guys work day and night. This is why you can often see people throwing trash out of the car window. 'It'll make the Sukleen guys busy.' Isn't that awful? You also have more specialized workers such as plumbers or guys who connect electricity lines.

The dead Syrian

My boy told me once about the Syrian who used to connects those lines. 'He just climbed in a mast like a monkey wearing no protection clothes at all. A few seconds later I heard him scream, smelled something burning and saw him hanging on the lines. The dead Syrian stayed there until a policeman arrived. His family later came over from Syria, which got paid a few thousand dollars for compensation by the people who had hired him.' Poor them.

So what about the lower class girls? Well, they usually either have the 'oldest job in the world' (many Eastern Europeans) or work as a maid/waitress/sometimes in a beauty salon. Filipina's usually get Sunday off and will be flooding the streets then.

These 'low class' people often get treated in a bad way by the higher classes. My concierge gets yelled at like a dog by 'sophisticated' rich girls who live in the building. I keep hearing stories of maids getting beaten, locked up and their passports being taken away. It amazes me how these people just accept their position (that is if they have a say in anything). They've always been really friendly to me, so hereby I'd just like to show my appreciation for their hard work. Respect! :D

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Beach Resorts Guide

There are so many beautiful beach resorts in Lebanon that you start expecting every place to be perfect. Just imagine the disappointment when something is 'average'! :) So, for all the 'demanding' people, here is a small review guide to the beach resorts (best and worst places. (Feel free to use it to convince people who think Lebanon is a desert to come and visit.)

Every place will have an entrance fee between $10-$20 and prices for food/drinks are depending on its reputation. Please let me know if you agree or disagree, additional comments, etc. cuz you never know, some disgusting place could just be having a 'bad day'. :P

South (Jiyeh / Rmaileh)

O Cap
Cosy place if you wanna go with family, your lover or sit with some close friends. There's a swimming pool with some places for kids and a place where you can take a stairs down and swim in the sea (which is deep). I loved floating on the water and getting carried by the waves :) It has a bar in the pool and a restaurant. Downside is that the place is not very big so there's not a lot to do there.

o Cap
My favorite place in the south because of the great beach and many facilities. There are a few swimming pools, jacuzzi's, restaurants (like Crepaway) and places to do sports. If you take a stairs down, you'll reach the sandy beach (perfect for writing love declarations on) and the sea which is perfect when there are some waves. The sunbeds have views looking over the sea or are next to the pools. Toilets/changing rooms are very clean and there is a tiny store if you need to buy something. There is another beach next to Oceana called 'Janna' which I hear is very nice too.

Very nice. It's for everyone, but when I went there it seemed more like the hot spot for party teenagers (dancing on/around the bar and getting drunk in a nightclub kind of way during the day. This can happen anywhere, though, if the right crowd is present :D). There's a big swimming pool, restaurant and the beach/sea place is nice. The surroundings and view are really beautiful.

Yawn. I think this is the beach featured in Ragheb Allama's song Wana Wayak, but there it seems much more alive than it actually is. It's mostly for rich (bored) people who wanna look at each other at the pool. Everyone will be checking who has the nicest swimsuit/(usually fake) body there. There are some places to lie on the grass or next to the sea, but you'll have to tolerate hearing the tantrums of the 'sophisticated' (Girl: 'I'm gonna take off my top! I'm gonna do it! Really!' Bf: 'Nooo! Let's take some more champagne.' Girl: *falls asleep*) The black/white theme, grass, bar/restaurant, beach etc. look very attractive though.

Sand's Rock
Not bad, not great either: the toilets are DISGUSTING. It might have been cuz I went early in the season, but I'm not sure if it was possible to really clean up that mess (it's a shame cuz in Lebanon everyone would insist on clean toilets and many times there will be one person next to them all day especially for that.. see this really is an issue ;)). Sand's Rock is big and many good spots for tanning. There are like 2? big pools. If you go downstairs, you can go in the sea but here it's not very interesting. Friendly staff.


Prettyyyyyyyy. I think Pangea opened last year so everything is very new and looks luxurious. You'll mostly find sophisticated women with kids and young people here. The beautiful swimming pool has a bar in the water and there is another bar on the beach (here you can also go in the sea). Next to it as a pier where you can walk on. Beach is a bit small. Nice restaurant. Everything is really nice (except for the toilets which sometimes are a bit dirty/have broken locks on the doors).

North (Jounieh / Byblos)

Edde Sands

Fancy and pretty. Can't say much more as I didn't go during the day, but I will soon.

La Voile Bleue
Looks nice inside, but is a bit boring (and quiet). Mostly for families with kids. There's a place to play sports, a swimming pool and the location at the sea is very nice. But the athmosphere is not particularly interesting. Watch out for guys pretending to be working for an advertising agency which needs models ;) (There's also a Voile Bleue in the south, which seems to be less boring.)

Nejmeh Sporting

A place to go to alone if you wanna get tanned, take a dip, read a book. Entrance price (20.000 LL, approx. $13) is too high for this simple place as everything looks a bit old (even the waiters' oversized blue/yellow uniforms) and nothing interesting is going on there. It has some swimming pools and places next to the sea (but the sea water is a bit dirty). Mostly interesting if you don't wanna be bothered or are bored of every other place.

Military Beach
Great place for everyone (even like 80-yr old grannies go here). The entrance is only 10.000 LL and the food and drinks are cheap and not bad (like 1500 / $1 for a drink). The area is very big and has many facilities: a swimming pool (if you don't mind the guys spitting in the water), swimming pool and playground for kids, basketball field, many places with sun beds next to the sea for swimming (for kids too) and restaurants.

La Plage

Fancy and expensive, beautiful inside. Don't go wearing ugly clothes as you won't fit in. Nice bar and view. Didn't go during the day, maybe soon.

Later more updates!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Music videos

Yara has this video in which a disgusting guy in a car is staring at her for half of the time, thinking about their wedding... Pffff it’s so annoying. First of all I doubt that he’d be fantasizing about getting married to her. Secondly, I’d like to know if staring at a girl on the street has ever, in the whole history of Lebanon, worked for a guy to meet his wife. (If so, please share these stories ;))

Only thing that I don’t doubt is that he was stuck in traffic for the entire length of the song.

Speaking of music videos, the one below has to be the cutest one ever. It’s an animation with clay boys touring around Egypt in a jeep with some cute scenes of daily life. Hehe.. look at the old men who are getting shaved. :P

Same old, same old

,,The electricity wasn’t working again today, so, you know, we stole a line.’’

Heard from some friends who live in and near Dahye that the electricity is still messed up (sometimes not working for 10 hrs a day). Even the stolen line is annoying, since it goes on and off for 2-3 minutes or hours every time (I stopped asking if they saw this or that movie on tv cuz how could they watch them?). Well, at least stealing is better than throwing grenades and fighting with the army on the streets.

Monday, January 28, 2008

'Civil disobedience'...

Sorry for the lack of updates. Been busy.. university, partying, had my family over during the holidays, you know, the usual. Now the semester is over (we have finals) and I'll be having some more time.

So as you might know, the situation is still, well, 'the situation' as everyone carefully says it. I haven't even heard anyone talk about the bomb explosions the day afterwards anymore. Not even in politics classes. I found out from Dutch friends who asked if I was ok or cuz I happened to check the news. It might sound weird, but what can we do about it?

So the latest news is that yesterday seven people were killed and about forty wounded in Dahye (largely Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut). The victims were members of Amal and Hezbollah and it happened when citizens of Dahye were demonstrating against electricity cuts.

It made me think about the unrest before the civil war in 1975. (I happened to be studying for an exam about the history of politics in Lebanon at the time I heard.) The circumstances back then were a bit the same: dispute over powersharing arrangements, protests about work environment, cost of living, etc. (in short: unfair treatment towards the lower classes, Shia in particular).

I am not saying we're about to get pulled in a civil war (who can predict that? + there were more reasons for the civil war to start... though I'd like to know who te killers were). It just made me think.. Why is it that after 30 yrs these problems still exist to a degree that people feel forced to show 'civil disobedience' (and then this happens)? How must it be for the people living in these circumstances and then have politicians like Samir Geagea raise questions whether electricity really was cut off instead of trying to fix the problem..

Who cares if before the riots the street lights were on? Does it mean electricity cuts never happen? (Sure in Hamra electricity will be fine cuz of the number of 'important people' living here.) Even if it's just an excuse to start rioting, then take away that excuse by fixing the problems in society instead of pointing fingers... Maybe then we can avoid reading such reports in the newspaper the next day. (Apparently I wasn't the only one thinking about the bad circumstances before 1975-1990.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another again.

A top general has been killed by a car bomb this morning near the presidential palace. But no panic, no wondering about the '5 w's and the h', just 'deal with it' (=acknowledge it happened, feel sorry for the victims, move on) like everyone else does. I heard it in class and it was pretty much: ,,Ah really? What happened? Ok, so what did you do this weekend?''

Before I came here, I had the feeling that the whole country would be depressed. But the reality is that many people have this 'don't care' attitude and I'm starting to believe that it's not just an act. It's some kind of survival instinct. If you let every bad thing that happens here affect you, you'll really end up having psychological problems. So people actually are able to convince themselves that it's nothing.

One of the first conversations I had with someone about 'the situation' (these carefully uttered words in every conversation about the news are really starting to sound like a political term), went like this:
Me: 'Are the tents still in downtown?'
Girl: 'Yeah, it's boring. No one is in them. Actually, no one cares!'

It's really easy to have such a conversation about any newsworthy topic. Guess I'm used to such indifference now.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bye bye

...And so we are left without a president.