Chasing snow, chasing stories

On Saturday, I did two things I hadn’t done in 3 weeks and REALLY needed to do: cycling and going to the cinema. Both were fabulous. Just like Cape Town, Beirut has one Labia – only it goes by a different name: Empire Metropolis at Sofil Centre in Ashrafieh, near Gemmayze, which is the heartland of cafes, clubs, pubs and bars. Saw The Artist and loved it.

On Sunday, my flatmates organised a car to go out to “where the snow is”. That decision, however, was taken around mid-day. And a very loose sense of direction. We got close to the snow. Then stopped for a late lunch. Then headed back to Beirut in order to attend a vigil for Syria.

We arrived at the statute of Abdel Nasser at the Corniche, as the protesters were dispersing. From the manner in which that happened, I picked up that the situation was tense. There were almost more Internal Security guards (red berets, grey & black camouflage pants, black boots, big arms) present, than protesters. There also were pro-Syrian counter-protesters, screaming – I had a sense it was – rude stuff.

After we walked back and forth on the Corniche for a bit, we ended up having tea at a friend’s. Seeing that some protesters have been followed after marches and demonstrations and been badly beaten up by counter-demonstrators, vigils, marches and demonstrations have turned to flash mob tactics to avoid harassment and violence.

Researching and writing a piece on Lebanese Women Filmmakers. A roundabout way to talk about the limitations of artistic freedom of expression and censorship in Lebanon. Every play, script, etc goes to General Security that will check it, see if it won’t cause any upset with any of this sectarian country’s groups, approve it or request changes, before it can be performed/staged/filmed! Randa Chahal’s film A Civilised People was to be cut by nearly half the film!

Got a stash of documentaries from a wellknown director, Carol Mansour, who gave me a stash of her work. Great way to prepare and gain insight into Lebanon. Jocelyne Saab, another filmmaker, feature this time, based in Paris now, sent me a list of libraries and “video” aka pirate shops around Beirut, to find her films.

For about 3 years, I’ve dreamt of walking parts of this: www.lebanontrail.org
I joined their Facebook group a while back. Then a few days ago I saw that they were looking for writers, editors, graphic designers & other skills to put together their first magazine. I went to the meeting last night and am really looking forward to contributing to their first mag but more so, to walk parts of the trail in April, when they do their annual walk through (440km) from the south to the north. I plan to do a few days in the beginning, then hopefully see my nephew blow out 2 candles placed on top of a cake I plan to bake for him, then walk the rest of the trail.

Lastly, I must write about Beirut’s traffic. Especially rush hour. It’s not for the fainthearted. One-ways become two-ways, one lane exit ramps are extended to 3 lanes and the whole town is on slow go mode, which gives me time to practice Arabic letters and numbers as they feature in both Arabic and Latin on the car registrations. I marvel at old and run-down buildings and people watch, take notes of places to check out when the bicycle is fixed up.

Ah, the guy on the scooter in front – going against traffic – makes time for a little chat with the car blocking our way. Why not?

I think my taxi driver who did not use the indicator on the 30 minute commute across Beirut even just once, has an armada of guardian angels and an ulcer. And he probably hoots at his wife in his sleep.

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About Tales from a Small Country

I'm a project coordinator and features writer with a passion for the seventh art, a keen interest in culture and mobility, as well as social and environmental subjects. Half French, half German by origin possibly explains why I am drawn to divided countries and diverse societies: I called Cape Town in South Africa home for over a decade before coming to Beirut in early 2012. Besides people watching and cats, I also love Tripoli, Lebanon's second city.
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