martedì 20 ottobre 2015

Ahla w sahla: I am in Beirut

So here I am, updating this blog from the other side, Beirut. I've been in this chaotic and hot city for a week and a half. Yes, it is warm here. Average temperature now in October is 26 degrees. Not bad at all!

Where to start? I can sum up my first impression in a few words: traffic, terrace, manakish, smiles and garbage.

The first thing which struck my mind since our colleague came to pick us at the airport is the traffic; a chaotic, crazy, disoriented way cars, and therefore people, frantically 'line up', honking one another in a road which quickly becomes full of Range Rovers, old cars, pickups, buses and taxis. Everyone seems to have a car. No one walks. You hardly see any sidewalk. Inevitably the air is quite polluted, you can feel it with any breath you take in. Anyway, I am sure I will get used to it...

On my way to work, one hour queue 
Lebanon is mostly a mountainous country, East and West, separated by the fertile Bekaa Valley. Beirut itself is a very hilly city. There is only a narrow coastal strip which fronts the Mediterranean Sea.
I happily found out that my new home sits on a hill with a lovely terrace overlooking the city and the sea on the horizon. Whoop whoop!

I forgot how amazing it can be to have breaky and dinner outdoor, on a terrace with a great view; my flatmates (and work colleague) are surely making the most of it.

Aperitivo on the terrace

Manakish is a delicious Lebanese flatbread I had a few days ago. My favorite topping is with zaatar (a mix of herbs and spices like thyme, oregano, sesame seeds) and jibneh, local cheese. It is sooo good!! I have a feeling I will eat it a lot during my stay in Lebanon.

I didn't meant to talk about food and then move on to garbage but I need to make a point here. Few friends asked me "what's  happening with the garbage situation there?".
The trash crisis is real and it is palpable everywhere you go. Piles and piles of  food waste and trash can be seen on the side of the road, hence the smell is terrible. In some areas of the city people are so fed up they burn what's left on the road, so many toxins are released in the air.... I don't even want to think about it.

The crisis started on July 17 with the closure of the Naameh landfill which meant an abrupt suspension of garbage collection in Beirut. This led to protests and the formation of the grassroots movement named "you stink" directed at the government and its inadequate respose to the crisis. But the protests are about much more than garbage. The web is full of article about it. For a quick and comprehensive view of the situation have a look to this link of the newspaper Daily Star Lebanon. (Trash crisis, how it started

So have you started working yet? Kind of. So far my team and I met with the local partner Caritas Lebanon Migration Center CLMC is a specialised center of Caritas Lebanon, one of the most prominent NGO in Lebanon. Every year CLMC helps asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers by providing comprehensive assistance, legal counseling, social support, humanitarian and medical assistance, psycho social and recreational activities among others.

I visited the three shelters I will be working at for the next ten months. Seeing them, meeting the local staff and guests put everything into perspective.
Two of these shelters host migrant workers (women alone and women with their kids) and the last one is a Palestinian refugee camp which since 2011 has experienced an influx of many Syrian refugees.

The smiles I was referring to as first impression came from the kids who took part to one of the event organised by our local partner and supported by my team. This day was meant to promote integration between Lebanese, Iraqi and Syrians communities and refugees who live on the same territory.  It was a beautiful day, we hosted between 80 to 100 kids. The picture of me dressed up by the female smurf
to entertain the kids is yet to come...

In the meantime I say good bye with the view of Beirut of today on my way back home. See you soon!

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