Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 20th, 2009

Civil work (continue 32)

I finally worked in a civil project in M3ameltein for four years; it was a resort hotel on the beach.  This project was executed by the contractor Jacque Matta, who happened to be renting the second floor in our building at Kunetra.  I was supposed to be hired as the prospective general manager of this resort complex when it is finished, but a relative of the owners was hired at last.

Again, I felt redundant in that civil job since I am no civil engineer and had no training in the construction business; I mainly recorded workers time, paid wages at the end of the week, and faked to be useful supervising work in progress.  I was asked to do the disappearing act and not linger at the office on the construction site.  Basically, I was supposed to check every studio and check how much work has been done and what is lacking to finish it.

I recall that many Indians and Indonesians worked on the project and they lived in the basement.  It was not a healthy habitat for the workers and they managed to set up partitions, especially for married couples; I doubt that couples were officially married, but nobody checked their marriage licence or cared to know how official is official.  The Indonesians had a favorite hobby of chasing rats and roasting them.  I don’t recall if I was invited to have a bite; I would have remembered anyway.

It was during that period that I suffered from a chronic stomach ache that kept me doubled up for 6 months. I visited all kinds of physicians; one physician assumed that I had parasites in the intestines and I had to take an assortment of medicines for that assumed illness; it turned out I had no parasites whatsoever.  One physician said it is mainly a nervous case because I had no physical symptoms.

Somehow, when a new foreman took over and offered me wider responsibilities and recognition then this stomach ache vanished instantly.  The pain disappeared like by magic.  This experience taught me not to linger on any job that I don’t like doing:  It is not worth the suffering and the humiliation.

I think that I took swift revenge on the former foreman by forbidding the Indian workers to wash and clean his car.  That decision made the round and the story told throughout the enterprise.  All Indian workers exhibited a frank smiled everytime they crossed my path: I guess the foreman was not liked.

There was a beautiful girl in my neighborhood who studied architecture at Kaslik; I was glad to give her ride to work.  One day, my nun of an aunt told my parents that I had no chance to marry the girl “ma fi nassib”.  I don’t recall asking the hand of the girl or maybe the nun, who loved to get people wed, had talked to the girl’s family about this possibility.  A week later, the house of the girl was robbed or there was an attempt to rob it or it was just a fabricated story by the parent’s girl.  The father of the girl told the investigator that I used to jog early in the morning wearing a stupid multicolored winter cap. Well, the lawyer brother of this infamous father came and apologized to my family for his brother; as if it was my father who attempted the crime; as if it is none of my concern to meddle in that affair!

One day, returning from work, missiles and shells fell on my way, close to home, and I had to park and wait.  Yes, the civil war was not over.  I recall that we had to live in the basement for several weeks.  My mother enjoys telling people, on the civil war, that my preferred location was under the table. I have no recollection of what I did in that dramatic period:  I have a way of forgetting traumatic events.

At least, this job afford me possibilities to learn snow skiing, buying the necessary implements, get away on several cruises to Hungary, Cyprus…

Greece and Hungary


I returned to Lebanon via Abidjan.  I applied to different teaching positions but was denied a job, even in high schools. My cousin Jihad connected me with Nasri, a lawyer, who needed someone with “industrial” background to join him for a trip to Greece; the brother of Nasri, working in Saudi Arabia, wanted to evaluate the financial viability of a manufacture of juice that was for sale in the Peloponaise.  We visited the installation and we met with a Lebanese agent representing the Saudi owner and who came from Switzerland for that purpose. I quickly discovered that I was “an add on” to impress in the negotiation because I was denied any fact sheets on equipments or sales.  Thus, I spent a week in Greece and a few days in Athens, but I was not impressed.  I was very naïve; when we returned to Lebanon I immediately returned the one thousand dollars cash in fees to Nasri because I felt that I was of no use and did not contribute much in the transaction.  Nasri later became the coordinator of the Syria-Lebanon High Committee for economic resolutions.

It was during that period that I joined a school friend Charles for a two weeks vacation tour in Hungary, during the Soviet hegemony. It was a good trip and I was impressed with Budapest; I was even more impressed by the scheming embezzlement skills. I once was approached by a scoundrel to change dollars to the national currency. We were under the impression that we receive higher value from currency changers than formal banks.  I offered to change one hundred dollar-bill and the scoundrel bilked me bad; he inserted small bills at the end and made me feel scared that a police is coming and he fled; I realized that I was not the only sucker in the touring group.  I bought a heavy black coat for $75 and the seller wanted dollars exclusively.  I befriended an elegant lady named Mona during the trip and the company considered us as boyfriend-girlfriend; we kept in touch and met a couple of times till I returned to the USA.  I once took Mona to a day tour of the Metn and Kesrouan districts because she never set foot in Christian areas.

CNNWire-Al Jazeera collaboration: A proposal (January 20, 2009)

            The Associated Press (AP) is a “non lucrative” cooperative managed by 1,400 dailies with the business of acquiring and disseminating news to the affiliated dailies; it hires over 3,000 journalists spread in over 100 States and sells news at a price; it has lately reduced its price rate for two major reasons.  First, the written news business is suffering from a constant reduction in readers; many major dailies have folded (like the Christian Science Monitor) and a few are resuming publishing via internet websites.  The second reason is the coming competition from CNNWire services.

            CNNWire is contemplating to diversify in this line of business and selling news to dailies; it did not renew its contract with Reuters as a first step in reducing its dependence on external medias.  CNN has been making profit over 10% for the last 5 years and has money to invest.  CNN has started as a television chain and then acquired many radio groups and internet sites and spreading its tentacles; CNN is already negotiating with several dailies desirous to cover major events.  CNN and has hired 3,000 journalists around the world and is focusing to expand greatly its Abu Dhabi bureau.

            Al Jazeera is the CNN counterpart for the Arab and Moslem World. It has covered the horrors in Gaza far better than CNN could around the clock.  Israel has denied access to Gaza for journalists and cable operators and reporters.

            My general proposal is that CNN and Al Jazeera link up to offer wire services to dailies and videos to cables.  There are thousands of graduates in audio-visual, graphic designer, typesetting, computer display and pagination, and internet navigators that can satisfy the requisite of wire service business after attending seminars and focused special classes.

            To be more specific, I contemplate teams of three employees combining the needed specialties in every small district to covering world news in the written and audio-visual mediums.  These teams of three or four can work at their homes and coordinate their efforts by meeting at locations with more sophisticated equipments.  A professional writer can head the team and be the secretary for coordinating the incoming and outgoing tasks, and thus saving headquarters hundreds of micro managers and secretaries with higher quality in precision and news display.

Are you poor? Raise your hand! (January 20, 2009)

            If you are in a situation that prevents you to participate in social life then raise your hand: you are considered materially and morally poor.  It follows that you are poor if you are stuck in your “home” because you cannot mingle with people, in a society that expects standards in elegance, in frequency of eating out, of taking vacations, and of transportation means.  In a culture of “fitting in” you are poor if you were raised not to incur debt that your hard earned job cannot cover.  You are the poorer if the standard of living in your country is expensive and the facilities of support are not suitable in times of emergencies, for health coverage, for children well being, for continuing education, and for opportunities to work. 

If you feel ashamed to invite “friends” home because it is in shamble, the furniture and appliances outdated, or the walls needing another layer of paints then you are poor in such a society.  If you feel inclined to cancel invitations to weddings because you cannot afford a decent gift for the married couple then you are poor in such a society. If you are unable to enroll your kids in private schools because public schools are considered not equipped for the education “performance” standards then you are poor in such a society. You got the gist of my definition; except in situations of basic survival necessities, then the concept of being poor is specific to the culture and tradition of a society.

            There are many definitions of belonging to a “poor status”; it ranges from daily nutritional quality, to the minimum hourly labor rate, to the minimum amount for renting, and leading an independent living; to the bare subsistence for survival such is the condition of over two billion people around the world. 

            The European Union has come up with a statistical limit for being classified as poor. The office of statistics in the EU (Eurostat) adopted the median income for a State (the dividing amount of income that splits two equal number of earners) and then categorizes the poor whose income is within the 60% of the lower median income range.  Thus, it does not matter how the State’s economy improved, or the standard of living improved, or your income improved there will always be 30% of the population considered as poor (for example, 60% *50% = 30%).  Consequently, an EU State member has to allocate budget and plan to support 30% of the needy population.

            The EU definition for being considered poor is an operational categorization for a consumer economy.  If your income or the financial facility structure in your society prevents you to fit in a consumer society, to purchase an outfit that is the fashion of the year, to participate in the cultural and artistic activities, to visit a bar once a month, to go out and see the latest movie, or to buy tickets for festivities and sport events then you are not promoting the internal market economy and you are poor and need serious support to fit in as a citizen.

            The life of the hermit in a remote location is certainly hard; the life of a forced hermit in towns and cities is by far much harsher.  The hermit in cities has to construct his own model or philosophy to life and death; he has to build his specific character to survive the harsh facts within his society.  I have this theory: a poor State economy combined with poor financial credit facilities and high consumer standards the higher the odds for frequent civil wars.




January 2009

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