Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Bint-Jbeil

Day 1. Volunteered two hard days of work: In Kawzah (South Lebanon)?

August 27, 2011 

It is a small village in south Lebanon, this Kawzah, barely 50 families still hanging on, and a tiny St. Joseph church looking neglected from the outside, though fine and shining in the inside.

The church needed a face lift, repainting walls white, the iron fences and doors black, and planting a few plants in the miniature wild garden…and mainly collecting the dirt and a good hosing down of the yard…

Kawzah is mainly two hills: One of the hills is occupied by the UN peace contingent of Ghana. The money is from an old grant signed with Italy in 2007. (see note 1)

Volunteering two hard days of work for a stupid church?

Not my cup of tea: It would have never crossed my mind to beautify a church, since the concept of religion is anathema to me, a dangerous exclusive concept that was not intended to bring peace and equitable behavior to mankind.

Maintaining a church was not my goal for this adventure: I wanted to get acquainted with the western region of south Lebanon and get to meet the youth…

Cedric woke me up at 6:15 am:  We had to drive to the ministry of social affairs in Badaro to join a bus, for about a 3-hour trip.

My niece Chelsea came along: She just had two days of scout camp, and barely had enough hours of sleep.  She made up the loss in sleeping in the car all the way.  This was the case of Cedric too: He had two hours of sleep.  And I wonder, are volunteers lacking sleep serious about working?

We brought sleeping bag on account that we were to sleep in a vacant school.  No bus was waiting for us.

Instead, Emilie the project coordinator was waiting (see note 2 in Day Two).

Since over 40 volunteers were expected to arrive from the neighboring villages to Kawzah, it was advantageous to cut down on expenses. Consequently, we waited for the chief coordinator Hala to arrive and drove in two cars.

As we were waiting, a tall and chubby guy showed up carrying a small bag and a large plastic bag.  His name is Ihab.  Ihab began his marathon of talk:  He was waiting since 6:30 am for this bus to show up, and then he walked around the corner and met us.

Hala arrived with Michelle.  Michelle had barely two hours of sleep since she spent last night dancing in a bar in Gemmayzeh till 5 am. Chelsea joined the car of Hala.  Cedric and Ihab and I accompanied Emilie.

We stopped at a Bohsali sweet shop by Tyr and waited for Hala.  Ihab explained that the portion of the highway from Saida to Tyre was not constructed because late Rafic Hariri PM decided to build a Mosque in the name of his father, just where the highway was planned to pass. The reverse trip on the highway is fine all the way, and passes by the Main Street of Saida and by the mosque.

Ihab never stopped talking: He has this urge of cutting in every conversation as he recalled a story to tell.  Usually Ihab starts with a long introduction and then forget the main topic.  Ihab keeps repeating his stories.  It is kind he has a Markov memoryless dysfunction Markov Chain process is a mathematical probability method where an event cannot remember the previous event, it has no links whatsoever…

Iqbal is a professional “search and locate” of volunteer associations and NGO that provide expense-free adventure in transport, food and lodging for free work.  This trip was supposed to be free as announced.

Iqbal claims that he has been volunteering for these kinds of associations since 2001 and has visited most of Lebanon.  He claims that he established his own NGO, but it is not taking off, due to his “control freak” attitude.

Although Emilie has done this trip once before, we had to ask for directions for added confirmation:  We were already 30 minutes late for the appointed schedule.

We arrived at 10:30.  The dozen gallons of paints were there, but not the tener bottles for thinning and cleaning paints. The paint rollers and garden equipments were ready, but the plan for beginning the work was still in the “planning phase”.

There was a confusion of how to start, since the expert artisans had not received direction to guide and train the troops.

We were divided into three groups. White T-shirt were distributed. I decided to join the group of wall painters and took the initiative to rub and clean a wall, and then started to paint.

The tone was set and people began to get involved at work.  The sun was scorching and it was hard work at noon time.  It is not possible to work between 11 and 3 pm, but that what we were doing.

It was a field day for the children who enjoyed painting, but they refused to rub and clean the iron first. 

You had more paints on the ground and on shirts and hands than on the iron fences.  You cannot believe the quantity of hand plastic gloves that were wasted: You think they were candies.

The kids also poured more white paints on the floor in the adjacent one room construction than on the walls.

An older person in kaki short hollered to the kids to never touch on paints anymore.  The kids just found another area to bypass the eyes of the kaki-shorted individual. The next day was dedicated to cleaning the mess that the children did!

We had a break around 1:30 pm because food was not ready.  I overheard someone saying that 100  “tawook” (chicken) sandwiches and 100 kafta will be delivered.

I said that quantity was far more than needed and the guy said: “These hard working young men need plenty of nourishment”.  Half of the sandwiches ended as leftover.

We had Pepsi and Miranda for drinks.  Someone asked for hot water for his Nescafe, and I said: “There are plenty of warm potable water, but not that hot for your purpose.”

I told the curator of the church to think of allocating a toilet for this crowd.  One of the doors in the previous municipality quarter was thus opened to give way for a decent WC.

We resumed work around 3 pm, but the energy had gone and we dragged on till 5 pm.  We were supposed to have dinner and an evening of partying (sahra), but the volunteers from the villages of Rmeish and Debel had a wedding to attend to.

The sahra was cancelled to next day afternoon as we finish our job.  Marwan was appointed by Tony to lead us on a tour of the villages of Ain Ebel, Bint-Jbeil and Maroun el Ras in the evening after we had our showers.  The school to sleep in was substituted to a house.

Tony welcomed us to his house in Debel.

The extended family was waiting for us.  It appeared that the houses of Tony’s brothers and sisters, and parents were adjacent to one another, sort of an enclave for the clan. I was kind of apprehensive of shaking hands with the women, but Tony said: “Go ahead, it is alright”

Since everyone was kind of shy, I took advantage to using the shower first.

After my quick wonderful shower, Rita was serving fruits in the open balcony.  (Na3eman Adonis). Hala and Michelle used the shower of Tony’s brother home. Such a clear night: It seemed to me that all the stars in the sky were concentrated on top of me; so many stars, and so close to one another.

I learned that Tony and Marwan spent three years in Naharya (Beach town in Israel/Palestine) after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 24, 2000 without any preconditions or negotiation. 

Marwan must have been a child then and joined his parents to Israel, supposedly fleeing the wrath of Hezbollah for  them joining, facilitating,  and participating in Israel occupation of south Lebanon for 25 years.

Tony did a six month prison term in the infamous Roumieh prison, after he returned to Lebanon. Six months in Roumieh, a prison designed for 1,500 prisoners and currently holding 4,000 prisoners is a brutal prison term: Drugs flow freely in that prison and conditions are very bad.

Marwan joined us on the vast balcony.  Alex, the 11 year-old son of Tony kept lighting firecrackers.  Michelle is scared of firecrackers and I told Alex to bring a book so we can read. Alex said :”7el 3anni” (keep away from me) and resumed firing.

Is this need to hearing loud cracking noises a new gene that grew out of 15 years of brutal civil war?

Seems people who were not born during the civil war (1975-1990) need hearing bombing to feel that life is back to normal!

This summer, firecrackers turned out to be of the very powerful kinds and the ministry of interior prohibited firecrackers.  Two weeks of reprieve for our ears was all that resulted: Firecrackers of heavier caliber surfaced to “disturb the peace”.

Debel is built on a hill, and it is surrounded by 7 hills, two of the hills are part of Kawzah and the others are part of Debel, though nothing is built on them.

I asked Marwan if there is any river crossing the tight valley and he said that only one potable fresh source is available down the valley, and water flows into a small lake (berkeh).

Marwan said that he heard that, in early days, water depth reached the neck of camels, but now water reaches you waist.  Marwan resumed: “Once a year, the village of Debel descend to clear and clean the water source area, but the residents of the village of Anouf throw all kinds of waste in there” (Marwan meant that the Chias of that village do not respect the environment…)

As everyone had his shower by 9 pm, we drove in two cars and passed Ain Ebel, Rmeish, Bint Jbeil, Yaroun, and Maroun al Ras.

We could see the dozen lighted Jewish colonies.  A few colonies use yellow lights and others blueish.  I presume the older colonies use older yellow lighting bulb.  I noticed red lights, spaced a mile away.  Marwan said the red lights might be used to delimit boundaries; it does not explain that the red lights reach deep into the colonies.

There is a new fantastic and new resting place up there in Maroun el Ras, facing down the Jewish colonies.  Families spend their days and evening in individual booths, equipped with a water fountain and a grill.

Each booth is named after an Iranian district with details on the districts, such as area, population, where it is located on the map…One handicap though:  The toilets are Arabic style, which means you have to stoop on your heels.  I can do that for three minutes, but then if my bowel movement is not that ripe, I might end up sitting on my shit… (The night is not over. Expect continue of Day 2)

Note 1:  Italy had signed grant contracts with the ministry of social affairs in 2007, but it will not renew any grants before 2013 for budget cuts, sort of cutting expenses on foreign aids, a million here and a million there so that Italy air force may purchase an extra fighter jet in order to play the game of cat and mouth with presumed “rogue States“.

It is the same story with Spain, France…Italy has one of the largest UN contingent in South Lebanon.  Italy has donated a bus to the nearby village of Debel, a couple of miles from Kawzah. The bus purpose is to provide transport of elder people for tour trips and occasional events such as wedding and tasting of food of student cooks…I used to organize these kinds of tour for elderly people in San Francisco…

Note 2: Read day two https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/day-2-volunteered-two-hard-days-of-work-in-kawzah-and-western-south-lebanon/


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