Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Segou

 Julia recollects: “How I fell in love and selected my husband…”

In those days, people and future couples constructed a love story: they were unable to intimately meet, talk and express their feeling except through the eyes and a few gestures.

An older friend of father recounts that, once they were passing by my mother house, Geryes told father to remove his shoes lest Adel hear them. Adel was the aunt (sister of Eugenia, mother of Julie) and her house was across the street, and she kept an eagle eye on any intruder where the four sisters lived alone. Father found this advice pretty relevant and acceded to the request.

Eugenia and Tanios worked in Africa (current Rep of Mali) to eek out a living.

As WWII ended and travel lines were opened, Julie’ dad asked for her and her two younger sisters Maria and Montaha to join the family in the town of Segou, in West Africa. Segou is in current Rep. of Mali and was a French colony till 1962.

Apparently, Julia’s father had lined up two prospects for marrying Julia without her knowledge.

The trip from Beirut to Marseilles (France) took an entire month, and mother was so seasick that she couldn’t swallow anything. The Captain alluded that Julia will not make it to destination.

A month later, Julia and her sisters left on a rickety plane from Agadir and barely made to Dakar (Senegal)  and to Segou by train and cars.

About a month before Julia left Beirut, Georges had travelled to join his family in Segou.  Georges’ ship landed first in Cyprus, then to Alexandria before resuming the travel to Marseilles. Georges boarded a “bananier” or a cargo ship for banana to Dakar and then by cargo train to Segou.

Julia’s mother opened a shop for selling almost everything that could be sold and her 2 daughters Maria and Therese took over the running. Julia barely set foot in the shop.

There were deep enmities and animosity between the Georges and Julia’s  families: Julie’s father Tanios Gebrayel considered the other family (the Bouhatab) to be plainly a lazy lot and that nothing good will ever come from them. (These 2 families are from the same town of Beit Chabab)

Tanios was not far off the target in his assessment from facts and evidences: the father of Georges (Antoun) was known Not to care for business and his wife didn’t care for raising her children (Many died in childbirth or shortly after as was  very common). Actually, my dad worked hard in the next 20 years and then reverted to his genes. Same case with me.

Julie’s dad disagreed with any marriage arrangement with Georges, although he knew that “I loved him and will refuse any alternative arrangement”.

Julie said “Father brought me an eligible handsome and tall guy, but I faked to be busy and never met him”.

She resumed: “I asked Georges to rent a room in the hotel in front of our shop in order to distance himself from his family. The next day, Georges packed a suitcase and moved in a room”.

Georges crisscrossed West Africa for a suitable location to settle with his future bride but could find nothing but a shack in the town of Bouake, kind of 100 km from Segou and leading to Haute Volta (current Burkina Faso). You had to use a barge to cross the river since no bridge was available at the time.

Julia convinced her dad to meet once with Georges and he changed his opinion: “Seemed a nice and intelligent guy”

Georges’ family refused to attend the wedding despite several attempts by many people. And Julie’s father had to pay for all the expenses of the wedding ceremonies.

Note 1: Mother was 8 months in her pregnancy when two problems happened simultaneously. Georges had to undergo surgery of the appendix, which turned out Not to be the case, and all the saved cash was stolen in the shop at night.

I came to life in dire conditions. I was born upside down, feet first, and I was blue and barely breathing. I would not eat or take the tits and the physicians took me for a goner. Mother would lie to the doctors saying that “I managed to suck some milk”. I’m sure the physicians never believed mother’s assertions but they had to deal patiently with such cases of insane mothers under grave situations.

Note 2: Gerges passed away in 2014 on Christmas Eve after being bedridden for 2 years. Mother and I took turn to change him, clean him and feed him while on oxygen machine. and with frequent electrical interruptions. Mother suffered from back pain but Georges was relentless in following his routine to the minutes.

Note 3: Julia/Julie passed away in January 2020 and suffered constant pains for an entire week, and Not from from cancer.

Note 4: Julia https://wordpress.com/post/adonis49.wordpress.com/2659

Mon cher Ado/Edouard. Part 36

Autrefois , mon cher Edouard , voyager en bateau était une grande aventure .

Quand mes grands-parents maternels partirent pour la Guinée au début du siècle dernier , ils devaient s’armer de beaucoup de courage et de quelques grammes de folie aussi …

Ces voyageurs allaient chercher ailleurs ce qu’il ne pouvaient plus avoir chez eux : le bien être . Alors ils se lançaient a l’aveuglette , et profitant du départ d’un bateau de fortune , ils se hissaient sur le pont pour une première traversée qui les menait d’abord à Marseille , au sud de la France

Après une première escale à Alexandrie en Égypte .

(Ma mere ne savait pas qu’elle avait le mal de mer. Le Capitaine et les matelos comprirent qu’elle ne survivra pas se trajet de 3 semaines avant d’ arriver a Marseille. This tough cookie barely made it and still a fighter at 90. Apres un mois d’escale pour trouver un avion, elle due prendre un avion branquebalant de la periode d’apres WWII pour le Senegal, avant de prendre une voiture jusqu’a Segou au Mali. Elle accompagnait ses soeurs Marie et Montaha pour rejoindre les parents. Ma mere a fait cette aventure pour une autre aventure: elle voulait retrouver son bien-aime Georges qui l’avait devance’ de quelques mois)

Certains de ces aventuriers abandonnaient le voyage , ne supportant pas le mal de mer . C’est ainsi que des libanais ont survécu dans ces pays méditerranéens jusqu’à nos jours.

(Beaucoup d’entre eux croyaient qu’ils partaient pour l’ Amerique (USA), mais les capitaines les laissaient en Afrique)

D’autres ont poursuivi le voyage jusqu’en Afrique Noire et même jusqu’en Amérique , comme les oncles de ma mère .

D’ailleurs lors de mon dernier voyage aux États-Unis j’ai rendu visite à un cousin germain à ma mère , Silly Bejjani , professeur de théologie à l’univers de Washington .

(J’ai mainte fois rencontrer Bishop Silly et le pretre Dominique quand ont alle’ prier a l’eglise Maronite a Washington DC)

Aujourd’hui , mon cher Edouard , on embarque sur des géants des mers , des mastodontes de plusieurs étages , des hôtels flottants , pour une croisière qui vous mènent d’un pays à l’autre pour le plaisir de voguer sur les étendues liquide , profitant d’un farniente des plus doux qui soit.

(C’est une de mes reves: voyager sur une de ces hotels de luxes/casino sur mer)

Certains de mes amis sont devenus accros de ce type de voyage, à tel point qu’ils embarquent deux à trois fois l’année .
Il paraît que dans ces hôtels , on mange bien, on s’amuse comme des fous, on peut assister à des shows et même jouer au casino …

(Beaucoup d’entre eux prennent des loans des banques pour ces voyages)

De plus , on peut faire du sport, comme par exemple nager car on dispose de piscines olympiques …

À quand le prochain voyage mon cher Edouard ?

(A quand mon premier voyage?)

 

Mother Julia recollects: “How I fell in love and selected my husband…”

After WWII ended and travel lines were opened, Julie’ dad asked for her and her two younger sisters Maria and Montaha to join the family in the town of Segou, West Africa. Segou is in current Rep. of Mali and was a French colony till 1962.

Apparently, Julia’s father had lined up two prospects for marrying Julia without her knowledge.

The trip from Beirut to Marseilles took an entire month, and mother was so sea sick that she couldn’t swallow anything. The Captain alluded that Julia will not make it to destination.

A month later, Julia and her sisters left on a rickety plane from Agadir (Morocco?) and barely made to Dakar (Senegal)  and to Segou by train and cars.

About a month before Julia left Beirut, Georges had advanced her to Segou.  Georges’s ship landed first in Cyprus, then to Alexandria before resuming the travel to Marseilles. Georges boarded a “bananier” or a cargo ship for banana to Dakar and then by cargo train to Segou.

Julia’s mother opened a shop for selling almost everything that could be sold and Maria and Therese took over the running. Julia barely set foot in the shop.

There were deep enmities and animosity between the Georges and Julia’s  families: Julie’s father Tanios considered the other family to be plainly a lazy lot and nothing good will ever come from them.

Tanios was not far off the target in his assessment from facts and evidences. Actually, my dad worked hard in the next 20 years and then reverted to his genes. Same case with me.

Julie’s dad disagreed with any marriage arrangement with Georges, although he knew that “I loved him and will refuse any alternative arrangement”.

Julie said “Father brought me an eligible handsome and tall guy, but I faked to be busy and never met him”.

She resumed: “I asked Georges to rent a room in the hotel in front of our shop in order to distance himself from his family. The next day, Georges packed a suitcase and moved in a room”.

Georges crisscrossed West Africa for a suitable location to settle with his future bride but could find nothing but a shack in Bouake, kind of 100 km from Segou and leading to Haute Volta (current Burkina Faso) you you had to use a barge to cross the river since no bridge was available at the time.

Julia convinced her dad to meet once with Georges and he changed his opinion: “Seemed a nice and intelligent guy”

Georges’s family refused to attend the wedding despite several attempts by many people. And Julie’s father had to pay for all the expenses of the wedding ceremonies.

Note: Mother was 8 months in her pregnancy when two problems happened simultaneously. Father had to undergo surgery of the appendix, which turned out not to be the case, and all the saved cash was stolen in the shop at night.

I came to life in dire conditions. I was born upside down, feet first, and I was blue and barely breathing. I would not eat or take the tits and the physicians took me for a goner. Mother would lie to the doctors saying that I managed to suck some milk. I’m sure they never believed mother’s assertions but they had to deal patiently with such cases of insane mothers under grave situations.

Western Africa, Rep. of Mali, Azawat, South Sahara Al Qaeda…What’s going on?

What of the Niger River? Looking at the map of western Africa (former French colonial region and still under French economic dominion), the Niger River starts on the borders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and progress northward, crosses Bamako (capital of rep. of Mali), Segou, Tombouctou, Gao, and slant down toward Menaka (splitting  Mali in half).

And the river resumes its descent to the State of Niger, all the way to Nigeria and flows into the Delta in Nigeria (the Niger Delta, rich in oil production, particularly offshore).

The recent news reveal that the Tuareg independentists, men wearing “blue”, (planning for an independent Azawat State in north Mali) have captured the main towns and cities in north Mali, north of the Niger River, such as Gao, Kidal, Menaka

And that the Tuareg Islamic extremists and others from Mauritania and especially from Algeria (wrapped under the veil of Al Qaeda) have captured the historic city of Tombouctou and starting the process of imposing Islamic Sharia (gone the good time of music, dance and bare women faces…)

Minor officers in the army of Mali grabbed on the excuse of the army failure to confronting the advances of the militias up north by carrying on a military coup d’etat.

No States in Africa was pleased with this sudden coup and the rebellious officers had to bow down and promise to restitute power to the civilians.  The head of the parliament of Mali is to take over as interim President in order to organize the election in its due time by the end of Mai.

Azawat State?  

This desert region would constitute 65% of the area of Mali and populated with only 10% of the total of 14 million citizens.

The Tuareg tribes are estimated to be about 3 million people and criss-crossing a desert the size of Europe, sending caravans from and to Mauritania, Algeria, Libya, Niger, Tchad, and even to Sudan (the Darfur region)

What’s the story?

After the disintegration of Qadhafi Libya, around 400 veteran Tuareg soldiers had to return “Home”, and Algeria was happy to let its radical Islamists cross the border to north Mali (Algeria military was in constant battle with the Algerian Islamists for three decades after they won the election and the military refused to acknowledge the radical Islamists “democratic” victory).

What do you expect soldiers and people carrying arms to do in a desert region that no investments were done in schools, dispensary, hospitals, or any kind of infrastructure…?

The successive central governments of the poor State of Mali in natural resources had invested in the most populous region, the south, and let the vast north goes to hell…

The Tuareg were demanding investment in their region for the last 5 decades, but France failed to contribute any major assistance…

First, the Tuareg started taking hostages, European NGO and tourists, and it was a lucrative and brisk business…

After hell broke loose, the region lacked in tourists and in any financial aid, and conquering power was at hand…

Second, there are no military alternatives in these vast desert region…at most a few drone attacks, just to implicitly tell the rebels that the de-facto on the ground status will not be checked, but negotiations are needed that would satisfy Europe and the US economic future interest in oil and rare mineral exploitation and production.

(The later French military intervention didn’t bring tourists, safety and security. In fact, the new elected President of Mali didn’t dare yet visit the northern parts. And the virulent factions have spread and disseminated eastward toward northern Nigeria (Boko Haram connections), Cameroun, and Central Africa)

Third, most Western Africa Sates have artificial borders drawn by France, Spain and Italy, and the people on the borders come and go at will.

For example, Mali has an 800-kilometre border with Mauritania, and about 1,200 kilometres with Algeria, and as many with Niger...

Time to let minority people live in peace and enjoy their own language and life-style: A few million can go a long way in peace time, for basic necessity of survival…and basic preventive health care…

Note 1: This week, Jan. 12, 2013, France decided to come to the “rescue” of the government and army of Mali as the extremist jihadists advanced and captured a strategic city close to Mobti (key city separating north from south mali).

France is bombing the extremist jihadists and willing to send in 2,500 troops to aid the West African States military contingents.

Fact is, unless serious resources are secured to north Mali and political reforms are done in Mali, all of west Africa is liable to fall to the extremist Moslem jihadists.

Note 2: Take a look at this map of where resources are coming from to help France prosecute its war in north Mali. Is it a WW3 on Moslem Jihadists?

Julia or Julie (May 1, 2009)

I happened to know Julia intimately: I was forced to observe her behaviors and sometimes succumb to her will.  Julia is the type of women who are always on alert; she is ultra prude and claims that she has never been on a beach or wore any kinds of swimming trunks.

Julie cannot sit down, relax, or let anyone relax.  She has to worry about everyone and everything.  She loves money but never handled money: She is thrilled when she sees construction and buildings going up and sounds envious. Julia has never set foot in a bank or wrote a check or withdrew money, I think.

Julia is an excellent cook, a talented dress designer (you would currently say a fashion designer), and loves to remodel the house when she can afford it.

She wants her family members (especially the girls and ladies) to look as well dressed and as coquettish as she used to be; a tendency that forces her grandchildren and children to avoid passing by her when they have “sinned” against dignified fashion (like looking pretty nude).

Julia has humongous pride and she would not visit a patient or go to any anniversary when she cannot afford gifts (her unique daughter is taking after her in many ways).  If she receives a gift (and if she cannot afford offering a gift) then she has to rummage through her secret “depot” in one of the closets for a suitable counter gift.

Lately, cooking something for the returned dish is what she could offer. Julia believes that she knows something and has to offer her recommendations and guidance to people of professions, even if they are over sixty.

In 1939, Julia’s mother Eugenia left Lebanon to West Africa in order to join her husband Tanios in Segou (current State of Mali). The four sisters were left alone and joined a boarding school in Beit Chabab.

And the WWII started and they had to skip school for the duration.  The sisters did not attend school for 3 years during the war because all schools closed, although Lebanon was not directly affected.

The eldest sister Josephine was 13 and Julia 11 years old at the time.

Julia’s aunt and her extended family lived across the street. When Josephine eloped (got married “khatifeh“) at the age of 20 the other three sisters were re-interned in a school of Beit Chabab for two years.

The summer before the non-married daughters had to join their parents in Segou, they lived alone a mile away from Beit-Chabab (to what is now called Konetra) so that they don’t emulate their eldest sister in eloping.  In the meanwhile, Eugenia gave birth to many other children and at least three died in child-birth.

Julia once believed that she had scabies “jarab” when she was in a girl school in Beirut and aged 18 years.  Scabies was pretty common and when Julia felt her between hand fingers itching she tried to cure herself secretly.

Julia told me said that “jarab” was very contagious; she secretly spent a whole week in an upper room at her sister Josephine’s who got married recently.  Julia said that nobody in the village knew about her ailment, a convenient assumption for this dreaded disease at the period, and she washed her clothes and bedding almost everyday.

This story came about when an overseas grand daughter called saying that her physician was uncertain about his diagnosis of her catching “jarab”; the diagnosis turned out to be wrong but it generated a secret story that Julia told me.

I really have no idea what Julia learned in school except cutting patrons and learning sewing and fashioning clothes. She always said that she got dizzy when reading.

Julia joined her parents in Africa by sea. The captain of the ship heading toward the port of Marseilles never believed that she’ll make it alive: Julia spent a month in her cabin unable to eat, drink or move because she suffered sea sickness.

Julia was as thin as a stick with a tough will for survival.

Any moving object makes Julia dizzy; heights make Julia dizzy; tree climbing is out of the picture.  Hell for Julia must be a rotating platform; worst, a wobbly, jerky, and seesaw habitat.

In fact, Julia never played games in school or anywhere else.  Physical games, especially for girls, are not dignified. Reading is extremely dizzying to Julia; watching someone reading intently must be giving Julia grounds to believing that the reader is “dizzy” in the head.

Julia married in Africa a handsome, loyal, over generous and devoted husband whom she fell in love in the same town in Lebanon before she travelled to Africa.  George must have sensed that he is marrying a handful of expectations and constraints.  Youth always turns a blind eye to potential troubles because youth can handle anything and never ages.

This valiant couple worked hard in harsh conditions as the sole white people in remote African villages.  They were robbed of every dime several times; once, in the town of Koutiala (Republic of Mali) what they had saved was gone overnight; Julia was on her last week of pregnancy (of me) and George suffered kidneys problems out of grief.

Right now, when any neighboring house or shop is stolen Julia plays the investigator; everyone is suspect until the culprit is discovered; she roams her house after every robbery story, checking exits and entrances; mouse and cats should no longer be susceptible to be entering the house.

Those 15 years in Africa must have been the best and most glorious years for this couple. They were the first to purchase an electric generators in the town of Sikasso.

This undaunted couple resumed their joint adventure to above average fortune. Julia knew how to combine business with charity; she would offer every poor pregnant woman a “trousseau” for the new-born for free; thus, she retained life-long customers and the competitors could not match her business acumen.

Julia sewed and altered dresses that she ordered by catalog from Paris.

When Julia returned definitely to Lebanon, her unique daughter among the other 2 boys, (well spaced out in age, an advanced serious family planning), was never seen wearing the same dress twice in any ceremony.

Since two identical dresses take as much time to sew as one, then her niece Joelle was observed as a replicate twin, regardless of whether Joelle liked the dress or the color.

This couple was the first to install a generator for electricity in this remote town.  They transferred their three kids to boarding schools in Lebanon for fear of African diseases  because the eldest son barely survived Typhoid. And the couple would visit them one summer every two years.

Julia spent a month in Paris in 1980 to care for her first grandson William who had an open heart surgery at the age of 16 months.  William had a hole that mixed the blue and red blood in the heart and an artery that was twisted. The hospital offered a makeshift bed for Julia to sleep on for 23 days in William’s emergency room.

Julia also cared for Joanna, her favorite grandchild, for over 6 months when Joanna’s parents were in the USA on military training mission in 1985.

Joanna likes to return the favor and she volunteers to driving Julia to shrines such as Mar Charbel, Mar Rafka, and Harissa of the Virgin Mary; these are occasions for Julia to confess her grave sins for caring too much and doubting occasionally.

Julia spent 6 months in the USA in 1990 when I lived with my sister Raymonde’s family; Victor was then appointed Military Attaché to Lebanon for two years and Julia enjoyed that reprieve from war torn Lebanon and the constant blackmailing of the militias for more money when there was nothing to pay but a few gold rings or necklaces that had to be pawned.

Julia recalls that it was the hardest trip ever: Victor had a terrible backache and she had to carry Victor’s bags which were packed with heavy gifts.

Julia is suffering from arthritis and a whole gamut of blood problems but she forces herself to work hard everyday as means to letting pain forget her.

She has excellent memory of ancient events.  Currently, she barely can recall names and I barely can come to the recall rescue.

Julia is currently prone to letting two casseroles burns and barely save the third: she cannot waste time and has to do several tasks simultaneously.

Julia cannot believe that she aged and has a wrinkled face. All mirrors must be destroyed but Julia would never break anything consciously.

George neither cannot believe that he aged; he just want to be left alone and not be immersed in problems that should not be of his concerns, especially that he is no longer a provider; but to whom are you chanting your psalms George?

George is happy to realize that his hearing is not that sharp and gets terribly frustrated when he has to repeat muted answers to Julia’s unending queries and requests.

Julia barely sleeps at night because in the solitude of the night her brain is working full-time inventing all kind of catastrophic events that might befall on any one of her extended family.

Her dreams are of the cataclysmic kinds though one individual at a time, one dead person after another parading in succession in her dream.  Apparently, nights are more exhausting for Julia than charged days’ work.

When Julia walks out now she is constantly observing changes in her environment; such as the progress in the construction of the villa next door, the new design for neighbors gardens…  There was a time when Julia walked straight ahead of her and never deigning to turn her head:  She must have been convinced that she was the center of attention; she stepped out in utter elegance and vigorous gait.

Julia’s nemesis is death; when she gets upset from any member of the family she tends to ward off this fatal enemy by threatening: “This winter would be my last and you all would be delivered from my trouble making”. She has a white fancy gown stowed away for that occasion.  I hope that Julia has let someone on the proper location of the dress.

Julia is the strong type of women. Julia cannot be circumvented.  Julia is every bit on alert, the “mustanfara“, even at 83 years of age.  She is totally broke financially but that would not constitute a valid reason to let down her purpose in life: Keeping everyone on his toes.  Julia is my mother.

Note: Four years after writing this article Julia is unchanged: She is in much pain, more forgetful, and taking all kinds of medication, but Julia is undaunted. I realized that Julia is chatting far more than usual: She is thinking aloud, kind of her thinking keeps the right track if accompanied by words.

Julia wakes up at 6:30 am and begin her day, working non-stop till after 1 pm as her back aches and her fingers are crippled. Her husband, only 3 years older, doesn’t take any medication but his health is deteriorating fast and George is almost bed-ridden.

George is intensive care and recovering. Julia refuses to go home to rest even for a couple of hours: She has to stay and sleep in the hospital room of her husband. The nurses tell Julia not to feed George what the hospital does not bring to eat, and I tell Julia not to feed George, and Julia believes she knows George better and what is good for George…

I tell Julia that George enjoys loneliness and would not recover as long as she never leaves his side and keeps chattering. Maybe I am wrong: I was showing George how to ring the nurses for emergencies and George chuckled softly and replied: “Why would I ring anyone when Julia is around?”

Julia is saying: “It was a good tradition to marry a husband at least 5 years older than you: So that the wife can care for him in old age...”. Joanna flew from London for a week-end just to give Julia  boost. The moment Julia receives a boost, it sounds trouble for the extended family.

Note: Julia passed away at age of 92 on January 31, 2020 at 2 pm at the hospital of Beit-Chabab. Except for her heart, her vital organs started to fail. She endured unthinkable pains for an entire week, every minutes of it. She was Not feeling good before she fell in the bathroom trying to undress: there was no one at the time and I found her lying on the floor in great pain.

Touring West Africa (continue 30)

I stayed with the company CAT about less than 6 months, all in all, before the company decided to transfer me to Cyprus.  Actually, I never received a formal transfer order of what I should be doing in Cyprus.  And frankly, I believed that Cyprus would be a brief stage before official dismissal, fired and sent to Lebanon. 

I had a mind to tour Africa, visit my brother in Abidjan and a few relatives before going to Cyprus, but my tour extended for over 6 months and I lost my “position”.  I did visit my brother Ghassan without a visa; he must have bribed officers at the airport to let me out of the airport. I visited a couple of friends in Abidjan, a night out and a day at the beach.  I was not impressed with the “Paris of Africa“.

I visited my cousin Joseph and his wife Silla in Burkina Faso (Haute Volta at the time) without a visa, but I am not sure. Joseph told me later that once his brother Nassif came to visit without visa and he was turned back on a chicken train.

I boarded a somewhat comfortable train for long hours.  I was reminded that I taught Silla how to drive cars and met with the little Sa7ar (2 year-old).  Joseph gave me ride to the Capital Ouagadougou

After three weeks Joseph gave me a ride in his Peugeot 604 to Segou in Mali, without a visa, I think.  

I spent over a month in Segou at my cousin Samira’s.  Her husband Sessine drove me to Bamako to apply for a work permit and I took advantage of the trip to retrieve a copy of my birth certificate.  (I was born in Bamako in Mali). 

I had the opportunity to visit Niono (up north and close to Mobti) with a Lebanese merchant living in the open air there. I guess that it barely rains in that flat and vast town that was denied asphalt and you had to endure dust hanging in the air.  I guess my hosts were getting short on ideas of how to fill my time. 

I met a US Peace Corp girl from Boston and had the opportunity to dust off my American slang and I learned a little bit more of how this organization is aiding Africa.

At a certain level in my subconscious I wanted to visit Sikasso where I lived my first 5 years, but it was not to happen because I didn’t ask. I guess that if I inquired of any acquaintance there, then I would have managed a ride to Sikasso. I still want to visit my birth place, where I almost died of Typhoid fever at the age of 5, an illness that precipitated my sending off to Lebanon and changed my life.  

Uncle Asaad, father of Samira and Joseph, used to have acupuncture sessions for his back and leg pains; I tried a session but it had no effect on me: I suffered of nothing in the first place. 

I was and felt practically redundant because I was not that needed in the bakery or the shop; I was very confused of what I wanted to do next.  My decision to leave was forced upon me by a mean procedure that I think was not necessary.  I was shipped in a Taxi to Banfora where I spent a few days at Joseph’s.

My return to my brother’s in Abidjan was not a cheerful occasion: my brother’s wife Diane alluded that her apartment is not to be considered a hotel.  Waiting for a taxi to the airport, my two suitcases were robbed.  I stupidly followed my friend to his shop across the street to retrieve a gold necklace as a gift to his family in Lebanon. Actually, I am pretty sure that this friend assured me that it is safe to leave the suitcases for a minute.

I arrived to Lebanon with nothing but my handbag and the cash in my pockets.  Among the lost items was an expensive local ceremonial robe that Samira hand ordered for me. I had to endure days of humiliation; the guy that came home after a year with just a handbag!

Something about my stay in Lebanon from late 1979 to mid 1985

 

We had a large apartment in Beirut and it was almost vacant for the duration of the civil war. One day, I passed by for a couple of minutes, for no reason, and the phone was ringing. A secretary for a local company was summoning me to an interview the next morning. I had no recollection of submitting a resume to the CAT Company. Next morning, I was meeting a high level representative, who came from Cyprus for a couple of days, just to hire new engineers for their expanding business in Nigeria.

 

Nigeria

 

The hiring representative did not ask me questions. I did not ask him questions. I needed to be off and out of Lebanon. At the airport in the Capital Lagos, two agents from the company met me and facilitated my entrance. I flew the same day to headquarter in the district of Benin and was lodged temporarily at a motel. I met an American young man at the dining room and ended up sleeping with a very young girl, sort of she was sent to me in my room.  I stayed in this motel for maybe 10 days and I realized that my hidden money was dwindling everyday; the cleaning woman didn’t confirm or deny but I carried al my cash with me.  I gave ample details on my stay in Nigeria in my piece “I could break your eyeglasses”.

I spent four months in a field compound, out in the nowhere, at a poor town lacking television transmission, called Okitipupa, and at 5 hours from headquarter.  The engineers, I was one, were supposed to wear regulation tall brown boots for discrimination purposes. Within a week I had malaria, even though I was taking the quinine pills regularly; an Egyptian physician was sent for me; I had a harrowing four days.  I lived with a civil engineer and we had a “boy” to clean our boots and prepare the table. I think that we had no cafeteria for the compound; as far as I recall, the menu of the “boy” was roasted chicken; the “boy” had a peculiar smell that made feel like vomiting and I could never get used to that smell; I should have thought of offering him soap and discover the difference but I was not an imaginative person.

The golden rule, as a member of the higher staff, was never say to subordinates “I don’t know”.  That rule was whispered to me by an English mechanics foreman; I had many occasions to verify the rule. Our plant engineer in Okitipupa, a Palestinian by origin called Sami, never handled anything; somehow, he once was in the mood of showing off his dexterity; he ruined three expensive pairs of fitters without succeeding and then got up as if of nothing; I tried my gentle touch at it and did it from the first time; I think that this person didn’t forgive me for taking over the task.  The next day, Sami assigned me a heavy duty vehicle to “fix” all by myself; I had never before touched any mechanical tool; I am an industrial engineer and had nothing to do with mechanics or mechanical engineering; a notion that it is hard to dissipate due to the wrong connotation given to industrial engineering which is basically managerial and not into mechanical design by any long shot.

The Lebanese and Syrian mechanics used to bring me, in secrecy, voluminous maintenance books to read sections and explain details; I had this feeling that management was very reluctant to instruct workers through manuscripts; as if the engineers were assigned to be the sole “priests” for the interpretation of the written manuscripts.  A Syrian foreman mechanics had an objective of opening his own heavy duty maintenance shop after he ends his contract period and was eager to purchase the appropriate expensive tools of the trade and the precision processes.  Obviously, management was not happy with my smooching with the workers: I used to go out with them after work in town and meet girls.  There was nothing in town for entertainment and the compound was a vast prison camp where I had to wear long brown boots of the bosses in that blasted hot and humid country.

A few thugs entered the compound one night; they killed three guards and threatened the manager to open the safe. We were awakened at three in the morning by the Lebanese manager, from the district of Koura, and we lodged a complaint at the town police quarter.  We drove by the slaughtered watchmen.

 

I was recalled and ready to be shipped out to Cyprus, supposedly the mother maintenance headquarter or something of that nature. I was somewhat reluctant for this sudden transfer even after this harrowing experience. I had to stay for another month redundant at headquarter.  This old English “personality”, supposed to be the official writer of letters, and from whom I used to borrow books from his private library in his allocated rented house, enjoyed repeating “Are we redundant today?” thinking that I didn’t know this word and wanted to impress me with his flatulent language.

The company accommodated me at a house with a private driver and a house male servant.  At night, the Nigerian driver would take me to a dancing place in the open air that was surrounded by a few huts.  It is from there that I was introduced to paid girls. (I wrote about this experience in my file “songs for women” under the title “I could break your eye glasses”). We were paid in Sterling pounds to an account overseas, mine in Lebanon; they had a complex money mechanism that served two purposes of avoiding taxes and keeping us under strict control financially. I had to borrow cash from my manager which was offered as gifts.

 

During that month I had the opportunity for several “adventure” trips.  I recall one particular trip that was truly an adventure in the nowhere.  I drove with a Lebanese foreman at a very remote tiny project site; after four hours of land driving we had to board a canoe to cross a murky river where people lived on the river; I think National Geographic would have made me rich if I had a camera; I am pretty sure if I fell overboard I would have been eaten by an alligator or piranhas. Well, after seven hours of crossing lands and rivers we reached destination; I looked around and found nothing of a project.  We did nothing; I would like to believe that we left a piece of tool and we were back and arrived by midnight.  My friend had another well hidden project, somewhere in Alice Wonderland: I declined. Nigeria is a vast country and that adventure trip was an eye opener to the extent of miseries. 

 

My return trip to Lagos airport was not a happy one and I was not accompanied by any agent from the company.  I boarded a ten-seat small plane; I thought that they have mistaken me for a parachutist.  The rickety plane was noise of hell and we experienced several air pockets and free falls; I was not perturbed: I had seen Nigeria.  At the airport I was searched four times, my suitcases completely ramaged through, until all my little alcohol bottles were accepted as gifts.  You need company agents to go in and go out of Nigerian airports; it was true then and true even more so today.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

April 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Blog Stats

  • 1,376,509 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 720 other followers

%d bloggers like this: