Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Sikasso

My tour in West Africa

Note: Re-edit of “Touring West Africa (Introspection, continue 30) January 19, 2009”

I stayed with the Lebanese  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, to visit with my brother the dentist in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and a few relatives in neighboring States 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, was invited to a night out and a day at the beach. 

I was not impressed with the “Paris of Africa” Abidjan.

 

I visited my cousin Joseph and his wife Silla in Burkina Faso (Haute Volta at the time) without a visa, but I am not that sure. Later on, Joseph told me 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.  Years later I was reminded by Silla that I taught her to drive  I met with the little Sa7ar (2 year-old).  Joseph gave me once a ride to the Capital Ouagadougou, hopeful to find  job.

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 and married to my aunt Josephine, had the only bakery in town and was doing well. He used to have acupuncture sessions for his back and leg pains. I tried a session out of curiosity 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 of Samira. I was in a very confused  situation because I had Not decided to return to Lebanon and had no idea what to do in Africa. I had no idea of what I wanted to do next after I overstay. 

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, simply because I turned in around 11 pm. 

I slept at a friend of mine and in the morning, waiting for a taxi to the airport, my two suitcases deposited on the street 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.

The house in Beit-Chabab, (continue 8)

My grand dad had a house in Beit-Chabab but it was been rented for over 30 years, and the house was rundown and needed major repairs.  After the death of Dad’s father Antoun, and the definitive return of my family to Lebanon in 1961, and the children about to join universities, my father had to start a lengthy legal ejection proceeding. 

Father spent plenty of money to repairing this crumbling house.  We enjoyed barely two summer vacations in it, before dad’s mother and his younger brother Jean decided to return to Lebanon and stay in it. 

I used to watch one of my grandmother’s father Toufic (about 80 of age) plowing the large garden, but mother never encouraged me to walk and care for it because of probable snakes and other insects that she was terribly scared of:  Mother had close encounters with snakes in the house in Africa.  

Yes, extra safety is not complementary to happiness and natural development. When Jean and then grandmother died ten years later, one of dad’s sisters decided to return to Lebanon and she stayed in the house.  The whole lot cannot be sold because of the many inheritance problems with a large extended family; two of dad’s sisters are still alive and they are refusing to dispose of the property when we are in great need of financial support.

Something about our childhood, my brother Ghassan, sister Raymonde, and I

I read auto-biographical accounts of Edward Said and Carlos Ghosn and I found similarity in our upbringing and I said: “why not?”  I was born in Bamako, the Capital of Mali that was then under French mandate or colony, and mother breast-fed me for at least 3 years and mother never let me off her sight. 

I started schooling in Africa (Sikasso) when I was five, with the French White Brethren for 3 months and I was doing great and mother told me that I had memorized the multiplication tables in such a short period.  The deaf black boy used to take me on his bicycle to school. 

Shortly after, I suffered from Typhoid fever in 1954 and almost died. The French commander (Mali was still a French colony) flew me and mother to the Capital Bamako and I stayed for weeks in a refrigerated chamber.  When I got up from bed I had to re-learn how to walk and talk.

My parents decided to whisk me to Lebanon where the climate is more favorable.  My 3-year old brother Ghassan, three years younger than I, and I were enrolled in an intern school (boarding school) in Beit-Chabab belonging to the Christian Maronite brethren.

I didn’t know a single word of Arabic and it was a completely new world for me who lived at home for the last 6 years.  In the same year of 1956 Lebanon experienced a major earthquake and I remember someone carrying me in his arms at night and depositing me in the open parking lot where everyone converged.  Dad once lambasted the government for exacting the “earthquake tax” for over 20 years.

It seems that I was bright, but mostly I was much older than my classmates, and the next year the school decided that I could skip a year and that was my downfall.  In Lebanon, most kids start schooling at the age of three.  I cannot remember a thing of my first year in Lebanon; maybe I was too traumatized and my brain decided that burying my memory of this year is beneficial for my mental health.

My parents used to visit us every two years during summer and we had to re-learn that they were indeed our folks.  We used to flee the rented summer-house and walk up two miles to school, taking shortcuts.

School used to take us on walking trips on Sundays and when we passed my grandfather Toufic shop in Haret Al Ta7tat (the lower part of Beit Chabab), I used to stop at the shop and I was handed a handful of sweets and “kdameh” (dried cabanza beans).

My much younger sister (6 years younger) joined us in Beit Chabab and was “incarcerated” in the nuns’ boarding school of Sacred Hearts.  My sister had a rough time there…

My early years (Continue 7)

I don’t remember much of my first five years in Africa; maybe the trauma of my typhoid disease erased most of my early memory.  Mother BREAST FED ME FOR THREE years, as she did with my brother later, and she was very protective and kept a close watch over her first-born child. I had a hard birth and the physician didn’t expect me to live more than two days; I would not breast feed and in desperation, mother forced milk into my mouth.  Mother told me that I was made to spend my days on the counter top of the shop and I used to drill holes in the Nestle milk cans.  I tend to corroborate Amelie Nothomb hypothesis that lack of palate sugar voluptuousness is a main factor for slow brain development.  Most probably, mother didn’t indulge me with chocolate or sweet condiments; thus, I took my revenge destroying valuables or maybe to licking the sugary Nestle.

On the other front of verbal development I had a “boubou” or a very young African mute as personal friend or “body-guard”. I have a picture with Boubou sitting on his heels while I am riding a small tricycle.  It is natural for babies to learn easily all languages, including sign and eye languages; I assume that I communicated well with “boubou” and we had great friendship and affection since maybe my first fully developed language was the mute related language.  I can assume that verbal communication in three other languages simultaneously might have been very hard; Lebanese/Arabic, French and “Bambara” (the main language in Mali).  Not that comprehending multiple languages is difficult for babies but the people are difficult to understand for the contradictory meanings they convey.  Not that homonym and synonyms and all the “yms” in languages are serious obstacles to a baby’s flexible mind, but the minds and emotions of mature talking people are insurmountable barriers for clear directions.  I guess that I have set the grounds for plausible sources of my verbal unintelligible adventure.  I went to school at the french Brethren for only three months before I fell dangerously ill and managed to learn the multiplication tables.  An African helper would take me on his bicycle to school.

Why my parents decided to leave Africa?

My parents had a very prosperous business and were very liked in Sikassou; they had to sell their business and house in 1961for cheap after the Independence of Mali from the colonial power France:  Dad was too afraid to end up in prison if he were caught smuggling out his hard-earned money.  They sold their properties to the White French Brethren who paid the money but my folks never received a dime.  It seems one of my “uncles” who received the money on behalf of my dad invested the money for his own benefit and lost his money again.

The English language uses “uncle” to represent any older relation to the family but Arabic has special names to discriminate the sort and relative side in the relations. For example, my mother has five sisters “khalaat” and their husbands are called “3adeel” (the number 3 is used in Arabic internet to represent a special Arabic vocal close to aa); dad has five sisters “3amaat” and their husbands are “sohor”. Thus in Arabic specific names differentiate among these uncles; even the real close uncles, from the mother and father sides, have words of their own.

All of us, kids, were born in Mali and were transferred to Lebanon in order not to be exposed to the numerous tropical diseases.  In actuality, we were not saved physically or emotionally or mentally from other kinds of diseases that plagued our development and we had to suffer the consequences of hard decisions that our folks were faced with.

When dad opened a shop in Lebanon then he had to close it within three years because clients would not repay their accounts.  Mother used to go with her sister Therese to Downtown Beirut to shop for dad and she enjoyed that part in the business very much.

Introspection (continue 6)

My parent’s love affair

Dad fell in love with my mother in his tender youth and mother eventually followed him to Mali when she was about 19 with her younger sisters Montaha and Marie to join their family in Segou. An older friend of dad, Jeryes Chebabi, once joked that when they were passing by mother’s house he told dad that her aunt, across the street, is keeping a tight watch on him and suggested that he removes his shoes; dad obeyed and walked bare feet on the main street.

Mother left with her younger sisters by boat to Marseille and then to Senegal and then by land. My mother Julie told us that the captain of the boat said that she won’t make it to Marseille because she was sea-sick all the time and barely could eat anything.  Montaha and mother had to wait in Marseille, France, for several months to locate a boat heading to Africa because the war had disturbed all travels and communications.  They finally and  reluctantly had to fly to Senegal on a horrific loud small plane and then take ancient trains to Bamako. In all, the trip to Segou lasted more than two months.

My parents got married against all odds because their parents were competitors in business in the city of Segou.  The first village my folks opened shop in was Koutiala.  There was a river to cross when going to Segou and my parents had to load their car on a makeshift ferry. By the time I was to be born the shop in Koutiala was completely robbed along with the saved money.

My parents worked together for over 15 years in the poorest villages of Mali and settled in Sikasso, a village on the border with Ivory Coast.  They moved to three other shops in Sikasso before they bought a house, in cash as usual, from a French family.  There were about four Lebanese families in Sikasso and few others joined them later on; Khalil Nakhleh came from Bamako and opened a shop next to dad for better competition but my parents were the best in the business because of their honesty and readiness to trust selling on loans.

Mother says that she had to leave dad alone for periods of a month to have her teeth done in Bamako.  My parents were the first family to generate private electricity in that poor and desolate region.  My folks were robbed several times of everything; the first time when I was about to be born.

Business was brisk in Sikasso and mother ordered clothing from Paris through fashion catalogues and fashioned some dresses too.  Mother used to give a “trousseau” as gift for every mother who had a new-born. They were honest and hard-working people and not fit for business in Lebanon.

Financial troubles

Dad is free with his money and does not refuse any financial requests; he is now penniless.  My parents had a successful commercial business in Sikasso until Mali obtained its independence in 1961 and dad was frightened that he might be jailed if discovered exporting his saved money; thus, they decided to leave Africa for good.  Mother purchased her merchandize out of catalogues from France and sewed fancy clothes and offered free “trousseaux” for the newly born.  Dad gets scared easily and instead of taking a summer vacation to rethink his decision to staying permanently in Lebanon he sold everything hastily and for cheap. He could not do any business in Lebanon because people would not pay back their accounts.

My folks lost every penny during the civil war that started in 1975 and lasted 15 years.   In 1980, I warned dad from Nigeria to change his Lebanese pounds into Sterling pounds but he never listened to my suggestions, out of laziness most probably; or maybe, he had nothing much left to exchange.  The Lebanese pound devalued to nothing and mother had to pawn her jewelry in order to survive and pay the militias.

My parents had to sell the apartment in Furn el Chebak when they realized that I didn’t save much at my return from the USA. Dad got around $45,000; this sum lasted 6 years.  Dad gave a flat for Raymonde when she got married in 1979, and another flat for my married brother Ghassan.   Instead of renting to them to keep a flow of money coming to him monthly, he just gave them the above flats in the building that he used to rent.

I remember that dad gave me $5,000 in 1975 when I first left for the USA and when the Lebanese pound was strong; the exchange rate was two LL for one dollar instead of 1,500 LL right now.  Basically, that’s the sum I got so far from my folks; I recall that I asked for $1,000 in 1991 for graduation expenses and for my PhD ceremony;  dad had to ask my cousin Patrick to lend him the money since he was completely broke and I was not aware of my parents’ financial predicaments.

My parents have spent a lot on the education of their three offspring; they spent lavishly on the weddings of Raymonde and Ghassan and furnishing their apartments and contributing to the purchase of their cars; they gave a flat to Raymonde and Ghassan and they should have asked for rent because my parents are flat broke right now and have no sources for financial help.  We cannot count on a government in Lebanon for the old citizens.

I guess that, besides the expenses of my education prior to entering universities, I cost my parents just $6,000; all my expenses were from my sweat and hard work to survive and continue my education in the USA.   My actions with money demonstrate that I don’t consider money as my own and could easily dispense with as long as I secure the bread of the day regardless of how I am perceived as cheap or tight or whatever.  Anyway, I never earned enough to save more than $5,000 at any period in my life so that I have no idea how I would react if I come into big bucks.

Something about the origins of my grand parents

Antoun (my father’s dad)

Antoun (Antony) is the name of dad’s father.  I have the impression that I saw him once and very briefly. He is sitting on a tiny balcony; he looked rotund with a jovial face. I never saw a photograph or a picture of Antoun.

By the way, my Christian name or patron saint name is Antoine since my first name is derived from an Antique “pagan” God Adonis. Mother told me that she was the one who insisted on calling me Adonis because she liked a girl at school named Adonis! And I was under the impression that this name was plainly a male name referring to the Phoenician male God of beauty Adonis.

I lately discovered that my name in my birth certificate is typed Adouis, most probably because the typist in the Capital Bamako (Mali, west Africa) confused the hand written n with u and nobody deigned to double-check for correction.

Antoun died in 1958 while on a brief visit to Lebanon. He succumbed from infection after the surgical removal of his gall bladder.

This minor surgery has harvested many victims, even in the best hospitals at the time.

Abou George, as Antoun should have been nicknamed, was born in Beit-Chabab and immigrated with a bunch of other young people to Africa as it was the custom in our locality.

George Tannous, husband of aunt Marie, recalls grand dad sitting most of the day outside his small shop in Segou and fingering his worry beads.

There is a custom to nickname the father after his eldest son by affixing Bou or Abou to the first name of the eldest son.

Thus, Antoun or Abou George started work in Guinee and then moved to Segou (Mali) where he ended up working in commerce and barely visited Lebanon.

I never heard anyone calling my father Bou Adonis; I figure you cannot have a father for God!

Fact is my father barely saw his dad: He lived in Beit Chabab with his grandparents (his mother side). The first time he met Antoun was when he joined him in Segou around 1947, a year before he got married with my mother Julie.

Dad’s mother: Saesta or Sabat (Elizabeth) on the birth certificate

Saesta is the name of dad’s mother.  She was short with a jovial face that dad inherited.

She is acerbic.  A story goes around during Lebanon’s civil war that the representative of the Phalanges “kataeb” militia in town came over to collect the monthly kickback on ground that this militia is a State within the State in the Metn district.

Saesta told the representative that she has no money, which was the case from her rundown home that dad had restored 10 years ago after vacating the long-standing tenants at the expense of a protracted legal battle that stretched for years.

The representative of the “kataeb” asked Saesta not to mention that she would be absolved from any kickback and  she replied that she would not be silenced “moush rah eskout“; he then begged her not to propagate the story and she again refused saying that she will talk “baddi ehki“.

In 1939, Saesta traveled to Segou to stay with her husband and took her eldest daughter Millia with he.

Saesta had the Lebanese passport, although Lebanon was under French protectorate.  Dad was left to live at his grand parents’, from his mother’s side, and the house was rented out to the Je3ara family.

It was a period when Maronite families married close cousins.

For example, my mother’s grand father and his brother married two sisters.

Families conceived almost yearly, and many children died still-born or shortly after, and still ended up with over six living offspring.

For example, Saesta got pregnant a dozen times and seven lived. My mother’s mother also conceived a dozen times and seven survived.

Toufic (Father of Saesta)

The father of Saesta, Toufic Bouhatab, lived in the USA in his youth and was considered “zeer nissa2” for chasing after girls. He was rich at one time and had several shops on the main street of Beit-Chabab (7aret ta7ta) and was a member of the municipal council for ever.

He ploughed and worked the vast garden till an old age (over 90). He suffered from an acute pneumonia and I said farewell to him while in bed before I left for the USA for graduate studies in 1975.  Toufic died within a month of my departure.

Dad used to aid in his grand father’s Toufic shop when a youth; the shop sold almost all kinds of items.

I recall when in boarding school I used to pass by on Sundays and Toufic would give me a handful of sweets.

Toufic hand-wrote in Arabic a voluminous manuscript, his diary in the USA, and I have to get hold of it to translate a few of his opinions.

Once, father gave Toufic money to purchase a piece of land adjacent to our house and Toufic went around and registered the deed in his son’s name Tanios (Tony).

Dad was never “lucky” in his dealing with his relatives and compatriots, but he was loved by the blacks of Mali in the town of Sikasso for his decency and largess.

Tanios (mother’s father)

The father of my mother, Tanios Gebrael, died in Lebanon at the age of 48 of a heart stoke, as his unique son Michel did later at the same age.

Tanios died one year before I was born.

Tanios also worked in Segou and he did well after many years of toil, but was robbed by his brother when he died in his brother’s Beirut home in Gemaizeh, Beirut, Lebanon: Tanios had a fortune in cash and had plans.

His wife Eugenia, six daughters and son never saw a nickel of cash inheritance.

Mother used to say that her father was irascible, strict, and conservative.

In his youth, Tanios used to chase away with stones any male contender to Eugenia, his potential sweet heart and later his wife. No boy or adult would dare talk or approach Eugenia.

The four sisters Josephine, Julie, Marie, and Montaha lived in Lebanon, alone and across their aunt’s who kept a watchful eyes on any male approaching them. The girls didn’t see their father until they also immigrated to Segou.

Mother told me that her father was pretty angry when the eldest Josephine eloped married (khatifeh) and in punishment forced the other 3 girls to study in a nun’s boarding school.

Tanios knew that mother and dad were in love, and when dad joined his father in Segou, Tanios refused that his girls in Lebanon (particularly mother) join him in Africa, as it was planned.

His only surviving son Michel was bright in school but the psychiatric system in Lebanon diagnosed him as emotionally “not normal” and ended up taking high dozes of tranquilizers and anti-depressant that reduced Michael to a dependent person and spent his short life on medications.

Michael was living with his married sister Therese, and filled many hand-written notebooks that disapeared. Why?

Michel used to hand write abundantly and somehow the extended family has decided to make his scattered booklets disappear; I never can forgive them for that act of insensitivity that prove their ignorance and small mindedness.

I am not sure if Therese (one of my aunts with whom Michael lived) read any of his writing because he lived with her. I once asked Therese of what happened to Michel’s writing and she refused to answer me.

Eugenia (mother’s mother)

Eugenia suffered many stillbirth and ended up with five living daughters (Josephine, Julia, Marie, Montaha, Therese) and a unique son (Michael).

She joined her husband in Africa in 1938 and left her four girls in Lebanon at the guard of Adel, one of her many sisters, living across the street. Actually, Adel was married with Tanios’ brother (okhte selfteh)

She lost her husband Tanios at the age of 48.

Eugenia lived mostly with her married daughter Marie and could never forget the mental state of her unique son Michael who lived close by with his married sister Therese, when not confined in the psychiatric ward Deir al Saleeb.

Eugenia lent her wealth to one of her nephew lawyer who was supposed to invest the money by lending it.  This lawyer made plenty of money working other people’s money, including my dad and many of our relatives.

For example, when my dad and one of my relatives were shown deals to purchase lands, this lawyer would fake to have re-invested the money and then ask one of his brothers to purchase the lands.

Eugenia died the day mother was getting ready to fly to Paris to attend to William’s (first grandson) heart surgery.  William is my eldest nephew and he was barely 16 months when he had the surgery.

Why about this wave of immigration to Africa?

There are evidences that most of the immigrants at the turn of the century paid dear money to go to “America” (read the USA).

Many scoundrels of ship Captains tried to increase their turnover rates of customers; thus, they dropped many travelers in Africa and told them “Here is America“.

These Captains did the same things and many Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians ended in Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere.

Then those established immigrants sent for their relatives.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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