Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘underground cave dug in stone

Day 2. Volunteered two hard days of work: Where is this Kawzah (South Lebanon)?

Posted in August 27, 2011

Note: In Context. 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 in 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 contingent of Ghana.

Lebanon is the guest of a dozen UN contingents in the south, presumably to providing security to the offensive State of Israel.  The money for this volunteer program is from an old grant signed with Italy in 2007.

Sunday August 21, 2011

It is 11 pm on a clear night. We are departing from Maroun el Ras, the highest small town overlooking Israel (altitude 1,000 meters) and which resisted Israel “preemptive war” in July 2006 for a week.

We entered Bint Jbeil, the capital city of western South, and prevented Israel to enter it, even after being totally demolished. Apparently, Hezbollah was Not ready to confront Israeli advance to that town, and half a dozen Communist fighters took strategic positions on buildings and delayed the advance until Hezbollah fighters arrived and took over the battle.  The Emir of Qatar contributed and rebuilt the city.

We drove through Rmeish and witnessed two humongous wedding parties.  Rmeish has three luxurious wedding restaurants, and 12,000 of its inhabitants flock in summer time.

In winter, Rmeish population is barely 6,000, (an estimate according to the hearsay of the people), still the largest “Christian town” in this southern region.

We passed the wedding that the volunteers from Debel and Rmeish were attending, and headed to another complex Sky Plaza (with an olympic swimming pool) where another wedding was going full blown.

We sat for dinner, overhanging the wedding party.  The restaurant claimed that it has no “a la carte” menu (tonight?), but regular mezze ( an arrangement of a dozen small platters of a little of everything Mediterranean dishes).  We ordered Lebanese beer Almaza.

We were 8 sitting at the table, but hunger was satisfied quickly. It appears that Ihab, Marwan, and I tasted from each dish and saved the honor of the eaters. We were kind of ripe for bed.

Chelsea just dropped her head on the table and was having a night dream.

It was time to pay the bill. Ihab was asked to pay his share.  He was beside himself and told me: “Food was supposed to be free of charge to volunteers.  We were entitled to a dinner. I have only about $5 left in my pocket…”  I agreed with him.

We were home by 12:30 am.

The air-conditioned room allocated to males was displaced to a non-conditioned.

We were expecting a cool night as promised, but our luck deteriorated in this humid night.  I had two alternatives: Cover up my face from mosquito bites and sweat it out, or doze on the balcony, much cooler. Cedric moved his “bed” to the saloon, facing an open door.

Ihab was plainly hot and suffocating.  I kind of overheard him saying that his bunk should have been by the open door and not by the wall:  I was prompt in being first to selecting my bed, though it didn’t make much difference.

As Cedric was just getting to sleep, Ihab woke him up to complain again of the unfairness of paying for the dinner at the restaurant.  I woke up at night, and here is Ihab complaining again.

I stepped outside to the balcony and Ihab followed me. I went back to bed and Ihab joined me.  I think we didn’t sleep much that night.

I woke up around 5:30 am and shaved and then got back in bed and covered my face.  You think mosquitoes give up after 6 am, or after 7 am.  This was not the case.

Around 6 am, Ihab was feeling too hot to staying in bed.  For an hour, Ihab kept zipping and unzipping his small bag. The process is zip, ramage inside the bag, kratch, kritch…zap, and this noise continued for ever, including re-arranging the plastic bag.

I thought: “Either the zipping mechanism is going to break down, or Ihab is going to be surprised of finding gold in the bag…” It was the turn of Cedric to wash and re-arrange his bags.

Around 7 am, the party was having a nice, village-type breakfast, fresh products, real olive oil, jams, cheese, tea, fruits…

We arrived at the church in Kawzah by 8:15.  The volunteered kids were already there and eating manakeech.

Frankly, the piece of mankouch that I tasted was not tasty and was hard to chew on, but the hungry kids were not complaining.

The scene looked “exhausted”, Not ready for work:  The girls were waiting nonchalantly.

I decided to clean up the debris, dirt, plastic hand gloves, just to to have a good visual of the battle field.  Emilie gathered us in groups again:  Priority was to make the church surrounding as white as possible.

By 9 am, we were surprised to witness the Rmeish volunteers step out of the bus:  They had barely slept from a night-long wedding partying.  Mass started at 9:30 and many had an excellent excuse to attend mass instead of working.

The priority shifted toward rendering the outside wall white instead of brown dirt. Michelle galvanized the Rmeish volunteers by working on the ego of their “leader”: “If you work, they will join you“.  It worked, and the outside wall was kind of whiter within two hours.

After 2 pm, we focused on scrapping the ground of paints, white and black. We had four hand scrapers (mejhaf) and I worked pretty hard scrapping, kneeling and stooping.

Mario was the hardest male volunteer and climbed on the roofs to paint white the borders.  Three girls worked very hard, among them was Manuella who took over from me hosing down (shatef) the saloon:  She had one finger blistered by the end of the task.

A water truck arrived and a complete hosing down of the yard was undertaken.

The job was done by 3:30 and we settled in groups talking.  The volunteers of Rmeish and Debel complained that the government has this policy (for the last 30 year, of castrating them from higher offices in public service positions).  Why?

Debel and Rmeish are considered potential hotbed towns for spies to Israel:  They have been recruits in the Lebanese army detached to the south, which allied to Israel for over 25 years against the Palestinian Resistance and later against Hezbollah.

Elie said that the highest rank he could dream off is sergeant in the internal security forces (darak).  Elie said that the only ways to keeping in touch with relatives and families living in Israel was through the Christian churches.

Many Lebanese who fled to Israel in May 24, 2000 returned to Lebanon. A few who returned faced military court, served short prison terms and where released.

(It is to be noted that Hezbollah never entered any of “Christian towns” in order to avoid quick revenge, as it happened in France as the Germans vacated Paris, and waited for the lebanese army to take care of the situation)

I said to Elie that they should keep knocking on all doors and not just wait for any quick changes in policies toward the Christian Lebanese in the southern villages. I said that the current government will be more receptive to their demands if they get out of their shells and connect.

(My contention is that they should open lines of communications with Hezbollah: The successive Lebanese government never considered the south as part of Lebanon, kind of hopeless case, since independence in 1943)

Around 4 pm, tables and chairs were brought by a caterer, along with food to be cooked fresh.

It was the usual: shish tawook (chicken), shish pork, homus, baba ghanouj (mashed eggplant with sesame sauce), and imported German beer, which made me sick an hour after we finished.  I had gas pressing on my chest and stomach for over 3 hours.

We danced dabkeh and I participated vigorously.  The volunteer of Debel insisted that we prolong the party and we arrived at a natural grove, surrendered by five ancient oak trees.  There is an underground cave dug in stone with 12 burying grounds dug in the stone inside.

The people in this region disseminate the myth that Jesus and his disciples, who actually lived in that region for 20 years before Jesus ventured to upper Galilee to preach his message, made this cave a dwelling place in period of persecutions.

They claimed that Israel, on purpose, tried to bomb this place during the preemptive war of July 2006.  My contention was “if they are hiding, why do they have to dig in the stone to sleep instead of arranging a more comfortable place?”  I think this grove was the burial ground of a rich family.

Well, I was in bad shape to participate in the conversation, but I shared a cup of whiskey. There was a swimming complex ten meters up and I was glad to pay a visit to the toilet.

By 8:30 pm we were heading back home.  It took over 2:30 hours to arrive in front of the ministry of social affairs. Cedric had decided to join the car of Hala in order to have a reprieve from Ihab’s repeat stories.

Emilie was feeling sleepy and hungry for a dish of real salad.  We had to wait 20 minutes for Hala to arrive: They paid a visit to the nearby office of Cedric to check the WC.

Cedric drove half asleep and we were lucky to be home at around 12:30 am.

Note 1:  Emilie teaches Arabic at a private school, and work on contract with the ministry of social affairs for volunteer programs during summer.  She is also a member of YMCA and participate almost every year to YMCA conventions and training sessions. (I think it was Emily who congratulated Cedric for having such an uncle ready to volunteer in hard work)

Note 2:  Hala, the chief program coordinator, works on contract with the ministry of social affairs.  When she saw me she said: “I have seen that face”.  It turned out that she was studying computer engineering at LAU Byblos during the period I was teaching courses in Industrial Engineering.  She has a friend of a few Industrial engineers whom took a few courses with me.

Note 3:  Read Day One




June 2023

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