Stories from Afar & Up Close

This is how we do it

It is still not quite autumn, but the rains have started. They come in short, heavy bursts, and if you are indoors the whole day, you may not even notice it has rained. Except for that one little problem, that typically Lebanese problem, that is called the electricity system. As if there weren’t already enough things wrong with it, the rain will break down the last working connection. The wire, hanging loosely over the street, will crackle and sputter, then a big flash – and it’s gone. But, no need to worry: we call uncle Hassan, who comes with his son, a neighbor and ladder to fix the cut ends of the electrical cable.

Down there Up here

In The Netherlands, we have laws (called Arbowet) to regulate labor and the circumstances surrounding labor. Workers have to be safe at all times, wear protective clothing, be prevented from making movements that may cause injuries. For example, those working at the check-out in the supermarket are not allowed, by law, to reach further than 30cm to pick up the articles they need to scan, thus hopefully avoiding the risk of straining the arms of the cashier.

Uncle Hassan is not so concerned with these things, and neither are his workers: the yellow piece of old copper-wire and the son standing on the roof of the van holding the ladder are deemed adequate safety-measures. So up went the neighbor, pulling some wires, tugging on the remaining cables to check their sturdiness, preventing any further damage from rain. Done.

When told about the Dutch Arbowet and the 30cm limit reach, the reaction was a smug laugh. “Your country must be so easy to occupy!”

The whole thing From behind