Stories from Afar & Up Close

Ordinary things

I never thought I would get used to things like these, but strangely enough they have become normal: • that when I try to make a phone call and the call doesn’t get through because the network is jammed, my first thought is ‘oh, they probably blew up another politician’ • that every morning when I wake up, I go to the bathroom first to see if there is water to take a shower or flush the toilet (one day out of two) • that there is a guy in a green or grey camouflage suit on almost every streetcorner, a heavy machinegun dangling in his hand, his finger on the trigger • that I hear people on the street greet each other with ‘Hi! How are you? So, when will the war start?’ • that when we hear rattling sounds coming from the hills between our office and the Israeli border, my colleagues shake their heads and say ‘It’s nothing, just some anti-aircraft fire.’ • that I make sure not to use the elevator to my apartment on the 7th floor around 9am, 12pm or 3pm, because these are the times at which the daily 3-hour electricity cut can start • that half of the roads around my house are completely barricaded with concrete blocks at night and turned into zig-zag tracks by day because they are close to one- or another politician’s house • that on my way to work I pass by at least 4 tanks, strategically positioned on major crossroads in Beirut, with a guy on top loosely aiming his machinegun at passing cars • And lastly, that guys start singing when I walk past them.

Sometimes I wonder if I should be worried that these things no longer shock, anger or surprise me….