Beirut on a drip

Beirut roof water tank

finally getting the roof tank filled

We are past the dizzy peaks of nearly 40 degrees Celsius experienced in August, but the air across the tin roofing still shimmers and I’m sure if there were any proper tarmac to speak of in Beirut it would be melting.

This summer I’ve been frugal with the air conditioning, aware that many across the country are undergoing long power cuts, their energy sapped by the capital and its visitors, as it masquerades as a first-world city. But not any more.

Nearly a month ago our taps ran dry. The tanks on the roof were empty. The municipal supply is now a mere trickle lasting just a few hours every other night. Just enough time to fill a few bottles, then that’s it for two days.

The sink soon fills with dirty dishes, so we decide to get out of the mess and eat out. The air is so warm and humid it feels like wading through a swimming pool. As we dodge the holes in the road (never refilled), avoid slithering two storeys down into some half-built underground car park (never cordoned off) and squeeze past the cars which have been thoughtfully scattered along the pavement (by “valet parking”), we literally stumble across a revelation: several plastic bottles on the pavement full of water. They are being fed by the plastic tubes taped to them which channel the distilled water from  Read the rest of this entry »

Pet-progeny and pooling friends

maybe after my fourth Porsche I'll get an apartment

I’m trying to imagine how the friends I had while in college would have reacted if I turned up some Saturday evening with – horror of horrors – my parents in tow. Here trying to socialise with one’s parents at the same time as one’s peers is by no means the pariah-making choice it is in the Anglo-Saxon world. For a start the middle-aged accord as much importance to a social life as their offspring, so kids tag along with their parents more often than the other way round. The lack of inter-generational intolerance is refreshing.

On the other hand, I sometimes wonder how those born during the war years, who survived bomb blasts, shelters and shortages, can have grown up so lacking in autonomy. Of course I’m talking about a specific demographic but there are enough of them that they cannot be ignored.

A friend of mine says, tongue only slightly in cheek, that in the morning he asks his wife  Read the rest of this entry »

Left at the insecticide, right at the choco spread

check the labels before tasting

In Mentally Mapping Networks, I discussed the similarities between the way the Lebanese find their way around town and the way they perceive interpersonal relationships. I was therefore amused to see that the spatial perception deployed in a supermarket is similar to the directions you get here.

Instead of a linear layout with specific categories in each aisle, the Aoun chain of flashy orange supermarkets opts for something more of a patchwork layout. Though the shelving units are the same, the goods are grouped in corners, stacks and patches without the usual linear logic, the passages narrowing at points to make physical contact with other shoppers inevitable. Instead of lining the extremities of the rectangle,  Read the rest of this entry »