A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

missing home, missing home, and missing the boat

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 10, 2008

My family called yesterday as H and I were out running errands – trying to find skim milk. We aren’t sure whether it was due more to the trauma of the cows or their owners, but fresh (non-UHT) milk was in short supply yesterday.

They called to get an update on the situation here, but also to tell me about my grandmother’s funeral, which had taken place yesterday morning, East Coast time, at the church where she worshipped for sixty years.

If I had known that Lebanon was about to implode as it has in the past three days, I would have been less sanctimonious about missing work (again) for her funeral. I’m still working, thanks to H’s parents wonderful ADSL line, but I’m certainly not in my office.

So I’m missing my US home this morning, although I know that if I were there, I would be equally desperate to be here.

And speaking of “here”, I saw that Jazeera was again broadcasting on the street near its office in Beirut this morning. The Jazeera office is next to Bardo, one of my favorite sous les bombes hangouts, and it overlooks the start of Hamra. I could see APCs parked on the street, but I could see relaxed darak soldiers laughing and pushing one another around, trying to get on camera.

Well, the ISF is never inspiring – the most professional thing about them is the fleet of US SUVs, which itself is undercut by their Chicken Little insistence on having the flashing lights on at all times. Now that its a real crisis, the lights seem a bit silly.

But the fact that they were relaxed was good – and there were cars passing them to get down Hamra: services, taxis, delivery trucks and regular cars. Jazeera described this morning as characterized by a “cautious calm” on the streets of Beirut, and said that the army’s presence was “spreading”.

The army’s presence is definitely not spreading due to its military capabilities, but I’ve seen the same information in several Arabic news sites, as well as in the posts of several bloggers I trust. Given the choice of Amal running my neighborhood or Hizbullah, I’d prefer Hizbullah (there’s not even the ghost of a SSNP presence in my neighborhood, so I doubt they’re running the show, although I understand that they are now overseeing parts of Hamra and Raouche. What a Lazarus moment for them :).). But it doesn’t seem that Hizbullah wants to run the neighborhoods directly.

From my perch outside the city, its a mystery. But seeing the sunny morning, the laughing ISF soldiers and the cars on the street, I’m missing my Beirut home as well.

On the other hand, I just received a rather stern warden message from the embassy. It starts with a bit of finger wagging:

As stated in the current Travel Warning for Lebanon, the Department of State continues to strongly urge that Americans defer travel to Lebanon and that American citizens in Lebanon consider carefully the risks of remaining.

In other words: you idiots, its your own fault that you are here. The warden message continues with a warning that regardless of what happens next, this will not be another 2006 government-organized, taxpayer-funded evacuation:

In a crisis situation, American citizens are responsible for arranging commercial or private means of transportation to depart Lebanon. American citizens wishing to depart Lebanon are urged to do so, keeping in mind that options are currently limited.

Okay, I get it. I didn’t join the US evacuation in 2006, so my conscience is clear. But I won’t expect a handout this time, logistical or otherwise.

Next, a situation update:

Major roads to Beirut International Airport remain blocked, and there is only limited airline service at present. Violent clashes in several areas in and around Beirut have been reported, and it is still not known when the airport road will re-open and normal air transport services
will resume. The main road to Damascus remains blocked.

And finally, some advice:

American citizens wanting to depart may wish to consider chartering private watercraft to Cyprus. Until such time as travel services out of Lebanon become available, the U.S. Embassy urges American citizens to ensure they have an adequate supply of food, water and other essential items and to remain safely inside their homes. Americans are encouraged
to review their travel plans following resumption of normal air services.

Chartering private watercraft? Could the embassy contribute any more to the stereotype that Americans are all millionaires? And could it be any more GOP?

I’m strong. If it comes to chartering a ship, I’ll be in the market for a rowboat :).


2 Responses to “missing home, missing home, and missing the boat”

  1. Sporty Diamond said

    We are missing you, too, though are so happy you are with H and family! Love you!

  2. la-sconosciuta said

    I was touched by your post. It’s probably the candid style and the mention of Bardo 🙂
    Be safe.

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