A friend of mine scaled Everst and when he returned he brought me a small package. It was a very colorful roll that when unraveled a string of beautiful colorful flags with prayers surrounding Buddha was on each one. He told me they were pray flags that need to be hung in the wind so that they may send out prayers on your behalf to the world. They ward off evil, bring luck and protect. I hung them immediately and for over two years no one questioned their presence only their purpose!
Knowing I was going to move to Lebanon and into new territories I asked a friend who was visiting Tibet to bring some home for my new life. I thought I needed all the help I can get as well as some reminder of home. And so after I arrived I unraveled my new set and put them out. How quick were my Lebanese friends to make fun and joke away at the colorful flags making remarks that I found not only hurtful but very rude and intolerant as well. The flags stayed.
Earlier this week I moved to a new apartment and only last night did I hang my flags, happy to see them flutter in the wind for me. It is part of what makes my home a home. And so I went to sleep just that bit more content with my symbolic and simple nestling. But after coming home from work today I was confronted by the doorman making these statements “the other tenants want you to remove the flags immediately” “what are they anyway?” And the most upsetting remark of them all “that there is no need for them” said in a very dismissive tone. The reason given for the removal of the flags was the outside of the building is “ours” not “yours” and so it has to remain uniform. And mind you this Urban, concrete jungle is not so pretty so I really don’t understand this obsessive need for concrete uniformity!
The whole issue in the grand scheme of things is trivial, but is significant of much larger things at play to name a few xenophobia, conformism, and that simply it is very difficult for the Lebanese to celebrate what isn’t them or even their idea of them.
I have been here for a bit over four months and I feel Lebanon is a hostile unwelcoming place. It is about circles of exclusivity. I have been trying very hard to turn those ideas around and become positive about this experience. Some days I am successful and other days I fail, sometimes even miserably. There have been people around me who are supportive and welcoming and inclusive and to them I send out a big heartfelt thank you. Slowly I am finding these people, but it is a struggle which I will explain another time. For now I have to try and find a way to make these flags flutter in the wind for me where there is no wind.