luxury


Last night I was coming home from Hamra and passed through the Bshara Khoury intersection. What I saw was very disturbing. A police car was smashed up so badly, and not from a car accident. The proliferation of soldiers and police throughout the intersection was jarring to say the least and the smoke from burning tires was dissipating. What was more disturbing was past the intersection and before there was no such signs of violence or dissent.  Chatting with the service driver I found out it was a very strong objection by the people to the continued, arbitrary and chaotic electricity cuts in the city of Beirut.

I’ve been in Beirut on and off for 9 months now and one thing that has been constant was the electricity rationing. In central Beirut we are lucky we only get one cut a day and it last 3 hours. There is a schedule, a cycle you can chart and follow. But what has been happening in the summer and due to the excessive heat additional rationing has been introduced; only it has no rhyme or reason. But, even with this erratic additional cutting we are still privileged. If you are not living in central Beirut this means you have electricity for four hours at a time and then it is cut for four hours and back again for four and off again.  GO farther afield and you get less and less electricity with longer periods of cuts that can go up to 12 hours.

Tourists don’t really have to deal with any of this, they may not even notice it, but for the people living here it can be a nightmare. You can’t store anything in a fridge. You can’t turn on a fan let alone an A/C, you sometimes have to deal with total darkness, electrical appliances sometime just frizz out and die, if you live or work in a tall building you are screwed. I am sure you can think of further horrors related to being without electricity.

A lot of people have found solutions around the electricity cuts, but not everyone can afford them and so, even though I was disturbed I was not surprised by the public display of anger. What did happen though, was that in my mind I thought of the water rationing and the shortages in Jordan and how if you don’t consume carefully your water ration will run out and you won’t be able to go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, bathe or more importantly drink and eat. Yet, Jordanians don’t go out and demand more water, burn tires and make very visible their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. And I wonder why is that?

We keep saying the next war in the region will be over water, yet we wait patiently for it. I wonder if it is because we are all aware that this resource is not “generated” but rather dependent on forces of nature (over simplification and totally ignoring water treaties here). Is it because even in the winter we are constantly told how much water we have in our dams, what our consumption is and we are all collectively responsible for the water (just think of all the complaints the water company gets if there is a burst pipe in a street)? Or is it because we take it lying down and are not used to vocalizing our displeasures in such visible and violent ways because a- we aren’t used to it, b- we are afraid of the consequences.

I don’t really have any answers here and it might be I am comparing apples to oranges. But the question in my mind is would I rather have water or electricity rationed and cut? I don’t know. I do many things that I normally wouldn’t when there is no electricity, but I don’t know how long I can handle it in this unbearable humid heat. I’ve also have learned to conserve water, take bucket showers and value water like the scarce commodity it is, but I like flushing toilets and running facets. So where do draw the line on tolerable and intolerable things we can live with and without?

As the year begins I have already received the first few gifts of the new year. Its such a pleasant way to start off. But if I would want anything I think I would like to have the following gifts: health, patience, travel, insight, good friends, satisfaction, good fun work, good coffee ;), music, good movies, and great memorable experiences.  

I also look forward to presents. I have over the past 30 years accepted, and graciously I may add, many gifts. Some have been marvelous, others have been good, some mediocre, some were repetitive, and others just didn’t make sense. I will continue to accept gifts graciously and love the thoughts and sentiments behind them all. However, there are things I have a bit too much of, here are some things you can over look and I will definitely forgive you if you don’t think of me when you see them: 

Anything with a cat motif. I AM NOT THE CAT LADY. I only have the one cat in my life and I love him to bits and that’s it! Having said that feel free to buy Z anything you want. Gifts for him are always welcome, especially toys on string.  

Key chains also make the list, I have more than I know what to do with.

Coasters, I have 5 sets of 6 and I have never used 30 glasses at once!  

Tea, this one is self inflicted, I bought myself a year’s supply of tea from Sri Lanka of all flavors and so I have out done myself here.  

Book marks, I love these but always forget them in the wrong books, I end up using either one that I love (it has the serenity prayer on it J) or a ticket stub or business card. So thanks but it will probably get lost with the 30 –  40 other book marks I have.  

Woodwork, I’m very particular about my carvings so please don’t try. I love masks and figures but that is not an invitation for trees, animals and other random pieces of wood.  

Plants, it will only die! I can’t for the life of me keep anything green alive, just ask the struggling cactus in my house! 

Refrigerator magnets, my cat likes to play with them and will knock them off, break them or they will end up under the couch after he has played toss them all around the house with them. 

Stuffed toys, I am not 7, enough said? 

Red Roses, ohhh I hate them, an ex over did the red roses and now I have developed a really bad allergy to the sight of them. Any other color rose is acceptable, in fact I love flowers of all sorts and you can’t go wrong with them.  

Jewelry, I’m not that kinda girl. With few exceptions (see below) please don’t bother.  

Electronics, I try to be as low tech as possible, so unless I specifically ask for a gadget, I don’t want it.  

OK you must now think this is one ungrateful women, who doesn’t like anything. But wait here are some things I can’t get enough of: 

Great experiences, which means anything that creates and leaves good memories.  

Flowers, aside from my aversion to red roses you really can’t go wrong here. Tulips are my favorite if you must know followed by sunny bright sun flowers.  

Books, a good book is really the best thing you can give anyone who reads. But if you do give me a book please don’t forget to write on the inside a little personal note, I love opening these gifts up years later and remembering the sentiment.  

Movies, whether it’s a trip the cinema or a DVD, just no slap stick comedy PLEASE! 

Massages, in person, gift vouchers, or we could go together… I love massage.  

Jewelry, yes I said not to but if you have to then you must know that I rarely wear necklaces or braclets, I don’t change my rings and so ear rings are the way to go. But wait there is a catch! Tasteful, simple and made by obscure local designers and artists is the way to go, just make sure they have a bit of funk in them. 

Candles: scented and otherwise, I burn them all the time and so they will be appreciated and used fondly.  

Scarves, this is an obsession of mine. I have drawers full of them and I can never have enough. Any color, any texture, any size… I just love them! 

Having said that neither list is exhaustive, and as time rolls on things will move from one list to the other I am sure. Some may even get dropped, others may be added. SO I do recommend that you treat this as utter nonsense. Buy me what you will, if anything at all. I will love it, it came from you and thus will remind me of you which is more important than what it is and will give it true value.  

Today I have been a chameleon in different worlds with in my city. Today I have hob knobbed with the underprivileged and stood side by side with the upper echelon of society.  I do this belonging to neither. 
 

Today I visited more than one location in the lesser privileged or served areas of Amman for various reasons. Whenever I go to these neighborhoods, I am greeted with a sense of belonging; a belonging to society and humanity with its true daily struggles. The smiles are genuine. Their hearts clouded and heavy, but simple and pure. The people walk, carry their own bags. They know their baker, butcher and candlestick maker. They are appreciative, and ever so giving. They aren’t afraid to loose because they have nothing to loose. They are the salt of the earth, and you can’t live without salt. 


 

Today I also was in more affluent neighborhoods and places, whether it was the elitist gym of Abdoun, where I took my laptop to work use their free wireless or the mall up the road with all its designer stores. But what took the cake, or chocolate, I would say was the opening of a new chocolate house I went to. This place was full of society men and women, I saw three fur coats, many coiffed heads and the ostentatious atmosphere was all around. What saddened me was I fit right in too. 
 

I traverse time, space, and privilege nearly everyday with the various duties of work, society and family. The contrast I see is widening, it scares me. I walk a middle ground between the two lives but the path is getting narrower and narrower and it is only a matter of time when me and the likes of me will no longer be able to traverse between the two lives seamlessly. When the time comes to choose, I know that I would be happier being among the salt of the earth, because you can’t live with out salt.