Thursday, August 27, 2009

Birds on a wire

I’m sitting on a balcony right now at Matthieu’s home in Beirut at5 about 6:00am. I’m high on a hill so I can see all of Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea stretching out in the west as far as I can see before the heavy smog envelopes it. I’m in the “Christian” area. Everything is sectioned off. It’s a beautiful city from where I sit, yet full of pain and suffering in each of the segregated areas. The fighting and loss of life throughout the city remains evidenced through the ruins on the hill side and throughout the city.

I’m just sitting here reflected on my day yesterday. I was shovelling some gravel in the “back yard” of the compound. Well, back yard as in a gravel pit with a bit of sewage residue, some tin, and wood with nails. They have plans to make this a playground for the children that would come to the school. It’s a space that is maybe 12 feet by 30 feet. Sewer drain at one end. So a few of us were cleaning up and I finished alone with some gravel levelling using a shovel they had there. Along the side of this area is a wall that is about 4 feet high separating the compound from the rest of the Bedouin camp. I’m working at one end and I finish and turn around and there is about 8 kids from the camp sitting, some standing, on the wall. They are all watching me and laughing and giggling. Being my usual social self with plenty of charisma (NOT), I decided to visit with them for a while.

They were so full of life. They knew a little English because they had attended the school last year. They were all shapes and sizes. Little ones that might have been 2 and older ones that might have been 8. One little guy tried to get me to say “tree” in Arabic. It sounded something like Zeus. They all laughed at my attempt and then they started to throw other words at me, many words coming at me, two or three at a time. I started to laugh and that made it all the funnier for them. It got worse.

(No one is around, just me and the kids and I felt like time had just suspended itself for this moment to continue as long as I would allow it)

Then the little guy that taught me how to say tree also decided to tell me how to say “nose”. I think it was something like miloucah . . . . Yah, no kidding. They laughed, I laughed. I might have even let out the odd giggle, but I was glad no else was there to catch that. Then the usual head, eye, nose, ear, mouth, teeth discussion ensued. I was lost.

One little girl was sitting at the end of the wall. (They are all perched up on the wall like a bunch of birds on a wire. The compound where I was working was off limits to them so they stayed on the wall.) She just sat there smiling through all of the conversation and so I finally worked my way down the wall to speak with her and asked her what her name was. She was maybe 3. She said something that sounded like Helen. But it had something a little extra in it, but no mind, she became Helen to me. The one name that almost made sense to me!

They couldn’t get my name. I don’t know how many times I said Jordan. I found out later that if I would have dropped the “J” they would have instantly got it because they pronounce the Jordan River and the country without the “J”.

Matthieu showed up a little later to kick start time again and ran back to get the video camera. He returned and caught a few moments. Perhaps someday you might get a glimpse of my time with these kids if the video makes it back home.

My heart was lifted and I headed for home that night with a smile and a great memory.


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