lunes, 15 de noviembre de 2010

Going the distance

If you live in Lebanon for a while you start getting used to the metal barriers.

These metal barriers are the ones that you see for "crowd control" I guess in other parts of the world, but in Lebanon there is usually a guard with some sort of rifle (I am sure it's more like a machine gun) standing next to them.

These barriers are at the entrance of official buildings, all over the place in downtown, in some roads when you drive, on sidewalks, in military posts on highways...

When I just got here I remember not knowing what to do with them: Do you stop? Do you avoid them? Does it mean it's dangerous? Do you ignore them?

After being here for a while, I have gotten used to them, they are just there, dividing areas, separating people, stopping traffic and pedestrians, or keeping "undesirable" people at bay.

Last week, I ran a 10 K race that was part of Beirut's International Marathon. There were thousands of people in this event, and lots of barriers directing the race. The difference this time was that we were all inside of the barriers. It was crowded, believe me. But for the first time I witnessed a true mix of Beirutis of all ages, genders, income levels and religious backgrounds.

That day I realized how separated I had been from everyone. How enclosed life has been since I arrived here. How exclusive I turned these metal barriers, and as a result how I have built mental barriers to justify my separation from the others, to be safe.

That day at the race I was squeezed and pushed, but I also got to see, feel, and laugh with everyone around me. I was uncomfortable, yes, but I wasn't unsafe. It was just a bunch of people standing there, hanging out on a Sunday morning. And the only distance that day was the one we had to run. We were cheering one another, drinking water under the scorching sun, suffering on the uphill together...

I really understood that Beirut is just a city like any other, where a bunch of people live, work, get together, die. This place is not unsafe. I make it unsafe with this distance I place between me and others, with all these barriers in my head.

I think it's time to see beyond them

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