jueves, 20 de enero de 2011

Being afraid is a very bad habit

I am sure most of you have read something about the political situation in Lebanon. From a governance, historical, political, and social point of view, what we are witnessing in Lebanon is just reaching levels of complexity that few fully understand.

But I am not here to do a situation analysis. The environment in the streets is tense for sure. There are tanks in the corners of the streets, we get security briefings at the office, friends and family send e-mails to check (rightfully so, after reading the news) if we are safe.

We are safe. We are safe. We are safe.

But what is this concept, being safe? What does it mean?

Most of us have it that being safe is a result of circumstances. We are little kids in a confined privileged bubble, where no one can harm us. And we pray no one will come and shatter our safety illusion. Yes, safety is an illusion. Safety is nothing more than a simple illusion of control over our environment, and a way of separating ourselves from others who are "unsafe".
Just ask yourself: Do you feel safe among people who look like you, and unsafe among people who don't? Do you feel safe in familiar environments and unsafe in new territories?

You could argue "But everyone is saying Lebanon (or Mexico for that matter) is unsafe". How can I feel safe in a place where everyone thinks is unsafe?
Well, we can choose to be safe. We can hear all the rumors, gossip and feel the fear and still make a conscious choice of being safe. It is a choice.

The easiest thing we can do right now is being afraid. It is so easy to be afraid. And it is also very easy to be controlled when we are afraid. Do we want to be agents of fear in this world or agents of peace? Because as I can choose to be safe, I can also choose to be peaceful. I can quit that bad habit on mine, of being afraid of others. I can just choose to be OK.

What is this situation in Lebanon, in Mexico, in Tunisia, in Iraq, or in Afghanistan other that one group being afraid of another group?

By the way, I am not minimizing the ability of one person to harm another one. I am not either advocating for putting ourselves in harm's way. I am just saying, let us think clearly, with our eyes open, our feet on the ground, our brain alert, our heart open. This is no time in the world to be afraid and isolated in a cocoon of safety. This is no time to go to our corner and hope that someone "in power" will make it OK.

With our individual actions, we can do something in our everyday lives that will contribute to world's peace. We can smile, be kind, be tolerant, be humble, be willing to learn, be willing to talk to someone who makes us uncomfortable or angry, be willing to give up our right to be right.

I invite us all to take action. A loving, fun or kind action. In Lebanon, in Mexico, in Iraq, everywhere. And to make a resolution of quitting our fear habit. Being afraid is a terrible habit. Why don't we just get used to be safe and peaceful instead? Let's do it everyday, especially today.

jueves, 13 de enero de 2011

Lebanese Top Cat

I know that everyone must be waiting for a political analysis of what is going on in Lebanon right now. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I do too much of that at work. Today, as I was wondering what to write on my blog, a kitten crossed my path with a French fry on his mouth. It was a sign (and the cutest thing I have seen)! So today’s topic is: Beirut’s cats.

You know how some cities are full of street dogs? Not here. Beirut is full of street cats.
As a matter of fact, in the corner of our house, there are a 3 or 4 green dumpsters where a bunch of cats live in. It’s something like the Lebanese version of Top Cat, that cartoon from the late 70s. In Mexico, we had a far better name for that show, “Don Gato y Su Pandilla”, and it was my absolute favorite.

I have taken upon myself the task of giving names to these cats, since they are - after all- our neighbors and deserve all our respect. So there’s Moustache (a cat with a little black line under his nose), the Blondies (a yellow cat and her 3 kittens), Cinnamon Roll (another yellow/brown cat with crazy circular lines, probably the father), Crasher (a black cat that sleeps inside of our building) and the grey cat that has no name (and whom we thought was a house cat and used to pet him, until we realized that we couldn’t see the dumpster dirt on him because he is grey).

They are pretty good neighbors, since they take care of mice and mind their own business. However, at some point they can be very loud, when they fight or when they, hum, fight in a different way, so then it gets pretty annoying.

The American University of Beirut, or AUB as it is known here, hosts a LOT of cats. It’s actually pretty cool, you have this awesome campus, with wonderful gardens, a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea, and loads of lazy cats. They live on campus and make you understand that they were there first. If you want to sit on a bench and there is a cat there already, you can forget it, it won’t move. As a matter of fact AUB launched recently a 2011 calendar to raise awareness and support the welfare of campus’ cats. Very cool.

We usually don’t think of animals as victims of war. But after the war in Lebanon, there were several efforts to take care of street and abandoned animals. One worth mentioning was an initiative in 2006 to send close to 300 cats and dogs for treatment and adoption to the US.
There are sadder chapters on this topic, and barbarism towards animals is still present in Lebanon. However, there are several agencies that take care and advocate for animals as well.

I personally think the cats in my streets are the cutest thing. I can't keep a straight face when I walk pass them and they are fighting to death with a plastic bag. I just wish I could take them all home with me...

domingo, 9 de enero de 2011

It's electrifying!!!

I remember back in the 80s when I lived in Mexico City, power would sometimes be out for a couple of hours when there were bad thunderstorms. I have actually great memories of those days when at home we would take the candles out, and play cards with my Grandma and Mum until the power came back. Nowadays this is fairly uncommon though.

In Lebanon, however, power cuts are an everyday occurrence. And they are actually quite organized. Each day, power is out for 3 hours, scheduled ahead of time, and the time of the cut varies everyday. As a matter of fact, I have a neat excel spreadsheet on my fridge that tells me everyday from when to when I can't count on having electricity at home. And for those 3 hours, when the power is out, people buy the services of a generator that kicks in as the power goes out and lasts for the time when there's no electricity.

The problem is that when the generator is on, you can't operate as if you had electricity at full capacity. You have to be careful not to blow a fuse by, for instance, drying your hair while having the AC on, or having the TV, the toaster and the iron on at the same time. And you have electricity in you apartment, but when you live in the 6th floor and the elevator is out, you really don't want to get to your place with bags full of groceries...

We have a friend who is a professional who depends on electricity for a living, so he has a generator for his generator in case the first one goes out!

But not everything is lost... With some Lebanese creativity, like in this photo, it is possible to get electricity from somewhere else...

Can you imagine being an electrician and trying to figure this one out?

What I have heard is that in Beirut you loose 3 hours of electricity but in other places in Lebanon the power goes out for much longer periods of time.
So from time to time, we hear on the news that groups of people burn tires on the roads to protest the lack of electrical power in their villages.

At a party last night someone was talking about a 4 year plan that Lebanese Cabinet approved last year to boost the electric capacity of the country, and to supply a more sustainable service. However, the different groups in government haven't agreed on the plan's implementation, so it is likely to be delayed...

Playing cards at candlelight can be fun when you are a kid... But having no electricty everyday can really be a nuisance at best and a business hinderance at worst. Let's really hope that this plan gets implemented, for the benefit of everyone in Lebanon.