lunes, 5 de agosto de 2013

The Lebanese Way

Celebratory gunfire is a concept that someone not from Lebanon wouldn't really get when first introduced to it... 

I initially thought it meant really scary people with AK-47s and covered faces shooting in the air and terrorizing the population and that war was coming very soon.

But then a couple of weeks ago, there were a lot of bangs in the street for a few days. I didn't want to panic so I started my little usual inquiry: I checked my e-mail. And indeed, there was a message from my employer saying, "Celebrations for the end of exams are taking place. Celebratory gunfire shouldn't be discarded. Please remain away from windows."

I looked at my Lebanese colleague and asked: "What do they mean, celebratory gunfire for the exams? Celebratory as in yay-I-passed-celebratory?"

She smiled at me and said " Yeeeesss, people are celebrating the Lebanese way." 

The Lebanese Way. This is a concept even trickier than celebratory gunfire. And an endless source of inspiration, I dare say. 

The Lebanese Way applies to pretty much anything that a foreigner finds odd. And it is sometimes the only way a Lebanese can explain to foreigner why things are the way they are, when all reason fails.

There have been two instances where the Lebanese Way has worked to my advantage, so this is not like a bad thing at all.

The first time this happened was when I got locked out of my apartment on a Saturday night. I called my Landlord and explained the situation, super apologetic (I mean, how could he find a locksmith at that time?). He said "No problem", showed up 10 minutes later munching on pumpkin seeds, and with a huge envelope on hand. He looked at me bright-eyed and said lifting his envelope "I brought my tools" (I was intrigued).

Out of the envelope came an X-ray... of a mammogram (I was very intrigued at that point). He passed the X-Ray between the door and the wall, and "click", the door was open. "This is how we open doors," he said, "the Lebanese Way."

The other time I was saved was when I got stuck in my building's elevator. The power went off when I was inside, and the generator didn't kick in. I started shouting "Ascenseur" because I had no clue how you say “Elevator” or “I am stuck” in Arabic.
I was really, really hot, and it was dark, and I was late for a meeting. I started freaking out (just a little) because in Lebanon it's not like you call 911 and the fire fighters show up. So I was banging the door for 10 minutes when I heard a small voice on the other side say, "Wait, wait just a moment".
I stepped back, heard a metallic sound and the door opened. I found myself not in front of firefighters, but face to face with two young women. They were holding a long metal hook. They then showed me the little hole on the top of the door so next time someone gets stuck, I know what to do. I was very grateful for the Lebanese Way that day.

So in absence of services or of a solid infrastructure, people find solutions. And I must say the Lebanese Way is creative, certainly ingenious, and a little defiant... A rule broken here and bent there, but basita, it's not a big deal, right?  

How about you? Have you ever been saved by the Lebanese Way?

2 comentarios:

  1. Funny. You should tell us about some "Mexican ways" --I'm sure there are similarities!

  2. Thanks Habib. I just wrote a post about some comparisons between Mexico and Lebanon, I hope you enjoy it!