This is the year where people either found a great success as the silver lining of things, or utter failure and disappointment.
In Lebanon, our government took it on itself to give us the latter, no matter how hard we tried to pull ourselves together. Despite our revolution attempt and all the other attempts that followed, we couldn’t cope with the economic crisis and the unrecognized collapsing of the local currency which preceded a worsening state and verified one governmental failure after the other. The cherry on top was the Beirut blast that took place on August 4 at around 6:07 pm.
As some of the Lebanese citizens, and those abroad, we were in a state of shock. Even some international supporters and fans of Lebanon couldn’t but feel empathy for what happened. We were, some still are, unable to focus on our work, or just getting the day by. If we weren’t down with masks and tools, we were nailed to our screens trying to believe what happened is real. We spent weeks trying to pick up the pieces and protest against the government for its failures and, on top of the 2750 ton of ammonium nitrate explosion, they had the audacity to throw tear gas bombs at the protestors and shoot live and rubber bullets at a close range at them.
Immediately after the moment of the explosion, we had to message and call our loved ones and friends to make sure they’re ok and safe. It is a feeling none of us should have experienced and something we would not forget. We are still living the aftermath. If we’re not among the approximately 200 deceased persons, or the 7000+ injured, or the 300,000 displaced, we are left helpless in what we used to call home. Those with foreign passports and a secure high (preferably in dollars) income are still the slogan of resilience and the image of the rising phoenix. But everyone else is done with the phoenix narrative and is finding a way to leave, to the extent that the rafts of death scenario is repeated again. What can we do? We certainly are heading towards hell, as the president predicted.
On top of that, prices are still on a rise, the currency on a low, and still, after 2 months, no one is held accountable. Last month we breathed in what was probably corruption evidence with the huge fire that erupted in the port, burning more food aid and other donated products that was supposed to reach people. We breathes in that smell everyday on our route, and I can’t imagine what it’s like for those living doorless and windowless in those areas.
Positive Coronavirus cases are hitting new records, which are around 10% of the total tests. People don’t seem to abide by masks, hygiene, and social distancing, while I panic silently like it’s the Dawn of the Dead and I’m the only one not bitten yet.
This is a brief summary of what we’re going through.
On a positive note, it was fascinating to see all the people who couldn’t stand still when their government did. We got organized, we dispatched ourselves, we started cleanup, and we started helping people restore their home while giving them meals until their home kitchens are usable again.
The clown group I’m in, Clown Me In, went down and participated in the cleanup and we commissioned our van to collected glass and send it to recycling plants for it to be reused. We gathered volunteers and dispatched them wherever needed and we used the donations we received to buy materials and things people needed to get by.
We also decided it’s time to perform again. After a period of more than 6 months, we finally got back for rehearsals, online first then in person, and prepared for a new show that we performed in 16 areas in Beirut to around 1500 persons. You’d never imagine how laughter is also a need in such tough time, and how hard it is for people to laugh. Yet they did.
We are still helping people around, so if you’d like to donate, here is a link to our campaign:
Personally, I have been trying to find my place in all of this. Going back to rehearsals and clowning in the streets helped me, and us, reclaim my strength and work on getting my energy and will back, and try to be productive again in ways that are helpful now.
The pain won’t go away. But we’ll have to be functional in spite of it. We must not forget, but we still have to earn a living in this failing economy. So here is my attempt, for the past week, to convince myself to find my routine and make myself do things again.
Let’s hope it works.