Sofia, Maria and family recently celebrated Fathers Day, and the arrival of Maria’s first tooth! Next week, Maria will celebrate her first birthday. As followers can see in the below photos, Sofia & Maria look like most young sisters the world over, oblivious to the world around them. And thankfully, oblivious to the troubles around them at present, which are manifold in their passport homeland of Lebanon.
Previous posts in MB blog chronicle of the lives of Sofia & Maria as they grow up in their Middle East homeland:
2. 1st Birthday
3. Feast of St Barbara
4. Sofia is 2!
5. Sofia’s got a sister – Welcome Baby Maria
6. Sofia & Maria – Birthday Time.
The explosion in Beirut’s port district this week wiped out the entire immediate area and has caused massive damage throughout the greater city area. Some 160 people are dead, more than 4,000 are injured and some 300,000 are homeless as a result. It was, as many followers will know, one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history and was heard as far away as Cyprus. The immediate cause was 2,750 kg of ammonium nitrate stored, unbelievably, for the last six years in a port warehouse. The bigger cause is a combination of stupidity and incompetence, and probably corruption. External actors are also being investigated, which seems to be an attempt at distraction by the Government, who never consider themselves responsible for any of the countries failures.
An aunt of Sofia and Maria was in that port district some 30 minutes before the blast but thankfully was far enough away when it happened. A young engineer working for the same company as MB was unfortunately killed when a ceiling collapsed on top of him. MB works mainly with Lebanese people in Qatar, and many have stories to tell of damaged homes and injured family or friends back home.
All of the above comes on top of a collapsed economy, intermittent electricity supplies, a bank system that has stolen most of the savings of its citizens through stealthy directives resulting in depositors being unable to withdraw money from their accounts. And in recent weeks the corona numbers have started to spike. Wallahy, is there no end to the misery and pain of the Lebanese.
A Lebanese friend told MB a story in recent days which, in MB’s opinion, sums up the Lebanon of the last twenty to thirty years. Corruption is rampant at all levels. The following story tells of high level corruption. But if residents needs any governmental service, business license, driving license, then hard cash needs to be included within the application paperwork. Another Lebanese friend told MB this week that he doesn’t blame the politicians, as the entire country is corrupt. A bit harsh perhaps, but MB understands the sentiments.
Uncle of MB Lebanese friend of friend retired to his south Lebanese homeland, having worked hard and made some retirement money in Africa during his working life. His plan was to build a new factory to produce orange juice. It would use oranges from nearby orchards, and provide factory and logistics employment for some 50 to 60 people. Having received his permits for the factory construction and juice production, he received a phone call from a representative of the famous wife of a famous long term South Lebanese politician. He was informed that 50% of the factory would be in the ownership of said wife, and 100 employees were already selected to work in the factory, no doubt from the local families of political supporters.
Uncle duly informed the caller that 100 employees were not required as the factory was mostly automated. But moreover uncle had no desire to hand over 50% of his business for free to said ‘wife’, or at all. He would proceed alone and requested the caller to get lost and please pass on the same message to ‘wife’.
Within one week the building and factory permits were cancelled, without reason. But obviously ‘uncle’ understood what had happened. He announced to his family that he did not wish to live his retirement years in Lebanon, nor even to be buried in his native homeland. He would return to Africa to retire and die. And that is exactly what happened. He was buried in Africa a number of years later.
So that south Lebanese village lost a new business, 60 new jobs that would have supported local families, and sales income for the local orchards. The story of Lebanon on a greater scale of recent decades miniaturised into the story of a small orange juice factory in South Lebanon.
And what of the future for Sofia and Maria. Their smiles give hope. But increasingly, MB hears from Lebanese friends that they will never return to their homelands during their working lives, and neither will their children. The question most Lebanese friends have asked of MB in recent years is how they can procure a passport of convenience that will allow residence and a life in another country.
Best wishes for a better future from MB to mom and dad R&E, and daughters Sofia and Maria. Thanks to Mom R for the pics.
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