Posted on March 25, 2021
Seems like only yesterday when MB wrote the story of Sofia’s birth.
Two or so years later, baby sister Maria arrived. And two years later again, four years since he started, MB now finds himself sitting down to write the next installment.
And so, the chronicles of Sofia & Maria continue.
Recently S&M celebrated Valentine’s Day with mom & dad R&E in Doha, Qatar, where R&E reside and work. Sofie’s 4th birthday took place on 10 February just past, and as ever, artistic mom R didn’t spare any effort for either occasion. As followers can see from mom R’s pics below, these two young ladies are growing up fast for sure.
However, whilst the family thrive and prosper in Qatar, their Lebanese homeland has all but collapsed economically, particulary in the last six months, and event more particularly in recent weeks. Ominously, according to many Lebanese friends on MB, the worst may be yet to come. The currency has lost 90% of its value against the dollar in the last year (and its still sliding), the banking system has lost the confidence of the people (with very good reason), prices of food and life’s other staples have sky-rocketed, and more than 50% on the population now lives in proverty. Crime levels, understandably, are rising. People with little savings, most of the population actually, are in dire straights. In a country that was once referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Mediterranian’, chronic unemployment, and even hunger, now stalk the land.
MB had a meeting with a client earlier this week. Lebanese national Walid. Walid informed MB that in 30 years on employment (mostly in Qatar), his reasonably well-paid wife had managed to save USD 400,000.00. Each month she would religiously send home her monthly savings to her bank account in Beirut. About two years back, at the suggestion of her bank, she converted her entire dollar savings into a local Lebanese pounds account. The Lebanese pound accounts were paying double the interest rate of the dollar accounts at that time, so it seemed appealing. Two years later, his wifes USD 400k is worth USD 40k – 90% of her life savings have disappeared. He has a similar tale to tell, but MB will not tell it as it,lest he depress readers too much. Sadly, the tale of Walid & his wife is replicated through hundreds of thousands of other ‘Walids’ and other ‘wives’.
MB works with many Lebanese. Most have now given up the ghost of ever returning to their homeland to work. That possibility may now not even exist for their young children. Sadly. Comparisons with Venezuala are often mentioned.
Sofia and Maria, thankfully, have many years to go before career decisions will need to be made. Let’s hope for better times for both of them, come that time.
Thanks to mom R for the following pics:
Posted on July 18, 2015
The Swiss make the best watches in the world and have developed a country that is nigh on perfect. Everything works. With clockwork precision. But do they know their salt from their pepper? Seemingly not.
MB had occasion a few days back to travel to Geneva for a work-related meeting. He decided to extend his stay for a few days on account of the Eid public holiday in his Middle East abode. Morning Nr 1 arrived and MB headed to the hotel restaurant for his first Swiss breakfast.
All was as expected. Perfect food and perfect plates and all-round general perfectness. MB stacked up his plate with hot breakfast goodies, fresh breads, Swiss cheese and a lot more besides. He made his way to the perfectly set out tables with their perfect tableware and perfect coloured napkins in the perfectly decorated dining area.
Now MB never uses salt on his food. But he is a total pepper addict. So he selected the multi-holed pepper cellar and started to shake. Suddenly, and horrifyingly, thousands of grains of salt appeared from all 5 orifices of the pepper cellar, covering MB’s formerly perfect breakfast with a colouring of snowy white.
WTF and la grande merde, thought MB, as the sudden unexpected lack of perfectness hit MB like a punch from a heavyweight. “Au secour, au secour, merde, merde” shouted MB loudly (remembering some school French) in desperation – MB was in the French-speaking part of Switzerland after all, and was sure that the French speaking staff would immediately jump in with some salt hoovers designed by Rolex or one of the other famous local watch makers, on hearing MB’s ‘au secour’.
But nothing happened. The Swiss staff continued as if no international incident had just taken place at the corner table by the window. MB looked around to see if any staff members were from 2nd or 3rd world countries, and upon whom one could possibly place the entire blame for the salt cellar fiasco. None were evident. All staff members were from the sole member country of the 1st world – Switzerland.
Deciding to investigate further, MB then grabbed the single orrifice ‘salt cellar’. He shook it slowly and gently over his food, lest he add to the salt mountain already covering his scrambled eggs and schnitzel. But lo & behold, only the most welcome pepper appeared from the ‘salt cellar’ spout. Swiss wonders will never cease, thought MB sarcastically to himself, as he grabbed a nearby snow shovel to remove the offending salt from his plate. On finishing, some extra coffee was called for, to wash the slight salty residue from the mouth of MB. To teach the Swiss a lesson, MB decided to say nothing of what had happened, and to just allow the entire country to remain and wallow in salt/pepper/cellar ignorance. “And how was your breakfast Monsieur?” asked one of the Swiss staff as MB departed. “Perfect” replied MB.
In the days that followed MB saw much impressive Swiss know-how and Swiss technology at work. He visited the museum of Patek Philippe, the Nr 1 watch maker in the world & saw watches and clocks of incredible precision from olden days right up to current times. He was extremely impressed by a Swiss drinks vending machine he encountered. In 2nd and 3rd world countries all vending machines have a screw mechanism that turns to spit out the selected drink bottle. It drops with a bang onto a tray at the bottom and explodes on opening. The 1st world Swiss variety features a mechanical arm that appears from nowhere, grabs the selected drink and places it gently in a side compartment of the machine, which then opens automatically, allowing MB to remove the perfect undamaged bottle of drink through the perfectly sized opening.
MB traveled on Swiss trains. They arrive and depart as if set to some atomic clock. There is no shaking from side to side as trains do in other countries, as they glide silently along perfectly aligned tracks. MB used the free wifi in many public places and it always worked perfectly. No passwords required. Just click and away you go. Just for fun MB asked staff members on a few occasions if the internet speed was ok, upon entering a cafe or other such place. The Swiss staff looked quizzically at MB, wondering from which planet he had just arrived. Did he not know that he was in Switzerland and such questions do not need asking. “But they politely responded, after initial hesitancy, “mais oui Monsieur, c’est tres bon et magnifique”.
So all in all MB can confirm that Switzerland lives up to it’s reputation. It’s extremely neat and tidy. The scenery is stunning. The wealth is bulging from the doors of the overstuffed banks, pursuant to much confiscation of deposits from 2nd and 3rd world crooks, who have discovered to their cost the true purpose of Swiss banking laws.
But it is neither the high-tech, nor the neatness nor the perfection nor the wealth that MB will most remember. He will first and foremost think of the salt and the pepper – and laugh forevermore in secret at the Swiss. Hahaha…………….!