Living in Lebanon almost my whole life, and witnessing every single bomb, assassination, and war ever since – I never understood why Lebanese people abroad are so attached to Lebanon, whether it’s their Lebanese map tattoos, or their patriotic face book posts, their choice of Arabic songs, or their never dying habit of smoking shisha and their eagerness of following our local news more than the locals… I never got it.Whenever a bomb happened and someone abroad shared sad posts telling us what to do, I always felt like “shut up, you’re not here to talk, just go back to your Lala Land”
– Then corona happened, I got stuck away from Lebanon, (something I have always wanted to do, live abroad but never had the guts to do) and I finally got it. I understood how it feels to be away from your land when it needs you the most.
“الجمرة ما بتحرق إلّا محلّها”
When you’re a Lebanese living abroad, you suddenly understand what it means to belong not just to a land, but also to a group of people, to a way of living, to a shared pain, and to a common history. You suddenly miss food you always took for granted, places you passed by every day, and people you thought will stay by you forever.
When you live abroad, you appreciate your Lebanese resilience, adaptation, and pride. We have been through a lot, not just individually but as a nation. We are a flock of phoenixes rising up again and again, stronger and faster each time. We are clowder of cats, throw us anywhere and we will land on our feet each time. We are leaders by nature, with an innate pride. We will work anything perfectly, but don’t mess with our dignity; we would rather die from hunger than get tossed around.
When you’re away, you understand your upbringing. We don’t accept living in lower standards than the ones our parents brought us up to – at least when it comes to cleanliness of the environment. When we’re abroad, we understand that our survival depends on our hard work, we become responsible.
When you’re far and Beirut EXPLODES, you feel guilty, selfish, helpless, and heart broken. You feel guilty because you are safe, because you abandoned your land, because you gave up on it – guilty because you can’t help on the ground, you can’t pick the pieces, and you can’t hug those who hurt. You feel selfish – selfish because you sought comfort from all the pain Lebanon caused us, selfish because you wanted a better future outside your home, selfish because many people wish to be in your place but simply cannot. You feel helpless because no matter what you do, you are far. No matter how you feel, it is nothing close to what it feels in Beirut. No matter what you say, words won’t be enough. Your heart will be shattered, because no matter how adapted you are in your current city, nothing compares to Beirut. You will be heart broken to see your memories being wiped out, your people crying angry and hopeless, and your whole future questionable.
When you leave, you hurt just the same but you must keep going. You can’t take a day off, you cannot weep, curl up in bed, and feel sorry. You must work. You need to survive. Your new city won’t understand your pain. You decided you wanted to live in better conditions. You decided to live in another city, and you must cover your tears, build a wall, hurt from the inside, pretend to be fine from the outside because Lebanese people are the energy ball of the party; they are fun, sociable, and talkative – and your sorry ass won’t ruin that Lebanese stereotype.
So you offer help in any way possible. You donate. You share blogs, news, and posts. You tattoo the Lebanese flag on your arm, you listen to “Raje3 Yet3ammar raji3 Lebnan”, you invite your local friends over for some Lebanese food, you get them hooked on shisha, while keeping MTV Lebanon on in the background and your phone close for the latest news of what’s going on. You tell your Lebanese friends what’s going on in Lebanon and you constantly remind everyone how good HUMMUS is.
And if you stay away for long you eventually die, feeling guilty selfish helpless and heart broken – but #BLESSED that even if it did hurt, it could never hurt as much as those who were in Beirut.