“We were home. How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on?”

Fred Bteich
4 min readApr 6, 2022

Another trip to the motherland.

8 months after a scorching summer, during which the country had just commemorated one of its ugliest nightmares.

8 months after I last saw Joelle, Nader, Dayana, Josiane, Yorgui, Mira, Georges, Amale, Youmna, Rachelle, Rana, and Joey.

8 months after experiencing the electricity cuts, the medicine shortages, the long queues at the petrol stations, and using the 1,000 and 5,000 bills for the last time.

Why am I doing this? Why do I bother returning? I asked myself the question so many times.

And even before obtaining an answer, I found myself again in Mordor, fighting this time around the freezing temperatures of the boiling, forgotten city of Beirut, that has decided this year to skip Spring.

“We were home. How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on?”
The Lord of the Rings — The Return of the King

The return to one of the most dreaded places on earth at the moment had to happen. For there were still, somehow, in this small piece of land, far too many precious lives and little things to tend to.

It doesn’t take you much, however, to realize that during this short period of time, too many planes have departed, too many shelves have been emptied, and too many doors have been closed.

Eating in Lebanon has now become a luxury. Except for those who are fed with fresh dollars from any foreign source. Many have forgotten what some of the basic dishes and ingredients taste like.

Shopping in Lebanon has now become a luxury. Except for those who are fed with fresh dollars from any foreign source. Many have been recycling their clothes for Christmas, weddings, and soon enough Chaaniné, Easter, and Eid Al Fitr.

Driving in Lebanon has now become a luxury. Except for those who are fed with fresh dollars from any foreign source. Many have been skipping work or carpooling in order to save some fuel. The queues have certainly gotten way better than last summer, not because we have abundant quantities of petrol now, but rather because it is not affordable anymore.

Studying in Lebanon has now become a luxury. Except for those who are fed with fresh dollars from any foreign source. Many have not even enrolled their children in schools, and others have stopped their dream majors after universities’ tuition fees skyrocketed.

Getting treated in Lebanon has now become a luxury. Except for those who are fed with fresh dollars from any foreign source. Many hospital bills are left unsettled, surgeries undone and health conditions untreated because of a lack of medical equipment, personnel, and drug shortages. COVID19 and masks have long been forgotten here, in a society that has barely been vaccinated, with hordes of syringes expiring, plenty of cases going unnoticed and hospital admissions almost impossible.

Ironically, the only thing that has gotten better with the inflation, are the prices of the telecommunications’ sector. We became all of a sudden one of the cheapest countries in the world when it comes to phone and internet bills. Benefit from that while it lasts. You still have two months to do so.

While all of this is happening, I remain flabbergasted at the rate at which people party, frequent restaurants, and go on trips. It’s as if they are adamant to spend what’s left of the banknotes they can put their hands on, to pump some energy into their dying, non-rechargeable batteries. And they are fully aware of that. They know that what’s coming next is bad. They know that the May elections will be hijacked. They know that Summer will be sweltering and Winter will be glacial. They know that their beloved ones will reduce their trips here, while they don’t even have the chance to go out of the country anymore. They know that when the internet and phone bills will soar in June, there will be nothing left. They know in a nutshell that they are on life-support, and it’s only a matter of time for them to be cut off the respirators.

8 months later, I still came back. For my family, and what’s left of my friends. I was a fool to do so but would have been dumber not to have done so. Who wouldn’t visit their loved ones in prison? A prison that is holding captive so many innocent lives awaiting a judgment that will never come. Who wouldn’t curiously pass by to check the pulse of the country one last time? After all, I don’t think many would not say no to a comeback if ever miraculously everything gets sorted out somehow. But we are far from there now. Miles away.

8 months later, things couldn’t be more chaotic in my head as I roam the not-very empty streets of Beirut, witnessing a Venezuela in the making while we tap cards to pay elsewhere, crossing anarchic roundabouts with no electricity or dysfunctional traffic lights that flash in all colors, and even coming across chocolate boxes we used to devour every day of our past lives, lingering on sidewalks alongside political slogans and faces, looking for a customer. And despite the box screaming “Tarbouch”, we knew deep inside that we would always read it with the same racist, sexist, arrogant tone of a people that used to treat everybody like slaves, and that are getting today, after all they’ve indulged their selves with, a taste of their own medicine abroad: عبيد in Europe, the Gulf countries and even the ones from which we used to bring, back in our golden days, our honorable domestic workers.

--

--