Lebanon, Akkar – November 2013
If only work resembled to a little piece of paper, with written notes all over it, once done, you shred it and throw it away. Sometimes I wish for this, others I just feel blessed with my job. Journalism is not what we can call a regular job. No; I am not here neither to brag nor to nag about it, I am here to share some thoughts, I am here looking for some solutions, maybe.
Yesterday morning marked my first trip to Akkar for 2013 with my colleague at work. Knowing the type of stories we are there to cover, sometimes a reporter gets carried away and ends up coming back with three stories or even more.
I have been to North Lebanon several times this year, in the good days of Ramadan, and in the bad days of the never-ending Tebbene/Jabal-Mosen clashes, we covered all types of stories. Yesterday however, was what you can describe as a very regular calm day in the Northern city, which was not our destination though.
Our destination was Akkar, and to get to Akkar/Halba, you must pass by Tripoli, and not just any Tripoli: you have to pass by the entrance, all the way to The Abu Ali River and the bridge after, the bridge where many victims where snipped during clashes, a bridge, an area that we were not allowed to get close to only 10 days ago.
YES, we made it that far, and as the car moved, I was watching both myself and the driver astonished by the buildings marked with bullet wholes, burned by fire, that area never got over the Lebanese Civil war, and it has been a while since my last reality check: we might have had the Marathon going on only 5 days ago, but Lebanon is not fine, today Tripoli is calm and I am in a car strolling around Tebbene, Syria Street and Bidawi … However, in a week this might not be possible.
The Fear … The Fear of taking out my camera and snapping one photo took over, weird thoughts starts running through my head: “ what if a sniper saw me? The area is relatively calm now, but why risk it? What if a random bullet broke the car’s glass?”
Our next stop was Beddawi, where I never been before. I sat in the car observing and wondering: what in the world happened here? Everyone looks so tired and poor and unhappy [juvenile ideas, I know]. I wish I took my camera out at that moment, they say that once you lose the chance to photograph a moment that touched you, you loose it and forever regret the loss.
Two kids were strolling by a wide side walk separating the roads of Bedawi, a sidewalk full of empty water bottles, glass and paper … The taller kid was holding on the shoulder of the shorter one who was holding a stick, I never caught their faces, only I observed them from the back as our car passed by avoiding little motorcycle and the chaos around. The boys were obviously engaged in a deep conversation, the short boy slowly moving the stick he had as he played with the empty water bottles scattered on the sidewalk. Quite a moment I tell you.
By 10:30 am we were already in Akkar, and after some short interviews and a Coffee break at the local “fool” restaurant, we headed to meet some Syrian refugees. Keep in mind while reading that we are in one of the self-sufficient areas in Lebanon where the government ‘s aid barely makes it and the security situation hasn’t been so encouraging since the Syrian uprising and the regular shelling of the border towns in Lebanon.
The interviews with the Syrian refugees went on after arriving to a two-floor building where the families were staying. While having some home made coffee and “Matte”, the women shared stories of war, survival, will and sadness.
The women gathered in a room with the kids, no men in sight. Some husbands are detained in Syria, others are injured forced to rest 24/7, and the rest is out looking for work. The women were smiling, the kids were playing around the room quietly, fresh air coming in through the window, they seemed fine yet insisted on going back home [to Syria].
As a journalist, you wrap up your interviews, finish up shooting or taking photos, and you go back home to type down your story. I wish that was the case with me, however it is not that simple. I get attached, emotionally attached to my stories, to the people I meet throughout the journey, I promise them to come back and I always do. We even exchange phone numbers and keep in touch. It is not only about the Refugees, it’s merely about all of the stories, the happy ones, the sad ones.
Some journalists manage to go home and rest, we lie. We constantly lie. Some lie about getting attached to the crisis they cover, when in reality; once they leave they manage to move on with their lives, how I envy them.
While my only concern few days ago was my ruined jacket because of the Chloric liquid that our building janitor decided to toss in the water tanks for hygiene precautions, today I sit here and wonder : how bless are we to even have water while others suffer for the sake of a shower? And how often do we need a reality check or maybe a trip to remind us about how blessed we are and how capable are we of offering help because of that. How often do we take off our masks and sit down with the people and listen, not for the sake of a story, nor a report, but only because we can, because we are in power, we can change, we can write and share what others can’t manage to see while sitting behind their desks comfortably.
As the car made it back to Tripoli for some more interviews, a part of me was still attached to this 25 year old wife, who’s husband was detained in Syria for almost 5 months now, and who’s 4 year old twins had to grow up not only away from home, but away from their father too.