Over the last week my life has suddenly got about three times as busy. I’ve gone from working for Everitte, helping to answer his emails and deal with commissions for his calligraphy, a job which clearly left me with far too much time on my hands – as evidenced by my taking an entire day to shoddily sew one giant pair of trousers out of two perfectly good, reasonably sized pairs:
Far from filling my days with pointless tasks, I now have no time to do necessary tasks, like washing up and eating. On Monday I started two jobs, to accompany my work for Everitte – an internship at the Daily Star, Lebanon’s only printed English language newspaper, and a baby-sitting job for a couple in Gemezzeh with a seven-month-old baby boy.
Pretending to be a real journalist:
The internship is going well, I think. The first couple of days were difficult because I was given a couple of tasks which I finished quite quickly, but the man in charge of taking me on and finding me things to do is head of the Lebanon desk, and consequently has a lot of work to do and no time to spare to oversee what I’m up to. I’ve found myself some more admin jobs I can do to make myself useful though, and wrote my first article for the head of the culture section on Friday. I covered a classical concert at the Grand Serail, the Prime Minister’s headquarters in Beirut, an amazing old Ottoman palace with huge courtyards and fountains and beautiful mosaic walls and carved wooden ceilings. I couldn’t take any photos unfortunately, but it looked a lot like Beitaddine, the President’s summer residence in the mountains.
Learning to be a real baby-sitter:
As for baby-sitting, it is exhausting, but entertaining. Baby Samuele is a joy to be around, constantly laughing and trying to eat my hair, and they also have a dog named Maya, a beautiful pointer who is endlessly patient with him. He lights up with glee and giggles fiendishly whenever he sees her, and attempts to “stroke” her with wildly failing arms which hit her in the ears and eyes, and tiny hands which grab her fur and skin and pull fiercely. While she stands resignedly near him and allows herself to be mauled by his babyish fingers, she is very jealous of all the attention this new addition to the family is receiving, and has developed a habit of pawing at people to get their attention while they are playing with the baby. I sit on his play mat with him in the afternoon and hand him toys to keep him busy – he gets bored with each one after about two minutes, but luckily he has the memory of a goldfish so I can hand him the same toy again two minutes later and he is enthralled all over again. Maya comes and paws at me continuously unless I am constantly stroking her, and even then if she feels I am paying too much attention to Samuele, for example handing him his fifth toy in ten minutes, she will come and stand directly in between me and him, so that she forms a barrier between us so that I can’t see or touch him at all.
Burning Cars in Beirut:
I enjoyed my first day off in a while yesterday (well, I had to write two articles and submit them but at least I could do that from home!) and in the evening I went out to dinner with Everitte and our friend Alex, to a local Italian restaurant. On our way back to his house we suddenly smelled burning oil, and were startled to see a huge fire up ahead of us in the street. A car was blazing in the middle of the road. As we ran up, Alex bravely attempting to make sure no one was stuck inside it, a couple of men came over with extinguishers and manged to kill most of the flames, so that it was left smoking ominously and extremely copiously in the street. I don’t know exactly what happened, but having just read Beat Nomad’s post on seeing her first lemur after six months in Madagascar, when all her friends and family had expected her to see them every day, it occurred to me that maybe this was that moment for me. After four months in Beirut: my first burning car!
(Disclaimer: I know that this is a very tasteless joke and intend no offense!)
The Post Office Saga: Chapter 2
All in all a busy time at the moment but I had a good laugh yesterday when Everitte told me that latest in the endless post office drama. He had nine tubes of work to post out last week, so rather than go to the post office where he has become Public Enemy Number 1, he decided to go to the other local post office, where he is still just about tolerated. Unfortunately, it seems that the drama may be beginning all over again in this new setting, as when he wrote his number on the post office forms the girl asked him if he had a different number, having called him on my number a few weeks ago to talk to him about a problem with postage. He explained that he had a new phone, and she said “Ah yes, last time I called I spoke to your mother… or you sister…?”
He replied: “No, it was my girlfriend”, at which she immediately became very flustered and lowering her voice said to him “Oh, I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I hope I didn’t cause any trouble?”
He assured her that I didn’t mind him receiving business calls from postal workers, and went on his merry way, but I fear this signals the beginning of a new post office soap opera, particularly as she appeared to have learnt his number by heart! Frankly, if he stops being served there too I don’t know what he’ll do. He’s going to have to start taking a taxi to a post office across town – or just referring to me as his sister!