Ms. Roula Azar-Douglas’ latest novel entitled «Le Jour où le soleil ne s’est pas levé» is among the five finalists of the prestigious «Prix Hors Concours»; as chosen by 437 French high school students!
This book, which is a beautiful novel about life and
death, is a delight to read.
Regardless of the outcome of this prize competition, Bambi is proud of her sister!
Bambi does not even wish it to happen in a broken
country like Lebanon because it would make the Government more pervasive.
History has proved it over and over in many different parts
of our world: communism does not work. It does not yield neither justice nor
Plus, we are already a bit too socialist in our economic
approach in Canada. So why are we promoting dependence ideas on the Government
like that instead of encouraging entrepreneurship and business creation?
FIRST picture (published in the An Nahar on January 7, 2020):
The ad in the above picture reads as: *Remove your
dirty hands off the justice system”.
This demonstration took place yesterday, January 6,
2020 in the streets of Beirut. Other actions also occurred in front of Governmental
institutions, including two telecommunication entities, and banks as well as
the Lebanese University (asking for its independence).
Bambi salutes the courage of these people (against all
odds…). When the legal system of any jurisdiction is too dependent on any powerful
political force and/or corrupt entity, we can say good-bye to the realistic hope
for a healthy democracy. Luckily, there seems to be a slight yet realistic hope
for a change in the legal sector there, it seems. Indeed, Lebanon has many
talented professionals. What a shame not to benefit from their reformist and/or
Second picture (also published in the An Nahar on January 7, 2020):
For Bambi, this picture is hard to look at for several
reasons: (1) It represents an elderly man with a deep sad look in his eyes. Because
he is Lebanese, this man could have been Bambi’s own dad or uncle, who knows? Bambi
feels for his sad expression of feelings. His picture was taken in the Memorial
service, organized by the Lebanese Hezbollah last Sunday, for the Irani General
Suleimani who was recently killed by the Americans in Irak; (2) The second sad reason
is when Bambi stops to imagine the personal story of this man? Why is he that
attached to the killed general? Was he himself a fighter with the Hezbollah in
his youth? Or did he lose a child in Syria where the Hezbollah went to war
behind the back of the Lebanese Government, so to speak? Or is he simply a man
of his context and time… or, is he simply too brainwashed by a fanatic religious
ideology?; (3) Last but not least, perhaps the saddest part is what this man is
wearing on his head. On the yellow flag of the Hezbollah, it is written: “Death
to America”, a slogan the Iranian regime has always loved to repeat for years
(of course now more than ever).
The tragedy here is that this man is Lebanese, not Iranian. The picture was taken in Beirut, no Tehran… Next to this man, there were probably hundreds of other men, women, children, wearing the same bandana with the same slogan.
Today, Bambi read in the same newspaper that the
President of Lebanon, Mr. Michel Aoun, wants to ensure that Lebanon will remain
out of the USA-Iran conflict. Noble intention? Likely but how can this
realistically happen when people (including him) know who is in charge, not
just in the country but in the whole region?
Plus, will any Lebanese strategy resemble its older official
policy (of neutrality) a few years ago when the Syrian war started? Plus, how
could Lebanon be truly protected, if external forces decide otherwise, and/or when
a (large?) part of its population wears the same bandana as the elderly man in
the picture above. They sadly wear it not just on their head, but more
alarmingly, they hide their own eyes with it, following what their leaders tell
them to do.
With this regard, when Bambi recently visited Lebanon,
she met with a childhood school friend (after 30 years!). The friend reminded
her of a story that she has forgotten about herself: Bambi was the delegate of
the class and it was civil war times back then. When militiamen came to force high
school students, of all the nearby institutions, to go applaud to a certain
politician, Bambi stood up and firmly said: “We are not sheep and we are not going
with you!”. Sadly, the heavily armed men decided otherwise in the end. All the
students of all the schools walked out of their schools to attend the event in
question… except Bambi herself. Well, she went to hide in the washroom to avoid
being forced to go applaud to the politician in question ?.
On this rather now amusing note, Bambi hopes that
people will open their eyes to see matters critically and to take a look at the
whole picture, before jumping into conclusions… and filling their hearts with
It is always sad to see the ghost of war overshadowing the Middle East.
It is even sadder (and quite worrisome) to see Lebanon, once again, at
risk of being held hostage in a regional saga, this time between the USA and
Bambi can only imagine the sorrow of Mr. Nasrallah who lost a mentor and a
boss… but why should the picture of a foreigner (i.e., Iranian) general be put
on a billboard on the road to/from the airport of another sovereign country?
Today, more than ever, the issues of the Middle East appear to be made of iron and blood, instead of recyclable plastic.
Ironically (and sadly for France), Bambi’s trip back home from Beirut’s airport, via Paris and Montreal, was finally safer than her stop in Paris Charles De Gaulle airport where there has been a false security threat. Beirut airport police or security staff seemed in a happier New Year mood, joking with passengers, than at Charles De Gaulle airport, Bambi immediately noticed. She then quickly understood why. Luckily, this terrorist threat was a false alarm. Even if turned out to be fake, it resulted in an evacuation and unfortunate delays to many passengers.
Talking about delays, Bambi would like to salute the professionalism and thoughtfulness of the Air Canada pilot (whose name she unfortunately cannot recall). He kindly took the time to come personally to the gate to update passengers, to reassure them, and inform them that they will bring us safely and smoothly to Montreal, despite the delay that was beyond their control (and for which he even kindly apologized). He tirelessly repeated the same information to groups of passengers and took the time to answer each question.
Indeed, the trip was smooth with an excellent service, both on board and on the ground. Bambi’s luggage did not make it to Canada with her (at least, she made it :)). However, an hour upon her arrival, she received an SMS from Air Canada that her luggage was located. In less than 10 hours, she received a call from the local delivery service. The luggage made it to Sackville within an hour later. How efficient!
Now, to come back to the purpose of this post, Bambi would like to say that on two opportunities she felt like being Greta T. whilst visiting Beirut. She once even slept with sadness in her heart, thinking about how her birth country does not have the opportunity to recycle its waste materials like Canada and the rest of the world, even in 2020! She then told herself: OK calm down Bambi, Lebanon has now much more serious issues than that one.
She is saying all this whilst saluting everyone’s personal and community efforts. For instance, Bambi’s mom has been walking in her Beirut neighbourhood for over a decade now, using the beautiful handmade tissue gift bags of the Sackville Craft Gallery to shop her groceries from the nearby stores.
Another significant and symbolic example is the cleaning/recycling
efforts of the Lebanese people in the revolt squares in downtown Beirut (https://tinyurl.com/rtl5wee).
Mind you, Lebanese grocery stores are now considering imposing a price on plastic bags. With the economic crisis, Bambi wonders if it could help better to proceed by offering a small discount for customers who bring their own recycling bags. This being said, Bambi hopes this effort would be more successful than the country’s bill 174, prohibiting smoking in restaurants and other public places.
Yes, despite personal initiatives here and there, there
is no governmental successful recycling efforts of garbage in Lebanon. Their government
only knows how to endlessly recycle its same corrupt political leaders and problems.
What would Greta T. say if she visits Lebanon one day?
Will she be sad like Bambi?
Well, in a small yet symbolic (apparently silly?) gesture, Bambi did not throw her Tylenol plastic box in Beirut. She carried it in her luggage all the way in order to recycle it in Sackville.
Will this gesture make any significant difference? Of course not, unless others also do so. It is a friendly wink to both our beautiful planet and to Greta T. whom Bambi is far from sanctifying, as others do. She rather simply prefers to respect her, saluting her noble passions, obsessions, and immense talent. This allows Bambi to keep a critical eye on a global movement that sadly appears to be using both her passions and obsessions.
Regardless of her personal opinion above, Bambi has learned from Greta T. to act according to her values in this Tylenol example. For this, she thanks her wholeheartedly!
During her long trip back to Canada (three airplanes), she had enough time to have another thought for Greta T. This time, she thought to herself: Too bad for Greta to be missing out on the pleasures of flying. Bambi is saying so because she enjoys such long trips in which she catches up on movies and works efficiently. She also makes sure to have long enough transit time in order not to rush herself; even wild deer take care of their well-being. She uses her time in airports to work and to also enjoy herself. Perhaps packing is the single aspect of travelling she likes the least. She sometimes jokes, saying that the most fun trip in life would be the last one. Why? Because when we die, we travel without luggage ?.
Seriously, to end this post on a happier note, Bambi would like to thank the brilliant human invention of airplanes. Like million of other folks, Bambi can jump across continents to hug her loved ones (and ship small empty Tylenol boxes).
Safe travels to everyone, whether they use quad bikes, cars, boats, trains, airplanes, or what have you. Happy 2020 to all!
Some demonstrators came from as far as Australia and North America (including the USA and Canada). Many others were from European countries or Arab ones.
Bambi did not walk with them. She had no clue about all this. Plus, she has promised her “dear” spouse to behave, even if it is hard for a wild “deer” not to jump from places to places.
Anyhow, she salutes their gesture of solidarity. They
even walked under the rain to show their support to their fellow Lebanese citizens
who have been demanding their politicians to step down.
The people of Lebanon have shown a remarkable courage in their continuous peaceful activism; even if some have been temporarily arrested. More alarmingly, a few have been wildly beaten by thugs (mainly on their heads!). Between hope and at times despair, they refuse to give up. They only have their voices (nothing else to lose).
It is indeed heart-breaking to witness the consequences
of the public Lebanese debt crisis. It is simply a national tragedy. It follows
years of shameless systemic corruption, coupled with an ongoing power struggle.
After years of apathy, the Lebanese people woke up on
October 17, 2019.
Sadly, thus far, their politicians have been ignoring
them, to say the least. They live on a different planet, it seems. Perhaps they
are too busy with their own political agenda or… their uselessness.
Some rumours circulated that some politicians managed
to transfer (stolen?) public money abroad. Is this accurate? Is this fake news?
Will anyone care to investigate?
If this is true, it would be totally insulting and unfair to the citizens who cannot access their own savings or transfer them, as needed.
In the meantime, Lebanon is sinking further into its
worse economic crisis.
As a conclusion to this post, Bambi has one prayer in her heart: May 2020 bring new hope to this beautiful country. It deserves better days than all this!
In the video below, the Premier of Manitoba, Mr. Pallister,
criticized Québec for its bill 21 on secularism:
Mr. Pallister invited Canadians to express themselves, whether they are against or even for Bill 21, to use his own words.
Well, as a Canadian deer, Bambi listened. She would like to express herself again on this topic. She is for Bill 21. Of course, it would have been ideal if we did not have to resort to such bills in life. However, this is not the reality of our world.
Just to clarify, Bambi is not for this bill for the
sake of being (blindly) for it. Once again, it took her time to digest and endorse
all the facets of the bill (i.e., the part related to the public education
Bill 21 is made by Québec for Québec. Why can’t people
or politicians understand and respect this?
Clearly in her mind, Bambi is for Québec’s own sovereignty,
as a Canadian province; not any one as it is one of the founders of our great
and beloved Canada!
Québec had the courage of having a 10-year-old debate
about “reasonable accommodations” (including unreasonable ones)”. Even
it has been partly controversial in Montreal, Québeckers made the choice of secularism,
as a society, and they elected the current government, with a majority of seats.
It is insulting not to respect the will of a nation, which is perhaps one of the rare contemporary ones to sill have a healthy national pride.
Why can’t some people understand that there are cultural differences in the conceptualization of secularism? Why do they understand, or at least pretend to understand, all the other cultural differences—but this particular one?
Mr. Pallister states that he is worried about the human
rights of minorities? What about his own minority groups (French-speaking Manitobans,
First nations, etc.)?
Well, last time Bambi checked, “nearly 5,500 homes on Manitoba First Nations houses either needed major renovations or needed to be replaced”, according to data provided by “Indigenous Services Canada” and reported by the CBC on February 6, 2019 (http://tiny.cc/d712hz). Maybe Mr. Pallister’s energy should be focused locally instead of minding Québec’s internal affairs?
As a conclusion to this post, and as an indirect, more articulate reply to Mr. Pallister, Bambi would like to share a translation of an article by Mr. Mathieu Bock-Côté (Journal de Montréal; https://tinyurl.com/tpetkp8):
of Québec pride
It is never easy to write the history of a nation in real time. What seems to be of critical importance to us today may be considered trivial tomorrow. Conversely, events that seem insignificant today may later be considered as being essential.
We are never fully aware of the historic moment we are experiencing.
However, sometimes, deep inside, we are convinced that something has just happened and that we have just taken a step further.
This is what happened in Quebec in 2019. After nearly 25 years of post-referendum lethargy, Québec nationalism has returned to the heart of our political life. Its recomposition had been visible for a long time, however.
Since the crisis of reasonable accommodation, Québec has been engaged in a major reflection on the refoundation of its collective identity. The media were generally unfavorable. Those who did not repeat the song of the happy diversity, like parrots, were considered as having a mean, retrograde mindset.
Over the years, it is the idea of secularism that has imposed itself. Through it, Québeckers expressed a fundamental value. They also found a way to finally extricate themselves from the Canadian multiculturalism by laying the foundations of their own integration model, remembering that one could not really integrate into Québec without integrating into the historic French-speaking majority.
For more than a decade, Québeckers have debated this issue, but have never been able to achieve anything politically. It must be said that the Liberal government [Mr. Bock-Côté is likely referring to the provincial Liberal party] turned against its own people, which it despised.
The government of François Legault’s Bill 21, brought by Simon Jolin-Barette, represents, from this point of view, more than a bill on secularism. It is a symbol of national affirmation. Québeckers said it once again: Masters in our own house!
Make no mistake: if the government is still on a honeymoon with Québeckers, it is less so for its management than because it has been able to fulfill a fundamental identity aspiration. By giving us our first great collective victory in 25 years, it has been able to revive the pride of a nation wounded by history. He should now let us know what will follow.
But this saga is not over. In some English-Canadian newspapers, columnists who openly cultivate a form of anti-Québec racism, if you allow me this expression, accuses us of ethnic supremacism. The judges are openly wondering how to bring down Bill 21. In English Canada, there is a defamation campaign against Québec.
Québeckers are rediscovering the following: it is sufficient for our people to assert themselves to be hated. Anti-Québec hatred is alive.
Sooner or later, it is necessary to know it, the Legault government will have to defend Bill 21. It will have to do it firmly, without false moderation. I am inclined to believe that it will be up to the task.
This will confirm that 2019 was not just a good year in our political life, but it was also the start of a national renaissance that could take us far.”
End of Mr. Bock-Côté’s article.
For Bambi’s earlier posts on Bill 21, you may wish to read:
As you can see below, only Beirut cats seem relaxed these days, enjoying a sunny day. They are the lucky ones as they do not have US money in banks that they cannot have access to.
Talking about US currency, Bambi cannot help not to wonder why has Lebanon’s economy been that dependent on US money? It seems rather odd, especially through the eyes of a “deer” visiting from abroad.
Below is an olive tree on a street in Beirut.
Above we can see the famous fist, symbol of the people’s revolt, that we have seen in all the media since October 17, 2019. It feels a bit strange to stand next to it in real life. Bambi now has a picture of herself next to this symbol, with her fist closed like it :).
Above we can see two Christmas trees at a hotel in central Beirut. Below is a picture of the Revolution Christmas tree.
The word “revolution” is written on the piece of stone above.
Beirut has been destroyed and re-built 7 times throughout 6000 years of history. We can see ancient ruins in the picture above.
In the picture below, we can see a new wall built to “protect” the Lebanese parliament. On it, we can read in Arabic: “May the wall of shame fall”.
Above is a mirror and we can read under it: “You are the leader of the revolution” (written with the feminine grammatical form in Arabic).
Above, we can read: “All of them means all of them” (= in reference to all the corrupt politicians). Interestingly, Bambi’s cousin showed her a picture of a French social demonstration of some sort where French protesters borrowed the Lebanese slogan, writing it on their sign in Arabic :).
Another funny story about this slogan is that, when the revolt started, Bambi (who sometimes seems to live on a different planet) thought that it meant “All of them for the nation means all of them” (like in the national anthem). It took her a couple of days to understand the whole story behind this clever slogan.
The above picture consists of two separate pieces of arts. In the one to the left, we can read: “Sectarianism is not your religion. Get rid of it. It has insulted both my religion and yours”. In the one to the right, we can read: “Express yourself. This is a group psychological therapy session for the first time after civil war”.
Above, the picture to the left is a beautiful painting by a Lebanese artist. The picture to the right is a graffiti that reads: “Beirut is for us”.
Below, we can see a sort of a wish tree.
Above, again, we see two separate pictures. The one to the left shows a feminist graffiti (i.e. women have played a significant role in the revolt) whereas the one to the right speaks for itself in English: Rights for the LGBTQ community.
Above we can see two separate pictures that Bambi has merged for fun. The one to the left refers to the crying need of changing the very old law that prevents Lebanese women from passing their citizenship to their children. It also has a graffiti that reads: “Our October 17th revolution is neither Iranian nor American, it is rather civil”. The picture to the right does not need any translation :), at least linguistically speaking.
More tragically, the pictures below are again merged by Bambi. The one to the left shows Mr. Alaa Abu Fakher who was sadly killed (in front of one of his children’s eyes) during the peaceful revolution a few weeks ago. The picture to the right shows a graffiti reading as follows: “Those who are scared do not make revolutions”.
Indeed, life goes on in Beirut…
To illustrate this, above is a picture of the traffic in the downtown area. Below, we can see how they sometimes decorate coffee here. The picture in question is actually a beautiful souvenir from yesterday when Bambi met Hala, a classmate she has not seen for 30 years; these were their happy hearts connecting again! Together, they reached out to their beloved math highschool teacher (on WhatsApp of course :)). He kindly called them immediately. It was moving to chat with him and even see him online (video call). This teacher has been an inspiration to them and many other friends. Bless his heart.
Compared to the rest of Canada and the world, including Lebanon following two months of revolt, Québec knows how to acknowledge, investigate, and address corruption. From time to time, even politicians spend time in jail (e.g., the 27th Lieutenant of Québec, several municipal politicians, etc.).
Bearing this in mind, Mr. Fred Klein who is one of Bambi’s good friends, is very creative. Indeed, several years ago, he came up with the word “Kebekistan”. He also had the original idea of opening a restaurant and calling it “Le Canard corrompu” (The corrupt duck) where bills would be brown envelopes in which customers add cash money. He called the bill: “la facture salée” [hefty bill. In French, we literally say “salted” ?].
Here is a picture illustrating his concept:
In the same spirit, today, Fred K. shared with Bambi the following Montreal Gazette’s article by Mr. Brown Brownstein about a board game on the corruption in the construction industry. An interesting invention by Mr. David Loach:
This being said, let’s put the topics of corruption and politics aside (hard when we are visiting Beirut these days). For a change, here are some nice pictures and video links, all taken in Lebanon:
Above is a picture of the beautiful Saint Dimitrios (“Mar Mitr”) Greek Orthodox Church in Beirut. This is the place where most of Bambi’s beloved relatives and/or ancestors are buried.
Above is the nativity scene at the ABC mall in Beirut. This mall seemed rather empty today, except for people meeting friends to eat or drink a coffee.
This elegant lady is Bambi’s childhood friend, Nayla Awad-Khoneisser. She surprised Bambi with unexpected Christmas gifts: two beautiful heart pillows, one for her and one for her mom even. How sweet ?. Bambi took this picture of Nayla as soon as she saw her. She was impressed by the elegance and beauty of her dear friend!
Lebanese people love their balconies, even in the winter. This is the balcony of one of Bambi’s sisters (Roula). Watch the heaters from “Azar Electric” (of course the best store in Beirut ?!). People use them here, even in the +17 degrees Celsius, a temperature described as being “cold”!
Red Mullet with fried pita bread. Mmm!
Bambi’s dad surprised her with “Surgel” ice cream today. Mmm-Thank you! Each piece is a bite made of dark chocolate containing a layer of a cookie and it a different flavour of ice cream.
Finally, to end on a beautiful note, first here is a video taken by Bambi’s sister (Rania Azar-Berbery) last year a few moments before landing in Lebanon:
Second, here is a very short video taken by Bambi today. A choir of singers wearing Santa’s hats came to the Public garden near her parents’ place to sing some Christmas carols in Arabic, French, and English:
Last but not least, to end this post about corruption on a musical/spiritual note, here is a video of Ms. Zeina Farah and a choir. She is Bambi’s cousin (=niece or, as we say, first cousin once removed). In this video, you can listen to her singing acapella a beautiful Christmas prayer in Arabic at a Greek Orthodox Church (video from December, 2018). What a talent! Bravo!