Posted by: sean | February 22, 2007

Instability and no work in Lebanon

There were some stocks of TNT found in Achrafieh this morning, a bad sign for the country’s stability. None of the explosives went off, but there is a distinct feeling that this was a warning. By whom, to whom and against what are not at all clear.

Meanwhile, Lebanon is tense, and prosperity hard to come by for your average Lebanese. I met a young Lebanese by the name of Hani today. He’s twenty-six and is waiting for a response for a visa to go to Dubai. I asked him why he wants to go there. “To work,” he said. “There is no work here in Lebanon.” He’d like to settle down, get married, but he feels like he can’t do that. “How can I get married? If I go to a girl’s family, they’ll ask me what I do for a living, how much money I have. What can I tell them? I don’t have a job? I don’t have any money? They’ll laugh and tell me to leave.”

He lives alone in a small apartment in an East-Beirut neighborhood. I met him because I heard he had a washing machine to sell. In fact, he’s trying to sell everything, hoping that his visa will come through for Dubai, where he has a job lined up. He’s a month and a half behind on rent ($130 a month), so he’s getting rid of his refrigerator, his washing machine, his telephone, his television and his gas range, which really only leaves a single bed and a small table. He says that he can’t stay with his brother, because he’s married with two kids, so Hani doesn’t want to impose.

I visit his apartment to look at the washing machine, and we come to a deal. All of his appliances have been cleaned up and packed so that he can sell them immediately if anyone is interested in buying. I can tell that he really needs the money, and I could probably get the price down some more. But I feel guilty about bargaining too much, and we come to a price fairly quickly. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to transport the washer to my place and get it up the three flights of stairs, when Hani volunteers to bring it over today and install it for me. “That way you can see that it works well,” he tells me. “And besides,” he tells me, “it’s not like I have a job to go to or anything to do.”

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