Once Upon A Home

August 8, 2011
By , Beirut, Lebanon
I walked into my class, saw the room filled with familiar 13-year-old faces of the 8th grade, and took my seat. I looked out of the window that reflects on tall gray buildings and busy roads that trap cars into traffic jams, in other words, ‘my home’, Beirut, Lebanon. Disgusted by the view, I turned away from the window and glanced at the board. I turned back to the board and reread the word that caught my attention. There was only one word on the board, in big block black letters: ‘Journey’.
Before I could turn to ask about the board, my teacher walked in. I could tell that he was excited about something. Simple as snow, he told us to pick up our pencils and write about a journey; a camping trip, a vacation, anything we’d like.
The way he said it made it seems as easy as picking up a paintbrush, gliding it across a paper and watching what the pretty colors create.
“Easy,” someone chanted from the back, “I’ll just write about that time at the Grand Canyon.”

Writing? Easy? Candidly, writing is as easy as life. A beautiful piece of writing has to be full of feelings, thoughts, and passion. However, writing is also one of the most powerful ardors that have been introduced to me in my life. I simply love writing, and there is no other way to say that.

What I mostly love about writing is that it is the opportunity to use my imagination, express my creativity, and build settings, dilemmas, and characters that I grow to love. This is why I do not enjoy writing memoirs; it blocks my imagination. I have to write about what really happened; I cannot expand it to reach where reality cannot, even though my writings are usually realistic fiction.

So what can I write about in an essay such as this one? I am a 13-year-old Lebanese girl that goes to an American school. Not much has happened in my life that is important enough to talk about, let alone call a journey.

I have been to the States plenty of times before, but mainly to Boston and Connecticut, and occasionally to New York. Do not get me wrong, I have had plenty of unforgettable experiences there that I will treasure forever, but none cultural, and most not related to travel. I have been to Paris, but I was young then, and I do not remember much about my experience there.

I turned back to the window and studied its view to pass time. What I saw was extremely predictable. It is probably all you will ever see in Lebanon.

An old fat sweaty woman in cheap pajamas on a small tight balcony, setting her laundry out to dry.

My sight fled down the road.

Two males that look like they are at their mid-teens, about 16 years old, I assumed. Of course, they were smoking, no surprise there. They were leaning on a black motorcycle, even though they are obviously much too young to have a license. One of them said something, the other shoved him, and they got into a fight.
The whole class looked up, interrupted by the sound of the two guy’s cursing. Our teacher told us to get back to work.
When I turned back to the window, I saw the two guys driving away on the motorcycle.
How typical of the Lebanese.
Right then, I got my idea of a journey.
How many papers have been written about a young girl’s life in Lebanon, where officers walk into unpermitted DVD stores to buy pirated movies, and in which the traffic police cross the speed limit.
Lebanon is a challenge to live in.
It is actually pretty sad. I sit here, year after year, and watch my country regress.
One memory that really broke my heart and caused me to resent Lebanon was when Lebanon took something away from me, something that meant the world for me, probably even more than the world.
It tried to take away the meaning and memories of my favorite windows view.

Looking out my favorite window, I see time passing. I see my past, my future, my life. This place has always been here. It watched me blow balloons for my 5th birthday, it watched me plant Jasmines and Roses with my grandma when I was seven, it watched me sing my heart out on the swing when I was ten, and it watched me walk through it at night, thoughtfully.

This is the small hidden window that not many people would care much about in the corner of my Grandma Aziza’s kitchen. This window looks out on the lovely garden that once existed, and this window has watched me cry my heart out when strangers bought this garden and carelessly tore down the home of my childhood. We called it the Jasmine Garden, ‘Yasmina’ in Arabic, and that is how I got my name. There is no Jasmine Garden anymore.
People should not do things like this. I am not saying that they should not have the right to go and build a home for their family, but they should be more aware about what they are doing. I wish I had the power to turn back time, and talk to the people who bought my garden. I would get to know them, let them hear my side of the story, listen and understand theirs. I would not stop them from buying the garden, but it would have made me feel a little better.

So now, like I said, when I look outside the balcony, I don’t see my beautiful Jasmine Garden, I see a tall ugly useless gray building that will never be half as valuable to me as my garden was. Except when I look through that special window, I see every moment that I have spent in that garden, every memory, every breath, and every smile. I like to hide there sometimes, underneath that window, enjoying all the memories that are floating back.

When I look out of a window, I see the world. The world sees me. But looking out of that window, the world can only pretend to see me; the world tries to read me, because looking out of it, I do not see what the world sees. I see my abandoned torn swing that may seem cheap to people who do not know the stories that are behind it. I see my eight year old redheaded self swinging freely on that swing, singing, laughing, and smiling.

I see my beautiful garden of white Roses and Jasmine.

That’s when I started to take notice of Lebanon’s regression.

What bothers me the most about this is that if you look at Lebanon from the top view of the sky, you will not see any green land. What you will see is gray and brown buildings, most that are old and ugly, and actually, you will see green. You will see our polluted beaches, so trashed that our water has turned from the pretty shade of camouflage blue to a dreadful shade of sewage green.

Pollution is a big issue in Lebanon. Polluting is a habit. Polluting is something people laugh about. Polluting is something people do not care about. If you were walking down a street, all you would see is people throwing their Starbucks coffee cups away, missing the trash can by a meter, not caring, then the sound of their steps on other people’s Snickers bar wrappers instead off picking them up and tossing them away.
Something people do not know is that Lebanon was beautiful. It was simply charming. It had rivers and lakes on its mountains, and if you went down its mountains, you would be on its sea. It snowed in the winter. It was so humid that you can melt during the summer. It had four seasons. It had trees, flowers, and gardens.
That was Lebanon seven years ago.
Now, there is not one single park in its capital, Beirut. It does have lakes and rivers, but none of which you can drink from, and none of which you would want to sit near with a picnic basket because the environment they are around is not the best place you would want to enjoy a picnic in.
Lebanon is still all those things, though. It is still charming, it still has mountains near seas, and it still has four seasons. However, none of this is noticed, only taken to waste and inconsideration. Lebanon could be many things that it is not. If people cared, they would show a little more respect to their country. Honestly, I am disappointed and embarrassed to be a part of this place. People judge us by what we make it look like we are. But we are not. And we know that.
Many people take Lebanon as a battlefield, due to all the wars it has been through. I learned this when I was reading a book, and the characters sat down to watch the news, then turned the television off. Another man walked in and asked what’s on the news.
“The usual,” the man said, “Beirut is a bloody mess.”
I am sure my country is very proud to have labeled itself as the war zone.
I wish there was something I could do. I know that one day, I will make some sort of service, center, foundation, I do not know. But one day, I will do something about this, I will put an end to this, I will see it’s rivers flow once more, I will see it’s beaches as clear as hazel eyes, I will see it’s sun shine so bright that sunflowers will not know which way to turn. I will call Lebanon my home again.
I will always dream of that day. And this day will come once upon a home.

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lebaneseandproud said...
Dec. 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm
Beautiful piece of artistic writing... I wish and truley hope that some day you, the new generation of the Lebanese society, WILL make  difference and take back this country to its glorious days. Always have faith.
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