I spent some time Tweeting the organizers of a fancy open food/open drink event to try to get in for free, but when they totally ignored me I distracted myself with some chores. On my way to wash my clothes at Layal‘s house, she said she was going to that exact event to cover a story for her audio show and had an unfilled +1. Naturally she’d have to bring me along.
Tawlet, Beirut’s pricey organic and local farm-to-table restaurant, hosts an open beer, wine, and food event every first Thursday of the month. I had managed to get in for free, now I had to find out what the event was for. But first,I warmed up to a big fancy glass of red wine and chatted with the chef du jour.
I managed to spend the first two-thirds of the evening swilling back red drink while Layal shmoozed, so the cause of Tawlet’s event was still unclear to me . But once I submitted to food and filled up an entire plate with stewed meat, roasted veggies and tahini, beet salad, and different kinds of wild rices I was locked into one position and thus at the will of my hosts. Which turned out to be quite enlightening.
Meredith sat next to me. From the first two words that came out of her mouth I knew she was from the US and I knew she had an agenda. Or maybe it was that dark brown pashmina and side braid that gave her away. We dug into our food and Meredith started talking to her crowd: me, Layal, and Layal’s cousin. I first had Meredith explain whatthefuck she was doing here in Lebanon because I am now blind to my own circumstance and bewildered by other non-Arab, non-Lebanese Americans who set up shop in Lebanon.
Long story short, she came to Lebanon during her studies and got an internship at Tawlet working with waste management. Upon returning to New York she founded an NGO focusing on composting and recycling especially in food establishments. Noble, I thought.
Then Meredith explained that her current project, FERN, is to launch this food waste management thing in Lebanon. If trash producers (everyone) just separated their compostable waste (all food and stuff that is organic material) as well as their plastic bottles and aluminum cans, Lebanese landfills would decrease in size, poor trash-diggers would make more money (recycling = $$$), and obviously, environmental benefits.
“This sounds great,” we said, “but um, how you gonna do that, Mer?”
“Well, you see,” she told us, “I did research in my hometown of Newton, Massachusetts (at which point I, Adrian, started choking on my beet), where the mayor implemented new trash cans provided by the city for each resident and thus put a cap on the amount of trash every household could emit (around 2 large bags).
The people were flipping the fuck out, arguing that they had waaaay more trash and couldn’t be limited to such a small amount. So the mayor went to each non-compliant household, knocked on their door, and offered to go through their trash with them to see if they could figure out how to decrease it. In the end, all the families were stunned at the personal inquisition and seceded to the mayor’s will.”
After a round-table exchange of eye-rolls and silent gestures of ‘ come the fuck on’ we verbalized our doubt.
“Meredith, sorry but Beirut ain’t no little ol’ Newtown Massachusetts, you can’t just have your hunky dory mayor lady coming around to everyone’s doors and asking them to change their lifestyes. People don’t even follow traffic lights and they park on the sidewalk! There are unique cultural differences!! Didn’t you learn this in some global social anthropology course!?”
To which Meredith replied that she was aware and that’s why she was starting with restaurants. In Beirut, restaurants just trash their old food, don’t recycle, and produce a ton of waste. But training workers in restaurants to simply separate waste would do colossal wonders, as stated above. And to get Sukleen in on it would save them money, which, you know would be something they’re interested in.
Ok fine. I agreed restaurants are a good start because you’re not going to change public opinion so easily. I mean, even I don’t recycle now because I’ve been brainwashed into the system.
I mused about my first summer in Lebanon living in my own apartment paradise. I couldn’t figure out how the recycling system worked (aw, it’s so cute that I believed there must have been one) so I just stacked up tons of plastic bottles in my kitchen until it was overflowing with them.
A friend of mine came in, shook his head, and demanded I dispose of them. BUT HOW?! I cried out hysterically since I still hadn’t found a solution. You just have to throw them away, he told me. Paralyzed by the thought of throwing plastic bottles in the trash I stood frozen in the warm kitchen as he hauled out twenty, thirty, fifty plastic bottles into the nearest dumpster.
After that brutal reality check, I never looked back and threw all my shit away together.And that’s where I was when I was sitting with Meredith. But after all that restaurant shpeal, she really laid it down. I knew we were breaking through her official pitch when she put her elbows on the table, deepened her voice and told us straight up. Listen, you guys can do your part too you know. Oh? we said.
-“You’ve seen those trash-diggers wading in the dumpsters picking out cans and bottles and stuff. Well imagine, they pick up your trash bag and shake it around to hear if there’s something recyclable (i.e. profitable) in it. Then they open up the bag and bare-handedly fish through your old bloody tampons and spaghetti-soaked bread crusts just to get to that fucking bottle!”
-“If you just separate your normal trash from your plastic bottles/aluminum cans, it’ll make no difference to you really, and you’ll be helping every other person involved.”
At the image of some tanned, tired, Syrian kid sticking his hand in my menstrual excrement I decided then and there that I could and would start putting my fucking bottles and cans into a separate bag and that was that.
Fortunately Meredith was able to finish the gruesome lesson before a well-to-do Danish man stepped up to us women huddled in horror.
-“Um, hello, just so you know there’s a bunch of people from the Danish Embassy who are very excited to talk with you.”
My initial thought was man, Meredith is surely wasting her time giving this group of young unemployed 20-somethings this pitch, until I realized she had totally converted me. Fuck those uppity Danish dudes, every trash separator counts and now there are at least two more in Beirut!
Later that evening I came back home, totally buzzed from the wine and completely grossed out from our trash talk. I sat Matias down and declared the new house rule: All recyclables go in a separate bag from the trash. And that’s how it’s been ever since.
Electric Youth, cherished in my heart for their dreamy electro sound and renowned for their song ‘A Real Hero’ on the Drive soundtrack, just released a video for ‘Runaway’ which is directed by Noel Paul and cast and shot in Lebanon.
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“We’ve had to cut out a lot of shit to get here”-Adrian
Back when Layal and I started our own radio show we broadcast through a spotty Internet source at our favorite local beer joint in Beirut.
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You know what, I’m glad the Middle Eastern Gulf region is taking into account all kinds of sexy when it comes to deporting men.
Because the most recent deportee is a 55-year old German man, Rolf Buccholz, internationally known for holding the Guinness World Record in having the most body piercings.
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Norwegians are the masters of understatement. When something is gargantuan, they’ll say ‘It’s a bit big’ and when something’s breathtakingly beautiful, they’ll say ‘It’s nice.’ If a friend made a $10 million profit on a business deal, they’d claim he made ‘a bit of money.’
I still don’t understand whether it&... [more]
-I was the only dancer and they noticed