After 5 days of being around these beautiful people in the mountains of Yunnan’s Honghe area, my two traveling companions and I realized that we had not seen a single other foreigner around since our arrival, and we knew that we and our ways must appear so strange to the locals. I had brought a small polaroid camera with me to offer small photos as gifts, and to my utter surprise, most of the older people had no idea that the photos were theirs. They would look at the photo after taking it from me, look at, smile and give it back wondering why I was showing them these people printed on the paper. It was so brilliant and such a great privilege to witness a culture still separated from modernism and its grip.
We may all be human, but our lots are not the same and nor are our destinies. The more people I meet, the further I travel, I realize that life does not deal us all the same cards. Isn’t humanity knowing this and having compassion for those who have less?
Coming from Lebanon, I get asked a lot about the civil war that ravaged my country for so many years and with that question there is always a request to clarity what the war is all about there. On many occasions I find myself likening the war to a board game. The board being the land, the game pieces as the warring parties, and the ‘players’, well these are the giants and the warlords who have their big stakes in the game. The pieces get so sucked into the game that they forget who they are and sometimes even the reason they are in it, and the rule are changed often by the warlords and handed down to the players who follow blindly.
Congo is just another board game with so many bleeding players, young, old, male, female, tossed around mercilessly and discarded as the game keeps getting played.
I have been writing in this series about the wonderful history, the enchanting memories, the great mysteries that live in my home country, but it would be an incomplete story if I were to skip the part of history that has printed itself on my soul the most, the life changing part.
I will start the story at the end of it. I remember moving to New York after I finished my university studies and after arriving in the buzzing metropolis that I was unable to sleep, not because it was too noisy, but because it was too quiet. The last years I spent in my beautiful Lebanon were filled with noises of war, with the shrill cries of bullets, of bombs, and with the ugly smell of death. Experiences like these print deep in you, they do not just fade away, the are always there under the surface threatening to haunt you. My reaction to those memories and experiences is the same as all Lebanese people, you run away from it if you can (which I did), and you love life even more. I do love life more after living the long years of war, I value it so much more and every morning is a new burst of inspiration and a phoenix of a new and fresh start.
The Lebanese recent war started in 1975 and only ended in 1991.
Imagine going through life with a light heart, having wings fashioned from humor, lifting off on a breeze made of hope, floating on a cloud of good intentions, swimming in an ocean of clarity. Imagine…
“Schreibschrift”, cursive writing, from the Latin currere (to run), the concept of connecting letters together for a faster flow and to not have to remove the quill from the paper while scribing. It is an elegant way of writing that is unfortunately no longer required in 41 of the United States of America, giving way to more keyboard training instead.
However, this form of writing engages parts of the brain responsible for language and letter recognition that the keyboard punch and on screen learning cannot. It draws on the artistic side as well and most importantly on their patience. It is such a pity that something so romantic, so elegant and so traditional is facing possible extinction in our fast world of today. As I type this on my keyboard, I do realize that we all are using computers for almost everything, but something in me is singing in delight that my daughter is still required to learn cursive writing daily in the German school.
I photographed this sweet man about 2 months ago on a street in Pudong while he was taking his break from work with his friend and it was s delightful encounter, full of smiles and shy giggles from the two of them. Since the street was in my Shanghai neighborhood, I asked them if they would like prints of their images and they loved the idea. Since that day I have been returning to this street every few days looking for them to no avail. And then, finally, today I saw one of the men resting on the ground in the heat of the day. It was like meeting an old friend! He jumped up, giggling, joyous, and when he actually saw the prints I gave him he was talking so fast to himself that I could not understand a word of his provincial Chinese, but I did not need to… So much passed between us without words and the lovely worker made one photographer very happy and a little magic was sprinkled on an otherwise normal day!