Journal - Napló

Free Hugs & Snake Hunting

Posted on November 30, 2009 at 4:50 AM


I have been staying with Talal quite a bit these last few weeks. Besides working in the

office, I fairly often go with Talal somewhere. These last couple of weeks his attention has been directed at a construction site just outside of town. There are some properties with an

amazing view over Tripoli and the surrounding areas that are being developed there.


As we drove onto the site one day in the Chevrolet Avalanche, the workers come out one by

one from the temporary hut they have there. Judging by their appearances it was the

Avalanche that had woken them.


There are five people working there building a stone wall, but because they had run out of

rocks to build with, the work had been halting for two days. The truck driver who was supposed

to bring more rocks refused to drive up the last part of the road to the site. So Talal had

a digger come fix the road, but then for some reason the truck couldn't come anyway. The

solution then was manual labor. Good old muscle power. We went into town to get some

workers. On the way in I was picturing the American movies where they will go pick up

Mexicans hanging around at certain spots looking for work. It was just like it. Only swap

Syrians for Mexicans. They agreed on the pay and four stout workers pushed together in the

back seat. Once back on the site we started hauling rocks from a small quarry above where

the rocks were needed and rolling them over and down the side onto the site below.


Some days later we went up to the construction site again. The weather was beautiful, the

view up there is amazing and everybody was in a good mood. Talal had promised that he would take us snake hunting and his two oldest boys Jacob and Omar was just aching to go. I was more, how to say it, reluctantly tagging along. I don't particularly like snakes and see no

reason whatsoever to go looking for them. At least not for fun! But that's what we did. Talal was absolutely sure that we would find snakes and sure enough, after about ten minutes I see all the kids and Talal staring at some, hard to identify spot close to my feet and asking with increasing tensity: "You don't see it? You don't see it?" -"NO! I don't fucking see it!! Where is it??" The snake was a mere meter and a half to my right, I finally saw it, stepped carefully away and took a deep breath. "Get a stick, get a stick" Talal told us, but too late, the snake finally took cover. So we went on to look for more snakes. "This is snake territory" he would say, "I think there are a lot of snakes here", "*$*%#@" That's great I thought to myself. Another five minutes pass when I hear a big "Whooaa!!" Apparently Talal had seen a really big snake. "Stay back, stay back", ... "Kenneth, want to help me?" Not really, but I took my stick and got in position to trap it. Talal would try to get it out of the hole somehow with his sticks, and I would use my forky stick to pin it down if and when it got out. After a few attempts we gave up though, the two boys were both begging to continue the snake hunt, I couldn't understand what on earth ever made them like it all that much. Tough kids, crazy. Maybe they like adrenalin. 


One day I was sitting in front of the computer when Daniel came and asked me if I needed

anything. I figured he was going down to get something for himself and was asking if he

could bring something for me since he was already going. With that belief I said yes please

and asked for some Pepsi. (It's nearly impossible to find Coke) After ten minutes he comes

back with just a Pepsi, gives it to me, smiles and gets ready to leave again. "What??" I

said and asked him if he hadn't bought anything for himself? It wasn't until a few days

later I learned that "Badakshi", or something sounding similar to that, means "Can I get you

anything" and is used as a sort of good bye phrase. You are supposed to say, no thanks, not

yes please can you get me a Pepsi.


Friday the 27 of November was Free Hugs Beirut day. Incidentally it was also the first day of

Eid-al-Adha. Something I hadn't known about when I set the date two weeks earlier. Which was a shame, because as it turned out I was invited to go with Talal and his family that day and visit family all over town in his two veteran cars. One Auto Union and one old Jaguar, one of which I would be driving. Because there were 24 people saying that they would come

to the Free Hugs event however, I had to go to Beirut instead.


I got up fairly early, made my free hugs sign and went to Beirut. We were supposed to meet

at Jemeyze, AUB campus. Or at least that is what I thought. Turned out that those to places

where way far from each other. They been presented as suggestions to where we could meet. I thought it was a place and that that's where we had agreed to meet. Anyway, the result was that nobody showed up. It was an unfortunate misunderstanding. Now suddenly I had to decide if I would do it by my self, or go back to Tripoli with my tail between my legs. The thought of going to offer Free Hugs in a strange country by myself was a bit scary. What if I offended someone who didn't speak English and I couldn't explain what it was all about? After some time walking around trying to build up my confidence, I rented some rollerblades and decided to make it a free hugs in Beirut on roller blades day. I am very happy that I did. I didn't get a lot of hugs, maybe a grand total of only 15 hugs the whole day, but I did make a lot of people

smile. Which is the whole point. Finding joy in spreading joy. Before I started I sat down

on a bench on the boardwalk and counted the people which I thought might give me a hug and

those that I thought wouldn't. Actually though, what I was really looking for was if there

was anybody I thought was going to beat me up over this. After a hundred people had passed I decided it was safe and set out rolling. Half the hugs I got was from foreigners. Then there

were some hugs from Lebanese that spoke very well English, supposedly they have also been living abroad somewhere. Then the last three hugs were from Lebanese speaking very little. English. These last three hugs I got only after having been hanging out with them for about half an hour though. In the end they really understood what I was doing and when I said

goodbye, they said free hugs and opened their arms.



Categories: English, Lebanon, by Kenneth

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1 Comment

Reply Azo
7:57 AM on March 9, 2010 
owwwwwwwwwwww!!! I skipped that day :(
wasn't it raining??

I was hoping to do it before you leave :(