Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finding peace

Buzzing generators were the only sound heard in the village streets on Wednesday. Dekens stopped selling 7Up, the ice-cream shop shut its doors, builders downed their tools and even fat neighbour's voice was silenced. The moghtar had died and was being buried.

Kholso zeiteto as they say up here. His oil has burned up.

That, I understood. The message about his death, however, was less comprehensive.

Tuesday morning, 7am, same wake up call as always in our village warsheh. Construction works at their peak. It's tiling time, and it seems the best time of day to razorblade through these tiles is early in the morning. Must be something about the way the sun reflects from the angle grinder... Either way, it's a resounding noise that takes us right up to lunchtime. Except that Tuesday was different. By 10am the noise had vanished. I thought nothing of it - must have been ahwe time - and silently stepped outside to reset the Internet box on the roof (the joys of Lebanon's slow connections), only to be accosted by the only worker left on our property.

'Did you hear what happened?' he asked solemnly. No, I hadn't. What had happened?

'Blah, blah, blah twafa...' Which I understood as 'blah, blah, blah taffa'.

twafa = he passed away
taffa = it went out (as in electricity or a candle)

'No, no, there is electricity,' I say, smiling widely and nodding my head. 'The fan's still on.'

'La ya hammeh, twafa!'

'No, don't worry, it's just the Internet that's not working.'

'La ya hammeh!!! Met el moghtar!' (The moghtar died!)

Women and men left the cool comfort of their stayghas on Wednesday afternoon to bid farewell to the 51-year-old man who died in his bed after watering his garden two houses up from us on Tuesday morning. Villagers dressed in black congregated in the village sala to pay their respects to the moghtar's family.

The church bells rang solemnly that afternoon, just as they'd rung on Tuesday morning to announce the death of a villager. Ahwe was poured for all those visiting the moghtar's family in the sala where they sit to receive condolences. Some people stay all day - for three days - drinking ahwe with long, sad faces.

The dead leader of the village now has posters of his face tacked onto every tree. Villagers who were not home to hear the bells ring and listen to the public-speaker announcement of his death, or those who didn't receive an SMS of the news, will know that he is no longer their leader by the picture of the mustachioed man haunting every street.

The moghtar's brother was busy tiling our staygha when he received Tuesday's news. He dropped everything and ran to the home where his mother had discovered the lifeless body of his eldest brother. Our staygha will always remind him of the day he lost his brother. The day his brother, our moghtar, found his peace.

deken = convenience store
moghtar = elected village elder
warsheh = building site
staygha = patio
sala = hall
ahwe = Turkish coffee

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