• René

Yallā bye Lebanon! Migrating diplomats - the adventures of the Homo Diplodocus Vulgaris !


Dear all,

It’s almost that time of the year again. The time of the year when this weird and foreign visiting bird, the Homo Diplodocus Vulgaris (or your common, garden variety diplomat) starts to migrate. Usually the Homo Diplodocus Vulgaris tries to migrate from faraway hardship regions on Southern continents closer to more clement and comfortable nesting grounds, usually located somewhere in Europe.

As opposed to the Homo Diplodocus Magnificus who is more sedentary and thrives in places like Paris, London, New York and cabinets of government ministers where the species are endemic and are thriving and multiplying enthusiastically !

So, we will soon be joining the rest of the Homo Diplodocus Vulgaris migrating North (back to Belgium this time, if you were still unaware) when our 4-year stint in Lebanon comes to an end.

When we reach the end of our tenure in one country and we're ready to move to the next, we live in a state of limbo. The beginning of the oblivion to which we will very quickly be relegated when we leave the country we live in now, forgotten, past, and out of date. But the transition to the new place where nobody knows you has not quite started yet. I hate that period so much. It can't be over soon enough.

So I’ll try not to write a long goodbye, not in the least because my sometimes very politically incorrect communication style has often given acid reflux to some of my readers in the past and I wouldn’t want a repeat of that.

The last few weeks I was busy dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s in the Consulate, mopping up the handover to my successor. A successor who I wish all the best in this fascinating but explosive region (pun intended) and this tiny but even more fascinating country: Lebanon.

The sad task of packing is over, we are now saying our final farewells (but don’t expect too many of those, we despise long goodbye’s) My wife and I have spent the best years of our lives (almost 30 years) in foreign countries.

Our travels took us to a few terrible places in dangerous countries and a few dangerous places in terrible countries. You can understand this quibble if you know we called Zaire (Congo) our home for several years, as we did Pakistan. Afghanistan? Been there, done that.But our jobs also took us to wonderful places like Moscow (we consider Moscow a country in its own rights), the Philippine archipelago and Hungary…just to name a few. And while posted abroad we were able to discover so many more countries in the region where we were stationed at that time.

Although not always easy and sometimes wrought with gigantic challenges: this unique chance we have to be able to discover foreign countries, to learn first-hand all about their culture and population, makes it all more than worthwhile.

We've seen the Good, looked the Bad in the eye and tried to ignore the Ugly!

And now it's back to Belgium. A country we left behind 28 years ago. For my wife and I it will be like going on a new posting in a foreign country. So much has changed in these 28 years. So much so that I'm planning to ask my colleagues of FEDASIL (the agency who is tasked with the reception of asylum seekers in Belgium) to give us an integration course. The do's and don'ts of Belgium in 2017... Well at least I am under the impression that, thanks to the quasi total disappearance from the political landscape of the socialist leftist parties on the Federal level, in Flanders and now also in the South of the country, Belgium is becoming less politically correct and one can at least call a spade a spade again...which suits me well given my usually very politically incorrect pen.

We'll be settling down in Montenaken, a small village in the Southern tip of the Limburg province with about 1.400 inhabitants and consisting mainly of big farms, orchards, a few houses and not a single traffic light ! You will only get slightly delayed in traffic if you end up behind the big tractor of your farmer-neighbor chugging to his orchard in the morning. A place where humans keep silent and let nature speak!

What a difference with Lebanon!

The last time they saw a foreigner in Montenaken was in 1986 when a Dutch couple in their car, lugging the traditional Dutch caravan of course, mistakenly ended up in Montenaken when they drove off the highway because they thought they arrived in Montenach in the region of Lorraine - France, 5 miles from the border town of Schengen - Luxembourg!

In fact, the last really important event here took place in 1465 when the The Battle of Montenaken happened. A very violent and bloody football match between Standard Liège and FC Burgundy. Nobody remembers who actually won the battle but 1,200 people were killed anyway. From then on all is peace and quiet in Montenaken which is exactly what we're looking for.

I'm completely fed up with the hustle and bustle of capital cities. The noise, the chaos, the crowds, the pollution ... it hits my nerves like the sound of fingernails scraping a blackboard. Although we are now making sound recordings in Beirut of the perpetually blaring car horns, the sirens, children whining, electronically amplified muezzins yelling, firecrackers, celebratory shooting, ... So when we get homesick and the sound of chirping birds, of grass and apple trees growing is getting on our nerves, we can play the Beirut recordings ...

Keep following us on Sonja’s Facebook, on our travel blog www.peetersooms.com and on Sonja’s photo website www.colorsofthedeep.com, we’re not finished traveling yet! Although you will have guessed from what I wrote above: our travels will take us mostly to quiet and peaceful places for the next 3 years! And so it's time to leave now. Time flies when you're having fun. It’s been a pleasure knowing most of you in Lebanon, I can only hope most of you feel the same about me.

And on that politically incorrect bombshell, it’s time to say: “yallā bye”


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