Monthly Archives: April 2012

A Real Life, Horror Story

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Ready to read a horrifying story about the trials and tribulations of some expatriates?

My friend, and I will call her Maya for privacy purposes, is divorced and the mother 2 two children, a 9 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. She’d been struggling to make ends meet when she received an offer from a recruiting agency in Beirut to work as a secretary in a European city, which I will call Baris.  Maya jumped at the opportunity of providing a better life for her little ones; she daydreamed for weeks before she boarded that plane of the new clothes and the sumptuous meals she would finally be able to afford.

As soon as Maya set foot in Baris, her life had come to end. She was met by a cheesy looking man at the airport who whisked her off to a shabby, dirty office which he claimed was the company’s headquarters. Maya was locked into that office for 3 days and nights, forced to sleep on the bare floor, only rarely given anything to eat during that time. Her passport and money were confiscated, and she was beaten and insulted repeatedly by strangers who seemed to detest her very existence. There was no secretarial job, there was no salary, there were no dreams that were going to come true: Maya had walked willingly into the trap of modern day slavery.

After those three horrible days that she’d spent in that hell hole, she was forced into a car by two men and taken to an apartment where she was to perform her “job”. In that apartment, she met her tormentors: a man and a woman who, over the next year, would make her wish for the sweet release of death every single day. Maya’s daily work regimen looked like this:  she was forced to wake up literally at the crack of dawn in order to start her daily chores ; she had to scrub every inch of that place to a spotless shine all day and late into the night. She also had to cook, take care of three imps which were the couple’s children, iron heaps of clothes, and more often than not, repeat everything she’d done all over again if the work was deemed not up to standard by the monster who was the “madame”. On many occasions, Maya would also be beaten by the “mister”, the “madame”, the little kids, or all of the above for the silliest of reasons. Occasionally, she was denied food and water as a form of punishment whenever she “misbehaved”. Maya had no days off, and often, when “madame” had visitors, Maya was ridiculed and humiliated in front of them for no reason she could fathom. The final blow was dealt when “mister” came back home late one night, drunk, and barged into the hole in the wall that they called her room. He raped her while holding a knife to her throat. Maya was broken inside out; she was in a deep state of depression and she knew that she was never going to see her children again.

Stagnating in that dark state of mind, Maya stepped on the balcony of that prison and looked down the 8 floors. For a fleeting moment, the idea of being unreachable, beyond humiliation and torture, lifted her spirits and alleviated her body: She was standing on the railing and the image of her two little ones was dancing in front of her eyes. She knew that if she just reached, if she just took one step,  she could touch their faces and hug them again. And she did.

Maya’s real name is Abeba. Or Negasi. Or Shanika. She is not Lebanese, but Ethiopian, or perhaps Sri Lankan. Baris is really Beirut, and the above story happens in this city on a daily basis.

Earth Hour Every Single Day

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So you sat with the lights turned off for an hour, smartphone in hand of course, reading the tweets of hard-hearted villains who didn’t give a rat’s face for the well being of mother earth. You suffered in silence, and in darkness; that was your contribution to Earth Hour. You gave it an hour of your time and felt you’d paid your dues, you were then able to go back to indulging in all sorts of environmentally irresponsible practices that could be easily avoided. You can easily make everyday Earth Day; I’m not saying that by following the steps below you will save  the earth of all of its calamities, but at least your existence will be lighter.

1. Unless you’d been rolling in a pigsty, a shower that lasts longer than 10 minutes is an obvious case of water-gluttony.

2. Turn off the lights when you leave the room – easy, just a matter of logging the act into your memory.

3. Don’t keep the tap running while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving (ladies and gentlemen).

4. When grocery shopping, don’t buy groceries that come with a free gift that is wrapped in a ton of plastic wrapping and which will  most likely end in the trash along with the wrapping.

5. Fan of hot baths? Don’t forget to turn off the water heater when you’re done showering, and don’t leave it on over night.

6. Recycle the supermarket plastic bags that you put your groceries in by using them as trash bags.

7. If you have a water cooler at home, don’t use plastic cups to drink from it, go for glassware instead.

8. Keep a private mug at work to use instead of plastic or styrofoam cups.

9. Walk! Whenever you can, does both earth and your bum loads of good.

10. If you’re going up to the first, second or even third floor, take the stairs; you’d be saving electricity and burning calories at the same time.

I’m not an environmentalist, but I know that all our actions, regardless how insignificant, do make a difference.