While indulging ourselves in a delicious Jordanian lunch, my Tunisian colleague shows a photo of a white man being saved by a Malian soldier in the attacks last week. We laugh as she points out a very odd detail of the photo. The white man hangs on the back of the Malian soldier, but curiously enough, he’s holding onto a can of Fanta like that is the most important thing he needs to save from this life threatening situation. We laugh wholeheartedly. We need to, as moments before we discuss the recent developments in Tunisia where since the attacks on the tourist beach and museum last year, tourism is falling apart. Next, there was a 16 year old shepherd boy beheaded by Daesh (Isis) and the Tunisian government refused to give any psycho-social support to the cousin who found only the head of the boy (his body has still not been found) and the family who had to keep the head in the fridge as proof until the military got there to lock down the area. A horrific story, that never even got to the media outlets I follow. What I also didn’t know, my Tunisian colleague is traveling to Beirut next week, where she was supposed to be last week. Unfortunately her meeting got canceled, because the Russians had ordered Lebanon to close its airspace because they wanted to bomb Syria. Apparently the Russian army had sent a letter to the Lebanese head of airspace and told them they needed to close their airspace immediately for 3 days. They complied, only under mild protests by the Lebanese government of being touched in their sovereignty as a State. Because of this situation, we are also not sure if another colleague from Beirut will make it to our meeting. It is uncertain when the airspace will open up again exactly and whether she then will be able to get a flight.
You would think after all these topics we’d lose our appetite (in between we also discuss the inevitable consequence of refugees coming to Europe and the cuts of funding the Nordic countries have announced on the work on women’s rights in the Arab world as they are reallocating all those funds to refugee funds on the EU level), but one look at the dessert table of this 5 star hotel in Amman makes you forget anything bad. Strange, perhaps, but besides being sugar addicted humans, it is probably more something of an attitude we ‘suffer’ from. An attitude that refuses to give into the madness of the situations and how it affects all our daily lives.
I must be honest, I’m not sure I’m as good at it as my colleagues who consistently have to work and live under these circumstances. If you think Paris or Brussels are unsafe and should be left alone, I have to tell you that my same Tunisian colleague will go for a run on the boulevards of Beirut, because well, it’s nice and these delicious lunches need to be walked off somewhere. She admits though, ‘Staying there for a couple of days, is great! Living there, that would be whole other thing together.’ There is a limit to our attitude, called realism. The same realism that tells us the world is a crazy place, but at the same time there’s a lot of it that can be trusted and needs to be trusted. And how silly the man in Mali was with his Fanta can may look, he shows us what we try to hold onto with our dear lives every day, trust that it somehow will work out, however difficult that may seem.
PS And if you’re wondering why we are staying in a 5-star hotel, this was the second cheapest option, after the regular hotel that is booked for a meeting. Unfortunately it did not have the required meeting room available. The option of hotels are limited, they are screened for safety and security measures and we often follow UN standards there, where they also try to establish how the hotel has been funded, who the owner is and whether there are any criminal, corrupt or even perhaps terrorist associations.