A few days after we traveled, Beirut’s only landfill closed and the contract with the trash company ran out. The government had made no plans to find a new place to dispose of the city’s trash, nor had they planned anything by way of garbage collection.
So the garbage piled up on the streets. I’m so grateful we were out of the country. I can’t even imagine the smell of rotting trash under the summer sun. People were literally stuck in their homes with garbage blocking the roads.
When we got back, the streets were clean, but all the garbage had just been relocated. Under bridges. Thrown off the side of the mountain. Piled high on the bank of the Beirut river. So people started protesting, the government responded with a heavy hand, and things have been continuing along the same lines since then.
We’ve always been pretty open with our kids when they have questions. We try our best to answer questions, whether they are about how babies are born or why there’s a war in Syria, in a truthful yet age appropriate way. So when the girls asked about the burning trash and the riot police, I explained as much as I thought they would understand. The government stopped paying the trash collectors so people were protesting, going to the government and telling them “you stink!” (the name of the movement organizing the protests).
Isla of course had a million question followed by tears because she’s learned about air pollution and is convinced we are all going to die. We talked about what the protesters want and how the government responded (shooting water and then gas and then guns, building walls to keep the people away from the government…)
And then from the back seat from the car, a little voice piped up, “We should just throw the government in the trash!”
We giggled about it and as we kept talking, I realized that maybe the girls didn’t quite know what a government is. So I explained it’s not a thing, but a group of people who make the rules for the country. I felt like it still didn’t quite sink in, but didn’t realize how far off their thinking was until about a week later. We were in another part of town where the trash collectors were back to work.
Ruby saw the worker, dressed in green with his broom and trash bag and shouted out with glee, “MOM! I SEE A GOVERNMENT!”