When Lebanese People Shine In Foreign Countries

As we listen to muftis issuing political stances against civil marriage (link) and await our politicians to agree on an electoral law that will bring them back to power, as a casual bomb explodes in Hay el Sellom and murders get turned into an issue of sect, as we try to  forget about some of the wrong in our country that we can’t fix awaiting our chance at a one way ticket with the occasional round-trip back, some Lebanese are actually making it big. Just not in Lebanon. Can you blame them?

One French afternoon, as my friend and I finished our rotation at the hospital, we were heading back to our apartment blabbing in Lebanese. There’s just so much French that you can take in a single day. We were stopped by a very professional-looking man, suitcase and all. He asked us: “are you Lebanese?”

We said yes. He then asked: “And you’re medical students in France?”

We replied: “No, we’re just exchange students. We’re medical students in Lebanon”

So before he left, he introduced himself as the head of neurosurgery at one of Europe’s leading neuro-hospitals and told us if we needed anything, he’d be more than glad to help.

My friend and I were beyond proud at that point. So we gushed about him the entire way home. That man wasn’t a politician. No one in Lebanon knew who he was. No one in Lebanon knew his accomplishments. But everyone in that hospital knew he was Lebanese and they all had nothing but good things to say about him and the image that he gives us – his people.

Fast forward to this afternoon when another friend of mine who happens to be doing her PhD degree in Lille (pictures), the city in which I spent a month back in August, sends me a picture of a book she found at the city’s main library – a mutliplex called “Furet du Nord.”

The book is among the top sellers in its section. It is part of the curriculum in the fields it discusses. And, as usual, we’ve never heard of it. This is a picture of the book’s front cover:

Neurology book France Lebanese author A Itani E Khayat

Thank you Rasha Dernaika for the picture

Both of the book’s authors are Lebanese. And we haven’t heard of them before. Both of them are helping shape French medical students and education – this is not their only book. Is their neurology book even used in Lebanon? Nope.

This isn’t about the Amin Maaloufs and Khalil Gebrans who are so famous they eventually become unescapable. This is about the regular Joes – like you and me – who won’t become super billionaires à la Carlos Helou or churn out international bestsellers in the dozen. This is about all those Lebanese that make us proud day in day out by them doing their job and excelling at it, by them finding a firm footstep in their society and giving a shining image about every single one of us, regardless of our sect or region. This is about those Lebanese we don’t know and who are doing a much greater job at bettering our image than every single person in Lebanon today. This is about those Lebanese that Lebanon doesn’t even care about.

It’s sad when you realize that all these accomplishments are very much feasible for you. Just not in your country. I could be the one writing neurology books that are used extensively. Just not in Lebanon. You could be that top architect, drawing buildings for the whole world to see. Just not in Lebanon. You could be that top advertising agent, coming up with catchy phrases and pictures. But not in Lebanon.

It’s sad when you know your full potential as an individual when it comes to productivity and self-fullfillment cannot be provided by the confines of the 10452 km² that everyone muses about. It’s laughable when you think about how silly the things that are holding back here are. It’s also depressing when you realize you can’t escape them. Not in this lifetime at least.

So what’s the solution for us? Well, you could be foolishly optimistic and persevere over here because, you know, this is our land. You could know people who know people who make life here much easier for you. Or you could become one of those who constitute one of the few reasons to make us proud about our country – one neurology book at a time.

Cheers to all our expats that are shining bright abroad.