Adapting to Change: Lessons from Lebanon
By Heba Gamal - KF15, Lebanon
I had been living in my beautifully spacious room with an extra bed to host visitors for about a month when the landlord informed me that I will have to move to the smallest room in the house because a big group of performers and artists are coming and they had booked all the big rooms in the house in advance. I was really not looking forward to leaving the room; I had made it my own, put pictures and postcards up, friends had come and stayed with me in it, but most importantly I had no idea how I was going to fit all my belongings that now seem to have grown in size into the smallest tiniest room in the house.
But no matter how much I didn’t want this move to take place or how worries I was about my stuff fitting I had to make the move. So, I spent 3 hours of my Sunday moving things from one room to the other. After I had moved everything out of my spacious room into my now very tiny room I paused, looked around and was amazed at how everything fit. All my things suddenly had a new place in this new room. They and I somehow made it work. We adapted very quickly.
This sense of quick and sudden adaptation reminded me of my field visits the previous week. I went to the field on Tuesday right after a highly anticipated speech by Hezbollah‘s leader Hassan Nasrallah about the recent U.N. court issued indictment of 4 Hezbollah members in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. I watched the Nasrallah speech with a group of friends over dinner. The reaction was underwhelming. Everyone spoke of how important his speech was, but no one quite knew what this importance meant; at least I didn’t, until I went to the field that week.
I met with 6 borrowers and every time the loan analyst, Wisam, and I would ask them how business was going. They would smile (often point at the TV if they had one) and say “Terrible! As you know, but what can we do but wait and see.” I asked directly if the impact of such speeches and political changes is felt so quickly by the common citizen and the answer I received from all those I have asked was the same “This is Lebanon!” As one of my dear Lebanese friend’s lightly put it “we wait for one (could be anyone) person to make a speech so we can plan our lives accordingly. War or no war. Stability or instability.”
It seems like one thing the Lebanese have learned to do over years of conflict and unrest is to adapt. In many ways they’ve made their things fit into many small rooms over the decades, just like I have this past Sunday.
Heba Gamal is a member of KF15 and works with Al Majmoua – The Lebanese Association for Development in Beirut, Lebanon – check out their Kiva Partner Page. Also, join the Friends of Al Majmoua lending team now!