Tag Archives: Lebanon

Y Give Up On Grandma

The smell is unchanged, the expressions familiar, despite the new faces.
Some speak English, others do not. Yet they are all waiting for the same thing; their family.

“Hello,” he calls out into the busy corridor of nurses and visitors. None are there for him.
“Hello,” he says again moments later. You’re tempted to wander in.
He’s been calling for days.

It’s undeniable; the hospital is a cold place. Institutionalised. Artworks on the wall failing to disguise what the old white paint has seen.

Walking into your grandmother’s room, you see her alone, though neighboured with three full beds. Neither lady speaks the same language.

“Hi taita (grandma),” her eyes brighten as she praises the arrival of company. Your face is covered with kisses.

Conversations are had, stories are told and emotions released. Eventually, she forgets who you are, despite carrying her name.
You remind her and she cries over her fragile memory.
She is developing dementia.

“Maalesh taita (it’s ok grandma), mat taatleh hum (do not worry), hayde b ji maal umr tawil (this comes with a long life),” you encourage.

Before you know it, visiting hours are over, and you’re uneasily telling grandma that you have to leave. She will sit awake in the dark as others sleep.

With each day it becomes more apparent to you that this woman is losing grasp of her old strengths. It’s a harsh reminder of a journey we all inevitably face. But you’re not sad. You know that your parents worked hard to ensure that you built a strong relationship with your grandmother. So caring for her now, as before, is natural; not guilt-driven obligation. She still has a few years up her sleeve, and you plan on treating her just as valuable as always.

However, not everyone is comforted by this feeling. Many have fallen victim to the self-indulged YOLO lifestyle that endangers the future of intergenerational relationships. For them, many respond by clenching to what ounce of life remains in a loved one, later regretting the time wasted and the memories unformed. Some are forced by parents to make the effort to visit, and show respect when doing so. Others simply do not care at all.

As Generation Y gains the tools to facilitate social and cultural change, it is cause for concern as to what will happen to our elders. Undeniably, society’s shape is transforming simultaneously with the practices of its population, causing diversification through cross-cultural and intergenerational associations. So, it is important to ensure that Gen-Y upholds traditional notions of elder respect.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 9% of Australians were the age of 70 years or older in 2008. Longer life expectancies and decreased birth rates are expected to generate increases to 13% by 2021, and 20% in 2051. As a result, there will be a greater demand on care and support services for older generations.
Do not disregard such information as simple statistics. To the contrary, they represent a generational obligation, substantiated by medical and social contributions. The youth are potential future providers of prolonged life expectancies, and with women in the workplace, lower birth rates. So, it is Gen Y’s duty to facilitate for this ageing population, morally and emotionally. The concern is not with policy or support services, as there is substantial policy initiative driven by government. It is the moral approach to this issue that lacks support. Rest assured, your grandparents prefer a visit from you once a week, over a daily visit from their employed carer. In fact, a study of long-term care facilities found that what elderly residents most wanted was respect, and this determined their quality of life.
Infamous for being the lazy generation, it is absolutely critical that Gen-Y ensures that the aged population is respected and not forgotten, during their years of stability and fragility, by our generation, and those who succeed us, simply because the system will take care of them. This isn’t like your bedroom, your mother can’t clean it for you.

Interestingly, the approach to respecting elders varies by culture. For instance, Lebanese society, like many, observes little reliance on formal measures of aged care, depending heavily on the support of family. It is a custom that has matured through generations of elevated respect for elders and valued affection to all family members.
With ease, the government has absorbed such tradition, as policy-makers hold the view that extended family be the main form of social welfare. Further, as a result of familial bonds, geriatric physicians and primary care are scarce, despite the great quantity of general physicians in Lebanon. Further, the population of approximately 4.2 million Lebanese people is serviced by only 36 nursing homes, most of which are understaffed, further suggesting the minimal external assistance being sought.

Whilst migrants have clutched to tradition when settling abroad in countries such as Australia, integration into new culture proves difficult in avoiding adjustments in children. Naturally, second generation migrant children are faced with conflicts of standards and expectations. For some, the custom of having grandparents live in the family home has continued. Others are separated by a 20 hour flight, turning to weekly long-distance calls. Many more have misplaced their worth for older family members, visiting only on Easter and Christmas.
So what is it that changes in the succession of generations? One explanation is that Generation Y is faced with a greater multitude of diversity than their parents. This includes exposure to the liberal atmosphere boasted by educational campuses, relative decreases in parental supervision and greater peer influence contrary to family traditions. Further, societal constructs placing strain on women to join the work force may be diverting the time that traditionally applied to the care of loved ones. Whilst this provides for traditional changes in migrants, it fails to address personal morality and familial value across all Sydney-siders.

A theory arguably worth noting is one developed by YSS after many train rides, much time spent on social networks, and a keen ear for music. Let’s call it, the iCulture. “I can’t be bothered”, “I don’t care”, “What do I get out of it”, “I have better things to do”; The self-absorbed, shallow and naive mentality that one will only gain from satisfying personal wants. These are the Gen-Ys who believe that their elders are boring, unintelligent, and smell funny. They are the same individuals who have more selfies than family photos, preach the YOLO life over Luther Vandross’ “Dance with My Father Again” and put parties over psyche. They are the ones who conveniently forget that their grandparents babysat and spoiled them as children. These very individuals will raise their children to forget them one day too.

There is something so valuable about those who preceded us, and in order to foster a relationship with them, their worth must not be ignorantly disregarded. Older generations have lived in a time we know nothing about. They have already learnt life’s lessons, and seen the world endure many ups and downs. They are not out of touch, nor are they judgemental. Your grandparents were young once too, and raised your parents when they too were young and reckless. Ask elders about their youth, and you will hear them giggle mischievously. They have seen it all, ultimately becoming the wisest people you will know.

So please, don’t wait until your grandfather is in hospital to see him. Don’t wait until grandma has developed dementia to form a relationship with her. It is important to ensure that you do not forget your elders when they need you most, for you will feel the hurt when they forget you.

If the last 1244 words haven’t convinced you, allow me to try the iCulture approach: imagine yourself as an 80 year old. Now think about how you would wish to be treated by your future children and grand children. So why should your elders deserve any less?

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The Life and Times of a Real Life Time Traveller

Andrew outside the Roman Colosseum

Andrew outside the Roman Colosseum

Andrew Merheb. Your average university student, with a perfectly radiant smile, iPhone and inherent love for the YSS blog.
So what is it that sets this young man apart from other testosteron-ians his age?
He’s a real life time traveller.
Merheb has travelled to more countries than you can count on your hands, soaked up more cultures than can be spotted in Parramatta, and built an immunity against the wrath of jet lag.
He even spent the remaining hours before his final exam booking flights to his next destination.

Like most students, I carry a desire to witness the world. For now, I’ve chosen the next best thing, and slightly more affordable option… A chat with Andrew Merheb.

Which countries have you visited?
“So far I’ve visited Thailand, Singapore, Lebanon, Spain, France, Italy, Czech, Poland, Hungary, England, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Mexico, the USA, Canada, Austria, and the United Arab Emirates”.

Nineteen destinations? That’s almost one country for each year you’ve lived!
Laughing shyly, “Yeah, except I did it in a much shorter period of time. If you want to travel, you’ve got to just do it”.

Which was your favourite, and why?
My favourite would have to be Spain. I Love the culture, the language, food, people and climate. I even love the Lifestyle, it’s about minimal work and being very social”.

If you could pick a city to live in, which would it be?
Definitely Madrid, Spain,” he smiles.

Country with the most beautiful women?

“There are a few. Once again, Spain, love their tans! Then there’s also Lebanon, Italy, anywhere Southern European or Mediterranean, really”.

More importantly, how about the men?
Laughing, “I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention to them!”

City with the best shopping?
“So far, Los Angeles. They’ve got awesome outlet malls that are so cheap! But apparently New York City is the best. I’ll let you know in a months time”.

Country with the richest history?
“I couldn’t pick just one. Firstly, Italy and the Romans, and Mexico’s Aztecs & Mayan tribes. There’s also France. But for me, Lebanon’s history of Phoenicians would probably be the richest”.

Language with the most sex appeal?
“Hands down, the Spanish language”.

Nation with the tastiest food?
“Okay that’s a tough one. I love my Mediterranean food! I’m talking French, Spanish, Italian and Lebanese food”.

Country with the craziest sports fans?
Spain and Italy. When you’re there, it feels like Football/Soccer is their life”.

City with the rowdiest parties?
Laughing, he says, “Once again, Spain! I’m sorry! It seems like every second answer is Spain. Any excuse for a fiesta I guess!”

Coastline with the best beaches?
“Mexico and Spain. Of course, that’s not including Australia, we’ve still got the best coastline and beaches,” looking proud.

Region with the greatest climate?
“The Mediterranean countries have great weather! Spain, Lebanon and Italy are great. Mexico is also one of the best for weather, it’s nice and warm all year round”.

The nation exerting the most natural beauty?

“Mexico and Canada were absolutely beautiful, worth a look if you love nature”.

The city most beautifully constructed?
“Definitely Dubai, you’ll find that it has amazing modern infrastructure. Dubai’s perfect in every way, it’s just really hot! We were enduring 45 degree days when I was there.”

Most affordable location?
“I found that Thailand and Mexico were the most affordable. The Australian dollar goes a long way in those areas. But in general, everywhere in the world is more affordable than Australia”.

Anything else you feel we should know?
“Each and every country has something unique to offer. Each of my experiences were different, and were definitely impacted by who I was with, the weather at the time and some other factors. Sometimes its hard to say which is your favourite country. Still, overall, I learnt something valuable from every country, through good and bad times. I got to experience things that would have never been accomplished had I stayed in Sydney. Everyone deserves to travel. It’s a real wealth of knowledge”.

Where are you planning to travel to in the near future?
Looking bright-eyed, “In one week from today I’ll be headed to the USA. I’ll be starting in Vegas, then heading to Miami and New York City. From America I’ll be jet setting to Jordan, followed by Israel, Lebanon and then Backpacking in Asia!” But further down the track, South America and more of southern Europe are on the to do list. I just need more money and time, and to improve my Spanish for South America.”

You may currently be feeling hugely inspired, or slightly jealous. Regardless, use those emotions as motivators for an unforgettable trip only hours away!
Travelling is one of the few things that will make you richer with money spent.
Travel Safe!

Canada's natural beauty - courtesy of Andrew

Canada’s natural beauty – courtesy of Andrew

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