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Monthly Archives: January 2010


Following is one last excerpt from my book Coffee with Hezbollah, scheduled for release by New World Digital, Inc. tomorrow, February 1, 2010. The book is a political travelogue about the hitchhiking trip through Lebanon that photographer Amelia Opalinska and I conducted in the aftermath of the July 2006 war orchestrated by Israel.

Previous excerpts as well as a promotional video can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

One dollar of every book purchased will be donated to SOIL, an NGO currently bringing effective disaster relief to Haiti.

For additional information about Coffee with Hezbollah or to PRE-ORDER the book, please visit: http://belenfernandez-writings.blogspot.com/.

Many thanks,

Belén Fernández (belengarciabernal@gmail.com)


Location: Tyre and Bint Jbeil, south Lebanon.

Context: Amelia and I meet a Jordanian United Nations official named Setan for dinner in Tyre. He has recently been promoted to the title “the Great Setan” by removing us in his UN vehicle from the village of Bayada—which we had inadvertently become stuck in while trying to hitchhike to the war-ravaged town of Bint Jbeil—and accompanying us on a tour of Spanish soldiers at UNIFIL headquarters on the Israeli border. It is midterm election day in the U.S.



LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Police perform halftime show at Zelaya airport farewell

Last minute fine-tuning of choreography. (Photo by Belén Fernández)

The most common calculation heard yesterday at Tegucigalpa’s Toncontin Airport was that the crowd that had gathered to see off outgoing Honduran President Mel Zelaya was larger than the crowd that had gathered at the same airport on July 5, 2009, when the forcibly expatriated Zelaya had unsuccessfully attempted to repatriate himself by plane. The president had subsequently resorted to more modest means of transport such as the trunk of a car and had appeared on September 21 at the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital, where he had remained trapped until a guarantee of safe passage enabled him to travel yesterday to the Dominican Republic. That the airport turnout for Zelaya’s Dominican departure was even larger than the turnout in July indicates that the coup regime strategy of legitimizing the coup via elections has not had the intended sedative effect on the Honduran populace.


LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Celebration of Honduran democracy shunned by Prince of Asturias

Hondurans forced to face unsettling possibility that monarchies may not be entirely democratic, even if they include the word “constitutional”. (Photo: Javi Martínez)

With the inauguration tomorrow of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo as president of Honduras, the Honduran coup regime will attempt to establish a definitive answer to the question of how many presidents the Central American nation has. Since June 28, the date of the coup d’état against President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya and the installation of the illegitimate government of Roberto Micheletti, estimates have fluctuated between 0 and 3 presidents; the former figure followed a forged resignation letter from Zelaya in June, the latter Lobo’s election in November.

Micheletti has contributed to the perceived lack of a Honduran president on two additional post-June occasions, first during his pre-electoral vacation and now during his pre-inaugural withdrawal from the political scene “in order to rest.” According to the January 22 edition of the Honduran daily La Tribuna, the current absence is not a decision Micheletti arrived at on his own following an evening of “meditation”—as he himself claimed—but rather a U.S. government recommendation for making Lobo’s ascension to power less blatantly linked to the coup and more internationally palatable.

The daily El Heraldo has proved less adept at grasping the undesirability of blatant linkage and has responded to the coup president’s disappearance by publishing a 12-page insert two days prior to the inauguration entitled “Micheletti, defender of democracy”—in which he is also described as a national hero and the protector of Honduras’ non-socialist identity. The insert includes photographs of Micheletti’s childhood and a nostalgic log of milestones that occurred during his 7-month presidency, such as “the time he ordered the Brazilian functionary to read the Honduran Constitution before making requests that were out of line [regarding the restitution of Zelaya]”.


COFFEE WITH HEZBOLLAH to contribute to disaster relief in Haiti

Following is the penultimate excerpt that I will post from my book Coffee with Hezbollah prior to publication by New World Digital, Inc. on February 1, 2010. The book chronicles the post-July War hitchhiking trip that photographer Amelia Opalinska and I conducted in Lebanon in 2006. The first three excerpts can be read here, here, and here; the book’s promotional video—courtesy of Amelia, with music by Marcel Khalifé—can be viewed here.

The publishers have agreed to donate 1 dollar for every book purchased to SOIL, an NGO in Haiti which prior to the earthquake dedicated itself to such projects as installing composting toilets. Read SOIL’s mission statement here for an explanation of how these projects combat the environmental and economic degradation to which Haiti has continuously been subjected.

To view Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times video about SOIL’s pre-quake activities, click here; for examples of the group’s post-quake commitments—and analyses of the current situation in Haiti—read posts by SOIL’s Sasha Kramer here and here.

For additional information about Coffee with Hezbollah or to PRE-ORDER the book, please visit: http://belenfernandez-writings.blogspot.com/.

Many thanks,

Belén Fernández (belengarciabernal@gmail.com)


Middle of ocean devastated by earthquake

Slightly further inland. (Getty Images)

A few days ago my mother received an email from a Bulgarian acquaintance in Texas—Emil—with whom she has for years been attempting to become unacquainted and whose world view appears to rest on the principle that Bulgarian immigrants to Texas should be afforded more rights than other kinds of immigrants to Texas.

Correspondence with Emil diminished following my parents’ relocation from the U.S. to Argentina, and he now only emails in times of natural disaster to ensure that they are all right; his latest concerned dispatch consisted of the following CNN report of 17 January:

“A 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the southern coast of Argentina on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

There were no immediate reports of damages and injuries.

The 6.2 mile-deep quake hit 220 miles off the coast of Ushuaia, Argentina, at 7 a.m. ET, the geological survey said.”


COFFEE WITH HEZBOLLAH to be served in 10 days

Following is another excerpt from my book Coffee with Hezbollah, which chronicles the hitchhiking trip through Lebanon that photographer Amelia Opalinska and I conducted shortly after the Israeli assault of 2006. The book is due for release February 1, 2010 by New World Digital, Inc.

Previous excerpts can be read here and here, and a short promotional video by Amelia—with music by Marcel Khalifé—can be viewed here. Two more excerpts to come.

For additional information about Coffee with Hezbollah or to PRE-ORDER the book, please visit: http://belenfernandez-writings.blogspot.com/.

Many thanks,

Belén Fernández (belengarciabernal@gmail.com)


Location: Kfar Kila, Lebanese-Israeli border (where the book’s cover photograph was taken).

Context: Amelia and I arrive to Kfar Kila at night and are invited to stay at the house of Ali and his family, who refer to the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon 6 years prior as “Freedom 2000”; proximity to Israel nonetheless results in difficulties sleeping.

In the bathroom I established that the family’s citrus garden was not being bombarded. I crept downstairs, where I established that:

  1. it was 5.32 AM according to the Hezbollah clock.
  2. it was a different time according to the other clock.
  3. the bombardment was a combination of French UN trucks banging down the street and the household washing machine.


COFFEE WITH HEZBOLLAH to the tune of Marcel Khalifé

Following is a short promotional video for my book Coffee with Hezbollah, done by the book’s photographer, my traveling partner Amelia Opalińska. The video includes images of our hitchhiking journey through Lebanon in the aftermath of Israel’s 2006 assault and is set to the track “Coffee Trees” on the aptly named album “Arabic Coffeepot” by renowned Lebanese musician Marcel Khalifé.

To see excerpts from the book that I have posted on PULSE, click here and here.

Below the video is a description of Khalifé’s abilities by late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, kindly provided to me by Mustafa Habib of the Nagam Cultural Project, the institution that oversees Khalifé’s works.