Last Updated: Wed Jul 27, 2011 16:18 pm (KSA) 13:18 pm (GMT)

Sarah Sfeir / Mediterranean Views: A Boy on the Beach in Beirut

The smell of the Mediterranean, the sound of the waves, a cold glass of freshly squeezed juice, what better set up could you wish for! I was just starting to enjoy my day off, at the beach when suddenly a heart-breaking cry woke me up from my daydream. At first, I thought a whining puppy was caught under a beach chair, or even worse, it was being beaten, but as I was recovering my senses I realized the cry was human, it was the cry of a child.

I could not ignore that pitiful cry, I dropped my sunglasses and started looking for the source of that loudness.

It turned out to be a little boy, around the age of three, crying his eyes out pushing away his foreign nanny. They were sitting on the sand, next to what looked like the remnants of a sand castle that was probably demolished by the angry fists of the child.

People were starting to look in their direction, and the nanny looked embarrassed. She was doing her best to calm the child and reason with him, but he was kicking her, pushing her away, and screaming. Between each scream, I could hear “Mommy!” “I want Mommy!”

The nanny was starting to sweat, or should I say, was sweating more than she was already because, she was in her uniform (long sleeves and pants), sitting under the sun on the hot sand, because, as most people know, beach resorts have a strong policy, forbidding nannies from swimming in “their” pools/seas. The embarrassment, of course, added to her trouble.

After some time, a tall lady, perfectly tanned, with a large “French” hat, and a gold leopard bikini swimsuit, came and stood by the boy and the nanny. Her Botoxed face hardly showed any feelings.

She said: “What is happening here?”

The boy jumped on his feet and started running toward her.

She stopped him with her hand and said: “Stop! You’ll remove the suntan lotion!”

He froze and looked down at his toes. She then turned to the nanny, and started scolding her: “What is wrong with you? Don’t you know how to entertain him? You are so useless and incompetent. You know how busy I am. This is what you are paid for. So do your job!”

The woman then turned on her feet and disappeared. The boy sat by his nanny and his silence was even more heartbreaking than his screams. The nanny was also on the verge of breaking down and I could see tears in her eyes.

This incident, which is unfortunately too common in our society, made me wonder, how my mother was able to raise me and my brothers without any “assistance,” how our needs were always met. But, then again, I could not remember my mother being tanned. No, she’ll be more sunburnt from sitting with us on the sand, building castles and trying to make sure our hair was wet, sunscreen was renewed every hour and that we were well hydrated by the orange juice she had carefully and lovingly prepared at home and that she had put in a thermos in order to keep it cold.

And while I was folding my beach towel and packing my things to leave, I made a mental note -- that in the future, when I will have kids, I also want to be sunburnt.

(Sarah Sfeir, who holds an MBA from Kaslik University in Lebanon, is a Ph.D. candidate in translation. She can be reached at:

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