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A gateway into the world which was opened and left an indelible impression

PART ONE - Caterina Mazzullo

In responding to the cries of humanity, I discovered a need for spirituality in me that perhaps is not there in others. Does it matter if the answer will not be the same for everyone? After all, it is precisely why it is called truth because it does not need to be defended.

When I was asked to write about Lebanon I cried, how could I, how can I imprint such an intimate experience on a blank page; how can I tell and expect others to understand what I experienced on my skin.

" Cate your Life will change" Alice wrote me the day before I left. And so it was.

The radical nature of our choices makes us who we are, and I wonder how strong mine was. I left because I felt a need deep within that I still struggle to explain to this day. I felt that I had to put my hands to work inside me, that I could no longer see myself sitting and waiting. I had to break the chains, because life is participation, and I hold within me a desire for freedom too great to stay still, to cuddle up in my lullabies and live an unchanged daily routine.

I decided to go to Lebanon because it is a country of which there is no news in the West today, of which many do not even know the name. Yet, it is a country that we could call an island, bordering Syria, whose political relations are in the balance and affected by an Endless War, and also bordering Israel with whom the relationship has been contentious for a long time now.

The Lebanese have experienced a very strong civil war, they have seen Beirut split in two, between Christians and Muslims. And today as many as 18 different denominations coexist in this state, each political party converges with a religious identity, each political party is " leaning " either one side or the other. Thus, spirituality, faith becomes an element of identity and belonging, a concept that is now inconceivable in the West. The collapse of the Lebanese lira, the economic crisis of 2019, the covid, and the bomb that went off " accidentally " at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, led this country to the fall of the government, whose control and power was also divided among Shiites, Sunnis and Christians.

A state in which people with intimate substantive differences endure and coexist, differences that for some strange reason, perhaps a secret still unknown to me, embrace and fortify Lebanese citizens.

I do not deny that one of the reasons I set out for the Near East and specifically Lebanon was my mastery of the French language. A language that by virtue of France's mandate in the 1990s – which we could, however, compare to a colonization – has become the mother of these people.

When you volunteer you believe that your work is never enough, that it is not enough, especially in the moments when you become aware, you realize that the people around you on a daily basis live in precarious conditions, conditions that could change from one day to the next. In my case, the absolute poverty of entire families, who rely on what life offers them without ifs and buts.

I kind of realized that I also want to live like this, I want to live in the present without any aversive conditions, without the fear of losing something or making the wrong choice, I want to trust this flowing life and be inspired by myself and especially by what I encounter. I want to let my emotions invade me, infect me with energy and take it back.

I began the journey by writing "may this experience leave an indelible impression on me, may it be neither a brief parenthesis nor an end point. May this experience be one of the many doors to the world that I will slowly open and be inspired by."

I left on July 5, 2023, my mother cried, left me at the threshold of passport control handing me a white notebook and whispering a few words "Cate, write a book." So I left, carrying within me an energy I didn't know I possessed and a craving to photograph every moment.

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