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Departing U.K. Ambassador in Beirut’s Funny, Touching Farewell to Lebanon
All diplomatic postings come to an end, and when they do, a weary emissary must pack up his suits and ties and say goodbye to the foreign country he has called home for the past few years. Saying goodbye can take many forms, but none quite like a farewell blog post penned by the United Kingdom’s departing ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher: “Sorry to write again. But I’m leaving your extraordinary country after four years. Unlike your politicians, I can’t extend my own term.”
That blog post is appropriately titled “So…Yalla, Bye,” and it’s a reflection on Fletcher’s time in Lebanon. It’s by turns funny, hopeful, and morose, though shot through with the relentless optimism of a certain kind of British diplomat. “When I arrived, my first email said, ‘Welcome to Lebanon, your files have been corrupted.’ It should have continued: Never think you understand it, never think you can fix it, never think you can leave unscathed,” Fletcher writes. “Bullets and botox. Dictators and divas. Warlords and wasta. Machiavellis and mafia. Guns, greed, and God. Game of Thrones with RPGs. Human rights and hummus rights.”
Fletcher appears to be a bit of a dreamer, but amid the charnel house of the Syrian civil war whatever hopes he had for Lebanon when he arrived were severely threatened. “They say that Lebanon is a graveyard for idealism,” Fletcher writes. “Not mine. It has been a privilege to share this struggle with you.”
And about that relentless optimism: “If the Internet doesn’t work, build a new Internet. If the power supply doesn’t work, build a new power supply. If the politics don’t work, build a new politics. If the economy is mired in corruption and garbage piles up, build a new economy. If Lebanon doesn’t work, build a new Lebanon. It is time to thrive, not just survive.”

Photo credit: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images