Sneak peek into an estranged world. Cheers!

Archive for January, 2014

Suicidal actions

Lately in Lebanon we’ve been hearing of many suicide bombers, killing and injuring crowds at random all over the city.

We read of these suicidal bombers throughout history and hear about them on a nearly weekly basis here in Beirut. Jokes have been made about them such as the well known “Achmed the dead terrorist” in Jeff Dunham’s puppet shows as well as different stand-up comedians.
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Why become a suicide bomber? To defend a cause some say, while others state it’s the best way for them to make a good impression in removing your life for the bettering of society. And more importantly as it is stated for most suicide bomber terrorists is the fact that they will receive 72 virgins once they reach heaven for the ‘good’ deed that they accomplished.
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Unfortunately, it’s hard to convince these terrorists to stop their amazingly idiotic endeavors and move on towards a healthier lifestyle and way of discussion; which makes it a useless point to try and argue in this case.

But what about drivers in Lebanon? I’ve previously written a post ‘I also like to live dangerously’ where I’ve pointed out how dangerous it is to try and drive a car in Lebanon and specifically in the vicinity of Beirut. So as always driving around here still takes a lot of skills, but I’ve noticed myself and other people developing a reaction that’s very different from the usual cursing at crazy drivers, and it’s this simple phrase: “روح نتيحير لا حالك” aka “go commit suicide by yourself”.

Growing up and learning how weak the line can be between life and death, especially when it comes to driving mistakes, not having enough time to break or having another driver swerve in front of you all of a sudden can all become the last thing you see.

As most Lebanese know, we’re always in a hurry, to get to work, to get home, to get to a pub, even to cruise; we tend to always speed/break most of the drive, get annoyed by slow drivers and/or by fast drivers. Being able to speed past a car or two can be a great feat, while getting passed by other fast drivers can be cause for defeat sometimes.

I think that suicidal drivers are more dangerous than suicidal bombers, at least the latter have a reason to kill themselves as well as risk the lives of many others; while the drivers are only in for the fun of the drive and the rush of adrenaline, especially in crowded streets and highways.
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Take for example this guy, speeding his way down a road when he lost control of his car for a second, luckily for everyone else he crashed into the railing which broke a threw his car off into the Beirut river, instead of having his car wobble down on the street causing a huge accident including 3 to 5 cars.
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Lucky for him as well the fact that he survived the crash, and was alone in the car. Unfortunately most of the time these ‘suicidal drivers’ are usually the young people trying to look cool, or the elder family men with their toddlers sitting on their laps or with their heads dangling out of the windows that end up in these car crashes, endangering the lives of so many without thinking of the consequences of such choices.

Of course most of them will reply with: “yes but I’m a good driver!” Unfortunately what most of them forget is that mistakes are part of the human nature. You might be a good driver, but how can you trust that the other drivers around you are good drivers as well? A good example of this is this video that was made not too long ago as awareness for those who trust others to act the same way as them.

So who do you think is more dangerous in this case?

T.

Drunk dogs?!

So I was sitting at this bar the other day called Torino in gemmayze, beirut.

An extremely friendly bar if you ask me, and a side that I love about it, apart from opening up at 10am, is that it’s also dog friendly.
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Now a thing to know about dogs, they don’t like alcohol, (at least not the alcoholic ones); so it’s never a good idea to be drunk, cuddle that dog, and spray the dog with your drink: it most probably will attack, however trained it is. After all we all know that dogs have an extremely sensible sense of smell; imagine how annoying it must feel to them.

So of course, that guy, even though having two dogs at home, got attacked.
People decide that all dogs are trained the same way to react the same way. But they most definitely are not, each copies their parent owner, and in some ways have their basic instict still leading them; especially at a young age.

Same goes for humans in some way, though we always tend to ignore that, we prefer to think that all react like humans, aka us, but that theory has been proved wrong over the years. We say yeah but eventually each develops their own personality, we are not submissive like dogs.

I fully agree with that theory, but here’s an idea that I will let ponder in your head: what about suicide bombers and sheep that follow a political or religious party that requires them to kill not the same?

T.

Realization

Did you ever wake up and realize that this isn’t the life you expected yourself to be in?
That’s when I notice: shit just got serious!

Where do you go from here?

T.

Lebanon or bomb-a-home?

Listening to the news in this country is like waiting for a huge bomb to explode in our face. Whatever we do, and wherever we are, we’ll always wait for this one call and wish we never get it.

I personally don’t actually listen or read the news, I simply scan it. I receive messages from LBCI, and MTV, always hooked on my phone; but what I scan for are the words explosion ‘انفجار’, bomb ‘متفجرة’, missile ‘صاروخ’, gun shots ‘قناس’ or ‘اطلاق نار’, and all the words relating to any murderous incident that might have taken place anywhere and everywhere around my country.
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Some people continuously ask me, why keep these news updates if you won’t read most of them. My answer is simple, in case the explosion happens anywhere close to a place where I was, might have been, or usually am in my first reaction is to grab my phone, call my mother and tell her I’m fine, before closing the line asap for my other siblings to be able to call her as well before the lines build up and connections become rare.

So why call it bomb-a-home? Simple explanation as well; not only are targeted crowds, or person, or even place, get harmed with the onset of a car bomb or explosive or whatever the case might be; but ‘casualties’ as some call them are always the main victims of such savagery.
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(Trying to put off the fore that spread to houses and cars around the explosion).

Homes are destroyed, schools, streets; people lose their lives, their children, their parents, their friends; but they also might lose their jobs, their office, bakery, market, library, or any other assets. They lose either literary their roof, or the way to keep that roof over their heads… they lose their home.

And yet we continue with our lives, going to work, going for a drink, or heading out for a road trip. We act as if it’s a normal thing, we have gotten used to the casualties, to the savagery, to the killings and destruction. We sometimes shout out, we shed tears for those whose eyes have dried out, we scream in revolt, and call for justice. Yet once the tensions thins out a bit we relax, we still nag, but we don’t do anything to figure a way to stop it; we don’t keep pushing our government to protect our rights, we give up on the fight and let our police (whose job is supposed to protect us) run around after lost souls that smoke up, instead of finding those that kill us.

Like today for example, where they found that the explosion wasn’t triggered from a distance, but where remains of a suicide bomber were found. (How can they even still exist?)
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So what am I doing now? I’m still sitting at my desk at work, and so are all the rest of my coworkers; if we were to leave and go into hiding in our homes, which are not even that safe anymore, we would lose that job and that which keep our house’s roof over our heads. There is no such thing as a moment of silence anymore, once we have called all the people we know, all those we care about, and made sure they are safe; we go back into our trance of everyday life, trying to ignore the pains of the others so not to be overwhelmed.

So now I need to clock in the rest of my hours for the day. Have a safe day without fireworks my friends. And keep yourselves away from danger (if you recognize it in time).

T.

Trashing Lebanon

Strangely very few Lebanese people are aware of what has been going on in Beirut and mount Lebanon specifically over the past four days. But questions have started arising with the smells and pollution increases around their homes and streets.
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So here’s the headline for those trying to figure out why trash has been piling up all over the streets and Sukleen trucks (whose job is to remove waste from the streets to the landfill) have been MIA: a sit-in has been taking place on the road leading to the landfill by residents of Naameh and Ain Drafill in protest over the lack of care and sky-rocketing degrees of pollution taking place in the landfill.

As some of you might know the landfill was excavated and ready to take in 2 thousand tons of waste for a limited time of 10 years until the government provides a new facility for the waste to be divided, treated accordingly, and made eco-friendly as to not destroy what is left of health in the country (which of course they still haven’t done anything about after 15 years and more than 10 thousand tons).

Now all I’ve read and seen are people protesting and not taking matters into their own hands; one blog post I read believes the best way to take matters into their own hands is by piling up the trash in front of our politician’s homes in the hopes that they will take action. But I believe otherwise.

If as many people as they say are protesting and feeling an unfairness when it comes to the treatment of trash in Beirut; the best way to treat the matter is either to provide a waste treatment plan for the government (who’s apparently too ignorant over what’s happening) or take matters into their own hands literarily and take action as NGOs in helping out Sukleen workers in the division of trash for later recycling.

Of course being Lebanese and thinking too high of ourselves, most of us prefer simply sending out the blame on others and/or getting Syrian, Sudanese, and Palestinian minority staff to do the “dirty job” for them.

I for one took matters into my own hands and got them dirty while growing up, by dividing my trash into plastics, paper, organic matter, glass, and solids over the years (a knowledge which I have learnt and acquired from my parents). Most of you will ask “then what? Now you have 5 different piles of trash but no way to get rid of them”. The answer is actually simple, we already have in Lebanon waste recycling facilities for plastic, glass, and papers; you simply need to look up the one that is closest to your home or arrange a monthly pick-up with the companies to help you out.

As for the organic matter, we Lebanese continuously use and abuse chemical additives as fertilizers for our plants, crops, or actual agricultural fields; which ends up seriously harming the environment as well as the fruits themselves. Why not instead make an organic compost in your back-garden; I know that you’re probably thinking we don’t have back-gardens in Beirut, just apartment houses; but in that case why not work with your building’s or street’s community and provide a space for you all to put your organic trash to be composted before using it as a natural fertilizer, or sending it off to those with agricultural farms in need of the nutrients it provides instead of spraying chemicals all over them.

When you look at it this way you realize almost 80% if not more of your trash will be re-used and going separate ways to different treatment facilities instead of piling up the whole load in one landfill and over-exceeding its size and limits.

As for the 20% of the non-reusable trash being sent to the landfill? Well the government will have to deal with them accordingly the same way all other countries treat their waste and dispose of it without harming the environment, water, or air; as well as providing the towns close to the landfill with clean living and a healthy future.

This kind of changes the perspective on things doesn’t it?

For those interested in a recycling plan, here are some companies that can help you out, not just by taking into their own hands your trash, but sometimes even paying you for it:

Click to access management_of_recyclable_marterial_for_lebanese_municipalities.pdf

Still hoping for a greener Lebanon.

T.

Smartass or not so smart?

Being born and raised in Lebanon, I learnt that nothing stays safe unless you keep an eye on it or make sure it can’t be stolen, from pens to lighters all the way to bigger objects such as motorbikes and cars.

For the bigger objects, thieves usually carry them out of the place before figuring out how to use them or unlock them. Take for example a motorbike, whether it be a vespa or a heavy Harley, most bikes have a switch to lock the front wheel so the robber wouldn’t be able to roll it away.

Another thing that most people use is a rope padlock to make sure the wheel can’t be rolled down on a street or any other way; so most people, especially those that have those small vespas (which account for more than cars in Beirut) use the padlock on a ring fixed to the ground, or any other object to make sure no one would walk by and carry it away.

So walking around bliss street the other day I had to stop in my footsteps and walk back to make sure I got this picture of an extremely smart Lebanese man’s vespa, which is parked in front of AUH.

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Pretty easy to carry away don’t you think?

I might be a bit bias but I’m not exactly sure how this guy’s logic works. And found it too funny not to share.

Have a great weekend!

T.

A man’s work

Being a woman from the Middle East I always hear of men having to build their home before proposing to the woman of their dreams, unfortunately this habit has been lost over the years with the help of real estate and gender equality in some cases, but not everywhere.

Walking through a village or having a conversation with an old man, you hear his stories of years of work and endurance to build, by hand, a home for his future wife and children to live in.

Walking into these homes you see how personalized these spaces are, not just in the interior decorations, but in the basic architecture of the place; a man that loves watching sunsets will build a house with an outdoor seating to watch the sunsets from; and you notice that this room or space in particular is bigger than any other in the house. Same goes for a man that enjoys spending time in the kitchen will unconsciously make the space bigger, and divide it in a smarter way than a man that doesn’t care much about this space.

I met a man nearly 5 years ago, that finally got through to the woman of his dreams; that man works as a chef in a small restaurant off Hamra street, a restaurant where only hotel guests usually go; so they got engaged, and weren’t married until a year ago when he had finally finished building an apartment over his parent’s house for him and his wife.

The length of time that they take before being able to move in with a loved one tests their love in one way, while it also shows how well that man understands his future wife’s needs by providing her with spaces she enjoys spending time in, as well as common places where both of them can spend time together, and build a family.

The difference between this old habit and the new trends of renting or buying ready-made apartments or houses is the test of trust, knowledge, and time that each couple has to go through before committing themselves to each other; and as I have noticed (I won’t say statistically since I couldn’t find any study about it), from the people I have met to those I have heard of; neither of these couples (if not one or two) have gone later through a divorce; while couples that simply buy or rent end up having trouble sharing the spaces, or meeting in the same one, concluding their relationship into a sometimes ugly divorce.

Now I’m not saying men have to go through that habit again; though sometimes it is quite cute and romantic, but since we women have become more independent and thrive for equality of genders, I think the wait between an engagement before the wedding day is safer, as to learn more about the other, and both find a place that suits both of their needs; that being a personal space and a common one.

Still it keeps me wondering; how can a house become a home if each wall and corner isn’t personalized enough from the beginning of the journey? You might say its habit and building new memories on each centimeter of the space; but maybe there’s something more I haven’t figured out yet between the lines.

T.

Tripping numbers

Have you ever noticed how growing up, some of us have this habit of counting cars while on the bus to school, or reading the plate numbers?

Personally I got two favorite numbers, and one special number. Why special? I’m not sure, but I’ve always loved it, and being prone to design classes I always tried using it in many ways, writing it and drawing it differently.

That number is 19, it’s the only number I have trouble writing fast for some reason, and a couple of days ago a friend pointed out to me a fact that I hadn’t noticed in my years trying to master it; it’s the largest prime number found.

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Pick a pen and paper and try writing this number in the most beautiful calligraphy way possible, I doubt you’ll get any nice result, whether you’re drawing it by pencil or trying to make a street art out of it, it always seems unfit as if something were missing.

What is your special number?

T.

The day I was not caught cheating

So here’s an interesting episode that happened to me last week; it was kinda scary to say the least, but opened my eyes to how low a person’s self-esteem can be.

I’ve got this friend who’s a bartender; usually opens up the place around 5pm, but that day I felt like having an early drink with him; now even though the pub next to his place was open, I didn’t exactly feel like joining in with strangers when I needed a bartender that knew my mood swings and a good listener, so I messaged him sending a good morning then waiting for a response, which is what normal people do, now the conversation didn’t go exactly as I had planned it when I saw the response, and noticed that it wasn’t D that answered, but his current girlfriend (whom I didn’t know at the time who she was).
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Later on he calls me excusing his girlfriend’s behavior and opening up the pub so I could join. Of course since it was still around 4pm, I had to help out clean up the place so it’d be ready for opening hour, while having a beer with him (normal, I’m a customer, but also a friend), chatting about how our new year’s eve party went and sharing interesting stories about random customers and people at work.

A friend of mine joined a bit later, right when we had finished up cleaning and went for a cigarette, even though the place was still closed, both of us being good friends with him he let us sit down for our beer and enjoy it before the crowds joined.

And that’s when I heard someone at the door behind us, I couldn’t exactly see who it was since I had my back turned but I heard some harsh whispering between D and someone, whom my friend a couple of minutes later recognized as the waitress that used to work here a couple of months ago. As I was turning around to tell her we missed her around here (her having been our waitress for 2 years, and having been the origin of us picking this place as a hangout), when she stormed in and started calling me so many names, mainly aggressively and verbally attacking me for sleeping with her boyfriend. And that’s when it hit me, she’s the girlfriend!

By that time people had started walking by the place and watching the huge scene from afar, throwing me angry glances of disapproval and disrespect, judging the situation from their point of view, while all I could do; all the while trying to stay as polite as possible; was to stare her in the eyes repetitively telling her I had no idea what she was talking about, then giving up, turning my back, and try to drown out the screaming while sipping my beer (which was extremely hard to do, I honestly just felt like getting up and slapping her across the face to get her to reason correctly – but that would have been extremely impolite). Until she finally left, leaving a sense of disorientation, awkwardness, and a feeling of disgust.

I later decided to relate this incident on Facebook, which got me some interesting comments, while others were quite useless; but most people saw what I didn’t when it had happened, she is simply overly insecure.
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Now she did raise a good point during her monologue, which was why did her boyfriend have my number while she never had it. I could’ve easily told her that it’s because a couple of my posts were about him, so I could send it to him before publishing for feedback, but then that would have sparked some more questions; which I didn’t feel like getting into, but she never taught me or told me or even done anything much interesting for me to relate in my blog; and saying that out loud could’ve broken her self-esteem even more.

So now here I am trying desperately to find a way to stop this insanity by avoiding my favorite pub, just so as not to run into her and spark even more questions and harsh words. Which shouldn’t be the case, especially since nothing ever happened (or ever will for that matter) between me and her boyfriend, I am a customer, as well as a friend, I believe I’m mature enough to be able to see and respect these limits and boundaries, the same way I do in my workspace.

So what can I say in that case? If I try and talk to her, she’ll think I’m covering something up, and if I avoid the place, it’ll be a point proven for her that she “caught us” in the act of cheating.

It’s hard to see the different perspectives when being an outsider, but having been on the inside of it and having been screamed at, judged nastily, and named all names; my ego has actually started wishing I had done something instead of getting blamed for just being there at the wrong time at the wrong place.

T.

Third world country you say?

The conversation I had last night was a debate between the different cultures and how much each know about the other.

Take for example Lebanon, a country recognised as a third world place, where wars keep raging and bombs going off. Yet have a cultural conversation with any Lebanese, you notice the extend of their knowledge about the others.

On the other hand have a conversation with an American about Lebanon, Europe, or any other country; their knowledge is limited to what the media shows them. 

I’ve got a half Lebanese half Swiss friend that had to travel back to Switzerland to continue her studies. A Swiss person taking the same masters degree as her asked her this simple question:
“what was the hardest part to get used to from moving to Switzerland?”.
Of course my friend being ironic replies:
“wearing shoes, they’re so uncomfortable and hard getting used to”.
To which he reacts by saying:
“Oh my god!of course! But isn’t walking in the desert all the time barefoot burn your heels? If you want I’ll help you out with all the technology such as computers and listening to music… [And on and so forth]“.

This is the funniest part I believe, the fact that this guy who’s supposed to come from a first world country with a history of education not even know the semblance of life people have in other countries. Lebanese teens learn of different cultures and their history throughout school and high school, as well as college; which is not the case for most European or American students that simply learn the history of their own country completely disregarding the others.

Moral of the rambling: I think human kind needs to rethink and reorganise what it means to be culturally intelligent versus economically advanced.

T.

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