10 Signs You’re Having a Beiruti Morning

You wake up and there’s no electricity.
You spend a few minutes hoping that a fairy will drop some magic dust into the gasping generator since it’s run out of fuel due to the last stint of electricity cuts.
After realizing you’re going to be late if you just wait for a basic utility to appear at the flip of a switch (silly rabbit), you pray your humidified hair does not need any coiffing that may need electric devices. However, it does so you decide that you’ll just shower and air-dry only to find that…
Because there’s no electricity, there’s no hot water.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and you think, “what’s a little cold water?” but then the weak water pressure makes you feel as if a Martian has decided to suck your brain out through your hair follicles.
Once you eventually make it to your car, you find that a neighbor has blocked yours. You proceed to call, honk and buzz the dead intercom incessantly just to wake them up so they can move their chariot while giving you dirty half-asleep looks as they mumble charming words about your mother and sister.
Driving through the streets, wondering how anyone else on the road has a license or a car for that matter, a pointy shoed human on a motored scooter zooms by and hits your side mirror. He yells at you for not using said mirror and speeds off with his cow-licked hair glued to his head as he pulls a wheelie.
The “policeman” directing traffic waves his hand, which you assume, means go but actually means he’s waving hello to the van driver next to you. He then pounds on the hood of your car making monkey noises because you misunderstood his stop signal. You fake a smile, look at yourself in his reflecting aviators and mumble charming words about his mother and sister as you drive on ahead anyway.
You are already running late when the service/taxi in front of you insists on pausing every 2.3 seconds so that he can see if the pedestrian needs a ride to a destination that he feels like driving to. Therefore, even when there isn’t traffic, there’s traffic and you contemplate what it would be like to live in a world where there are metros.
Finally, you’ve reached the parking lot. But it’s full because you’re late. There’s no way he can squeeze you in and after you see him shove a Yukon into a spot tighter than Joe Jonas’ pants, you figure you’re better off.
Or not.
You go around and around and around. Circle after circle, you eventually find a spot to park on the street and have no change for the meter. You walk over to the forn (bakery) nearby, buy a manoushe and Pepsi and get a 500LL in return. You pay the meter and lean against your car and take a deep breath. The smell of the zaatar/dough fills your nose as the oil drips out of the bottom of the paper wrapped around your breakfast and you think, 
“God, I love Beirut.”
Manoushe & Pepsi

TreeShirt’s Magic Tag

Recently, I received a package in the mail from a friend (yes, more snail mail). It was from TreeShirt. I had heard about them before but not until now did I realize how little credit they’re getting for such a great idea. As said on their website (www.treeshirt.me), 

“Treeshirt is for everyone with an eye for cool designs and a passion for making this world a better place to live in. 
With a growing selection of original designs created by a group of talented artists, Treeshirts are a lot more than awesome T-shirts (although the awesomeness factor is a big part of what we do); TreeShirt is all about tees with ideas. 

Whether it’s about making the world a greener place, a more peaceful place or simply sharing your take on life, love and everything in between, TreeShirts are the tees for you!
For its mission, TreeShirt is helping in the reforestation of Lebanon that’s why every time you buy a TreeShirt product, a share of its revenue will be donated to the AFDC (Association for Forest Development and Conservation), and they will use it to reforest areas all around Lebanon. You’ll also receive with your TreeShirt a special edition package so you can make your life a bit greener too.
At TreeShirt, we’re all about changing the world one idea at a time. By buying our awesome tees, not only will you look great but you’ll also making a difference in our community and the world.
Treeshirt. Look great. Live green “
First of all, this is a great initiative. Not only do designers/artists get to participate in the graphics on the shirts but it also helps the environment and donates some of the proceeds. $1158.25 has already been donated. Second of all, it’s a neat gift. 
However, the point of my post is the packaging. Within a brown bag, the shirt came rolled up in a plastic pot with a circular tag attached by a safety pin. The tag itself says:
PLANT this tag and watch it GROW
This sheet includes a hearty and diverse mix of annual and perennial wildflower seeds
The tag also has planting instructions on it. So basically, you get a shirt and the perfect incentive to plant a little something to place on your windowsill. My shirt also came with a personalized letter from my friend who sent it – typed up on the TreeShirt letterhead. All in all, it’s awesomesauce: a nice original package with a great message too. 

Snail Mail

The beautiful thing about having friends spread out all over the place is the snail mail. In the era of the digitalized message, I think people forget how great it can be to receive a handwritten or personalized token that says “I’m here and you’re there but I thought of you today”. I hope this never goes out of style. It would be such a shame to retire an activity that allows you to connect with someone at a specific moment in their life that is in the past when the connection actually occurs. Granted that is true about all forms of communication; however, the ease of sending a text, a tweet, an email or a status update has squashed the very delicacy of a “flashback moment”-that’s what I call them. Those times when you pause for a split second and think “in a few years, I’m going to remember this exact moment in this exact place.”

To me, snail mail is an invitation to someone else. You get a souvenir of a fleeting experience they’re having. They’re offering to share their frozen moment in time with you.

Stamped, dated and addressed to you. It’s old and nostalgic. It’s wonderful. When was the last time you sent a letter? A postcard? Received one? Sealed a package?

Our Letter to Globalization

Dear Globalization,

You have caused me so much unneeded pain that I decided the best way to address them was through a letter for I cannot bear to speak to you face to face. As I spent my days drowning my sorrows in a coma-inducing feast, dipping my French fries into an Oreo McFlurry (which wouldn’t be available if it weren’t for you by the way) while Sarah McLachlan made my soul eat itself, I realized that you are the reason my life has become what it is now. You have taken everything from me. 
You are the reason I have so many online identities that even the CIA think my generation is eternally high for serving up so much personal information voluntarily. Perhaps cellular phones actually did damage the adolescent neurodevelopment of fetuses born in the 80s but I, like the rest of the cyberfolk, comply with Timelines and full digital biographies just because it is the way of the future. Your way.
You are the reason I have grown an extra appendage that keeps me connected to everyone at all times. I cannot part from it as if it were caught in the Peter Parker webs that grow from my wrists but are made of indestructible Admantium spider-silk. The little device that shares a spot near my bedside soothes my addiction to social networks that keep me in touch with people who I might have met once that time with those friends in that place. And it’s all your fault.
I have been separated from those I actually care for because they had to seek greener pastures elsewhere and they managed to do that in separate cities on separate continents for fluctuating periods of time. I’m a slave of messenger services and videochatting just to feel like my posse is still in my jurisdiction, let alone hemisphere, when in reality there is always someone sacrificing precious hours of sleep just to hear the other complain about how many hours of sleep they recently sacrificed.
That’s another thing: sleep. With the constant competitive race that I am in, always trying to be one step ahead just so I can get the career I deserve, it feels as though I am committing an adulterous affair every time I try to stealthily squeeze in an hour of pleasure: an hour of slumber that is. Don’t even get me started on romance. You need me to survive but give me nothing but loneliness in return. You should know that showering me with supersize meals and toffee nut lattes will never satisfy my hunger for intimacy. I put so much effort into what we are building together but all you do is take, take, take. I’m too young for anything serious with you, and yet, I’m too old to just be casual. But that is my relationship with you because you’re all I have left; I am trapped in isolated purgatory. You always motivated me to push for the top tier so I could move away and make millions just like everyone else in my little circle has done. However, I don’t want to play anymore. I’ve been doing this under the illusion that you are helping me because you want me to succeed. I was wrong. All you want is your own success; you want to take over the world and I’m just a pawn in your devious plan. Well, no more. You’ve taken everyone away and I want them back. I’m going to expose you for what you are: a multibillion dollar scam artist that braindrains my poor little microcosm of all its fine young talents under the guise of “opportunity” and “24/7 electricity”. Soon, the world will know what you’ve really been doing, not only to me, but to them as well.

We are so over,
Lebanese Twenty-Somethings

My Top 5 Hamra Coffee Shops

Seeing that I spend most of my time setting up camp in coffee shops around Hamra, I thought I’d list my Top 5 in random order and share my knowledge of these little establishments:

1. Cafe Younes

This cozy slice of intellectual heaven is located up the left mafra2 before Roadster if you are going in the direction of the car traffic. I’m starting with how to get there because that’s usually the first thing people have a problem with. Now, Cafe Younes is basically a very good example of what many think Hamra embodies: Its full of foreigners and Lebanese intellectuals (pseudo or not is up to you to decide) who are soaking up some knowledge at one of the nearby universities and spend time reading or discussing Somalia while sipping on a latte. I’m serious. However true this might be, Cafe Younes is home to many studying students and laptop lovers pecking away while they inhale some grub. Which, by the way, is quite good. There are a few good couches, some high stools and tables, a garden style outdoor area complete with iron chairs that are comfortable for about 30min tops- BUT, if you want the good stuff, go upstairs where there’s 4 laptop stations and the best loveseat in town. The loveseat’s in the corner and has two outlet plugs to the left plus 2 armchairs facing it (you’re lucky if you get all 3). You can easily fall asleep there. I have.
What to order: everything I’ve tried has been awesomesauce but I recommend the Chicken Thyme Club, Maple Syrup Pancakes, or the Halloumi Sandwich. Peach Ginger Tea!
Warning: it gets really crowded so if you’re anal about noise then don’t go here if you need optimum silence for concentration. They do have free wifi for 2hrs if you ask for a password – it’s alright, a bit slow and gmail needs to reload 64x because of it but you can manage. Every first Wednesday of the month, there’s a Poetry reading at around 8 – it also gets a bit loud since they insist on using microphones to read their masterpieces. There are some good ones and some are just…entertaining. Michael Dennison, a creative writing teacher at AUB, reads his stuff and its got its own pizzazz, if you will.
Extra tidbit: they just opened a new branch facing AUH near Blue Building-its got the same menu but it’s a bit more dine-oriented and less I’m-going-to-live-here-for-the-next-6-hours.

2. Gloria Jean’s

If you take a right before Roadster and turn right at the COOP, then you’ll end up at Gloria’s. This place is pretty roomy but tends to be full during midterm/final exam weeks. It’s quieter than others and they’ve got their fair share of comfy seats. They offer a frequent-flyer-mile punch card so that you eventually get a free cup of joe, I’ve finished two so it does come as a nice bonus at some point. They ask for your name if you’re sticking around so when your order is ready, they yell it out so you can come get it. They have wifi stubs for 2hrs- also not the fastest around but it’ll do if you need to check some stuff.  Their food isn’t for the starving but there’s enough to choose from to get you full plus their cakes are supplied by Sugar Daddy’s: Chocolate chocolate, chocolate vanilla and RED VELVET with that orgasmic frosting (no sexual innuendo intended) so it tastes like you’re eating a gigantic cupcake. The slices are pretty generous for 5000LL.
What ELSE to order (because the cake should be a no brainer): poppy seed bagel with jalapeno cream cheese, mixed berry chiller
Mixed Berry Chiller + Red Velvet Cake Slice
(nom nom nom)
Warning: if you’re a group of people who want to study and will probably be loud, go somewhere else because Gloria’s is calmer and the others won’t appreciate your normal Arab inside-voices while their inhaling lecture notes.

Extra tidbit: the zaatar crisps near the cash register are nice to take home and eat with some labneh the next morning!
Wall Art at Gloria’s

3. Brisk

Brisk is located on the main street of Hamra near LaSenza and Crepaway, across from Aldo. Everything they make is fresh and organic; it resembles Pret in London in that its mostly self-serve but also has hot dishes. They also now have a mini-Gloria Jean’s inside so you can hit two birds with one stone if you want their coffee and Brisk’s food. Their wifi is better than others and you don’t need to deal with a sign-in code and I’m pretty sure its unlimited time wise. There’s wooden tables, a tall bar with high chairs, a couple couches and a nice little corner spot in the back. Noise fluctuates depending on how crowded it is and where people are sitting because I think its got some funky acoustics (that or there are just some really loud Americans from time to time).
What to order: Protein loaded salad or the cold Chicken Cobb Sandwich
Warning: they can be a bit pricey especially when it comes to beverages (waters for 1500, soft drinks for 3000) but your wallet-conscience is soothed when you remember you’re not hoovering a BigMac

Extra Tidbit: they have a recycling center for all their packaging and bottles so its environmentally friendly
Fruit Cups
4. Caribou Coffee

This place is a double story coffeehouse on the corner of the main street of Hamra before H&M and one of the 23 Vero Modas. The coffee is not my favorite but, then again, I’m not a huge coffee drinker. Ironic post, I know. To be honest, their paper cups and handwritten scribbles on the glass are what won me over. 
Paper Cups with Scribbled Answers to “What do you stay awake for?”
Scribbles on the glass
During the Christmas season, they had really cute napkins too. Apparently they are open 24/7, which is a rare find in this country. They also have free wifi but I have yet to try it.
What to Order: I really haven’t gone enough times to give a fair recommendation of what’s a definite choice. I’ll have to get back to you on that; however, the staff is pretty helpful when you’ve got a clueless dumbfounded look on your face.
Warning: The wooden chairs are stiff enough to keep you conscientiously at work but can be a literal royal pain in the arse after a while. Try to get a couch if you’re in it for the long haul.
Extra Tidbit: rumor has it, their cheesecake is imported from The Cheesecake Factory in the States. They’re not too bad and go for around 9,000LL a slice.

5. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Festive Paper Cup & Brownie
If you find yourself at the beginning of the main road, then skedaddle on over to this franchise that comes all the way over from California. It’s before Kababji & Dunkin and across from Chopsticks. The bar is nicely setup and they’ve got really nice gift-sets for those tea-fanatics in your life. They’ve got matching tins with different flavors all packaged together. One that stuck out was “Red Velvet Powder” for baking and such. Is it obvious that I have a weakness for red velvet? Anyway, they’ve also got a frequent-flyer-mile punch card – after 12 coffees, you get a free one. When you’re done ordering you get this pager that looks sort of like a taser; it buzzes when your order is ready to be picked up at the bar. Be careful with those things, they scare the heck out of you. Internet is regular IDM.
What to Order: Vanilla Latte, I give the brownie a B-
Warning: It’s a bit of a walk if you’re near AUB or LAU so if you’ve got a lot of luggage with you and don’t feel like making the trip/don’t have time, then get in the car and park closer or go somewhere nearer to you.
Extra Tidbit: Go for the brown suede seats. Trust me, you sink and they’re the right kind of soft for when you’re trying to concentrate or just chill out. Also open in Zaitunay Bay.

Just so you don’t start telling me that I left out all these other places in Hamra – I am aware that there a tons of other coffee spots but I’m just focusing on the ones that I frequent so here’s an extra one just for kicks: If you’re not all about boycotting, the best thing about the Starbucks on the main street is that it has 3 levels- top floor is ideal study space and really comfortable but not well lit in some places. The ground floor is your typical Starbucks space and the underground level is very intimate. So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if couples take advantage of the private corners and subdued dimmed lights. But like all Starbucks branches, Internet is not free.

UPDATE: Gloria’s has discontinued their frequent flyer mile card. And their spiced ginger bagel crisps are awesomesauce. 

10 Things You Learn After Graduating from AUB

  1. You are going to claim that the new children (students) aren’t supposed to be sitting at the spot you and your friends territorially peed all over during your 3-4 years on campus.
  2. You realize you probably didn’t need to leave the stacks/ma2bara for coffee/red bull/chocolate runs every hour and a half.
  3. Real life outside the AUB bubble is much faster and lonelier during that awkward post-grad tadpole-becoming-a-frog period.
  4. You think your AUB degree can take a figurative crap on all other Lebanese university degrees.
  5. You miss the way the smell of Dunkin used to fill the crevices of Main Gate at 7 in the morning.
  6. You will never forget that time you joked about Abu Naji having everything from Panadol to Band-Aids…and found out it was true
  7. No patch of grass will ever be as awesome as that of the Green Oval. Normal grass that is.
  8. Finding a parking spot in Beirut is always going to be a problem…for the rest of your life.
  9. AUB cats are genetically mutated to be cuter than other strays from “the outside”. And they used mind control to steal your Bliss House Spicy Chicken.
  10. You secretly hope that one day there will be a really uncomfortable green bench with your name on the gold plaque.