Why Do You Stay?

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Jounieh Bay, Sept 2012

A friend’s status on Facebook said “What’s keeping me here, I don’t even know” Given recent events, a lot of us are asking ourselves the same understandable question. I know how difficult it can be to live in Lebanon but I know that many people abroad would prefer to be here if circumstances were better. Regardless of where you are right now, I thought I’d write down a few reasons why the collective “you” stay or wish you could.

Why do you stay?

You stay because of your family,
you can’t abandon them selfishly.
You stay because of your job,
you can’t just expect a good opportunity to pop up wherever you go.
You stay because you don’t have a visa,
you don’t have the freedom to just book a ticket for any destination.
You stay because you just bought a car,
you’ve invested in something that is rooted here and it’s yours.
You stay because your Teta is getting older,
you can’t leave when you don’t know how much longer she’ll be around.
You stay because you’re relatively broke,
you can’t afford the living expenses abroad.

No.

Maybe you stay because you want to.
Because your clothes and hair smell like coal after mashewe in June.
Because of the taste of leftover manoushe heated on the soubiyya in January.
Because there’s a lost week of summer that makes an appearance in October.
Because of multicolored plaid patchwork in the plains of the Bekaa in April.
Because of Bliss House Chocolat Mou during the power-cuts of August.
Because of the color of the Jounieh Bay’s waters during September.
Because of chilled janerek rolled in salt in May.
Because of nostalgic reunions thanks to international vacation schedules overlapping during December.
Because the acoustics of the Byblos Port create musical synchronicity with the sea waves in July.
Because of Uncle Deek Nescafe in the car during kazdouras in February.
Because of the sun-rays bouncing on the Mediterranean in the middle of November.
Because of the crunching sound of the melting snow on asphalt in the middle of March.
Because you want to see Lebanon rise not like a phoenix, but like a dragon that will breathe fire not become it.
Because you want to raise your children in the country where they are a part of her soil and stone because you helped save her.
Because you want to call this place home.

Why do you stay?
You stay because you want to.

[mashewe: BBQ/grilled meats, soubiyya: old-fashioned heater, janerek: green plums, kazdoura: cruise in the car]

10 Questions with 1 Answer: NO.

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If I #selfie then it doesn’t count as narcissistic, right?
No, you’re still randomly taking a photo of yourself in the bathroom. Hashtagging doesn’t erase the toilet in the background or the reflection in your glasses, it’s just you virtually owning up to it. Which is good: it’s the first step to recovery. Now, put down the camera.

Can I eat that Burger King anniversary offer all by myself and tell no one?
No, because you’re going to need someone to take you to get your stomach pumped and you can’t do that while parked alone on the side of the road patting down onion rings with napkins because “there’s too much oil.” Those oil inkblots will not save your arteries. You can limit the knowledge to the designated driver and hospital staff (who all went to college with you).

Is the DJ out yet?
No, but it doesn’t really matter because his/her music sounds the same as the crap you’re grooving to when you ask the question. At any trance event where you’re not wasted or high, you will actually notice that the music doesn’t change or get better, people just get more messed up as the night progresses and think everything got better. It’s not a natural sense of ecstasy, it’s MDMA.

Can I have another cookie?
No, because you’re 25 and that cookie is going to implant itself on your ass as a reminder that all cookies want to shack up with your ageing metabolism. There’s a joke here about Kardashians and moving too fast but it hasn’t formulated in my head yet so I’m going to just say “North West” as a placeholder.

Can I yell like a tennis player during this gym class because my muscles want to cry?
No. The music might be loud enough so no one can hear you but the electricity will cut, everyone will think you’re a sweaty freak, and you’ll have to find a new gym since they don’t support dry Herbal Essences’ moments. You just paid for 3-months so be quiet and FEEL THE BURN IN THOSE SHINS.

Will I ever get used to the term “babe” as a form of endearment?
No. Babe is a pig. Babe is a baseball player. Babe is a half-naked chick that surfer dudes think is like a totally bodacious specimen to ride. Babe is what girls call other girls right after they ask for a favor. Babe is one step away from Baby. Don’t call me baby. Don’t call me babe. Ever.

Am I supposed to start up a start-up?
No. You’re not supposed to do anything except be employed. In this economy and country-with-no-stability-or-proper-water-filtration, any form of employment is a blessing but not everyone is an entrepreneur. However, if the start-up is your brainchild and it’s going to be your ticket to the top, good for you. If you don’t have a useful innovative idea that can work as a business and have no job prospects then go back to school or become an actOR. *extends arm like reciting thespian*

Does my cat love me?
No, he’s an arrogant abusive Angora who happens to be photogenic so no one sees the evil within. That’s right, you’ve adopted Cat Man Do from the Powerpuff Girls. You’re going to end up feeding it and cleaning it and loving it and even with all the Chemical X in the world, he’s never going to love you.

Is it about time I get married?
No, k thx, bye.

My Email to the NSA

  Click for Source

Dear NSA,

I’m not going to expect you to read between the lines anymore. I know you’ve been reading my emails, screening my posts, and following my tweets. I know you have folders of my pictures dating back to when I was an awkward sophomore who mistakenly cut her own bangs and thought wearing her dad’s Champion socks was okay. I know you’ve saved some of my juicy gchats to keep you company on late nights. I know you read my blog and I’m sorry about my hating on GOT right before the massacre at the Red Wedding. I’m assuming you’re a fan because it’s all about the security of the realm and the defending of the throne; you know, your kinda thing. The season finale was still “meh” but I’m not going to poke at fresh wounds. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is the joke’s on you. All this time, I was trying to reach you indirectly; I was trying to get you to fall for me because I knew you were watching my every move. To put it simply, I was playing you and I was playing hard to get.

But enough playing.

I’m addressing this one straight to you and I’m putting it in plain English so you don’t have to decipher my codewords or dissect my convoluted prose. You don’t have to download entire threads and reread them to know what I’m actually saying to you without saying it. You don’t have to be confused or say, “chicks don’t know what they want, man.” I will spare you the hormones, the mood swings, and the spazzed cat GIFs.  I don’t simmer in a hot tub full of any of the aforementioned things – except the cat GIFs, I can’t get enough of those – so I think what I want is going to be very clear to you if you haven’t already figured it out. I want you to want me.

I love that you care so much about me. Others would call it a “pathetic obsession” or a “violation of privacy.” I think you’re protective and you’re just watching over me.  My security is as important as yours. It’s almost one and the same. I hope that I’m not the only special one out there; I do wish that every person gets to feel this sense of being watched over by someone else.

And I’m not afraid to say any of this flat out because the mere fact that you are still hanging on every word I say, that you are going to great lengths to see what I will do next, that I intrigue you to such an extent – all this tells me that you are hooked. You can’t stop thinking about me. You want to know every detail because it fascinates you. How could it not? I feel like I am your pot of gold, found on the other side of the rainbow of light that bursts out of a prism. So there is only one conclusion dear NSA: you’re in love with me.

But don’t fret. I’m in love with you too.

Me

P.S. When I email myself, I think of you.

Public Parks: The Lebanese Endangered Species

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Another public park is at risk. That statement alone is not entirely accurate seeing that we don’t have that many parks at risk because we don’t actually have that many parks. The Jesuit Garden, which is located in the Rmeil district of Ashrafieh, Beirut is now on the Endangered Species list when it comes to our city’s urban development. The garden, along with various other parts of Ashrafieh (Gemmayzeh, Mar Mikhael, Sursock), is being leveled and converted into a parking lot.

The problem with the Geitawi area is the existing parking lots were dug up and carved out to serve as foundations for the new buildings that have popped up. As a result, the severe lack of parking spots in the already-tight-squeeze-streets has a lot of the neighborhood’s residents and visitors left with nowhere to safely park – or nowhere they can park without losing a side mirror every 2 weeks. I’ve lost 3 in the last 10 months and I don’t even live there. Those responsible for this decision claim that a new park will replace the old one, while parking will be underground. First of all, no one believes that because we’ve never seen any construction project do anything remotely GREEN or beneficial for public space. Second of all, how does that even work? The construction of the parking lot alone would be a major hassle in a place that barely has room for the passage of a Picanto i10 – by the time it’s finished, they’ll ditch the green plans and assume everyone who complained has moved on anyway.

The Jesuit Garden is a place where most senior citizens have their morning sobhiyyehs (friendly rendezvous usually involving gossip) and take their grandkids to play; it is a small quaint park in the middle of Geitawi, the area that is home to Oceanus, St. Georges Hospital, and those old guys that sit on wicker chairs on the sidewalk and argue about…anything. Not too long ago, the Beirut Green Project, the movement responsible for a Green Your Lunch Break initiative where people would go have lunch on an installed piece of grass, joined forces with Paint Up, the colorful crew that’s painting Beirut. They painted the benches of the Jesuit Garden giving it a facelift and revitalizing the spirit of a forgotten little Eden. Check out the photos here taken by Nadim Kamel. Unknown to most, the garden also has a small yet rich French & English public library affiliated with Assabil – The Friends of Public Libraries.

Beirut Green Project is organizing a protest this Saturday. Although the issue of parking in Geitawi is important and cannot be ignored, a solution that creates another problem is not a solution. This is like placing a band-aid on a deep cut that requires stitches; it will only leave a nasty scar on the character of our city. I don’t think that the protest is about the Jesuit Garden alone or in particular, it is about the principle of this demolition. We cannot keep letting these projects destroy what little spaces are left to the public even if they are claimed to be done in the service of the public. We need better solutions for our urban planning disasters but until these sprout from the ground, we need to save what’s still left on this one.

So the question is: to park or not to park? 

Strip the City: Dubai Edition

Strip the City is a series on Discovery Science Channel that strips major cities down to their bare bones. It analyzes the infrastructure and unique urban planning that went into building such a destination by explaining the technology and architectural & civil engineering. I recently stumbled across the episode on Dubai and it was pretty impressive. For example, did you know that they relocated an entire coral reef…while keeping it underwater the whole time?

Watch the full episode below:

Cheers to Social Responsibility, Part II

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Upon some more digging after my previous post, I found various other brand activations that were done to counter drunk-driving and other various road safety issues.Two are done by our local neighbors over in Dubai ( both are Nissan and are much better attempts than the activation done here last March). Check them out:

  • Tire Wreaths, Dubai (U.A.E.)

    By using the symbol for mourning, Nissan crafted old or worn out tires into floral wreaths to remind drivers to regularly change them and avoid bursted tire accidents. Although it’s not an active stunt and is only displayed in stores, it’s beautiful and functional. This is a great example of how design sends a message that can help others.

  •  Allianz Insurance DrunkMirror, Brazil

    Using the mirrors within clubs, people were given delayed reflections so they could see the effects of alcohol on their reflexes. Their tagline, “Getting home safely starts with a good look at yourself.” Watch it happen here. Good effort but it may have just been fun for tipsy people to play with their reflections – I don’t know if it really stopped the chugging.

  • Brandhouse Ziploc Bag

    Parked cars were placed in giant Ziploc bags as “evidence” of drunk-driving. A very simple stunt that gets a point across, although it doesn’t do a lot of difference. It’s a nice idea but there isn’t a lot of action involved. B+ for effort though.

  • Crash Text Dummies, Dubai (U.A.E.)

    Sculptures made out of scrapped car parts that formed the letters “FYI” made the rounds at Dubai universities to show the dangers of texting while driving. QR codes near the sculptures would take you to a website where you could share a pledge on your social networks. Like the Ziploc bag effort, the visual impact may get people thinking but it doesn’t physically stop them or help them in any way; however, when it comes to texting, prevention is quite a challenge. It’s been said that texting while driving is more dangerous than drunk-driving.

  • Responsible Young Drivers Parking Barrier, Brussels (Belgium)

    A parking barrier that only opens if you pass a breathalyzer test. Now THAT’S prevention.

  • More Beer Companies and their Responsibility Programs

    MillerCoors “Great Beer Great Responsibility”: MillerCoors beer company has implemented a full program of designated drivers and pledges against drunk-driving. “10 Million Strong” was started back in 2009 when they wanted to encourage 6 million people to take safe rides home between the period of 2009 to 2015. They’ve realized that they will reach that goal ahead of time and have raised the goal to 10 million.1-800-TAXICAB is a toll-free service they sponsor that connects callers to local taxi cab companies.“In 2011, consumers made 794,754 phone calls to 1-800-TAXICAB, visited the www.1800taxicab.com website more than 1.3 million times and used 1,877 discounted taxicab vouchers issued by MillerCoors.”

    Miller Lite Free Rides also helps drinkers get free rides home on public transportation during big sporting events or holidays ( including New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, the evening of the Kentucky Derby and Halloween) in certain cities. Since it’s launch in ’88, they have expanded to new cities and “more than three million people have taken advantage of a safe ride through this program. In 2011 alone, we provided 556,675 free rides.”
    Read more about MillerCoors’ responsibility efforts here.

    Budweiser’s Anheuser-Busch has similar taxi programs and special deals where designated drivers get free non-alcoholic drinks at restaurants and pubs. It’s Washington D.C. organization SoberRide™ program “offers free cab-ride services to adults who may have had too much to drink. Since 1993, SoberRide™ has provided more than 50,000 free cab rides home to area residents, keeping potential drunk drivers off the road.”
    More info here.

    I don’t remember reading or hearing about any Lebanese social responsibility plans done by our local beer companies so I decided to investigate online. Unfortunately, when visiting Almaza’s website, there is no report on their social responsibility efforts towards drunk-driving or underage drinking. They do have a “responsibility” section but no activations or actual programs listed. 961 Beer’s website’s “Environment and Social Goals” page has no indication of any plans for such programs either and stresses more on the beer being made with local ingredients and being a promoter of the local artistic scene – which is good of them and very true, but I was hoping to see something gauged towards countering the negative aspects of alcohol. And although they started off with a cool visual campaign, Lebanese Brew doesn’t even have a full website – just a Facebook page and apps.

    So my question is this: Which Lebanese Beer company is going to step up to the plate first?