The 2nd PARK(ing) Day in Beirut

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PARK(ing) Day is an initiative brought about by some AUB landscaping design students in partnership with Beirut Green Project, Green Living, and AltCity. The idea is that they will occupy a parking space and convert it into a mini-park; it’s like a green protest against asphalt and the fight for more public GREEN spaces.

Balsam Aoun, one of the organizers, answered a few questions about the whole event which is to take place TOMORROW AFTERNOON (Friday, it’s late Thursday night and I’m allergic to sleep). Last year, they had one setup in front of Cafe Hamra (see below photos). This year, they’re having FOUR separate parking spot setups scattered throughout Hamra. Check out the Facebook event page for details.


PARK(ing) Day, 2012
Photo provided by Balsam Aoun


PARK(ing) Day, 2012
Photo provided by Balsam Aoun

1. What’s the message you are trying to send through this initiative?

“Park(ing) Day is an international event that happens all around the world on the same day. This year it happens to be September 20th. It is an event where metered parking spaces are turned into temporary parks. The aim of this is to show how a simple parking spot can become a park, how important parks are and how we are wasting space for our cars when instead they can be used for parks and green spaces.

2. Where does the concept of occupying a parking spot with greenery come from?

“The idea was from the international group called Rebar. They came up with the concept, and slowly it spread all around the world. If you want more information about the event, check out their website. This our second year doing the event. Kristelle Boulos, Arwa Al Jalahma and I are the heads of the organization; Kristelle being the “pioneer” since she brought it from Berkeley. She was there for summer courses and I helped her out last year to bring it to life. This year, Arwa joined us because her and I are the heads of the AUB Landscaping Society. ”

3. What is something the youth can do to help this cause?

“What the youth can do to help is be aware of the lack of green spaces, especially in Lebanon and more so in Beirut. Beirut is the least green city in the world, or one of them. There are no parks and there are a million parking lots and parking spots. They can raise awareness, join us every year in helping make the event bigger and better. We are trying to expand the event, so that hopefully after some time we can have the event in Hamra, Mar Mikhael, Ashrafieh,….all over beirut. Then, eventually, in different towns and cities like Jounieh, Saida, Dbayeh, etc. ”


Ten Tidbits from TEDxLAU


Seeing that TEDxLAU was held on the 7th of this month, I am a bit late posting this. However, I still have a bruise from donating blood at the DSC stand that was there so it hasn’t been THAT long. Yes, this is my so-called “logic,” woo!

1. “People are made of pages…You get to pick the words that your story is made of” – Elie Kesrouani

A storyteller who gave me goosebumps, Elie had a somber tone throughout his talk but still touched on a lot of things that ring true. He stressed on the importance of reading, cherishing slow moments (short moments that translate into long memories), and how one shouldn’t playfully brush off warning signs when they’re right in front of you. The last one was the moral of a story about a clown on stage who was trying to warn a cheering audience about a fire in the theatre; they took the warning signs as entertainment until it was too late. Very relevant to our region today. He also touched on the lessons that reading can teach you indirectly. Other than learning new words and stretching your imagination, it can make you accustomed to being alone, making the relationships you have much stronger.

2. “We may be different from the outside, but inside we are all one color” – Hady Sy

Designer Hady Sy left Lebanon during the war in the midst of his studies at LAU (then BUC) and ended up working in NYC. He’d done work with all the big names (Lagerfeld, Vogue, etc) but once 9/11 had occurred, he had witnessed too much bloodshed. He flipped his focus and began doing more conceptual work revolving on that exact subject: blood. He’s back in Beirut because the Lebanese Ministry of Culture offered him an art residency for the installation “One Blood.”

3. “Chairs are not meant to sit on, they’re meant to stand on so you can see the whole picture & go back down and serve” – Christine Arzoumanian

Pretty self-explanatory. Get off your high horse, lend a hand, and make a difference.

4. Kelly McGonigal’s entire talk about befriending stress

5. “Don’t be a citizen journalist,be a citizen diplomat & fight for a better Lebanon, the one you deserve.” HMA Tom Fletcher

The UK Ambassador is known for being a huge user of social media and incredibly active on Twitter. He’s also really friendly – I mean, we talked about Creamfields…seriously. Anyway, he said that your “superpower” is your smartphone and it should be used to start a conversation and march for a better Lebanon – the “frontline of coexistence.” When discussing the issue about Lebanon’s brain-drain, he had a positive way of looking at it: due to the fact that so many Lebanese leave the country, it creates one of the best global networks for us as a whole. Instead of it being a bad thing, we are connected to people all over the world. What I appreciated the most was that he seemed very interested in the youth, our capabilities, and our minds.

6. “The ‘Arab Disease’- you buy everything but build nothing and don’t industrialize” – George Nasr

Unfortunately, this region does suffer from over-importation rather than having their own sources of production. Other nations are heading in that direction but Lebanon has a long way to go when it comes to industrialization.

7. “Dumbing it down isn’t the same thing as making information more accessible” – Melissa Marshall

This quote struck me as very valid. Too often, we try to get a message across in such a convoluted way that it is lost in translation. Making information more accessible does not mean that you are striping it of its intelligence or significance, it means it will reach more people and cause more of an impact. A good message that doesn’t get past the radar is a dud in the water. Di3ano.

8. “Stop making decisions about what we do and start making choices about who we are”Jade Saab

Jade, co-founder of the new job platform Achieve, is spot-on when it comes to determining your path in life. It’s not about what you do but rather who you are. There is so much emphasis placed on what you do that who you are becoming gets pushed to the sidelines when, in fact, that is one of the most important parts of building a career: discovering who you are through experiences.

9. “The show will go on as an act of resistance” Reine Azzi

I already quoted this in a previous post and it pretty much sums up what I was trying to say in a nutshell. Reine said it was inspired by Tom Fletcher.

10. Lebanon2020

A project for the future of Lebanon – an excerpt taken from Tom Fletcher’s blogpost:

“We want to start a conversation about Lebanon 2020. To lift debate beyond the year ahead, important as it is. Stability yes, but also growth and reform. A focus on the factors that unite rather than divide. We think that new groups, often disenfranchised, should be central to this conversation: business, civil society, youth. We must of course learn the lessons from the past. But we cannot make progress solely by looking in the rear view mirror.”

Bravo TEDxLAU team & volunteers!

Postcards from Beirut

Last week, a local band known by the name of “Postcards” launched their EP at Coop D’état. If you’re into a chill indie style that’s similar to Mumford & Sons, you’d probably dig this band that’s made up of sweet musicians & vocalists with a mix of talents (seriously, they’ve got the ukulele, accordion, harmonica, and the cello). They’re like the illegitimate child of Of Monsters and Men and the xx with Sia as a surrogate.

I got in contact with Julia Sabra, one of the band members, to ask a few questions and here’s what I got:

Why “Postcards” as a band name?

“No specific reason actually. We spent a couple of months trying to find a name that pleased everyone and then we decided on Postcards (which we got from Beirut’s song Postcards from Italy) because it’s a catchy name and it fits our style of music.”

What’s the most challenging part of being a band in Lebanon and how do you stay motivated?

“It’s hard because Lebanon is so limited. The music scene is becoming more and more active but it’s still relatively small. Even if you’re very popular here it’s never enough, you always have to go abroad to really prove yourself as a band. Especially if you’re singing in English, so your target is international more than local.

We stay motivated because we’re all quite optimistic, maybe foolishly so, about the future. We know that we’re living something special here and hope for the best. And maybe…maybe, there’s a slight chance that we could make a living out of this and be a full time band, so we live on that.”

How do you stay “fresh” with material/ what’s the most inspiring thing for each one of you?

“We’re mostly inspired by the same stuff: personal experiences, good music that we’re touched by, and nature. It’s pretty clear when you listen to our songs.”

Who are artists that inspire you/that you enjoy listening to?

“We got together over our common love of Beirut, Mumford & Sons, and Angus & Julia Stone. We also love Bon Iver, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, the Fleet Foxes.”

Best piece of advice you can give to the youth of Lebanon?

“This is going to sound cliché, but here it goes: if you’re passionate about something and you’re good at it, just do it. This is the time to take risks and be foolish enough to follow your far-fetched dreams even if you fail because if you don’t do it now you’ll never be able to again and you’ll be stuck in the ‘what ifs’ of a mid-life crisis.”

They’ll be performing at Wickerpark this weekend and at GardenState on Monday night.



I Will Not Feel Guilty


Certain social events, parties, concerts, and gatherings have been postponed or cancelled. This is upsetting not because we needed an excuse to drink & be merry. Personally, I was angered by these cancellations because they are the initial signs of the downfall. These functions required time, money, and effort from various people – people who were trying to create something for Lebanon. It is entirely understandable and cancellation was the responsible decision to make given our current state of limbo. We are in the eye of the storm but it is upsetting that there are individuals trying to make Lebanon grow but are being defeated because of the “unstable wada3.” Again.

There seems to be two camps forming online when it comes to this whole wada3 debate. One feels that a big chunk of people, mostly the youth, have taken a passive route, eager to declare that they will be ditching this popsicle stand the first chance they get. They are indifferent to what is happening and what will happen in the near future, as long as they can go on with their daily lives until they manage to escape. The other chunk of people feel like they are shrieking in a soundproof glass box. They are frustrated that others go on with their day, hardly react to news of explosions, and they know that event cancellations are the least of our worries if you look at the big picture. Basically, one wants to ignore and the other wants to slap him a la Cher in Moonstruck.

I don’t think I fall into either of these camps. I’m somewhere in the middle and I don’t think I’m alone. I know the situation is dangerous but I am tired of reading articles, blogposts, and OpEds about what coulda/shoulda/woulda happened or what will happen. However, this does not mean I am going to stop reading, put on my headphones, and pretend life is fine and dandy. What it means is I am going to do my best to carry on with my life while external forces try to stop me from doing so. Yesterday, I attended TEDxLAU and Reine Azzi, the licensee and curator, said one simple line regarding one speaker’s cancellation: “the show will go on as an act of resistance.”

Right now, we don’t know anything for sure but I will not feel guilty for continuing to try. It is not that I am numb or insensitive. I am aware of the gravity of the situation that our country is in at the moment. I believe, regardless of your interest or field of study or profession, you should try to stay informed with what goes on in the world, especially when events have a direct effect on the stability of your own region & your prospective plans for your future in it. With that said, I will not feel guilty for marking dates in my calendar, mapping out the next few months, or trying to create a path for myself in this world. It is not naiveté or ignorant optimism. There is a heavy cloud on the horizon that makes you wonder if your efforts are futile, that the eruption is seconds away, that you’re floating on a raft in the middle of the Atlantic and there is no rescue crew coming.

However, maybe, just maybe, if I get off the raft and keep swimming, I’ll survive. As long as I am here and as long as my safety is not at great risk, I refuse to feel guilty about living because I refuse to give up.

8 Things We Can Look Forward To

Update: Creamfields was cancelled due to the unstable situation. Poo.


…instead of “World War III” as some people are dubbing it. There’s a lot of let’s-crap-on-our-country going around. Given that the situation is getting worse, I don’t blame people for being pessimistic and worrisome about what may be in store for us in the next few weeks or months; it is difficult to think about the future when you are afraid if you’ll have one. However, I’d like to remind you all that we can look forward to good things on the horizon, things that other people are putting in motion to make this country better, things that dissociate us with bombs, death, and destruction.

Remember, we can choose to drown or we can choose to swim.

1. Lebanon on Rails Exhibition – Sept 4-15, 2013

Train/Train NGO, mentioned previously on this blog, is working towards saving the legacy of the Lebanese Railways. They’re organizing an exhibition in Beirut Souks displaying old relics and photographs of the historical trains that used to run through the country years ago.

2. Thursdays with FERN at Tawlet – Sept 5, 2013

Also featured previously on this blog, FERN is an NGO that works towards incorporating better waste methods in Lebanon. Fresh salads, an open bar, and signature organic roasted chicken. $25 open dinner buffet, open 961 beer, open Lebanese wine and proceeds go to FERN’s efforts to improve Lebanon’s waste habits.

3. TEDxLAU #TheCrossRoad- Sept 7, 2013

Held at Gulbenkian Theatre, LAU campus – in usual TEDx fashion, speakers will be giving inspiring talks about their own journeys through life. Unfortunately, the event is already sold out but I will be live tweeting it so you can follow me on Twitter for a play-by-play in case you didn’t manage to snag a spot.

4. Creamfields – Sept 7, 2013

Gino’s got 7 reasons why you should attend this big shindig. It’s a massive music festival jam packed with a bunch of DJs on 3 stages brought to you by Uberhaus and White. And their posters have flooded Beirut so you might as well see what all the fuss is about.

5. Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve Hike – Sept 7-8, 2013

Two days of free hiking up in the cedars of Ehden is a great way to escape the city and hectic reminders of real life. The weather up there is cool and the fresh air will do you some good. It’s the perfect place to clear your head…and fill your stomach with kibbeh zghortawiyyeh from Ferdaws.

6. Wickerpark Music Festival – Sept 15, 2013

Project Revolver wrote about it – Looks like it’s going to be a fun day in Batroun. Sure, it’s free-spirited in a hippie way but why not? Wanton Bishops are great and the weather should be cool enough to spend a Sunday chilling “on the grass.”

7. Beirut Art Fair – Sept 19-22, 2013

The fourth edition of the Beirut Art Fair “stands out as a leading platform for the promotion of contemporary art & design” for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia. Collections are comprised of paintings, sculptures, designs, installation art, video and photography.

8. Beirut Energy Forum – Sept 26-27, 2013

Said to be “the largest event in Lebanon and the region related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green buildings”  will be going on for the 4th time at Le Royal Hotel, Dbayeh. It’s supposed to be a 2-day conference with presentations and speakers from all over the world. Dr. James Woudhuysen, the keynote speaker, is Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montfort University, Leicester in the UK. As usual, places are limited so you have to register but I’m intrigued as to what this event is going to propose for a nation so in need of alternatives in this sector.

And a whole bunch of other things going on this month can be found here.