20 (More) Songs, 20 (More) Memories

Part Two of my stroll down Memory Lane.

1. What’s Up – 4 Non-Blondes

We were miniature golfing at that golf course across from Disneyland. Mom was seven or eight months pregnant with my first little sister and I had to keep getting her golf balls out of the holes because she was so pregnant she could hardly bend over.  Stop thinking about balls and bending over that
way, this is my pregnant mother we’re talking about. This song was playing at the 7th hole and I couldn’t believe I was losing.

2. Crawling – Linkin Park

Ahh, middle school. We had just moved to Lebanon. Chester Bennington could be Eminem’s antisocial cousin who talks to teddy bears with no eyes. Thus, he was the perfect role model for an angst-ridden 13 year old.

3. She Will Be Loved- Maroon 5

I think I was around seventeen-going-on-eighteen and felt like Adam Levine was singing to me when he’d say “beauty queen of only eighteen.” This is how self-centered we are when we’re teenagers; we immediately think we’re the only girls with crooked smiles who will be loved. Then we realize it’s not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise.

4. Reload – Sebastian Ingrosso, Tommy Trash, John Martin

First time to Pier 7. There was this table of guppies across from us that had two guys dancing nonstop for 3 hours. Whether or not their energy levels were natural or substance-induced, they were so happy that it was infectious. One got kicked off the stage because he was dancing alone. He was so sad and yet, he kept moving and just got on some other podium.

5. Going Deeper & Blackfeel Wite – N.F.M.T. (Patrick Podage Remix)

Capitole with my favorites. Shazaming everything. There was a really “friendly” couple at the bar that was entertaining the whole place. We had epic chocolate birthday cake and, for once, felt like the youngest circle on a rooftop of Beirutis.

6. Sugar Ray 14:59 Album

I was obsessed with this CD. And Sugar Ray. And Mark McGrath. I was 11. This played all day long while I’d clean my room or wander around the neighborhood. You know a CD is good when you can still listen to it and not think “WHY did I like them?” With that said, everything Backstreet Boys has ever done is gold.

7. Play (Dirty) – David Banner

Riding in the back seat of a Megane with a bunch of my friends on a Saturday morning. We were on our way back from Roadster after being mentally violated during a Quiz 1 Physics exam. No one would’ve ever guessed that we just flunked a test because we were so happy with our eggs and pancakes. Sleep-deprived and high off maple syrup sugar, the fact that this song was playing just made us laugh even harder.

8. My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark – Fall Out Boy

My NIKE Powersong for a few months which means I’ve been hardwired to feel like I need to run when I hear this. The chorus starts and it’s like GO GO GO. I’ve been Pavlov-ed.  Not to mention, I now hate listening to this song because it makes me feel lazy if I’m not on a treadmill or in the middle of a workout. This is my new Powersong.

9. N****s in Paris – Jay Z & Kanye West

I don’t think I will ever get tired of this song. Ever. I have two separate memories of this song, both of which are of me going apeshit in a pub because this song is on and IMINTHEZONE. And they goin’ gorillaz HAAAN?! *falls*

10. Next to You –  Justin Bieber ft. Chris Brown

I was at a red light, left knee wedged up against the door & wheel, singing along completely into it. Like REALLY into it. And then my friend drove up next to me. Only then did I realize my windows were open because he was laughing at me. In all fairness, he was listening to this.

11. Son’s Gonna Rise- Citizen Cope

The scene in One Tree Hill where the lead female characters are dancing slow motion at Tric. Then, I remember the show in the early years when Peyton Sawyer was emo, Nathan & Haley were perfect, and Lucas was a profound narrator in a hoodie.

12. Shot at the Night – The Killers

This song makes me nostalgic for memories that aren’t mine or for ones I haven’t made yet. It will play when I drive down PCH at dusk sometime in the future and I’ll reminisce about sunsets seen on the other side of the world; ones with llama cranes, liquid gold, and fishermen boats.

13. Virtually any Michael Jackson song before 1996

My dad came home with a present: my first CD ever. Michael Jackson History. This is music. I watched too much VH1 as a child. Moonwalker was my favorite movie for quite some time and I knew a lot of True Hollywood Stories before I knew what the Hollywood ones were. I’m sorry but all these “artists” of today will never be MJ. Pharrell is trying and JT has his moments but no. Snoop Komodo Dragon will never be a legend.

14. Too Close- Alex Clare

You know that song that brings you out of a ditch after listening to it on repeat for 2 weeks straight? This was that song. It just couldn’t get loud enough. If I have hearing damage, it will be because of this jingle. I wouldn’t listen to it if I wasn’t in a place where I could scream along with it.

15. Don’t Speak – No Doubt

Crying on my friend’s couch after too much red wine. The radio was on and decided to play this. Let’s say it was bad timing? My friends might as well have broken the stereo considering the way they picked up on it before I did. One took care of the music while the other proceeded to body slam me with a hug. The wine kicked in and I was asleep shortly after on said couch.

16. Do I Wanna Know? – The Arctic Monkeys

On the way to Kfarmatta for a Sunday barbecue. We explored an old silk mill and it was the first time I had arak. The song went on to be my anthem that week at the office.

17. Kiss – Prince

I don’t understand how anyone can NOT dance to this if it’s ever playing. The Queen of England boogies to this. So I was stuck in traffic on Hamra Main Street with a few friends and Prince joins us. Naturally, we start singing and dancing our faces off while the friend in the back hid in the shadows because she was utterly mortified.

18. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys

Internship of 2012. Sitting in a room on the 8th floor with 4 other girls who you would not expect to be friends under normal circumstances. This is the beauty of being trapped in a room for extended periods of time – you find that you can actually meet cool people outside your immediate circle if you give them a chance. Thus, me doing the Lonely Boy dance with my fellow interns in the midst of our research.

19. #Beautiful – Mariah Carey ft Miguel

This was the song on the radio the first time I got in my second new car. Appropriate.

20. Monster Mash

Halloween at Knott’s Berry Farm. I was dressed up as a witch. Horrible black lipstick. Horrible costume. Horrible awkward preteen phase. Some poor souls performed this on stage while dressed up in tacky costumes and cheap makeup. Happy Halloween y’all.

Beaufort, Ghajar, and Fatima’s Gate

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View from Beaufort
(click to enlarge)

Regardless of your religion, Eid holidays usually equal days off filled with grilled meats, ma3moul, and prayer. Sometimes, they also mean trips to villages to see the grandparents and mingle with the family. My sisters and I cut a deal with the parents this time around – we’ll go to the day3a under one condition: show us the land and tell us the story. For the sake of simplicity, I have referred to the disputed land of Israel/Occupied-Palestine as Israel. Follow me on Instagram for more pics!

1st stop: Beaufort Castle, Kalaat el Sha2if

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steps to Israeli bunkers

A Crusader castle from the 12th century, Beaufort has been under-appreciated and neglected for decades. Up until recently, the castle was on the verge of entire ruin, slowly but surely becoming part of the mountaintop that it sits on at the edge of the village of Arnoun. Kuwait has generously stepped up to the plate to fund the renovation of the castle, salvaging what is left of the strategically placed structure that was also used as an Israeli look-out post and suffered earthquakes, historic battles, and heavy shelling in the 80s. Its Arabic name means “Castle of the High Rock”, sha2if being Aramaic for “High Rock”. The Israeli bunkers are still there and if you climb into them, you will understand why this was such a perfect location for surveying the area of Southern Lebanon & Northern Israel. The castle overlooks the entire valley around the Litani River and the views are nothing short of spectacular. Although this place doesn’t seem to be promoted as a touristic site, a tour bus pulled up on the first day of Eid while I was making my way to the top of the tower so maybe word is getting around. Definitely worth another visit in the springtime. Another blogger visited last year and has some more details on its history, you can check that out here.

2nd stop: Cruise along the Israel/Lebanon border

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Metula

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Metula & Kiryat Shmona

The border cuts through the Israeli town of Metula & the Lebanese village of Kfarkila, home of Fatima’s Gate. Driving along the greener part of the border away from the fence, you can get a full aerial view of the apple orchards in Metula. A resort vacation town with a line-up of model homes that resemble the Californian cliffs of Newport Beach, it is a Jewish settlement whose founders were mostly Russian immigrants. Continuing up the mountain, you get to see past said border to the city known as Kiryat Shmona, a place Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah mentions in his speeches every once in a while. Kiryat Shmona used to be a bedouin village but is now home to a population of Jews of Moroccan descent, one-third of which is under the age of 19.

3rd stop: Town of Ghajar

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Ghajar from a distance

Ghajar is an Arab village on the Hasbani River on the southern Lebanese border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Essentially, this town has been “owned” by Lebanon, Israel, Syria or all three at different points in time. The population of 2000 are mainly Alawite, or “followers of Ali” – a branch of Shiite Islam with the greatest following in Syria. According to some southern Lebanese, Ghajar never used to be a town. A group of nomadic people had set up camp in the area and eventually formed roots there and that’s where its name originates from. Ghajar refers to the nomadic gypsies or bedouins.  I find it quite amusing that they decided to become permanent residents on a slab of land that is located on a tri-border. The northern half of the town is in Lebanese territory and the southern half is in Israeli territory while the population considers themselves Syrian. The residents have both Syrian and Israeli citizenship.

You can drive all the way up to the outskirts of the town but you’re not allowed in. The road is blocked by the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL. As you get closer, they inquire if you’re lost because this road is blocked and leads to Israel. Their smile is their way of telling you to u-turn because you’re at the end of the line.  Ironically enough, the Lebanese men guarding the perimeter are not allowed within the town either.

4th stop: Fatima’s Gate, the Apartheid Wall of Lebanon

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The New Berlin Wall

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Prior to the Liberation of the South in 2000, this border was open and many Lebanese entered Israel looking for jobs and benefited from Israeli services (mostly medical). This was known as the “Good Fence Crossing” and allowed for export of goods from the Israeli port city of Haifa. After the Israeli withdrawal, the border was closed off. Good Fence Crossing became Fatima’s Gate after an injured woman who was on the border was asked “what’s your name?” upon being taken to a hospital in Haifa. Her name is actually Souhad and she was too afraid to give her real name to an Israeli.

The fence used to be just that; transparent and harmless with barbed wire at the top. You could see the look-out posts as you walk by and you could wave to the Humvees that drove along it every hour. A few years ago, large sections of concrete wall replaced the fence only within the town of Kfarkila creating a mini version of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. It was erected because of tensions in this particular part of the border. The wall has poor graffiti done by youngsters based on content, talent, and height. I smell an opportunity for a new Waiting for the Train exhibition here – much like the graffiti on the wall of Palestine.

Contact me if you’re interested, no joke.

8 (More) Pet Peeves Resulting from your Facebook Newsfeed

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It’s been a good 10 months since the first set of pet peeves but I just couldn’t wait a whole year to share these. That, and I’ve been posting about a lot of serious topics so it was time for a breather. Bring on the rant!

1. Using the word “dear”

I understand that this probably has to do with the French education system and the use of “cherie” but please stop using the word “dear” in English. You sound like my late grandmother and she was 72 sixteen years ago. This term of endearment is outdated and you shouldn’t use it if you are a) a member of Generation Y or b) pre-menopausal.

2. “Inbox Me”

But I don’t want to inbox you. At least buy me dinner first? This verbified version of the noun inbox sounds dirty and I mean Urban Dictionary dirty. Stop trying to make fetch inbox-me happen, it’s not going to happen.

3. @insertnamehere

There is no need to tag people on their own wallpost/photo/link. They’re going to be notified anyway, this is totally unnecessary. You have a Facebook account, you should know how it works. This is ❤ Likers’ evil cousin.

4. John Doe has invited you to like his new page The Dumpling Cardinals

Unless we see each other every weekend for the Friday wind down at Bodo, I will not like your page no matter how many times you invite me to. Improve your product, service, brand, blog or restaurant because if it were likable and I like it then I’ve already liked it. Don’t force it, just let things happen. TWSS.

5. Cursing with Asterisks

This is just as bad as cursing only you’re acknowledging that you’re using foul language. If people didn’t notice before, they will now because you’re using a digital highlighter with that puny star. If you’re going to curse, then do it or use a word close enough that people will get what you meant to type. Don’t wimp out on one letter. It’s no fun playing mental Wheel of Fortune when trolling comments. Buy a vowel. Go big or go home, p*ssy.

6. Newsfeed Flood

This is actually something I do. I’m completely aware of it and I’m sure I annoy people BUT theresjustsomuchhappeningontheinternetsIneedtoshoweveryone this interview…and this comic…and this Johnnie Walker ad, oh, oh and this article. Okay, I’m done. And btw, here’s my latest blogpost.

You need to be very selective with what and how often you share info so that you don’t desensitize your audience to all that awesome crap you’re sharing. You can go nuts on the Tweet button but FB will go numb unless you’re sharing super interesting BS posts. I didn’t think about the initials in the naming process. #fail

7. Feeling Add-on for a Status 

I’m sorry you don’t know how to express yourself using only words. Have you ever looked at those facial expressions? “Angry” and “annoyed” are the same constipated Grumpy Cat face. Those botoxed emoticons also have a very weird definition for “determined” and “accomplished” – what exactly did that pervy face just accomplish? Anyway, I hope they allow you to use emoticons during your wedding speech since you didn’t read enough as a child.

8. Candy Crush your face.

But no, seriously.

Choosing Reconstruction Over Preservation Again

 

The BBC recently published an article written by Habib Battah, blogger from The Beirut Report, about plans to demolish a hippodrome located in Wadi Abu Jamil of the Beirut Central District. However, since that report, Battah posted an update stating that the dismantling of the hippodrome wall has already begun. The hippodrome dates back to Roman times but also happens to be located on land that is estimated to be worth $60m. This prime real estate is being “protected” by Marwan Kheireddine, the minister and mogul who wants to turn it into a gated community. The project would effectively destroy the ruins of an archaeological site that is 2,000 years old. Wadi Abu Jamil used to be known as the Jewish quarter of Beirut and is now a restricted area that is home to the recently-renovated Maghen Abraham Synagogue. People need permission to access the grounds (as I learned from Ronnie during the WalkBeirut tour that includes a no-photos-allowed visit to this part of town).

The Association to Protect Lebanese Heritage, or APLH, are fighting the approval for construction that was granted earlier this season. I contacted them to ask a few questions to get some more information on their initiatives. Another blogger had insinuated that religious sites get more attention when it comes to preservation so I asked APLH on that too.

1. Beirut, and Lebanon, has a history for erasing its history. Why do you think that is?

A) We have been merchants way back since Phoenician times, where we sold our Cedars’ timber. Our current god is Profit, and this is how we see a Ministry of Culture approving a private project to the detriment of public domains like the invaluable archaeology being found underneath Beirut.

B) We have insufferable individualism and no community spirit binding us. When a society is not bonded and has forsaken its culture, traditions and roots, nothing prevents its individual elements from doing what they feel like doing. In short, our behavior is selfish and emotional rather than
rational. Every one of us has a different opinion and vision of Lebanon. Without consensus we can’t achieve any goal.

C) This problem is not only seen in Lebanon. Wherever a society is in decline & trades its cultural values for global vagueness, you will see heritage as the first victim of the ‘new’ paradigm (a Mayan temple was ‘mistakenly’ razed in Mexico a few months ago). Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight, you’ll need a few decades to notice the damage done.

2. What is APLH doing to protect such sites, this one in particular?

A) Our officers are working relentlessly with a team of benevolent lawyers in stalling demolition permits (this project included) threatening our archaeology. I cannot give names for the sake of protecting our sources and the people who help us. Because our work is being done in the courts of the Shura council, very few people know about our fight and its magnitude. While people are busy surviving the daily Lebanese tedium, there are people working (for free) to keep our heritage from disappearing.

B) We spread awareness through our FB page, our blog and our cultural gazette: Of Men and Ruins (downloadable for free from its FB page)

3. What are the biggest challenges you face when trying to protect a part of Lebanese heritage?

Rampant governmental and municipal corruption, and the disconnection of the Lebanese citizens in general (not talking about the very few exceptions) make our task a thankless, but a necessary one.

4. Do religious sites get “special treatment” in that they are more likely to be preserved or protected than other sites?

Far from that, let us look at the vandalized hideout cave of Mar Maroun in Hermel: it is covered with tags and graffiti. Many medieval religious sites all over Lebanon are falling into disrepair due to lack of funding and motivation to restore them. The current geopolitical situation in Lebanon has a lot to do with our disintegrating economy, so we turn to the Lebanese diaspora, as this is our only hope in safeguarding our collective memory for future generations.

5. What do you think the youth of Lebanon could do to help?

– Form community taskforces in their respective towns, neighborhoods, villages, etc. from people they meet at school, at church, etc. Those taskforces should have rotating leaderships who are responsible for alerting their respective municipality or APLH about threats to their neighborhood’s heritage, mobilizing citizens for a sit-in, and calling us so we alert the media should the threat persist

– Organize environmental days (taking the trash off the roads, planting trees, etc)
– Undertake small repair jobs around their community (repainting some wall, flower decoration, creating a meeting place for the neighborhood’s youth)
– If a town has a specific specialty or trade, its people should organize seasonal events to showcase the unique produce or tradition of their town

The above undertakings help create a sense of pride, belonging, community, and more awareness and organization in the case of a threat to their community (heritage demolition, environmental threat, shrinking of leisurely places in favor of parkings, etc) Without this sense of responsibility, we will sink into bleakness without understanding how it came to be. The APLH is one such taskforce, but with a legal platform that enables us to sue the faulty party. We ask the people to team up with like-minded friends, and be responsible for the protection (and beautifying) of their own
home, building, backyard, neighborhood, so that the difference can be made and sensed on a national scale.

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This incident is one of many that has been occurring across the country for decades. So much of our history and cultural essence is disintegrating or deliberately lost at sea. I don’t think I need to express my feelings on the matter – I have done so enough this past year. I’ll tell a story instead. Back in the 6th grade, when we were being taught of the first civilizations, I developed an unexplainable obsession with Ancient Egypt. Please ignore the fact that I disregarded my own ancestral roots to Phoenicia and/or Mesopotamia. Right then, I had decided I was going to apply to Brown University upon graduation and study archaeology (Egyptology, to be specific). While that did not end up happening due to my sudden shift to interest in the sciences (yes, I was always scatterbrained), it was also the impractical choice when it came to studying something that would enable me to be successful in the digital age of technological innovation.

The sad conclusion that so many people make, and perhaps with some conviction, is that the past is not a money-maker nor is it the way of the future. What they forget is that the past is what makes us human.