Bambi’s Soapbox turns 3!

I started this blog anonymously under the name “Bambi”, a nickname given to me because of my eyes. It was originally a sounding board for all the thoughts that my head had no space for. I wanted to be able to write without thinking about reactions, without people I know knowing it was me. Eventually, I embraced the exposure of the inner workings of my brain and, sometimes, my heart. I put my name on those speeches I was giving on my little soapbox on the Internet.

As of this month, Bambi’s Soapbox is now 3 years old. It’s become my special place where I try to show a different side of Lebanon – the one that I keep trying to find, the one I know certain people are trying to build, the one I want it to be whole-heartedly. It’s the Lebanon I hope to have a hand in creating one day. I try to show you that it’s not all bad, even at the times when I don’t believe it myself.

This blog is my on-going love letter to Lebanon so that when I forget why I love it, I can go back and find out. I’m a very guarded person but I put a lot of me into this blog and I am thankful that I have some readers relating to the moments when I’m human.

I won’t lie, Lebanon – it’s been harder to love you lately. But I’m going to try even if I have to leave at some point to keep doing so. I was always a sucker for a romance that could survive the test of time.

Here’s to three more years of climbing up on that soapbox!

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Hezbollah, Skybar, and Sex

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Based on Habib Battah‘s lecture about digital accountability held at AUB a few weeks back, those three are the topics that get attention here in Lebanon. Naturally, I threw them in my headline to make sure people pause when scrolling down their timelines. After MTV’s banana song stunt, there is some truth in our tendency to be attracted to the dangerous, the trivial, or the naked. However, I refuse to believe that all of us are that easily distracted or amused. I know there are others out there worrying about the most fundamental issues that we face every day.

We have enough societal woes to satisfy a stadium full of talented problem solvers. What we don’t have are concrete records of what is going on, what is and isn’t being done, or who is to blame/thank. Lebanon should be an investigative journalist’s wet dream. It’s also that for social workers, policy makers, or anyone interested in urban development, public space, or civil innovation. Unfortunately, when it comes to information and presentation of facts, there is a gap.

In come the activists that have been carrying out intense research on their causes, coming to the field armed with information and ready to tackle the “bad guys” who are usurping land, rights, property, and heritage. Funnily enough, this has pushed journalists to do their homework properly. Activists, bloggers, and anyone with an Internet connection have challenged the media to keep up because they’re bringing expertise, research, and documentation to the table. Booyah.

Habib’s talk focused on the various movements that actually made a difference through online activism. Dalieh, #STOPLIRA, Fouad Boutros Highway, Jesuit Garden in Geitawi, etc. All these projects were disrupted or put on hold in some way. It would be a half-truth to say that these efforts were purely online, Facebook-page avec hashtag-frenzy. All effective groups had grassroots: there was a physical leg to what they were trying to achieve. But the alliances that formed online, the buzz that is created as a result, and the noise that it makes internationally cannot be ignored.They coordinated, organized, and mobilized toward a common goal. The key is to have a very clear issue as a group’s main focus. Baby steps.

Digital accountability has been a useful tool when it comes to exposing wrongdoings and has resulted in officials now seeking the approval of their audiences. Via this digital accountability, a form of digital citizenship has begun because the people feel empowered, like their connection to this country is being valued and their opinions matter.

With all the new ways of communicating, broadcasting, and existence of platforms for public debate, maybe we’ve underestimated our digital voices. We share, post, connect. We tell the world when there is an injustice occurring. We’re not only making noise, we’re being heard.

Why Wait?

A high school friend passed away this week. And, although I didn’t know her, a young girl from my gym was in a fatal accident last week. Today marks 10 years since the assassination of Rafik Hariri. As selfish as it may be, all these events remind me of how unpredictable our days are. We’re not in control and we don’t get to decide when the time is right…for anything.

My taebo instructor told us not to take our time for granted, not to wait until we’re wishing we had another chance to tell someone we love them, for just a minute so we can say one last sentence. It’s not the first time I’ve been told this or the first time it’s crossed my mind but maybe my recent reevaluation of where my days are headed made it resonate with me more than it ever had previously. Perhaps it was the high school friend’s way of living that inspired me to remember to be courageous in what life is supposed to be for me and the people I am connected to. After seeing the mark that he left on so many, it seems the only thing we do have control over is our effect on other people.

Tell your siblings that you’re only a bossy protective pain in the ass because you want to help them face the world that has already bruised you; you’re not trying to be another parent. Tell your friends that your favorite nights have been the ones where you end up eating Szechuan chicken in Monot after post-happy-hour 90s-tunes cruises. Hug your parents and tell them you’re sorry they paid for two degrees because it wasn’t clear that you didn’t want to be a doctor until your 3rd year of premed. Tell your colleagues they’re the only reason you’re still getting out of bed in the morning. Tell your person. Tell them that you want them, because, if they left, your life would be an endless series of Mondays. Tell them Fridays, you’re in love. Tell them even if they can’t tell you.

Say it all.

As a resident of the unstable Lebanon where you never know what’s in store for you when you leave the house every morning, I firmly believe that you should share what’s in your heart. Telling someone what they mean to you without expecting reciprocation or reaction can’t be negative because it is simply a declaration of genuine affection. It is honesty in its purest form.

Today is also my 27th birthday. I am grateful I’ve been given another year and I have another day to tell all the people I love that I love them. To all the people who feel the same, thank you for loving me too. All I can say today, on the commercialized day of love, is that nothing is promised. Say what you can now. Tell people how you feel. Why wait?

5 Handcrafted Valentine’s Day Gifts

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Yes, Valentine’s Day is commercial and you don’t need a day to appreciate the ones you love. But if you love someone, what’s the harm in having an excuse to celebrate it? I’m sure each couple has their own way of doing so and, perhaps, has agreed:

a) not to exchange gifts,
b) not to acknowledge this “holiday”
c) to stay in with DVDs & sushi

Nothing is wrong with opting for a sweet bouquet, a handful of Hershey’s Kisses, and an “I love you.” But for those of you who need some ideas, I put together a list of some unisex handcrafted items you could get here in Lebanon so you don’t have to resort to Amazon and fork over shipping fees, go to Pinterest and attempt a DIY project when you’re not the artsy type, or buy a generic fluffy heart-covered monstrosity from [insert gift shop chain name here].

If you want to get your special someone a present that is thoughtful and unique, go for the personalized and custom-made. And don’t forget to wrap it up nice because half the fun is the mystery and anticipation behind a wonderfully packaged surprise. Also, feel free to contact me for a Bambi’s Soapbox love card. I’m selling them at a discount: 5,000 LL each.

5. Creative Space Beirut/Second St

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Featured last month on the blog, these two brands have hand-stitched fashionable pieces done by fashion design students (Creative Space Beirut) and Sarah Hermez & Tracy Moussi (Second St). On top of getting some stylish clothing, the monies you invest in these pieces would go toward keeping a free design school running. They’re available at the Creative Space Beirut or Memory Lane, both in Mar Mikhael.

4. Crochet Friend from Rachel K

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I discovered Rachel at Afkart in December. She has a collection of fashion pieces too but what really caught my eye at her stand was her geeky handmade crochet buddies. From Karl Lagerfeld to Mario, these little guys go for $60 a piece. You can also request a personalized crocheted version of you (or your beau) but I’d refrain from gifting a voodoo-like doll to someone you love. Unless you’re into that. No judgment.

3. GGRIL Glass Goods

From GGRIL's Facebook page

From GGRIL’s Facebook page

It would be wrong to have a list of handcrafted items without including the work of Ziad Abi Chaker and GGRIL. Whether it’s a vase for the bouquet you just got or a lamp to set the mood for the evening, GGRIL has beautiful blown glass items that make great presents. Plus, they’re supporting a dying artisanal craft in Lebanon AND recycling old booze bottles. Sold at various cafes and stores: Dar Bistro & Books in Hamra, Vide-Posh in Badaro, Bayrut Express in Ashrafieh.

2. Madame Cefanie Leather Goods

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I saw this lady’s work at Brut l’Atelier while on the Mar Mikhael walking tour. There, you can purchase a wallet or purse of various colors OR you can contact Madame Cefanie to request a customized bag with size and color of your choice.

1. Baked Goods

Try to bake some cookies or their favorite dessert (given that it’s not soufflé or anything else that would have Gordon Ramsay yelling at you). Baking a sweet treat for your person puts all the tender, love, and care into the pan of fatty goodness you’re whipping up for them. Wrap it up with some nice wax paper and ribbon: instant personal gift! Make sure to use chocolate for the extra aphrodisiac effect. *wink wink*

And when all else fails, if none of the above works for your significant other, go for lingerie (remember what I said about a “wonderfully packaged surprise”?). Buy it for them to wear or wear some yourself: everyone wins.