El-Tanein Diet Week #7

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This is going to be a short one because I’ve got to get to bed. I’m joining the workforce again tomorrow and I need to get my sleeping patterns back on track. Also, I hardly moved during week 7 so there isn’t much to report.

I can feel the momentum slipping away from meeeeeee. Week 8’s mission is to create a fitness plan for Barcelona. I don’t want to spend my evenings working out so I’ll have to see if mornings are something I will finally stick to…or come up with a better solution. I can always resort to DVD programs if gyms aren’t in the cards? Ew.

Workout Tally

Walking around Barcelona for 6 hours

I’m not kidding. That was it. I spent the 6 days prior seeing people, hanging out, and – as lame as it sounds – saying goodbye to Beirut. It also felt like it took me 4 years to pack. Even with that, it took a while for my brain to catch up with what was happening while I walked around Plaça Catalunya. I still can’t believe I’m here.

Outdoor Activity

I’d say my stroll to and through Parc de la Cuitadella would have to be the outdoor activity (and only activity) for this week. Yes, one day in Barcelona has taken over every category.

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Fitbit Flex

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That one afternoon in Barcelona came to a total of 17K steps. I see that this pedestrian-friendly city will be keeping my totals high. Even with the internship about to start, I think my numbers will be higher than in Beirut since I won’t be relying on a car to get around. I at least hope that is the case because I have yet to find out if I can afford the gym nearby.

Best Meal of the Week

A friend of mine had been raving about the double cheeseburger at Urbanista for about 6 months now. We finally decided to make a plan out of it since we’re both trying to make healthier meal choices.

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Much like the Souks’ The Met, Urbanista is not a restaurant you’d go to when you’re craving a meaty burger but they both have pretty good ones. Urba’s double is a mean burger but I recommend you share it with someone. It’s heavy and very filling; it’s a cheese overdose. You’ll want to finish it but it’s probably best if you don’t. Don’t ruin a good thing. Also, have it when you’re ravenous. If you’re in a “meh, I could eat” mood, you’ll be wasting the meal.

Other Highlights

Lost 4kgs: I know I said I wouldn’t focus on what the scale says but I couldn’t help checking while weighing my suitcase before the flight. Considering I was a sloth up until Sunday, I found this to be very perplexing. My doctor friends say it’s because my basal metabolism has changed after the sustained activity. Keyword here is sustained. The challenge now is figuring out how to do that in a new city.

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Another lunch at Jammal: I had to say adios to Batroun. We grew so close this summer. Ixsir rosé, octopus, and shrimp rolls with a gorgeous view and company. It was the right way to remember my country.

Workout Track of the Week

 

I don’t know what it means but it’s provocative and it gets the people going.

Cheese of the Week

Lufthansa Business Class: I don’t know if I got upgraded or my original ticket was Business Class to begin with (highly doubtful because cha-ching) but there I was. And then I fell asleep during the meal distribution. You win some, you lose some. I got the breakfast on the next flight though! A cheesy vegan nightmare.

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Not photographed: croissant and fresh bread. They were good, I swear. I’ve come to see that these El-Tanein posts are looking more about food than about fitness. I have no interest in becoming a food blogger but fitness has A LOT to do with what you put in your body. And food is more photogenic than my sweaty self at the gym.

From Beirut to Barcelona

Courtesy of Gratisography

Courtesy of Gratisography

The last time I ate McDonald’s was when I was at the Frankfurt Airport on my way to NYC. Had you told me that I was going to be back here 4 months later while on my way to Barcelona, I would’ve given you a high-five, done a victory dance, and also been in awe that I managed to steer clear of Big Macs for that long. I was going to use the “I’m traveling” excuse to be reunited with the classic but it turns out there’s no McDo in this terminal. Instead, I’m stuck with a pathetic 10-Euro Thai chicken sandwich. Boo.

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As you can see above, Barcelona’s been on the travel list for a while. I’ve heard good things about the Spanish coastal town and its art, architecture, and ham. All summer, friends who’ve been have told me that I will fall in love with the place. I’m hoping that they haven’t set my expectations too high; there’s a lot of pressure to make the most of this temporary move.

And that’s another thing – it feels strange leaving Beirut when there is a chance for change back home (too optimistic?). There is so much uncertainty in the months ahead but I can’t tell if that’s me or a symptom of the lost millennial generation of global opportunity, information overload, and goldfish attention spans. How the heck do you navigate through all the possibility? Maybe no one’s got it figured out and it’s actually about learning to be at peace with the idea that we’re all just winging it as we go.

I came across this video about the “origin of x” and its relation to Arabic and Spanish. It was comforting to see that I’d be learning more about the Arabic script in a non-Arab country that still had linguistic ties to it in some way. Maybe Spain will be the intersection of foreign and familiar. Only time will tell.

Follow my adventure via #BambigoestoBarca on Instagram.
I’ll be blogging as much as I can too.

P.S. – Maktoub 3 Loubnan has NOT been put on hold. My sister will be checking the mail periodically in my absence so please find a cool postcard for your memory. Check out the ones that have made it over so far here.

What to Pack for a Design Internship Abroad

Besides the standard toothbrush and lots of undies, here’s a list of the top 15 things I’m bringing so I can let the art director in me go crazy in my new Mediterranean city that I shall call home for 3 months. Let me know if I’ve left anything out, I feel like I’ll be packing until midnight.

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A Medium Sized Notebook
I’m a fan of the ~A5 size because it fits in your purse and is good enough for notes, doodles and random thought bubbles. If the heavy duty Moleskines are too pricey for your taste (and frequent use of journals), Paper Concept is an affordable alternative that I’ve come to love. Their products are made in Lebanon. They’re pretty malleable too so they can handle being transported daily, getting soaked in coffee, or just beat up by life. I plan on covering this baby in Spain stickers.

3 A4 Sketchbooks
As a creative who’s on the job, you’re going to need to put your ideas somewhere. I prefer using the tangible approach: on paper. Going straight to the computer is restrictive when you want to let your mind go and allow your hands to take charge of the creative flow. Moleskine sells a pack of 3 skinny lightweight A4 notebooks (lined and blank) that are perfect for this purpose and they’re not too expensive considering what the brand’s usual price tags say. There are packs of solid or mixed colors for 27,000 LL (18 USD). I like that the covers are cardboard so it’s easy to personalize them. And once your internship is over, you have a hardcopy record of all the eggs you laid there, rotten or not.

Agenda
I ordered the I AM VERY BUSY 17-month agenda above from Paper Source. It’s imperative that you stay organized as a creative since most of your work, if not all, is deadline-based. It can be used to keep track of your multiple to-do lists, events coming up, groceries that need to be bought, and even when to do laundry. It also doubles as another record of everything you did on your trip and where you went.

Drawing Pencils, Winsor & Newton Watercolors Travel SetWashi Tapes, Glue, and Mini Scissors
Basically, you need supplies. It may be wishful thinking but it’s still a good idea to pack your preferred tools. Tape and glue are for the snippings, business cards, and other paper souvenirs that you’ll be sticking in your notebooks. Some will be for the memory of it and others will be for the design; either way, they could be references for inspiration at some point. Not included in the picture above is my collection of pens and colored pencils but just assume that I’m addicted to Sharpies. Btw, that UFO glue is a knock-off UHU from Karout.

Appropriate Literature
Since my internship is with a skilled typographer, I bought Type Matters! to use as a guide for my work and the Fodor’s Barcelona guidebook to use as my guide to the city. I’m also reading Cathedral of the Sea, a historical novel about Barcelona.

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Business Cards
You never know who you’ll meet abroad and you have to be prepared to network at all times. Nowadays, when people can work remotely, there are no borders to opportunities. I hope everyone likes receiving free olive oil soap!

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iPhone and Power Bank, Macbook Pro and Wacom Tablet, Laptop Bag
No explanation necessary for these. I mean really.

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Headphones, Earphones, DSLR Camera
The headphones will come in handy on your flights and while you’re working at home or in the office. The earphones have a different purpose: they’re useful for creating a protective forcefield when you’re using public transport. I don’t know if Barcelona’s metro is anything like NYC’s but I shy away from making friends on the subway. The camera is when you want to get artsy and take some decent shots that can be blown up into posters and other graphic artwork once you return.

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Cross-body Bag, Whistle Necklace, and Something That Reminds You of Home

Barcelona is famous for pickpockets so make sure your bag has a zipper that remains shut. This one is a leather purse that’s pretty sturdy despite the gnawed tears from my fiesty cat, Katniss. I don’t mind its weathered appearance since it’s got Mary Poppins magic: it’s a bottomless pit with multiple pockets. It may be left behind once I find a good Spanish leather replacement.

As a paranoid female traveling solo, I feel the need to equip myself with some form of security. I saw Tiffany & Co release a whistle necklace and thought that would be a great accessory that had a bonus protective function. I opted for the cheaper, less fashionable version.

DON’T FORGET: Something that reminds you of home. I chose the cedar keychain I got 3 years ago from Bcharre.

El-Tanein Diet Week #6

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

I’m hiding behind the floppy hat of shame. Week 6 and 7 have and will be slow because my gym membership expired. I didn’t renew for the month since I’m traveling this coming weekend and, as it turns out, having guaranteed access to the treadmill at home isn’t enough variation to keep you entertained and motivated. I’m going to have to figure something out for week 7 before my flight but prepping for travel will also be messing with my schedule.

Workout Tally

2 20min runs

I’m going to have to pay for some individual classes this week because my discipline falters when it comes to treadmilling at home. Electricity cuts don’t help, but honestly, it just gets dull. I can safely say that the only reason I want to be faster on the machine is so the boredom ends sooner. Did I mention you feel like a human waterfall in this weather? The plus side is that you can run whenever you want…if you have power.

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With this week’s decreased workout level, I did notice my appetite was proportionate. The more I exercise, the more I become a human Hoover so it’s going to take some time to figure out the right balance of exercise and feasts.

I have been adding some goals over the past 6 weeks but I’m losing track of what they are since they’re scattered across the posts. I’ve compiled them below and will do so every 6 weeks to make sure I’ve got an updated list to keep referring to.

Recap of the Goals for El-Tanein Diet

  • 10K steps/day or at least 50K/week total
  • 5 classes/week minimum
  • Do regular push-ups (not modified bent-knee)
  • Plank for 2 minutes straight post-cardio
  • Lose 12kg by January 12, 2016 (2kg/month for ~6 months)
  • Work my way up to 6kg weights
  • Wear shorts to the gym without feeling the jiggles
  • Run my 5K in 35 min
  • NEW: one 5K run/week

Recap of Mini Victories So Far

  • Average of 3 classes/week
  • Planked for 1:10 (up from 0:40s)
  • Up to 4kg weights
  • Running 5K in 40 min (down from 41:30)

Outdoor Activity

I never thought participating in a protest would count as an outdoor activity but walking around Riad El Solh Square for a few hours under the afternoon August sun is still something. I got a tan and mixed feelings about this whole “revolution.”

Fitbit Flex

Staying home is worse than office life when it comes to step count. Week #6 totals at a little under 40K, 10K short of the 50K minimum. Even with very little workout activity, I was almost there!

Best Meal of the Week

I headed to Zouk Mikael with the sisters for this weekend’s Souk el Akel at the old Zouk souks. It included the same stands I saw when I went to the downtown edition last month. Upon arrival, the sisters admitted they weren’t hungry and just wanted to see what the fuss was about so I ended up having dinner solo. I had a half pulled pork sandwich from This Little Piggy and a sloppy joe from Meats & Bread.

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I have yet to try the recommended sushi burrito because that combination seems insulting to both sushi and burritos. It’s like making a ribs pizza. Actually, that sounds genius. Let me think about it.

Other Highlights

Bought a Crop Top: I was never a crop top person. I’m not a fan of midriff baring but I’ve seen classy examples of how to pull off a crop top. I don’t think it’s the kind of style made for muffin tops or belly pooches so I figured it be a good motivator to get my abs in shape. I opted for one that was easy on the wallet too so it won’t break my heart if I only wear it around the house. H&M saving the day.

Workout Track of the Week

I don’t know why this was playing at Souk el Akel but it’s a song that was once used during Body Attack. It was weird to hear a song that is used during intense cardio while walking by food stalls and smoking barbecues.

Cheese of the Week

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Knefeh bi Chocolat: Since the above is called best MEAL of the week, I did not count my first encounter with the knefeh bi chocolat of Sea Sweet as the winner. I will say that it was the highlight gastronomically though. For those who don’t know, knefeh is baked white cheese pastry topped with semolina and syrup. Knefeh bi chocolat is a chocolate croissant stuffed with knefeh. I can’t for the life of me understand why people who discovered it this year decided to call it the cronofeh; it’s been around longer than the cronut and such a moniker does not make you salivate. Way to make something so sinfully delicious sound like a village with no gas stations. My reaction was, and I quote, “this is like whoa” and I could only eat 3/4 of the half I had before I felt the glucose seeping out of my pores.

I shall leave you with a cat meme.

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Beirut, Be Good

  

The other day, I was thinking that this has been the longest stint I’ve had in Beirut in the last 2 years. Personal trips and business flights had me in and out of Lebanon a lot. People used to say that that is why living here was bearable. I had the breaks needed to cope. It was the opposite though. Only after I started traveling more did it get harder and harder for me to stay.

This week has shown me a side of my country that has left me uneasy. I feel the violence that occurred on Saturday was a blessing in disguise. Although people were assaulted and violated, we were shown where we stand in the eyes of “our leaders.” The Lebanese public demanded basic rights and were met with force. The government brought on the same response that every action they’ve done leads to: bringing the people to tears, only this time it was via tear gas and brutality rather than frustration and disappointment.

Had the demonstration remained civil and truly peaceful, the woes of the protesters may not have reached the rest of the public at home and abroad. Escalation and injustice attracts international media attention and creates necessary pressure on those responsible.

I admit that I was not there on the 22nd. I was discouraged, time after time, feeling that our efforts were wasted and heading in an unclear direction. And I will also admit, hearing about the water cannons made me fear for my own safety. After seeing my friends fall, my fellow citizens take hits – I was relieved that I was safe at home and repulsed by how they were treated. I had given up. That didn’t last very long though; sitting behind screens felt wrong and their fire rekindled mine. My dad and I decided to join the protesters earlier this afternoon before the shit hit the fan again. Seeing the crowd slowly grow as the hours passed is the kind of thing that needs to be felt so the public knows their voice matters, that maybe they’re not powerless. I’m not a fan of movements that ask for the fall of the government and do not propose plans; we need strategy. With that said, I am an advocate of supporting the community that shows what Lebanon is really about. 

Unfortunately, it got dangerous after we left and my spirits are sinking again. The test now will be when the demands of daily life return. What worries me is what happens next. Did we just need a weekend to vent? What is our long-term plan to avoid repeating the same mistakes? How do we ensure that we will have new leaders that will respect our existence and represent the public instead of their own interests? Will the fall of our broken system really improve this situation? Things need to change. If not now, then when?

My expat friends abroad have made me feel like I’m one of the last guardians still here, still trying to build a future in dysfunctional purgatory. This coming Saturday, however, I’m leaving you Beirut. I will be back but I don’t know if I’ll stick around once I’ve had a taste of a stable nurturing environment that will feed my hunger for more. I’m choosing the same path that many before me have: to invest in myself first so that I can invest in my country more effectively later on. I need to do this. If not now, then when?

I hope that the bond that unified us against corruption doesn’t buckle, I hope that our media stays objective, and I hope that we maintain our stance with dignity. Lebanon, I don’t know how to love you anymore but I don’t know how to stop. I haven’t left yet but all I ask of you while I’m gone is that you be smart, be strong, and be good.

Will Blog for Apples

Courtesy of Gratisography

Courtesy of Gratisography


Next week, I’ll be flying to Barcelona, Spain for a 3-month design internship. Although temporary, this will be the first time I’m living on my own away from home.

First World Problem
My 5S needs upgrading. The only issue I had was its disintegrating battery life that has only gotten worse over time. Now, having a power bank has rectified the battery woes but the 13GB capacity is not enough for a typical smartphone user, let alone one who depends so heavily on documentation. I mean, how else am I going to show people my tie-dye laundry, ramen noodle buffet, or create a video montage of the various Spanish sausage flavors of La Boqueria? I mean G-rated sausage, you 12-year old.

I’ll admit that the larger screens of the new generations were a turn-off at first. Why would I want to use a phone that was the same size as my Moleskine? Then, I used one to cover an event and saw the beauty of having a phablet when it came to capturing an experience. It was much like the preference of using a 22-in iMac versus a 15-in MacBook Pro; a larger interface to command while maintaining ease of usability. Don’t get me wrong, my MacBook is currently at the doctor’s and it feels like my child is in Afghanistan but, as a designer, having a larger workspace is always better, just less convenient and more expensive. But being the size of a Moleskine suddenly made sense if you look at your phone for what it actually is: more than a thing you use to call your parents (let’s be honest, they’re the only people who still use phones primarily for calling). Your iPhone is your diary, without the doodled hearts and ripped pages that ruin the binding. It’s what you use to absorb your surroundings and share it with the ones who can’t be with you. 

You see, I’m considering a lot of new content (intense blogging, continuous fitness tracking, photography, and a webisode series) during this trip but I want a device that has the memory and hardware to keep up. That, and it’s plain snazzy.

Since this is an internship abroad, I have a lot of expenses to cover and a new shiny gadget like the 6 Plus with decent memory has a hefty price tag. I’m not able to drop that kind of cash nor do I have the moxie to ask for a little parental gifting. They’re already helping me out as it is and this little trans-mediterranean move is supposed to be my training wheels for how to be an adult, not a pampered failure to launch. Stop thinking about SJP and horses.

I’ve read reviews about the Samsung’s competing device but, knowing that I switch out phones every 2-3 years, I don’t imagine making that kind of commitment to a brand I haven’t clicked with in the past. We’re like me and Daniel Craig; I can appreciate him as a Bond who’s handsome and got all the right stuff but Pierce Brosnan is my man. I test-drove their product before but I couldn’t convert; I guess I’m Apple to the core. I’ve heard about the rumored 6S/S Plus release but I’d be completely fine with a 6 Plus joining me on the journey, I’ll even share my bed with it.

So…like…what do you say manzana gods?
Can you hook me up por favor?
I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.
Love you, kthxbye.

Staying Productive When Unemployed

Courtesy of Stokpic

Courtesy of Stokpic

By unemployed, I mean not going to an office every day. That means you could be freelancing, applying for higher education or a new job, or planning world domination via miswak toothbrushes. Whatever your reasons are for not clocking in, here are some tips that I came up with from my own summer of unemployment.

Let Side Projects Take Center Stage
Use the flexible schedule to work on the side projects that were always lower on your list of priorities. When you have a full-time job, it’s tough to burn the midnight oil on something that isn’t a must or hasn’t fully taken shape yet. When the day’s events are up to you though, you can recalibrate where you want to invest your minutes. Not all side projects have to be grandiose and extra ambitious. It can be as simple as getting through all the books on Obama’s summer reading list.

Keep To-Do Lists and Deadlines
Without a boss or manager keeping you in check and the sun luring you into beach bummery, it’s not hard to waste away ending up in an endless lethargic stupor. Having daily lists of what to do can keep you on your toes, making sure you cross off the most basic tasks for the day. Just remember to be realistic with your expectations of what you can accomplish. Being productive AND sleeping in is doable, just set up the schedule that works for you.

Stop Feeling Guilty
You need discipline as mentioned above but you will have the propinquity to revel in the newfound freedom. There is beauty in being able to wake up when you want and shift things around on a whim. Learning to be okay with doing nothing temporarily every once in a while is a skill that has to be acquired. In the technology age when we’re all incessantly connected and online, we need to master the art of stillness. And if you’re wasting too much time/energy vegetating and living the funemployed life, take up a new hobby and eat more falafel. Those vegetarian sandwiches cost $2 and keep you full all day.

Courtesy of Stokpic

Courtesy of Stokpic


Change Desks for the Day

Get out of the house and off the bed. Changing it up helps you feel like you’re going to work, especially when your home is supposed to be the place you turn off your brain. If you need to get work done that doesn’t depend on internet connection, go to a spot that has bad wifi. You’ll be too frustrated to bother connecting which will force you to pour your energy into the tasks at hand, spending less time reading The Atlantic articles about millennials. Trying different hideouts to camp for the day with your laptop/sketchbook/agenda can be a fun way to get acquainted with your surroundings. You’ll test cafes and meet people who are a) escaping electricity cuts
b) researching something you could be into or c) wearing a tarboosh because they’re a lost Italian tourist.

Be selective with where you go though because spending hours on end at coffee shops can rack up quite the bill unless you’re one of the types that orders one cappuccino every 4 hours. A balanced way to assess how much you should ingest at a cafe is to base it on: how much internet you consume, how many other laptops are there, and how many waiters have changed shifts.

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Not to sound like a preteen on tumblr but with freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?