5 Non-Tinder Ways to Meet People

In the age of workaholics and swipes, it is hard to meet people the old-fashioned way. In Beirut, when you’re at a dinner thing, it’s with people you see every 3-6 days instead of new humans who introduce you to other bubbles.

Here are some options for meeting movers & shakers in this tiny town:

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PC: Hasan Shaaban

A DINNER THING

Every month, two ladies throw a mystery dinner in a mystery location with 20 mystery guests and you have to apply to get a spot. When you #getonthelist, you’re notified that you’ve snagged a seat at the upcoming dinner but you don’t know where the dinner will be held until a few hours before. I’d first heard about this via Vogue’s article on Beirut and, although getting on a list has a pretentious feel as expected when being featured in a luxury publication, the dinners are exquisitely put together, change in terms of theme and style every time, and allow you the opportunity to meet 19 fresh faces in an intimate gathering. Meeting these 19 other strangers (sometimes less because Beirut is the size of a scorpion’s…tail) from various fields is the highlight. The one I attended was a candlelit dinner in a carpentry workshop. I met the Lebanese architect behind the new Mukhi sisters boutique, a brand manager who introduced me to leaves with carpaccio doused in Macallan whisky, a film agent based in the UK who connects directors to projects in our region, and a guy who’s side gigs are the next two activities in this list.

@adinnerthing is what a dinner thing is supposed to entail: encountering the unfamiliar with lots of wine, food, and pretty table settings.

TACOS & DANCING NIGHT

So at A Dinner Thing, I met Mikey Mu who’s an actuary-by-day/event-planner-extraordinaire by night. The first Mikey-event I attended was Tacos & Dancing Night at Taqueria del Jefe in Gemmayzeh. It’s once a month and at random so follow Mikey or me on whatever channel you prefer and stay tuned for the announcement of the next one. Much like the taco joint, it’s a laid back crowd chilling to old school r&b and all the jams that got you through calculus. Was that just me? Math was the only subject I could do to music.

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Born in NYC 3 years ago, afikra is a get-together that features two speakers presenting topics on Arab culture that happens every 4-6 weeks. As of this year, afikra is active in 5 major cities (NYC, DC, Dubai, Montreal, and Beirut) and will be launching in 4 more in the next year.

“The name itself is play on words in colloquial Levantine Arabic. When pronounced a’fikra (or 3afikra) it means “by the way”, but if pronounced a fikra it sounds like the English word “a” and the Arabic word “thought”, as in “a thought”.

Stepping away from the name, the mission of afikra is to create a space where our members can congregate and communally explore topics related to the Arab world. We want to build a community of young curious minds who are interested in promoting intellectualism around these topics.

Anyone can be a speaker, all you do is apply. There’s only one condition: you have to have attended an afikra session before. I’ll be speaking at afikra vol4. SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTIONAL PLUG ON MY OWN BLOG.

Mikey also organizes How Have I Not Seen That?, Freelancer Breakfasts, AND happy hours every other Wednesday at Antwork, a coworking space in Hamra. Follow their page on Facebook to be up-to-date. It’s okay, Mikey makes me feel super unproductive too.

CERVANTES (or any language center)

I just wanted to learn Español para viajar por California but apparently this is a thing guys do to pick up chicks. Well, GOOD FOR US LADIES. Any class or skill you decide to learn will introduce you to fellow curious students. It’s like uni days except most of the people in class are also slaves to The Man. Cervantes offers classes with multiple time slots in their Centre Ville location so you’ll have an excuse to roam through the ghost town at least twice a week.

NRC/NTC

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Obviously, I’m going to mention the free Nike running and training clubs since this is where I adopted so many new BFFs. Ain’t nothing like suffering and sweating together via a healthier lifestyle choice that brings you fun peeps in spandex, amirite?

Bonus: Communal tables at cafes and restaurants. Seriously, they’re hotbeds for social interaction and elbow friction. Meow.

California Got Me So Arab


I don’t know what it is about the golden coast that gets me playing Umm Kalthoum and Abdel Halim while obsessively reading about the shitshow that is Lebanon as of late. Parliament’s third term extension, a tax hike with no benefits, the first domestic-violence death of 2017, more useless world records, and a guy punting cats. I can’t turn a blind eye while away but it doesn’t create this homesickness that pulls you back. Instead, it makes you deflate and wonder what you’re going back to.

A New Yorker article on American small talk hit home (pun intended) as we attended trade shows or, honestly, just headed to CVS for drugstore lipsticks and 12 other products I didn’t plan for. “In the East, I’ve heard it said, there’s intimacy without friendship; in the West, there’s friendship without intimacy.” What a perfect way to sum it up.

When in NYC a few years back, 20 minutes upon arrival, I had my AirBnB host’s Yugoslavian mother tell me about her 22-year old stay in the city and her impending trip to Italy with her new lover. She invited me to come over someday to play ping pong. It was an instant delve into the personal, an instant intimacy that may have come from feeling like outsiders together. She had told me that she felt my Lebanese side, that she could talk to me, that I would understand how people don’t have a natural warmth to them the way that we do. She hugged me goodbye and I never saw her again.

In SoCal, the number of times I’ve had a complete stranger ask me about my day can get a bit unnerving when you’re on the 10th human interaction. Growing up in Beirut has made me more of a New Yorker. You don’ even knaow meh. Stop with the fake niceties and give me my foot cream, kthxbye.

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Funny how the various ingredients of your identity become so pronounced when you’re a foreigner in your own country. Being here seems to bring out the olive in me. I see why our diaspora creates bubbles, why Arabs attend a Mashrou3 Leila concert in downtown LA, why my dad used to host gatherings here that would feature some rendition of dabkeh through the living room to 3aladil3aouna. I see why a Tunisian/Swiss guy at an expo said, I’m so glad there’s a Lebanese here, and hugged me as we parted.

Back in Beirut, you reject your culture while fully submerged in it. You don’t make an effort to be Lebanese because you just are. And with that comes a resentment that is a cocktail of pride and disgust. Why do you have to be so wonderful and f*cked up? Fawda w meshe. I appreciate the structure of the USA, the ease, the insane ticket prices that actually deter rule-breakers. But the devil’s voice tells me, with time, this would bore you. 

Would it though? Or is that me romanticizing the headache I’m returning to? My creative juices haven’t felt this potent in eons. Could it be the physical and mental distance anyone would have from being away from the everyday or is it due to being away from Beirut herself?

Oh Beirut, the way I love you makes me who I am but it may just kill me.
DRAMA. See you soon, boo.

Back in California: Where is My Life Going?

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I feel like I have more headspace while in sunny SoCal. The 10-hour time difference gives me enough quiet minutes to get my to-do list in order while dadboss is snoring in another hemisphere. I don’t have many friends left here so there are less temptations and I’m not a tourist so there’s no major itinerary to follow besides work-related supplier visits. Books and sunshine are my main distractions. However, having so many tete-a-tetes with your own tete makes the content all the more daunting. This self-reflection, this attempt to answer the everlasting question of should I stay or should I go, this search for the cure of stunted adulthood – it can be overwhelming when you’re one year away from that 4-year reevaluation that just so happens to fall on my 30th year of life.

I love being here and it’s not just for the donuts. I love that my thoughts have room to expand like a soap bubble and pop when they’re done. There is no annoying toddler in the form of Lebanese inconveniences coming in to poke the bubble forcing its premature death. To be fair, that may have more to do with the distance from daily life than it does with the California weather and temperament.

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Am I the only one that thinks, okay, I’ll figure this all out when I’m away for a few weeks? As if being detached from your own reality will give you clarity to work out the kinks in your life plan. You look back at home and think, is this where you want to be/are you maximizing your potential/are you meeting the right person/is this it for me/are you okay with it if it is? It would be wonderful if the answers to those questions came in black & white but it feels like gray comes in more than 50 shades. I’m sorry I used that. Won’t happen again.

When I’m away, Beirut is on my mind and when I’m home, I’m looking abroad. Not in the grass-is-greener way but in the am-I-settling way. Being young and untethered, restless and ambitious, hungry and responsible. All these adjectives lead to one: conflicted.

“Small goals.” After a talk with a friend in London who recently had a break from life to figure out life, he said it. Small goals will take some of the pressure off. Baby steps toward moving forward on a personal level so you feel that even if you’re not on the express train, you’re still not stagnant.

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And it’s about the little things. Reading in the backyard. Getting just the right amount of milk in your coffee. Finding that Yeezus shirt on Amazon. Tacos & dancing nights with your homies. Maybe the future needs to stay in the future since we all don’t know what’s ahead, how to get there, or even where we need to go. Or maybe I’m still jet lagged and a reflection session will hit me in the afternoon. At this point, all I can hope for is another good coffee and a good book to go with it.