The Everlasting Question

Honestly, I started writing this post a few days ago hoping it would be ready by Independence Day but after today’s events, it feels more appropriate to post immediately. That, and I’m not a fan of celebrating after tragedy.

It seems that whenever a disaster occurs in our country, the youth is divided in their reactions based on where they stand in the daunting question: should I leave/stay/return-to Lebanon? This is normal considering how many issues we deal with on a regular basis besides the tragic things that also plague our unstable state. Maya Zankoul’s comic teased it but the problem is not just how we react but how we react to each other’s reactions.

The scenarios are split between the 4:
1) Lives abroad and doesn’t want to return
Many of our peers live abroad because of jobs, higher education, or family. They have set up a life in another country that provides for them; it is possible that the ties that once connected them to Lebanon are gone. Maybe they have found someone special in this other land. Maybe they’re starting a family of their own. Maybe they’re happy there, maybe they’re not. Either way, these people have created a new bubble that they call home and would prefer not to return to a place that is constantly rebuilding after another wave of destruction. It’s not betrayal, it’s just part of moving on and deciding what works best for you at that moment.
Usually, this group is defensive when confronted about their decision to stay abroad. They shouldn’t have to be because some of their arguments are valid. The confrontation from others comes from frustration and a smidge of jealousy – we’re aware that living abroad has its perks and we’re aware that living in Lebanon can be too much of a daily battle. Having said that, for those abroad who have a “good riddance” attitude about Lebanon – you are the true one’s betraying your country. You can live abroad but you don’t need to hate on those who don’t or assume you know better because you left.
2) Lives abroad but wants to return 
A large percentage of our peers live abroad for the same reasons as those above but still have a yearning to be here. They stay abroad because the opportunities are better, the pay is higher, the future is brighter. However, they wish they could have that at home – in their mom’s kitchen and not just at Christmas time. They may have also built a life in this other land but it feels fleeting and temporary. The relationships they form with others are merely for the sake of company- guilt eats at them because these “roots” they make are too superficial. If they could be offered the same financial/educational package and come home, they would.
Usually, this group is very patriotic and heartbroken when events like today’s occur. I understand that it is tempting to say “you’re not here, you don’t get it,” but it is also difficult to feel helpless when those you love are/could be in danger. Don’t be angry with them for being abroad or rob them of their legitimate worry. If horrible things happen, they will weep just like you will regardless of where their geolocation tags them.
3) Lives in Lebanon but wants to leave
Another large bulk of youth are those who want to leave. This group want to do so for the reasons above too but they have hurdles in the way. Visas, money, no employment prospects abroad- who knows.
Usually, this group is quick to express their desire of greener pastures especially during times of distress. Besides the fact that no one enjoys acts of terror, there is nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself and we can all agree that Lebanon is to blame for its own brain drain. There just isn’t enough to go around for the ambitious, creative, and talented population. However, if this population does choose emigration as their game-plan, I hope that they will not resent their country for it. If the red dirt could talk, I think it would beg you to stay and save it or, at least, come back when you feel you have the power to make a difference.
4) Lives in Lebanon and wants to stay 

I feel this is the smallest group of them all. They are here and they are trying. It’s that simple.

Usually, this group is criticized by others for sticking around. It is as if choosing to stay is done out of naivety when, in reality, it is about more than nightlife, manoushe, and tawlet at Falamanki. It’s about building their career, family, and ultimately, their life in their country.

Nasri from Our Man in Beirut said it best: “On a personal level, away from the newswires, it is absolutely terrifying how desensitized to violence everyone around me (including myself) seems to be, judging by our reaction to this, which is more rational sadness for the dead, concern and worry than pure emotional fear.” It is true, perhaps we have lost a bit of our humanity after enduring so many heartaches but the rational sadness is the only defense mechanism that hasn’t failed us yet. Carrying on after an explosion is not a crime. As long as they’re not complaining that other’s misfortunes inconvenience them, no one should feel guilty about fighting back by living.

It seems that a fifth scenario is forming, splitting from the 4th and rising from the ashes: those that live in Lebanon and want to stay but are losing ground. They find it more and more challenging to justify – to others but mostly to themselves- why they choose to remain in a volatile place when there is so much at stake. Why wait until the unthinkable happens?
Like Robert Fisk said, “Lebanon is like a Rolls Royce with square wheels…it has a lot that’s worthy of praise but it doesn’t run so well.” Don’t judge your fellow Lebanese for why they stay or go. They have to do what’s right for them. With that said, in whatever context, don’t turn your back on your country either. We have to do what’s right for it. It’s not about where you are, it’s about where you’re from.

May the victims of the Bir Hassan explosions of Nov 19, 2013 rest in peace. God be with their families and loved ones.

Bambi Recommends: The iPhone Doctor

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My precious iPhone had been malfunctioning for the past few days leaving me with a black screen. It was still operating but having a dead screen means you have a smartphone that functions like a home receiver from the 90s. Touchscreens need illumination and Siri’s voice dialing can only go so far; she called my friend in England by mistake. My tech expert friend told me about an iPhone guru in Sin el Fil so off we went. In a side street in Horsh Tabet is Amer & Raed, a sales and repair shop specializing in Apple products.

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Upon entering the shop, Raed, a George Khabbaz doppleganger, sat behind a Macbook surrounded by the remains of iPhones and other wrapped patients (sick phones are rubber-band-wrapped in white paper containing the contact info of the owner). I handed him the phone and he dissected it with ease. He carefully removed the chips and pieces, stripping it down on the table in front of him. It was like watching a  cardiologist behind an operating table. He used nail pliers to pinch circuits and sprayed a toothbrush with cleaning fluid to wipe away residue – the same residue left from months before when my phone took a dive in my Nescafe. He has a microscope that he uses to inspect the nanobits that come together to create this device that we are all addicted to. Once he figures out the problem, he re-fuses circuits using needles that look like phone defibrillator pads. I had the urge to yell out “clear” during the revival.

At one point, an older man came in with his daughter’s iPhone that had drowned in water. The phrases that were used were as if they were discussing a patient that needed surgery. He asked if it could be saved to which Raed replied, “inshallah kheir.” We asked what we should do if we ever dropped our babies in water after hours. This is how we learned that Raed takes emergency calls too; saying he’d come in and open in the middle of the night if necessary.

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The good thing about Amer & Raed is that you actually watch them try to figure out what’s wrong with your phone. Other places I’ve been to jump into how much it’s going to cost and try to sell you a newer model instead – before they’ve even looked at what could actually be wrong. Besides that, they overcharge for slow work that has poor results. Raed fixed my phone in under 30 minutes, in front of me, and didn’t over charge. In fact, he didn’t charge at all. Ma btehrouz. (it’s not necessary)

Now that’s a doctor who isn’t working for the paycheck. That’s a doc who’s saving lives.

How to get there: the road that heads towards the Mkalles roundabout disaster [on the same road where Marky’s is] take a right where the big black globe sign is and Amer & Raed will be up ahead on your left.

Contact them at +961 1 494 303

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 Zionist* 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.

In an earlier version of this post, the Zionist settlement was erroneously described as the “Jewish settlement.” The occupation is not about religion and we must avoid confusion of the two.

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.

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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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I Will Not Feel Guilty

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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.

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…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.