Wake-up Calls

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

There are some conversations that serve as wake-up calls. You may not notice them when they happen and the person you’re talking to may not realize that they’re snapping you out of a hypnotic routine. They’re not telling you anything you don’t already know but they’re a human catalyst forcing you to react and turn off autopilot. Below are 3 of my own.

Spring 2007
I had wanted to change the major on my enrollment card before starting my first year at AUB but decided to give pre-med a try. Worst case, I would transfer to architecture after a semester. But every term, I’d start out strong, get encouraged to stick to it, and then steadily plummet to mediocrity by the time finals rolled around. In this particular class of my second pre-med semester, I had survived my 3rd quiz of organic chemistry with Dr. Kaafarani. By survived, I mean my average was now suffering thanks to tanking on the last quiz before the final.  Kaafarani noticed this trend and asked me how I was doing in my other classes. I told him the truth, that I was doing very well in anything that wasn’t pre-med and it wasn’t something I was used to since I had always been a high-achiever. “Have you ever considered pursuing a major in humanities?”

When someone says that in our society, especially an instructor, it’s as if saying you’re not good enough for the science route. But coming from him and the way that he asked about my academic history, interests, and saw that I could perform well, it seemed he was telling me what would take me another 2 years to be convinced of: I could do it but I just didn’t want it badly enough. I graduated from AUB and went into the design program at LAU that same year.

June 2014
I had just finished up with an AIGA ME event at Coop D’etat for Beirut Design Week. A couple of expats had joined me for some beers so we could all catch up with each others’ lives. I was talking about my job and what I wanted more of, where I saw myself going, and what I wanted to do when my friend said, “you’re living in your worst case scenario right now.”

Where I was, at that moment, was an option that would always be available to me. If I tried to go do something else for a little while and it didn’t work out, I could return to my safety net. Home wasn’t going anywhere. But if I didn’t try to explore the possibilities in front of me, I would not move forward. I would be accepting the back-up as if it were the only path I could be on. The next day, I asked for a transfer to another office within my company’s network. It didn’t work out but it got the ball rolling.

February 2015
I’ve previously posted about this particular wake-up call. Following the passing of a high school friend and then a girl in my gym class, the words of the instructor struck a chord. He told us,“tell the people you love that you love them when you can.”

Nothing new or profound about that statement but, in retrospect, it may have been a combination of things that made his words give me chills after an hour of cardio. Love is the sole motivating force behind everything I do and I’ve always felt that you should put your entire heart into every action. That month, I was feeling stuck in molasses, trapped in a repetitive cycle that even a quick trip to Dubai couldn’t break. I was losing my drive, my passion, my self. This wake-up call was more about time, how little of it is spent wisely, and how much of it is invested in the wrong places or people. Eventually, I resigned from my job so that I could take advantage of my abilities, my privileges, and my future but, in order to do that, I wanted to have some say in the present.

I don’t know if these examples are as monumental as I’m making them seem here; like I said above, they’re usually triggers to thoughts that were already cooking, coming to a steady boil. Still, they are the sparks that light the fire under you and we could all use some heat to catapult us out of complacency. Feel the burn.

Big Questions in Brooklyn

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Being in New York City can make you feel small. And when you’re arriving from a dot on the map, it can make you feel like a speck of dust in a sandstorm. It was the first time that I stopped to think, not only about all that has happened to me in the last few years, but also where I may be heading in the ones to come. Turns out, I didn’t want to wait another 3 years to reevaluate – by then, it would be too late.

Spending a week in NYC was more of an investigative trip. I wanted to see if it could be a new frontier, the next step that would shove me out of my comfort zone and teach me more about who I am. The more I thought this way, the more I felt like a high school senior in need of a gap year, a lost guppy who wanted to find herself or was on some journey of self-discovery, a walking millennial cliche. Basically, I felt like a spoiled brat because I wanted more when I was and am already quite fortunate.

Honestly, only those who are blessed enough to have options at their fingertips have the luxury to think this way. When you are tied down with responsibilities and bills to pay, the path in front of you has limitations. But when you’re not surrounded by commitments that dictate your decisions, you only have you to answer to. The possibilities are overwhelming and have never been more daunting. It brings on inner monologues and sidewalk soliloquies that have your brain pondering things like What am I really doing? Why am I restless after 3 years at the region’s best agency? Am I satisfied with where my life is now? And if not, why am I wasting time being stuck? But where do I go?

If I were to move to NYC, or move anywhere that wasn’t my dear Lebanon, would I survive it? Am I as strong as I think I am? Like many people who were strolling the streets of Brooklyn, I found that I was having discussions with myself out loud; I was asking the big questions that come with being in a big city. Am I doing everything in my power to make sure the life I want will come to be? What is the life I want?

My closest friends are all abroad and the days are numbered when it comes to those who are still here. Most of my phone contacts have country acronyms next to their names because they’re abroad trying to make something of themselves. Am I selling myself short by staying behind? Is there more for me out there? In a country that can be so much but give so little, I am finding it increasingly difficult to pass up opportunities that would empower me as a young professional, experiences that would equip me with new skills, and chances that would expose me to hidden facets of myself I have yet to know. Can Lebanon give me that? Am I still betraying my country if I want more for myself? If I stay but don’t move forward, who am I really helping? In the end, wasted potential serves no one.

I’m grateful I don’t have parents that poke and prod about when I’m going to walk down the aisle or make them grandparents. Instead they entertain the same questions that I struggle with. My dad recently asked me if I ever give any thought to where my personal life is at. I think he worries that he instilled in me such a spirit of ambition that my careerist ways have backfired. Regardless of whether it shows or not, I do think about it. Even more now that I have entered Wedding Territory. For the next 5-7 years of my life, I will have, on average, 3 engagements/weddings to attend annually. Not out of desperation, lack of self-esteem, or fear of becoming a cat lady, but this brings on big questions as well: Will I find that person? Would I notice them if I did? Have we already met? What am I missing? and then the worst one of all: Is something wrong with me? 

If I were to move to NYC, or any other city that disconnects me from the world I’ve known for so long, would I become more guarded than I already am? Would I be so good at surviving that I become too strong? Would I be lonely? Will I miss out on special milestones for the sake of my own selfish drive? Does going solo really matter if it means you’re sacrificing moments with the ones you care about the most? If I leave, dad won’t be around to make Spanish omelettes with Kalamata olives on Sunday mornings. If I stay, I’ll never make them for myself. There’s always a fine line when trying to decide what’s best for you. In the Arab world, sometimes you have to cut the cord yourself.

I resigned from my job before boarding my flight to the States. A week after landing, as I stood on the edge of East River Park looking at the Manhattan skyline on my last morning in Brooklyn, a small voice asked, will Beirut be okay without me?

I know I want to find out.

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!

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?

My 15th Year in Lebanon

As the year comes to an end and another one begins, most of us tend to focus on the things we didn’t do or the resolutions we didn’t follow through on. A post I wrote over 2 years ago had a list of things I wanted to do and I STILL haven’t done all of them. Instead of dwelling on “failures”, how about we reflect on the accomplishments and steps forward? Although the idea of a fresh start based on a date on a calendar is cheesy (you don’t need to wait for January 1st to roll around), it’s always good to pause and learn from what your days have led up to. That, or you can just pause every 4 years. I’m going on my 15th year here so I want to reflect on the last one.

For 2014:

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Budapest, Hungary – March 2014

Briefly visited 6 new cities and revisited 3 old ones. I didn’t get to experience all cities equally but I did try with the time that was given to me. I learned to appreciate parts of Dubai after multiple visits but Budapest takes the cake this year. I also realized that I rate hotels in a very illogical way using 3 criteria:

  1. If there is a power outlet and master light switch next to the bed.
  2. The free stationery that I’m taking home as a souvenir (mainly the pen/pencil but gold stars for postcards).
  3. The taco-human quality of the mattress. The mattress is the hard shell and must hug me like I am ground beef.
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Jounieh Teleferique – Oct 2014

Rode the Teleferique in the middle of a thunderstorm. The days when you decide to be batshit crazy are the ones that stay with you. And with your friend who has a fear of heights.

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Christmas Cards at Dar Bistro – Dec 2014

Sold a few cards I designed myself (finally!).

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Chili’s, 10 months ago is too long

Had ribs for the first time because I wanted to be Frank Underwood for an hour. This is an accomplishment in my mind. I still believe Freddy’s exists somewhere and I will find it. If anyone does this, invite me over.

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California Adventure, Disneyland – July 2014

Reconnected with my California roots (and family) only to find that I’m more Arab than I even know and Disneyland is not the same at 26.

For 2015:
– Keeping a logbook
– Starting my line of greeting cards
– Going to Barcelona, Berlin, and a few towns in Morocco (too much?)
– Have more ribs and #justlove.

Check back with me in 360 days to see where I’m at.

Lebanon: Would You Miss Me?

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I was in Dubai for another weekend and, this time, it wasn’t the same as last February. When I came back a few months ago, my love for you was revitalized and I was happy to be home. This trip was different. For the first time, home didn’t feel like it cared if I was even there. For the first time, I didn’t want to come back.

A year has passed since I stopped to ask myself, “why do you stay?”. A war, a string of explosions, and daily struggles did not scare me and yet, now, I can’t justify my current life choice. The reasons that kept my feet firmly buried in the sand don’t feel comforting anymore, they feel like excuses. I have dear memories but murky thoughts; you’re not what you used to be to me and I don’t know what happened. I am here wondering if I’m limiting myself from the growth that every young adult needs- the kind that is not satiated by rooftop bars, private beaches, and manouche. Growth that comes from being self-sufficient in a functioning forward-thinking society. Have I settled for less than what I deserve? Maybe I woke up, maybe I’m exhausted, maybe I outgrew you. Maybe you don’t want to be who I know you are. Maybe I don’t want to wait until you get your act together, if you ever do. Maybe I need to get my act together first.

Only a few days after returning, I am reminded that danger lurks while the people are concerned with foiled summer plans and football matches. Even I started to wonder how this would affect my social life rather than how it could affect my overall tomorrow or just my drive home from work – that’s when I knew there was a problem. Threats to your safety are not supposed to be seen as an “inconvenience.” I will still defend you to the vacationing foreigner in the hot tub who claims that we’re an aimless doomed country but something has changed. I still love you but something has changed. That future I saw with you is blurry after being in a place with 2020 vision – a place that has a common goal that they’re all working toward, all attempting to make into a reality.

A city can only claim superiority that springs from culture & authenticity for so long before it drowns in its own delusions and inflated pride. While we bask in our rich heritage, destroy what is left of it, and become our own worst enemy, some of our neighbors surpass us in ambition and development leaving us in their towering shadows. We need to work as one, with humility, toward the Lebanon that we dream of while being fully aware that it could slip through our fingers if we lose sight of what really matters.

I’m confident that I’ll find my way back to you. Perhaps then, I’ll be strong enough for the both of us but I feel like I can’t save you at the moment. I need to put the oxygen mask on myself before I try to help you – unfortunately, all the masks here give an inadequate supply leaving me gasping for air.

I have another vacation coming up. Being away for more than just a few days may give us the break we need. However, if I were to leave for good at some point, my greatest fear is that you wouldn’t even notice, you wouldn’t even miss me if I was gone.

But I know I’d miss you.

FIFA Four-Year Plans

As the FIFA World Cup inches closer, I find myself wondering where the past 4 years went and what I have accomplished (or failed to accomplish) in that given time. Thanks to Lebanon being a football-crazed country that doesn’t participate in the World Cup but cheers for every other flag, I tend to make “FIFA Four-Year Plans” instead of Five-Year Plans when it comes to projecting into the future and trying to figure out where my chips will fall and which pigeons will eat them.

Two mondials ago, in 2006, I had just graduated from high school and, unknowingly, I was about to get my first taste of war in Lebanon. Four years after that, I had a biology degree, experienced my first heartbreak, and was a year into getting another degree in a completely unrelated field. I think I had a clearer vision of where I wanted to go at 22 than when I was 18. When you’re in your early late-twenties, the four years leading up to that bring about a lot of self-discovery and character-building. Besides that personal development, you also get bigger doses of reality and start to question yourself more and more. There is a simplification process that happens. Priorities change and your perspective becomes more focused because you realize who and what is important and worth your time & effort. Then, you jump to the next phase: where will I be when the next Mondial rolls around? When I’m 30 and my baby sister is graduating from high school? Where do I want to be and how do I get there?

2014 is the first Four-Year Plan Milestone that feels like a turning point considering I am now a semi-functional adult, caught in that young professional web where my peers are either engaged, married with kids, all-nighting for higher education degrees, or de-stressing with a beer on a sidewalk in Mar Mikhael. In the last four years, I graduated again, had a brief stint as a redhead, joined the workforce, traveled to the Far East, and started this blog. I have fewer acquaintances and more friends. I also tweet and have two tattoos. I have yet to build a Beirut metro, have a bake and shark in Trinidad, or drive a Maserati in the Autobahn. Hell, I didn’t even ride the Teleferique like I said I would while in Jounieh during the ’06 war. Check back with me on these in 2018.

In the last eight years, I have learned that things don’t always go according to plan and, sometimes, it’s better to have a general direction rather than a solid strategic course of action that has no room for compromise. You need to be flexible so you’re open to other opportunities you don’t foresee. Some people say, “don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.” Just don’t forget that maybe what you want now could lead you to something even better than what you want most.

So where were you 4 years ago and where do you want to be 4 years from now?

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.

20 Songs, 20 Memories*

*and the albums were downloaded as one track so they will be counted as a “song” since they were listened to as such. Except Lupe, but he’s awesome and will not be limited to one song.

1. Last Night – P. Diddy ft Keyshia Cole
It was the first time I ever went to a pub at age 19. I parked my first car (still a month old…to me) in the small parking lot on Monot St – the first one on your right hand side that you barely notice. “The place is called 37, in the small alley facing the huge parking lot.” I ordered a nonalcoholic Angelina Jolie and had way too many stale tortilla chips.

2. Blue – Eiffel 65
In mom’s car, coming back from LaserTag on my 10th birthday after getting soaked because my friends and I rode the Supreme Scream ride in the pouring rain…twice. That was the first time I realized that I wasn’t a wimp and enjoyed rollercoasters. And that I’m trigger happy when in the virtual world; I shot 150 rounds in 20 minutes. BUT I WON.

3. Workout – J. Cole
Angry Monkey, Gemmayzeh, last few days of 2011. One of those nights you wish you could bottle up and save for later because they seem temporary and fleeting. Part of you thinks there’s no way things could be like this, as good as they are in this moment. Suddenly it’s an out-of-body experience: you want to freeze time, just break the pause button, grab everyone and never let go so they don’t leave again. The exact people with whom I always want to spend my nights, the perfect whispers, the perfect music, the perfect I-kicked-your-ass-at-bowling buzz. The perfect everything buzz.

4. Closer – Kings of Leon
Sitting on the floor of the balcony in the middle of the night, watching the paper of my first-ever cigarillo burn while trying to make the smoke last longer as it twirls through the balustrade. The whole time I was thinking, “this is so repulsive and I’m going to smell like this all night.” That and “I wonder what would happen if my neighbor’s underwear lit on fire if a spark fell on the clothesline.” Now, I can taste cigarillos whenever I hear this song.

5. Butterfly – Crazy Town
Getting on the bus to go on the 8th grade field trip to the Tanmia Chicken Farms. I had two mixed CDs specially made at the sketchy music place around the corner. The dude looked like a younger version of the roach in Thumbelina but I needed tunes for my Discman and Napster had died. This song had been added because he couldn’t find 1 of the 20 I had requested even though I put backups.

6. Florence & the Machine Concert at Royal Albert Hall
Two consecutive late nights alone at the office. No headphones, just me, Florence, and Adobe CS6.

7. Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Live on KEXP
Last week of my last semester doing 3 all-nighters for a senior project with this beauty on repeat. No one appreciated this song THEN. I got so pumped on caffeine while running on empty that I managed to slam dunk my phone in my coffee at 8 am, the morning of my final jury. A Ziploc bag of rice, $120, and left in the freezer for 15 minutes: she’s alive! Who needs a functioning flash anyway. It ruins pictures and I navigate through the dark with a lighter. Old school.

8. Lasers Album – Lupe Fiasco
6-month period of working two jobs and being a full-time student but ey, I had to get out of my head and ’till I got there, the show went on. There were a couple of I’m-Jennifer-Beal-from-Flashdance-and-I’m-going-to-get-into-Julliard dance routines while going up the AUB Chem stairs. I mean in spirit, not choreography because only Sembello’s Maniac works for that and I don’t weld.

9. Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion
Breaking down in tears in our minivan because I said the song reminded me of my grandma so mom had to pull over on PCH to cry with me.

10. To Forever (Moonbeam Remix) – Rachel Starr
Starting at 59s in the vid above, this was a special ringtone on my old Nokia 6500. I still have the giddy residual reaction of looking for it just to pick up. Then I remember it’s 2013 and I have an iPhone with no flash.

11. Aquarium Full Album- Aqua
In the car-ride to Las Vegas at the age of 9 with only this cassette tape to listen to for 4 hours straight. I know every song, side A & B. I’m pretty sure we were all singing it once we crossed the state line of Nevada. Dad was in another car otherwise this probably never would’ve happened. And even back then, I’m going to say that this was my younger sister’s fault.

12. In Between 2007 Set – Paul Van Dyk
MCAT. MCAT. MCAT. Practice Test after Practice Test. September 3, 2008. 1:30 pm. Safe.

13. Take Care Album – Drake
I was stuck on this album for 9 months a year after it came out. Late bloomer. But only the first 40 min and then minute 44-62, 88-95, 103-113. You know, not the whole album. I never bothered with the rest.

14. California Love – Tupac
Leaving Mulligan’s in Hamra after it getting way too crowded. I kept leaning up against a barrel that wasn’t bolted to the ground. I was dancing with myself mostly but we decided to leave when there were too many people salsa dancing around us. Then this jam came on and we danced the whole way down the stairs. No one believed we were sober.

15. Get Right – Jennifer Lopez
Full day rehearsal at Spring Hills for the annual high school beauty pageant/banquet/dinner/event/whyamicakedinmakeup. I wasn’t a contestant, I was the drill sergeant with a megaphone. “AGAIN. FROM THE TOP…WHAT THE HELL? WHY DIDN’T YOU USE SUNSCREEN?”

16. Climax – Usher
Upon plans of going to the hotel bar falling through, I found myself singing along to this in the middle of a London McDonalds at 1 in the morning with a half eaten Big Mac in one hand and a a single French fry in the other that rhythmically goes up and down when I’d hit the high notes. My friend sat and watched…and eventually joined in. The beauty of being in a foreign land and not caring if you seem like an insane drunkard when, in reality, you’ve just had a lot of BBQ sauce.

17. Sunny Tales (Chill Version) – Sunlounger
I was walking through AUB campus one afternoon after a long meeting with my boss. I decided to just sit on a bench behind Jaffet and listen to this song that randomly came up on shuffle. I don’t know why but ever since I first listened to this song, it takes me somewhere and it always makes me very sad. But I can’t not listen to it.

18. Always on Time – Ja Rule ft Ashanti
9th grade, riding home from school cramped in an ancient Mercedes with way too many cousins. The roof leaked and the driver had an unexplainable love for Najwa Karam, yellow Chiclets, and complimentary glass cups from the gas stations.

19. I’m On – Nas ft DJ Khaled
The treadmill. All I remember is the treadmill.

20. Show Me What You Got – Jay-Z
Zooming across the bay in the speedboat, hair going crazy, tan so golden brown with champagne flooding the deck because we can’t control the way were bouncing off the waves, all that’s crossing my mind is “Damn, he’s fine.” Yeah, that never happened. BUT IT COULD.

Why Do You Stay?

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Jounieh Bay, Sept 2012

A friend’s status on Facebook said “What’s keeping me here, I don’t even know” Given recent events, a lot of us are asking ourselves the same understandable question. I know how difficult it can be to live in Lebanon but I know that many people abroad would prefer to be here if circumstances were better. Regardless of where you are right now, I thought I’d write down a few reasons why the collective “you” stay or wish you could.

Why do you stay?

You stay because of your family,
you can’t abandon them selfishly.
You stay because of your job,
you can’t just expect a good opportunity to pop up wherever you go.
You stay because you don’t have a visa,
you don’t have the freedom to just book a ticket for any destination.
You stay because you just bought a car,
you’ve invested in something that is rooted here and it’s yours.
You stay because your Teta is getting older,
you can’t leave when you don’t know how much longer she’ll be around.
You stay because you’re relatively broke,
you can’t afford the living expenses abroad.

No.

Maybe you stay because you want to.
Because your clothes and hair smell like coal after mashewe in June.
Because of the taste of leftover manoushe heated on the soubiyya in January.
Because there’s a lost week of summer that makes an appearance in October.
Because of multicolored plaid patchwork in the plains of the Bekaa in April.
Because of Bliss House Chocolat Mou during the power-cuts of August.
Because of the color of the Jounieh Bay’s waters during September.
Because of chilled janerek rolled in salt in May.
Because of nostalgic reunions thanks to international vacation schedules overlapping during December.
Because the acoustics of the Byblos Port create musical synchronicity with the sea waves in July.
Because of Uncle Deek Nescafe in the car during kazdouras in February.
Because of the sun-rays bouncing on the Mediterranean in the middle of November.
Because of the crunching sound of the melting snow on asphalt in the middle of March.
Because you want to see Lebanon rise not like a phoenix, but like a dragon that will breathe fire not become it.
Because you want to raise your children in the country where they are a part of her soil and stone because you helped save her.
Because you want to call this place home.

Why do you stay?
You stay because you want to.

[mashewe: BBQ/grilled meats, soubiyya: old-fashioned heater, janerek: green plums, kazdoura: cruise in the car]