Blissful Memories & Meals

College Hall

The Steps of College Hall

Bliss Street equals two things in my mind: food & AUB. It also equals a lot of memories that combined these two things. Upon reflection, I saw that the selection of where you were to eat lunch on Bliss was determined according to 4 factors:

• Money: how much you want to spend/have on you
• Health: how healthy you’re trying to be
• Time: how long before your next class that you’re actually attending
• Party of n: how many people are joining

So if you were eating alone, had only 5,000 L.L., and 10 minutes to spare – health goes out the window and you’re going to inhale a handful of Happy Meal burgers. However, if you’re 6 people with an hour and a half and 10,000 L.L. to blow, you’re having a Subway 6-inch on the Oval. This theory’s accuracy is not set in stone and does not count when determining whether you should go have a nutella crepe from Tonino because, in that case, the answer is always yes.

Here are a few examples of when this logic was used, unknowingly at the time, to determine where we should fuel up. Please keep in mind that this was pre-Urbanista/Paul/Roadster and, therefore, quinoa was still just the staple food in Peru. As you’ll see below, the health factor becomes more important as you age within the walls of AUB.

McDonald’s
It was election day during the first semester at AUB and we were having lunch at “McDo” while students and people filled the street outside and chanted “Abou Taymoor! Abou Taymoor!” Somehow, our lunch transformed into a discussion about the political parties in Lebanon and whose actions could be considered justifiable given that the 2006 war had concluded just a few months prior. It was the first and last time I ever debated politics with my high school friends or anyone for that matter.

Burger King
Some time in Sophomore year, after a Bio 201 quiz II, we learned that Whoppers were the best medicine for failing pre-medical students. Vegetating on the couches in the back and singing along to their radio in a daze, this was the only way to numb the pain of a Charbel Tarraf multiple choice exam that included every letter of the alphabet as a choice. BUT WHAT DOES “a & b, except c – h” EVEN MEAN?

Universal Snack
Under the illusion that this was healthier than other options because it was “like eating at home”, Universal used to win the lottery quite often. It started out because of the escalope. Then it was for the potato salad. Then it was because you could have a huge plate of fattoush for 4,000 L.L. I think it was for the 80s music and the fact that you could have lunch with the whole restaurant at once – which was usually filled with a bunch of people you knew from other classes – since the tables were so snug. My dad keeps talking about how it was one of the first places to sell hamburgers in Beirut. He wants to go with me sometime because he hasn’t been since the 70s but I feel like I’d be betraying my AUB memories. Ah, the loyalties we form.

Forn Bakkar
An old couple worked at this bakery. It was up the street that leads to Ghali’s, right before Books & Pens. They used to make the dough fresh every morning and have falafel Fridays. One of us would go pick up the manoushes while the rest waited by Jafet library. It became a morning ritual until we saw the granny lick her fingers one too many times while kneading the dough as we waited for our kishik to come out of the oven. It’s closed now.

EuroDeli
This was the first place I had ever eaten at on Bliss Street. I was in the 8th grade and my cousin had brought me to AUB to help her with a Powerpoint presentation. I remember analyzing the graffiti on the benches while we waited for the computer lab to open. When I saw “Kiss from a Rose” carved into one of the beams, I knew AUB was going to be a university that had people like me…in 5 years. I had a chicken avocado sandwich from EuroDeli as a reward for all my hard work. Before it closed in 2010, it was a place we’d frequent because we could order “salads.” Oh Pasta Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing, where have you gone?

Zaatar w Zeit
“Kafta 3adeh bas bela jibneh. W ana kafta 3adeh bas bela mayonnaise. w ana kafta FULL OPTION. w ana kafta bela jibneh w shawiyit mayonnaise bas m7amas ktir. Orders at ZwZ were all combinations of kafta that always took too long and made us late for class. But they were good.

Kababji
Eventually, you get over the fast food craze and realize that you need to take care of your cholesterol levels. The BigMac just isn’t worth the hour on the treadmill – at least, not this week. Kababji became the healthier option because you could order half portions and have salads that didn’t taste like glorified grass. Most of senior year was spent here, and then many post-grad visits too when I was briefly employed at AUB.

Bliss House
Spicy chicken sandwiches on the steps of College Hall facing Jafet. When your Party of n > 10 and you have no classes to get to, the health factor is ignored, and you just enjoy life. After all, you’re only young once.

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. ”

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.

I Haven’t Forgotten You Yet


Dear AUB,

How’ve you been? Do you remember me? Of course, you do. We go way back. Haven’t heard from you in a while…

Actually, I know I say it’s been a while but it hasn’t. I didn’t think you’d move on so quickly. And for someone younger, quicker, and untainted by harsh realities no less. I get it. I guess I didn’t stand a chance. I thought there was a special bond between us- after graduation, when you met my parents, you said I’d never forget that night. I thought it was because you wouldn’t either. You did though.

I want to believe that this is the way things have to be. I want to believe it when you say I can have life and have it more abundantly because of you. Sure, being with you gave me the strength to discover what I really wanted. Staying with you helped me build the courage to go get it. But leaving you made me realize I had to do it alone. I don’t think I’ll be able to erase the effect you’ve had on my life. You erased mine on yours though. To you, I’m just another number.

Even with all this, I also didn’t think I’d still miss you this long after it all ended. I didn’t think you’d still make me grin sheepishly to myself whenever I hear your name. It seems, you will always be a part of me and I will always feel at home within your arms.

Taking a page out of Neruda’s book, I must accept that our time together is over. I must carry on with my life even though I carry you in my heart.

You know, even if I’m with someone else now, I still think about you. You never leave my mind.
But then again, they always say, there’s nothing like your first love.

I haven’t forgotten you yet,
Alumnus

5 Similarities Between AUB & LAU Students

AUB & LAU are the two largest English universities in Lebanon.
1. School Sweater Fashion Faux Pas 
While most students abroad love to collect memorabilia pertaining to their alma mater, students in these two institutions will never wear anything stamped with bold letters or Phoenician triremes – at least, not outside the house. They will wear sweaters of other universities like Oxford, USC, NYU, AnyImpressiveSchoolWeKnowNothingAboutExceptForItsAcronym but AUB students will not wear AUB sweaters on campus and LAU students will not wear LAU sweaters on campus. There is one AUB student who was rumored to wear her AUB sweater around campus and then, upon graduation, wear it to LAU as well (burn). This student may, or may not, be me. Such a rebel.
Most students will flaunt a sticker on their new car, partly because they want to feel like it’s their car but also because they want everyone to know they go to the “best university in the country.” The sweater, on the other hand, is reserved for those foreign kids in the summer Arabic classes.
2. Spend All Day & Night in Hamra 
After spending most of their daylight hours in classrooms, you would think that these students would want to get away from their campuses when it’s time to unwind. Nope. In the past few years, Hamra has been the destination topping the list when it comes to nights out. Uruguay St. in Downtown & the Gemmayzeh quarter are great but they’re a different atmosphere. 
Hamra is comfortable. Hamra is eating Bliss House sandwiches outside your hazard-lights-a’blinking-diagonally-parked car. Hamra is having Dunkin coffee by Main Gate at 8pm. Hamra is going out in your sweatpants and tees without worrying about dress code or a bouncer with an allergy to Converse. Hamra is bumping into everyone you know and everyone you’re going to meet next semester. It’s like going to class but there’s beer and cigarettes. 
3.  Lunch Dilemma 
The neighborhood is so condensed with cafes, fast food joints, restaurants and mini markets that students have to go through a process of elimination everyday when deciding on where to eat. At some point in their academic life, they will realize that eating greasy saj wraps daily is bad for the arteries and the salty flavor is not because their salt shaker cap goes loose occasionally. Those dudes by the round saj are not polar bears. Juicy. Students will also come to find that the process of elimination will become limited to a choice of 4 places max similar to how you alternate between the same 2 pairs of jeans from a pile of 12. 
If at AUB, you will get sick of afternoons at Universal Snack as Laura Branigan’s Self Control plays and end up going to Kababji. Then you’ll be like “no, no tabbouli today” (how dare you) and go to Subway. And then you’ll go back to Universal. McDo/BK/Hardee’s are reserved for days when you feel like you need a hug in a hamburger or it’s raining. If at LAU, you would eat kaak everyday but switch it up sometimes by ditching a class and going to Roadster. 

“Ma3leh, ma byekhod attendance w ktir 3a beleh fries and cheddar wlo! Bas honey mustard bella sour cream, bi nasih” *fails class*
Translation: “It’s okay, he doesn’t take attendance and I’m so craving Fries & Cheddar! But honey mustard, no sour cream, it’s fattening.” 
4. Vote or Die
Because student elections is a condition for accreditation and because Lebanon is obsessed with spraying politics all over everything like it’s Baygon in the middle of mosquito season, these universities participate in yearly student elections where they are indirectly divided into two main camps and the I-swear-we’re-not-backed-by-anyone-we-just-lean-towards-a-side independents. Election week is all campaigning and phone calls from people you don’t even know followed by election day where you get harassed at the gates.
-“DID YOU VOTE?”
-“YES.”
-“FOR WHO?”
-“YOUR MOM.”
Elections proceed, some side wins and the outside world thinks it’s a big sign that the youth supports so-and-so and those elected do nothing productive all year due to “bureaucracy.” Yup, sounds like it’s a pretty accurate microcosm of the rest of the country. 
5. Loyalty
Regardless of which university you claim as yours, you will miss it when it’s over.  

7 Kinds of Love You Find in College

1. Academic

You take classes in philosophy, psych, maybe even a little cultural studies so that you can properly analyze a book that is most likely related to some form of colonialism. You major in something you think you’re passionate about or something that will make a lot of money or something that sounds really good at a 10-year reunion. And if you choose right, this may actually be something you can make a real career out of. Maybe. The love you get out of the courses you take and the lessons you learn will teach you what you want to do with your life or what you don’t want to do with your life. Either way, you will fall into a couple of academic potholes and eventually you’ll find out which one will pop your tire and make you stay. Even by studying something you don’t love, you’ll discover what you do love.

2. Platonic

You will meet so many people. Younger, older, weirder, or just plain boring. You’ll become friends with the guy who always offers gum. You’ll hate that girl in front who, without fail, asks a question a minute before the teacher was going to dismiss you…every hour. Your friends will make friends and you’ll meet those friends who will introduce you to their friends who will be your original friends. You probably know people’s full names even though you’ve never met them because they’ve had enough interaction on Facebook with mutual friends.  Just walking around campus will make you effectively know a huge chunk of your demographic and you will continue to recognize people after you graduate but you won’t know why. But here’s the truth: You will make plenty of acquaintances but only a small number of close friends. Life will catch up with you post-graduation and all those people you met will start doing their own thing. It’s not personal, it’s business also known as “your future”.

3. Romantic

You will meet someone who will become your person. The one you wake up early in the morning for. The one who knows that before a test, you’re going to be in pajamas in the library but doesn’t mind because you’re falling asleep on them so, technically, you’re appropriately dressed for the occasion. The one your friends call when they can’t find you. The one that pisses you off because they ate your last french fry but, deep down, you don’t care. The one who gives you their hoodie when you wear that polyester shirt that’s going to make you an allergic mess. The one that makes you stronger just by saying “it’ll be okay” because them saying it makes it true. The one who’s smell is chloroform and smelling salts to you. The one who is your spinach and kryptonite. The one that may be The One. Or not.

4. Materialistic

You will develop a love for at least one material item that is unnatural. It may be your car, your laptop, your cellphone, your iPod, your lucky BIC pen that has managed to help you pass every English essay that needed to be written within 30 minutes…it could be all of these things, at which point, you may need to get out more. You will become dependent on this item and love it like it is your child. You will have heart palpitations when it is hurt and will worry about it when it’s not with you. Please remember, they are material things. They can be replaced. As long as you backup all data and/or have insurance. Except for the BIC, that stuff is magic.

5. Parental

You will realize how much your parents love you. Not immediately but eventually it will dawn on you.  They will suffocate you with phone calls, lectures and questions about where you are, why you’re not studying, who you’re with, what you ate for lunch, etc. Then there’s the teasing about how you’ve lost/gained weight which is somehow related to the status of your love life that you have yet to inform them about and that’s their way of reminding you that you haven’t. And if you’re living on your own, you will realize how much your parents used to do for you without you appreciating it because now you have to do everything yourself while still getting the phone calls, lectures and questions mentioned above.

6. Professional

You will meet at least one accomplished individual – a professor, guest speaker, lab instructor, PhD student – who will inspire you to be an accomplished individual. They don’t necessarily have to be in your field or from your country of origin but you see yourself in them for some unknown reason. They will give you hope and make you think that it is actually possible to “make it” and that maybe that last overnight or failed final won’t even be a blip on the radar of success that is in store for your ambitious little soul. You’re going to be a star because J.K. Rowling said failing is okay and since Scrooge McDuck is definitely jealous of her case of swimmer’s ear, you’re convinced she knows her shit.

7. Self

You will develop a new found love for yourself. You will spend nights bouncing thoughts about your future off the ceiling like it’s a ping pong table. You will realize what your weaknesses and strengths are. You will realize how powerless you can be and how much you can accomplish. You will surprise yourself over and over again. You will also learn what you will put up with from other people and what you will be willing to do for others as well. You will see how selfless you can be without feeling used but you will also know that there will come a point where you will also need to be selfish without shame. And sometimes, you will do this all alone. You will become your own worst enemy and your own best friend because the one constant you can count on in all the ups and downs is you.

If you’re lucky, you get to experience at least 3 of these. If you’re really lucky, you get them all. (POKE-E-MON!…sorry.) 

6 Tips for Effective Studying

William Wallace studying biology

1. Read your notes/chapters to yourself aloud in a foreign accent. I prefer Scottish although it tends to morph into an Irish barmaid as I go down the page. This usually works best when you’re studying alone.

2. Creating acronyms for important theories/categories/names/things-you-will-never-use-in-regular-conversation-with-human-beings-who-were-smart-enough-to-study-something-other-than-what-you’re-studying. However, not plain boring acronyms. Make them inappropriate, offensive or inappropriately offensive. It’s the one time you will talk dirty to a textbook without feeling like a sad human being. I hope.

3. Make up a dance to go along with a theory you need to memorize. Turn on your iPod and recite the theory to yourself while breaking it down in your pajamas. You can make up moves to virtually any process. Cell cycle? Pretend your fingers are chromosomes and spirit-finger the heck out of that anaphase. The movement is good for mental stimulation and it helps you burn off some stress too.

Source

4. Study on a daily basis. No, just kidding. If you try to keep up with the class regularly, it’ll be much easier to hoover the info a few days before…but realistically speaking, this rarely happens. What they forget to tell you is to zone out on a daily basis. Take about 30 minutes to just vegetate, recuperate, doodle, work out. Take a bubble bath. Do anything that has nothing to do with the task at hand.

5. Create rewards for yourself. This is a lot like how they train a dog – if you do the trick, you get the treat. Following the same logic, if you do the chapter, you get the Snickers bar. Or the latest episode of 90210. Whatever floats your boat.

6. Instead of making a schedule just write a list of everything you have to do. The problem with schedules is it’s hard to stick to them – when writing them, we tend to be too optimistic in our ability to finish things. It backfires when you don’t finish all the things you wrote down for that day and it ends up being discouraging. The list however will still give a lovely sense of accomplishment when you scratch a line through something once it’s completed. Do have a general deadline in mind though. It’s not a bucket list.