Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lebanon. Beirut. Hamra.

If I were a foreigner and I had the opportunity to go around the world and explore the grounds of another country, to learn another culture, to eat their food, to live their lifestyle, and to dance their dance. If I were a foreigner with an exceptional love affair with that which is broken, messy, and absolutely imperfect; if I were from a far away place if wars had no meaning to me, if corruption was an alien word to me, if contradiction had very little interference with my life, if opportunity was always available to me, and if I knew nothing about kak, tabbouleh, rkakat bi jibneh, and the alleys in Hamra. If I were that person, and that is what I often wish, I would arrive here and fall in mad love. I would come to Lebanon, to Beirut, to Hamra and be in complete awe. I would choose to rent a place, in one of the remaining old buildings in Hamra (with the really high ceiling and hopefully old furniture) in a very small alley with a few trees and maybe a little garden.

I would fall in love with the honking of taxi drivers. I would find the old and barely holding Mercedes Benz mesmerizing. I would walk around with my camera all day inspired by the trash on the street, the motorcycles, the abandoned children, the clash of the people, the lavishly rich and the inhumanely poor, the vegetable stands and the manoushe smell, the sounds of construction sites and the sound of the oud, the young and restless and the old and tired, the writings on the walls, the posters, the restaurants, the alleys, the traffic, the chaos, the buildings, the day, the night, the corners, the pollution, and everything I see, or smell, or touch.

I would walk around the streets at night, discover the place, enjoy the place, watch the people, listen to their language, and feel a certain satisfaction.

I would go to the beach, embrace the view, eat fish, get a tan, swim in salty water, drink beer and feel like its been one of my greatest days.

I would go on road trips to the south, and to the north, to the Bekaa, and to the wineries, and feel enriched by every inch, every plant, and every face Ive seen.

I would want to learn the dabkkeh and pretend to say words in Arabic and know that any Lebanese I meet or know would cheer me on if they saw me dance or heard me speak.

I would go to those underground parties dance until my feet hurt, kiss a stranger or two, drink until I lose my memory, and wake up with the worst and the sweetest hangover. And as soon as I can get myself out of bed, I would leave the house for a walk in Hamra, and maybe even go for a little drink since by that time its happy hour. And the pubs would ultimately become my cure for hangovers, and my reason for many.

I would spend my lazy Sundays in Café Younes recovering from the night before, reading my favorite book, or writing about how fascinating it is to be in this country.

I would love meeting people from the many sects and many religions and see how they do come together somehow; when you see that group of friends who love each other to death, who drink to their differences, who smoke up to their similarities, who couldnt care less about the wars outside, who just want to dance and listen to music, who just want to sing, design, create, film, dream, and write together, who just want to be as one, together, regardless

I would breathe, write, and take joy in the madness of this country
I would be amazed by how beautiful the people are.
I would never stop discovering it.
I would kiss strangers and take them home with me.
I would have a romantic love story.
I would be charmed by their culture.
I would be captivated by their stories.
I would maybe someday write a book about this place.
I would sing a lullaby every night before I sleep.
I would write a song about this beautiful malady.
I would have so much passion for life.
I would take photographs and videos so I can always carry it with me.

If I were a foreigner with an exceptional love affair with that which is broken, messy, and absolutely imperfect; if I were from a far away place Lebanon, Beirut, Hamra would be my poem the place where I found meaning


But I am from here.
Lebanon, Beirut, Hamra, you are not strange to me. I am you. I am your corruption. I have fought your wars.
When people look at you. They see me, and everyone around me.
One can look at someone's wound and see courage and maybe even grace, but once its your blood coming out of that wound, it hurts, and it remains a scar on you.
I often wish I were that foreigner; I often wish you were my love story.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Louie

Sometimes you can just be having your regular lazy Sunday afternoon in the coffee shop around the corner just sitting with that one person who is almost living the same life as you, that person who you see everyday, that person who you got as used to as your own self, that person who will carry your bag as you carry theirs, that person who you allow yourself to be annoyed with, that person who is so much like you yet you couldn’t have been any more different, that person who is with you at work, with you when you are drunk, with you when you are hysterical, with you when you are angry, with you when your ashamed, with you when you are crying, that one person who you can fight with and everything will still be perfectly fine, that person who you have the same conversation with over and over again and still find it hilarious, that person who inspires you, that person who will pass you toilet paper whenever you run out, that person who’s presence is so sweet and tender on you, that person who will always smile at you when you are at your worst, that person who will always just be there, that person who’s friendship is your favorite story to tell, that person who no matter where and when will always feel like home, that person who will tick you off even when you are sad if you wont let them in, that person who will always try their best, that person who is just a friend, almost family, and yet more beautiful than either both can get, that person who you can just sit with in silence… Sometimes you can just be having your regular lazy Sunday afternoon in the coffee shop around the corner just sitting with that one person, talking about nothing and, in the midst of it all, everything just seems alright…


Sign

Elmo

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It is always beautiful when they smile.

Today, we just went out on the streets and played.
We played like we used to, and like they should be used to.
We went out on Hamra street. We drew a few lines and colored the numbers.
We just went out to play and we knew that we wont be the only ones playing.

The second we pulled out our colored pastels and started drawing, a little boy came running across the street from the distance looking with piercing eyes at the colors and wondering what was happening.

Slowly they became two, then four, then eight, and then we were surrounded by young boys who just wanted to learn the rules of the game to be able to play it.

They just wanted to play... And today, without any specific law, formula, or institution they had a few hours of fun. They jumped and laughed and smiled and focused on the rules and kept wanting to play.

It was easy for them to play. They know it so well in their hearts that it beat right out of them when they saw us drawing. They sensed from the colors that it was time to play, and for once, it was there for them. This time, this game met them where they are.
For once, they did not have to be displaced to attain the luxury of playing.
For once, they did not have to imagine the possibilities of having fun.
For once, and for a couple of hours, they did not have to do anything but play.
For once, these little boys were able to just be, as they are, for who they are, for how old they are.

Not once did they ask for money. Not once did they try to sell us anything.
They just ran towards the game and floated on the colors.

We went out on the streets today and just played with who we all just easily call "Street Children". Somehow they forgot their draining duties and got in touch with their innocent impulses, those impulses they are forced into shutting off.

And the games kept going. We jumped all together taking turns. One hop. People walked by us. Two hops. The young, the old, and the babies. Three hops. And the people are passing. Few are the compassionate. Few are the wise. Few were the smiles. Many are the heartless. Many with judging eyes. Some came right in and played with us. Some looked at them like they had no right to play. Nothing mattered to all of us. We were there for the boys; we were there to play with them, to remind them of their every right to play, of their every right to dare to smile.

They looked at the colored numbers and it felt like they forgot the world around, they forgot the meaning of this place. This place they walk everyday, this place they beg money on everyday, this place where they are humiliated everyday, this place that has become their defining name, this place where they are beaten up and beaten down, this place where they lose of themselves a lot everyday, this place, this street, was transformed, and it was somehow giving back to them a spark of what they have lost. It gave them back the availability of having fun.


Smiles sprinkled out of them like magic, and they just played...







Photography by Rawane Khalil.
(More of her work: www.rawanekhalil.blogspot.com)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

22: It is but a number.


Time came running towards me, the number added, and i just kept getting older by the second.
It was that vicious number 22.

February 22, my girls and I hit the pubs (well more like, that one pub called "LiBeirut")
We started our routine with a round of shots, and slowly just another, we were all suddenly on one small, square, four-seater table, with shots slowly coming and going.
It was 12. I am 22. Oh the horror!! But i quickly forgot when i saw the pyramid of shots right under my face. One after the other until the shots were gone. Laughs, screams, bodies flying by me... It was without a doubt the most i have been approached, and seduced.

By girls.
That without mentioning.
Not just any girls.
But, my girls. (and when i say "my" it is merely and simply a friendship claim )
It was ...

Scary.

Moving on.
So after a full laugh, we head back home because apparently I had to wake up at 10.
Actually, I was just "advised" to do so.
Next morning, Dania woke me up at 10, just to chit chat.
And I, ofcourse without any intentions, got dressed to get my day going. Next thing I know, all of the girls are picking me up to go on a roadtrip.
We were on the road, somewhere in between Tanayel and Faraya.
We then got to Mig's chalet in Faraya.
Milk. Cookies. Cup Cakes. Raklette. Salads. Wine. Food. Perfect food. Cake. Nutella. Melted Kinder on a spoon, but often on strawberrys. "Adult" board games. Colored lights. Beautiful Trees. Another Zeina. More kinder. More fruits. Kinder tart. And a mix of whatever your senses wanted to decide. A series of books. A new journal. And charms.
It was exactly right.

I assume 22s dont really hit you, until they do!

So birthdays do not end until... Friday night. We went out in hamra. 5 girls. 1 guy.
De prague. Round 1. Round 2. Round 3. Sex on the Beach. Another guy. Round 4. Round 5. Round 6. Volcano. Ziad, the other guy. Round 7. Round 8. Round 9. Blow Job. Round 10. Streets. Latina with a question. To Raoul. Who's Raoul. Rabbit Hole. Round 10.11.12.13.14.15. Something. Round 16. Round 17. Round 18. Round what number is this again. Round 20. Round 21. Round 22. Brain damage. And that is pretty much how it goes. A waiter. A possible Dj. The future. Writing. A lot of beautiful things.
It went down to 3.
And then we were only 2.

Walked back while little drops were falling from up above, and drove back home.

A 22 year old, loaded with 22 shots.
I guess this is when it cant just be a number anymore.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thesis: Mad Sickness.

It is a sickness.
So our due is on the 24th of January, which is Next Monday, which is technically only 6 days away.

"Oh, Sweet Lord!"

When we start getting to a count down and include all the small numbers we become completely dysfunctional for a whole minute...and we just Panic.
Panic attack: is supposedly like when panic attacks you and you are suddenly struck down by fear, or is it when you attack it (not sure how this might work) or is it really when you panic and just start attacking. I dont know, anyway with thesis, you have got to experience all three of these situations, at separate times. Sometimes, and this is really scary, all three hit you at the same time, and man, quite an explosion right there.

So thesis. Your harsh man!!

Okay so we try. We plan our days according to you. Right, so today, im just going to be writing thesis. Yea so i always wake up 2 to 3 hours later than what i had already planned. Panic slightly but it's always okay, because you know the day just started and it's cool we got this.
Have my breakfast while pondering on the idea of thesis, and what i should start with first.
Then i get my laptop, sit down in a comfortable space, and this is where i am supposed to just go crazy on my thesis. This is where all the exciting things happen. This is where technically i am supposed to start writing. Ok, so i got this.
I open the document, and stare at it for a second or two. Suddenly i am checking facebook, just for a couple of minutes, and of course my email, and twitter...
Then okay, that's it, i am done with wasting time.
I go on skype, check if anyone is available and have a little chat with them.
Ok, done with the little conversations, now i will close everything and just work.
Yea, then i get all serious, and slightly frown, you know to set the mood, and start "reading". I write a sentence, sometimes two. Feel accomplished and think, i will open facebook for just a little bit. (and now see all this happens unconsciously!) So i do, and the page is practically still the same. I refresh it after a little while (and that is usually just one second) and nothing new happens, the page still looks practically the same, this is when i think okay, back to thesis. Then i think, im just gonna check on everyone else, and ask people how they are doing with thesis.

And i go back and forth between thesis, and facebook, and twitter, and ofcourse skype (because i never really closed it i just put the "do not disturb"-the red scary one,which is to say please don't disturb me, but i sure as hell will).

And then this is when i decide, you know what i need a break. And i get up and waste time doing absolutely nothing. Then we all start nagging about how stupid thesis is, and how it's so horrible, and how much we miss each other (because you know, we each need to be home alone to be able to focus).

And the next thing i know is, a 2 to 3 sentence paragraph written for my thesis, and an entire blog post.


Thesis. You a mad sickness.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"What if" !?

After a day of writing thesis, we had to go out, roam the streets and see what they had to offer us...
We started off with a dinner of a chicken on a plate in Roadster and then head to Rabbit Hole to maybe add a spice to our night.

We were four, and as the deal goes: 4 girls. 1 night. 1 night out. 1 city. Beirut.

A challenge. A healthy diet. Two of us sober. DooDoo shots. Tequila shots. (The numbers wont be mentioned just to spare them the humiliation.) Two of us drunk. Better yet tipsy. Well let's just settle for buzzed.
Love confessions and some skin out and about.

Biting. Dancing. Kissing, or almost kissing. Drinking. Laughing. Giggling. Peak of it all, walking around a straight line.

"Haram the waiter"
"Beirut is the Amsterdam of the Middle East"
"Every night is the night"
"I like to bite myself"
"I love you"
"The 'what if' game..."

Inspirational quotes kept finding their way into our conversations...

A night of a story about making love...


Early night. Smooth night. Sweet night.
Just another night...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just almost older...

It is strange this business of getting older.
Dania, Rawane, and I were sitting at the green oval when Dania reminds me that my 22nd birthday is in a month or so.

22. not too old. but not so young. not too scary. but almost there.
22. not too late. but not 21. not a baby. not a kid. and not a teen.
22. Just 22.

Suddenly the sound of it started to get heavier, and we got carried away in conversation about the future and what and where we will be. Except our conversation was filled with blanks more than sentences.

One of us can't imagine herself in the future, it is too blurry for her. When she thinks of it, in the distance, she can't see it.
Another doesn't know what she wants to do but a big part of her plan is doing nothing; however she doesn't know what to do with the nothingness of it all.
And I, I am scared of getting older. I am scared of time passing by too quickly. I am slightly scared of not having my own family, my own little babies, or my own love story.

We walked to class and talked about our future jobs and how we can't be sucked in this capitalist world. We can't be bankers and engineers (well, we really can't because, technically we just don't know how to...); point is, we hope doing what we love wont pass us by. We hope we can make it possible, we hope we can do it on time, before its too late, before we are too old.

Then we walked out of class, with an eerie silence and i could almost hear their thoughts and mine colliding with the imagination of our hearts.

So what about the future?

With time, we will be living it.
Hopefully at 30, we will be writers, directors, photographers, and all that our hearts desire.
Hopefully at 30, we wont be controlled by "reason"...
Hopefully at 30, we wont be struck down by the "real world"...
Hopefully at 30, we will still be foolish...
Hopefully at 30, we will still take off our clothes and jump in the river...
Hopefully at 30, we will still dance under the rain...
Hopefully at 30, we will still hit the bars and come back with a couple of stories to tell...
Hopefully at 30, we will still take a chance on things...
Hopefully at 30, we will still want to jump off a plane...
Hopefully at 30, we will still bounce around in circles...
Hopefully at 30, we wont be too old to go to a rave...
Hopefully at 30, we will still find life exciting...
Hopefully at 30, our lives will be exciting...
Hopefully at 30, we will look back at today, at the 21 year old in us, delight in a self high-five, sit back on a beach chair, enjoy the touch of sand on our feet, and just feel our hearts accelerate with the intensity of our lives.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It will always be safer Underground...

Photography by Dania Bdeir.

Time: Sunday January 9,2011
Location: The Basement.

We all head out at around 11:30 pm to the Basement.
To the last night.
To the last dance, at the Basement.

The second we walked in, our bodies started moving to the music.
We just danced, like we always do... we gathered around each other , either dancing with one another, or each alone, or with people around.. but always around each other ...

We danced to the music. With the music. For the music.
We just did not stop.

Alcohol. Disco ball. Red and blue disco light. More alcohol. Dancing. Laughing. Screaming. Hugging. Dancing and dancing,
The night was the place, the music, and the people.
And our bodies were just reacting. They moved. And we danced.

And then, the song started to rise: "Amsterdam,Dance Valley, last song, all the crazy people around, lights, lazers, rain...Just close your eyes, dance, and remember".

Time was lost in the music and we danced with it; we tossed it over with our hips, our hands,our feet. We danced around in circles and just got lost in time.
There was no separation anymore. In the basement, the night is beautiful and endless...

So we danced and danced, and people started to leave because as much as time can be forgotten it will come back and remind us that it will always be there...
Slowly, the place was empty, and we just danced. The staff was practically taking it off, and we just danced.

On the tables. On the chairs. On the bar. On the platform. On the ground. On the stairs.
We just danced.

Only a few were left. And it was only the three of us, still dancing, still jumping, still floating, still dreaming.

But life outside is different and time was ticking and trying to penetrate the basement and regain control.
Sadly it did.

At 8 in the morning. The music stopped. Our bodies stopped. And time stepped right in.
The last dance at the basement wore off. And the lights came out.
The Basement will be closing after this night, or this morning, or whatever time wants to decide.


It is safer underground.
At least, the underground knows no time.

The Basement. Our own little Berlin, in the city of Beirut.
We will wait...