That Bloody Question

I found this in my drafts folder from last year. Like literally last year–I wrote this in October 2015. I haven’t been here in so long…but I think you may find this entertaining:

I’m twenty-nine years old and I still have issues with the question, “Where are you from?”

I feel like I have a limb in so many places that my brain refuses to settle on one succinct answer. After today, I decided that it’s high time I pick a city/country and just stick to it.

I went to HR earlier to ask a question, and she ended up mentioning how she was new to Arizona, and I had to go and say, “Oh that makes the two of us!”

Naturally, she had to ask, “Oh, where were you before this?”

My brain doesn’t know what to do with this question. Before this immediately? A tiny country in the Persian Gulf that I’m almost sure you’ve never heard of. (Unless you tend to read/know about mind-bogglingly rich Arab countries with a penchant for outlandishly expensive things).

I said, after a now-almost-characteristic pause, “Canada.”

“Oh where in Canada?”

“Montreal.”

“Oh, do you like it there?”

YES! She didn’t ask me if I spoke French! Good, good.

“Yes, it’s great!”

“What brought you down here?”

My brain is dumb. So dumb. So dumb in its unrelenting penchant for accuracy.

I paused again, motioned with my hands and said, “Aaaa…lot of things.”

Because I left Montreal in 2006. And I’ve been in two countries since. So, yes, a lot did happen to make me wind up here.

Now she looked confused. So I had to tell her that I’ve lived in a lot of places even though I was born in the US but I haven’t lived here. So when people ask me, “Where were you before?” I can literally say one of four different countries and I wouldn’t be wrong. I tried to be quick and simple about it, but after the hole I just dug for myself, there was hardly anything quick and simple to be found.

“Wow, that’s an interesting life story that came out of nowhere,” she said.

I wasn’t sure if that was a jab at my sudden idiotic rambling, or if she was genuinely interested.

(For what it’s worth, she lived in DC before coming here. DC is muggy and cloudy, and Arizona is not).

I wanted to kick myself as I made my way back to my desk. Why didn’t I say, “Canada. Montreal. I found a job here I liked, so I moved.”

For a fleeting moment I thought about picking a US state that sounds bland. Wisconsin. Nebraska. Idaho. I figure no one will ask follow-up questions on a state that sounds like there’s nothing in it. Then I feel bad because what if those states are awesome and I’m just sitting there judging them because they don’t have the enthusiastic marketing team that California and New York do?

Anyways, here’s to me being Canadian, born and bred, and please don’t ask me to speak to you in French.

Dear Lebanon (A Must-Watch!)

This is something I think every Lebanese (and even non-Lebanese) should see. These are eight Lebanese teenagers, from different sects and backgrounds, all coming together with the passion for change. They’re eloquent, intelligent and unwilling to be another statistic in a broken country. (Found first on Gino’s blog, who wrote a full post that’s definitely worth reading!)

It’s a little over thirty minutes, but you should watch it all. You won’t regret it.

There may just be some hope for Lebanon after all.

A Talk that Hits Close to Home

I would recommend everyone listen to this, but especially if you live in a multi-lingual culture. It hits a lot of crucial points and is very articulately laid out. I feel very strongly about the preservation of languages, and I feel badly that I am not more fluent in what is supposed to be my mother tongue. Suzanne Talhouk definitely hit the nail on the head with this one. 

(It remains a fact that my brain is wired in English through and through. But because I was raised by parents who spoke Arabic almost exclusively, there are several concepts/things that I can sometimes only exclusively refer to in that language. Makes for an interesting mix of languages every now and then).

Happy Freakin’ New Year…

It’s pretty tragic that I seem to only get inspired to write here when I watch the news…especially recently.

Unfortunately, I’m often so jaded I can’t figure out what I want to say. I want to scream and throw things and yell at people. I want to cry and hug those who would never fully heal from the atrocities they did nothing to deserve. I want to know why this always has to happen. At the same time, there’s a dull numbness, a void, a vat of emptiness where even hate or anger has no place.

To punctuate Christmas and start off the New Year, two explosions occurred in less than a week: December 27 in downtown Beirut (8 casualties and 70 injuries) and January 2nd in the South Beirut area (4 casualties and 77 injuries). Yesterday, a library in the northern city of Tripoli was torched to the ground by Islamist militants, resulting in the loss of 78,000 books and manuscripts—several of which have no duplicates.

I don’t think the madness will end anytime soon. 

Parents mourn their children as houses are cleared of charred chunks of wall and shattered glass. Two days of indignation, anger and demands for justice will roll around. Politicians will point fingers and rehash the same talking points they’ve resorted to since the dawn of time. People will cry and yell into news cameras. Bodies will be buried and prayers uttered over their graves. They will be referred to as “martyrs”, though they died in vain and for a cause in which they had no part*. People will party in the pubs a couple of days later and it will all be back to normal.

We like to call it “resilience”.

I call it (albeit regularly accepted) lunacy. It’s not normal for people to die, to lose limbs and eyes, to bleed and suffer for no reason other than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Since when was this something you should “get used to”? Why is it so easy to gloss over horrific crimes against humanity that cause your fellow brethren to lose parents, sisters, brothers, uncles? How do you go clubbing while women mourn the loss of their children and curse the day they ever said it was okay for them to walk out the door?

Lebanon drives me crazy whether I’m living there or not. It’s enough to make me wish I could stop caring so much about it.

*I want to leave some links to a few posts by Gino Raidy, a very well-known Lebanese blogger. He wrote an awesome post about our consistent use of the word “martyr” to refer to victims of these heartless attacks. I linked to it back in August when there were two car bomb attacks within a week of each other. It is worth another read. He also wrote this, about the December 27 bombing, which is definitely worth taking a look at.

These are posts that really struck me by Elie from A Separate State of Mind:

It’s Just a Bomb (August 16, 2013)

A Lebanese Tragedy: The Devaluation of a Life (November 19, 2013)

Hopes For A Better Lebanon: I Am Not a Martyr (December 30, 2013)

Lebanon Loses 78,000 Books to Terrorism (January 4, 2013)

The dates that these posts were written are scary enough.

My Ramblings Are Nomadic Too

I’ve come to realize that almost every blog and social media account I’ve ever created was due to me either procrastinating or suffering from boredom.

Often it’s a semi-lethal mix of both.

My very first blog was something called Obscurity in the Land of Moonlight, which sounds like a painfully pretentious novel written by a bespectacled preteen with barely-legible penmanship. 

In real life I was a 20-year-old tween transitioning from a life in Canada to one in Qatar. I was floating around without the vaguest clue on what to do with myself. It was too late to register for college, and—on top of that—I wasn’t sure I knew what I wanted to do anymore. Fun stuff.

Along came my Canadian best friend, whom I affectionately call “Lebne”. We had made a habit of chatting for disgustingly long hours on MSN in spite of the time difference. (What can I say? We’re both verbose individuals). During one of these real-time paragraph-fests, she mentioned some of the stuff she liked to read on LiveJournal. (Remember LJ? It’s the MySpace of the blogging world). Since I liked to write, wouldn’t it make sense to make an account?

It didn’t take much thinking. After all, I already had a Tripod-supported website called Active Chicken (I swear there is a perfectly rational story behind that), so talking about stuff in my life wasn’t new to me. And, hey, it was something to do, right? I opened an account, blabbed up a first post and—voilà! Here I am.

I’m mentioning this because I’m always saying that I barely moved out of the Gulf/Middle East since the time I started blogging—which is true. But, you know what? Ever since I did, I never could stay in one spot. I didn’t make it to a year-and-a-half on LJ (where I changed my theme approximately 625 times) before I discovered the black hole known as WordPress.

I distinctly remember needing to study for one of my business courses that fateful night, but the procrastination bug had already burrowed a Texas-sized hole through what was left of my mind. So, what better way to deal with that than to make an entirely new blog? I’m nothing if not logical. So I whipped up an account, chose the first of what was to be another 832 themes, and lo, Grins and Clockwork was born! I even learned to export my LJ’s entries into it, which freed me to delete that account for good.

G&C went along a similar vein to Obscurity, but gave me more room to categorize my posts and generally talk about newer things that were going on in my life, like my college experiences and my friends. Sometimes the updating was enthusiastic, but other times a month would see one to three posts at most. Even so, I always made sure I stuck around it somewhat, just so people knew I hadn’t died.

Still, I started to get that…tell-tale itch. It’s when I realized I was starting to lose focus and none of my previous posts were remotely inspiring. I needed a fresh start to go along with the fact I had graduated with my business diploma from college, and was now studying English in AUB…in yet another country. 

I quietly set up a third blog, which I named The Crooked Trident. When I got a few posts in, and felt it was starting to look like home, I announced the closing of Grins and Clockwork after three great years. It didn’t take me long to permanently move my merry self to a brand new place.

Unsurprisingly, it took a mere year before a bout of “Let me try something else now…ooooh, how about a themed blog?!” to push me to create No Easy Answer.

I guess you could say that even if I’m not physically moving, my consistent need to ramble sure is. 

It also seems obscenely vain that I can talk about myself for this long.

Thoughts on Distance

Something different has happened ever since I came back from the US on October 28th.

Every time I was in Qatar, without exception, my friends knew I was in the country within hours of landing. (Sometimes I simply updated my Facebook status the day before I traveled). A plan to hang out would already be taking shape in the next day or two.

It’s one of the main reasons I liked coming here—the friends I made in college were around, and our history was the warm, familiar cushion that enveloped us during each reunion.

Camaraderie can only last so long though. This time I’ve moved back from a country I spent the last three years in. Though I said, time and again, that I felt stuck in a rut in Lebanon, it’s blatantly wrong to say that I haven’t changed at all. Time had done its job: I had leashes on the relationships here, but stopped maintaining them for all the wears and tears. Soon my grip loosened, and I saw the frayed leashes scattered on the floor before me. Whoever was on the other end was mostly gone.

What’s funny is that it doesn’t affect me much. I learned that everyone lets go when the paths you’re on have seemingly permanently diverged.

After moving away from Lebanon and taking the US trip…I came back to a feeling where I had no desire to contact anyone. In fact, I don’t think I would have minded if no one even knew I was here for weeks or months.

I think the only reason I contacted my friends on Monday was because I realized I wasn’t doing much at home. I needed a reason to go out and socialize a bit with people that weren’t related to me. It’s a change I need and, really, what’s the point of isolating myself? Didn’t I have enough of that in Beirut? Cutting people off on a whim was never a healthy way to live. (Plus I am still very fond of my friends, gap in communication or not).

Distance does things. It makes people stop caring as much as they did, even if it was a powerful bond. The further away you are, the bigger the gap is between your friendships. Your relationships, either consciously or subconsciously, conform into the “out of sight, out of mind” mantra. I reached out, every now and then, and conversations struck up…but always abruptly ended.

People are always busy. I couldn’t blame them. I was busy too.

It’s just…sometimes I wish it was easier. I wish keeping friends close and trading stories and updates all the time was easier, even if you’re on very different playing fields. It would be cool if I knew that both sides cared enough to do it.

If you have that kind of friendship in your life, please count it as a huge blessing. In the age where it’s the simplest thing in the world to stay in touch, it seems like no one ever cares enough to do it…and I wish I could say I was innocent, but I’m not.

I wish I knew what to think about that.

Well…It’s Come to This At Last

(This is something I wrote last night, but didn’t get around to publishing it until now).

I look around my room and it’s still pretty much exactly the same as it’s always been. I haven’t touched it yet.

Anyone who knows what’s happening tomorrow would tell me to get off my lazy bum and start doing something. Except tomorrow’s events aren’t sinking in just yet.

I’m leaving Lebanon…and it’s for good this time. No more visiting Qatar for a few days or weeks and then coming back. My base will be elsewhere. Could be Qatar, could be the US or Canada later…I have yet to decide. But Lebanon will no longer be where I live the majority of my life.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time–I mean a really long time. A glance over the last few posts would confirm that to a blind person who’s been dead for years.

As I’ve mentioned before, I had been working on getting my CELTA certificate from August 5th to September 5th. It was an insanely hectic ride, full of stress, laughs, tears, joy and–best of all–some serious inner growth. I didn’t understand just how much I needed that experience until I was in the thick of it.  Diving into that course provided me with fulfillment that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I met some wonderful people who, through their warmth, kindness, humor and encouragement, re-ignited that spark inside of me that had been waning over the past several months. 

(Seeing seventeen people from every kind of background all come together and mesh the way we did was truly something. I’ll definitely be blogging a lot more about my experience in the next few posts).

For now I gotta swing into the next stage of my life. First step? Pack up this damn room.

“Heads Will Roll” May No Longer Be Just a Figure of Speech

You know, when your mom tells you that there’s a real danger of the takfiriyeen wreaking havoc in Lebanon, it’s not supposed to sound as if it’s just a matter of course.

(I’m not saying I truly see it that way, because I think that would be insane).

But for some reason, it’s also not surprising. It was only a matter of time before the truly crazed fundamentalist nutjobs got to this part of the world. They already left their blood-soaked fingerprints all over Afghanistan and Iraq. Syria’s increasingly ferocious civil war is an open invitation for them to embark on a proper infestation, made ever more enthusiastic because Hezbollah, an archenemy, is involved.

Because, you know, it’s not like we don’t have enough sectarianism of our own, what with our fifty-two (slight exaggeration, maybe) political parties and several religious sects. It’s not like we’re not dying for jobs no one will give us and salaries that suffice for more than a hand-to-mouth existence. And it’s not like Lebanese aren’t literally killing each other in Tripoli, where there’s a widespread infection of the “Pro vs. Anti-Bashar” mindset that’s driving them to murder.

Nope, we need maniacal subhumans with too much power to come on in and do their thing. (Which is gladly take a sword to your neck if you’re not Muslim or just not “their kind” of Muslim. BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!)

Ah, Lebanon. You’re such a speck of a country that your name on the map distinctly dwarfs you. How can so much conflict, instability, bitterness, bigotry…and the everyday almost carefree perseverance in spite of it all…fit in your tiny little borders?

It’s truly a wonder.

Speaking of Movies…

The Attack (الصدمة) is a Lebanese film made by popular director Ziad Doueiri (West Beirut, Lila Says).

Dr. Amin Jaafari is an Arab surgeon who lives with his wife in Tel Aviv, Israel and makes a seemingly comfortable livelihood as a surgeon. A sudden and devastating suicide bombing in a restaurant leaves seventeen people dead–including eleven children. In the midst of the chaos, Dr. Jaafari is summoned to the morgue where a horrible discovery viciously turns his life upside-down: His wife was the bomber.

Fascinating, right? It’s based off a novel of the same title, by Algerian author Yasmina Khadra. The fact such a plot is told from the point of view of a Lebanese director (especially one who has made great strides in his field) is a breath of fresh air. Doubtless, he would bring something far more different to the table than anyone you could think of in Hollywood. I’m not sure what other people would believe, but I think this is a film worth giving a good and fair chance to view.

Except it’s banned in Lebanon—the very home country of the director himself. Oh yes. Because it was shot in Israel and employed Israeli actors.

Never mind the actors were Israeli-Arabs. Apparently the ban is in place thanks to the Arab League’s boycott of “Israeli companies and goods”. What’s funny is this:

While a number of the 22 Arab League member states have peace treaties with Israel, other countries circumvent the different boycott levels by circumventing the rules and trading goods via third-party countries such as Cyprus…The irony of course is that Doueiri’s latest film is a nuanced exploration of identity among Israeli Arabs. In one of the film’s more memorable moments, for instance, as the secular, assimilated Dr. Jaafari is tearing down “martyrdom” posters of his late wife in the West Bank, a voice-over taunts him, “The bastard isn’t the man who doesn’t know his father. It’s the one who doesn’t know his roots.”

Source

I will not pretend to be adequately knowledgeable about the ins and outs of Israeli-Lebanese relations, and what constitutes a product worth boycotting versus something that isn’t…but this is a Lebanese director telling an Arab story that is based in Israel. It has the potential (I haven’t seen it yet, of course) to explore the many intricacies of identity in a sensitive, complex and highly volatile area of the world.

And yet it’s banned, even with the Lebanese name at the helm of the project. Where is the sense in that?

I’m Not Sure What to Think…

Although…I suppose it would be kinda cool if it actually happened.

Behold: Cannon Fodder. An indie Israeli horror movie that has IDF soldiers and Hezbollah forming a highly unlikely alliance…to fight zombies.

No, really.

I’m still wondering if it’s some kind of spoof, but apparently it isn’t:

I probably wouldn’t mind seeing it either…

(A short but interesting commentary can be read here).