The Social Butterfly's Garden

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where Does the Bumpy Road End?!?

Enough!! I, like every Lebanese citizen, have had enough with the miserable road conditions! I am seriously fed up with the bumps, the cracks, the bad asphalt, the holes, the inevitable bumps immediately followed by trenches as steep and deep as valleys leave your car begging for mercy. No matter how slow you drive, it is inescapable; you are bound to fall into the pit: simple law of gravity. Who knew you can get an off-roading experience in Bourj Abu Haidar, right in the heart of Beirut?! Seriously, the situation has become unbearable. Now, I understand that there is money that needs to be spent on roads, regardless of whether or not the work is necessary, that really never was the issue. But as a Lebanese citizen I ask this, am I not entitled to some idea, even if vague, as to what the plan is?! Where does the bumpy road end?! And where and when will the next decent road become another geographical marvel?! Aren’t there any maps on friggin website that we can access so that we are not left so clueless?!

In AUB, any minor changes that might even remotely affect our day to day activities are announced weeks prior to execution. We are told exactly what is going on, why it is happening, and when it will all end. That serves not only to inform us, but also so that we feel involved. That way people feel like they are not taken for granted, their time is not taken for granted, and their intelligence is not insulted over and over again. I personally think that when the same road is opened again and again, it is an insult to my intelligence. I have to take that road to work every day people! I have to admit though, there has been a tiny bit of improvement. Now they put this huge sign that says that the road is blocked and has an arrow that points in the direction of the route that should be used instead (which is usually the ONLY other street available that is not dug up!)

In brief, if you want people to stop cursing and complaining, inform them, involve them and trust their map reading skills instead of their off-roading and navigation skills.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Groped on International Women's Day

Many of you have been asking me about my disgust with cab drivers. For those of who you are interested to know and have nothing better to do that read blogs and notes, here's the story. March 8 commemorates International Women's day. That same sate also marks the day I got groped by a cab driver. Yes, you heard me; I got sexually molested by a freaky cab driver! Having to go through sexual harassment by itself is horrid, the fact that it happened to me on International Women's Day was the cherry, on top of the cream, on top of the icing, on top of the 3rd layer of the cake!
I had to take a cab to go to AUB, since my car all of a sudden decided to get paralyzed. I stopped a cab.. three people in the back seat.. I sit in the front. As always, I'm carrying bags.. lots of them.. so I sit back, relax, and wait for him to get me to AUB. One passenger leaves.. another one is picked up.. eventually, we are alone.. So there I am, laid back, and my backpack is on my lap. I can't remember when exactly, but I felt something move on the left side of my tummy.. I didn't think much of it.. I thought it was my backpack. Then, my backpack decided to start rubbing against my tummy.. and decided to move and tickle me.. and I thought to myself "hmmm… if I'm holding my bag tight, then how come it is moving.. and why on earth is it so warm?" that's when it hit me! IT WAS HIS HAND ON MY TUMMY! It never even occurred to me. I think I am way too naive sometimes, but I mean I didn't even think that a guy's hormones would be so worked up at 9 in the morning! I froze momentarily. I was hoping it wasn't what I thought it was.. hoping against hope. I jerked around, straightened my back, and glued myself to the side of my door, and there he was, desperately trying to pull his hand as quickly as he could back to his lap. It almost got stuck under the weight of the backpack, but it didn’t. I was numb. I wasn't scared, but I was in disbelief. I told him politely "I will get off here please". He pulled over. Luckily, I was close to AUB.
I spent a good portion of the morning in my office self-loathing. Then I thought of why anyone would do something as disgusting as that! I wondered if I had brought it upon myself, with my plain white shirt and my denim jacket. Then I consoled myself, thinking, some people got it worse. I felt most depressed when I thought that this thing happened to me on International Women's Day! A day in which the image of women as valuable contributors to a healthy society should be reinforced, I got a cab driver objectifying me and reminding me of my hidden charms and sex appeal! Regardless of how women dress, act.. regardless of whether I was veiled, young or old.. irrespective of the date, be it International Women's Day or just a plain idle Tuesday afternoon, some people lack fundamental notions of respect, dignity, and keeping their hands off places that don't belong to them! Sadly, I don't see the situation changing anytime soon, at least not with Rotana crunching twenty video-clips an hour, starring naked women getting groovy with men, horses and their hands!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Pope Has Spoken

I am guilty. I am guilty of praying. I am guilty of fasting and giving money for the poor. I am guilty of believing in one God and of spreading his word. I am guilty of being coercive, violent and retarded. I am guilty of embracing fascism. I am guilty of being a Muslim. That, in a nutshell, is what being a Muslim in the 21st century is equivalent to according to President Bush and the Vatican pope. I thought that the incident of the caricatures of the prophet was going to be the end of things. I was mistaken. I was beyond rage when I first heard the words of the head of the Catholic Church speak ill of Islam, one of the three heavenly religions. Being a Muslim believer was not the only reason why I was so offended, but to think that a man of the church, 'the' symbol of supreme love and forgiveness, could utter these words against a holy religion was a contradiction that my simple mind would not absorb.
To accuse Arabs, particularly Muslim Arabs, of being terrorists is one thing, but to redeem an entire heavenly ideology as being evil is another. Extremists exist in all religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The Catholic Church is notorious for having corrupt clergy men and being highly political. Ku Klux Klan and the puritans are examples of groups and organizations that terrorized people in the name of the Christian religion. But does that mean that it is a true reflection of the Christian beliefs? Of course not! For those (Muslims and otherwise) who argue that jihad is at the core of Islam, I would ask them to hit the books and read what jihad is really all about! Jihad is holy war between two armies. It has its principles and rules. It is not haphazard violence. Violence and bloodshed never was and never will be a pillar in the religion of Islam. While Al Qaída and other "terrorist" organizations do misrepresent the concept of jihad, what is happening in Palestine, Iraq and other Arab countries is very justified. These people are fighting occupation and western dominion. They are fighting for an identity and independence. The prophet never coerced people into Islam, and many of none-Muslim civilizations flourished under the rule of Islam. This is quite contrary to our present times, where the Christian west continues to dominate and suppress the Muslim countries. In physics there is a basic rule that states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What acts of "violence" we see around the world today are nothing but a response to the discriminating and often demeaning lens Muslim Arabs are viewed through.
In all cases, I don’t blame the pope. His unawareness of a section entitled "the Faux Pas of the Vatican Pope" present in his training manual, in addition to the political influence of his already incorrect views and prejudices, are enough to allow a slip-up of such colossal size to take place. However, I pity the people who took his words for granted without getting the facts checked. And there I see a striking resemblance with us Arabs, who rarely, if ever, dare to question authority. The weight of the responsibility is also shared by us Muslims for not knowing by heart our history and origins. Now is the time for people to go to history books, to read, learn, and know, only then we may able to tell the difference between right and wrong.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Chronicles of the War!

Dawhet El Hoss:
When I was first writing this entry, my family and I were still in Dawhet El Hoss, in our outside-Beirut summer house in the luxurious Dawha Hills residential compound. When I say luxurious, I mean it has practically everything, a pool, playgrounds, and a gym, everything except for a tiny detail: people! It got lonelier and lonelier after July twelfth. Cars driving up the highway and down the hill became a rare sight, and heavy silence, mixed with occasional sounds of Israeli planes and falling bombs were all we could hear. A week into the war we decided to move back to Beirut. You see, "up there", all we did was listen to the news. Imagine five people, trapped in place isolated from all civilization (including hospitalization facilities), doing nothing but keeping track of the rising casualty toll, looking at bloody pictures, and trying to predict where and when the next bombing is going to be. To put it in lay terms, we were going insane! We were practically at each other's throats. For fun we would sit on the balcony with our binoculars and watch as the Israeli bombs fell on the runways of Beirut International Airport. Staring at the blazing fires at night was a real treat. Suddenly, balconies with a panoramic view were not such a great outlet. Eventually the bombs got closer and closer. We thought that if we were indeed to die, we would like people to actually know about it. Proper burial services would be nice, rather than have birds pick at our rotting bodies. I am sorry for the imagery, but that is how it was in Dawha: us, the birds, and the blue sky!
Next thing we know we are packed in one hour and on our way to Beirut. I was with my mom in the car, while dad was driving the other car and had my two sisters with him. Mom, being the religious, sentimental, on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown that she is, was sobbing and reminiscing the whole time while driving me and my cat and the maid to Beirut. Mom's raging emotions and misty eyes, with her already deviated sense of staying in the middle of one lane (she is one of those in-between-two-lanes drivers!), had me at the edge of my seat, checking the road for any rubble that we might "accidentally" bump into. I genuinely felt bad at the sights I was seeing, but I had to keep my composure because what mom was feeling was a tad deeper than an anxiety attack. One of the tunnels that we usually take and lead from Khaldeh to Ouzai'i was raided in the middle, leaving a huge hole on top of the tunnel through which the metal skeleton hung down and sunny rays shone through. The wreckage forced drivers to take an extreme left to avoid the ruins that were all over the ground and could possibly damage their cars.

A typical afternoon on our living room looks something like this: Dad is zapping through seven or eight TV news channels. Getting a comprehensive idea of the situation is crucial, especially when, in order to get a hint of what is going on, you, as a viewer, have to add up and average all numbers that are thrown at you from all directions. After listening, processing, frowning and mumbling to himself, he turns to us and waits for mom to shower him with questions. Mom's approach is rather a plea, she literally begs dad to tell her that everything is going to be fine. That is far-fetched of course, and dad tries to burst her bubble with a smile. He is a realistic person, too realistic, so realistic that he is pessimistic about the whole ordeal. But he does with such poise and acceptance that it almost kills us. Mom, like some expert on middle-eastern issues (aren't we all at this point?!) starts discussing with my father the dire consequences of the events. When she finds she is not going anywhere bright with those deliberations, she resorts to doubting the patriotism of Hizballah, wishing Prime Minister Rafic Hariri were still alive, condoning US foreign policy, and cursing "whoever led us to where we are now", namely Mrs. Condy Rice, also known to her as the Anaconda!
As for me, my masters degree is on hold for now. I enjoyed the first few days of vacation, but then started feeling rather useless, vegetable like, watching TV and breaking the record for the most DVDs and movies seen in one day. So I joined the ranks of volunteers at my faculty in AUB. I go there daily, from nine to four. I must say, it is quite delightful working again, even if the nature of work is quite mechanical. Picture this, a production line, much like a bulb factory during the thirties, long before everything operated on machines. Like human robots, we just pick stuff and package them. I even took my sister with me yesterday, but I think today she woke up with a permanent back ache and an even more enduring thought that she should kill me if I even mention work to her again! At night, we get together with the neighbors and watch a series called Lost. Due to the earlier lack of social interaction, I have actually grown a fixation on the characters of this series, especially an Iraqi character whose Mediterranean accent just kills me! I think my addiction has suddenly taken a sick psychotic turn… but who cares?!
I am sorry if what I posted has a bit of sense of humor, or at least I hope it does. I just think we have cried enough, haven't we? Israelis do not think so, but I believe that we have to keep going and smiling occasionly. I hope I did not offend anyone in this entry, and if I did, it was not intended. I am trying to adjust, like everybody else!That's it for me… until I post again, in more hopeful conditions, I extend to you my love and prayers for safety!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

He Said / She Said

He said:

"Migrane all gone... Good night baby !!!
Btw will u marry me? :-)"

She said:

"Aaaaah ! Yes! Yes yes yes!!
What took you so long??
I love you sugar!"

Friday, March 31, 2006

"Atshooo!! " Said the Yellow Chick..

After lately hearing about some cases of bird flu in Tyre in the south of Lebanon, and lacking all faith in my government to take proper action to combat, let alone prevent bird flu from spreading in our farms, (in fact, according to PM Saniora and Mr. Berri, the people chosen to run our country, Lebanon's population and its chicken are immune to the virus- PRAISE THE LORD!! who knows, we might also be immune to HIV and not know it!), I was thrilled to get this text message on my mobile phone:

Breaking news !!
In an attmept to thwart the spread of the bird flu virus,
George W. Bush has bombed the Canary Islands!

Why otherwise would they call them the Canary Islands if they didn't have feathered creatures! DDDUUUHHH PEPOPLE!!!!!! THINK!!

Well at least he is doing something to save the chicken in the world, while our politicians are being.. well.. just themselves.. a bunch of bickering chicken!!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

To Educate or Not To Educate!?

To educate or not to educate.. that is the question. When I speak of education, I am not talking about regular language and math classes usually given in schools, I am talking about sexual education. Whether our youth choose to be responsible, be it through abstinence or playing it 'safe' is all well and good across the continuum of social values of course. But let's look at the facts here. With the rising age at marriage, the 'unrealistic optimism' of our blossoming generations, and the prevailing promiscuity of our societies, it is becoming quite hard to assume that teenagers are always making the right choice. Illegal and self induced abortions, honour killings, suicide, HIV/AIDS, STDs in addition to many other looming signs indicate that something is wrong. Obviously something is going on, and it we would only be in denial if we think of those symptoms as alien symptoms, as imported distractions from west and having no roots or origins in our modern reality and local communities. Human beings are the same everywhere, and in the spur of the moment, I guess it is unlikely that a sexually curious kid from USA would act any differently than his peer in Lebanon. I shall not generalize on that point; it is after all my own personal opinion.
What I am trying to do here is just raise an issue. I don't think there is one answer to what is going in my mind. And even if there were, I am in no position to judge whether it is correct of false. On the one hand, opponents of integrating sex ed. in school curricula may think of it as delivering the wrong message to kids, "Have sex, but use a condom" instead of elaborating on the dangers of engaging in early sexual activity. Studies have shown however that the opposite is actually true: sex education has actually decreased the rates of teenage sexual activities. Besides, it is worthy noting that this approach is not just limited to sexual education. Many communities, Vancouver for instance, where there are many injecting drug users and a high risk of HIV/AIDS, the attempts have focused on providing those drug users with clean needles so that they won't have to share and risk further spread of HIV/AIDS. For anyone living in a community that is not sensitized to this problem might think "… What is wrong with those people?? Providing addicts with clean needles to do drugs!" But in fact they are solving one side of the problem. Behavior after all is a matter of personal choice, and people won't stop having sex or doing drugs just because knowledgeable doctors and public health practitioners tell them it is bad. Recognizing the problem, admitting that is exists and trying to work around it should give good results.

In my opinion, what is given in school as "reproductive heath" is a very lame excuse for sex education. Teenagers don't want to know about little details that they can read in any biology or physiology book. They need to know what the significance and size of the problem. What does it mean to have STDs? What are the dangers of teenage pregnancies? What is abortion? Framing information in a cultural manner is also crucial, but also is perhaps the greatest barrier in implementing such programs, because matters of morals, religion and upbringing are very personal and vary between one household and the other. So what to do? Look away as if everything is fine and dandy??! Or talk about it, handle at least the basics. On the internet, you can find a wealth of information that indicates what is it like really in the world. On one website, there's an online detailed guide on how to perform an abortion.

..they(women) thought of abortion as something only a doctor could do,
something only the most trained specialist could perform without endangering
the life of the woman. They were deceived -- much like you have probably
been deceived. An abortion, especially for an early pregnancy, is a
relatively easy procedure to perform..

On the other hand, there are websites, like SIECUS, where you can find resources and information on the subject matter and how to present the information in an age-appropriate manner. Look where they are, and look where we still linger.

I am actually looking forward to that time when I have children of my own, and it is time to have "the talk" with them. Not only will I be bonding and communicating with my kids, but I will be helping in shaping them as mature individuals who are capable of knowing what is right and what is wrong. I just hope that by that time, I might get a little help from the pros at school!