The Ever-Evolving World Through Her Eyes


In the Name of Love

Today, as I sat next to my parents, on our living room couch, eyes peering up at the television, we listened to Singers, Actors, and prominent American Figures, including the president-elect himself, on the “We Are One, Inauguration Concert.”

To be very honest, I voted for Ralph Nader, mainly because I do not believe in a two party political system, and Ralph’s policies were much more sound to me than Obama’s. But one thing I always knew was that this man inspired hope and change in the people who mattered most- you and I. President-elect Obama is always reminding us, even today, that we must get involved and stay active, keeping him informed of what we, the American people think, what we want to see as ‘the change.’

My eyes filled with tears on many occasions as I saw, these artists come together in a manifestation of what we want to see on a larger level, on a local level, ingrained in our every day selves. It is Love. While it was in the limelight, yes, and the world always shows it’s harsher edges after the glamor has faded, it was still something truly remarkable. And let me say this, it is beauty that never fades, it only changes.

I think the moment that caught me off guard, other than when Stevie Wonder came on stage and I jumped up screaming and dancing, was when Bono from U2 sang to the President. He sang his famous song, written in 1984 for Martin Luther King Jr, Pride. As the song neared it’s close he said these words.

“This is not just an American dream, but also an Irish dream, a European dream, an African dream … an Israeli dream and a Palestinian dream,” Bono said in the middle of U2’s performance of their 1984 hit “Pride (In the Name of Love).”

This was beauty. For so long, the issue of Israel and Palestine has been taboo, especially when any positive light is shown on the Palestinians. And, especially when the issue is in congress. It is time to stand up for justice, of our people at home who live in poverty and in the face of racism, and in the middle-east, where we have financed 1000 times over ongoing massacres in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories.

Tears streamed down my face as I heard, what Bono had said, and I looked over at my parents, my Lebanese mother and my European father; they too were crying. These two people who created six mixed babies, all of us trying to make this world more just, peaceful, and sustainable. I owe everything to them, and I owe everything to all of you.

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Changes
August 22, 2008, 6:12 am
Filed under: lebanon, life | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s interesting how life takes us on journeys our hearts don’t really even realize what we’re getting ourselves into. And here I am, months later, years older, heart fuller. I left Beirut, like I left this blog, in the middle of the night as a runaway in the dark. It was almost as if I had left a note on her bed as a way to say goodbye because there is no good way to really say goodbye. So farewell Beirut, I said as I walked her streets for the last time. My Beirut, Lady of the World (Ya Beirut Ya Sit a Dunia), I miss you, I miss you already. I climbed into the car and as we pulled out onto the highway, the wind filled my hair with life. I looked at my hands, these hands that held hands here, compiled thoughts into journal entries, provided comfort, ate soul nourishing food, held faces, babies, and flowers. These hands that seemed not apart of myself, felt new with memories that didn’t belong to me or had only seemed a wonderful dream. A dream in which I was able to walk the streets my tata last walked sixty years ago as a little girl. I’ve slept in beds that my tata’s sister sang her kids to sleep in. For once in my life, I was living with people who looked like me, had similar crazy families, and was able to hear arabic everywhere I turned.

And then I had to leave. For what? Why leave this home that as I stepped onto it’s streets I had this visceral reaction run from my stomach to the rest of my body? Why leave loves for so many people, so much family, and so much belonging?

Because my work here, my life in this country, the US is calling me, no matter how much I’d like to say otherwise. My approach is different this time; no more 12 hour work days, and crazy long conference calls. My desire to live every day as an example of what future I want to create is overriding every other tool or means to an end.

In order to do that, I’ve enrolled in Gaia University, which is sort of like a low residency program, working on projects with the help of advisers; this also gives my restless self the ability to travel around.  I step out on my own again, to re-remember who I am and who I am becoming. I search for the divine within myself to guide my steps.  I surround myself with this earth’s beauty, with her children, and her love.

Come Join me.



We Elected a President
June 26, 2008, 12:30 am
Filed under: lebanon, politics | Tags: , , , ,

Written A Month Ago:

So I’m sitting on Nadim’s new balcony in his parents new home in Hamra, vegging out watching football, drinking and eating. Although we’re not watching American football we’re watching the Euro Cup and we’re not eating hot dogs or hamburgers we’re eating Sfi7a, a well-known Ba3lbecki dish, made with goat meat, spices and wrapped in dough, and of course traditionally we’re drinking shai or tea. There’s still lot’s of yelling at the TV and prophetic speeches of who will win it all and who will not, “Hands down, it’s Spain Khulus!”

Life you could say is back to normal, or rather beyond normal; it is as if the past seventeen months were just a bad dream. Now Lebanon has a president, and downtown, which has been closed about just as long as there was a lack of president, has re-opened. This city, which always feels alive, seems to have awoken with deep breaths of fresh air. Not that Libnan’s air quality could use some improvement. I was in the mountains the day Michele Sleiman was elected president, flipping through the TV waiting for my Aunt Edna to arrive, when I passed through the election, parliament reading little slips of paper, “Michele Sleiman.” “Michele Sleiman.” Michele Sleiman….the voice was on repeat over and over. I passed by it seeing as it would be a redundant experience. Ten minutes later, I heard gunshots and RPG (rocket propelled grenades), and knew that celebrations had begun, for our new official president. The rest of the day passed quickly and the next thing I knew my cousin Joe was driving me back to Hamra.

Lebanese flags enwrapped Lebanon, as if we all realized Lebanon was naked and that meant she needed to be clothed. I concretely believe that there were more Lebanese flags after the election of a president, than there were American flags after 9/11- that is not an exaggeration. Michele Sleiman’s face lined the streets, the way he was celebrated you’d believe he solved all of our problems already. But rather, instead his position now filled, represents hope; hope that maybe Lebanon will know stability.

So we Lebanese aren’t that different from the rest of the world, our food may be a bit different, our traditions seeped in it’s own history, but hey we all love football and the future looks so bleak that we hang on to anything that looks like hope.

That sounds pessimistic, but rather I feel I’m optimistic. We may not be able to find hope in the recent elections or the upcoming ones, but we have more solid reminders around us everyday, they are the faces of our loved ones, the ground beneath our feet, the nature of this earth- even if she is not readily around us. We are the hope for the future; we just need to realize that even in bleak political situations, it is the ability to spread our positive light around us, that keeps people unified and whole.



A Much Needed Update
May 22, 2008, 3:15 pm
Filed under: lebanon | Tags: , , ,

So I’m sitting at Younes, a favorite cafe of mine in Hamra Beirut, rocking out to Tupac and trying to catch up on school work. A week off right before finals, was not very conducive to the University schedule. The day is a sweaty one, only 75 degrees, but the humidity is a blanket on days like these, where condensation forms on the driest of surfaces. My thoughts are all wrapped up and intertwined with the haziness of the day.

I remember the day things were starting to change, when the leaders in Lebanon and the Arab League decided to work for a solution in Doha, Qatar, my boyfriend, Nadim, picked me up at my apartment. The music in the car sang sweetly after days of tension and unrest, feeling trapped in four meters by four meters, balancing responses of a tangible fear and unease, and other responses of “this is Lebanon.” But why does, strife, fear, political instability, civil war, war, war, fighting, gun shots, have to be what Lebanon is? Yes Lebanon has experienced all of those things and history should not just be wiped from all the pages and all the hearts that experienced it. Is it reasonable to think that after experiencing so many crisis situations, so much upheaval, a civil war, that you can still be shocked by political instability that leads to contagious violence? I would like to think that I will always be ‘shocked’ or moved or whatever the proper word is, by injustices, but is that possible?

The world has an effect on us all, it calluses our hearts so as to cope and operate ‘more effectively.’ Our senses are dulled to our everyday lives, so that our days are productive, and quick. If we experienced everything to the fullest degree at every moment of life, we would never get anything done and I have a feeling we would be fairly overwhelmed. But when do our ways of coping become debilitating, or rather when we create these coping mechanisms are we losing more of our humanity?

Well, in the meantime life has resumed in Lebanon. The flowers are the definition of radiant, they are a symbolism of life- pinks, whites, reds, blues, and purple. Purple. I’ve never seen such fierce purples in my life. No wonder the color of the goddesses in the middle- east was purple. Trees of purple flowers lined the streets leading to Sanayeh – the largest park/forest in Beirut- petals float down with an effortless that contradicts the weight of the days. For some reason it reminded me of the Army officer I saw walking to Hamra, he slung his gun over his arm with an effort of the world, as if this gun was the heavier than anything he had ever carried. It was the heaviest thing we’ve ever carried. This world, these advances in technology, bring us further down a clouded road of more heavy things.

The days have moved on and the city is bustling as ever, where just a few days previous it was somewhat of a ghost town trying to remember what it was to be alive. It seems that we should have a president by this sunday, after 18 months of not. What’s more is the tents that have inhabited Beirut’s downtown in protest, should also be packing up soon.

Is this a solution? Or just a bandage on a very deep wound? I think that Lebanon needs to not only put a bandage on, or stitch up the many wounds, or apply countless salves, Lebanon needs to confront the why these wounds happen? It seems we are in an age where the whole world is applying more salves and bandages without considering the bigger systemic problems.



Questions and More Questions
May 12, 2008, 6:21 pm
Filed under: lebanon, war | Tags: , , , , ,

So it’s another Monday, like so many Mondays that have come before, except that my classes were cancelled again. In normal circumstances such a situation would be a gift, but I miss my friends Dua and Hannan, Mariam and Muhanad. Most of my friends have evacuated to their neighboring nationalities, while most of the local schools are closing down for the week. It does not bode well in this seemingly serene calmness.

I was able to run errands for the first time today, and yesterday for a couple of hours I spent time with my friend Mariam- she lives in my community, close to AUB, and was there when everything happened. You could still see militiamen roaming the streets last night, although, the army has mostly taken over at this point.

The interesting part about all of this to me is the why. Why is this happening and is that why an excuse? From the beginning of the established Lebanese government the structure has been set according to religion, called confessionalism– A Christian Maronite President, A Sunni Muslim Prime Minister, A Shia Speaker of Parliament, etc. The seats in parliament are also divided based on religion and like all disenfranchised groups the Shia make up the majority percentage of the population around 40%, but have the least amount of seats. They live in the poorest conditions and are constantly ignored by the government.

During the War on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, where Israel had attacked Lebanon for just over a month, killing 1,200 civilians and completely demolishing Lebanon’s infrastructure. Hezbollah was the only reason, the causalities were not higher and the reason for Israel’s defeat on the ground. Most of Lebanon was grateful for them and what they did to keep Israel from completely destroying the country. After the war had ended, Hezbollah and the Shia community thought it was the best opportunity to approach the government for more parliamentary seats and have equal representation.

To be clear Hezbollah consists of only Shia Muslims but does not represent all Shia Muslims. The two are not synonymous; I want to be careful not to create a general image, in explaining such a complicated issue.

The government did not concede, and so, many Shia took to the streets and camped out in front of Parliament for almost 18months. It continues on, this sort of ignoring and this pushing aside, until the resolution to halt Hezbollah’s telecommunications came in. At which point, they joined with the General Labor’s Union in their general strike for higher wages. And thus took over Beirut.

For me it is important to understand the why in order to fix the problem. The divisions between all the religious groups are so deep and wide here. For me, I don’t identify with any group that is fighting now. The government is still ignoring Hezbollah and their demands, which this in and of itself will only lead to more fighting. At the same time, I disagree with Hezbollah’s tactics in forcing themselves on all of Beirut, therefore intensifying the divides that already exist. The death toll has already reached 81 and the injured is now 250 since the fighting on Wednesday began. And Goddess forbid something does ensue with Israel, as a result of the Hezbollah takeover, will the rest of the country be as gracious as they were two years ago. Does Hezbollah care?

By purposefully ignoring Hezbollah and knowing they would intensify their tactics (as the whole country was predicting), was the government intentional on seeming to the international community as the peaceful ones? And, therefore, making Hezbollah also seem, to the international community, as violent terrorists? Was this an intention or just a by-product of the situation?

There seem to be more and more questions piling up on my end, with less certainty, only my heart that guides me in this. Sometimes I get so frustrated with the situation, wishing to just set things right and move everything around to serve everyone. But then how does one really know what’s best for everyone, that arrogance I leave to the politicians, as they fight and ignore one another for the sake of the country.

To find out more information about this situation a great source is Robert Fisk, life-long journalist in Lebanon

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/fisk/robert-fisk-lebanon-does-not-want-another-war-does-it-825915.html



Lebanese Army Trying to Restore Calm
May 11, 2008, 10:35 am
Filed under: lebanon, war | Tags: , , ,

The Lebanese Army announced that it would look into the telecommunications issue, that was one of the sparks for the last few days of violence.  They also said that Brigadier General Wafiq Shqeir, the head of airport security and thought to be linked with Hezbollah will remain at his post until “approriate procedural methods” are taken. 

The head of the Lebanese Army was the consensus comprimise candidate for the Lebanese Presidency, and as he steps up into leadership things are seemingly positive.  Hezbollah has decided to withdraw from Beirut and “welcomes the army’s decision.”  

To read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/articlebr.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=91907



The Days Add Up Stuck
May 10, 2008, 5:57 pm
Filed under: lebanon, war | Tags: , ,

The Days Add Up Stuck

May 8th-May 10th, 2008

 

I lay entangled within Nadim’s arms and legs.  I had already read as much as I could online talked to as many people that I could about what was happening and the clarity was as confused as the gunshots around me.  They sprang out from every direction, as RPG’s raged in the distance.  It was so unclear as to what was happening and who was being targeted.  Sleep was also impossible, so I lay awake letting the noises wash over me, counting Nadim’s breaths. 

 

I began to think of all the things I had still “planned” on doing, and that John Lennon quote sank in deeply as I finally began to understand the meaning of it.  Life is what happens when a war disrupts your plans and shocks you back into reality.  I was going to get my first tattoo here, I was going to live in the Chouf  for a month on the Eco- Village, volunteering with Nadim.  I just received my Loan check- I was going to get presents for people, and bring spices home.  My biggest sadness is not spending more time with my Tata’s sister, the light of her life, hearing the song of her voice. 

 

Sometime in the night, lightening filled the sky, and the saturated clouds released the pent up pain and frustration, as my body released in its cyclical monthly patterns.  I began anew on the eve of war.  At 5am, twelve hours after the shooting began, the world around me quieted, whimpering now and then with shooting always more shooting.  My eyes finally fell back into my dreams and my ears closed off the sounds around me.  I kept waking, wondering if it would still be too late to get back to Hamra, my neighborhood- my friend Muhanad’s words stuck to the insides of my head, “I love Hamra at dawn just dripping with life, and at midnight when I’m drunk and stumble home; her arms welcome me.  But in the afternoon Hamra, man, she alienates me with the incessant beeping and the running into people.” – and when her roads are set with checkpoints that won’t let you pass.

 

As it turned out the roads back to my place were blocked with militia -men, as Hezbollah had taken over in the night.  The death toll reported on every news channel and newspapers were only 10 or 11 people, the injured was 30.  You would have thought from the sounds at night there were hundreds just in Zarif, where I was. 

 

But this was a day ago and already there have been clashes between Druze and Shia raising the death toll to 30 people.  The language coming from either party does not look promising – whilst March 14, represented by Fouad Siniora, at this point, is calling the take over an act of terrorism, Hezbollah says they won’t let up until the government engages in dialogue with them.  And, on top of that Israel was quoted in a NY Times article, for the sake of including Israel in conversation about Lebanon’s possible civil war- because we remember how well that went twenty years ago, as saying that they are patrolling the northern borders but do not ‘want to add fuel to the fire.’  But will they keep their word? I mean if Hezbollah is actually in control of Lebanon, will Israel not say something along the lines of “For the sake of national security…” 

 

Neither side seems to be letting up, and everyone else is caught in between. It is absolutely ridiculous, that the government has ignored the problem this long; where was the foresight?  Most people that I have talked with, in Lebanon, saw something like this coming; why didn’t the government?  And, is Hezbollah making a mistake in these actions- could this ineffectually bring us closer to a war with Israel?