I Don’t Know What You’re Talking About, You Big, Giant, Talking Cigarette

Chandler: Ok, I’m just going to go outside.
Ross: Whoa, whoa, hold it.
Chandler: Don’t worry. I’m not going to run away again. I just want to get some fresh air.
Ross: Ok.
Chandler: [exits into hallway and lights a cigarette] Ahh, fresh air…

Why God WHYYYYY!!!! I was doing so well! I was being so modestly smug, telling people I had quit smoking for good, that it was disgusting, that the smell now annoyed me, all with a composed winning smile, a poised demeanor, a whole attitude that screamed “Look at me! I am so great! I quit smoking without a patch! Where are the photographers? why isn’t my face on the cover of magazines?”. I thus felt I deserved a big hoopla only for stopping poisoning my own body with Cancer on a Stick. 

And here I am, nine months in.

Nine months, I barely made it nine months before breaking the cigarette fast and having one today.

You see, it is not that I didn’t try. I tried relieving myself from the stress by eating chocolate (marvellous, for about 36 Kinder, until I started to feel nauseated by all that good milk so healthy for my bones). I then tried green tea, walks; a friend of mine even suggested that I actually do sports, which, let’s face it, is very funny. I mean, the idea of me running after nothing, just to move, is beyond ludicrous. Let us be clear here: i run only if a pair of reduced Louboutins is looking at me and the only way to get it is to beat the hordes of red-sole hungry other lunatics competing in the same category as me: shoe crazed freak. No 12 cm peep-toed delights, me no run. End of Story.

So I decided that I was strong enough to deal and cope with the stress by myself, without the help of anything, just me and the 6 seasons of Sex and the City (by the way, I realised that the first episode was aired 14 years ago. Can you believe it? Yet Carrie Bradshaw’s style is still spot on trend, any way, moving on). That resolution was all well and dandy until a strange thing happened. My colleagues’ shapes were slowly blurring and started to look like big giant cigarettes explaining one thing or another to me. I started understanding Marlboros in Hellos and forgot the actual meaning of the word Merit, only to remember I used to smoke Merits in my beloved Cairo (don’t ask, i just saw the yellow merits suited Cairo).

Why is this happening to me now? Couldn’t have had withdrawal symptoms like every other normal human being, at the beginning of me quitting? When it got to the point where I was actually gonna light my boss, I decided I needed to keep my job to be able to exercise a bit in my shoe-pursuit sport, so I just went and pleaded (I mean it. The subject of the email was HELP!), yes pleaded with a colleague of mine for her to hand me that ciggie.

It was like a seedy affair you don’t want people to know about: I smoked it, yes, and I had pleasure doing it, but I felt guilty afterwards (well, more than I usually do anyway).

After I put it one, my fingers smelled yucky, I was coughing and my heart was beating too fast for words, increasing my stress. Was it worth it? Oh No! It is the last time EVER! (Smug, unstressed self, happily writing from the safety of her bed)

You just wait, says my other self, when I stress you tomorrow. DOn’t be more self-righteous than thee.

I really don’t know what you’re talking about, you big, giant talking cigarette.

Eleven Years and A Drop Of Blood

You don’t say it but I know it’s there. The tremendous, exquisite pain you carry around with you wherever you go.

It’s in your silences, the way you breathe a little more freely when you are not at home, the way your shoulders come down from way up your ears when you allow yourself to relax.

It’s in your half sentences, your little skips of attention, the way you seem to trip over your thoughts, oblivious of the world around you, lost in a well of internal hurt I can’t seem to grasp.

It’s in your over-achieving attitude, the standards you set so high up for yourself, to prove to yourself you’re better that whatever happened to you, that you deserve better, that it didn’t break you.

It’s in that constant trail of electricity that follows each and every one of your steps, the tension of being alive that seems to keep you as tense as a bowstring, ready to strike whoever would come too close to soon.

It’s in the quietness with which you handle things, each tender gesture as soft as the next, your anger never too loud, your laughter never to keen, your tears, dry, your cursing, tame. It’s as if somebody put you on mute a long, long time ago, and that you lost the ability to exist in vivid colors in your own eyes again. But to me you do, and it kills me to see this numb version of what you could be.

No, you don’t say it, you don’t really say anything to me, what I know i have observed, but I don’t say anything either, and there we remain, trapped in that lead cover of silence that is suffocating me like a coffin, yet I stay there, too respectful of your screaming eyes to scratch the graze, that slit of a wound that doesn’t ever seem to want to heal.

We stay in that coffin, while he’s out there, enjoying his life and all the ones he took, all because there was no one, and nothing, to prevent this from happening.

Egypt and Lebanon on Café Thawra

Two New Posts on Café Thawra!

Egypt: Parliament and Revolution

Joseph Daher and John Rees report from Cairo as New Parliament is sworn in http://cafethawra.blogspot.com/2012/01/egypt-parliament-and-revolution.html

Lebanon Raising Fists and Voices: Lebanese Women’s Struggle to End Violence http://cafethawra.blogspot.com/2012/01/raising-fists-and-voices-lebanese.html

Hope you’ll enjoy!

What The Taxi Driver Told Me…

07:30, stuck in Beiruti traffic in Ghobeyri, just saw my beloved off at the airport, no coffee in my system.

Taxi Driver. Buoyant Mood. Virgin Mary stuck next to the wheel, Mar Youssef on the rearview mirror, rosaries dangling from everywhere. Puts French songs at maximum volume, yells to cover aformentionned song, you know, to talk to me. (I’m just praying: Please God, let him stop talking, let him stop talking NOW)

Radio: Je suis une femme amoureueueueueueusseee

Taxi Driver: Do you know, I love my children.

Polite Me: Allah ykhallyon. May God protect them.

Real Me: Minimum ya3ni you love your children. Now please, please shut up.

Taxi Driver: I have three you know. They’re 5, 3 and 1 and a half. My two eldest don’t really care about me, but the last one, she dances on tables and is so happy to see me when I come back home.

Polite Me: Ya habibi, she must be so cute.

Real Me: Perhaps the eldest two have developped acute personality disorders just like me right now after being exposed to too much shitty French music.

Radio: Toute premiere fois, toutoute premiere fois toutoute premiere fois

Taxi Driver: You married?

Polite Me: Yes.

Real Me (Caffeine deprived. Taking toll on me): 1) My civil status is none of your business 2) I have four husbands and a wife, what’s it to you Nosy Boy?

Taxi Driver: You know, my wife, ya3ni, enno She brought me the kids so I can’t complain, I like her (true story, that’s what he said), but I’d die for my kids. Enno Mni7 enno jawazet.

Polite Me: Couldn’t bring self to be polite.

Real Me in Petto : Couldn’t bring self to answer. Might have said something along the lines of: oh but aren’t you a real gift to your wife, you, your stupid songs, your keresh and your distorted value system that sees nothing in your wife except a walking womb?

Radio: Et Partout dans la rue, j’veux qu’on parle de moi, que les filles soient nues qu’elles se jettent sur moi

Taxi Driver: Was that your husband we just dropped off?

Polite Me: Yes

Real Me: No no, I usually kiss random strangers on the mouth in front of the airport darak. Ah what the hell, let me kiss you since we’re here!

Taxi Driver: Are you pregnant? (I swear to God, he did ask me all of this. Oh how I wish he hadn’t. But he did)

Polite Me: No

Real Me: AAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! Give me a gun! Somebody give me a gun! Leave the Gun! Bare Hands are enough!! Walaw! Foot bi Tize kamen!!

Taxi Driver: May God give you a girl. Nothing better than a girl

Polite and Real Me: Mute with despair. What part of SHUT UP didn’t you understand?

Radio: Commeeeeeuuhhhh L’Oiseau

SO, to summarize:

What the Taxi Driver Told Me: Way too much

What I answered: Not Nearly Enough

State of Ulcer in Stomach from All I should Have Said But Did Not Say: In Progress

Impact of Taxi Driver on Caffeine Deprived Organism: Schizophrenia inducer

What to do next time: Walk.

Turning Pages: On Bookworms and Stories

The treasure is in the book.

My Father

I realised I have written many posts about what prompts me to write, without ever mentioning the primary trigger of my writings: reading.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been deemed bookish by the people in my family, my nose always buried deep into a book or another. Even when I had nothing to read at hand, I would pick up brochures, posters, papers, even labels on bottled water, pushing my eyes to their limit, wearing my first pair of glasses at 11, always looking for another story to lose myself in. 

Because escaping from reality is – and has always been- the main reason behind my passion for reading. I love how a good story can snatch you out everyday life, drown your sorrows, make you laugh and cry and imagine new spaces and new lives: all you have to do is turn the page. I strongly believe life can just be too much sometimes, and each and everyone of us deserve a way out: some people turn to alcohol or drugs or sleep or partying or movies or whatever, I just turn to the magic of words and allow them to lead me wherever they’d like. Reading is my drug and I see every new publication as an added flavour to my dependance. 

I love how multi-layered the pleasure of reading is: you first see the book, smell it, a strong inky smell when it’s new, a musty, dusty one when you’re just browsing into a pile of discarded ones in a flea market, start reading it. I choose books upon the first sentences I read: if I feel the silky threads of letters and words weave their web around me, I just buy it, knowing it’ll have a special place in my life.

Some books are speedily, almost greedily read the minute I have them in my hands; others I need to tame, to get accustomed to, to have on my bedside table for a while before daring to enter their worlds. Some were, and still are, passionate love affairs, books that I’ve always gone back to, reading them over and over again until their cover is nothing but a torn faded old picture of what it used to be. Some were bitter disappointment, often occasioned by the critics and media, assessing some boring pose as the new literary revolution, and I would run, gullible as I am, to open said books, only to find the author’s ego splashed across pages instead of the utter genius I was promised. Some I still need to figure out, some I’ve read cover to cover without even being sure I liked. Good books are like old friends: always there for you, I always feel so comfortable in their familiarity.

Books can be seen as dangerous, and are therefore banned, molested, amputated, censored, but they always manage to reappear, saved by the love of a fellow bookworm. Truth is, no one can ever stop knoweldge, creativity, resistance, imagination and love: and what are books, if not all of that, and more?

I am not going to bore you with my top 10 books of all time list (especially because as it happens I simply don’t have one) but I can share with you the books currently on my bedside table:

– Les murs ne font pas les prisons, (currently reading), by Joelle Giappesi, Ed. Tamyras

– Au Coeur du Coeur d’Un Autre Pays, Etel Adnan, Ed. Tamyras

– The Rainbow, D.H. Lawrence, Ed.Wordsworth Classics

– Zeina, Nawal el Saadawi, Ed. Qasi

– Bye bye Babylon, Lamia Ziadeh, Ed. Denoel Graphic

Moving Mountains

Day after the demonstration and my head is filled with unforgettable memories.

The time will come, rather soon, where I will be writing an extensive report on it, to let people know what happened, to document events, to leave a print on the tangible: how many we were, what itinerary we followed, what were the messages we screamed and carried and sang. What are our next steps, what media covered the story.

But allow me here to document and retell the intangible, the emotions, the fire and the passion that rips through a crowd, quicker than a ray of light.

Yesterday we were in the streets of a much beloved city to call out to the government to grant us our rights, to put a stop to an unspeakable discrimination, to create the beginnings of a new society where having a penis doesn’t get to dictate your position in life.

These issues are serious, negative, they could depress even the strongest of us, yet yesterday, as if by some miracle, we managed to turn our anger into a beautiful force, a positive energy to overcome obstacles and to reach our goals.This force carried us throughout the day, stayed with us and was so communicative you could see it on people’s faces and chants.

Yesterday, under the rain, I felt that each and everyone of us had wings, that we could walk all over Beirut and more and still feel a power inside of us, a fire that made us sing for our rights.

Yesterday I witnessed the sunrise of a new era, of new starts. We know we still have a lot to achieve, we know it is not because of our march that laws will be passed and cancelled on Monday. But we also know that we are slowly building the basis of equality in our country, linked together by the positive energy we have managed to create, bound to each other by hope, and hard work and drive.Yesterday, I could feel the invisible ropes of revolution tying us together, bringing us closer to our aim.

Yesterday I was in a crowd of love, and solidarity and care, where it didn’t matter in the slightest what religion or sex or age I was.Yesterday I got a glimpse of what Lebanon could be if only we managed to get rid of a harmful system, to rally under the banners of freedom and openess and equality.

Yesterday, I felt a part of the family of Humanity.

And it felt good, standing there, under a gray sky pouring with rain.

Pics of Today’s Demo and Article on the AWID Young Feminist Wire

Pics can be found on my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.340356419327608.92936.194530360576882&type=1

And the article here: http://yfa.awid.org/2012/01/ahead-of-us-the-defense-of-our-rights-lebanese-women-in-their-struggle-to-live-free-from-violence/

LBCBlogs: Paola Daher: The last fight is ahead of us

Link: LBCBlogs: Paola Daher: The last fight is ahead of us

My Blop post for LBC


Many tourists come to Lebanon thinking it is the most liberal country in the Middle East, with its bustling nightlife, restaurants, bars and clubs. They marvel at the rows of mini-skirted women dancing the night away and leave the country thinking Lebanese women are emancipated and free, the…