Riham's Blog


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Thoughts & Opinions category.

Rant: Lebanese reactions to smoking ban

I’ve been told by some very wise people that I should stop caring about Lebanon now that I’m outside of it. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly do that, and use blogs and news reporting sites to know what’s going on as long as it’s not related to politics.

This is why I was really happy to read about the smoking ban. Then I read an article on NowLebanon stating the reactions of people to this law, and I am seriously disgusted. I know this article is not representative to the population of Lebanon, but something tells me the reactions stated in it are really common. Reactions such as:

  • This ban violates the freedom of smokers. – If you had any common sense at all, you would realize that what you’re stating is that you’ve been violating the freedom of non-smokers for years. Since I’ve lived in Lebanon long enough, I know my typical-Abed will reply to this by saying non-smokers are free to not smoke, a statement I won’t even bother replying to because everyone knows about second-hand smoking.
  • I’ve been smoking for a long time, I’m not going to stop now! – Then it’s a good thing that no one is asking you to stop. We’re just limiting where you can do it so that you don’t violate people’s rights to breath clean air.
  • There are more important issues that the government can deal with! Like internet, electricity, weapons, road safety! – Every time a new law passes in Lebanon, this is the statement that drives me the most crazy. We have a lot of problems, yes, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t deal with anything. The bigger problems listed above require more time, effort and most importantly resources, so let’s start with what we can do now. If anything, change can start with you. It’s true that it sucks how easily you can get weapons in Lebanon, and that it’s something the government should deal with, but until then, how about you don’t shoot up the air every time your worshipped leader makes a speech or your dear son passes an exam that requires the IQ of a peanut (AKA Brevet)? It’s true that our roads are not safe, that car accidents are a big issue, but until this is fixed, wear the damn seatbelt, don’t drive through a red light, and for the love of god, respect your fellow citizen and don’t blind them just because you have a big car and you can!
  • This will harm my business, there’s nothing better than drinking and smoking at the same time, how will people drink – To that I have one thing to tell you: I live in Ireland. People smoke outside in the cold weather all year round. People are also drunk by 9pm. Your business will live.
And finally…
  • Whatever, no one is going to follow that law anyway – Unfortunately, this is actually something I’m scared of. But the fact people take it for a given upsets me. We keep bragging about how our country is “[Insert name of European city here] of the Middle East”, and yet we don’t want to embrace the good laws that these cities have been following for a long time now. I don’t want this law to be respected as much as the “No smoking in the airport” is, where everyone still smokes.
I never believed in some things until I left Lebanon. I always thought “noise pollution” was a made up expression until I lived in a city where cars very very rarely honk. I never understood the usefulness of a smoking ban until not only I left Lebanon, but came back and noticed the difference as I wondered why it was suddenly stinky as my friend lit up a cigarette in a coffeeshop.
This law is as important to me as faster internet or 24/7 electricity. Let’s hope my fellow Lebanese break their trend of disappointing behavior.

A simple equation

A patriarchal society.
A nation of families obsessed with boys and men.
Your first kid must be a son. Your son must be nothing less than a man.
Mothers in love with their sons that no woman is ever good enough for them.

The result?

A nation of men with a sense of entitlement, who think everyone worships the ground they walk on. Every man envies them and every woman wants them.

One girl disgusted by anything similar to this, and wants none of it in her life.


A question

When a person leaves life, and you go through so much after it that you become a whole different person, could they still say that they know you? Can you still say that you know them?

I am not sure which is more disturbing, having to say I knew them, or the fact that I was never given the opportunity to keep the verb “know” in the present tense.


Discover Lebanon first

Greenery!

One common thing you hear from the Lebanese who live abroad is that we take this country and what it has to offer for granted. I find this to be true, as many times, we do not visit all the historical sites that are available to us for free. We accompany our tourist friends to them when they are visiting us, but we never see them for ourselves.

Courtyard

I was at Beiteddine Palace last week. It was on a weekend, on a Sunday even, which means almost everyone does not have work. The weather is also perfect as it was very hot in Beirut. My expectation was that the area was going to be packed. I was disappointed to see that the whole area was almost empty, and that the palace was being visited by only several people. No school trips were taking place, and barely any Lebanese people. Those who were there were all foreigners, and by talking to one of them, I discovered that they had been there before, and that they were visiting for the second time because they think the palace is beautiful. I wanted to see kids on a school trip, a family, a group of friends visiting. None of that. Is the only reason to ever go to Beiteddine is to watch a concert during the festivals?

It is great to see foreigners taking interest in Lebanon, but I honestly find that we take what we have for granted. I am sure that you are able to find a Lebanese person who can tell you about any historical landmarks or touristic sights in a European city in great detail, but is unable to list more than three similar landmarks in his/her own country. It really is a shame.

Another thing is that not much effort is being done to promote all these locations. I have seen some ads to promote Lebanon in general, but not many for specific areas. As we were walking around in the different rooms of the palace, I noticed one room that I haven’t been in before. I told my friend that I don’t remember ever seeing this part of the palace, only to find out from the guide/security officer that this room has been opened to the public recently, so the reason I can’t remember being in it is because it was closed before. If new rooms are being opened to the public, why not inform the public? The guard overheard me by chance and told me about this, otherwise I wouldn’t have known.

Pretty & colorful room!

It isn’t enough to say that Lebanon is the best country in the Middle East, or that wherever you go, you will never find a country as great as Lebanon. The “patriotism” (if you can even call it that) you see in such statements isn’t very useful if what these people are referring to is only the night life, or merely the coexistence (or lack thereof) of different sects and religions together. If we want to truly love Lebanon, we should try to see it. This is why I am writing this post, as a call, as much directed to me as it is to others, to discover Lebanon. If not a call, then at least it is one thing I hope will happen. In other words, before you travel around the world to find beauty and discover yourself or whatever it is you’re looking for, discover Lebanon first.


Driving Radars; opportunity or curse?

I had been dreading driving lately. I know the topic of Lebanese driving has been covered over and over everywhere; just run a small Google search and see for yourself. But driving has become particularly frustrating. All those stories I have been hearing about people getting hit by cars and fatal accidents happening on the Lebanese streets made me nervous. It seemed to me that during the past few months, the drivers of Lebanon have become even more careless, paid less attention and lacked any sense of decency, more so than before. This blog post lays it down much more eloquently than I could

This is why I was happy to hear of new laws and regulations being set in place to force your average Lebanese driver to use his/her brain while on the road, and take into consideration the fact that we are not alone on the streets, and that believe it or not, we do not in fact own those streets we drive on.

However, many questions come to mind about these laws, and I hope that with time, they will be answered and clarified.
My first concern is whether this will really and seriously be enforced. We’re used to driving regulations being enforced for a while and then completely forgotten about (ie seatbelt), only to have everyone go back to their old ways as soon as the last ticket is given out. If we’re ever going to organize the way people drive here, consistency is needed. This means that I will get a ticket every single time I break the law, and not just during certain seasons.
Another issue is if we’re focusing on the issue of speeding, why aren’t there any signs that disclose speeding limits on most streets? I once tried to find out the limit on the highway leading up north, and it’s only until I got to the middle of it that I saw a sign that said “80”. The explanation so far is 50KM on every street where nothing else is put, and 100KM on the highways.
Many more come to mind. Will the money be used for better roads? Will people who have connections be able to get out of paying their tickets? Are the rates for the tickets really as high as the rumors have mentioned?

Driving is an issue that really matters to me. It is something that we do every single day, without realizing how dangerous it can be if not done correctly. I understand the reasons (well, the good ones at least) behind all of this, as the amount of accidents that have happened this year is unbelievable. However, I believe the effort should come from both sides. Citizens should be more considerate on the road, and follow the laws. But we should also expect better road conditions from our authorities.

I see those new traffic radars as an opportunity for sanity on Lebanese roads, but we shouldn’t forget that a lot can go wrong with this.


“Non Alcoholic Spirits”

What's wrong with this picture?

This was something I saw and took a picture of when I was in Jeddah last week.
Many people have already seen this or heard of “Saudi Champagne”. I have too, but it isn’t until recently that I saw it on a menu at a restaurant, or seen “red wine” or “white wine” around Saudi Arabia.
The terminology they are using is very surprising and interesting at the same time; “Non alcoholic spirits” along with the names of the actual alcoholic drinks.

I stay in Saudi Arabia country for a few weeks a year, which used to be months, and I am aware of the fact that the “real stuff” could be available to those who look in the right places. But publicly, everyone knows that alcohol is not allowed in Saudi Arabia, that they follow Islamic law which states that alcohol should not be consumed. So why call those drinks “wine” and “champagne” to begin with? I understand beer, but wine and champagne are somewhat different from those drinks offered. So why not just call them for what they are, some sort of juice and some other ingredients?

My over thought out and analyzed theory is that since everything that is forbidden is usually desired, calling this simple beverage “wine” or “champagne” will make it more popular, as consumers will feel that they are drinking something similar to what is forbidden. Another theory I have is that by calling them these names, it makes alcohol less “forbidden”, seeing as examples of alcoholic drinks are available in the country, but adapted to their cultural norms.

However, here is what probably happened: Some company was trying to come up with a new drink to put in the market. The result was a dark red liquid. Someone joked saying “Oooh.. it looks like wine!” Looks were shared, a light bulb lit above their heads, and the rest was history.


Postcards; small gate to a big world

I have recently mentioned in front of someone that I collect postcards, and they found it to be a weird thing to collect. This was kind of surprising as I would think a lot of people buy them when they travel.

Whenever work or life suffocates us, we tend to go other places in our minds. Merely thinking of a better time, of something we want to accomplish, a place we want to visit. Being the travel lover that I am, I enjoy remembering old trips, and thinking of places I want to go to, and I do that through postcards (okay fine, and occasionally tripadvisor.com, I admit it). They are nice and comforting to look at. If you bought them yourself, you are able to remember the nice days you spent there. If they were sent to you by someone else, you get to discover a nice spot in a country you may have never been. It’s just awesome any way you look at it. This is why I decided to share a few of my favorite postcards.

Alicante, Spain

The first one is from when I went to Alicante way back in 2005. We used to hang out in this particular spot, and it was such a beautiful place. Spain being one of the best trips I’ve been on, this postcard reminds me of nice days. This is also the wallpaper of my work laptop.

Palau de la Musica, Valencia, Spain

The next one comes from the same trip. We spent a day in Valencia, and it was also such a beautiful city.This postcard is great because of the colors and the lights.

Coat of arms of the house of Schwarzenberg

I remember receiving this one, mostly because it traumatized me in a “Wow, impressive and weird!!” kind of way. A friend from the internet sent it, and this is what she wrote on it.
“Some crazy baroque artist dug up 40000 plague victims and decorated a chapel with them. This is the coat of arms of the family that funded it. It’s all made of human bones”

Not sure I’d want to go there, though. You can see the clear image here.

Snow view of Golden Pavilion, Rokuonji Temple, Japan

This one is pretty much one of my absolute favorites. I received it the last day I was presenting the final year exams at high school, and it was from an internet friend who has moved from the US to Japan. I remember sitting in the car looking at it absolutely amazed while my mother was throwing questions all over the place on whether I did well. It’s such a beautiful image, and it’s probably this particular postcard that made me want to visit Japan. Clear image here.

Another postcard I love is one I received from one of my best friends. Since I love puzzles, it is basically a puzzle. I couldn’t read what it said or see it unless I put it together. It was great because it combined two things I love.

Paris, je t'aime!

As you may already know, the awesome @FunkyOzzi gave me some postcards from New York and Turkey. This poster was part of them, and it’s from Paris.  Unfortunately, I have not visited Paris yet, but I loved this poster.

Did I convince you of my love for postcards? I hope that means you’ll remember me next time you travel!


Autobiographies and blogging

I have finally started reading Les Confessions de Rousseau, as it is a book we’ve studied time and time again in high school, and I have always wanted to read the whole thing, and it is what got me even thinking about this.

My favorite genre of books to read has always been autobiographies. I have always enjoyed them, as they provide the reader with a sense of reality. The fact that the person in question is writing about his/her own life makes it even better, as we not only have events listed, but we can witness the author’s analysis, justification, or input on the issue at hand. Writing an autobiography also poses many challenges on the author, which we have all learned in school. Let’s look at some of them  depending on their relevancy to what I would like to discuss.

The challenges faced by the author

  • Bias – It is commonly accepted that it is difficult for a person to distance themself from something that concerns them, and look at it in an objective manner. How do you report the events, accidents, feelings that have happened in your life when they are only looked at from your point of view?
  • Having something to say – Not every person should write an autobiography, because let’s face it, not everyone’s life is interesting enough to even generate material to discuss and analyze.
  • Generating Interest – Let’s say you do have a lot to say, you’ve overcome your bias self, and you wrote a good and objective autobiography. You’ve poured your mind and soul into it and reached self improvement, or whatever it is you are trying to reach to begin with. The question is, will people read it?

How are autobiographies similar to blogging.
I don’t know about you, but I can see some similarities.

  • Bias – Bias is a concern if you are trying to report on events, mainly political in the case of Lebanon, that are happening. Bloggers may not be journalists, but if they are to be used as a source of seeing the “on the field” action, then they must try to remain objective. Of course opinions could be stated, but let’s assume a foreign person wants to read what’s going on in a country without going to news sources. A (Lebanese in this case) blogger should, for instance, avoid repeating the same sectarian divisions and opinions, and report things as they really are.
  • Having something to say – This is an issue that we always read about. Who should blog? Should your blog touch on one specific subject? Should all business men blog? Basically, anyone can blog, but the question is whether they should. There is certainly no point in doing so if you do not have anything to say, if there is no reason for the existence of your blog.
  • Generating Interest – All websites measure traffic, and bloggers should too. It helps them view which posts are viewed the most. They also need to know their audience. Just like an autobiography would be written differently in each period, a blogger also has an audience to write to. How much that is taken into consideration in each context is relative though, as many authors have been criticized for their work which was ahead of its time and was not accepted by others of the period.

Technology & the Internet: New Challenge for autobiographies
The general idea is usually that technology is facilitating the marketing of new products, by creating more awareness about celebrities and what is happening to them, and promoting their doings. But it seems to me that all it is doing is killing the need to even write your autobiography. Think about it. Who usually writes their autobiography? Famous people who have an established fan base (or hate base). People think of this person as different, out of the ordinary, so they would want to read a book about their life and how they got to where they are. However, when I am able to read a celebrity’s tweets, watch the press release they make about a certain incident that happened to them, log on foursquare and follow their day-to-day movements, go on Wikipedia (for convenience) and have their life broken down into pieces and categorized by career, love life, controversy, along with many articles on what they said and what everyone else said, would I really want to read their autobiography? When they come down from this admired and famous person, to an ordinary one just like you and me, it gets a bit challenging for me to find interest to read more.

One thing is sure, if Rousseau had tweeted:
@Rousseau Mme Lambercier gave me a fesses, and it hurts so much but felt good at the same time. This will define all my future relationships! WEIRD!
(This is 140 characters, I checked!)
I am not sure I would spend a lot of time reading his analysis of why or how it happened. Although this may be a wrong example due to the creepiness of it, and I would probably want to know why a spank meant so much to him, but you get the point, I hope.

Thoughts?


Silence, an underrated virtue

You might want to call me Captain Obvious after this, and I am fine with it.  It’s certain that there are plenty of cheesy quotes preaching what I’m about to preach. Let’s not call this preaching, actually, let’s just assume I am thinking out loud.

Source

When we are under stress, angry, upset, or just temporarily emotionally unstable, the things we are able to come up with and even say never cease to amaze. It can be mean and downright cruel. It can go as far as hearing people tell you, to your face, what you have confided in them, as a way to hurt you. Coming up with what to say in reply usually comes with a sense of achievement, making you feel like you know exactly what to say to end this and come out a winner. The worst part is, even when you kiss and make up, you will still remember that this person has used something you’ve told them against you. It has happened countless times to just about everyone.

While my friend was getting a tattoo recently, the artist told him about a guy who had the word “Shh!” tattooed vertically on the side of his index finger to piss off his girlfriend. I do not know if this is true, and if it is, then this girl is probably in a somewhat abusive relationship and should get out. But keeping how rude and provocative this is aside, it does make a point. If you had kept quiet for a few minutes during that fight, would the consequences have been that bad? If you had waited after coming up with the next best thing to say, would the sense of accomplishment calmed down? Would reason have told you that saying this is a bad idea?

Maybe silence isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes, you need to let it out in order to feel better, move on, get closure, all of those nice things. Sleeping on it first seems to be a good compromise, since you will have had time to process what happened, think whether or not it’s a good idea to speak up, and eventually do what you have to do.

This has been on my mind lately, and I have been applying it. I noticed it’s working out well for me when I actually asked “When did I stop being the insane one and started being the calm and zen one?” The answer is: When I started avoiding unnecessary conflict, that’s when!

So, “Silence is the new loud” might have some negative implications, but in this post, it is understood the positive way. Staying quiet is not a better way to piss off your “opponent”, but a way to facilitate the process of making up. Yes, that’s exactly what they mean.


Why do I blog, anyway?

Ever since I started finding blogs written by Lebanese people in and outside of Lebanon, I’ve been adding more and more subscriptions to my reader. I absolutely love going through the posts everyday and reading about many subjects, or even many viewpoints of the same subject.

Each blogger posts for a different reason. It can be anything, going from having a talent to share, a passion to explore, or simply a lot to say. I personally have a lot to say, and that currently isn’t being seen through this blog. This was not always the case. As a matter of fact, I created a livejournal account a long time ago. The first one was used for two years. Those two years were the most difficult of my life, and rereading that journal (I prefer to call it that, as it is more personal) suffocated me, it felt like a weight on my chest and I had to get rid of it. I deleted that account and it has been purged, completely gone. I truly regret that, as it contained some graphic, vivid memories of significant days in my life, a time that truly changed me. This journal was a connection between myself now, and myself then, two completely different people, and it is now gone through a hasty and emotionally charged decision.

Then, I created a different account. I used this account from 2004 and I still have and use it. It almost got the same destiny as its previous one, but the day I wanted to delete it, I looked at the stats and realized it was the day my LJ turned 4! So I figured if it survived 4 years, then it’s worth being kept. Let’s look at the stats now.

Created on 2004-06-20 10:13:16
9,382 comments received, 59,448 comments posted
694 Journal Entries

So how come I was able to keep that journal and regularly use it for so long, while this blog is not being updated as much? Here’s the deal. I have always had a lot to say, and I have always enjoyed putting it into words. However, sharing it was never easy. In high school, professors would force me to read the pieces I write to everyone, and it made me want to disappear. Not because I didn’t think what I wrote was good, but because sharing it felt too personal for me. I felt like I was giving away a part of myself, and the reactions that would enduce scared me. This is why Livejournal was “friends only”. It is locked and the people I choose read it. Knowing who was reading what I was sharing comforted me. It isn’t that I don’t want others to read what I write, but it is just that I like being in the know.

The reason this blog was created is exactly that. I wanted to get over that complex. I didn’t want to feel like if I shared publicly, I’d lose some of my control. This blog’s “Raison d’etre” is exactly that, and it takes me time to decide to make a post, even if I have it ready.

So, all I’m saying is, tell me you’re reading, let me know you’re here in means other than the stats WordPress provides, and most importantly, bare with me.