Monday, December 9, 2013

Whatsapp, Facebook and the gang!

On my last vacation, I had a blast. No work, no routine, no traffic but mostly no SMARTPHONE.
I had a 10$ Nokia with a built-in flashlight, commonly known in Lebanon as “Abou Lamba” and I never felt happier. It makes phone calls, its battery lasts for ages and it serves as a great weapon/shield when aliens invade.

And right now, I think I’m heading towards this road again because I've had it with all those messaging apps and social network websites. I've seriously had enough.
I hate how everybody thinks you’re accessible at any moment and that you should be “pronto” whenever they text you. I don’t like how a phone call lost its value and people assume that everything can be done through texts.
So until my anger towards technology simmers down, I've decided to uninstall “Whatsapp” and deactivate my Facebook account, as they are very addictive, annoying and stalker-friendly.

Whom are the developers of these programs helping?
An overly attached girlfriend? A guy who could not get over you? A crush who liked you for years? A jealous person? Or a friend who has plenty of free time on his hand?
All of them (and more) are encouraged to access your life with one click thanks to “special” features.

I’ve always hated Whatsapp and tried to avoid it as much as possible. But lately, it’s been getting on my nerves so I kicked the butt out of it off my phone. Why? Here’s why!

- The nagging machine:
Sees me online so he/she instantly texts “
Hi”. I don’t reply right away.
Sends: “
Alo” – “Are you there?”. And the next thing I know is that this person has raided all of the apps I have on my phone with messages.
Well, chances are I’m busy. So he/she has to wait until I’m perfectly free to answer him/her.
Unless, he is Usher or Adam Levine and he wants to confess his undying love for me. Then what the heck, I’ll empty my entire schedule for him!

- The photo peeper:
* Meets me somewhere. And says: “Oh, I like the pictures you put on your whatsapp profile”.
And I get all puzzled: “But we never chat on whatsapp”. “I don’t even have your number.”
* Replies: “I know, but I have you on my contact list”.

- The human clock:
“Why did you sleep so late last night? You were last seen at 3:00 A.M”

- The owl:
*Sends a text at 2:00 A.M on weekdays. “
R u awake?”
Yes, and I’m polar bear hunting!
I wasn't awake. But I am now, after my phone vibrated and the blue light on the screen went off!

- The group dynamo:
*Invites me to a group, sends jokes, pictures and emoticons all day, and gives my battery cancer!

- The broadcaster:
*Constantly broadcasts those “must forward to 10 people” messages.
And if I don’t, I’ll go to Hell in every religion that ever existed or I’ll end up miserable as long as I live.

And the list goes on and on….

As for Facebook, it surely has great advantages. But for the past few months, it caught the virus of "Last Active", and now it’s sneezing irritation! It shows in hours when you used it last! Isn't that great?
And it’s gotten even greater and creepier with the new online feature! Web or Mobile? Seriously!!

-The intruder:
*Asks why I’m home on a Friday night.
I say I’m not. Replies: “
Yes, you are. Facebook says you are online from the web”.
Awesome! Creep knows I’m home!

- The intruder II:
I accidentally reply to the intruder on messenger with the blue arrow light on.
Location services are on! I’m doomed!
Now the creep knows I’m home AND know where my home is. And he’s got a detailed map to prove it!

- The profile huntsmen:
He/She is a friend of a friend. I meet her/him for the very first time. Knows my full name, the places I've been to lately, how I like my coffee and my shoe size!
*Me: Have I met you?
*Huntsman: No, but I see you tagged in a lot of photos with my friends!

- The scandalous likes:
I like a friend’s picture or status. I comment on something. And BAM! It appears on 7,000,000 friends’ news feed page!

And I’m sure there’s more.

It also gets worse. The virus has spread and affected Viber as well.
And who knows what other applications will join and make our lives more serial killer “green”!

Congrats to all stalkers. You’re getting there! Privacy invasion fully on!
Finally, on a serious note, over sharing have many pitfalls. And all of us should know the fine line between staying connected and over exposing ourselves!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Meadow

The meadow is big, a sea of green, filled with wildflowers – yellow, purple and white. In the sky, creamy clouds look perfectly hand-painted. The breeze smells delicious and fills lungs with vitality.
A melody of flowing water emanates from a nearby creek. Sunlight touches her skin and infiltrates her bones.

She walks toward a tall tree where a man sits peacefully under its shadow. She bends down and places her palm on his cheek. He looks up, and the face of an angel comes into sight. The most illuminated and radiant features she has ever seen stare back at her.
Daddy!”, she cheers. “I missed you”.
He takes her hand, kisses it fervently and plants a soft kiss on her forehead. “I missed you more baby girl”.

Spending time with him has always been her favorite part of the day. They take a walk by the stream where leaves float on its surface and frogs croak. They put small pebbles in their hands and toss them in the water.
Everything seems colorful and beautiful. She has never felt livelier.

She sits beside him on the grass and rests her head on his shoulder. She talks tirelessly about her school, dance classes and friends. “I finally got 10/10 on my Math quiz. I’m studying really hard!
The dad listens. His eyes shine with pride and unconditional love.

As the sun goes west, aiming to set, he walks a few steps away. Then he kneels, hugs her and tells her not to worry.
He says: “It didn’t hurt —the explosion. I didn’t feel a thing. I swear it wasn’t painful”. He reassures.
I’m good as new. No more blood or body shreds.” He smiles.
It is very pretty where I am. No war, no hate or weariness”.
Please, tell Mom I miss her”.

By Randa Al-Merheby.

A gentle hand strokes the hair of a little girl lying in bed. It’s time to wake up for school. The girl straightens up and sees her mother. “Daddy was here, in my dream.” She grins. “I’ll get dressed by myself, go back to bed Mommy. He said he will visit you too.

By Randa Al-Merheby.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Especially to HIM!

Moist, cold and dark is the place where I sleep every night.
Water enters from the cracks in the walls. Wind blows through the broken glass. And darkness reigns all over.

I sit in my corner, motionless – hoping to catch the early rays of light.
Images from last night’s incident surface. I try to drench them but my rib aches from the fall and I’m too weak to resist any mental pictures.

Before dawn breaks, I hear footsteps. Someone must be awake. Then, voices, arguments and sounds of beatings alternate.  I hear him scream and cry. Today’s violent strikes must be very severe. His body is used to the torment, yet it gets more and more agonizing each day.

I sit in my corner, helpless – wishing to break both of us free.
He sits on the floor, but doesn’t glance my way. He is too ashamed to look at me. He counts a handful of coins and some paper money. He closes his swollen eyelids.
Another day will soon begin.

Later on, he chews his plain and unfancy breakfast. And with the first signs of morning, he wraps his arm around me and takes me away.
And just like usual, he never lets me leave his side. We roam the streets together. I accompany him wherever he goes. I became a part of him, his existence. With him, I feel valuable.

We go from one neighborhood to another. He talks to clients and shows off what we got. Most people know him. Few smile at us, others frown at our sight. They call him by his name, or by terms they invent. They hand him money in exchange of goods - but sometimes for nothing at all.

Life is cruel; especially to him.
After a long day of disappointments, shame and disdain, an old black car with no plate number and tinted windows honks at us. He hops in. And the minute he closes the door, he receives a slap on his cheek. He removes his arm off me and cups his face.
A head turns to him, scowls, and asks him if he earned the daily amount required. My companion remains silent. It means he didn’t. The question is repeated. He shakes his head signaling a No.
Then, all I can hear is tires screeching against the asphalt. The man stops, pushes my partner out of the car and throws me away.

We both lie on the cold wet pavement – the place where we will spend the night. He hugs me, puts his face down and starts to weep.
Life is cruel; especially to him: an unschooled nine-year-old with an empty stomach, a coldblooded father and with absolutely nothing but ME.
Me? A plastic bowl that he picked from a rich family’s dumpster. A plastic bowl in which he puts gum packs and cheap sweets. A plastic bowl that he is forced to carry around night and day in order to please a ruthless parent.

Could this be more inhumane? Life in a city where minors are obliged to work, child abuse is everywhere and kids are deprived from their most basic rights.

Photo By Nour Kabbara.

By Nour Kabbara

By Nour Kabbara

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Mediterranean vs. Theirs

Al-Mina, Tripoli. Photo by Lama Dabbousi.
So I was at the seaside getting some relaxation, soul power and serenity remembering that living on a coastal city is a true bliss. It is, especially for me, because for a Pisces [although I hate Astrology], water is a comfort zone. I was thrown in the sea since I started walking. I learned to dive and to hold my breath underwater for long and I was pulled out of pools by my wrinkly fingers because it got dark.

It’s also a blessing because you get to enjoy the charm of the sea. You can watch over and over again the waves kiss tirelessly the rocks and hug relentlessly the shore; and you also get to see where the sun sleeps every single night.

But just when I was in the middle of my appreciation, a thought hit me like a storm. It has always been there, hibernating. Yet a helpless citizen like me can’t do anything about it. However, I can write about it and this is how it goes.

I’ve been to Cannes, Nice, Monaco and Barcelona. Four cities that have one thing in common with my home town: the Mediterranean Sea!
However, my side of the Mediterranean is so unfortunate it’s not even funny.
And it feels to me like we are some kind of twins that had to be separated at birth. One was placed in Switzerland and another had to live in Bangladesh. So just picture the difference!

What does La Croisette have that we don’t? Why is Monte Carlo the most prestigious place to be in? Why is Barceloneta visited by millions every year?

Well, Cannes is like our Mina: a long pier that overlooks the beach. In fact, our sea is much nicer because the water gets deeper gradually. Unlike the French part; one second you’re on the sand and another you’re swimming ten meters deep.
- So why did Kim Kardashian spend her May vacation in Cannes and all we’re stuck with is Abou Fahad driving a 1976 Mercedes on a Sunday with his 7 kids eating corn cobs and “Termos”?
- Why can’t my city host a big festival instead of celebrating NOT getting killed by explosions and gunshots?

- Why couldn’t I meet P.Diddy and Johnny Depp in Tripoli, rather than coming across all these beggars and street vendors?

La Barceloneta, Barcelona.
Barceloneta is pretty much the same concept as Al-Mina: cafés, restaurants, a dock and boats. There, you can eat tapas, enjoy seafood, have some peace and quiet and ACTUALLY swim.
- Why are their beaches public and accessible to everyone while we have to pay 15,000$ (at least) to spend summer on a decent beach?
- Why does their beach get featured in films like Don Qixote while the biggest media coverage we receive is the 8:00 PM news on Télé Liban?

- Why can Spanish girls swim, sunbathe and sit by the coast peacefully and ours have to be harassed and disturbed by guys even if they’re just driving by? 

And as for Monaco, THE destination for people of high caliber and the dream place for all the Formula One lovers, it is not so different from my city in terms of scenery and weather. At least, in Tripoli, temperatures do not drop 5-7°C at night.
- But why does Monte Carlo have all these restaurants and hotels and all we have are “Yamani”, “Hamshari” and “Café Tari2ak”?
- Why do they have all these expensive yachts while most of our fishermen can’t afford to get new boats or even fix the old ones?
- Why is Monaco a major banking center and a sought-after location for new businesses while Tripoli takes in next to ZERO investments?

Monte Carlo, Monaco

My city, the second largest city in the world behind Cairo in Mamluk architectural heritage, the only place in Lebanon with surviving islands and home to the largest fortress in the country, means indeed “Triple City”.
But I’m saddened to admit that they are triple ‘I’s - Ignorance, Illness and Injustice.

Al-Mina, Tripoli. By Randa Al-Merehby.
It’s about time for me to leave the herd of sheep they are shepherding.
Yes, I am a sheep if I am a quiet follower of these inconsiderate “leaders”. I am tired of being manipulated by them.

We all need hope. We all wish for a brighter future. We all wait for that voice that tells us not to leave. But if my own city crushes my dreams, then I’d rather be a nobody in a place where there is room for me to grow.

Tripoli. By Randa Al-Merehby.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A never drying well!

A child is like dough. You can shape it, mold it, spread it thin or just stick in one place. Dough is the base of most food just like children are the foundation of our society.
Your child is a malleable outcome of your own work, so why don’t you make a “chef d’oeuvre” out of him?

As an aunt to two kids and a non-biological aunt to six others (my close cousins' children), I watched babies grow. I told stories, played games, made pinky promises and put them to sleep. I even changed diapers!
And as a teacher and an observer of a child’s development, I had daily contact with kids. I've seen confidence, weakness and sorrow in the small eyes of my students. I was able to see through each one’s face and dive deep inside to read them.
And after five years of teaching, I can spot strong personalities, developed characters and intelligence. However, I’m afraid I’m able to recognize mashed beings, crushed identities as well as undiscovered cleverness. [For I believe that each person is smart in his own way.]

Then I came to realize that there seems to be an error or a malfunction in the way we raise our offsprings. I may not have the right to judge since I got no babies of my own, but I’m certain that a baby needs LOTS and LOTS of time, affection and awareness.
Each word he hears will change him. Hurtful things will not be forgotten even after decades. Therefore, ensure that your child’s well is dug too deep so it never runs dry, no matter how many people drink off it.

Locate your child’s source of joy.
Teach your kid that his OWN happiness comes first! He was not born to please others or to be up to any person’s expectations.
Let his contentment generate from within him, and not be dependent on anybody or anything.
So if it makes him happy to wear green with red, even if he’d look like a Lebanese flag, be it!
And keep in mind that he is not your lottery ticket. He is not there to make your most absurd dreams come true. Therefore, allow him to create his own.

Fuel your kid’s confidence engine.
Train your kid to call himself beautiful and to smile at his own reflection in a mirror. Coach him to count his blessings rather than pointing out his flaws. Make sure he knows he’ll go places.
If he doesn't believe in himself, don’t expect others to do so.

Build up his wall against criticism.
Lecture him that when he enters a room full of people, he is the one to wonder whether he likes them and NOT whether they like him.
Educate him that no matter what he does, people are going to criticize anyway, so he might as well be comfortable in his own skin.

Hang his safety net for him to fall on.
Open his eyes on your beliefs and strengthen his faith (no matter what religion, sect or group you belong to). A kid who lacks spirituality will always have hollowness in his chest and will be easily defeated when facing a simple obstacle. Practise what you preach though. Show him that it’s a daily effort. But remember not to overdo it because more is less!

Hand him a red marker to correct himself.
When he makes a mistake, never try to erase it because he should learn from his own faux pas. Instead, leave him to correct his faults. Life offers many chances and so should you.

Put your red cape on!
Be his superhero. Not by having powers or muscles but by having manners.
                Even if you’re having the worst day ever, even if you’re stuck in the city’s crazy traffic, don’t use big words. There is nothing worse than hearing a child repeat insults. Think of a 5 year old rapping one of Kanye West’s song. That’s about the same thing.
                Keep your promises. If you lie once, your kid will be able to smell your next lie from across the globe. And then you’ll lose his trust.
                Be silly together, laugh giddily, enjoy the little stuff and always do things for the first time.

So if you’re a parent, get off the internet and go spend time with your little ones. And if you’re married, go make some babies and make use of this blog post. But if you’re neither, just lie down on the couch or take a nap, cherish what you have in place, because it just won’t last forever.
Syrian kids playing with as little as they got!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chasing butterflies or investing in a bee hive?

As a newborn, when you first laid eyes on your mother, you discovered love. Growing up, you realize that love isn’t only limited to your family. There are several kinds. And each and every one takes up a separate place in your heart. 

With age, you know that you can adore your Mom & Dad, love your siblings, get along pretty well with your friends, admire your teachers and laugh endlessly with your cousins.

Through my 25 years on this planet, I came to a point where I encountered an unconditional and an insatiable love. It was towards my niece and nephew. It was a brand new type, something that comes from within you and moves you immensely. It felt as if my heart has swollen, gotten bigger to give them room inside it.

Yet, the “love” that people always talk about seems to be a constant quest.
We all worry about ending up alone, miserable.
We all fear that we might miss the train. And we all regret having let go at a certain point in time.

But one question remains. And this is how I like to put it.
Would you rather chase butterflies or invest in a bee hive?

Butterflies elude you the more you chase them. However, it is an indescribable feeling when a butterfly lands on your palm and gives you that tingling sensation. And only there and then, you can admire its beauty and colors. But how long will it stay? Will it even ever come?
Many people wait for ages to find that one person who can charge their electricity and who can chain them chemically.

Others, on the other hand, prefer to build a bee hive. For it is far beyond organized. It represents stability and structure. And for me, it symbolizes the relationship that is overruled by the mind.

But why do people decide to go with their minds as they get more mature? Maybe because they were hurt so many times and they had to pick up their pieces every time their hearts got involved. Perhaps they learnt that butterflies will fly away and all that lingers are memories of emotions and colors.

Relationships don’t abide by any rules. And love definitely knows no boundaries. So my take on this is, that it’s okay to have weak knees around a particular person, and it is normal to admit that they make others look pale comparing to him/her. And it is completely fine to let your mind wander all day and night. IF, and only IF, you also make his/her feet feel like Jello, IF you are the only one they see and IF dreaming about you makes them want to sleep.

Life is full of mediocre things. Love should NOT be one of them.
Photo by Randa Al Merehby.