France has a tissue issue

So I’m sick again, as most people are during this dreadful weather. The peak is 7 degeees so no thank you I’d rather wait this out ‘til it’s over. In June.

Anyways a person with a cold usually needs tissue, as you may imagine; yet for some reason, (and this is no new revelation, I’ve noticed it in France the moment I came). THE. FRENCH. LACK. TISSUES.

If you go to a restaurant in Lebanon or Dubai, they sometimes put a plastic holder with nearly an endless supply of hand tissues for you to use. They also put some under the cutlery. In France however, there are practically never any tissues on your table, they put a gigantic cloth under your cultery. So… I can’t really  wipe my nose with this can I.

Thanks for absolutely nothing.

You order a billion things from a fast food restaurant, and they place one single tissue above your mountain of an order. WHY this treatment? Am I not worthy enough for your tissues? Is it really too much to ask?

The place I currently work in also doesn’t have any tissues in sight, and bringing my big flashy box of wipes just seemed to be a bit of a hassle.

I also went to a place in Grenoble recently. I asked the woman behind her desk if she had any tissues because I felt a sneeze coming, and she actually said that in their entire building, they did not even HAVE any boxes. She then proceeded to direct me to the bathroom.

The bathroom.

The woman wanted me to wipe my face with faded pink toilet paper.

You may ask, Why, sick human, do you not bring your own pocket tissues and get this over with.

Well, I do. They finish, and then I’m out for the hunt again, and they shouldn’t be so difficult to find anyway.

France, please solve your tissue issue.

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Beirut roar in Paris streets

I was looking out the bus window this morning on my way to work, and I don’t know if you get this too; when you feel the sudden urge to only listen to music from your home country, when you’ve been in another country for longer than a few months.

I get these days when I wake up in the morning with a specific arabic song in my head, on repeat. I can hear the chords and the words clearly. Today was one of those days, I didn’t even wait to leave my room before putting it on, I just blasted it loudly at 8am on my phone, listening to it while simultaneously facing the bathroom mirror to brush my teeth.

I had it on in the bus too, and I was so into it to a point that I hadn’t realized I was loudly tapping my foot against the floor to the beat. I was mouthing the words, but it was so quiet in this bus, suddenly Paris seemed mute. France, in all its streets and landscaped and stretched roads and hours of commute; Paris’s millions of running, hasty Parisians seemed to make less noise than little Lebanon, six thousand kilometers away, ten thousand four hundred and fifty two little square kilometers wide, nearly six hundred thousand times smaller than France, seemed to roar through my headphones into my ears, into my nerves, into the skin that covers me.

Paris in all its distance and buzz and hurry and flood of people seemed hushed. I look at the faces around me on that bus, they were all too engulfed in their own little lives, tuning out the space with their headphones, none really concerned with the other. How it’s all the same to them. How it’s not the same to me.

You think Paris is noisy?

Have you heard Beirut on a Monday morning? Or a Tuesday Afternoon? or a Wednesday night? The answer is YesWeAllHave. People in Beirut have become so accustomed to the noise that they don’t really hear it anymore. It is only when you leave Lebanon when you start realizing how quiet the rest of the world is sometimes. Suddenly you miss listening to the endless conversations between members of your family whom you know and don’t know. The traffic cuss words and constant honking doesn’t seem that bad anymore. Strangers saluting you and asking how you are even if they do not know you enough to really like you, is missed too.

How they won’t know how much I wanted to sing this song out loud at the top of my lungs. I was going to scream. I felt different from my surroundings, and I felt like home was calling my name and I was too far to answer, but I could hear the phone ring. I hear Lebanon calling me to come home sometimes, and then I look at what’s in front of me and it’s so alien. How we find ourselves slowly accustoming to a new lifestyle in a new environment, and how from a moment to the other we realize how we are actually surrounded by people who will never really understand what it is like to be you, and to come from where you come from, and how they will never feel the rush of emotion running through you when you hear this particularly spectacular song.

At that moment all I wanted to do in that bus was share this feeling, this rush I felt. I knew they wouldn’t understand, but I hope you do now.

Star-crossed lovers

It’s getting colder by the day
It’s my second winter without you, and I miss your warmth once again
These landscapes go through in a flash on this train, but all I want to see is you and feel you around in all the spaces that surround me.
I want to hear your voice and listen to the music I’ve missed playing on my radio
I miss talking in your language
And your smell, once so familiar, once my home
The sun doesn’t hit my skin quite the same, your luminance was much more yellow, it seeped through my bones and filled me once
Once when my mornings were yours, and your evenings were mine
Once when your love filled me until I overflowed
Once when we were in sync
I miss your edges,
sharp, thin, vast, smooth
Once the sky was a magnificent blue
I wonder if you feel my absence as much as I do yours
I miss you whole and in pieces
My Lebanon,
I hope they give you love as much as you emit
I hope your warmth overpowers this cold winter weather
Until we meet again,

Always with love,

Rim

 

Meaningless importance

I was on my way to a friend’s house. She lives a bit far from where I was so I had to take the usual train to get to hers for 8 total stops. Her stop was the last one on the train. I was listening to music whilst simultaneously talking to her on my phone, I couldn’t hear her properly and a stranger looks at me and says “obviously, there’s no connection” and sits behind me. I shut my phone and stare out of the window, thoughts nearly dripping from the strands of my hair onto my shoulders and into my lap. I was thinking about many things at the same time, I was immersed into the specifics until I realized that I was the only one on the train.
There was no one around me anymore and it was the most quiet it had ever gotten on a train ride I’ve been on. I looked back to the man who had given me a comment earlier, he wasn’t there anymore. The silence broke because of the recording they play on the speaker that indicates where you are. I had one more stop to go and I removed my earphones to the loud halt of movement. “Rueil Malmaison” the woman spoke on the loud speaker phone, now echoing in the train. At this moment I had actually felt more present than I ever had, surrounded by empty chairs and moving landscapes. This train was still on its way because I was still on it, and the recording went on for my ears only. The train had not stopped working because no one else had ridden it, I was still there. I didn’t take much space that is true, and I could almost not be seen, had someone looked in the wrong direction, but I was alive, I was here, the train knew it and so did I, and I did not need anyone else to recognize it.

Paris isn’t the city of love, it’s the city of lovers

 

I sit on the upper deck of a train going from la Défense to Saint Germain en Laye, the sun had already set on a Sunday afternoon and people and their families were on their way back to their homes to prepare for Monday.

I look down the Ground deck of the train and I see a couple that had just walked in. She had blonde hair that she tied in a ponytail, and he was wearing a grey t-shirt with the Monsters Inc. logo on the back. Both standing, he had wrapped his arms around the metal bar on the train, and she had her arms wrapped around his waist, although her grip was much tighter than his, she held on better than he did the bar.

This was usual, but in Paris you get to see each couple metamorphose into a complexe sculpture. The girl on the train had fit her neck under his chin, no space in between, and you could see the curves they formed together, and how closely they could turn into clay or solid granite in the Louvre Museum, where you see the rest of the curves and structures, solid; immobile.

Paris isn’t the city of love, but Of lovers who have found their cities and homes in each other. They are each other’s light and tunnels, their streets and their highways. They are their red-bricked houses and the bars they grip onto tightly. Paris is the place, but the city resides in her eyes, and his smile. Paris surely isn’t love, but all the roads they crossed to get into each other’s bodies, they all live in little mobile cities of their own.

Why size matters

If you’ve ever wanted a clear answer, this is it.
I sit in my bathrobe for a good half hour on my bed, as humans usually do, waiting for my fingers to un-crinkle and to have enough power and motivation in my body to choose something to wear as I contemplate the question.
You want to know when size matters?
When you find yourself in the shower, trying to turn as slowly as possible, arms well stuck to both your sides, hands same level as your hips in order not to accidentally hit the shower faucet and result in either abruptly turning off the water or suffering through a sharp turn in temperature. So you waddle there like a clumsy little human. I start imagining the horrifying scenarios of people who might be taller than me, they would probably bump heads with the shower head. Those who take up more space will not dare to turn. I stop imagining scenarios, it just gets worse. The standing shower is actually two small floor squares wide.
(Side note, mom, I am adjusting to this, I like it, I do not want to change where I live, I just like whining about it to people I don’t know, so don’t worry).
Size also matters when you are a meter fifty something in height, and your bed is 80cm wide. You do not take up much space it’s true, but come on… 80? I’ve seen turtles live in tanks bigger than my current bedding situation.
I shan’t go on, but you get the gist. I’ve always wanted to ask people that were living outside of France, if they’ve ever actually been comfortable and have adjusted to the living boxes they are offering us as student housing for a soft nine hundred/thousand euros per month.
Size matters. Appreciate what you have.

Grenoble, after people have gone

IMG_0722.JPGI start this with a very loud shoutout to GEM peeps, wherever you are around the globe, get your cup of coffee and read this post as I write and wave to you from GEM.
I came back for two days,
One very short night, and one even shorter day to be exact.
I couldn’t see much by night, the sun had already set, there weren’t many people out and it mainly rained but I decided to do the first thing that popped to mind when I got there. I went up to the third floor of my ex-student building and knocked on my own door. A girl opened the door very slightly and looked a little surprised that two people were knocking at 10:30pm. Nonetheless, we asked her for “nail polish remover” just for an excuse to maybe see my room again, she gives us what we asked for and proceeds to shut the door, I tried to talk as quickly as I could “I used to live here”, I blurted out shyly, feeling like I was talking with my heart right there in my hands for some reason.
The rest of the conversation was also done at the door, I never got the chance to see it again, but I wondered whether they would have similar memories to mine.
I had a very early rise in the morning and I got to the tram, entered my ticket because I no longer had the card, got on the tram with lime yellow bars, Tram B to those who know, and I had to travel 13 stops in total to get to Bibliothèque universitaire to renew my student visa. I got there nearly an hour before my appointment since everyone I know told me to get there before anyone else in order not to have to wait hours in queue. Safe to say I got there before they even opened, so here I am sitting on the steps facing ISSO like a lost student.
When I was in Grenoble a few months back I actually thought that for some reason, we had not been able to explore everything here exhaustively, because we only had 9 months of school, but I realized that I had been to every stop on the tram, and I knew exactly what had taken place around the corners we stopped at. Since my coming back was separated by only a few months, I was still able to hear my footsteps around the area, under the rain sometimes, usually accompanied by 10 other people’s steps since we’ve often travelled in big groups, and I could see us in every place we had spent time in, even a few minutes in. The restaurants, cafes, bars, horrible nightclubs that closed at 2am because Grenoble, even the pharmacies and mini markets. I quickly realized that we had actually travelled a lot in little Grenoble. My hands froze the same way they did and I had never felt better about it, the clouds are still exactly where we had left them, mid-mountains, the tram sounds the same and echoes throughout everywhere I went. It’s much less frantic than Paris, the tram is much slower and actually gives you time to look around as you go, the streets were much colder but definitely warmer to me, I knew them just as much as they did me.
I wonder what it would have been like to visit it five to ten years from now, I started thinking whether I would still hear everyone from GEM. It was a relief to know that throughout all the changes we went through after leaving, one place remains still, waiting for us to walk through its streets again. The round tables in GEM had already been filled with the new wave of students, case studies out and in obvious group meetings.
This was the moment I knew I had reached home, even when the faces weren’t exactly the same. The wind still was and that was all that really mattered.