Eid, for all the people who weren’t there

Sometimes I wish I could record some memories in my head in a way that lets me relive them in absolute totality; including the sounds and touches, and definitely the smells.

How wonderful would it feel to be able to relive a loved one’s touch after you’ve parted.

Today we finished a long and very loud and crowded lunch with parts of my family I’ve been familiar with for years, and others I’ve met again as grown ups. As the day came to an end I stood outside, still hopeful that more members of the family will walk past and decide to pay us a visit; and then I see my grandmother’s neighbor, whom I used to know when I was knee-high; with a child around his arm and the other in his brother’s arms, both content they smile up at me looking down at them from the balcony. It’s absolutely crazy because I remember them being very young, but always older than I was, and now they have little ones of their own who will see me waving from the balcony but will never really remember me from that point on. But their sight just warmed my heart; the whole evening did.

If you’ve never been to Lebanon in Eid time, let me tell you what you can expect.

A lot of food.

yeah.

Food.

But mainly, conversation between every bite, and very raw laughter. Between every spoonful, heartfelt concern, and newer conversation with details and wishes and mutual understandings. Click clacks of forks and knives and political opinions spread on a plate of overfilled rice, and between every grain is something I couldn’t find anywhere I went. My grandmother’s place turns into a hub of voices; from warm and concerned ones to tired or excited ones. Voices I’ve heard around me ever since I could start telling them apart, and voices I’ve recently met. When it’s not voices it’s footsteps, cautious and slow from the people I hold dear to my heart, to rapid and jumpy from little ones that can’t seem to get ahold of themselves. and when it’s not footsteps it’s chews, loud, and unrefined laughter, absolutely unfiltered.  And it’s at that moment that I wish I could press record, when I’m just focused on this moment right now, not worried about anything else to come later, that moment when life could be summed up into one evening in a house so very used to people, you hear their echo years after they’ve gone.

 

It was only at 11pm tonight, as I was brushing my teeth and simultaneously singing at the top of my lungs in the bathroom with Ariana Grande live in Manchester on my phone, fist bumping to the air, that I realized how amazing unity through music makes us feel.

Her there, and I here; she’ll never know that this 21 year old was also in the crowd with her, in Dubai living their exact moment.

The F word

I usually write about little things that happen to me during the day, that mark me in a way or another.

Today, I want to write about fear.

The first thought to come to mind as the reason why I would write about this now is the fact that I have just watched V for Vendetta (yes, for the first time, I know it has been out for a long time, I had just never gotten the chance to watch it, although the DVD has been sitting there in my drawer for years.) and it ignited a little fire in me that doesn’t seem to want to go off. At 11pm Dubai time, here I am feeling the strong need to stand up. It’s crazy what movies do to us (and kind of great).

But then again, the subject of fear relates to an experience I had exactly one week ago from today.

Seven days ago I took a 7-and-a-half-hour flight from Lyon to Dubai, which I was generally used to. This was not my first flight, and definitely not my last; and during that flight the pilot called for all passengers and flight attendants to get back to their seats due to turbulence (that was also not my first turbulence call). I was sitting next to a couple going on their honeymoon to the Seychelles if I remember correctly, and they had a connecting flight in Dubai.

I usually don’t pray on a daily basis, but it just so happens that every time I have a flight to take, I say a prayer before we take off, just because it calms my nerves.

The plane started shaking, the shudders were usual and nothing I haven’t experienced before, and then it started escalating, and small vibrations quickly became small left-to-right swings, just writing about it now makes my stomach clench exactly the way it did on that plane. Quickly enough my body shivered more extensively than the plane itself, and I felt an unprecedented level of fear run through it, from the strands of my hair to my ankles, to my fingernails and the soles of my feet. I felt, legitimately, like I was dying; and there was nothing, and no one that could stop it.

My heart felt like it was going at a faster pace than the plane, I could not talk, see or breathe anymore, and what was driving me insane was the fact that I was not in control of the situation, and it kept stretching on for minutes.

Long story short, I’m in Dubai now, alive and on the ground and I was an absolute nightmare to the poor two sitting beside me as they had to switch seats and move upfront, as I got to talk to one of the flight attendants, once again, just to calm my nerves. She talked to me about everything and anything; about where I lived, what my plans are for the moment, who I will be seeing in Dubai, I was pretty sure she was instructed to do so, as a flight attendant approaching someone in panic. But there came a moment when she touched on the elephant in the room, and I was still surprised by how much what she said affected me. We talked about fear, as if I had never talked about it before. I realized that fear sometimes controlled my life and the things that I did, at times without me even being aware of it. I feared small and bigger things that had either minor or substantial impacts. I feared things such as taking two Panadol pills instead of one, and I feared confronting individuals in my life. I feared not remembering all the information I needed to remember before a very important exam, and I feared disappointing the people that loved me. I fear the outcomes of the things that I say and even more the things that I don’t. I fear letting people into my life and getting them out of it. I fear judgement and I do admit it; judgment from those who love me and from those who aren’t even involved in my life. I fear the loss of people I care about and that care about me, and sometimes I fear my own thoughts. I fear losing touch with some people and losing the feeling of their touch on my skin.

The point is this chronic fright has lead me to situations where I thought I was actually dying when I really wasn’t, that emotionally or physically. I was recently asked what it is exactly that I feared, to which I had no answer to, because it was everything and nothing all at once, and it was then that I realized that some really great moments in life lie just behind that gigantic black hole that is fear. That F word that I keep using senselessly, labelling it on the things that matter and the things that don’t.

I’ve been working on this part of myself for a bit of time now, but the more years pass by and the more complicated problems tend to seem, it is not about taking an extra Panadol pill or searching for symptoms of a momentary sickness on Google. Problems had layers that I had to peel and fear just seeps into them like bacteria you can’t really see.

So here it is, written somewhere on the internet and permanently on my laptop and in my head. I will try to do some things that scare me to my core, knowing that either way if it’s a good or a bad outcome, I will have to face it. This prison is like no other, you are already free, you just have to get up and walk straight out of fear to freedom, and I can only imagine how good it will taste and how my shoulders will feel after all the weight of years and words has been lifted off them.

 

The comfort in change

Ask anyone that has spent their adolescent years in Dubai, and they will tell you that one thing is clear; people come and go.

I’ve always thought of Dubai as a waiting room. It was usually clear to me that this was not the final destination. My parents were going to go back to Lebanon at some point; my brother and I were going to study abroad after we graduated, and then maybe get a job in Dubai for a few years and then leave. It was a waiting room for everyone I’ve ever met, either people with me in school, leaving with their parents to continue life back in their hometown because circumstances have lead up to this point, or people I’ve worked with that just know that they will stay in their jobs for two years and then leave somewhere else. I’ve never met anyone whose final destination was Dubai, unless they were going to raise a family (and even then, Dubai was constantly followed by until further notice). And that should be a given, because the majority of the people that I’m referring to are expatriates (including myself); and we all are currently doing something that takes a couple of weeks/months/years until the plan changes.

What aggravated me the most about it was the fact that it was inevitable that people would leave, and they all did. Some people stayed for university but all others are scattered around here and there, never really at home, never really lost.

It turns out that this was never only about getting used to change and understanding circumstances, it was mainly about getting used to the fact that most things simply are temporary.

I remember dreading the house moves (we’ve moved houses around 4 times while staying in Dubai, it’s not uncommon), and then moving to another country for three years, and then moving to another continent, and you end up finding parts of yourself in some places you lived in, and also end up leaving bits of yourself in these places, and in some people too. We leave footprints that are much more complex than passport security stamps and crossed borders. We’ve travelled to many more places than we’d like to admit, that we sadly won’t have a stamp to prove of because the only proof we’ll ever have will inevitably have to be traced in our heads.

I’m currently sitting amongst the overwhelming clutter in my dorm room in France; the reason for the clutter is the obvious packing, and once again I find myself in a bitter-sweet situation where I want things to stay the same, but at the same time the usual reshaping is already taking place, and I don’t really have a say in it.

I really do wonder sometimes if there will ever be a constant. But then again I wonder if I would want that.

I think that’s why we cherish particular moments so much; if they’d always happen, they’d probably lose their value. It’s the fact that you can lose them from today to tomorrow that makes you grab on. Because the only thing permanent about moments is their bitter-sweet unfortunate exceptional temporariness.

The voice of a Sunday in Grenoble

Sundays to me feel especially relaxed and laid back, which is why I enjoy finishing up some work that has to be done for the upcoming week, most probably because stress is minimized; people stay in bed all day and most shops are closed.

It’s usually pleasantly quiet. As I was working on my laptop, reading up on some faint concepts of brand management, I squint at my paper, tracing my notes, trying to glue the information to my head, when I suddenly hear a voice coming from outside my dorm-room. Immediately thinking it’s either my upstairs or downstairs neighbor, I don’t really pay attention to it.

I go back to my notes, still hearing the voice coming from somewhere I can’t really point out, I start recognizing a very familiar tune.

In a rush of unexpected disbelief, I drop my pen and hurry to my balcony, as I was hearing an Arabic song that I had recognized, called Fo2 el Nakhal. I tried to be very quiet in order to know where the sound was coming from, and whether the person was in my building, as I still managed to listen to him sing the entire song.

As quiet as it was in a little street in Grenoble, France, not many engines running or people talking, the only thing you could hear was his voice echoing in the quiet street. I stayed outside for about two minutes with my feet firmly stuck to the cold floor, tip toeing from the third floor of a student residency, trying to see if this person was on his balcony.

It was heartwarming to hear the familiar tune, even though I’ll never be able to link a face to the voice, but for a second a Sunday in Grenoble felt a lot like a Sunday in Beirut.

 

My teacher asked me to write this.

My day started with 11 coughs in a row, 2 Panadol pills, a blocked nose and a sore throat. For the second week in a row.

I’m personally convinced that I have discovered a new species of bacteria and living organisms inside my body, as I feel nothing human in me anymore.

You see people usually get sick for a few days, but I have managed to become one with the virus. As I fight my way through morning agony and unbearable sunshine, I drag my sorry little legs to school. A two minute walk that feels like a 2 mile hike. What’s even more incomprehensible is that I live with a roommate that wakes up literally twenty minutes before the class, and always, and I mean ALWAYS, manages to arrive to class before me. I don’t understand how she does it, it’s really beyond me how I wake up at 7:20 am for an 8am class and I still manage to be late every. single. day. 

I looked at her this morning, and she looked back at me, and I felt her questioning my decision to brush my teeth in the living room, but she did not ask, and I would not have bothered to answer.

Regardless, I arrive to class and the brouhaha hits me like a brick wall, as most things do nowadays. It’s a constant buzz in your ear, but then again, I’ve gotten used to it, and it helps get your mind off things when you feel like death is a few sneezes and Panadol pops away.

We meet with our groups, the ones that I saw a couple of hours ago (last night, working on our presentations, a constant and ongoing, never-ending state in GEM school, where social life slowly disappears, so does rationality… and sanity, but who needs those right?)

and now I’m behind my keyboard, writing this post, word after word as the teachers glares at my screen from the back. Wishing this keyboard was a cushion and this chair a bed. I’m going home.