friends


I used to belong to the smokers club. I carried my own pack and worried about where my lighter went. I sucked on the stick and hung out in the herd of other smokers. But I stopped 11 years ago. And in those 11 years I have not only cleaned my system from that toxin, but my lungs became so sensitive to the smoke that hung in the air that I would spend nights hacking away and coughing up all that second hand smoke when I was exposed to it.  And so my home is a smoke free place, as is my work space. But what that has meant is that I have committed social suicide to some extent. I have definitely died socially when I get stubborn about attending or being present in social gatherings with smoke.



My friends are all very considerate when it comes to smoking around me, they remove themselves or are very conscious about which hand the cigarette is in, or make sure to blow out their fumes away from me. When I would throw a party everyone respects the rules and goes outside. I also had a group of non smoking friends who would also love the nonsmoking policy around me.  But these days I am finding myself more and more in the minority. Sometimes even a minority of one. Let me put it in context from my perspective. Beirut is a night time city, social life revolves around bars, restaurants, clubs. Eighty to ninety percent of people (conservative estimate) who frequent these establishments are smokers, ventilation systems and air conditioners are plentiful but I dread the thought of looking at their filters and find them ineffectual when these places are full beyond capacity and every nook and cranny has a lit cigarette with a passionate sucker on its end.  So unless you have a gas mask on you are going to inevitably inhale all that fabulous second hand smoke, your hair is going to stink and you clothes are going in the wash immediately, even your underwear. And this is not unique to Beirut, Amman has its fair share of smoky entertainment venues.


And it’s not just when you are out and about. Visiting with friends zis a nightmare for me because not only am I slowly forming these relationships and so am still a guest rather than an “insider”, but again I am a minority so I don’t feel I have the social space to say “please stop smoking”. And so, through peer pressure, and because I want social inclusion I am forced to deal with the smoke or be excluded. Even in their consideration, smokers fail to realize how isolating and exclusionary it is when there is one nonsmoker and they all go out to the balcony or kitchen to smoke. And since they are all hanging out there what is originally a 3 minute smoke easily turns into a balcony party without thought to the person left behind. Its as if there is this expectations that as a nonsmoker I have to deal with this, it’s my problem and so my options are to open a window, or stay and breathe the smoke,  or sit apart from the group, or not attend in the first place, or be the asshole that says no to smoking.


I am pissed off at how inconsiderate smokers are, even when they are trying to be “considerate”. I am sad that I am always sitting on the edge, outside the group so I can breathe some clean or less polluted air. I am tired of being left out or behind or not even considered. Your considerations are isolating, exclusionary and antisocial; and this binary of either join the club at the expense of my health or be on the social fringe is unfair. I really don’t understand this sense of entitlement smokers have about their “right” to pollute the air.


So dear smokers, your body is yours to do what you wish with it, but to think that you can spew poison out for all to breathe and then say to me either breathe my smoke or be left out is to me one of the most isolating things you can do, its is selfish and inconsiderate. And as a people person who likes to be in the middle of the dance floor I am deeply saddened and disturbed by this majority who enforces upon the minority its exclusionary practices especially within circles of so-called inclusion.

The perfect guest is to some an elusive concept, but I disagree I don’t think the perfect guest is impossible to find. Trust me I should know, I have a revolving door in my house with a constant stream of guests, I’ve also spent five years of my life placing others in people’s homes. Some of the people that have stayed with me have been fantastic and have become lifelong friends, whereas others have left such horrible lasting images in my mind, that I cringe at the thought of them. Most people fall somewhere in between. So I was thinking what are the things that make you a good guest in my home? Here is a list, it’s not exhaustive or objective- I am sure we have different ideas of what makes a good guest and it will differ based on who is the guest.

1-      Replace the toilet paper and fill the ice tray! It’s as simple as telling your host she’s out or do just it yourself! And if you have stayed for a while buying more TP!

2-      Wash your dishes- really your host is not your servant.

3-      Pick up after yourself- this applies to gadgets, clothes, plates, papers…etc. Again not your servant.

4-      Ask before using- things maybe special have a special way of working or just not for your consumption!

5-      If you break/ damage something fix it, replace it or offer to!

6-      Offer to cook for your host or take them out to dinner or something – it’s always nice.

7-      Spend some time with your host, even if its just a morning coffee.

8-      Try to be considerate of cultural norms, and by that I don’t just mean different regional cultures but also home cultures, things like wearing slippers, meal times and such.

9-      Always leave the place as you found it or in better condition. I really hate picking up other people’s trash and cleaning up after them!

10-  Finally, try and leave a thank you note- they always put a smile on my face and I have kept each one that was left behind. It reminds me of the good times and makes me forget the not so good times.

So, if you are staying at mine, do remember these little things, it will make not just your stay more pleasant, it will mean that an invitation will be extended to you again and again and again.

Ahlan wa Sahlan!

So really I am not big on organized religion or religious rituals but there is something special for me about Ramadan. It is if anything a family time when my dysfunctional family puts most of its dysfunctionality aside and we gather for the iftar meal around one table. Sometimes we are passive aggressive yet most times we are civil. It is a time for me to bring friends to the family home, to break bread to commune together. It has been the norm for 33 years.

The first of Ramadan is especially special because we as a family have our ritualistic meal of all white dishes to kick off the month. We don’t accept invitations on the first of Ramadan but I have always cheated and invited some to ours on this day because I truly believe no one should be alone on the first of Ramadan- especially if they are fasting! The first of Ramadan meal is the one meal throughout the year that we can count on. It consists of sweet corn chicken soup (for its milky white color), chicken fateh (for the white yogurt it has on top and the white meat), fatoush (with white radishes in it), and cheese burak made from scratch and cheese atayef (both stuffed with white goat cheese). Everything is white for good luck and to start off the month with the symbolism that white embodies.

This year though it doesn’t feel like Ramadan. Nothing on the streets, in the shops or even on people’s faces says it’s Ramadan. I actually had to double check with friends if it is so! This saddens me for not only am I missing my favorite meal of the year, I feel I am missing out on the great excuse to come together with friends and family to eat copious amounts of food, complain about the boredom and restrictiveness that is Ramadan, among other things. Ramadan is to me ingrained as a cornerstone of the year a cultural marker of my life that is changing and slowly slipping away. I know that some of my friends will be envious of my stay in Beirut where nothing will change and the restaurants, bars and banks all stay open for business as usual. But you know I miss the business as unusual, the good, the bad and the ugly of it!

Ramadan Kareem to those of you that celebrate in every which way you do. Please have an extra piece of atayef for me.

Last week I heard the unfortunate news of Abu Firas’ passing. He died of a heart attack in his sleep. I was saddened and  at the same time happy when I heard the news. You see Abu Firas was an amazing man who I trusted, loved and shared a lot of traffic time with. He was one of the few drivers I used constantly when in Amman. He had been integral to my social and professional lives. He was special and so even though I am sad he has left us, I am happy that he had a painless  quick and simple death. To go in your sleep is perhaps one of the best ways to go, and knowing that he worked hard for that good death is reassuring. He deserved it.

For those of you that don’t know him, Abu Firas was a man you could count on to be where you needed him, when you needed him. He was patient, driving for hours in the heat or the cold in his old beat up car and in the new one. When you needed him to wait outside for “10 minutes” he waited the half hour and the hour and never got annoyed. He was funny with his falafel, George Bush and Tony Blair, and donkey driving  jokes that many of us heard over and over again.  He was honest even when he over charged us. We knew he was over charging us and he knew it, but he also he knew when to give us a break and when we should give him a break. He was the lynchpin that connected so many of us , never forgot any of his customers, for he always asked, always, about old friends that have left and new that he just met. He was dependable and ran many errands for me and others alike picking up, dropping off and collecting all sorts of goods from all over the city. He had an amazing memory for places not just because he was a cab driver, but he cared and made it a point to know. We even had our own names for the neighborhoods and the streets because of all the errands we ran together. He was who you called in the middle of the night to pick you up even if you had no money because you could always pay him next time. His passing, to me, marks the end of an era. No longer will I be able to call him and ask for a ride when the sun is high and the traffic murderous. No longer will he wait patiently when the sky is dark and the streets empty and unwelcoming to take me safely home. No longer will he pick up my mail at the post office and bring it home to me when I visit Amman. No longer will he wave as he whizzes by me on the street and call out my name.

I got one last ride with Abu Firas and we chatted and looked after each along the way , each in our own way. I am glad I could say good bye to him, for I was at the airport, and airport farewells are somewhat more resonating than the quick thank you in the city.  Good bye dear man, you will be remembered. He was special.

Abu Firas

One Last Ride

I will soon be 32 and I have been asked what I want for my birthday whether it be for celebrations or for gifts. These questions got me thinking about past birthdays and gifts and what they’ve meant to me. I’ve done the crazy parties with the cakes and sparklers and massive amounts of booze, the traveling for my birthday and the quiet dinners. But this year I want something different, and I know exactly what I want.

This year what I want involves none of the above in any way, shape or form. This year I do not want any parties in bars or restaurants or cafes. I do not want any celebrations with cake, or alcohol or food. I do not want all that money spent for such a selfish and self centered purpose. My birthday! There have been many and who knows there may be many more too. But I do not want to be the excuse for a night of drunken revelry, I do not want massive amounts of food consumed at some lavish dinner in an expensive restaurant, I do not want anyone to go out of their way for me to celebrate in frivolity a day that comes a long often enough and there is really nothing special about it except that I popped out from between my mother’s legs like thousands if not millions of others on that day.

I do not want any gifts either not matter how big or small, grand or symbolic for I have enough stuff in my life and I am trying to get rid of a lot of it! There is nothing I really need at this moment in time and the things I want I can do without. So thank you but no thank you.

When I made these declarations to my friends their faces were so puzzled, confused and some were upset and said that was unacceptable! And so I told them that what would make me happy instead was for them to do something selfless, something that gives back to the community, something outside themselves and me.

One of my favorite quotes is “Be the change you want to see in the world” by Ghandi and this year this is what I want for my birthday. And so to celebrate I want organize an event that gives back to the community in some way or form. That recognizes the pleasure in working together to make a difference. If there is any money to be spent then it would be on the event and it should go towards your local community. And if you insist on giving me a gift then make a donation in my name to an organization that makes a difference to people’s lives like a cancer foundation, orphanages, NGOs that work on community development, and if you don’t want to give cash then clean out your closet and give the things you don’t want to people who can use them like the Gaza aid souk or the King Hussein center for the mentally disabled, or Ruwwad in Jabal Al Natheef, if you want to do this and don’t know how give me a call and I can help you or just drop things off with me and I can take care of it. Spend a day volunteering. If even that is too much trouble then just do something nice for a stranger in the street, it can be that simple.

If you still insist on giving me something personal then give me a good memory. Walk with me in the streets or Jabal Amman, come over and watch a movie, let’s have a good conversation, send me a letter or an email or help me paint a new bookcase I’m getting, take a picture and send it to me. I will also personally be arranging an outdoor activity that will focus on giving something back to the world we live in. Let me know if you want to be part of that activity, it will make me really happy to spend time with my friends doing something along those lines and I will post it here once the details are sorted out.

Help me be the change I want to see in this world we live in and embody some of the ideals and beliefs that I have. Yes I am an idealist and to some I may be foolish, but I think we can make a difference one small step at a time. Will you walk with me?

My body aches for Gaza and in a good way. Last night I was one of the lucky few who went to the ARAMEX warehouse in Qastal to help with the donations campaign for Gaza. There were nearly a hundred volunteers working last night. We prepared packages of food for our brethren in Gaza.

What amazes me is how tirelessly everyone worked pitching in with a smile working as a team. Many of us came as strangers and we left as strangers, but throughout we worked as one family… a team. Helping each other, working together, knowing that at the end of this day we have helped many.

Last night when I spoke to organizers of the group we had unloaded between 12-15 truckloads of donations and packed upwards of 900 boxes of aid, and yet we were a handful of volunteers.

The warehouse is massive to say the least, it is full with donations ranging from medical supplies, food, hygiene products, clothing, blankets and tents and every other random item you can think of. Children, youth and adults, men and women were all there. No one is too young or too old to help. Everyone can make a difference. There is so much work to do that I am calling out again to each and every one I know and don’t know.

If you have to go to the gym, this is defiantly a work out. If you want meet friends, then bring them here for an hour or two. If you have a family engagement then ask them to donate too. That argileh can wait, that meal, that coffee wont miss you as much as the children will miss warmth, and food.

Each one of us makes choices everyday on what to do, where to go, what to eat… we are privileged. Use that privilege; make that choice come help us sort out donations today, tomorrow, and everyday until we are done. Does Palestine, does Gaza not deserve two or three hours of your time? Come and let your body ache too and in a good way!

For more information go to 7iber.com where you can see pictures, videos and get directions of all the good work we are doing.

Its that time of the year when consumerism is at its best and we all go on these shopping frenzies all over the world. Whether it’s the holidays or the sales is up for debate, but I do know that there is a better way to spend your money than on that unwanted and unneeded pair of reindeer socks.

 

A friend of mine sent me an email a couple of days ago with a great idea (thanks AK). She has asked us all to give ourselves health insurance. Now you may think she works for a health insurance company or is trying to get something out of it but no, that is not the case. She has asked that we all buy a plan from The King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC).

 

 

 

 

Some of you may be covered through your office health insurance plans or through a parent’s plan, a spouse’s or even your school and so may have no need for more health insurance. But this is a plan with a twist. Buying an insurance plan from the KHCC helps cover you in case of the need for cancer treatment. But that is not what is really cool about this health insurance. The money you pay towards your health insurance actually gets used to cover cancer patients’ medical costs. It helps those that are in need fight this unforgiving and indiscriminant disease.

 

The plans are affordable and go a long way in fighting the battle against cancer. So if you are out shopping, buying gifts, spending money think about buying yourself, or someone dear, a gift that keeps on giving.

 

Here are the options for insurance (valid for a year):

Age                              Paid Amount JD/Year                   Insurance Amount

 

1 day-34 years                        10 JD                                       10,000 JD

                                                23 JD                                       20,000 JD

 

35 years-49 years                   25 JD                                       10,000 JD

                                                58 JD                                       20,000 JD

 

50 years-64 years                   45 JD                                       10,000 JD

                                               104 JD                                     20,000 JD

 

65 years-Above                       70 JD                                       10,000 JD

                                                161 JD                                     20,000 JD       


All you need to do is fill out a form with your national number, date of birth and sign it. Six months after they receive the form the insurance will be activated. You have to pay the insurance amount in full (10-161 JD which ever insurance works for you).

 

For more information contact

 

 

King Hussein Cancer Foundation
P.O. Box 35102
Amman 11180 Jordan
Telephone: + 962 6 4617555
Facsimile: + 962 6 4618999
E-mail:
info.foundation@KHCC.jo

 

I hope you never have to use this insurance but help those who do. Get your insurance now and be a giver to those who need it the most.

Have you ever had the feeling like you don’t belong? You are from another time or place? Looking back and looking around me I know I am a misfit. It doesn’t matter where I am or who I’m with or even what I’m doing, I’ve just always had the feeling that I don’t belong.


I think my first awareness of this came at the age of 13 when I first moved to Jordan. It didn’t matter what  school I was in, which cousins I played with, what activity I was doing. I never quite fit in. My first set of friends in Jordan were from high school. We met in that first week of school where everybody knew everybody and nobody knew us. The six of us banded together through our differences, our weirdness, our stories and together we became friends despite all that. We accepted each other despite not liking each other at first. Today my longest standing relationship is with those friends. We still have our fundamental differences but when we get together we are still accepting of each other and enjoy each other’s company. I truly believe to this day we are a band of misfits trying to navigate our way through the world.

 

 

But moving to the present that feeling of being on the periphery has never really gone away.  Even amongst friends and surrounded by people I consider close, many a time I feel I am an observer, standing in the corner watching, observing, but not partaking. Not one for cliques or groups, always inside but on the outside. A misfit.


I guess I have resigned myself to the fact I will always be a misfit, at work, at home, with friends, in cliques, in clubs… amongst the girls, and amongst the boys. It may mean going it alone a lot and maybe even being lonely. But the flip side of that is that I have stronger personal bonds with individuals rather than groups. It’s the way I am and I don’t really think I mind being a misfit. Its like that toy the ball with different shaped holes in it and you have blocks or pieces in different shapes that you need to fit through the right shape to get in. Well the thing is my shape keeps changing. I am never a square, triangle or circle .And yes it means I am on the outside most of the time, but at least I am not penned in with all the other shapes that fit through the hole. Trapped inside a cage of norms, customs and beliefs. I am an ever changing shape that will not fit in, I just may fit ever now and then.

This past weekend I met the youngest person I know. I met baby Melon, who is still a baby in the womb. I had the privilege of escorting the expecting mommy to her doctor’s appointment. I’m not one to get excited bout babies or child birth and anything revolving around this topic, but I must say this was exciting. 

As the doctor moved the machine around the belly we got to see the baby lying there sleeping. We saw its hands up near its face, its long legs (takes on after the father there :D). We also glimpsed the baby’s belly and its tinny tiny stomach. But the most exciting thing was its face, there it was with eyes closed, a cute little nose, its chin, a big forehead, and little lips. It was a cute thing sleeping in there. We even got to see the baby’s brain. That visit was the coolest thing I did this weekend.

As we left I look over to my friend and told her its funny, I cant relate to babies in general, but this one is different. My relationship with Melon has started before the baby has come out into the world, and I think that will make all the difference.


By the way we call the baby Melon because we don’t know what gender it is yet and that how it will be until Melon pops out and says hello with a big old scream.

The other day I was helping a friend organize her pictures. She is never far away from her camera and is ready to snap away when you aren’t. We can always depend on her to capture and document the moments of time that we are all together.


After we were done organizing I started to sift through the albums, and there it all was. I laughed, smiled, was horrified, was shocked, and was sometimes surprised at what I saw. Our friend has documented our lived through these pictures, the good, the bad and the ugly in full color. I saw all of last year’s memories in front of me. Things I thought only existed in my faulty memory, and things I had deleted from my consciousness were all there. There I was, as were others, forever immortalized in full color prints, sorted chronologically and filed in indexed albums. 


I am not sure how I feel about the whole matter. I used to be a believe that if its not worth remembering then it wasn’t that good. However with a faulty memory my belief faltered. Seeing some of those pictures I was able to relive some great emotions and good times. I was also seeing some really bad fashion choices, bad hair days, and not so great poses! All of this was now immortalized.


I’m horrified that not the best of me is preserved. But does it really matter? It only shows I’m human and thus flawed, not always picture perfect. The other more important question for me is Do I want to relive all the emotions and feelings of the past? Do I want to go back in time to the things I want to forget? Isn’t forgetfulness a blessing?

The flip side of this is since we forget there will always be a record. We’ll be able to see old friends and new, people who have come and gone from our lives. A history in pictures serves as a reminder of who, what, where, and how, and somehow that’s not a bad thing at all.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 994 other followers