world


I’ve been traveling continuously since April 2009. My stay in any one place averages between two and three weeks. And in between all that travel I have moved countries. Why am I telling you all this? Because the number of times I get asked what do you do? How can I get your job? Or hear the statement “I want your life” has been in direct contradiction of how I feel about all this travel.

When all this jet setting started I was excited about it. I was going to new places, seeing new things, doing new things. But slowly  the wonder and excitement of anything new has been replaced with the more practical considerations of where to get a new SIM card, how do I get online, where is a good cheap and healthy place to eat, how long is the lay over…etc. Every place became just another hotel room or bed to crash on and with a focus on the task at hand, wondering when I will see my pillow again. It also meant that I could not focus on moving into Beirut, a place I found impregnable and hostile mostly because I wasn’t here to try to make it home (among other reasons I won’t go into now). I was always missing things because I was in the wrong city at the wrong time.

So here is a word of caution to all those that want a life of constant travel. You lose the wonder of new places. You end up going home to clean and do laundry and repack for your next trip with maybe a social event or two. Your social life is mostly online since you are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. People are always mad at you for not making the time to see them or for missing their events. You wake up sometimes not knowing where you are or where you are going next! Your wallet is full of the wrong currency and you always have the wrong map or no map.

On the flip side, you get to know the tips and tricks of various airports and how to get to the immigration line ahead of all the crazy lines. You know which airports offer free Wi Fi (because paying for it is against my religion, but paying for the coffee isnt). You have favorite haunts all over the world and can give insider tips to friends about random and not so random places. You learn to say hello and thank you in different languages and brush up on body language since its universal- just make sure you have the right dialect. You get to see people you miss and make new friends who’s path you would never have crossed otherwise.

But to be honest, and even with all those perks, I just want some time at home. I want to finish that paint job, get plugged into the art scene, actually make friends and not acquaintances, finish projects rather than just suggest ideas for others to maybe take on and well, settle into this new city I now call home. So I’m putting my passport away for a few months and I currently have no travel plans, so come visit and lets explore Beirut together and make that list grow from 10 to 20 and more.

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Mouthing off- Anita Kunz

Mouthing off- Anita Kunz

Yesterday I was in the elevator about to leave the office, I pressed GF to go down but instead it went up. It opened on the 5th floor and there a man was waiting. He was a construction worker and it was clear he thought that because of our varying class difference he should wait till I was done and call back the elevator. I thought that was silly, we both want to go down to the ground floor, and what a waste of time and energy. We are both human, what is this silliness of class and gender! But it seems the invitation to the ride the elevator meant that it was an invitation to harass. He looked me up and down, his pelvis made the slightest move closer and with a sly look on his face he winked. I shouted at him in the angriest and most assertive of my voices “NO”. His body crumbled and his demeanor became that of shame, he looked away and mumbled “Istagfur allah”, god forgive. We left the elevator.

This is the latest incident of a lifetime of incidents. I have normalized, and for too long, the harassment I endure at the hands of men. Growing up I have been stared at, touched, called out at and, and, and… but I learned to ignore, and become oblivious to it. I lived in a bubble where, in my mind, I was not objectified. Two years ago that changed. A friend of mine came to my house and started a conversation; she asked me “what do you do when you get harassed?” And I immediately said “I don’t get harassed.” What a farce, I get harassed on a regular basis, everyday is an assault of some sort, I just became very good at using defensive tactics that made me invisible, protected me, or just allowed me to disassociate from the stares, the following, the “accidental” brushing, the catcalling…etc.

Throughout the last two years I have worked with my dear friend on an initiative to combat this assault and take a more assertive stand on harassment. We are still working on it. While on this journey I have taken myself out of my bubble and taken notice of every transgression on my body, my being, my soul and I have reacted. I no longer disassociate but instead I engage by being more vocal, more aware and more assertive. Not just with the offenders but with other women too, learning from them and exchanging with them strategies, ideas and tools for dealing with the abuse. For example, last year I was walking down a street in downtown Amman. This man looks at my breasts lustfully and says in the sleaziest of tones “Shu hal ibizaz” (look at those tits). Had I been in my bubble I would have just kept walking without even hearing or acknowledging what he said. That is not what happened. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. I filled my lungs with air and started to tell him off in my loudest of voices, the point was to turn the shame towards him and attract attention to him (shaming the offender and exposing him was one the strategies we talked about and it worked). Being the coward that he was he quickly lowered his head and with a fearful and stricken look on his face he scuttled along quickly like the rat that he is, people were looking at him rather than at me and wondering what did he do, rather than what did I do. I walked away head held high knowing that I stood up for myself and countless other women. I knew that next time, as I am sure there will be a next time, this lowlife will think twice and maybe thrice before calling out at a woman.

These daily acts of violence and aggression, whether physical or not, mean that I have to change how I deal with the world and I hate it. I hate that men like the two I mention leave within me a bad feeling of distrust, anger, and aggression towards mankind. I hate that every time I try to be nice to a man he takes it as invitation to assault my being or body in some way or form. I hate that I have to always be on alert, on guard, suspicious of acts of kindness and withholding acts of kindness. But I have decided to turn that hate, anger and mistrust in to an act of empowerment.

I have experienced firsthand what the power of sharing, talking and exposing these acts of harassment can do, and so I am going to write, talk and expose these acts every time they happen. I will not be silenced, I am not a victim. It is my right to walk down the street with the respect and rights due to me and my body. And when those rights are taken away I will not wait for someone to “rescue” me or fight on my behalf. I can do it myself.

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?

For those of you that want to protest but are not into demonstrations or want to do more than donate here are a few media and art initiatives that are alternatives you may want to explore. Please note that I am only aggregating these and do not have more information than is posted. Please contact the persons indicated for more information.

 


Initiative 1: Compass To Palestine

Person: Inas Bseiso

Contacts:

email- inasbseiso@gmail.com

facebook: Inas H Bseiso

 

As a response to the continuous suffering of the Palestinian people, I am initiating a project titled Compass to Palestine.

 

Monument, art installation, expression, contribution- these are just some of the words that I can use to describe it.

 

Please read the brief excerpt below and forward to your contacts.

 

Waiting for your feedback,

 

Best,

Inas Bseiso

 

 

Compass To Palestine

 

We honor our dead

Our dead are not numbers, they had stories.

Put a face to every number

Tell a story for every number

All photos and stories will be mounted on a compass

The arrow of the compass leads to Palestine

This compass will be designed and sculpted by volunteering artists and designers

The compass will be built on a piece of land in Jordan

The compass will be a living commemoration of the heroic sacrifices of the people of GAZA on the path to Palestine

The compass will be a living commemoration of the hope of freedom for people under occupation

Preserve the dignified memory of our dead

Your help is needed

 

*******

Send pictures and stories to inasbseiso@gmail.com or Inas H Bseiso on Facebook

 

Initiative 2: Media Initiative for GAZA

Person: Huda Shashaa

Contact: huda_shashaa@jrf.org.jo

 

A group of 4 Jordanian women have come together in response to the appalling attacks of Israel against Gaza, to give voice to the victims of this war and speak of the atrocities so hesitantly covered by western media channels. To date, the world remains silent as both Western and Arab leaders complacently watch another Israeli attack against the starving and imprisoned population of 1.5 million Gazans. 

 

The objective of this weekly discussion will be to reflect on the week’s atrocities against Gazans and work to debunk many of the lies and rhetoric used to justify Israel’s aggression and subsequently deflect attention from the real issues at hand. 

 

Each discussion will be 10-15 minutes, once a week, and will be structured to reach the largest number of people in the western world. 

 

We have had enough and we will no longer be silenced.

 

What it takes:

 

  • 5 dedicated women willing to discuss the topic in an educated manner. These women must be well-read and capable of expressing themselves in English in a captivating and passionate way.
  • Researchers to compile numbers of casualties, news and relevant articles. 
  • Producer to develop the program for each episode (the flow) 
  • Guest speakers
  • Dedicated camera crew

 

 

Initiative 3: Video Messages

Person:

Contacts:

Dear Friends,

 

Due to the ongoing Israeli aggression on Palestinian in Gaza, a group of activists in Jordan have come up with an idea to produce video testimonials or messages of people’s opinions on what’s happening in Gaza.

 

Instead of writing our opinions, we want to give faces and names to our voices, and break the stereotype of Arabs by showing people of all ages and classes speak their mind eloquently and directly to the camera.


Our target audience is the Western public. This can be achieved through sending these video messages to the western and international political and media figures such as President-elect Barak Obama‘s, the British PM , the French President, the head of the EU, the chairperson of the CNN and BBC and uploading these messages on their websites. We’re also aiming to upload these testimonials on websites such as U-Tube, TV channels.

 

Our goal is to saturate this medium with enough messages to create an audio-visual database of our voices. 


Each testimonial should not exceed 1 minute, with the content being every person’s name and nationality (city), their opinions in regards to what’s going on in Gaza, to demand a solution, or their interference to stop the Israeli aggression and/or the Israeli occupation. 

 

Of course every person is entitled to his/her opinion, but I urge you to take a look at the articles below and get an idea of the language used in order for us to speak the language that the West understands, and therefore create more powerful messages.

 

Since the duration of the testimonials is short please pick one thought and express it well.

 

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4933.shtml


http://www.mepeace.org/forum/topics/the-true-story-behind-this-war


http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/sheets.html


http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml


http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10056.shtml


http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/boycott-divestment-sanctions.shtml

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/02/israelandthepalestinians-barackobama


http://bit.ly/1zCC

 

If you are interested please get in touch with Salwa to facilitate your participation.

 

There are many more ways in which you can contribute. I will be more than happy to post these various initiatives if you send them my way. The killing must stop. People have to know we can not remain silent.

This past Eid holiday I decided very impulsively to go to Beirut. Everyone knows that Beirut is the playground of the Middle East, or should I say the night club of the Middle East? I have made numerous trips in which to partake in the bustling night life of a city that truly doesn’t sleep. But this time it was different, very different.

 

This time it was a trip into the mountains, a trip to the sea, north, south and east we went. Meeting friends and their families, I got to see Lebanon from a whole other perspective. In Alay I played with statues and sculptures, constructed and created there during sculpting symposiums since 2000. It was a lot of fun walking around them, touching them, sitting on them, contemplating them, and of course photographing them. Ending the day looking at the sun set over the Mediterranean from an old family home.

 

In the south we walked through old costal cities with citadels and old towns still in use with people living among ruins or in old ancient homes. Walkways, arches, and old stones spoke of a rich history that needs to be visited and explored again and again. And in between Saidah and Sour we detoured to a stream that was nestled near a hill. It was so inviting that I waded in and just stood there in clear refreshing water. We also went further south to land that was occupied and now free, we went to Qana and visited the sites of massacres (I will write later about this experience).

 

And after visiting the south, we went north the next day. Up into the hills where we hiked down stairs that snaked down the side of a mountain. We stopped numerous times to look down at the beautiful Mediterranean cost, shimmering below us. At the bottom of the stairs lay a small monastery in honor of The Virgin that appeared in light to two wandering souls. The men lived there where they saw her and worshipped in a cave.  The view was phenomenal and all we could think of was driving down and diving into the sea; and so we followed the road down to where it met the coast and though we couldn’t dive in we swam in clear deep waters.

 

It was a short trip and what time we spent in Beirut was spent by the sea or walking on foot. The city is a concrete jungle of many identities. It is a beautiful old lady. The obsession of the Lebanese with cosmetic surgery extends to their capital. The city is tired and old but it has been reconstructed, botoxed and made up in places, while others were being prepped for surgery; but throughout it all you can find pockets of authenticity and original beauty, still untouched. Beirut is a testament to its history even though there are no historical places to visit. You can find the beautiful old facades of colonial times and you can find the bombed out craters of a time past, new plazas and modern buildings are dispersed throughout the city, alongside preservation efforts. Beirut is a place you walk through aimlessly rather than with purpose.

 

Aimlessly, I went to Lebanon and I had a marvelous time. Lebanon and not just Beirut is a playground with something to offer every traveler. Next time you are in Lebanon try to go away from the shops, restaurants, bars and clubs and enjoy the country. Walk through its varied places. Enjoy it as it can be a very relaxing place with out all the night stimuli. 

Yesterday I bought a globe for a friend.. It was a joke, as she always has trouble finding places on the map. SO when I found a nice, fun looking globe I bought it for her, she could put it on her desk in her office and maybe win a geographical bet or two from now on, or just find Fuji or Qatar or any other random place. 

I found the gift amusing but she later referred to the globe as having the world between your hands.  What does that mean though? It got me thinking and I couldn’t really come up with any one answer. Here are some ideas to what that may mean. 

Having the world between your hands could be about being in control. Or is it to be fully satisfied? How about the epitome of success. Or is to be loved and to love? Is it the feeling that you are the most beautiful woman in the world, or even the sexiest? Is it to be as high as a kite? What about holding your own flesh and blood in your hands, is that the world? Is it the physical and mental satisfaction of climbing a mountain? What about conquering your fears? Is it that first orgasm? Can it be accepting your own mortality and thus your death? 

The world between your hands, as simple as holding a globe or more?