Friday, November 17, 2006

The List.

I always feel nervous when I am being controlled by authority, even if I theoretically know I have nothing to fret about. Like in Beirut when stopped at an impromptu checkpoint by the army. Or on the bus when they check my Oyster card. I feel 'guilty until proven innocent'. Or when I'm queuing for a party and I know I'm on the guest list, but a part of me feels that my name will have magically disappeared, or that I just imagined it all...

I went to a big invite-only party last night. A trashy rival magazine's birthday bash. My name was on the List, my colleague and I were both on the confirmation email of our names being on the List three hours before it was due to roll.
I get there on my kitsch bike, and take my place in the queue. They're all in groups, greasy teenagers with ripped tights, bleached manes, and thick-framed emo eyeglasses. I get to the lady with the clipboard. She's got the List. It feels like a test. "Your name?", I think she was chewing gum. She had bangs and a long ponytail, white killer heels and the attitude of a bitch.
She's got to be, she's in possession of the List.
"Your name?
- Rasha."
She chews her gum and looks over the List. I glance at the clipboard, but she notices and swiftly hides it from me, like the nerd schoolgirl who wants you to fail in class.
It's taking longer than I expected.
And then she turns to me and says:
"You're not on the list, step aside.
- What?! I should be on the list, S. put me on it today. My colleague's already inside.
- Sorry mate, step aside now, behind the rope."

Everyone's looking at me with a smirk. I'm a 'blagger'. I don't look like one, though, I'm not wearing any make-up, not wearing heels and my dress in made of wool for fuck's sake! Blaggers are tall, caked in green eye-shadow and pink foundation, and wear gold mini-skirts even in sub-zero celsius. I didn't fit the part, yet everyone was staring at me, an underdressed un-cool blagger in brown wool...

List-lady's assistant the bouncer looks at me, after I've been pacing for ten minutes dialing number after number:
"- Can I help ya?
- Yes, my name is supposed to be on the list, my friends are inside, but I can't call them cause there's no signal inside."
And he looks at me with dead eyes and says:
"Well, that means it's time to go home."

I've got to admit, it's a pretty good line.

So I go back to chewing gum lady with the List, and I insist that she looks at the List again. I'm ON it, I must be. Can you look again? She rolls her eyes, but I'm sure that she gave me a break because I was just some plain, short girl, and I couldn't possibly be a blagger looking like I did.

"It's Rasha. R-A-S-...
- R-A...?
Yeah, you're on the list. I looked at R-U-S before. Yeah, let her in."

And, with that, I was ushered through security and into the dingy sweaty party.

Russia, again.
Old damn story.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Daft White

OK, I must try to understand why blogging has suddenly become one of the hardest things to do at the moment. I used to effortlessly rant on about this or that. I'd simply open the New Post page, and from the whiteness of the box would spring a witty observation about something trivial yet fundamental.

Now the whiteness remains white.
Why, I ask myself?

My life is not less interesting. Quite the opposite, whereas I used to be unemployed, drained in beer-piss, theoretically penniless and selling my soul to any design firm with an extra computer at hand, I am now happily employed, on my way to a raise, out every night on the other side of the bar (drinking white wine, not beer-piss), invited to parties and music festivals. I've got a lounge, a cat, I go to the gym, I cook to eat -not to drown my frustration-, and I don't fret about going to places by train and not by bus.

Is this what they meant by life sucking the soul out of you? Has my semblance of balance stolen my creative spark??

Is my life suddenly uninteresting because I nag less????

I kind of miss the good ol' days of desperately trying to sniff glue to be one of those teenage delinquents I read about in novels, the drama made me a queen (in my head). Or later on, being jilted and having half of my heart ripped out of my chest... at least I became poetic.

So it's true that being happy kinda makes you boring.

But, then again, I'm not really that happy. Human and happy don't mix. I mean, I'm me, and me loves melancholy. I just drown myself in white wine these days, not in words.

I will one day return to the life of a student, and going cold-turkey on the ability to shop at will shall probably return to me the power of witty observation.

Until then, here's some pictures...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hello again

Fine, I'll get back to writing because staring at the same posts over and over and trying to summon some form of witty comment on life and whatnot is a bit depressing. So I'll just write about nothing. A daunting Nothing, that is.

I got myself a little kitten that I can project all my lack of affection and winter-fear onto. She's just about the most adorable being on earth, and has become the only thing at the moment that makes me laugh. She's all black, but she really is the most un-black thing at the moment. She's so black actually that it's hard to take a picture of her. She's just a black outline in all the photos, and if I use flash, her eyes make her look like the devil. But she's cute, trust me.

Apart from all of this black talk, well, there's nothing much to say...

I promise I'll be better tomorrow, and might even find something remotely interesting to write about.

At least I got a new post!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ya Beirooooot

London is becoming more and more like Beirut.
There's too much Hummous in my fridge. Everyone says Yalla all the time. My arabic has improved in the last two years. And my flatmate does a riz aa djej that rivals that of my mum's...

Maybe that's why I love my job so much, I can pretend I'm actually in London again.

Although they've now asked me to help curate an exhibition about Beirut Art (that's Kerbaj and Zeina El-Khalil to you and me.)


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Can I?

There is a rumour slowly travelling across blogs that the war will be over in two days. On Monday, they are saying...
Can I dare to believe?
Can it be true that they want nothing from us? Can it be this simple?

-- POUF --

Go away. All of you. And never come back.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


A horrifying article in The Independent today.

My country is being torn apart like Lego blocks. Some select fuckheads who think they can decide for the fate of a whole country, a whole people, a whole section of the globe, are playing a game of Risk on my country.
They think tactically, they think profit, they snigger and they cheat and take sides. And all the while, my country is being uprooted and turned into a bloody rubble.

The Independent article coldly discusses Israeli military tactics as if some cheap gameboard. From their comfortable conference rooms, with coffee and cigars, and their mint suits and ties, they look down on the map and move around their little plastic soldiers. With one flick of their fat finger, they decide to send 30,000 troops into my country. MY FUCKING COUNTRY. They want to win, whatever the cost, whatever the loss. The article says:

Eli Yishai, from the ultra-orthodox party Shas, abstained [from some fucking military meeting] on the grounds that while it was right to expand the campaign [on the ground in Lebanon] there should be a longer aerial bombing campaign before an intensified ground operation was launched. He said after the meeting: "In my opinion, whole villages should be removed from the air when we have verified information that Katyusha rockets are being fired from there."
It was Mr. Yishai who disclosed the military's belief that the operation would last a month, adding: "I think it is wrong to make that assessment. I think it will take a lot longer" he said.

And they make the call from their mobile phone to wipe out whole villages from the map, regardless of any inhabitants. And they transform their plastic soldiers into thousands of camouflage-painted troops who march into my land and destroy my country. They think, "It looks in Risk, so it must work on the ground..."

But where are your plastic civilians on that fucking boardgame of yours? Where are the plastic homes, and farms, and playgrounds? The little plastic schools, and hospitals? And how about the little plastic relief convoys with water and food and medication that are waiting to head South to help the stranded and trapped? Where are the plastic fuel trucks that the plastic hospitals need to have electricity and treat the wounded plastic civilians you ignored?!

While you play your game til the death, because you are so frightened of losing, I am losing my country. And believe me, I never asked to play your fucking game. Who consulted me before you opened the box and let all your plastic shit out?

So I broke down today again at work. And this time, I couldn't really pretend, and get back to work. I was in hysterics, shaking and blubbering, so much so that I left. I was more productive staring into space in the coffeeshop than staring at my computer's screensaver at work...

At least I got the relief of knowing that my boyfriend has gotten a full-year artist working permit and is coming to London. He even managed to get back into Beirut from Syria without getting blown up on the way, just because he has a beard.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Last night, I re-read a message that my boyfriend, who is back in Beirut, sent me on the 13th of July. We were scheduled to meet up in Spain five days later for a music festival.
"My aya, let's just wait and see what's going to happen these two days. It's not going to last."

It's almost been a month.

He's now in Syria applying for a visa to come to London, just in case.

What frightens me the most is that this is what people must've thought back in 1975. "It'll be over this week, let's just wait and see." And before they knew it, fifteen years had passed...

What I fear more than coming back to a disfigured home is coming back fifteen years passed, like my parents did once before.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Day 28

It's hard living a normal life on this side of the continent.

Suddenly, all conversation beyond world politics and media bias seems futile and only lasts a couple of minutes before it starts irritating the brain. I have become the epitome of anti-socialness, only partaking in group dynamics with the presence of my body. My mind remains somewhere in anxiety and dread.

How will I my city appear to me when I go back? Can I pretend none of this is happening? Am I still allow to dream of my return, of the children I want to raise there, of the apartment I furnish in my head, of my blue pebbled beaches, of my dusty mountain roads and turkish coffees in plastic espresso cups on the Corniche?

Is it shameful to say that I don't want to neither fundraise nor demonstrate anymore? With every chant, it makes it all sound so much more real...

I go to work in the mornings and spend 50% of my time doing work for a city whose government I resent, and the other 50% of the time reading up on the news. But it's the blogs, and most essentially them, that give me a more poignant and accurate report of the ongoing sordid events.

BBC will never tell me that my friends and family are receiving automated calls from Israel in which they equate Hezbollah to rats infesting our streets, and glorify their own Zionist state.

They do not tell me that the Israeli Minister of Justice (how ironic a name...) wonders why there still is electricity feeding Baalbeck.
And they do not tell me that Israel has a worse coverage of the war than the ranch-owners of Midwest America.

They do not tell me that the people of Israel chant "A good Arab is a dead Arab", which makes the military's half-hearted sorry excuses for civilian deaths in Lebanon a cover-up for their dream of annihilation and ethnic cleansing.
We are told and retold stories of the horror of the Holocaust and of the plight of Jews throughout history, through Spielberg movies, and endless documentaries, and here they are wishing upon others what they love to spread guilt about themselves. And I almost believed them when I was a spotty-faced teenager...

It's all maddeningly heartbreaking. A surreal nightmare I wake up to every morning with the on-switch of the computer. And that I am now starting to live in my slumber too. Slowly, the war has crept into my dreams and has placed me in the heart of it all. And I want nothing more than to wake up from the nightmare, and then wake again from the reality...

My father has told me that he has enrolled my sister in the Lycée of Saudi Arabia. They will not be going back home any soon. I could not stop bawling all day...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


The Independent did not cover us on its front page today.
I died a little.

Does it take another Qana to keep your attention for a little while longer?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The Times newspaper printed an article about new Israeli army recruits whose operation is to flag Lebanese blogs and flood them with pro-Israel propaganda comments. This explains the many virulent taunts propping up on Lebanese anti-war blogs.

It also means that they are scared of the world opinion overwhelmingly swaying against the Israeli military actions.

I can imagine them scavenging through Blogspot, barely able to catch up on the reports, and vomiting their comments in a rush, which explains their dyslexic spelling and muddled logic.

But they only manage to enflame and irritate, coming across as the new web viruses.

It's all really sad...

Sunday, July 30, 2006



It took time to take to the keyboard and speak, but I think it is now time...

I think that most of all, I was ashamed of not being in Beirut.

I am not in Lebanon.
I am in London, cooking my dinner, celebrating my birthday, going to work for the British, looking for a new flat, and all the while, I am halved. My brain is functioning in London, but my heart is being torn apart in Lebanon.
I am glued to the net, reading up on the news, following the blogs, and I want to cry.


Last night, Qana was massacred again, 10 years on, and the same pictures, the same history. Repeating itself.


I wear my badge, it is my resistance during the routine, "Stop destroying Lebanon", it says. It is small, but it works. The guy at the check-out counter of the supermarket is reminded, the woman facing me on the tube looks on and will think of it once more today. "Are you Lebanese?", they ask. I nod, and in their eyes I know they are with us.


I went to my third demonstration two days ago, in front of an empty and unresponsive 10 Downing Street. As usual, policemen were all around, quiet yet observant, waiting for any sign of restlesness to call for back up. I approached one of them, Lebanese flag and white flower in my hand, and asked him: "Do you believe in our cause?". He smiled a small smile, and I insisted: "Are you with us? Do you believe in our cause?
– I can't answer to that, ma'm, I'm just doing my job.
– I know, but I need to hear it from you. I need to hear if you are with us. Are you with us?
– My uniform does not allow me to answer to that, I'm sorry.
– Please, I need to hear it from you...
– I'm sorry, but if I was out of my unifrom...
– Wink. Wink if you believe in our cause...

And he winked.

And I smiled relief.

– Thank you."


Every morning, I check the papers to see if we still make the headline. The day we will be relegated to page 5, with stories of the heat wave or some sex scandal taking priority on our demise and stealing our front page, is the day my will breaks.


I've added a list of links to blogs that keep me sane. They say more than any CNN or BBC ever could.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Grand National

Well, today was the Grand National here in the UK, i.e Horse-Racing Betting Day.
I've always categorically refused to bet, ever since I lost £1 to my then 6-year old brother forever-ago over a Batman album sticker card. I learnt my lesson pretty early. But since all my friends were betting this morning, well, it was part of the attraction of the day and I had nothing else to do. I usually fret over £2 for a coffee, yet there I was knowingly throwing away £8 for nothing. I have learned to trust and think by my streaks of bad luck.

To aid the act of choosing a horse out of 40, The Sun newspaper is smart enough to offer a whole spread dedicated to the horses' history, as well as the sacred bet-odds list. So, after a whole year and a half of boycott, I finally drowned over the Sun newspaper. Yes, the journal infamous for its page three girls was now going to make me rich!
The horses' names: Lord of Illusion, Shotgun Willy, Nil Desperandum, Just In Debt, or Tyneandthyneagain... but I chose Numbersixvalverde. Because he wasn't the favorite, thus lesser odds, and because his name was kinda cool. And also because Samer, who is doing his PhD, bet on him too. You see, I trust people with PhDs. So, £4 on Numbersixvalverde, and another £4 on Iznogoud, one of the three shittiest horses, but with a 1-200 odd, so, what the heck...

And off they go!! All bidders in Bethnal Green staring at a bunch of horses running on the TV screen of the local pub. Of course, it's all a jumble of horses seen from the stratosphere, and the commentator with a tone straight out of the 30s mumbles out random names, so you don't really know what the hell is going on. Sometimes you catch him saying the name of your horse, and you squeal with delight, and then realize he could've said "xxxxxxx is a real goner" for all you know. Until you get towards the end, and you realize Numbersixvalverde is in the top three, and your heart starts to beat, and you're fucking scared because there are horses falling at every hedge, and your whole life depends on those £4, when you realize that Iznogoud just is no good, and Numbersixvalverde (no nicknames allowed) goes in the lead, and there are no more hedges, and he's whipping his horse's ass, and Samer screaming "whip him harder! harder! faster! Faster!!!!" and... NUMBERSIXVALVERDE IS A WINNER!!!!!!!!!
And my £4 are now £48, and I think, Damn! I'm one inch closer to being a gambling millionnaire! And you beam left and right at the Bethnal Greeners coz they bet on the favorite, Clan Royale, who, with a 1-5 odd, would've brought them almost nothing anyway... And you're there, throwing it all in, taking a risk, and it pays off!
Damn the sun is warmer when that happens!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I just love it when life spins around and slaps you in the face... All it's trying to say is never to contemplate relief, and see it all as a goddam mountain of mashed potatoes where repose only awaits us on our deathbed.
Yipee yey. Can't wait.

(Nice piece of advice from myself to myself on a Tuesday morning after a shower and a fourth Gitanes.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006


He brushed her hair, removing strands floating in her face, he patted her waistcoat. She was very still. He adjusted her collar, peered in her eyes, and gently brushed her hair again, fixing her fringe so that her eyes showed. He buttoned her shirt, and stroked her nose. She still stood poised, and now perfect.
She was Zara's new clothes mannequin, all plaster and plastic, and he a simple floor manager... but it was the most tender scene I had seen in a long time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Dear All
(who still check in despite the recent drought, and for that, I thank thee),

A simple announcement:
I have at long last found a job.
Not just a job, but a satisfying wonderful experience-to-be, and an answer to my year and a half of struggling in this Goddamn designer-infested city.
Not any ol'job that I could've done in Beirut, but a job for which my stay in London makes worthwhile. A job that is, as yet, inexistent in Beirut, and which I will ultimately re-import back to the homeland (if I sound arrogant, I do apologize).
Not any Dr.Health, not any psycho-boss, not any " non-paid :-( " exploitative mini-companies...
I am officially designer within an established magazine, part of the small yet efficient team. It took me 6 months of flirting on and off, 6 months of popping in, 6 months of "have a good vacation!", 6 months of slaving for free (yet enjoying it all the while, I must admit)... 6 months! 6 x 31=186 days of 'hanging around'. Ouf. Feels immensly good...
I congratulate myself, and do give myself a firm and amical pat on the back. Well done, me. Well done...

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I feel tragically empty, and little things irritate and turn my owl-head into obsessive mania.
Like my 'space' key on the keyboard: it squeaks lightly when I press it, and I know it is a conspiracy to make my quest for balance quasi-impossible. And the fact that I have a blue haze on my screen that no amout of calibration can make disappear. And my 'acharnement' to buy those Pantone books on eBay, always being outbid by some anonymous ****head from Devon, or Putney, or Strafofooajdjfha-shire... The remnants of Blue-Tak on my pristine new room walls cause glitches in my brain. The sound of mutated pigeons gloating at my window at 6.00am, the squashed dog shit on the corner pavement, and the smell of my own cigarette fumes that I can't seem to cut down on! And there's never any soup left at Cofee@ when I want some!! The squeaking! The squeaking of the Space bar!!! UGHHHHHH!!!
Ouf. Did not help that I have added yet another design job to my list, with the little PS that goes "unfortunately, it is not paid ;-("... I run a design charity. Jolly me. How do people envisage buying cars? Or sofas, or microwaves, for that matter? Let alone a chandelier for £785?
I feel empty, and it is quite disturbing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Good to Be Back

God, that trip to Spitalfields Church feels like years ago!

In the past month, I've been to Beirut and back, celebrated a hectic and very drunk Xmas, as well as an origami-filled home New Year's, designed a whole magazine for £250 instead of £4000, moved flat for the 5th time in a year and a half -after the mice found me again-, and am now starting on a the design of a new magazine where I am paid, wait for it... zilch.

Basically, I lasted two months in Spitalfields. My flatmates ended up being worse than the cockroaches or mice of Bethnal Green, with moulding food in the kitchen and hairballs in every corner of the tortuous Amsterdam-type house. And they were very big fans of the heating system, which turned my tiny room into a sauna by 3am. The last straw came with yet another mouse roaming in the kitchen; and knowing that there was as much food on the floor as there was in the cupboards, there'd be a new civilisation within 2 weeks. It was all a sweaty, vomit-inducing experience that I am happy to close the chapter on...

I feel immense gratitude when my feet get cold in my new room.

It's good to be back in London, where business is yet again slow, and the skies grey, and cheek-pinching family members of the 13th degree are far, far away...