Thought of Today: December 06, 2017 at 02:30PM

The city that is a symbol of peace, became the capital of the state that is a symbol of war and violence.

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Thought of Today: December 03, 2017 at 11:40AM

In 2016, $3.5B was spent on lobbying.

That is equivalent to $5.9 million per member of Congress.

The average annual salary of a congressman is $175,000

We spend more and get less than industrial nations on:

Airline tickets
Medicine
Medical treatment
Education
Cable internet
Cellphone service
Food

Thought of Today: December 03, 2017 at 11:09AM

Education budget: $78.2B

Corporate Tax Breaks (corporate welfare): $100B

In the richest country in the world, no body should work full time and not make it.

I know that we don’t have the IQ no the empathy for empowering the Green Party, but at least vote for Bernie.

Or is it too late now?!

Thought of the Day

“I ran into friends” is an acceptable excuse for being late to work in Iceland.

It is also the happiest country in the world!

Thought of Today: November 25, 2017 at 09:58PM

If you want to be a film maker, a musician, or an artist, who the hell cares about money. Money is morphine for the passionless people.

Thought of Today: November 25, 2017 at 10:37AM

Life is a chain of our preferred delusions

Memoir Part 7: Bomb on the Beach

Between the mountains and the sea, the breeze goes back and forth, alternating in the direction between night and day, elevating some of the torture of the hot perpendicular rays of the sun in the daytime, and the other torture of the high humidity at night.

We played on the Kournish Thursday nights till we were exhausted.  We either went back home biking, or we met our parents in whichever house of a family they were spending time with that night.

We would play soccer, build castles, find dead fish, occasionally helping fishermen pulling their nets from the sea, creating obstacle courses with bicycles, throwing stones, discovering new things, attacking abandoned houses after creating myths about them to scare ourselves, eating berries off the best berry trees in the area, and if we met a new boy, we would discover him and it would be a very exciting Thursday night for us.  We would gather around him asking him questions, listening to his stories, till there was nothing more to know about him.  It was like an initiation to friendship.  I experienced that myself moving from one city to another when the students in a new class would gather around me and shower me with questions.  In few minutes, you would make 10’s of new friends and few best friends.

If you grew up in UAE at that time, you grew up knowing and loving Sheik Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of UAE, and the ruler of Abu Dhabi, as well as the President of UAE.  He was commonly named Baba Zayid because of his fatherly love and figure to all the Emirates.  He was one of the wise tribal leaders who is only remembered for his positive accomplishments and kind leadership, true to the Arabic and Islamic issues.  UAE was very stable and growing fast during his time.

During that time (1983-1986), there were two major events in the Middle East: The first was the Iraqi-Iranian war which took place just across the Persian Gulf (we called it Arabian Gulf).  The second was the Israeli occupation of Lebanon all the way to Beirut and the birth of the Islamic and Lebanese resistance in Lebanon.  Both these wars had direct effects on my family and our surroundings.

While playing on the kournish one Wednesday night (because our school had that Thursday off coincidently), I, Hamoudi my brother, and Islam my Egyptian friend, found a little yellow metal container that looked like a fire extinguisher being washed ashore by the dark salty waves.  Anything that entered our space, new and different, got all of our attention, having nothing else to entertain ourselves with on that stranded pseudo-island.

It was heavy, and we started playing with it. It had writings in English, and picture instructions that showed a picture of an explosion at the end.  I told Islam to throw it away because it seemed dangerous, but we couldn’t resist following the instructions. While implementing the instructions step by step, unlocking the head cover, pulling some strings, up to pressing a red button, we were laughing out loud, thinking that we found a bazooka.

Well, less than a second from us laughing and Islam pressing the red button, it seemed that a year passed.  Although much of the details have been blocked in my memory due to the shock, all I remember that there was a big explosion.  Lucky enough the bomb was directional and it flew right into the sea before it exploded inside in the ocean and covered the surface of the sea with a huge field of fire, that was meters high.

I also remember that I was running as fast as I can.  Islam was running too.  Hamoudi was nowhere to be found.  Islam’s hand burnt because he was the last person holding the bomb before it went off.  We ran about a mile far. Then we looked around us for Hamoudi nowhere to be found.  We were looking at the fire. Did something happen to Hamoudi?!  And then we see his silhouette with the fire behind him, running towards us.  For some reason, Hamoudi pretended that he was dead after the explosion.  But when he received no attention because no one was there, he got up and ran towards us.

Hamoudi arrived, and all of us were breathing crazy hard, then we looked at each other, covered with sand, and water (due to the big splash in the ocean of the explosion), we cracked up and started laughing hysterically. We decided to go to the little police office on the Korneich and inform the police.

We went in, and an Emirati police officer with a big belly in front of him was sitting in the airconditioned room watching TV.  He probably has never dealt with any situation ever.  Khorfakan is a very quiet safe city with a small population.  We were little scared of talking to him, but he was smiling and joking with us.  We told him that we found something that looked like a fire extinguisher and we played with it, but it exploded.  He said he was wondering what was that loud explosion sound.  He promptly called more units using his two-way radio.

In few minutes, after people heard the explosion, people gathered at the kournish, as well many police units arrived.  We were looking at people talking, making up rumors and theories.  Us being in third or fourth grades, could not really tell the people gathered that it was us who found and caused the explosion. The police shut down the kournish, and they combed the whole beach finding multiple of these devices.  We later knew that it was dropped from ships carrying weapons to the Persian gulf.  Islam went home because he needed some medical attention for his hand.  Me and Hamoudi went home and decided not to tell mother so we don’t get a good old Arabic beating for being trouble makers.

When we arrived home, my mom ran to the door and she was shocked and terrified. She hugged us and made sure we were ok.  She said that the police called and asked them to bring us to the police station to collect our statements.  My father came back, and he was a little angry for us “causing trouble”.  If you are a boy in an Arabic house, you never want the police to call home and ask for or about you.  It is a tabboo.  The police first asked that we go to the hospital to be checked.  Then we went to the police station so they would take our statements.  My father, being the Manager of National Bank of Abu Dhabi in Khorfakan (basically where all the police salaries are banked), knew everyone, and received so much respect from the police officers.  They were cracking jokes about us, and about Lebanese and bombs.

This remained as a single memory that never will be erased.  And we were lucky that we survived it.  Death brushed our hair on that day.  Our lives would have been completly changed if Islam was not pointing the bomb to the sea.  The sea saved us.

Thought of Today: November 17, 2017 at 03:15PM

My grandmother used to plant flowers in the empty shells of Israeli bombs in Bintjbail, Lebanon. They used to make good pots.

I can never forget this symbolism.

Memoir Part 6: Islam, hanan, and Death of Ayman

Islam Yakout Mohamed Mursi

One of the names that I will never forget.  My brother from a different mother.  A dark-skinned Alexandrian boy from Egypt with an amazing sense of humor, as it is common among Egyptians.  Islam had no siblings, and I was his best friend.  His family treated him like I am his brother.  I was one of them.  The kindness and compassion that his parents overflowed with to me were heartwarming .. one of the things which made me who I am today.

Let me talk to you about al-hanan… an Arabic word that translates to a mix of kindness, love, tenderness, kindliness, care, warm-heartedness, and a million other words that cover every bit and piece of those feelings.  It translates as language, but it doesn’t translate as an emotion to the West.  This word is not translatable to English because it is not about language.  Language is there to symbolize something that exists.  The famous Arabic poet, Nizar Qabani expresses his yearning to the hanan in his letter poem Five Letters to My Mother:

I am alone.
The smoke of my cigarette is bored,
and even my seat of me is bored
My sorrows are like flocking birds looking for a grain field in season.
I became acquainted with the women of Europe,
I became acquainted with their tired civilization.
I toured India, and I toured China,
I toured the entire oriental world,
and nowhere I found,
a Lady to comb my golden hair.
A Lady that hides for me in her purse a sugar candy.
A lady that dresses me when I am naked,
and lifts me up when I fall.
Mother: I am that boy who sailed,
and still longes to that sugar candy.
So how come or how can I, Mother,
become a father and never grow up.

From the hanan of my parents, to the overwhelming Charafeddine hanan, rooted deeply in the history of our family from Ahlulbait, the family of the Prophet that has been cloaked with tragedies, and manifested in my Grandmother, to the hanan of the parents of my frirends Islam and Firas, to the hanan of the warm salty beach that carresses the white sand softly, to the hanan of the sounds of Azan jumping playfully on the rocks of the mountains of khrofakhan … to the hanan of the oldmen eyes siting at a cafe bench watching us pass by … we were submerged with Hanan.

I never will forget an incident that happened to me when once I went to buy my Mother something from the supermarket.  While coming back, I decided to take the side streets among the communal popular old houses.  These streets are usually sandy and only lit by the small lamps above the metallic doors.  I got a little scared for it was dark. I started running. While I was running, there was a construction metal piece coming out of the ground that hit my feet. It cut me right between my toes. I was bleeding. I dropped the merchandise from the bag. I collected them gently back into the plastic bag while limping on a bleeding foot.  In that condition, one of the doors nearby opened.  A middle-aged woman came out with thick glasses and Egyptian style hijab.  She  said: “What is wrong ya Mama?”

The word Mama entered my ears and comforted all my nerves. I didn’t need to speak, and she didn’t wait for an answer after seeing what answered her inquiry.  She came to me and looked at my feet, and held my hand and pulled me to her house like a panicking mother.  She was talking to me, but I don’t remember what she said anymore.  But I remember she gave me a glass of water to drink and she was cleaning my foot from sand and blood, applied antibiotic (red medicine we used to call it), and bandaged it.  She offered to call home, but I told her I can just walk home.  I left.  Never saw her again, nor I know her name.  But she gave me another injection of hanan that would last me a lifetime.

The mosque was so close to our house like I mentioned before.  Upon hearing from my teacher that praying in the mosque is 24 times better than praying at home, I started rushing to pray in the mosque everytime I hear the Azan.  I went to the mosque so much and was the youngest person praying in the mosque, that the Imam visited my father to inquire if there were problems at home that I am fleeing from.  My father expressed while laughing that there is nothing wrong at home and that I just loved praying in the mosque.

We learned French and English at the Emirates School in addition to Arabic off course. The French didn’t go well.  The teacher gave up and quit. We stopped learning French, but still learned English, rarely used in the U.A.E. at that time.

One of the teachers was really proactive in the school, and she formed the Scholastic Police.  She got us hats and scarves.  Being the oldest class in the school, and I think I am talking third grade now, we were naturally the Scholastic Police.  We were supposed to patrol the school and ensure that students didn’t go to the back of the school during lunch or recess and that they stay in the field.  She nominated me as the captain of the police since I was very popular among my class and had good grades, but I refused. I wanted to reserve the right to be a bad boy.  Being captian of the police brings too much attention.  She appointed Mohamad, a boy whose father is an Emirati Sheik and his mother is a Filipino.  Mohamad was the richest kid in school and his father was feared for being a deputy minister so no teacher would get Mohamad mad.  Once Mohamad was sick, and we went a field trip to visit his house. It was a huge mansion with unlimited toys. Anyways, soon enough, we were using our positions in the Scholastic Police to allow our friends to go play in the back of the school.  Nobody would listen to Captain Mohamad since he really had no real leadership.  The whole idea backfired on the teacher, and the Principal canceled the Scholastic Police. We kept the hats and scarves.

Wissam and Mohamad in Emirates School
Me with the shorts, and Mohamad, and you can see his Scholastic Police Scarf

I had an Egyptian classmate called Ayman.  Ayman went to buy something from the store with his bike, and a car struck him and he died.  We were too young the understand the concept of death, and it was pretty much my first experience with it.  The school went into mourning. Teachers were crying, and they played Quran in the school for few days.  They were monitoring us to see if any of us are traumatized or deeply affected, but we weren’t.  Nevertheless, we were under so much pressure to be deeply affected!  Sitting in the field listening to Quran while our heads are down, Islam leans towards me and says: “pretend that you are crying”.

I don’t know how to pretend emotions.  It is one of my problems I guess. My face shows what I truly feel.  This has caused me so much trouble in life, but I like it.  Early trouble is better than late trouble. I really don’t feel the tragedy of death, since it is inevitable. What is 100% predictable, cannot be surprising. I have always, and still do feel that way.  The only concern I had was that Ayman borrowed my notebook on his last day of school.  I was thinking it is impossible to get it back then.  I never tried.

We had nothing in Khorfakan but each other, as friends, to keep ourselves busy and entertained.  There was no TV, except one channel that played cartoons for a maximum of one hour a day.  There were no electronic games.  There was not one single swing in the city or slide.  Soccer balls were rare. My father bought me one from Dubai.  There was no theater, no gym, no soccer fields, no arcades, no parks, no toy stores, no children clubs.  There was nothing but the mountains, the ocean, and your friends.  Friends became an integral part of seeing and experiencing life.  This became a deep characteristic of me. I had a hard time shed it away later on in life.

We would climb the mountain or play at the beach. We would bike to each other’s houses. The city was safe. We would just leave our bikes on the street, and they would never be stolen. We never needed chains. “Muslims don’t steal”. That is what we thought. We thought that stealing, adultery, murder, and paganism were things before Islam. There was so much trust.

Next time I will tell you when we played with the bomb till it went off on the beach!

 

 

 

 

Thought of Today: November 11, 2017 at 11:22PM

“Melancholy isn’t always a disorder that needs to be cured. It can be a species of intelligent grief which arises when we come face-to-face with the certainty that disappointment is written into the script from the start. We have not been singled out.

Marrying anyone, even the most suitable of beings, comes down to a case of identifying which variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for. In an ideal world, marriage vows would be entirely rewritten. At the altar, a couple would speak thus: “We accept not to panic when, some years from now, what we are doing today will seem like the worst decision of our lives. Yet we promise not to look around, either, for we accept that there cannot be better options out there. Everyone is always impossible. We are a demented species.”

After the solemn repetition of the last sentence by the congregation, the couple would continue: “We will endeavor to be faithful. At the same time, we are certain that never being allowed to sleep with anyone else is one of the tragedies of existence. We apologize that our jealousies have made this peculiar but sound and non-negotiable restriction very necessary. We promise to make each other the sole repository of our regrets rather than distribute them through a life of sexual Don Juanism.

We have surveyed the different options for unhappiness, and it is to each other we have chosen to bind ourselves.” Spouses who had been cheated upon would no longer be at liberty furiously to complain that they had expected their partner to be content with them alone. Instead they could more poignantly and justly cry, “I was relying on you to be loyal to the specific variety of compromise and unhappiness which our hard-won marriage represents.” Thereafter, an affair would be a betrayal not of intimate joy but of a reciprocal pledge to endure the disappointments of marriage with bravery and stoic reserve.”

Alain De Botton