"To the impartial eye, the world not only seems an unlikely one-off phenomenon, but a constant strain on reason. If reason exists, that is, if a neutral reason exists. So speaks the voice from within. So speaks Joker's voice." - Jostein Gaarder

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Two more weeks to go, and I am off to another airport. I am particularly looking forward to this summer. In many ways, it will be a much-needed closure, and hopefully it will provide me with, also, much needed inspiration and motivation.

This will probably be the last visit to Syria in a while. As I finish my second year here, I will have to pay more attention to internship opportunities and actually start thinking of my post-graduation plans, hence, less time to spend on airplanes to the Middle East. There’s no point in making assumptions though, I’ve learnt my lesson, that plans don’t always (almost never) work the way you thought they would. Nonetheless, just for the sake of argument let’s lose the cynicism for a while.

I finish my last final on the late afternoon of the glorious day of July 31st. I drink myself into absolute unconsciousness and spend August 1st enjoying my hangover without worrying about homework, linger around the apartment and pack my stuff.
At the early hours of the morning of August 2nd, I head out to Osaka, dragging three bags (?). Spend the day with the wonderful Bulgarians of Kansai, and then jubilantly take the train to the airport the next day.

This is my tentative plan for the next couple of weeks.

It will be a well-packed summer.

August 2-9, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia (I am using Malaysian airlines, and I couldn't resist stopping in Malaysia on the way). Which will include spending another one of those random birthdays in random places with random people (I still haven’t made up my mind whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing).

August 10-15, Beirut, a little trip down memory lane.

August 15 (hopefully), off to Latakia and then off again to Damascus for what is arguably the highlight of my summer, Ziad Rahbani, Live in concert.

August 22-25, back to Beirut for a blogging conference, and more importantly have a chance to catch up with the wonderful Sami, and try to drag him for a few days in Latakia.

The rest of the trip, try to rediscover the places, the people and the language. Which will probably include:

- Spending much time on coach-buses between Latakia, Homs, Damascus, Aleppo and the beautiful little sister of Tartous.
- Many lazy days on the beach, or somewhere in the greenery of Kasab.
- As little coffee as possible, and in that same spirit, as much alcohol as possible.

But, for now, Let me get back to my Assembly homework.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

On Paris

Seeing our President in Paris gives me a whole set of mixed feelings. It isn’t hard to notice why this is a big event for Syria and Syrians. Ending a horrible 3 years of speculations and dreadful possibilities. The Syrian regime has come out unscathed, stronger and definitely scored much higher than its foes on the credibility scale (ironically enough, that is). They shouldn’t take all the credit though, for what better enemies could you have than the imbecile trio of Bush, the Saudis and the March 14ers. Having the Saudis in a coalition that was oh-so concerned with human rights violations of the regime, was no less comedic than having the March 14ers whining about foreign intervention in Lebanon, and the sectarian nature of Hizbulla. Nonetheless, it would be futile not to admit that they have successfully navigated the most treacherous of waters. As to why did we have to venture there in the first place, that will be up for discussion and disagreement for years to come. No matter what you have to say about them (and there is a lot to be said), I can’t say I’m not enjoying this break from that constant stream of ignorant (if not flat out racist and hypocritical) media portrayal of Syria.

On the other hand, as beautiful and elegant our First Gentleman and First Lady look together as they walk down that red carpet, I can’t help wondering whether people like Michel Kilo, Anwar al-Bunni or Aref Dalileh even cross their minds as they smile and shake hands. As they walk triumphantly through the streets of Paris, what kind of a country do they think of, that country that they left behind. What do they think of that? The poverty, the corruption, the pollution, the monopolies, and the stagnant social, educational, political and cultural life. What about Seydnaya?

I know this post might raise some eyebrows. But I think, it is very sad to see how we are coerced, everyday, to live our lives in that narrow space of black and white, wrong and right. I, for one, don’t feel like I can play that game. That being said, it does not mean that I am simply neutral. I am, and will always be, strongly opinionated. The fact is, I would feel like a hypocrite if I had to tweak or modify (no matter how little) my own sense of the world just so I can join one of them (camps), and be “opinionated”. It would be, and let me quote Wassim on this one, more like “Political cheerleading”.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It’s hard to write, if you’re not reading. A very simple fact.
The last book I read was Pamuk’s Snow. It took a lot of effort, and resilience to finish it. I’m not sure why, at any other time I would’ve devoured it in a day. The story is beautifully written, and the scenery is breathtaking. Nonetheless, it took me 43 days, to be exact, to finish it.
I’ve never been this far away from the written word.
I miss the thick yellow pages of our Library. My father had a passion for the old novels printed in the 1930s-1960, when paper still had a texture, when every book had a distinct smell. He passed that down to me.
I spent hours on end flipping and reading Churchill’s war memoirs. I loved the smell it left on my fingers after I put it back on the shelf.
It was Jubran that put my little heart’s ache into words. I was 10, and she sat behind me in class, the most beautiful girl that ever wore that brown uniform.
I loved reading them times and times again. It was all too easy for me to start over from the beginning and go through the story as if it was the very first time. I might have read Farewell to Arms more than twenty times, yet it never failed to shake me all over again.
I can’t help thinking of all these characters, not characters, but people. All these people that I’ve come to meet, and care for. It’s disturbing to think they’re all nothing but a product of one’s mind, just like Sophie in Sophie’s World.
The words of these novels feel so far away now, but that distinct smell of age lingers on. It reminds me how tired I am of, and how terrible I am at this passive game of waiting.