Dec 23, 2012

Unearthing Broken Hopes

[Continuation of the previous post]

It was the turn of another man, a man that apparently lived his entire life out of Lebanon. He was extremely happy, filled with beauty and overflowing with satisfaction. He, and his female companion, were eager to park nearby and have a chat: The man seemed to be dying to tell his story to someone, basically anyone. “Ok so, I have two stories to tell you. Ready?” The first was of the reason he was imprisoned, he lived his life in Africa, where planting Marijuana in one’s backyard was common. Upon coming to live in Lebanon, he gave it no thought and thought it was considered the same, therefore he ended up imprisoned for planting (and by the Lebanese law, trading) two plants of Marijuana or “Hasheesh”, that he planted in the first place for personal use only. Eventually he got out of jail pretty soon.

The second story on the other hand left me traumatized for a few seconds. A while back he found out he wasn’t the son of his father, his father is unknown, which, by his own words, flipped his life completely and changed him into another man. He, again by his words, sat down with his mother, spoke of the issue, which ended up getting so emotional. They hugged at the end, a changing point in this man’s life from now on.

Last but not least, and while hearing the man’s two stories, a group of young energetic guys, somewhat stylish and having a very uncommon taste in clothing/general appearance, appeared out of nowhere, and spent the early few minutes hearing the emotional words of the previous man. First thing on their mind was “why are you doing this”. Having had the inner confidence we were good guys and were standing there for a good cause, they started letting go of a little bit more information. The guys were artists, singers and dancers (if you guys are reading this, excuse me but that is all I know so far), totally energetic and having, clearly, that wonderful outlook on the life we live. Eventually they ended up helping us in holding the signs, until their friend (a girl with a huge amount of bags at hand, obviously shopping at the nearby ABC mall) came over and joined us. Sandy was the one to address her, answer her questions, and ask her to tell us her story. The girl seemed to be overwhelmed with studying and working to the point where she needed to let go of that stress by doing her favorite exercise: Shopping. That girl was lucky enough to have a hug from out beautiful Sandy, which brought a smile to my face, seeing how far the Free Hugs Flashmobs have changed us.

I honestly can never forget what happened that day, and if there is any lesson to be shared, that would be to summon back that human touch we are lacking: Listening. Many of you would agree that listening is not easy, it’s an art by itself. To listen and give enough interest and time, that is something of big value.
PS: Thank you Chris for the wonderful title.

Dec 21, 2012

Digging For Lost Voices

Little did I know that my night would be so fruitful. Who would expect to meet a stranger on the street, seeing him pull over with that wonderful smile on his face only to tell you his story with that passionate dreamy look in the eyes of a 40-year old man. I never knew I would meet a person whose story was a perfect match to mine. How would I have known that we’d meet a bunch of dreamy and glamorous guys wanting to join efforts and having so much bright ideas to share with us. This, and much much more, had happened on the night of December 19th.

Free Huggers chose that date for a second round of the “Tell me your story” initiative, the first is the one I missed. Everything was new to me, the way we should hold the signs, the way our answers should be wrapped and the limit we should abide by. Thankfully Sandy and Bilal were courteous enough to give me a heads-up of what they thought was best to do, as a result to the first experience.
PS: I really had a hard time taking photographs of the people we interviewed. It felt really inappropriate.

Saddened Offspring

I chose a high concrete slab, that of the traffic police, to stand upon and hold the signs up high; Bilal and Sandy followed my lead as well. Traffic was overwhelming, too many people had noticed us, but that wasn't enough: we needed pedestrians. Having changed location, our first interviewee had come across our point. I saw Abbas strolling in front of us, hesitating whether to ask or to just spend the next few minutes waiting for his bus to take him home after his second job, just like any other day. “Who are you?” was his first question. Having admired our answer, being anonymous people with good intentions, and wanting to hear people’s stories, he finally spoke. His first few sentences were mere complaints on the general situation we live in, how we’re not earning what we’re worth, and how life can be unfair. Words kept coming out until I caught that tone, the tone of being angry with his parents, wanting to take revenge maybe, or at least feeling oppressed in his life having no other option but to blame them. I knew exactly what to ask, what to say and with what tone, eventually he was a bit relieved, but what totally surprised me was him wanting to join us for a few minutes until the bus came. And believe me, the bus passed by more than twice while Abbas was smiling and holding the sign on that crossroad at Sassine, Beirut.

Mr. Smith

I wasn't surprised later on by the repetitive reactions we get from bypassers when first asked to tell their “stories”, while all we could get was nagging on the current situation on the country, until I met an old man in a coat holding that umbrella. He looked like a poor old man, his way of walking and the incline of his back told me he was tired of this life, and his smile was reassuring he was a precious human being not to waste at all. Of course his first few words were complaints, followed by amazing words that really left me shocked:
Wanna know the answer to all this messed up situation? The Army service should return to being obligatory just like before. Yes, believe me when I tell you this, the army is the solution, a country with no army is no country, I am a dentist don’t be fooled
And fooled I was, for at least 10 seconds afterwards, during which Mr. Smith - as I figured he'd be called in an imaginary movie inside my head - just dragged his feet along the wet path and vanished into darkness.

An Untold Story

Sandy called me from a distance telling me to check out this lady in the passenger seat of a taxi. We ran there curiously to listen to that woman’s cheering and words of praise, but when asked to tell us her story she managed to avoid going into that. Her overly large smiley and happy face is something I won’t forget
Along the course of the four of us being there, a young man in his warm cloak was wandering the area around us. His curiosity lead him to his first contact with me. “what are you doing?” he asked. “My story would make you crazy, you won’t believe me I swear, you won’t”.. Upon insisting to hear what he had to say, he found no other answer but to walk away. I often kept visually chasing the bypassers and would occasionally spot the man. To be truthful, he wasn’t the only one who thought his story was of no value to others, at least four others had the same reaction, but this guy was something else. He was not normal, he had cried so many times to the point you could see the blankness in his eyes. If there was anything that I wish I could’ve changed that night, was listening to this person.

End of Part One

Dec 18, 2012

My First Amazon Order

I decided to write this post right after I opened the new Seagate External Hard Drive box, delivered by Borderlinx, DHL.

A month ago I ordered a 3TB External Seagate HDD from The price at the time was discounted to 109.99$, previously 139.99$, which would be the deal of the year, I assumed. Upon the estimation of the efficient DHL staff, shipping and all the additional fees (customs, VAT, clearance, etc..) should cost around 52$. Order being made on, the package reached my virtual address (Ohio, US, address being given free of charge upon registration with borderlinx) in 2 business days, which was more than perfect. This is where the hassle began.

Outstanding deals usually take place during holidays, which, of course, is a hectic time of the year for all freight companies, due to the escalating number of orders and the additional stress imposed by global shippers. Alas, the package delivery to Lebanon was delayed one week, and it reached my office this morning.

The HDD came in its original box, repacked by DHL in the US, and sent to DHL Lebanon. Obviously the repacking served the protection of the equipment being shipped, especially that volumteric weight was disregarded, which, if taken into consideration, would've raised my bill considerably. The DHL employee asked me for 65$, 13$ more than what I had expected. After thorough explanation and investigation, it seems that the Lebanese Customs decided to Re-Evaluate the price to 199.99$, they thought the label price was too low for such an item! How on earth is that a sain decision??

So basically, your government is offering you two options: you either have to buy locally and pay double (or more sometimes) the original price (in the US), or you can simply order online, go through the hassle of releasing and shipping and waiting a month to get your package, and in the end the customs will alter the price till it fits the local market. Such a ripoff.

I was glad I chose DHL by the way.
For those Aramex users who think highly of their provider: do they offer you with an option to repack?
Borderlinx provides a Repacking service, completely free. If an item can be repacked and you haven't opted out, it will be automatically. You do not need to request it via Customer services.
We may repack your items (see exceptions) in two situations:
  • If the shipment is inadequately packed (either damaged or insufficient for international transportation), we will repack it for you for added protection and security.
  • If the package has a high volumetric weight (see our FAQ What is volumetric weight?), we repack it into smaller padded envelopes to reduce their volume and therefore to lower the shipping charges.
Additionally, there is no setup fee upon registration: You get your personal virtual address in the US and UK for free. Highly competitive prices (even cheaper than other service providers as I noticed), very efficient customer service (don't forget you're dealing with DHL here) and of course a tracking option to constantly monitor you package.
Reweighed by DHL
Overall, my first online shopping experience was good. It would've been more than perfect if it weren't for the customs re-evaluation rules.

Dec 6, 2012

Dewy Conversations

Here's what went through my mind during my morning nap in the minibus:

Photo by Rayyan Jamous

"I just realized that I have no passion, I don't remember the last time I risked my life for something; I am passive generally and don't have any sort of personal extremism. I cannot define things easily. I have trouble with maintaining relationships. I suck at time management and prioritizing. I am selfish though I have lots to give, which gives me constant headache.

I realized I have a great amount of grudge, being the only answer to most of the emotional problems I faced, thus making it a trend to see my frown in the mirror. I came to know I am literally empty, and I know it. I wait no compassion from anyone because I've had enough with compliments: compliments to me are lies with make-up.

What if I've been living a lie all these years? First at class for several years in a row? I never asked to be classified as the front row geek at school, regardless of its supposed benefits for a graduate in the future. The point remains: if I were to choose? I would never pick that phase for me. Studying a tough major at college? Those 6 years were a lie. I succeeded only after I memorized the answers in some topics, after I cheated in some other topics, and sometimes after a last-minute studying and exercises, for the long-term studying and daily monitoring of my lessons progress - the system I was acquainted to at school - made me flunk at college and cost me one year, along with 17 other friends. Again, was that the kind of education I would've picked? Noes.

I had wondered, so many times, about the crisis students in the west went through upon graduating from high school, where they felt lost on the crossroads of their lives, having no clue what major to sign up to. I used to think of myself as a lucky bastard because of the educational system I was enjoying. I didn't even have to think of where to register, I had the answer written over my front. Little did I know that this same system, that seemingly provided me with the stability and comfort of previously defining my future, was actually delaying my own crossroads crisis, which is, as I'm seeing now, is far more painful than if it ever happened in the past.

Photo by Rayyan Jamous
The moment I write this post I am constantly reminded (yes, I have voices in my head) that there is two answers obviously. It's either the whole system is so stereotypical and fits only an astoundingly minor portion of learners, and that I was a victim of that system being put in places I wasn't fit at. But on the other hand, it might be that I'm mentally challenged. Either ways, I'm screwed.

Wondering why these thoughts didn't arise before today? It might be the amount of discomfort I feel in my job, where all I do is NOT being productive, something I hate. It might also be the amount of times I messed up with the people I love, I mean "the people who love me". I am now detached from everyone that cares about me, because of all the decisions I took and all the reactions I showed, based on the insecurities I highlighted at the beginning. And personally? I am dead worried of the day where I certainly will regret losing so much only because of the mentality I acquired...

Sometimes I ask my idiot self, why is it that hard to fake a smile and live the lie everyone's living? Would surely make everything easier for me and those around me..."

To be continued..