Mar 26, 2014

White Sneakers

The Lieutenant

“I recognized you from your sneakers”.

I wish I remember his name, for he had remained in the back of my mind till this day today.
“I remember they were exactly like the ones I saw on that bus the other day. You’re going to Tripoli, right?”

That was what one man who had picked me up, over two years ago, while waiting for a mini-bus to take me back home after one long hectic day at work. He pulled over and shouted “Tla3” meaning “hop in”, and to my utter surprise, being shouted at by an army lieutenant behind his driving wheel with his rugged military voice, was enough to obey, well at least until my curiosity was satisfied and I'd figure out what the hell was going on. It wasn't until he threw in those two sentences that I knew what he was talking about. A couple months earlier, it seems, he kind of met me on one of those huge Connexion buses to Tripoli, but – funny enough – he only remembers my white sneakers, the reason why he was more than certain it was the same guy standing there on that sidewalk of Mathaf that evening.

Aside from all the shortcuts he had taken, from all the traffic lights he had crossed, it was his bittersweet conversation and pieces of advice that he eventually poured down on me, that had left that ride unforgettable. Bottom line of his advice was “you my boy have no passion, you’re an empty person. Next time I meet you I want to see your eyes glare with the sparkles of a passion”. I was left crashed at the time, nobody had ever said such things to me, yet he was a 50-yr old Army Lieutenant and giving harsh commands was his daily bread, which made it sound a little bit easier for me. Little had I known though, there would come one day that my eyes would spark the same way he had ordered me, and that I would remember his words resonating in my ears till that day.

The Interview

A dear friend of mine had sent my CV over to somebody who seems to be an HR personnel in one of the most reputable contracting companies in Lebanon, in order to arrange for an interview and possibly get a job over there, since I've been unemployed for quite a while now. The interview was scheduled yesterday at 11.30am, and to be honest though, I wasn't that thrilled about it, having been there a while back, and that interview wasn't quite a delightful one. Yet, I decided to take my chances for I’m not in a place to be picky anymore. Tania, the HR lady received me for the preliminary interview, to be followed by the technical interview with my potential manager. She was doing her job quite perfectly in asking me those routine questions about my previous jobs, but that was totally usual. There was that moment when she pushed a couple buttons of mine, asking about my weaknesses for example, or giving me hypothetical case scenarios and writing down my answers; yet, I've been there before. But, to my surprise, and right after slightly mentioning my love for photography to her and how much I relate to it, she began asking me some quite unusual questions, and she seemed pretty much to be enjoying my answers, not matter how I think they were not part of the interview.
“What’s your biggest achievement so far?”
“On an engineering level you mean?”
“It doesn't matter, just give me something you’re proud of.”
“Oh, then that must be helping put Tripoli back on the map, nationally and internationally, through my photos. Oh and wait, being Mashrou’ Leila’s official photographer as well!”
But then it hit me like a thunder, I finally have a passion, something to be proud of :) All those dull personal questions I used to receive at interviews and that I had answered with quite perfect utopic unrealistic answers, are now becoming reals answers with a real passion and not having to worry about the way I stutter at these interviews anymore! I'm working my ass off to finish my projects and working till late at night for the sake of meeting my deadlines, not even caring about the amount of food I'm having or the fun I'm getting, which is not necessarily a good thing, yet it's my definition of a passion.
Tearsheets of the sites and articles where my photos were published.

The Sneakers' Bio

We weren't brought to this world in vain, find something you love and gives you that same sparkle in your eyes, no matter what it is or what the consequences are. I remember my first camera was priced at 200$, which I had saved over 6 months before buying it. My next camera waited a bit before I could buy it, and that’s where basically everything started. My gear now is estimated at around 4000$, and I haven’t even started yet. My name is basically everywhere in Lebanon so far. My website is planned to be launched next week, on the 1st of April. It brings me a stupid human egoistic smile whenever anybody asks about my name, answering “Natheer” is not enough to recognize me until I would say “well, how about Nath Halawani”, yeah well, that’s how I've been making friends lately.

You don't have to remain stuck with a silly office job or a dull routine kind of life. Find what makes your eyes glow, believe in yourself and trust your instinct, you'll have the time of your life, that's for sure :)

Mar 2, 2014

Define: Zambo

  1. Someone who is half-black, half American Indian.
  2. A pedigree of the human race. Excels at friendship, flip cup and being a magnet for women.
  3. A jerk. A jackass. Stupidity sometimes due to alcohol or drugs. – source

  1. To have your face randomly and/or voluntarily painted by total anonymous strangers
  2. To join a mighty local march started by a group of people who proudly paint themselves in colors among which Black, Red or Blue.
  3. To have the fun of your life screaming your lungs out shouting the famous Zambo anthem
  4. To enjoy the fact that everybody’s happy around you
  5. To be able for a day a year at least, to have everybody stare at your pitch black face going back home and having your parents freaked out the first instant they saw you
  6. To add another unforgettable day to your life span of unbelievable facts
  7. To see the people of Mina drinking, dancing and singing to the tunes of Zambo all while having an outrageous dose of fun painting the faces of bypassers here and there. – source: Myself.

Can you imagine what it feels to enjoy all of the above? There’s nothing I could describe today with less than extremely out-of-this-world. Started out at 8 in the morning with a croissant in one hand, a cup of warm milk in the other one, all while driving my bike to meet the Debs, my friend Oscar, at the renowned Groupy Roundabout in Mina. Felt so happy to see him, among many other fellow photographers, having their cameras wrapped up in colorful plastic bags, anticipating the huge mess that's about to happen in a couple minutes.

It was a blast to see the Shoot As You Walk clan taking their 59th stroll in Mina, more specifically where the Zambo carnival will take place at. Another highlight of my day was Orpheus, the super guy that had come all the way from France, passing by Beirut, to join the Tripolitans on this festive day.

"The Zambo Carnival has been held for almost a century. It celebrates the start of the Christian Lent / Le Carnaval Zambo se tient tous les ans depuis près d'un siècle. Il célèbre le début du Carême [Photos: Natheer Halawani]"

Orpheus with a random black-faced creature.
Courtesy of Ahmad Halawani
L'Hote Libanais (the Bed&Breakfast online service run and owned by Orpheus) had shared some of the photos I took today, along with the ealier-mentioned brief description of the Zambo festival. Indeed, Zambo is the Christians in Mina's way to celebrate the beginning of their lent, by wearing tribal clothes, painting their skin in - mostly - dark colors and covering their faces with scary halloween-like masks, wandering around the tiny alleys of old Mina spreading fun and joy all around. The carnival is usually accompanied with Champagne bottle celebration at the end, followed eventually by the participants - each - throwing themselves in the freezing water of the nearby beach. And they say people in Tripoli know no joy.

I will leave you with some of the remarkable shots taken today at the Zambo festival, shown only on my blog, all while the rest of the pictures can be seen on my Facebook Album. Until next Zambo, kel sene w entou bi kheir :)