No, Gebran Bassil, Ne7na Meghterbin

Gebran Bassil – our esteemed minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigrants – wants to change the name of the ministry he is heading from that dealing with Immigrant affairs, to – what I would assume translates as: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora. In Arabic, the change goes from Meghterbin to Mountashirin.

The change, it seems, is Bassil’s attempt – in his ever lasting effort to gain a parliament seat in my home district (which he will get with this freak of an electoral law they’ve come up with) – to indicate to us, Lebanon’s immigrants at large, that our identity is Lebanese.

As if we have forgotten.

We may have left the country, dear sir, but the attempt to wash away the very hard decision of us deciding to pack up everything and leave will not be accepted. The mere fact that you think I need to be reminded of my Lebanese identity is insulting.

I have not forgotten that I have not seen my parents in months. I have not forgotten that I couldn’t be next to my grandfather as he drew his dying breath. I have not forgotten that I am missing out on Celine and Yasmina growing up. I have not forgotten that I have not seen my best friends and have not been in their lives for almost a year.

I have not forgotten that I will be missing out on Celine and Simon’s baptisms. I have not forgotten that I haven’t hugged my grandmothers in what feels like an eternity. I have not forgotten that I haven’t seen my brothers in months either.

And yet, here we are.

What makes me Lebanese is them. It’s what I’ve left behind and I remember every single day of being ten thousand miles away, as I get glimpses of what I’ve left behind over WhatsApp voice messages.

No, you do not get to sugar coat me being away from home.

I have also not forgotten the country you and your friends made me leave. In the time I’ve been here, America has offered me more – and I’m not even their citizen – than what my own government has in over twenty seven years of being its citizen.

America has offered me well-paved roads. You haven’t.

America has offered me a well-paying job. You haven’t.

America has offered me fast internet, water that doesn’t die off on me, electricity that I can rely on, gas that doesn’t break the bank to buy, accessibility that cannot be replaced, and prosperity that cannot be priced.

America has offered me a place in which I can build my own home, without worrying about tomorrow might bring. You haven’t.

What have you offered?

You’ve offered a country where everyone has a militia, where you don’t succeed based on your qualifications but based on who you know, where half of people my age are struggling to find a job, where corruption is our modus operandi, where the most basic of human requirements are not provided to me.

But please, do remind me that I’m Lebanese. Remind me of how I can’t go on vacation anywhere without needing two hundred and fifty different pieces of paper to have them consider me for a visa. Remind me of how you and your friends have turned the country’s reputation into a shithole. Remind me of all that baggage that I’ve willingly left behind – just because you need my vote, I suppose.

You think we wanted to leave. No one wants to leave their home, and everything that they’ve known their whole life. But you’ve made me do so.

I have not forgotten why I left. I thank the heavens each day that I took that decision. And it won’t really matter what you name your little useless ministry, at least for me.

Come April 29th, Lebanon’s voting immigrants – please choose wisely. And on May 6th, I hope the Lebanese populace back home remembers that their sons and daughters are immigrating for a reason.

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The Rapture

It’s already May 22nd in some parts of the world, meaning the day the world should have ended has passed with nothing happening.

So let us recap about what some of us did today: got up, missed breakfast, went online for a bit, met up with friends, had lunch, got bored through afternoon, came up with Saturday night plans, executed those plans, got back home and now you’re on the verge of sleeping. Pretty uneventful end of world day, no?

How many end of world days did/will we have in our lifetime? We’ve had Y2K, May 21st 2011, and the Mayan calendar ending on December 21st, 2012. That’s a lot of world-ending dates, don’t you think?

The main problem with this rapture balderdash is that some people take it way too seriously, making it their job to come up with meaningless dates. I do not like to take scripture literally. I do not believe that God will descend someday and literally “save” everyone. Why? simply because the point of Scripture is not to make you believe in the end of days but rather to give you a way of life until that day comes, be it in your lifetime or some other time.  Therefore, this whole talk about analysis of scripture (regardless of what scripture it is) to come up with a failed date of when that’s supposed to happen is, for lack of better word, stupid.

Honestly, if anyone thinks the world ending will happen in our lifetime, they’re seriously delusional. I hate to break it to you people but in the grander scheme of things, we (and I do mean all of us) are irrelevant. How so? In a hundred years from now, even the brightest people among us, will have their legacy either disproved, or lightly used. Some people’s memories do survive into several generations but those are exceptions. Who of us knows anything about their great grandfather? I barely know anything about my grandfather who passed away a couple of years before I was even born.

The world will end someday. It is a scientific certainty. But the world is still young. There’s plenty of room to grow as well as destroy. You might think the current worldwide political situation (weapons race and whatnot) is bad, but if you look at the whole picture, it’s rather silly. No one will use those weapons of mass destruction against another country because, simply, no one has the guts to do so – even the countries that fake almighty strength.

I’m positive as well that each century has had its series of rapture dates. After all, it has been a constant pursuit for man to reach some sort of conclusion and what better conclusion to be reached than to the most puzzling question of our existence: what lies after?

So until the world ends, which is a time when we, our children, their children, their children’s children (I can keep going here) are dead, I don’t think we should be dancing as Britney Spears would say, but rather, maybe we should lessen focus on the development of weapons and maybe on ways to preserve the planet we call home, at least let us enjoy the natural wealth we have, until it all goes away.

There Goes My Heart… Home

We all know how it feels to be home… you’re too comfortable being there, you’re yourself there… But you know what feels even better than being home? Going home after a long absence.

I belong in Batroun. I am from the North and my heart will always go there. Driving around my hometown, Ebrine, in the Batroun Caza, I snapped these pictures.

When I wake up and open the blinds, this is the first thing I see:

And if I feel like going to sightsee, I don’t need to wander off a lot… these are a few scenes that await me after a few minutes of walking.
And whenever I feel like I want to be alone, I can simply drive down to a very old church, dating back to the 1400s. This is St. Charbel (the Lebanese saint took his name).

My hometown also harbors the mother Convent for Sainte Famille. We all know people who have been to their schools and there are two streets, one in Tripoli and one in Beirut, named after my hometown because they have Sainte Famille convents on them.

And if I feel like visiting my grandma, I pass by a canopy of trees and beautiful olive tree fields…

And if you ever feel hungry, Royal’s Pizza in Batroun offers the best pizza in Lebanon. And trust me, I have tried many, many pizzas. Nothing will ever come close.

All of these pictures were taken through my iPhone 4 and all effects are via an iPhone app: Camera+