A pink taxi

A pink taxi

January 31, 2011

Multiple Variables

I have reached a certain level in golf where I feel like I may need a  golf manual, one that could answer the multitude of questions that assaults me while I play. I often find myself thinking out loud: "what do I do NOW?"

There is a certain mathematical quality to golf. It's a mind's game, and one in which you have to think of the next step, and the consequences of each of the decisions you make. All that thinking affects the final score. This reminded me of  my algebra and trigonometry formulas when I was a lycee student in the French school: if the ball is in the bunker and the bunker is far from the green, and the green is sloping and the grass on the green that day is slippery......

However, in golf there are so many variables to consider! Even if you forget for a moment the technical aspect of the sport (the swing, and what clubs to use), every time you come to hit a ball, be it a swing, a chip or a put, you still have to make many other choices based on multiple variables.

It would make sense that Tiger Woods was a student at Stanford University before becoming a professional golfer: he must put his intelligence in the game. I won't believe anyone who says that golf isn't just for the "bright". After a long round of golf, my brain is fried. I cannot even put the music on in the car ride home.

The main issue is that expert advice is expensive. A private hour with an instructor costs north of 200 dollars! I have therefore skipped the private instruction and settled for  ladies' courses in the mornings, where advice is kindly dispensed for less. I attend those courses regularly in order to acquire the technique and the theory: golf isn't a sport you learn alone for fear of maintaining bad habits. Ironically and unfortunately, bad habits remain with you forever but good tips are so quickly forgotten.

The golf instructors all seem to have graduated from the Harry Potter's school of Wizards: Hoggarth. They have answers for every variable. But they aren't there when I am playing the course and my son who receives their advice also is too preoccupied with his own game to dispense any. I have seen the students of the Young Master's Program with their perfect swings, assurance and concentration and have tried to learn from their game. A father in a parent-child team competition gave me a tip once about keeping my eye on the ball till the (imaginary) T is empty. An old classmate suggested I hold the woods closer down to secure my grip and have a more confident shot.

Recently, I was commenting on the inner game of swimming: I always think kick, kick, kick...and the coach retorted: you have to keep the thinking out, otherwise you wouldn't be swimming, would you? His open ended question brought me to remember my pilates guru's wise words:"You have to experience it, feel it, and not overthink. "

January 29, 2011

Where Were You When you Read....

Do you remember where you were when you read a certain book? The most memorable books are retained like events in life, important milestones and  can certainly be life changing experiences. My mother's all time favorite books were Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged". I think she read them when she was at Goucher College. I was curious about her passion and read it during my post graduate years,  and they turned out to be the perfect antidote to dry political non-fiction.

I also read the two masterpieces by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, " Love in The Time of Cholera" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude", in their original version, while I was a lonely researcher in Saudi Arabia. I would allow myself only a few hundred pages a day, for fear of running out of entertainment!

I became an avid reader in the third grade, when my older cousin opened her library to me while I vacationed in Lebanon: the whole series of Jojo Lapin, Club des Cinq, Alice, Fantomette, and the books by La Comtesse de Segur.

I don't always remember the exact location of where I read most books. As a teenager I used to read in the car, at school, during recess, or often between  afterschool activities. I read every volume by Pearl Buck. Still today, I have kept my teenager's habit of carrying a book around with me, wherever I may go,  and I always have a copy of  my faithful, yet stale LeMonde in my handbag.

I also remember the books I read for literature classes throughout the years. "La Princesses de Cleves", I read in 1ere, or 11th grade, for the French part of the baccalaureate. I studied Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea"  in summer school,  and "Sidhartha" by Herman Hess for a comparative literature class in graduate school.

The following books, classics for the most, will always be entrenched in my photographic memory:  I remember the first lines of  Salman Rushdie's  "Midnight's Children" on the  steps in the lobby of our apartment building in Geneva, and falling under its spell from the incipit. I read Vikram Seth's "Suitable Boy" on my bus commutes around Geneva,  and in cafes, during my first year of marriage. I used to read Arundhati Roy's  "The God of Small Things" out loud to my husband in our first apartment on long winter nights.

I devoured "Gone With the Wind" while my grandfather visited us in Washington DC, and happened to be sharing a room with me. He used to say I had "Scarlett Fever", a humorous statement considering he was a physician. I also read "The Catcher in the Rye" while summering in Washington DC, one of my fondest memory of my summers there. I started "The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen at my mother-in- law's home in Walnut Creek, stealing a page or two at a time between hte hussle bussle of family get togethers.

A very crisp memory I have kept of a book,  was reading "La Petite Fadette" by George Sand in 1982, a year I consider decisive in itself, in the kitchen, in one all nighter, and crying in sleepless despair at its sad ending. I read it again last year and it appeared new to me but I could see how it had captured me in a single night's read!

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Husseini was another book that made me cry. I remember closing the book in the middle. Putting it down. Muffling my sobs in the pillow so my children wouldn't hear me as they innocently slept the Geneva summer night away.

My eldest son has finally been infected with the reader's disease, which thrills me.  I am sure he will remember that he was ten and that he begged to delay his bedtime to read a few more pages of Harry Potter, one volume at a time. My grandfather, his namesake would have rightfully called it the Harry Fever!

January 28, 2011

The Summer of 1981

As I was practicing my golf swing this morning, I was enjoying the warm winter Dubai sun shining down on me. I took a deep refreshing breath,  and Iwas immediately taken to the summers I spent in the USA. The smell of freshly cut grass brought back those memories of fun summers with family.

I was driving back home in my car, windows and sun roof open along Garhoud bridge, when 92 FM surprised me with the nostalgic beats of " Don't you Want Me", by Human League.

It has become a cliche now, since Proust's famous madeleines, that our taste buds can bring back vivid memories. In my case, it was the smell of grass, the feel of the sun, and the music, that intricate combination of three of my senses, that jolted me back to a special summer. The only things that were missing were the caramel Cracker Jacks and the Slushie drinks from the 7 Eleven to completely send me back to the summer of 1981, in Sandy Utah.

Human League had come up with the single "Don't you Want Me", that my youngest uncle, 18 years old at the time, used to blare in his car repetitively.  Eventually, my female cousins and I began lipsynching to those catchy beats, and we would often be found singing it accapela in a random room of our grandparents' home. We  were nine to eleven year old girls, dressed in terry cloth tube tops, with strawberry flavored lip gloss on, and we would pretend to hold up a tray, waitress style.

It was the same summer I developped a crush on my swim coach and my cousins really teased me about it! We were all part of the swim team, no less than six swimmers from one family. I am sure our parents got a good bargain too! With Depeche Mode and The Cure tunes, , the same 18 year old uncle drove us through windy roads, as we returned our eyes red from the chlorine, for our everlasting hours of play, in a gated community which every nook and cranie we knew.

One summer morning that same year, my father woke me up with huge excitement. It was the 8th of July. A day we have been celebrating for 29 years now. "You have a baby brother!" he congratulated me. That birth had ALMOST occurred in the back of a yellow Cadillac, with my poor mother enduring contractions after contractions, while my father rushed to refill the car which tank had been left empty by a young and forgetful uncle. Luckily they made it to the hospital just in time for her to push my little brother out. He takes pride in this story, and on being the only one of us to be born in the USA.

29 years later, my brother, the youngest sibling in our family of 4, who was the true highlight of this magical Summer of 1981, has welcomed his second son!


January 27, 2011

Memorizing 19th Century Poetry

My son had  less than a week to retain the four stanzas of a 19th century French sonata. After working on it for quite some time, he came to me and proudly said: "I never thought I could memorize it, and look I almost have."

Many parents would not understand why French academia promotes memorizing a 19th century poem,written in old French, and by a second tier poet to boot! This was not a classic piece by Victor Hugo. However, I do see the benefits inherent to such a task.

When you memorize any type of text, you begin to have reverence towards language, which you can  "store in your mind in order to one day emulate it",  which is word for word what I told my ten year old son. Poetic imagery will always resurface one day. My sister, a talented poet, wrote a poem in English called "The Weeping Willows". This tree happened to have a central position in the 19th century poem he was learning. My sister may have come across this poem or another one and  subconsciously stored the imagery. Once poems are studied and memorized, they certainly  leave an imprint and can resurface in the unconscious. My son didn't know what a weeping willow was. In our day in age, we point to stronger, more majestic trees.

I had to show him a photograph and I will certainly point them out tom him this summer in Europe, now that he has studied this poem.

19th century poetry introduces you from a young age to feelings of melancholy and spleen that are frowned upon in our happy-go-lucky, optimistic millennium.  Furthermore, 19th century poems are replete with rich sentence structures. They are the ideal way to introduce children to a more complex sentence: I pointed out to him that each stanza of four verses is a single sentence. I showed him how to read it, how to stop at each punctuation.When you add the new vocabulary learnt through these poems, the experience is definitely a pedagogical one.

Memorizing is like making puzzles: you introduce each piece word by word into your brain, you think about them, and then you fit them into a sequence of words that flow beautifully. Studying a language piece by piece is gratifying and  also happens to be an excellent mental exercise

Poetry is everywhere. Whether in a novel, a newspaper, or a rap song. The French have a common knowledge base and the references are understood amongst each other. As aspiring writers, we try not to use "cliches" (yet another French word) but collecting cliches in our memory is a good point of reference. This is how language is celebrated and is used as an artistic tool.

I also tend to feel that art appreciation starts with poetry. I am sure my son will one day look for the imagery of a lover lost by the side of the lake in a Watteau or a Boucher painting, both 18th century painters. He may even find the essence of that romanticism, distilled to its purest form, in a Kandinsky or a Leger!

January 26, 2011

Welcome to the Family!

Dear Number 8:

They say number 8 is a lucky number in China. You have come as the 8th of your  paternal Jeddo and Teta's tribe of grandchildren, and you will be cherished by them and by us all.  We are so lucky to welcome you as the newest member of our family.

The first two people you will lay your newborn eyes on are your charming parents. They are talented, intelligent and loving people. Your big brother will certainly certify that to you. He will be your hero, the one you will look up to, and that you will love with such tenderness. The two years and a half difference will keep you close as playmates and buddies.

You have six paternal cousins, all boys except for a girl. It will be like Snow White and the Seven cousins! All of your aunts and uncles can attest that being the youngest will be so fun! Just look at how much fun your mother and father had being the youngest in their families....Not that you will always remain youngest. Who knows which siblings are waiting to come after you?

You are so cool that your birth  announcement gets posted on a blog! How 2011 is that?

May the stars always shine on you, and we will always remember how excited we all were when your birth was announced, in the midst of a beautiful snowfall over New York City. It certainly was a magical day.

We love you already!

Your family

January 25, 2011

Please Take Me OFF Your List

I belong to the blackberry generation. My eyes get droopy reading messages on it right before I fall asleep, and it is the first think I reach for in the morning.  I have programmed my Blackberry alarm to  Depeche Mode's lamenting "Time Refusing to Stretch", wishing I could just sleep a little longer. I  refuse to wake up to a standard blackberry buzz.

In the morning, I stretch my arm to my BB and find the messages that arrived while I was dreaming, originating from the USA. I smile, through sleepy eyes, at the sight of nephews growing in a snowy metropolis.  I then rush to my blog wesbite. I am always curious to discover the extra pictures my sister has selected and especially to discover her edits. She has complete freedom to edit me as she wills. The blog is a sisterly collaboration and while I choose the topic and the twist, she controls the lingo and the writing flow. My obsessive checking has brought the total amount of clicks to my pinktaxiblogger  site up to an impressive amount!

However, as with all new technology, the BB brings about a new set of etiquette. My ignorance of BB etiquette actually got me in trouble once. As a new adherent, I carried it with me at all times and would place it by my side at dinner parties. Then a wise friend pointed that to me and I should never use my blackberry with company, and the truth was that I never really did. In fact, now I make a point to protect my personal time by forgetting the BB when I exercise, teach or read to my kids, or  even when I am enjoying a book myself (Franzen anyone?). I also always keep it on silent when I nap.

I now use the BB for a most unusual task, that goes beyond keeping in touch with friends and family. I use it to draft all my blogs!  As I type this very post on the small gadget, I can hear my son swim his laps. Sometimes, I receive an email, or a blackberry message or an sms and seldom a phone call. Speaking becomes obsolete with all the other means of communication.

If you go to my picture folder on my BB, you will find the inevitable children's photos, some rare photos of my significant other, many of my nephews and many photos taken by my brother, a true photographer. There will always be a random one of Roger Federrer, Madonna, Obama, a Henry Moore, Reza Aramesh's photography or a picture of Zurich airport. I am a blogger and those photos remain in my files.

A couple of years ago, before I used to have an actual blog, I kept a mailing list of close friends and family, and would share with them similar thoughts and ideas as I do on this very blog, but via text message or email. Eventually, one of my uncles  responded to one of these mailings with a specific request to: "please remove [him]off [my] list".  I have learnt my lesson, and didn't take it personally. The benefit of a blog is that I don't feel I am harrassing people by blocking up their mailbox. They have the choice to check or not to read.

He is amongst the lucky few who don't know about my blog, even though  I have mentioned him many times in my meandering postings.

January 23, 2011

Lahiri and Franzen: Two American Writers who Live Worlds Apart right in the USA

I am what some people might call an "Indian giver" as I have reclaimed "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri. I had originally gifted the novel to my father who left it by his bedside unread. After my literary escapade with Jonathan Franzen, I needed a diversion, and thus selected an author I have enjoyed in the past.  Lahiri, despite being of Indian heritage, is also considered to be an American writer. Her writing dwells on the personal intricacies of Indian emigrants in the US, and the familiar tug of war between trying to maintain links to the homeland and assimilating into American society. The Namesake takes place in Boston, the city I dwelled in for many years during my college and post college years.

When I started The Namesake, I couldn't help compare it to Franzen's s work, given that I lived and breathed Franzen for at least 3 months. I read the first pages. Like Franzen, Lahiri's style overrides the narrative, a sign of talented writing. Her writing happens to be as beautiful as she is herself. I had seen the film a few years ago, but I have forgotten the details and the ending, and the read still remains intriguing and pleasant.

Despite them both being very gifted writers, Franzen and Lahiri are different. I noted to my sister, a Lahiri fan and a Franzen convert: "If I had to attribute a color to Lahiri it would be light blue whereas Franzen is alsmost midnight blue". I appended with "and Salman Rushdie would be purple." In attributing colors to each of those writers, I was attempting to convey the respective density of their styles, the richness of their vocabularies.If I had to compare them to food, Lahiri's writing would taste like milk chocolate, Franzen like dark chocolate and Rushdie would be a rich truffle. My sister then added: "Lahiri is like Badoit water (very lightly sparkling), Franzen would be a Coke (not Diet), and Rushdie, a wiskey on the rocks!".

Light blue, milk chocolate and Badoit are what I am in the mood for at the moment. I take true pleasure in reading Lahiri. She is applied and talented at conveying portraits of Indian emmigrants and the clash they experience with their own Americanized offspring, a clash of generations, not unlike Franzen's intergenerational conflicts in The Corrections, but in completely different worlds, both set in  such different American atmospheres . Lahiri's chapters are each a framed painting,  as she is a short story writer at heart. It is almost like each chapter stands alone.

PS: I was touched to find boarding passes tucked into the pages of the book, perhaps conveying my father's attempt to read this novel on his travels. I am honored that my gift went that far.

January 22, 2011

You Can Take a Man Out of Palestine

I have always appreciated self portraits.

Jeffar Khaldi is a tall man so he painted a very large portrait of himself, of his bust and face, which remained recognizable despite the blotches of paint splattered on his face and hair. Tied around his neck you can find a keffiyeh, and upon it the discernible effigy of a father protecting his son, and the words "we will not forget", calligraphied along it.

The actual title of the self portrait is a political statement, an identity proclamation: "You Can Take A Man Out of Palestine But You Can't Take Palestine Out of A Man."

Leila Shawa, Mona Hatoum, Tarek al Ghossein and Jeffar Khaldi are Palestinian and their identity transpires in their art. They never stray far from the iconography of war, politics and conflict. Take Tarek al Ghossein's photograph of a man wearing a kafiyya striding on the tarmac next to a plane that resembles the TWA model and the viewer immediately thinks of a highjacking.

When I passed the threshold of Gallery Isabelle VanDenEynde,  and my eyes caught a glimpse of Khaldi's immense diptych "Last Cigarette", I immediately sensed that I would linger for a long time at the show. It always happens that way for me with art: one look and I have a chemical reaction. The piece either speaks to me or it doesn't. The typically expansive expression of Khaldi is painted in Last Cigarette, dramatic and romanesque.

His other self portrait is of himself as a baby, this one not political. The background, a dark khaki green, is painted in large visible horizontal brushtrokes, which carry a tremendous emotional undertone. I can just imagine him at work.

"The Engineer" is another work that reflects the same energetic technique. In this instance the green shirt is left unfinished, with a downward vertical brushstroke of paint that is left to drip. I very much appreciate a discernible technique like Khalidi's, generally more interesting than a carefully finished result. I was fortunate to hear the artist's explanations for the portrait of "The Bomber". His language was engaged, he spoke with the vigor of a politicized artist.

I asked him about a Chagall looking smaller painting and he confirmed that the painting was of Chagall himself, and the recognizable newly weds he has painted flying in the sky, beside Israel's iconic leader Golda Meir. He made a point to tell me that this painting was in no way a hommage to Chagall, previously scorned by Picasso also. When I shared my old passion for Chagal, he was surprised.  "Are you French?"  he asked me. His question in turn took me aback, but  led to an interesting conversation about Chagall's Jewish folklore.

As I toured the rich show, I stopped for a long time in front of a collage diptych of Western-Jewish dancers cut from one work and glued on a background of clouds, beside the Dome of the Rock and a superimposed staircase in the other. On the right, the silhouette's of the dancing couples leave behind the image of fleeing Palestinians.

Set beside Khadaffi, Saddam, Nasser, Arafat, Begin, George Bush Senior and Khomeiny all painted in a highly critical manner, the portrait of Carlos stood majestically. He is painted wearing his eyeglasses, a leather jacket, with blotches of paint covering his eyes, to maintain his undercover identity ,as he constantly has throughout his life.

I walked out of the IVDE show, satiated. The art was entertaining, powerful and meaningful.

January 21, 2011

Oud Metha

Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid  has called an avenue in Dubai by his daughter's name: Metha and soon the neighborhood itself became Oud Metha. It is an active neighborhood, replete with schools, social clubs, hospitals and businesses. I am there every day of the week.

Al Naser Leisurland is a fixture of the 80s. It was the "Wild Wadi" of the times and still has a very active ice skating ring, now a lieu for professional skating and ice hockey and less for leisure-skating as the name would lend it to be. My brother used to practice ice hockey there. Lugging the whole equipment from the USA, making it difficult for my sons to follow in his skates.

We used to practice our karate in that neighborhood as well, at the Jordanian Club, which isn't far from the Iranian Club. My parents are enthusiastic fans of the Friday Iranian buffet where a scrumptious all you can eat kebab is served.

My children's school is located in Oud Metha, steps away from the Iranian Club and the adjoining American Hospital. This explains why I am in Oud Metha almost daily. The campus is located in the AlNaser compound, next to the AlNaser football stadium. The stadium hosts Bayern Munich and we make sure to stalk Frank Ribery during his annual practice sessions.

Therefore I am bound to go down memory lane every time I drive my kids to school, into the AlNaser Leisurland compound, remembering the times I used to smuggle myself into the ice rink without paying. I had short hair at the time and would easily pass as my brother on his hockey card. The latter would fit in his own hockey bag, that I dragged into the building till I unzipped him free.

Numerous schools surround us, My Own English High School which has the highest quota of admissions to Harvard in the UAE. A fact only known to me as I have volunteered as an interviewer for Harvard applicants living here. Another school with a perfect reputation is DESS across the street from AFLEC. Nocturnal swim squads there three evenings a week increase our visits to Oud Metha!

There is a French educational island in Oud Metha if we count my own alma matter,  the Lycee Pompidou, the Alliance Francaise and  the French bookstore CultureCo. This is why Starbucks at the Movenpick is constantly mobbed with French speaking parents! I often read LeMonde between the drop off and my escape to Club Stretch.

We are very fond of our dusty, almost makeshift, unpretentious French lycee, the AFLEC. The vibe is good and the results very satisfying.

Last but not least are the dreaded weekly Farsi lessons that the elder kids take in this neighborhood, attending a computer center with exclusively Iranian teachers.

Another reason to go to Oud Mehta is for Lamcy Plaza, the specialized mall and the little India town that surrounds it. Occasionally, my brother will insist we have a meal at BarbeQ Delight, a Pakistani.

There isn't anything fancy about Oud Metha but it is it's accessibility, great schools, and little restaurants which make it a neighborhood I frequent more than I would have imagined.

January 19, 2011

Another Cultural Paradigm

I have argued with my sister for months about the state of French literature. I went out of my way to demonstrate the opposite of her conviction: that French contemporary literature has turned stale in contrast to American literature. I only read in French this summer. I did make my demonstrations, based on those readings. On this blog, I wrote an open letter with all the proofs and facts that French literature remains dynamic and rich. I posted a few separate book reviews of French novels.

What I hadn't done was read American literature! When I did start "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen, and got sucked in and then became passionate and obsessed, I discovered what she had been talking about all along.

I went on a reading rampage: Freedom, The Discomfort Zone, The Corrections all by Franzen with a short, transient and brief encounter with David Foster Wallace (The Broomstick of the System). Then, I prompted myself to a sudden halt. Enough overindulgence! I did secure "Twenty Seventh City" by Franzen but laid it on my side table with Dostoevsky and the French novels that have been lingering  in  literary pergatory, as I devoured one Franzen at a time.

I then remembered the abandoned French novels, took a deep addict's breath and attempted a substitute. A thin French novel, "A Frozen Woman" by Annie Ernaux, an author who has received praise from LeMonde, and whose other books I had read this summer.

Annie Ernaux is born in 1940, nineteen years before Jonathan Franzen. Two decades make a great difference for me, as decades in the twentieth century are so dense with events that they seems longer than in other centuries. Franzen writes about a world I can relate to and recognize because it is the USA from the 1960s onwards. Ernaux, when she recollects, writes about a world I can only imagine for having studied the history of France. The French dwell on the post war years, the ones they call the "Glorious Thirty Years". We are taken to a world that the Americans today aspire to create. A world of organic vegetables, fine cuisine, erudite learning,in a slow paced, refined village. A mechanized version of Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

In fact, that is the tone of most French novelists: they are always looking behind. Nostalgia drips in each sentence, no matter how critical they are of their past. Ernaux may scorn her parents but the environment of her childhood is glorified. She dwells on the smells, the tastes and the still lives that shape the interiors of her past.

Ernaux's criticism is plain harsh. In contrast, no place for hard or bitter feelings in Franzen. Americans are generally more happy-go-lucky. No humor in French novels, unless the novel is intended for school children like "Le Petit Nicolas" which is hilarious. I am one of the few to find humor in Michel Houellbecq's works. His erotica is so prevalent and exaggerated that it actually becomes comical.

Dear sister, I do concede: Franzen rocks! No French contemporary writer has created a world that draws you in, the way his does. I am struggling with the cadence of this other French novel and am trying to travel from one cultural paradigm to another with minimized turbulence and attenuated cultural shock.

Trees, Trees, Trees

"The posture of the older oak trees reaching toward this sky had a jut, a wildness and entitlement, predating permanent settlement; memories of an unfenced world were written in the cursive of their branches." Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections.

An autumn forest grows on a triptych in my living room. It is signed with talent and poetry by Farideh Lashai, the celebrated Iranian master who honors me with her friendship. The leaves are brown and wilted and the branches are elegant. As the canvas is left bare and white in the background, we presume it is snow. An
artist will never tell you what she really painted but Farideh Lashai smiled at my interpretation.

In that same living room, a few feet away from Lashai's forest, is Ghada Amr's forest. Hers is a tangle of black threads that she sowed onto a background of faded trees on paper: her signature style. They convey the foliage.

We live happily with these forests in our living room. The theme is enchanting and peaceful. I have always been attracted to trees and their symbolism. Many fairy tales are evoked when my children and I traverse the small forests in Geneva. We call out for the wolf, we look out for the gingerbread house and always throw pebbles along the way to mark our path.

It took me forty years to understand the scientific life of trees. My son had a science exam about plants and their growth and I tried to explain to him within the own limits of my poor knowledge but with the capacity to FINALLY understand 7th grade biology.

I have always pointed trees out to my children. Our favorite without any doubt is the monumental cedar. They stand beautiful in the Geneva parks and even the youngest likes to recognize them.  It stands proudly on our Lebanese flag.

I explained the symbolism and political importance of trees to my son as we distanced ourselves from the organic study required for the biology exam. I told him how long it took for an olive tree to grow and how the centenarian trees were bulldozed and uprooted in the Holy Land by the Zionists. He was distraught because he knows the Biblical story of the pigeon who brought back the olive tree branch when Noah's arc was sinking.

In Dubai, winter weather permits me to sit with a book on the grass and press my back into the itchy trunk of the palms that grow outside the school, as I wait for them to be released from class. I love those familiar palms that grow in the Gulf.

I also love winter trees in the freezing West. One of my favorite Tshirts is of a black winter tree, leafless and nude. The bare trees I once considered sad and melancholic, when I studied there, have become symbols of patience and promises to come. I "commissioned" my brother to take a photo for this post and the one beneath evokes his talent and my predilection for trees.

January 17, 2011

Good Friends

My children have a French book that has been handed down from one sibling to the next. It is a story about sharing one's treasures, and how what goes around always comes around. A story of good karma. One day, a rabbit  finds a carrot in the snow and instead of eating it himself he leaves to his friend the deer, who in turn gives to a bird, who passes it on to a horse, then to a sheep, who brings it back to the....rabbit! This story is also about close friends, and the circle of friendship that links them all together. It isn't about recycling presents, although a cynical reading of it, could get to that conclusion!

This symbolic story happened to my circle of friends recently. My sister in law had purchased a "Palestinianaut" by Larissa Sansour at an art fair a little while ago. It is a plastic piece of art, a toy-like figure, part of a larger installation. When we attended a show at Green Art, I happened to see a Palestinianaut and I decided to buy one. My sister-in-law, who knew I loved hers, had secretely purchased one for me also! I saw her face turn white when I excitedly told  her about my own purchase, but I reassured her by telling her that I actually intended to give it to my close friend and neighbor.

A few months passed,  and we visited this same neighbor. I hadn't gifted him the Palestinianaut yet. He approached us, a bubble-package in his arms. "Look what I got myself! Two of these!" It was my turn for my face to turn white, and then an uncontrollable laugh escaped me: I could tell it was a Palestinianaut! I obviously renounced to gifting him a third.

I now have someone special in mind to gift the Palestinianaut to, but I will keep it a secret lest he read the blog and find out.

Maybe this posting is an indicator for others to run out and buy Palestinianauts! They certainly are a hot commodity amongst my circle of friends and family.

Check out the song by the same name by Justin T: