A pink taxi

A pink taxi

October 30, 2011

Halloween Par 3 Competition

You keep practicing on the range and on the putting area so you can eventually play the small and large course. You play the courses so that you can compete. My son and I paired up for an informal par3 competition as we frequently have in the past.

I don't know why my son chooses me as his golf team mate. Not only am I the unique mom playing, but I am his biggest liability! The rest of the kids partner up with their dad, who often is a better player than them. We were paired at the t with the junior star player of the Golf Academy and I was thrilled by the idea of watching him play and learning something.

I wore orange and black for Halloween's sake. The par3 was full of Halloween tricks. There was a tractor parked as a hazard, fences around one green to make chipping a challenge, some t zones were moved all together onto hills....or into a bunker! The holes were obviously transferred to the most challenging zones of the green and the green is cut short and slippery.

It was a windy twilight, as pre-Halloween is supposed to be. We played before sunset. I was relaxed, however got nervous at every t. My short game was much better than the swing because my son and I played the best ball, and took turns. We scored well, considering we did as well as the "star player" who didn't play his best and all this despite the fact that I was my son's liability.

All was still and quiet, except for the evening call to prayer, the sound of the water fountain and sometimes the hum of Dubai traffic. Burj Khalifa and Emirates Towers shone in the skyline, beyond the sails of the Creek Golf Clubhouse. Then the Hilal (first moon) shone, very thin and elegant, like a R in Arabic (the letter that looks like a banana).

There was no better way for us to celebrate Halloween!

October 29, 2011

Cold Poetry to Play

I gifted the latest CD of Cold Play, Mylo Xylato, to my brother. He studied the titles. I made a remark. He looked shocked: "are you mixing Cold Play with Jonathan Franzen?" "Well, yes....they both speak of birds." He read another title: Charlie Brown. I followed with my idea: "...and Franzen has chapters on the Peanuts in his Discomfort Zone".

I played the CD for my eldest for the first time. I wanted him to experience it the way I had done TearDrop in June. Listening to a song by your favorite band is like a first kiss. It is exhilarating. I didn't tell my son that because he is too young. But I commented: "sit back, the familiar voice, the guitar, the lyrics, listen, it sounds familiar but it is new and you will never hear it the same way again. The first time is so exciting!"


My husband gave the band Example a chance. Listened to the CD and said rightfully: "these songs have the lifespan of lettuce. None of the music is theirs." The opposite can be said of Cold Play, who line up with the Rolling Stones and U2 as super rock bands. I quote my brother: "Cold Play is U2's child."  The music of Cold Play is so complex, I believe I cannot hear the nuances till I have listened to it 100 times (which I gladly will do).


And the poetry.... The simple statement of "the sky is blue" sung in languorous melody. The images of "I prefer to be a coma than a full stop" or my very favorite: "I am in a gap between two trapeze". Chris Martin sings of disequilibrium, of connection, of this second when a human can defy gravity in defiance.

The album as a whole celebrates an aquatic paradise. Tears and waterfalls wet every song. Yet, its an upbeat album, with my favorite quote: "a spark in a sea of gray." Poetry!

October 26, 2011

My Best Friend




My best friend from childhood still lives in Dubai and her daughter has become my daughter's best friend. My best friend from high school was from the other side of the political divide but friendship prevailed.


At the prime age of 40, I have a beautiful best friend that calls me a freak! Best friendship is a chemical reaction. It is spontaneous and natural: it entails sharing one's funniest thoughts and sometimes the saddest, via blackberry messages.


But this post isn't about human friendships. It is about two sports activities that have become my obsession: weight lifting and playing golf. I have therefore called two pieces of equipment my best friends.


The first one is the Pitch club. Its an iron with a capital P engraved on the side of its face. Its my club of preference when on the par 3. I have adopted it and befriended it and practiced with it. I have introduced it to my son. Told him "master" players only use it. We have seen Tiger Woods use it in instances when we pick our n.5 or even our wood.


The other piece of equipment I have elected as my best friend is the Olympic bar at the gym. I want to use it for everything: bench press, dead lift and other exercises like the one I have called gondola which consists of swinging it from the floor upwards as if I were a gondollier. Perhaps its more convential to call this exercise "wood cutting".


For those children, cousins, siblings or spouse who think they should have double roles and be considered as my best friend....don't worry, you are competing with two pieces of steel equipment: a golf club called pitch and an Olympic bar at the gym.




October 25, 2011

Happiness on a ipod



Before I could say Cold ..... I received a pink ipod instead of the CD of the new Cold Play album called Mylo Xyloto (it sounds like a medicine) that I had requested once upon a mall visit.


I looked at the device with bewilderment and wondered how to use it. The only times I had borrowed an ipod was to visit the dentist. The last time I owned any listeners was when my aunt bought me a walkman, which I eventually upgraded to a discman. Music allowed me to trudge through the snowy campus of Smith College.


But when can I take the time to listen to music? I only enjoy music when I am driving. I cannot listen to my ipod when I drive. So I made an effort to find transition times to shut the world down and put my ear set on. On an ipod the sound is perfect and engrossing. I find myself walking to the beat, dancing in the lift, sighing in the parking lot: enjoying this beautiful album for the first time.


However, all gratitude to my friend's gift of an ipod, I had to buy the CD for the car, for my brother and for my BFF. I went over to Virgin before opening, downed a coffee waiting and entered "with a gun" and told the guy with the silly red jacket: "you go find me 4 CDs of Cold Play.....NOW!!!!!" He had said it wasn't out yet. Then he recognized me: "you came and bought the EXAMPLE tickets?"


Someone who cares took me aside and advised: "you seem to be dancing on your own dance floor. You should synch in with the rest of us." I smiled thinking, "how could I? Not when I am in the midst of discovering the new Cold Play album!"





October 23, 2011

Mental Exercises



Our Millenium is made of shortcuts. The formula is to perform fast, to find a solution quickly. In short, its the destination, not the journey that matters.

And this is where I put my foot down in classical revolt. As an eternal student and constant consumer of knowledge, I am all about methodology and process. I don't really care about the subject matter per se, but rather believe that if you are studying, and applying your brain and logic to problem solving, then your thinking is a mental exercise that is as profitable for you as a sportive activity is good for your body. With that comparison in mind, the results are the same: they are very long term. It is chisle, chisle, chisle at your body and at your mind. You will not achieve anything overnight.

I ponder scientific problems with my 8th grader son. I never did when I was his age. I daydreamed during science classes and handed "blank" pages for homework and tests. I took the shortcuts and bluffed my teachers and parents. I didn't need good grades in sciences to pass classes. I did well in more creative subjects. I am therefore learning about the chemistry of water and the way insects breath....for the first time.

I also memorize with my children. I believe in the mental stimulation of memorizing because whatever you engrave in your heart and mind has to be digested first. It is the opportunity for us to "dwell on words", be they poetic, scientific or religious. We frequently have sections from the Quran and the Hadith to learn and the challenge becomes linguistic. But every mental exercise needs paring down, understanding and eventually the gratification is awesome.

October 21, 2011

Music, Kettle Bells and Hey Sugar Cupcakes



Participants:
-------------
Yazz, T

Messages:
---------
Yazz: They re playing my song on the radio!!!! And upon my request and its not "wasta" (connection) Nathalie!
T: You have so many songs!
T: Which one?
Yazz: Gotye
Yazz: Jodiebird played it on 92
T: Gotya
Yazz: Ya ya
T: Gotya
T: Coffee?
Yazz: Where difc?
Yazz: Now!!!!! Perfect

I frequently bother DJ Nathalie, a family friend, with my requests and musical remarks. She is an sms away. I do this as rarely as I possibly can because there isn't anything funner than hearing the requested song blaring around town on 92FM. This morning, I asked Catboy and Geordiebird to play Gotya's "Somebody I used to know" and even specified the time, for my drive between pilates and the gym. I screamed in delight that they granted my request.

Yazz: Who sings I'm coming home?
Yazz: I busted circuit on that today
T: P Diddy
Yazz: Diddy is cool. All I heard was the female vocals though




Music fuels my energy. I ask them to crank it up, or change it all together. How am I expected to Farmer's Walk with the heaviest kettle bars, then squat with 12 pounds in my arms, then swing with TWO kettles, then throw those heavy tug of war ropes around, dead lift mega kilos, climb stair with 12 pounds and throw a medicine ball back and forth? When the music was blaring, I could run at 15 on the tread mill, at intervals of 30 seconds. Its the rest period that had my heart pounding till exhaustion. But the music played on.

T: Have u heard the Sugar Daddy ad on radio?
Yazz: Just now!
T: Hahaha
T: Me 2!



My brother was referring to Sugar Daddy, the old name of the Hey Sugar! Bakery, owned by our dearest Dana and Raed. To inaugurate their new name and look, they played an advertisement on the radio that I automatically started dancing to, wondered why I was singing to an oldie and then was amazed by the outcome: its Hey Sugar! My brother and I had heard it separately but simultaneously on the air waves and shared our experience on blackberry. I craved their funky cupcakes and remembered a cake of peace delivered at my door.

T: Chris Martin going to speak on Virgin!
T: Keep Virgin on
Yazz: I will try
T: New album is out!!!!
Yazz: Yayayayayay!
T: Yayaya!
T: Album of the year!
Yazz: W Rihana apparently
T: Yup

This is how our blackberry radio conversation ended this noon. Always talking music as typical Radio buffs that we are.

October 20, 2011

Beyrouth Paragraphs



On the first day, the Harrass (guard) unlocked the gates to the apartment building and galantly called the lift for us, as we dashed up the stairs to the third floor. He couldn't quite understand why we selected the stairs instead.


Abu Teymour, the Druze soldier, stood guard in front of the statue of Saeb Salaam. Why do statues require guards? He showed us his family by bringing out their administrative papers. He probably never enjoys the company of visitors.


The waiter at the Phoenecia Hotel fussed over me. "Would Madame like me to add some coffee?" I enjoyed ten cups of coffee that morning and begged my family to run out for some fresh air. "Let's go climb the hill behind the hotel and take photos!"


I saw the toy seller's wagon from a distance. I jolted from my lunch table where my whole family was reunited for fish by the Mediterranean. I stopped the toy seller on his steady track: "can I take a picture with you?" I requested. He was surprised but accepted.

On the second and final day, the Harrass unlocked the gates to the apartment building and galantly called the lift for us, as we dashed up the stairs. By now, he did think we were very strange.

Warning: my younger cousin calls me a FANASSA (show off liar)

October 19, 2011

FIVE HUNDRED

"Au lieu de rester enferme six mois a ecrire tout seul dans ta cave, tu tapes un texte pendant vingt minutes, tu appuies sur play et tu as des reactions immediates..."

"Instead of locking yourself for 6 months in a cave to write, you type a text during 20 minutes, you press the play button and you have immediate reactions..."

(Nicolas Voisin, blogger in LeMonde)




Sometimes I get ideas two by two. Sometimes days go by without any ideas at all. I always write instinctively. Its a spontaneous urge. Perhaps I hesitate. I think I will either bore the reader with the subject matter or consider the subject banal. But I always give in to impulse: someone, somewhere, will like this post more than the others.

Sometimes I write in one jolt, because the subject is "hot" (lipke tennismatch results), because I came out of the film mesmerized or because the experience was inspiring.
Sometimes I begin a post and work on it throughout the day, or even over a few days. Perhaps because its a "little more forced" or just because I don't have the opportunity to "sit and write."

I am standing at the Starbucks counter as I write this one, overwhelmed by the occasion: I never thought I would get....this far. Perhaps the caffein jolt will boost my verve and take me on a different tangent.

I write to share. I have 150 readers (the close relatives, the kind friends and the random internet surfers) logging on my blog daily. These readers are not a homogeneous group of people because none of them log on daily. Yet the numbers are a constant at 150, making me wonder, where I am read. I wish each reader left a one sentence remark, so I could guess.

Some have recommended I slow the rythm down, space the postings. My sister and first editor would get too busy to edit or I would miss a day of inspiration and my months became lunar in number (ranging in the high 20s). However, I do believe it is my commitment to write daily. A regular reader of mine once sent me an SMS of concern when I refrained from posting for 3 days. I had experienced grief and this reader had sensed my pulse: my writing had dried up.

The most rewarding feeling comes from the comments. I sense a debate flowing or I appreciate the input of the reader. Many times, that input surpasses in quality my own modest contribution. I also enjoy discussing the blog, laughing about it, referring to it. Frequently, my brother will send me a: "music matters" in reference to one post, or "I crossed the bridge" in reference to another.

My own feelings are reinforced by my writing: "swimming at night" takes me to the sound of my son's swim team dashing through the water as the calls to prayer resonate gracefully. Driving through Oud Metha reminds me of how I elected it my "secret spot" in Dubai. I also remember my daughter crossing a field of flowers like in a Monet painting or the first time I listened to Every Tear Drop by Cold Play and my obsession with Jonathan Franzen.

I could have a "keyword" feature on my blog because many times, in my daily encounters, I will tell a friend: "I wrote about it on my blog! Check it out!"

What has become extraordinary is that I can now say, without blinking, that I am a blogger. I have celebrated 500 entries and I have a random number of readers, surpassing 100.

And always, I remind myself, don't just write your blog, live it!

October 18, 2011

We Need to Talk About the Movie


I was on pins and needles, in waiting for the release of We Need to Talk About Kevin because I had read Lionel Shriver's book this summer with trepidation and utter involvement.

My patience was rewarded at the Middle East premiere with a screening at the AbuDhabi film festival. Drive all the way to AbuDhabi for a film? My fellow cinephile friend who had read it upon my insistence swore we had to!


Tilda Swinton  played the role of Eva to perfection and with the perfect gravity. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect match than Ezra Miller for Kevin,  the new and hot star (move over Twilight dudes!) While I thought the acting was excellent, I did find imperfection in the interpretation of the novel.

They can always get away with the "based on the novel...." to excuse the over-emphasis, or complete passing over some aspects or the other of the book. I think the opening scene, of the tomato fiesta or the numerous "office culture" scenes were wasted footage. They should have concentrated on the more important secondary roles, namely the babysitters and the peers (and victims) of Kevin instead.

As mentioned previously, the mother and son are winning interpretations: their personalities and interaction are impressively rendered. But what about the father and the sister? Their stories were more important in the book and were barely breached in the film.

Last, the chronology was mixed deliberately in order to confuse the viewer in a few hours, the way Lionel Shriver can confuse the reader over the few days it takes to devour her tale. However, in the movie, the obsessive scenes are never quite the right ones. The symbols are not always there (the glass eye) and the prison conversations, which were happenings in the book, are quickly brushed over, even though the splendid actors make up for those drawbacks.

I urge you to read the book before you see the film. Knowing the original story adds another dimension to the film.....which is otherwise missing.

October 17, 2011

Palm Island



I used to be critical about the Palm project in Dubai. I thought this man made addition to Dubai was a symbol of everything artificial, superfluous and uncharming in Dubai. A representation of the "easy-gratification" life-style: you want a beach front home, you get one instantly! I used to even make a joke about cutting the Palm off the mainland at the level of its trunk so that it could drift away, like an unfinished dream.

Palm Island came to mind when my son had an art project that required him to draw and paint a "pirate's map" and antiquate it. I suggested the Palm as a witty anachronism. If the Palm had not existed for real in Dubai, wouldn't a child-pirate have imagined it in Never-never land, Atlantis at its crown?


Drawing the map of the Palm was fun. We made sure the fronds were well represented in scale, even though the picture was quite approximated. By reproducing it, we realized that the Palm looked more like a araneidae specie than one of my preferred trees.



Then we handed the map to my father so he could authenticate it with a perfect Arabic script. We browned the paper with cotton soaked in tea and burnt the contours with a candle.

It was with this fantastic representation of the Palm accomplished that I looked upon the development with a less critical eye. I have been invited to fabulous parties there, have danced on the sand, in the middle of the Persian Gulf. I have listened to Faithless and to Example at Nasimi beach! My children have celebrated countless birthday parties there. These celebrations have given the Palm good vibes.


But what I enjoy about the Palm the most is its destination. I love to drive there: exhilirated by the connection between mainland Dubai and its fronds, the moment my car cruises over the Persian Gulf, that always appears turquoise, when music is blaring...and the thought that it could be cut at its base and drift away!

October 15, 2011

Example

Many thoughts occur during Bikram Yoga, despite the fact that I am supposed to clear my mind. Most of the time the thoughts are yoga related, or at least the metaphors are derived from yoga practice and applied to daily life. For example, the second set in each position is a second chance and that we deserve one, always.

But the Example I am writing about today is the band that I discovered in my car one twilight, while driving to bikram class. I heard the song The Way You Kiss Me and loved the lyrics and the crescendo in its pop rythme. I ran home, after yoga, requested it be played on UTube, discovered Love Kick by the same band and called Example my new obsession.

My children claim they need a fire extinguisher to calm their mom when the song The Way You Kiss Me plays on the radio. The tune is upbeat and the lyrics are about gutsy love, of the fearless type. Example reminds me of New Order and Cause and Effect. But perhaps a tad less alternative, a tad more mainstream and "seasonal". I cannot imagine humming these tunes next year, whereas New Order is a classic as it gets.

My BFF didn't need me to ask her to get the Example CD from London: she did it spontaneously because I constantly advertised my obsession for Example on my blackberry status. I am still listening to it, 24 hours later, admitting to "overkill".


What are the chances for Example to come to Nasimi Beach at SanDance, Atlantis the Palm in Dubai? They are as upbeat and fun live as they are on the radio. In combo with DJ Wire they rocked the beach. I crept deep into the crowd and got very close to the stage and the ambiance and danced for all the times I had heard them while driving. They even sang their less popular song called Chasing the Rabbit into Wonderland, yet another song about daring love.

This blog is evidence of my crazy taste  and I am sure temporary musical obsession.

October 14, 2011

A Transcript by LeClezio

I was very proud when the French JMG LeClezio won the Nobel Prize of Literature in 2008, because he was my writer, I had read him before the prize. In fact, I had loved his book the Desert as a teenager.

LeClezio is from Nice, the French city I am most familiar with and attached to culturally. Nice is ever present in his writings. The novel Desert is about a female immigrant from North Africa. I picked the book after 2008, to remind myself why LeClezio won the prestigious award. I just couldn't re-read it. I lacked the patience of the passionate teenager I used to be, ready to read almost any French novel with a female protagonist. I never got into the cape and sword novels of Alexandre Dumas and the futuristic adventures of Jules Verne.

It was then that my son informed me of his reading assignment for class: Mondo by the most prestigious LeClezio. He told me how hard it was to grasp and for once I actually sympathized with his subtle nag. I promised to take a try at it myself and forced fed myself the first chapter.

The next day, my son presented me with a narrower assignment. He had to pick any ten lines in the book and memorize them. I wasn't the least surprised by the encouragement of rote memorization, especially in the literary context. I promised to help him.

We picked a very simple paragraph of 100 words. I recopied it myself in my large spaced out cursive handwriting, translating the prose into verse, by cutting the paragraph into ten sections, ten smaller verses, easier to read and to memorize.

Now the poetry of LeClezio shone, in its sheer simplicity, in its splendid images, in its repetition.  It was a paragraph about the beauty of reading, in this case a simple colorful magazine. The topic of the article was the gastronomical delights of a bourgeois family. The one who found the magazine was a starving immigrant.

LeClezio is not about gripping narrative. His text is fluid and simple. When read as a whole, it may appear repetitive and blunt. But when you dissect 100 random words, when you memorize them, you recognize the clarity of its language and appreciate its poetry.

October 13, 2011

Nadim Karam's Fox


"Horse" said my 20 month old nephew, when I took him on a promenade to meet the fox under the  Arch of Dubai, at DIFC.

I visit Nadim Karam's glass sculpture at least twice a week, because my sneakers lead me there, after a "earth shattering" circuit training session at the gym. I always take a picture of it because I am attached to it and especially because I sense the weight of its reference!

How incongruent is the placement of a fox, straight out of the French classic, Little Prince, landing in its mirrored artistic beauty in the heart of the Financial activity of the Arabian Gulf?! I have watched pedestrians walk by it, without a single glance.


"I am a fox," the fox said.
"Come and play with me," proposed the little prince, "I am so unhappy."
"I cannot play with you," the fox said, "I am not tamed."

The original French text of Saint Exupery pops in my mind, with a smile, every time I encounter the fox. Indeed, the fox by Nadim Karam, is surrealist, fantastic and even "wicked" as best described by a friend when I sent the isolated picture of its snail like, bulls eye tail. Isn't that tail inspired by the fantasy of Miro's symbolism?

My father, slightly critical of his compatriot artist (yes Karam is a young Lebanese) commented that the over-grown ears resemble those of a donkey. My parent did not double check the original drawings by Saint Exupery, in the precious book, that is a permanent classic by my bed. Karam has faithfully reproduced the ears, perhaps just making them a little more figurative.



And so, as a ritual, I walk by the glass statue, that reflects the dynamic DIFC on one of its facades and the futuristic and sexy Emirates Towers on the other. And as a ritual, I gaze at myself in its mirrors, because that is what mirrors attract.  And I ponder my favorite quote by Saint Exupery:

"It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox. "If for example, you came at four o'clock in the afternoon, then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances."

The beauty of rituals. All in the name of public art.

October 12, 2011

Le Surbooking, pronounced a la fran├žaise


I stopped at the sound of it, while reading leMonde. The context I have by now forgotten. But "Surbooking" sounds like an ailment we all suffer from, or on the contrary energize from.

I have made a conscious effort to air out my children's schedules. They haven't even started their farsi lessons this year. The eldest swims more frequently and has temporarily given up his weekly riding session. Management of time is all about give and take, isn't it?

In the end, we want to maximize, give in the full effort and practice. Why attend Bikram yoga once a week when I can squeeze in a second session. Is twice a week pilates enough? Will I see results if I lift weights only once a week? Doesn't golf and violin require practice?

Our priority is academics and the lessons must be reviewed, the projects prepared. We also have the CNED home schooling program which entails a lot of preparation, hours of tutoring and much organization.

I end up double tasking, barely ever enjoying down time, always scheduling, so that I don't arrive late to lessons, or miss them. Always in the back of my mind, I know that nothing is quite important, that we can afford to skip a class here or there.

However,  what is important is consistency. Keeping to an activity, continuing pilates after 6 years, or a swimming/golf program for my son. My daughter has attended ballet, session after session, term after term, year after year: steadfast. The scheduling turns into routine and routine into comfort.

All the while, we all know that if any of the activities get cancelled, we run to the golf course, to the park, to the zoo, to the beach. We invite a cousin, a friend, include a grandparent.

Suffice for us to live the moment. Concentrate, benefit, focus. Time is precious. Enjoy. And so we squeeze, we fit, we add, we stretch and we sometimes find a 25th hour in the day.

October 11, 2011

Intensity and Speed



I have carried ski equipment and golf clubs. I have carried groceries for several blocks. I carry a total of three lunch boxes and two school bags daily. I have carried a sleeping child back home. I have placed my son on my shoulders and walked all over Versailles gardens. I have carried suitcases onto public buses. I am not intimidated by weights.

When the trainer told me to do the Farmer's Walk, it wasn't a challenge. Carrying kettle bells for a few laps was a fun exercise. However he combined it with a full circuit of rapid runs, squats, dead lifts, ski machines and a plank on a roll of tape. The roll of gray metallic tape that is thrown on the floor is just an intimidating prop. The other prop was a set of XL chains attached to the dead lift instrument. I saw it and I laughed my heart out because it jingled every time I lifted it.

I regretted those academic gym classes of my childhood when I was too busy chatting to learn how to start a race or long jump or plain jump. But I am a swimmer and I know how it is to time myself, to mentally prepare myself for the sprint or the endurance swim.

I watched the FINA swimmers yesterday. I zoomed onto my son's teammate and role model Valimir as he participated in one heat after the other. Sometimes he would dive in and swim at a medium cadence, sometimes he would slow his pace down and swim at a regular tempo and sometimes he dashed into the water, reaching for the wall, faster then I could follow. It all depends on whether he is swimming 50 meters, 200 meters or 400 meters.

With the swimmer in mind, I thought of how fast I was requested to sprint today. How fast I can actually run on a tread mill (I still believe I can't run) and I realized that I had to set my pace, I had to program myself to dash and to run beyond the finish line, not halt abruptly when I get to it.

The main motivator was the music. They were playing some music that sounded like Chemical Brothers with the merry-go-round melody in the background.

The trainer did scream: "this isn't pilates!" to make me accelerate. I laughed at his ignorance of pilates: its rapid flow and quick transitions. Imagine if they played Chemical Brothers in the pilates studio!


October 10, 2011

Guestblogger: Berlin



You land in the old East German airport, drive through the countryside, and feel like the wall had not fallen at all 22 years ago.

Not until you enter Berlin, that you realize that this is a City of 3 million,but one of the largest in area in Europe. You realize outright that there is no congestion: wide avenues, beautiful plazas and active construction.

Since the reunification of Berlin, and the transfer of the capital back from Bonn,the reconstruction of the City has been going on with proper zoning,meticulous renovation of the few remaining landmarks and historic building. The only towering structures are the Churches, some hotels and the famous iconic TV tower,a remnant of the communist days.

Berlin has been an architectural heaven for world famous designers the past 22 years. If you take the hour river ride in the city that boasts more bridges than Venice, you will see some examples of the architectural wonders that combine the old and the new.

Dubbed the city of art,you visit the Museum Island that boasts 5 institutions,not necessarily as large as those in the US, Britain or France; yet they were built brick by brick in such a short period.

Lastly,the City is a cyclist arena,literally thousands of them being used by residents as well as visitors making pollution a lesser problem. If you are a walker,Berlin is very welcoming to discover its old city as well as its landmarks like Check Point Charlie,the Brandenburg Gate,the Wall,The Reichstag,the Bauhaus,Opera,Philharmonic House;just to mention some of the attractive places to visit on dry October week famous for its Oktoberfest.

October 9, 2011

A Teardrop in the Desert


Imagine driving along a long desert highway, with the Dubai radio stations blaring، and I see a vision. Visions are always isolated objects. This one is large, and round shaped in its futuristic ondulations.

I am a seventies child, but I have long forgotten the UFO mysteries. I don't think of this blue structure as a flying saucer, even though the futuristic aspect of the design grasps me. Perhaps its because we Dubayans live at the threshold of the future.

It appears like a huge drop of water in a contrasting desert. And because I am listening to 92FM, because I am more in tune with the organic images of the XXI century pop music, I couldn't help but remember Chris Martin's Teardrop song.

I visited Hamdan Bin Mohamad Bin Rashid Stadium with my son for the FINA competition. It wasn't the most exciting of events: the one that took place in December 2010 at the same venue had attracted more champions. But the atmosphere was full of promise: many professional swimmers demonstrating their skills, swimming against a large number of Dubai swimmers, of which our own Hamilton Aquatics Team, starring Allan Alistair and Valimir St Jepanovic. Their orange caps, that my own son dons 4 times a week, abounded at this official event.

Certainly an inspiring event....my son aims to swim in a desert teardrop one day.


October 8, 2011

Non-Fiction


I never thought I would enjoy non-fiction essays till I discovered David Foster Wallace. I have tried reading his fiction, to no avail. DFW is a genius that I cannot understand in the abstract. He has to spell things out, as he did in the Guardian, "Plain old untrendy troubles and emotions".

I call the essay "The Fish Story" and a friend of mine I gifted it to, in hardcover, would agree with me. Its the Fish introduction that sets the tone of the essay. DFW, the genius, stoops to my level, to discuss and philosophy about the quandries of Americans, who stress about their work, their grocery shopping and their large collection of freedoms. DFW speaks directly to us, grasps us in our idiosynchracies and puts everything in perspective. I have read the essay at least 6 times since I discovered it last year and I find a new detail in every single read. Don't they say fish always swim in different waters?

I looked for DFW's on the internet again, after I started reading and really enjoying Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Murakami has been on my to read list, for fiction. He is reputed to be a genius. His reputation was confirmed the minute I read his non fiction piece that my husband left at his bedside after devouring it.

I don't devour books I like. I relish them. The minute I turned the first page of the introduction, that I got invited to listen to Murakami's simple, yet profound confession, I was running with him.

I am not a runner. But I am a reader. As the Japanese writer/scholar/professor runs by my beloved Charles River in Cambridge Massachusetts, I consider myself very fortunate to have found, yet another piece of non-fiction that I utterly enjoy.

October 6, 2011

Guestblogger: Kamal Salibi, A Historical Pillar Lost




At the age of 5, my family spent  summer in Bahmdoon the village, a hamlet overlooking Beirut. City families would take their light furniture every summer and rent a stone house in the mountains running away from humid sticky Beirut. Our choice in the 50's was the Salibi house owned by an elderly couple and their highly educated children. Dr Salibi an MD, was a Greek Orthodox village notable, who lived one story above us. His deep voice, thick white hair and serious demeanor made us kids dub him as God.


He had a gentle young son who was a historian teaching at AUB: Dr Kamal who was a friend of my older siblings and maternal cousins. He had converted to become a Protestant, being influenced by the American founders of the University. He had a signature bell-ringing laughter and a special sense of humor. He was generous in giving us a lot of his precious time explaining the turmoil that was wrecking the Middle East during Nasser time. Though as teenagers moved by Arab Nationalism,we were on a different wave length,he would always patiently draw our attention to similarities from history past.


Dr Kamal Salibi was a close friend to several generations of my family on both sides, and had mentioned his experience with them in various text books that he wrote. My widest exposure to Professor Salibi was during my 7 years at AUB. Though I was not a history major, I used to visit him as a family friend at his office, and exchange with him political ideas. 


My wife,a history major was more fortunate in taking couple of courses with him. He was intrigued by my early marriage to a Persian, an uncommon alliance those days. The civil war and my work outside Lebanon, made our encounters less frequent. Yet today I feel the Middle East, not Lebanon alone has lost one of its greatest historians after Hourani, Zurayek and other pillars of our modern history.

October 5, 2011

Readers, Who Are You?



An average of 140 readers log on to pinktaxiblogger daily. I am proud of this figure because I don't know that many people to start with. Many of my readers are therefore unknown to me, mysterious.

I write to record the story, the impression, the memory and the opinion. It is an urge. But I also write to be read. I write because I know people will log on daily in search of a story and I am flattered by that. I don't want to disappoint, be it with the monotony of the story or the absence of it. Days go by, scattered, where I don't write. My inspiration fails me. I feel guilty that my reader finds the stale story of "yesterday". I am afraid I will loose that reader, that he/she will renounce to logging on.

Readers, who are you? Where are you? Why do you log on? Are you in search of keywords such as Bernar Venet, Dubai Golf Creek Club, Geneve Plage, Smith College, Lego, Bridges? Are you the one time reader curious to discover information about schools in Dubai? Did you stumble on my blog because I wrote about Coffee addiction or Reclaiming Beyrouth?

My family and friends log on in support. Frequently. When they comment, even anonymously, I recognize their voice. But every single reader in my close circle of friends and family will admit that they don't log on every day. So how do the numbers of readers remain constant?

Blogs, just from the nature of their immediacy, their lack of focus, their scrappy writing are downgraded to "sous-literature", what the French call written forms that are not literary. I always admit to being a blogger with a certain air of humility, of discount.

As I was typing this post on my blackberry, the phone rang. My youngest aunt said: "I was googling my dad's name and I found your post on the Iranian hospital. Then I read about Agassi....." She is my reader. Where are the rest of you?