A pink taxi

A pink taxi

May 30, 2012

Twitter Matters

My father used to wake us up with an Arabic rhyme: "wit-wit-wit-wit the bird sings, get up lazy ones". He predicted the overwhelmingly popular twitter craze, of which I am, as a blogger, a singing participant.

Perhaps, music makes for a large amount of my twitter babble. A hit plays on the radio and I tweet my feelings, linking to a favourite DJ on air at the time, or stalking @example or @coldplay @katyperry or @calvinharris, dreaming the aforementioned would respond, disbelieving they would even read my 140 character lyrical celebration. Indeed #lyricsmatter!

#Artmatters also, as I attend a fair, see a show, reflect upon a painting, visit a museum, admire a sculpture, gaze at a structure. I tell the art editors, quote LeMonde, follow the artist, admire the photographer-trend setter, post a photo of an artistic creation and discuss the latest artistic developments. Short tweetable details on art, compressed in shortcut vocabulary and words attached.

In strange connection, I will tweet ferociously about my sports activities and whereabouts. The #fitnessmatters tweets are detailed, make for much exchange and debate and may bore the #artmatters crowd, who would choose to unfollow. Indeed, twitter is about exchanging ideas. Reading, responding, quoting your fellow followers by re-tweeting. In a moment of lassitude you can unfollow the over locatious who tweets every single detail, every single thought.

"Your posts are so engaging" tweeted a person I follow when I pondered the triviality of twitter. Twitter is my sketching as a blogger, a person who shares her energy, her positive vibes, her thoughts and ideas. I once convinced a friend to get a twitter account: "don't you share your thoughts on blackberry? Twitter is communicating with more people, reading their thoughts, having your fingers on the "casual" news."

"One day, we will all laugh at our twitter days", predicts my brother.

May 24, 2012

My Favourite Cafes

I left my heart in SanRemo. At Sabrina's cafe where I drink the best cappucino with all my family reunited, three generations taking over the street terrace.

I always say: "coffee is good anywhere I go in Switzerland". I never mind stopping for one in a random train station, on a random street in a neighborhood I am not very familiar with. I cannot go wrong! But I do have my top two favourite cafes in Geneva.

If I can, I will walk the extra mile to sit at Cafe Auer and order a large, small or cafe renverse depending on the time of day and how many coffees preceded the one I am pampering myself with now. I like to sit inside on a rainy or cold day, tight in the small space, on the leather canopied bench, staring at the tempting "worth every calorie" chocolate macarons or pine-nut mini muffin. My children have selected Cafe des Arts in Paquis, Geneva, as a sunday destination: hot ovomaltines and loads of chocolate croissants!

In Boston, the cafe I loved most was in the South End, the emerging gay neighborhood, where I sat amongst the guys, on long research-phd-time sundays and munched on a caramalized scone. In Harvard Square, I converted tables into study desks where I sat, memorized, wrote, analyzed and composed.

In Dubai, it is Barista, at Mall of the Emirates, facing a daunting Carrefour. I fuel up before my large shopping or pass by with a full cart and treat myself to a post groceries cappuccino.

Cafe culture is a culture in itself. I. studied in cafes. I composed stories. I spent good times with my friends. I took my kids. Sitting over a full cup of coffee, the paper ones with green mermaids, the porcelain ones with the name of the cafe in cursive, the glass ones that show case the brown elexir, the plastic ones that retain the iceness of the chilled coffees. The coffee got consumed, the caffeine got appreciated, the cup got empty and still I lingered.....

May 19, 2012

Quality Time

I love Mondays because the door bell rings expectedly and I will squat as I open the door to meet my nephew at eye level. His smile translates his enthusiasm to study. I call it study, even though his parents try to enhance the activity with the word: play. In fact, its more than play or study, its quality time with my nephew.

I love Fridays because I sometimes drive to a trapeze shaped highrise, descend into the underground parking where a little boy with a large smile awaits me: "Yaya!" calls out my 2 year old nephew when he sees my pinktaxi. He has a small backpack and he sits in the car seat deigned for "the youngest kid in the car" and kicks his feet to Calvin Harris.

I love Saturday mornings because I always take a nephew with me to visit three damzelles, three 3 year old sisters: yes, triplets! I become a kindergarten instructor, with paints,stickers and magic markers and a new language to introduce: I am teaching French to 3 French girls. Their parents, my cousins, make me the best espresso in town!

Making quality time a routine is a joy maker. The certainty of mingling with these young close relatives is comforting and rewarding. Some may say that tutoring may not be fun because it is academic but I derive a load of pleasure from it because it is my chance to teach and learn. When I sit with these kids, I build a bond that I hope will last as long as my own bond with my cousins and aunts and uncles has.

I treasure these moments, they become hallmark thoughts. With my New York nephews, the only two individuals that bestow upon me the title of Khaleh, maternal aunt, I condense time with them every six months. Indeed, I even tutor them during the summer! During these isolated moments of time, I set everything aside, empty my program to be with them, to watch them grow, to inquire about their developments.

I relish any tete a tete: with a sibling, with a friend, with an uncle, with one of my three children. I find 25 hours in an hour to squeeze some extra time and push myself into an eleventh hour so I can enjoy even more quality time. What is time? Precious yet so generous because if used properly, guarantees satisfaction.

May 13, 2012

Sous Le Pont Mirabeau

I stood on a bridge in Paris this February 29th, and began reciting the opening verses of a poem every Francophone person with a Baccalaureat knows by heart: "Sous le Pont Mirabeau coule la Seine......".

How can we make this gross generalisation and say that any random French person with a high school diploma can recite the poem by Apollinaire or ten verses of the epic tragedy Le Cid by Corneille? "Oh rage, oh desespoir, oh vieillesse ennemie!" The person can be from  the WorldWar generation or as young as 12 today and he will recite the famous verses. This is what I tell my son in comfort and encouragement: listen, the electrician, banker, engineer, doctor, hairdressers, cook, soccer player, tv presenter....they all know these verses: you better know them too. In France, literature does not discriminate against class or occupation. No matter how scientific you are, you have to memorise those verses!

Rabelais, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Proust, Camus, Stendhal, Balzac, Pagnol, Colette....the list is much longer. You must have read them, if not the whole novels, at least extracts. In the French system, no sooner can we put two sentences together, that we are memorizing poems and constantly reading extracts, year after year after year. Who doesn't know the opening paragraph of La Chevre de Monsieur Seguin by Alphonse Daudet? Who cannot recite whole exerpts from Le Petit Prince by Saint Exupery? It is through literature that France transmits its common culture.

Therefore when my son showed me Apollinaire's poem, tears came to my eyes, in nostalgia for the first time I discovered it at his age, for the multiple times I re-read it in quest for identification with a lover staring in the stillness at his beautiful city, from a bridge (that I referred to incidentally in my post about bridges), looking towards a river that flows like time, on which his lost love drifts away.

The lyricism of the poem lends to an  analytical dissection, and so I sat with my twelve year old and explained that every verse by Apollinaire was intentional, every rhythm and rhyme!

"Les jours s'en vont et je demeure" Apollinaire

May 11, 2012

Barbie Dolls

When my pilates instructor asked us if we knew where our hip flexers were, I remembered a dismembered Barbie doll. Barbie dolls may be controversial toys but they sell well to this day and have provided me, surprisingly, with a better understanding of anatomy and of course of a multitude of hours of play.

"Just imagine a Barbie doll" I interjected in an otherwise very quiet and collected pilates class. "Take her leg out and that round thing that connects it to the torso is the hip flexer".

My limited debate club experience threw me once into a discussion about the positives and negatives of playing with Barbie dolls. I chose to defend the bimbo doll, as I still do, as a mother. I encourage my daughter to play with Barbie and rule out the more contemporary Bratz dolls.

I used to store my prized Barbie collection in a glassed bookcase, all leaning in seated positions against the shelves. Most of them retained their original hairdos and outfits. My mother was very strict about the care of these dolls. They rarely ended like abandoned nude mannequins with crumpled hair. Presiding over the harem was Barbie as a Bride who never took her dress off nor her veil. She jumped into the red Corvette with the single Ken I owned and went camping in the same bridal dress on the carpet in the TV room.

The carpets made the game two dimensional. This way my cousins, my two Barbie partners, and I had some bearings. On the Chinese carpet, the blue was water, the green was grass with flowers and in the middle stood a nasty dragon. To add a three dimentionality, my mom had suggested we cut pictures out of interior decorating magazines and presto we had a kitchen or a living room as a background. That is when paper dolls even played as extras!

Some may argue that the Barbie doll instils stereotypical images in girls who wouldn't otherwise strive to a model's physique. I strip the Barbie of all controversy and encourage my daughter by offering her a collection to which her aunt has added Grace Kelly. Now that one she cannot undress either!

Perhaps the image of the hip flexer will dawn on her in the future from all the dressing and undressing the other Barbies she has, in her hours of play, on a dragon-less carpet.

May 4, 2012

Conqering My Fears

"Mom I fell of the horse!" the kids inform me with glee. "Hop back on!" I retort. They smile imagining the prized ice cream they will receive in consolation. It is my golden rule: if you fall off the horse and get back on, you earn your ice cream and you buy for the rest. A celebration of sorts!

This is my way of distracting them from the drama of the fall. Limiting the drama may be an effective way of eliminating the fear. Amateur horse riders fear the fall. I share that same fear but I also reign it to my enjoyment. When I gallop, I do it with defiance. I press the horse into a speed that gives me a rush of adrenaline. The fear gets stuck in my throat and I do wonder if I will be thrown off. I asked my instructor of the possibility of the fall and he claimed that chances became smaller to fall if I were at high speed.

That said, he demands full control of the horse. We practice a full and sudden halt to interrupt an uncontrollable speed. I am supposed to stop at the drop of a pin, in case an obstacle came my way. Stopping is like putting your foot on the break of a car at high speed. I cannot afford to slow down into a trot. I have to move from a canter into a sudden halt.

Fear is in the mind. When I started yoga, I categorically skipped the backbends. I couldn't do them as a child attempting back dives, nor did I try as an adult with the excuse of inner-ear and dizziness. But it was the fear that made me nauseous. Yet overcoming my fear happened in one session. Sufficed my instructor telling me: "trust me, you can do this", that I put my mind and gaze into it. I performed my back bend for camel. Today I never skip that position in bikram class.

When my brother suggested I dive into the Dubai Mall Aquarium with 27 sharks, I was afraid! The spectre of sharks has haunted every one of my beach trips. I refused to learn how to dive under the pretext of my fear made cliché: sharks! My brother soft spoke me into diving. Moreover, I took the shark tank dive as a challenge and didn't sleep well days preceding the event. I felt like "dead woman walking" when I walked to my rendez vous with the aquatic man-eaters.

Conquering my fears required mental stimulation and inner coaching. I had to summon my confidence and courage and convince myself with probabilities and theories of "controlled environment". Yes the sharks were fed! I even distracted myself with the technicalities of the dive, in the same way my kids think ice cream when they are in the saddle. I thought its just a pool with loads of fish, dive in!

Conquering my fears, be it in order to limit those of my children (I once walked bravely into a bat-narium humming but terrified deep down by the idea of bats in my hair - yikes!) or to convince myself of my inner-strength. If I am brave enough to swim with 27 sharks, I can defy anything!

The shark swim I only did once, but riding I do frequently, and essentially for that love of speed and to conquer my fears. Its an invigorating and strengthening experience.