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departing/arriving

Arrived in Syria, sitting in Damascus at a café. About to have Turkish coffee.  And orange juice. Staying at a palace (Nassan) in Old Damascus, Bab Sharqi, with a load of tourists coming through to take pictures every morning while I’m walking across the courtyard brushing my teeth. Last night, sat on the border for only two hours (WASTA). Gorgeous, Damascus is cleaner than Beirut and more quiet. No mopeds, bikes instead. Staying in Christian center of the city for Good Friday.  Palace is from 1640, there’s a club attached to the back.  Walked through the palace’s garage last night to get a gin and tonic.

Meaningful lyrics –>Weird like a bearded lady. Get the funk out my face.

Remember this from last week, that your liberation is bound up with mine.

Sitting in a church, Notre Dame of Damascus.  Today we went through the Hamadiya Souk, I did not find my lingerie but I did find ice cream and Hezbollah posters/wallets/t-shirts. About to celebrate Easter Syrian style… with music and crucifixion. I like this church and want to sit here longer, but we have to keep running through the city.

Umayyad mosque, Iranians crying and singing over the death of Hussein.  Kids spread out across the mosque’s floor, making a star shape with their bodies. I went to the wrong side, and these men are laughing at me.  But the sky here is big and blue.

“Hey! Charlie!” “blah blah blah (some stuff about the navy),” from a guy at the Syrian bus stop.  “Chalas!” I say. But we made friends after he quit yelling at me. I need to get out and see more of what’s around Lebanon. On Nick’s roof this morning,   Saluah holding Hezbollah decoration she bought in Hamadiya, explaining her friends’ response, “They just don’t get the kitschy aspect of Hezbollah!” Hassan’s beard.  Eating eggs and bread and drinking tea on Nick’s roof before I leave for Beirut. So much sun, so much more I will write about later.

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I-VOICE in studio, photo taken by Taylor Pichette and Dylan Collins

We just finished making a music video for the Palestinian hip hop group I-VOICE, one of the artists at eka3,  check it out on youtube by clicking here!

Photo by Taylor Pichette and Dylan Collins

More from I-VOICE:

http://ivoice.jeeran.com/

http://www.myspace.com/theivoicee

and soon:
http://www.i-voiceonline.com

A couple nights ago a bunch of us munched our way, via falafel, downtown. Once we reached Martyr’s Square, a friend mentioned that just down the block there’s an artist collective that meets. Yes! Of course, we changed our direction in pursuit of art!  As we approached what appeared to be an enormous bombed out egg, we saw a sign that read “You are here for now.” A police officer standing by said the building used to be a cinema.  I took pictures (below).  And then I climbed over some rubble and dirt to take more pictures of the outside.  But what was inside?

Lebanese Diaspora

“Due to the long history of Lebanon’s everlasting instability, and to the insufficiency of the land for its people, the Diaspora has become a banal situation that many Lebanese go through.

It is never for the same reasons that one becomes part of the Diaspora, but it is an experience that no human can ever forget. Some go by their own will and some are forced: some travel for career opportunities, some for studies, discovery, and some do it because they have to escape.

Escape violence and flee conflict zones to look for a safer future…
My story is one of them. At the age of 19, I decided to travel to France to study in a university. I have the good fortune to possess French nationality since my ancestors have lived and worked in Ivory Coast when it was under French administration. My journey outside of Lebanon lasted for five years, during which I would come visit my family every now and then.

Summer 2006 was somehow a particular visit. I arrived on the 10th of July, two days before the Israelis declared their blitzkrieg on Lebanon. After my ancestors’ and my parents’ generations, it was my generation’s turn to witness events that would drive many of us to evacuate the country.

Through those photographs, I have tried to capture the last visions I had while being evacuated from Beirut in August 2006 on a French repatriation emergency boat. I chose to represent the division between the land and its people, the empty spaces created by the war and the inhabitants’ confused state of mind.

The moment you see your homeland shore become smaller and smaller until it disappears from your sight, you are so overwhelmed with feelings that the journey becomes an intensely spiritual one. That moment of separation might be the first step of one’s Diaspora experience.”

– Ralph Nashawaty

To see more work from the exhibition and pictures of the egg, look to the right and visit my flikr page.

1 Some sounds.

During both of my flights I listened to what sounded like a chorus of pissed off babies. Driving to Beirut from the airport, I listened to a milder form of that fitful car honking I would often hear in Cairo. A few minutes ago I was listening to an actual catfight, and moments before that I heard, from a distance, call to prayer.

I heard my favorite Nina Simone song playing in the background at a Beirut bar. As I was speaking with a woman I had just met, the lyrics “Do what you gotta do, come on back see me when you can” played from speakers. Oh, rejoice! I’d been listening to this song back to back for the past month; many people can vouch for this fact. Nina Simone? Do what you gotta do? Beirut? I’m in the right place.

2 No need for a cup of coffee, I had a full night sleep.

I’ve been apartment hunting all day. A woman named Leila brought me to the property she’s looking to rent out. We met outside the Starbucks on Hamra Street (a street full of cafes, clothing shops and booksellers). She is a French lit. professor, we had a nice conversation about her work and then the housing market in Beirut, not cheap. Anyway, I loved the space: big glass windows that slid open, washer, no carpets and cute furniture. And, to be vague, it had a good energy. But, surprise! I can’t afford Leila’s apartment (and thus am looking for a roommate to split the cost with). More significantly, many people who are actually from Beirut can no longer afford to live here. Few jobs, little money, no housing. In other words, I’m getting acquainted with the financial privileges I have being an American tourist in Lebanon.

3 Falling asleep after sunset, staying asleep after sunrise.

I woke up wishing I had a full night of sleep directly ahead of me, mostly because I had actually woken up six hours before my alarm.The culprit that kept me awake: a mix of jet lag and apartment obsessing. Once my alarm did go off, I pulled myself together, left Iman’s apartment (Iman is from Seeds of Peace, she’s letting me stay for a week), and shuffled down the street looking for the Chammas apartment building (to look at a studio). The owner told me that I would find the building “Right next to Socrates restaurant.” Alas, I did not. After asking many people for directions, in English and broken Arabic, I found a woman who knew exactly where to point me… three blocks away. I visited and concluded that the first apartment was better. Then off to another spot, “Residence Diane.” As I was walking, I kept seeing people on the street looking just the way I do, baggy eyed and irritable. We should have all known that the other couldn’t sleep last night, texting one another at 3am to provide encouragement…“Fall asleep before sunrise, you can do it! Yalla!”

Anyhow: The entrance to “Residence Diane” was marble. And inside, even more marble. It was too nice for my price range, so I smiled at the concierge and turned right back around to the street. While continuing my part of the insomniac shuffle, I found myself in good company as I passed a cute round kitten with a big furry head. I really wanted to scoop it up and take it with me.

OH WOW! The electricity just shut off. Not enough energy to run the entire city at once and so there are rotating three-hour power cuts 24/7. Maybe Obama should try that in the U.S., I’d really like to see people running out into the street shaking their Snuggie covered fists at the sky because their television sets/treadmills/microwaves suddenly became temporarily unavailable.

4 Oh! Hello great sea!

At some point this weekend I took a wrong turn walking around the neighborhood and ended up at the foot of the Mediterranean. Knocked out of my sleepless insensibility, a rush of thoughts like “OH! THIS IS INSANE,” “I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M HERE,” “#@!#$^*#” came over me.

I’m wicked excited.

5 circadian blues

“While the body’s ‘master clock’ is centered in the hypothalamus, different parts of the body adjust to time-zone changes at different rates — with the kidneys, stomach and other organs lagging behind the brain.

‘Jet lag isn’t [merely] a lag between you and the outside world; instead, it’s a lag between different parts of your body,’ explains Thomas Wehr, chief of the biological rhythms section at the National Institute of Mental Health. ‘If you’re flying east to Europe, your brain could be in Ireland, and your liver could be in Iceland, so things are not cycling in sync with each other.'”

I’ve got five hours to kill before boarding my connector flight to Beirut. So here’s a post to let you all know I’m in London and doing well. Maybe a little confused, considering it’s 7am and everyone else in “terminal one” seems so awake. Some of these people are even eating lunch now and drinking alcohol. Absurd! Anyhow, my next flight is only four and a half hours long so I will be in Beirut SOON (very excited)!

Before I go, here’s a little substance to add to this post:

Today (or yesterday?) I was thinking about that line from the animated film Waking Life, where one of the characters says, “The idea is to remain in a state of constant departure while always arriving.”  Just something to chew on.

Much love to you all!