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Showing posts from August, 2012

Marching On

None of us crave moving on. There's comfort in the familiar, a natural inclination to plod along with the status quo. We've all found ourselves in that situation, the anxiety we felt when we plunged into a new reality. The embellished memories of the past we created with our rosy-tinted glasses. The longing to go back to what once was, even when we knew full well that it would never quite be as we remember it.

After finishing my one-year MBA in Paris, I moved to Abu Dhabi to begin work as a strategic consultant. I caught myself daydreaming constantly about my time in the City of Lights, replaying memorable occasions over and over in my head. I would log on to Facebook and Skype to strike up conversations with old classmates and peers. I even spent hours poring over job listings in Paris, hoping to find an impossible fit for a heavy-tongued French speaker and foreigner like myself.

I tried to envision myself back in Paris, when I had actually been a resident, and suddenly a s…

A Tribute to LivingSocial (née GoNabit)

LivingSocial is pulling out of the Middle East, citing unprofitable operations. The daily deals company, a giant in the US, faces stiff competition in the UAE, Egypt, and Lebanon from copycat groups who are undercutting one another to win merchants' business.

I remember when I first discovered LivingSocial, then GoNabit, a little over two years ago. I was in Paris finishing my MBA and scouring Bayt's job listings for opportunities in Lebanon, having decided that the time was ripe for settlement in the motherland. I came across GoNabit, a small start-up advertising a concept they called "assured marketing." First, they aimed to revolutionize the way businesses in the region market and advertise their products and services. Second, they wanted to make the use of credit cards mainstream, fostered through online transactions. While GoNabit's job postings--community managers, sales specialists, and copy writers--weren't really up my alley, I expressed interest in…

Froyo Felony

Move over Pinkberry, there's a bigger thief in town!

Yogen Fruz, a do-it-yourself frozen yogurt bar, recently opened inside the new Le Mall Dbayeh, and they're charging an arm and a leg for their frosty treats. Upon entering, you are greeted by a friendly waiter, who ushers you over to the froyo machines, where you can choose amid a vast array of flavors. You proceed to the toppings bar, piling on fruits, nuts, granola, and other goodies, before you make it to the cashier. You're so mesmerized and distracted by the opportunity you had to participate in the making of your own bowl that you forgot to glance at the prices--oh, wait, they're not even posted! The cashier smiles at you, utters the words "Pay and Weigh," and places your bowl on a scale. Weight and price suddenly appear, and your heart sinks.

25,000LL ($17)?! You start fumbling in your purse, fishing for cash, as you stammer out, "How much is it by the kg?" Unabashedly, the waiter says 44…

Lebanon Blowing Up (From Weight, Not War)

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Lebanon used to be the land of enviably slim figures. Slenderness was not an ideal, but a natural state of being, and the Lebanese lifestyle promoted it. Today, with the surge in fast food options, the prevalence of junk food, and easy deliveries, being overweight is not uncommon--in fact, it seems it's become the new status quo.

A few days ago, I went for a swim at a residential beach complex just north of Beirut. I found myself stopping to stare at nearly every child passing by my chaise longue. Kids were hobbling about, their inflated thighs chafing against each other, their bellies spilling out of their swimsuits, their feet swollen under the straps of their flip flops. I feared their pride would take a dive next to their skinny peers. Not so. They were strangely undeterred. Their mothers ran after them, coaxing them with greasy crepes, candy bars, peanut-flavored chips (quelle horreur!) and soda. I was puzzled. Had blubber become the new symbol of status? A social marker, pe…

Is it still considered bad luck if you're entering a church?

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The Evils of Expectation

Expectation is the mother of disaster. Set your expectations high, and you're bound to fall in the throes of disappointment. Case in point: dining out. You go to a restaurant for the first time. You're mesmerized by the variety of dishes, and finally you make your selection. The dish turns out to be a real winner. You come back a second time, perhaps a third, but the dish has become a dismal affair. You sulk and shirk away from the restaurant for months on end. With time, the memory of that abject experience fades into oblivion, and you find yourself again at the joint, again ordering your preferred dish, but on this occasion, it blows you out of the water. You remember the pleasure it once brought you, and you wonder why you ever abandoned it.

What happened here? Did the dish actually change, or was it a trick of the mind? On the first visit, you had no idea what to expect. Perhaps the waiter recommended the dish to you because it involved fresh and in-season ingredients, so…

Riverside Pride

Tyler Clary is an American swimmer and Olympic gold medalist. He placed first in the men's 200m backstroke. Tyler is from Riverside, California, my hometown and place of residence for nearly two decades. A wave of pride swept over me as I watched him swim to victory. The 23-year-old may have attended my rival high school (go Arlington Lions!), but seeing him on TV somehow created a surreal connection, uniting us in a way no formal introduction ever could. I felt sentiments of homesickness rise up in me, evoking my childhood in Riverside and the fond memories of growing up in suburban Southern California.

I was raised to think that poor weather meant cloudy skies--Southern California has a beautiful, sunny climate year-round. Summers may be hot and dry, but the other three seasons are temperate, fresh, and cool. People wear short sleeves and flip flops all year long, and if the weather grows ominous, then a cardigan--and perhaps a scarf, for flair--will do just fine.

The weather--…

Only in Lebanon

The pervasive mentality that Lebanese are the best, brightest, and most beautiful people in the worldPeople who go around blabbering in French as a status symbolSelf-important girls who gush about their restless weekend activities (no, we don't care that you ate at Gaucho before clubbing at Buddha Bar)Over-the-top weddings for which couples happily fall into debt The popularity of stenciled Star Trek-like eyebrowsNose-picking, which is more common than you might imagine (we can see you through your untinted windows, you know)Men who grow out their pinkie nails (either as a nose-picking or coffee-stirring device)Incessant honking of horns (especially taxis tooting their trumpet at every pedestrian--if we wanted a cab, don't you think we'd actively hail one?)Drivers who tailgate or cut through lightsDrivers who pause to whistle at anything even slightly feminine in motionReckless scooters, especially the food delivery variety, weaving in and out of trafficFlagrant littering …