Showing posts from April, 2017

Six Years In, Am I Where I Thought I'd Be?

Six years and four months ago, I came to Lebanon on a mission. A couple missions, in fact. The immediate mission was under the auspices of MIT, my alma mater, to recruit high-potential students in the region. I visited numerous learning institutes throughout the country in an effort to promote MIT and to elucidate the application process, student visas, extracurricular life, and Boston. When that mission terminated, a new mission was born, partly out of circumstance and partly out of self-will. I decided to stay in Lebanon and look for work. On mission with MIT -- pictured here at Sagesse High School, Ain SaadĂ© (Jan. 2011) Trust me, to this day I’m beleaguered with questions as to why someone like me – armed with an American passport, a topnotch education, and big dreams – got mixed up with someplace like Lebanon – where dreams are snubbed, derided and spat upon before being thrown back at you in absolute mercilessness. My motivation was threefold: (1) I’d alwa

Language Literacy in Lebanon: The Struggle for Arabic

As a child, every visit to Lebanon reminded me of how linguistically deficient I was. While my cousins went around waxing poetic French, I could only get by on conversational Arabic—for shame!—and English. I always felt so uncouth and vowed I’d opt for French over Spanish to fill my high school foreign language requirement in California. You can imagine that in the ‘90s, English had no place in Lebanese society. The majority of private schools were Francophone, and French was emphasized more than the national language of Lebanon. Not only was it a status symbol, with affluent and upper middle class families affording to enroll their children in private schools. But it also pointed to the League of Nations mandate post-World War I, when France occupied both Lebanon and Syria. 23 years of French presence had left a longstanding impact on Lebanese culture. Fast forward to the new millennium, and it is evident that English has trumped French in popularity and indispensability. Ha

SteakBarSushi: The Art of Sensory Stimulation

It took some time before I was able to bring myself to write this piece. Writer’s block? Not really. Disillusion? Hardly. Confusion? You might call it that. 10 days ago, we sat down to dinner with the awe-inspiring Charbel Makhlouf, one of the visionaries behind the family-run operation Maison M . Charbel greases the gears and helps run the show at this epicerie, which comprises its own butchery, bakery, patisserie, catering and full-fledged Lebanese restaurant. More recently, he’s spearheaded the creation and launch of the wildly successful SteakBarSushi on the upper floor of the grocery-eatery complex. I don’t know what’s more impressive: the mind-blowing concept and tummy-tantalizing grub that together form SteakBarSushi, or the fact that Charbel, who is all of 24 years old, is the mastermind behind it. That three generations of Makhloufs involved in the management of Maison M would give him the green light to pursue his culinary machinations speaks volumes about just how

Golden Fingers: Creative Chocolate Favors For Every Occasion

Rachel Mezher is not your typical entrepreneur. A little over two years ago, the 30-something mother of two (under 2!) mustered the courage to abandon a job in HR and channel her creativity more meaningfully. Endowed with a Midas touch in all things crafts, decoration and design, Rachel launched her very own souvenir and gift shop, which she aptly named Golden Fingers – Chocolate & More . The showroom, located on the main Mansourieh highway just across from BLOM, reflects the season's pastel colors and reminds you of what it feels like to be a kid in a candy shop. A two-tiered glass table cradles every type of filled chocolate egg in anticipation of Easter – flavors as fun as Kinder and Oreo sit alongside mature savors like Truffle and Praline (50,000 LBP/kg). This isn’t the place to show restraint. In fact, Rachel will insist you try several in a nod to the confidence she entrusts in her chocolatier. Easter has descended upon Golden Fingers (try the chocolate egg

Social Media Gone Wrong: Can You Relate?

Having been blogging steadily for close to five years now, I’ve witnessed a complex network of players -- from the basic social media user to the more evolved specialist, community manager, and marketer -- determined to milk the proverbial social media cow. With every new term or title drawn up for a field that just a decade ago didn’t exist, you’d be surprised by the number of phonies I’ve seen interacting in an entangled web of digital dystopia. From accounts ripping off your photos and labeling them as their own, to PR agencies inviting you to wholly irrelevant events, to still other PR agencies failing to invite you to events directly implicating your blog motif: I’ve seen every blooper in the book. Can you relate? SCENARIO 1: The Photo Thief I don’t know about you, but I never forget a photo I’ve taken, as if it were an intrinsic part of my genetic make-up. If you present me with an array of a dozen photos and ask me which one I snapped, be it one year or five year

Springtime at Wesley's: Easter Shenanigans & Horeca

Ah, springtime. When a young man’s thoughts turn to affection. When flowers start to bloom again. When the weather (supposedly) takes a turn for the sunny as daylight extends its business hours. Enough of the fluff, I know a good half of you are counting down the days to Easter so that you can inhale buttery maamoul mounds stuffed with every nut and jam variation in the book. And if you insist that those semolina cookies lay no claim to your paunch, you’re probably entertaining dreams of the Lindt bunny and Cadbury creme eggs.  The indispensable Cadbury Easter display How well do I know you, eh, eh? Indeed, Easter is a mere two weeks away, but at Wesley’s Wholesale , the eggs are already nestled in their nests and the edibles are on display in happy array. Yes, you can find all your American and European favorites, including the entire Kinder product line, from Surprise and Choco-Bons to more elaborate gift sets featuring bunny-shaped chocolate shells. The essenti