Bourj Hammoud; Safe haven for the survivors of the Armenian Genocide

Disclaimer: “Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a new Armenia.” William Saroyan

Today we mourn the death of 1.5 million Armenians, 950,000 Greeks and 750,000 Assyrians under the directives of the Ottoman Empire rulers. This extermination policy led Armenians to flee (warned by their Kurdish neighbors) to neighboring countries in what is known as the death march. Many settled in Der el-Zor (Syria) and more reached the coastal city of Beirut (Lebanon).

You can read my blog post on on the centennial commemoration of the Genocide by clicking on the link below; https://patylsperspective.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/the-story-of-an-armenian-genocide-survivor-my-grandmother/ 

Today I wanted to share with you all a glimpse of the safe haven Armenians built in Beirut city known as Little Armenia to some and Bourj Hammoud to most of you. This neighborhood, built out of a swamp, turned into an industrial and residential area for Armenians and other ethnic minorities over the years.

This past month I have visited Bourj Hammoud more than I have in the two decades I have lived in Lebanon. Many errands kept me going back and forth but it is mostly the genuine, cozy interaction with its residents, the real-feel of intimacy from its narrow streets and that old/vintage vibe that kept me going up to more than three times a week.

The infrastructure of Bourj Hammoud is an interesting one. Unlike its neighboring district, houses are built three/four stories high and the buildings stack up one next to the other each being polished its own unique way. The survivors of the first genocide of the 20th century did not despair about their fate. They took matters into their own hand and started building their future in this welcoming unknown territory. Most of them got employed just so to put aside some money in order to feed their families and eventually open their own businesses.

When strolling through the streets of B.Hammoud you will instantly notice that Armenians are handymen i-e they excel in the craft of art. They are known to be famous jewelers hence the stretch of jewelry shops on its main road. Furthermore when you enter the streets parallel to the famous Arax street, you will come to notice small shops selling dried food, spices and unimaginable artifacts (sometimes all sold under one roof).

The streets are narrow and permit one car to pass through (very slowly). Pedestrians walk in the middle of the road as well as on the pavement when permitted since most items from shops overflow onto the pavement. Although it is a busy street, you do not feel overwhelmed. People are lively, interactive and very much happy. If you have not heard Armenian before, be prepared to be drawn by its hubbub. Clothing shops tend to compete with each other and if you look closely you will notice that most of them sell to an extend the same products. I don’t know what you have heard but it is not easy to bargain with an Armenian. But you will most probably have heard before (and many times) that they are the most honest businessmen and their work speaks for itself.

How many of you have gone out of your way to buy in bulk from an Armenian vendor in Bourj Hammoud?

How many of you go first to an Armenian jeweler for an honest opinion about the price of a stone?

How many of you fashion designers have settled a deal with an Armenian clothing manufacturer to produce your collection pieces?

and again I’m going to ask you

How many of you swear by the work of Sako, Ara and Garo?

There you got it.

We might have been persecuted a century ago. We might have fled our home country. We might have spread worldwide. But we maintained our integrity, our faith and our trust in God that no matter where and no matter the circumstances we are going to remain and fight against all odds thrown our way.

I encourage you to visit Bourj Hammoud, take unique pictures, mingle with its residents and have a bite of some delicious Armenian food.

Trust me, the experience is one of a kind.

 

 

 

Why I am done with Lebanon for good.

Disclaimer: This post is my ever frank opinion of what I have left behind in Lebanon. An honest direct post I did not intend to write in a politically correct tone, for once. 

It is no secret that I am not fond of Lebanon. No wait let me start again. It is no secret that I hate Lebanon and everything that is related to its population and way of life. Ever since we moved back to Beirut in 1993 (from Montreal) my relationship with this Middle eastern country went from hectic to down right estrangement. Earlier this year, I decided that it was high time to leave everything and everyone behind and move back to my adoptive country. A very tough decision, tough not because I am going to leave everyone behind (those who know me know that I don’t give a flying fuck about anyone) tough because it is a huge irrevocable step once you set foot abroad, as I have a few days ago.

For the 23 years I lived in Beirut, rare are the memories that I cherish and hang on to. Why did it take me 23 years to take my decision to go back to Canada? personal matters. Now that I am settling back, I want to share with you few of the points that I am sure many of you relate to and that led me move back and enjoy North America very much these last couple of days. The points that I am about to share are more related to a human level than any of the usual rants people direct towards politics.

1- It’s mind blowing how every single Lebanese thinks he/she is God sent on earth. I have never seen a snobbish society as a whole. Its as if every single person became amnesic all of a sudden and woke up with a silver spoon in his/her mouth (in his/her mid twenties+). We tend to notice clones of women at any given event, at the mall (yeah plastic surgeons have all graduated from the same medical establishment abroad) yet at a closer look, we realize that their personalities is much worse defective than their face. Have you ever seen a Lebanese smiling at one another? Even in front of their cameras their (siliconed) lips are pouting and their faces ever so bored and high mighty. To be honest, I so many times wanted to bitch slap (verbally) snobbish friends back to their village, reminding them of their farming ancestors every time they tended to act superior when in public. I mean, fuck you bitch, if it weren’t for your dad slaving away in Saudi Arabia, and sending you a monthly salary (age 30+) you wouldn’t have dreamt eating at newly opened fine dining restaurants and mocking/yelling out orders to the staff and rolling your eyes at a passerby. And let’s not start with the employee with a 1000$ salary (tops) behaving as if she made 3000$+ parading & glowing with her signature outfit & attitude.

2- Let’s shift to the employment sector. It is simple, if you don’t have a “wasta” (its funny how that word auto-corrects itself to ‘waste’ whenever I type it) you are a nobody and you will never achieve your potential in Lebanon. And if you are under valued, all you need to do is master the open split and you will get to places. Higher places. Yes why are you looking at me like this? I have always said that among the people that easily succeed in Lebanon is the whore. The Lebanese whore is the all of a sudden successful female thrown in society and very much respected by her peers (for her position..). Men wanna fuck her (which she will hand fully pick depending on her future ambition) and women wanna befriend her (for the new alliances and doors she will be opening to them). The worse part of all this scenario is that the ambition and status of this woman is shallow and irrelevant to the big picture which is life. Many of these people find solace in social media with thousands of fake followers to give them the much needed boost to their fragile self confidence and ugly stature and personality. You wanna know what is pitiful for employees with wasta? Some mothers go to the extreme of whoring themselves or make big donations so as to ensure their children’s future at X and Y organizations. (true story).

3-Friends? What friends? this terminology is over-rated. Alliances yes. Friendship no. Over the years, I realized that I was surrounded by shallow hypocrites who secretly awaited my downfall in work as well as my relationship status. Hence the drastic cut of my ‘friends’ list. From one day to the other, best friends became strangers. I look around me and rare are the relationships that I define as friendship among the people that I know. Everyone is in constant competition with one another. Gatherings are occurred so as to fill social media pages with (fake) fun and a bubbly way of life. Of course, everyone is a hedonist whether they can afford the lifestyle or not (thank you Lebanese banks for the loans). Conversations are superficial and revolve solely around the fashion designers to be, the events that were launched, the dresses that were worn and the ‘celebrities’ that are popping like chicken pox. If you do not relate to this ever growing shallow society, then you tend to find yourself the odd one out and castrated. I do not tend to make an effort to anything that does not interest me nor would be an added value to my life. And by being that person, I, thankfully, realized who is the real friend that stood by me and I continued to genuinely enjoy his/her presence in my everyday life. Those that lingered away so as to establish themselves within this fake surrounding (knowingly aware of my adamant stand against) granted me the gift of discovering the meaning of true friendship. Here I take a moment to thank Meena, Angie and Rony for being the best friends one can ever wish for. The rest of you can go fuck yourselves.

4- The clash between life abroad and in Lebanon, I discovered when I went to pursue my studies in London. There I met genuine, caring and interesting people. People from around the world, from different culture and upbringing that further assured me of one important thing; my non-belongingness to the Middle East. Men respect their women when out and about. They are cultured and interested by you and not only your boobs and loubs. They are fine gentlemen. The women have intellectual discussions and gatherings revolve in open spaces, museums, walking, canoeing and taking pictures in which one can witness the big smile on their faces. Dates are respected and not cancelled at the last moment, or worse dismissed without any advance notice. To those who continue giving a self important image of themselves by not notifying a cancellation in appointment, I do not wanna say anything to them; their pitiful stand is more than enough.

Unfortunately, Lebanon proved to me a haven for the hypocrite, the fake, the whore, the loser and the self proclaimed celebrity.

In Lebanon, I did not find myself. I only found jealousy mastered at a professional level. I only found myself being judged and labelled. I found myself in professional situations where my family name played a role leading me in handing  my resignation letter. The honest hard working person is not appreciated. The liar and the whore is King/Queen.

I am thankful that as a Canadian citizen I am going to be able to fulfill my dreams with my own potential and certificates at hand. I am thankful that Canada is far away from the Middle East. And I am thankful that I have my family and best friends next to me forever no matter the distance.

xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I will never work a 9-5 job in Lebanon again!

Note to you my readers: Yes you read right! and let me take a few minutes of your time to elaborate the above mentioned statement.

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I graduated from the Lebanese American University with a MBA and I can assure you the university gained (financially) more from my presence throughout the two years than I did its aftermath (4+ years and counting).

To be honest with you, my cv does not consist at all of the two pages every Lebanese loves to fill with extensive working experience so as to brag about at each interview and during family reunions/ friendly gatherings. I am happy for anyone out there securing him/herself with jobs whether they like what they are doing or not (especially nowadays with the economical crisis our country is going through).

My working experience in this country has taught me a lot. It emphasized further more the disgusting Lebanese mentality (that I dread) that I live in and can not wait to escape in the future. A mentality that is here to stay no matter what and the generations to come.

The following are the points that led me to stop doing an effort and looking for a bureaucratic job in this city:

  1. First and foremost, you cannot land a proper job without a ‘wasta’ i.e. some big shot vouching your cv regardless of you having the proper diplomas required to fulfill your task. Hence, us wondering how a history major is working in a bank.
  2. Second of all, you can amass as much degrees as you can and obtain a graduate diploma, you are as good as the fresh graduate recruited in your department.
  3. A MBA won’t guarantee a bonus nor a raise. Say bye to the $$$ invested at one of the elite universities in the country.
  4. This goes to the women out there: If you and your boss share the same gender, then be prepared to a challenge. By experience, I have learnt that women managers are a pain in the ass. They just don’t seem to be professional and focused on their jobs as much as on your personal & social life (de preference gossiping). And if you do have one, a social life i mean, they will do their best to drown you with extra work and demands to fulfill on weekends.
  5. We all have gone through that moment where we wondered how the hell did X get promoted to being a “supervisor” or a “manager”. I have seen many who thought so highly of themselves that they forgot how they started.
  6. Most business owners in Lebanon (the most covet status in the workforce) believe that once they hire you for the job, they basically own you. With a salary less than 3 digit, they expect you to be 110% committed to the job 6 days a week for hours exceeding the normal weekly quota of 45hours. And yes you read that right, less than a 3 digit $ (bare in mind #3).
  7. The status of an employee is not protected as abroad. Basically you will get harassed by your colleagues with no legal actions being pursued against them because let’s face, you do not want to face trials that linger for years (Lebanese Judicial System ….let’s not even go there) and the famous “ma 3am nemza7 wlo” (i.e. we are joking come on).
  8. If you come from a respectable family who has made a name in society, your colleagues will label you from the first day you enter the doors of the establishment you are looking forward to build a career in.
  9. Continuing on #8; you will constantly be reminded of your family status in lame/so-called funny uncalled jokes (emphasizing the stuck up mentality you live in). The most recurring example would be and I state “why are you working? you are in no need of it. Some other person is in need for it”. Ha Ha right? Well yes thank God I am not relying on your petty 900$ for survival but am trying to work out a career.
  10. The atmosphere in each work place is depressing and full of negativity. No one is happy and you constantly hear bickering and nagging. Your ambitions are crushed by some washed up loser on the desk beside you, or by your superior who has doubts and suspicions of you presence in the company.
  11. A small advice to those business owners out there, whenever you want to hire a person try to treat them equally, put yourself in their shoes from time to tie and at least, once in a while, pat them on the shoulder for their hard work. If you are going to just ignore them just so they pick up and leave then just don’t hire anyone. If you want to continue pulling the strings yourself then go running your business solo.

Do I need to continue?

You wanna know what is the most funny thing I hear of my ‘unemployment’ status (by choice)?

Why don’t you open your own business?

Well I am fed up from being polite to the constant losers who ask me this question ; I do not believe in the future of this beloved country and I do not believe that I should be investing any time anymore nor a cent in this city. What is funny is that the people who constantly ask me this question are themselves “business owners” whose business is not even doing well due to the turmoil the country is going through. Isn’t that ironic??

Life is too damn short. For fuck’s sake, just do what makes you happy”. Bill Murray.   Thank you!!

 

 

 

 

The Lebanese Pre-requisite for Love.

Note to reader: The love that I am going to be talking about in the following post is the one that you feel towards a certain other significant. I want to shed some light towards the Lebanese way of searching for love which I personally find wrong and sad.

Love is a universal feeling. The definition of love is complex though it should not be. By complex I mean, Lebanese women stress a lot on the fact of finding their perfect other half based on superficial aspects instead of the basic (intangible) ones.

At first, we all want to love and be loved. That emotional aspect is what we crave since childhood, some of us planning our fairy tales weddings while others day dreaming of that prince in shining armor sweeping us our feet (or in this case, our parents household). Along the years we tend to forget about the “feeling of love” and stress more and more on the tangible return on investment we want to receive from getting hitched (or staying in long term relationships). I do understand the fact that many women want security before leaving their parental cocoon. We all strive to search for the comfort we have been living all our lives. (Note the significant change in searching for love while we were kids and that of adulthood).

However, Lebanese women have gone up a notch with their requirements in finding the perfect match. Whenever I hear a conversation revolving around the lack of men in this country vs the percentage of single women in their 30s, I cringe. Every single woman “de passage” that I have met stress on the traits they are looking for in a man. Traits that have absolutely nothing to do with a man’s character. Traits that have everything to do with the social and financial status of the man himself. The perfect match should be a millionaire (the least), with the latest cars (yes one is not enough) an already acquired house (in those fancy newly developed skyscrapers) and most importantly at the head of his own business. Anything less is unimaginable. A No-No! 3eyb!!

Women who come from a certain background, brought up in wealth and status, already mingle with their male counterparts and marry off within their circle. It is understandable and quite logical.What is laughable and sad are the women who have a modest background, already in their mid-thirties, single and complaining. These women have set the level so high that they do not even know where to go to bump into such men.

Now comes the rude wake up call part;

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You have managed your whole life on a modest lifestyle, your parents have done their best, providing you with the important basic needs; a shelter, an education and food on the table. Not sure how many times you have reads books or watched tv shows stressing that happiness is not found in materialistic objects. I will say it again, it’s not. But since you are already 30+ and insisting of the contrary than I can only say you are as stubborn as f*&*k (and clearly have never owned any expensive items to understand the real value behind it). Further more, why should any other person work his ass off to pamper your little yogi plastic ass? Your looks? There are hundreds of clones just like you and younger (oups) down the line waiting to snatch the “prince” (note; common trait among those women is the amount of plastic done). Your brains? Well if you did have one you wouldn’t have drained it for this project but used it for better a purpose, a career, a job maybe… (note; I forget to mention that these women have one goal, to become housewives. Ambitious right? ). And last but not least when was the last time you saw a man with the above mentioned characteristics ever being respectful and faithful to his girlfriend/wife? With the amount of bling they live in, everything being at their reach, they are either stingy or/and narcissistic, placing their needs first, trust me, not yours (note; maybe you do deserve one another!).

Love is amazing. Love is beautiful. Loving and being loved by one man only is goal. Finding that one man who will place you above the rest and be faithful to you and respect you when in public as well as in private should be what you are looking for. There might be a wait, yes I won’t lie about that, but TRUST ME when I say that the wait is WORTH IT. He might not be rich, he might come from a modest background, but he has been brought up so well that he has the most important aspects engraved in him; respect, care and generosity. You can’t go wrong with that. He is out there.

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Either be humble and patient. Or get yourself  a macho asshole, but bare in mind, the divorce rate is in rise. But what is alarming is the amount of bitches roaming around these married men and the hook – up culture being embraced by latter.

Don’t say I did’d warn you!!!

ciao 😉

 

 

 

The Story of an Armenian Genocide Survivor; my GrandMother.

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Tomorrow is the 24th of April 2015.

Tomorrow, Armenians from all over the world are commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

A hundred years ago this day, began the persecution of the Armenia Community by the Young Turks of the Ottoman Empire.

A hundred years ago, my grand mother, along with her mother, started her march to the unknown.

News broke that Armenian men were being arrested, imprisoned and executed. Women and children were being exiled from their homes. My grand mother is one of the many who escaped the massacre thanks to the helpful warning and care of the Kurds.

She passed away in 1995 at the age of 95, however never forgot to share her story with me and my brother.

Here is the tale of a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

The persecution of the Armenians had already began in the Empire. One night, their Kurdish neighbor, a Sheikh, woke them up and told them to leave all their possession behind and proposed to take my teta and her mother with him and pass them as members of his family. They were fleeing Bitlis as well, scared of the unknown future.My great grand father could not leave and was left behind not to be seen again.

During their long march, my grand mother was a 15 years old young girl. Her mother was concerned of her fate knowing that her advanced age and ailing health will not permit her to continue for long. When the convoy arrived in Syria and knowing her time was up, she grabbed the Kurdish Sheikh’s hand and made him promise to never give his child away to a non- Christian man. She promised to haunt him if he ever broke his word. She passed away a couple of days later. The Sheikh being very superstitious and having in his hands a young Armenian girl started looking for a suitor. He took care of her as her own and a year later introduced her to an Armenian man, himself from Bitlis. 

My Grand parents got married and established themselves in Beirut. As any immigrant who had lost everything and left their dear ones behind, they worked hard and succeeded in establishing themselves within the Lebanese society. They embraced Lebanon, its culture and its society. They became part of the Lebanese history of Genocide survivors.

 Then followed the next generation of the KhanA family.

We are proud of our heritage. We are Lebanese of Armenian origin. Lebanon is my country. I was born and raised in Beirut. However, as any other person of Armenian descent, I will never forget the Armenian Genocide. I will never forget my history and where my ancestors are from.

I am a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

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