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.

 

 

 

“I’m engaged, I can’t talk to you”

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I am never going to understand Arab mentality and the dos and donts of the society I come from. Over the many years I have spent in Beirut, Lebanon and the many men I dated and had long term relationships with, I have never quite understood the few silent agreements between couples, especially those engaged to be married within the year.

Apparently there is a hidden rule that states that once you are engaged, you, automatically, will have to stop interacting with humans from the opposite sex. Yes! Shocker!!

Yesterday I was catching up with a very close friend of mine. From the moment we took seats, I felt she wasn’t herself. Born in Canada, but raised in Lebanon, Saria inherited the Western values vs the Middle Eastern ones.

Here is her story.

Her very close friend who immigrated to the USA a few years back was in Beirut for the holidays. Both friends have kept in touch(whatsapp/fb messenger/instagram all that jazz) throughout the 9 years of his leaving and it was his first time back to visit friends and family. One itch however, he got engaged to his long time on-off girlfriend in the states and was here to officialize the union.

Don’t get me wrong, we are, oh-so-happy for the chap.

What we are appalled by is the fact that, although a few days before his arrival and anticipated reunion with his close friend (Saria) through a whatsapp message, Mister X shifts 180 degrees on Lebanese soil. We give him a few days, even a week (we are generous) to catch up with his family, close, far, in between. On the second week, we decide to get in touch and set a date for the meet up. Busy one day, sudden appointment the next day, and many “I will let you know, we will play it by the ear” (Lebanese style) came the day of his departure!

No wait, let me be specific, I rephrase that, ….came the morning of his departure.

Saria is no naive girl. Trust me. She knew something was wrong the moment she heard his voice on the phone. She knew that the person by the end of the receiver is no longer her friend. She knew all of that but for the sake of the 10+ years of friendship, gave X the benefit of doubt. All came tumbling down when he decided to give her 20min of his precious on his way to the airport (btw her house is a dot on that highway leading there, so two birds in one stone, you know the shizzle…). It all took for her such suggestion of a pop-up meeting to explode on the phone. He did what any lame boy would do and twisted everything to look innocently guilty. You know that “you are right, I was a jerk” blabla.. and they resumed their phone call on that.

As you know a story is not quite one without the cherry on the top moment. And her cherry came in the form of a block on Facebook and Instagram jointly in the same hour that it took him to get to the airport, on his plane and off to Washington DC. Pathetic. Loser.

Am I Right or Right??

Well when it comes to anything Lebanese related (friendship, relationship and social) I am not the least surprised at most of the experiences endured by my friends. From what I witnessed, my friend was more shocked than angry. This was a guy who left his family, friends and country for a better life abroad. In his lonely times, he connected through social media with his friends back home (among them Saria). I know Saria and I know the kind of person she is when she puts all her energy into her friends & family. And I know for a fact that this guy went through a depression, away from everyone (it’s normal) and that Saria was there, amidst the hour gap, conversing, cheering. Well being the definition of a very good friend.

Moreover, I very well know how of a coward Lebanese men are when they get engaged. I mean you got engaged, that does not mean that you have turned gay (my respect to the gay community) or are a cheater if you are hanging out with friends from the opposite sex. I mean if you have had feelings for that specific friend then ok you move away when in a serious relationship. Fine I’ll give you that, ok (although..well…). But just cutting and throwing away friendships like that, no no!!

How do you define these men?

Cowards?

Immature?

Full of low self esteem?

Not Trustworthy?

Have relationship issues?

Have life issues?

Well I would tick all the above and more.

If you have a friend who has cut you off because of the change of his relationship status, then know this, its not you, its definitely him/her and the above mentioned traits (and more).

You are better off with that sort of drama because if one thing is for sure, these people are going to be facing many issues when interacting with society as a whole.

Last but not least, congrats on your union!!

xo

 

 

New Year resolutions? Yes & No and how it all changed for me!!

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With less than a week to go till the New Year, many of us have different kinds of expectations of 2017. Some of us can’t wait to put behind 2016 and move on whereas others are a bit nonchalant and quite frankly dismissive of this whole end of the year fiesta. This is where resolutions come in (with a bang). It is not until a couple of weeks back that I took a look at the passing year and realized that I, Patyl- Astrid, have completed unconsciously many of the New year resolutions of 2014-2015 and 2016 combined in one single year. How did I do that? Did I mean to cross off those jotted points from my diary? (yeah I am one of those- with the diary I mean) What did I feel when I came upon this discovery? To be honest, I was dumb struck! Why? Because as I mentioned it earlier, I did not plan it, nor realized any of it until I was done.

 

Resolutions. Resolutions.

 

If we look closely at each other’s resolutions, we notice that we have more in common than meets the eye. The first thing we all jot down is cutting down on vices and embracing the opposite. Mine, as well as your resolution for the past so many forgotten years has been to start a healthy lifestyle by going to the gym and cutting down on alcohol and junk food. Am I not right? Well to be realistic such drastic change cannot and never has begun over night. It takes patience, a lot of it, and most importantly acceptance that this is what we are going to dedicate to become within the upcoming year. And how many of us failed at it within a couple of months of the New year? The reason? We are so determined to jump on the gym bandwagon for the sole purpose that we started to get nauseated by the end of the year back to back parties and dinners. We think solely on the spot by letting our momentary feeling take the best of our decision- making. Once we heal (for some by the end of January) we get back to our drinking /night out splurges.

A shout out to the single ladies out there as well as those spoken for, don’t we all just want to be in that secure ‘the one’ kind of relationship and tie the knot? Come on, I know that you dream of your wedding day and those who are tying the knot during the holidays are not helping with their Instagram postings. One of the resolutions I have witnessed many to vow by in the next year is falling in love with ‘the one’ and settling down. Seriously? I did not know that there was a timeline set for such thing. Now if you are already with ‘the one’ then maybe you are stating on taking the next step and getting engaged. Now, even that you can’t just pinpoint it on paper. It is something that both parties have already agreed on prior (whether you are going to wait a couple of years before getting married) or happens on a sudden whim from the boyfriend/the one, one night at dinner or after implementing an orchestrated adventure for two. Both cases, ladies you are not in charge of the emotional side of things. Your heart controls you. Single ladies you can’t force yourselves to fall in love and girlfriends you can’t impose your other half to take the next step if he is not ready yet. Hence, do enter the new year on good foot. Embrace your future day by day. Do not jump big leaps and fall into oblivion. Those single hearts out there are going to be full of love when the time, I mean, the right person comes along.

 

Resolutions. Resolutions.

 

I am not trying to turn you against your New Year resolutions. I know too well how exciting it is to imagine oneself in the near future as a near perfected woman. The New Year brings out an emotional roller coaster within us. A strength, a determination that, we only witness in the month of December. You know what I am talking about, right?

I want to tell you ladies that writing down open- ended generalities as New Year resolutions will only bring you down when they are not fulfilled. Why don’t you jot down your resolutions into a step by step goals? Why not embrace the fact that much of your goals are set to become part of your lifestyle than just a box to tick off once you have accomplished it.

By summer 2016, I stopped smoking. An accomplishment by itself because it was one of the many vices that I did not intend to quit, even though I repeatedly written it as a New Year resolution. I don’t even think about it nor crave it till present day. How did I do it? Well I unconsciously started smoking less. A pack a day turned into ten cigarettes a day and so on so forth.

Moreover, being in a relationship with my boyfriend of more than a year, I know we are meant to be together (forever) by tying the knot someday soon yet not having a date in mind does not make me want to go write down 3/3/2017, right? I want to remind you that I have been single for many years prior just like yourself (and at times with the wrong type of men), and I did intend on finding my one the upcoming year. However what I realized when I met my boyfriend was that I can’t put a ticking time bomb on my heart. He came un-expectantly into my life (way after I had given up on that aspect of my life) and I do not intend on losing him because of some time set goal.

My career is up till this day in shambles and I am not worried about it. I am carrying on with my artistic projects and I am not setting unimaginable goals. My goal for my art is near attainable than my grandiose dream ever was (for now of course, remember being passionate should not set you limits).

I took control of my life summer 2016 and from than onwards everything seems to fall into place. When you are at peace with yourself and from within, you can set your mind to do almost anything. Everything is possible from then onwards. Hence my accomplishments step by step. I know you will all reach that point one day, hopefully sooner than you think. Just don’t go writing down general predictions on your to-do-list only to be disappointed flash forward six months within 2017.

Exes; those that cant be tamed.

disclaimer: Remember that ex you couldn’t live without? Well look at you, living and shit!!

Ex, is a word we are all too familiar with because, yeah, we all have a minimum of one in our drawer (if you don’t have an ex, then girl, have you been living under a rock?). Kitchen Drawer? Closet? Cabinet? Hell any restrained rectangular shaped space would do, as long as it doesn’t open by mistake (that cabinet holding all those old tupperware would do). So within these space you would toss an ex or two and try never to slide the door open, and if, God forbid, those damn sized tups’ burst the door open, shut it back firmly and tightly. You do not need an old junk when you have collected new gadgets in the cabinet next door. Why am I comparing exes to in-animated object? Well do I need to remind you what they talk behind our back to their home boys? Guess not, so tups they shall remain. And between us, sometimes they do deserve that adjective…

So I am writing about this topic because as a woman I relate to those who are weak when their ex tries to catch up with them out of the blue on a Tuesday afternoon, season being winter at best (you know in winter everyone is relatively in a hibernating mode and seeks his selfish comfort). I am reaching out to those women who are in doubt of themselves when an ex pops back in the picture. I am reaching to the women who I am warning not to cave back in. I admit and its human nature, I caved in and so did you. And we most probably learnt our lesson I know I did. 110%.

A decade ago we would have given our bone marrow to our partner. A decade ago, we were ready to be tied down and faithful to his (sorry) ass. We were patient and caring to his mood swings and depressive state of mind. We were taking care of his every whim. We put our 200% into the relationship only to be given the boot because he was not ready to settle down. Picket fences and all that shebang. We grabbed our hearts in our own hands, a few teardrops here and there for a couple of weeks and we moved on. Apparently, men (boys, to be more precise) do not move on as easily as we thought they did. When he came back, we gave him the benefit of doubt and rekindled the relation. Only to have the same problems resurface and ended with another break up in our hands. Not the fairy tale wedding we were imagining, nope. Flash forward ten years, give or take, and you have EX trying to infiltrate your life again. Apparently you turned out to be the one who actually did M.O.V.E  O.N. and you’re happy and you know it (clap your hands!!!). Ok, sorry I’m being too merry about this, I just felt like tuning, its the season to be jolly, lalalala you know!! (ok apparently you don’t, i’ll stop).

When a person becomes an EX, that word not just labels him, it defines the boundaries and sets the tone for any further relationship. An EX is a person that was once close to your heart. A person you shared everything with baring in mind of a possible future together. However, the WE became EX and your roads diverged. For the better, trust me. When an ex pops back and tries to cave you back in, try not to remember the good things. Remember the bad things. Remember why things never worked out. Remember the tears. Remember the broken promises. Remember the lies. Remember the drama. Do not set yourself good enough for the promises. Do not be content with his just words. Do not fall for the petty act. Do not fall again because of your pure heart. Do not fall because you think that he is the only one out there for you. Do not fall for the comfort of the relationship. Do not fall back into his comfort zone. Do not fall back because you are scared of any future uncertainties. Do not fall back into his arms because of the society’s pressure. NO!! You deserve better. No. You deserve the best. And the best is not hidden in that EX. It is hidden in your future. And that kind of future awaits you. That kind of Love is out there. Do not settle for less. Trust me (again).

There is a french saying that goes like this “Chasse le Naturel, Il retourne au galop” (shoo away human nature, it comes back naturally)and that is what happens slowly yet surely.

Now let’s toast to those who put their clingy exes in the in-animated tupperware closet and drink a couple of bubbly to the every woman in us!

Chin (up) chin (up)!

xo

 

 

Newly Mommies & their Daughters.

I was told by my sister that I have a tendency to be conservative, whether it’s my take on social issues, relationships and family values. In two words; i’m old- fashioned. Well to be honest, in this world full of extreme liberal viewpoints, I am proud to be known as one (although it annoys my sister very much).

I have decided to approach a subject that has been on my mind a lot recently. A subject that has caught my attention thanks to the increase of newly mothers out there. Mothers that I am sure unconditionally love their toddlers. Yet mothers that have put their child out there on social media a bit extremely. I am not a mother YET, but one thing I know is that I would never share pictures of my children to the world to see. It is one thing to upload a family photo every once and while especially if you care to share your bliss with your closest friends and family (abroad). And it is another thing to dress up your child with the latest fashion and initiate a “strike the pose” memorabilia for your friends to see (assuming that your FB & IG enclose friends and acquaintances alike).

You are proud of your children. I know you are. You want to show the world your princess. I somehow understand that too. However I do not understand the following >>>

1- Girls under ten wearing lipstick and blush.

2- Again, girls under ten wearing crop tops and very short dresses, skirts and shorts.

3- Pre- teens already having a spa day with their mommies; proudly having their manicure done and the ‘event’ snapped and posted on social media.

4- It might be cute to buy a special dress (to your teenager) on her birthday, but when the outfit turns into an exaggerated gown with the whole tutu/glittery/combination of short-long dress, then you might want to  re-consider the image you are sending of your angel to your social sphere.

5- Teaching a 6 year old to pout and make a duck face instead of smiling genuinely to the camera is not an achievement.

Children are innocent human beings that were brought into this world by two people in love. Up until their eighteen birthdays, your baby girl is supposed to be under your protection and your guidance. She is supposed to be watched over by family and not looked upon by whomever is following you on IG or within your circle of friends on FB. The most crucial years are their childhood and teenage years. They have their whole lives to become grown ups. Let them be instead of teaching them on becoming a miss at 7, 8 or 9 years old. Our mothers were strict bringing us up. Every age had its own beauty. And each stage, we were to experience it at its own pace and time. Needless to say, social media is no longer a private matter whether your page is open to the public or not. An important aspect to take into consideration is the presence of predators and sick people out there. They are not confined to the far away western world only. They are very much present in the Middle East as well. Be private. Not a social media hippie.

God Bless your children!

xo

 

 

Lebanese fellowmen: You do not deserve a night at the Museum!

Disclaimer: I had to take an hour to cool down before writing this post. However, what I am about to write does not give justice to the disgust and rage I still feel about my night at the “La Nuit des Musees” 2016. 

As an artist and a graduate of Art, I have developed a passion towards history of art and the contemporary art movements from WWI to nowadays. I have had the privilege to study art museums, galleries and curating abroad and visited many museums in the British capital and Europe.

Lebanon offers a lot when it comes to its art & culture, alas the general population is unaware of its rich heritage within its museums and galleries. I understand people have better things to chase and worry about than contemplate pieces of art from centuries ago.

“La Nuit des Musees” 2016 is an opportunity for everyone to visit specific museums and galleries for free one night only. And that night was today, April the 8th.

I started my tour at 5 sharp. I did not know what to expect but I was very eager to be part of it all. To my surprise, there were a lot of people queuing to enter museums and the shuttle  were filled with people eager to go to their next destination. I was happy to see a lot of parents with their curious children in tow. When abroad, its a normal scenery to see children interested in art, however I wasn’t expecting the same in Lebanon. I was positively surprised and happy.

That state of mind dropped when I entered the National Museum. I am sure you are aware that National Museums worldwide hold very unique historical pieces that should not be touched (like any pieces of art exhibited anywhere). I am sure as well that you know that especially cordoned off pieces should be looked at from a distance. However, to my utter shock (is it shock really? was I expecting this deep down?) the citizens of this beloved country have no clue of these rules. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know the meaning of a cordoned off perimeter around a historical tomb. Nor do you need to be educated to restrain your child from poring his fingers in a miniature coliseum piece.

Two major scenes I witnessed turned my stomach inside out and made me head to the exit:

  • A mother and father along their 4 year old daughter were looking around till they laid eyes on the throne of Astarte from the Hellenistic period, (picture this; a mini throne). Not only did they not lay eyes on the cordon surrounding the piece below their feet, but they placed their child on the throne for a picture. I was in shock!!! We had to rush to inform the guide as there were no security guys around. By the way I did not see any of the latter. Maybe they were outnumbered by the pouring of people but they should have known that from previous experiences. The same family went on and on taking pictures and touching pieces. I mean if you uneducated people need to take a picture to prove you’re participating in the event, why don’t you go and photoshop yourself in like wise sceneries from the internet!! (an act very common within some…).
  • A dad was holding his son up high to give him the opportunity to pet a tomb and goofily froze to smile at the camera held by his wife. I don’t know what they were expecting; a genie to pop from the (bottle, scratch that) tomb???

Children were running everywhere unsupervised. Guides were hand full with people but doing a good damn job explaining each piece to their avid listeners. No security guards to be seen to contain the crowd.

As a passionate art lover I am happy to see Lebanese being educated to art. I encourage children to be exposed to art & culture. However after what I witnessed tonight, I think I can safely resume to my previous opinion of the Lebanese society; an ungrateful uneducated crowd that do not know the value of the heritage they have been left with nor a sense of appreciation to what they are being subjected to. If you need to take your child for the sake of a family outing (for free) then I do advise you to go to a park or at the corniche seaside and linger as long as you want.

I on the other hand will go back to enjoy some art sight seeing during the weekday peacefully and surrounded by like wise appreciative people.

……………

 

 

 

 

The Mukhi Sisters; On a Good Note, What are you really giving?

Over the last few years, Lebanon has witnessed many treacherous tragedies.

The on-going war in neighboring Syria and the flood of millions of refugees in our cities, the trash crisis and scandals revolving around the government officials, we, as citizens, have been living in turmoil, some trying to find solutions, others nonchalantly going on with their lives.

Every new crisis reported by our local television (international too, mind you) have  made us further dwell on our misfortunes and forget about the human sufferings of the innocent victims of war.

Back in December I had read about an initiative founded by local chain Bou Khalil supermarket into turning around the misfortune of the refugee beggars. Instead of giving cash money to street beggars, Good Notes (given to those in need) provides basic necessities such as food, water, personal hygiene items when exchanged at your local above mentioned supermarket.

Today as I was visiting my dear friend, Meena Mukhi at the Mukhi Sisters in Beirut Souks, I could not not notice the display on the shop’s window.

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After enquiring about the involvement of the Mukhi Sisters with this campaign, Meena explained to me that any person in need who was given these notes can go to any Bou Khalil branches(located in Baabda, Feytroun, Mkalles, Tripoli, Koraytem, Zahle, Jbeil, Antelias, Kousba and Damour) and buy items that are crucial to their well being and survival in these bad circumstances. It is interesting to know that a Good Truck (a mini market on wheels) has been created to roam the city and  go to highly refugee concentrated areas and offer their services. Yes Bou Khalil has thought of everything right?

For more information you can check the following website :

http://www.thegoodnote.com

I know there are many people out there who are suspicious of giving money to street beggars, I know that because I am one of those persons. We have all heard tales about where the money really goes (whether true or false) hence accelerating pace when a beggar approaches you on the street or turning your head when they get near your car window.

However, today I realized that my three friends are not only talented in what they do, but they have a big heart and a philanthropic civic duty towards humanity.

I left the shop with a couple of notes and a hope in the future. Thanks to the Mukhi Sisters.

With  Peace & Love

xo

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