Sunday, 28 December 2008

Mass Murders - Applauded!

Air strikes, do you know what they are?
Have you ever heard one?
Have you ever smelled the air after massive helicopter missile attacks?
Have you ever seen a military tank - up close and personal?
I have - they are cruel, brutal, scary, and scarring for life.
They didn't kill me nor killed a relative or family member. I was lucky.
Others are not. Israeli air strikes and tanks have killed thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese and are now murdering hundreds in the Gaza strip.
And, they always come with an extra flavour, they are always applauded and supported by the US government - amongst others. The US and Israeli media propaganda always portrays them as the final solution against Lebanese and Palestinian injustice and uncontrolled attacks on helpless defenseless Israel. The media propaganda always claims that "Israel does not deliberately target civilians".
Lies in your faces and everybody else's.
It is ALWAYS the civilians.
It is always the un-armed men, women, and CHILDREN. It is always someone's little boy or baby girl.
Have you ever heard of - or seen - Nour, the 4-day-old baby whose body -without a head - was shown all over the news brutally murdered along with 102 people, mostly women and children; killed by Israeli air strikes after taking refuge in a United Nations headquarters in Qana on April 18, 1996.
Have you heard the
hundreds of similar other stories?
The King David Massacre
, The Massacre at Dair Yasin, The Dahmash Mosque Massacre, The Dawayma Massacre, the second Qana Massacre (as if the first wasn't enough), and others too numerous to count or list! Too shocking and painful to describe!
Back to Gaza. In 1956, 60 civilians were murdered in the Gaza massacre.
What about today?
What about the 1.5 million people under siege for a couple of years now?
No fuel, no medication, no food, no fresh water ... nothing.
People are starving and children are dying. Some are even eating grass to survive.
What about the 300+ civilians killed in the past two days?

Have you ever watched Saw and admired the
ingenuity of the master mind? I bet you never thought people like that exist in real life. I bet you thought that character was a figment of an author's mind. I bet you assured yourself that no one exists with such inhumanity and capability of playing with other people's lives and ending it for their own amusement or benefit.
I bet you are wrong because you never read about the stories of tortured prisoners. The lives of the Palestinians as cheap as the lives of the people tortured and murdered in Saw.
The Israeli civilians think that the Palestinians deserve it. Some even say that today's Gaza massacre is "fantastic" !!!!
There is one huge difference between Saw victims and the Palestinians, the Palestinians did nothing to deserve this in the first place. All their crime was that their parents and grandparents were living in the land of Palestine and they owned homes there.
Whenever Israel needed a new piece of land, some ready-built houses, or some farm lands it would invade the villages and cities, murder the Palestinians, and take away their property.
And if the Palestinians dared to try and defend themselves, Israel becomes the victims of Palestinian military attacks.
Do Palestinians have helicopters? No ... Israel does.
Do Palestinians have tanks? No ... Israel does.
Do Palestinians have a huge network of Political leaders, access to American taxpayers money, and all the newest war weapons? No ... Israel does

Next time you watch Saw keep in mind that it is happening on a large scale in a small country where Palestinians are being liquidated.

More websites:
Egypt fools Palestinians:,7340,L-3645437,00.html
Bodies of loved ones:

Friday, 26 December 2008

Cinnamon-Bread House

Thursday Dec 25th: Sheena had been looking forward for Christmas Dinner for a long time now. She had decided that she wants to bake a Cinnamon-Bread House for Christmas for a while as well. I was also very excited about the idea because I have never seen anyone make a cake-house before. Sheena and Lindley cooked their Christmas Dinner and I cooked mine (oven-cooked chicken breasts and potatoes and if you must know I think I added some un-needed extra lemon juice :P lol). We all had dinner together with Arabic music playing from my laptop. Sheena loves listening to Arabic music but Lindley wasn't as impressed. Then it was finally time to put the dough in the oven and prepare the icing. The dough was baked in no time but the icing took at least half an hour of mixing (electric mixer) before it was ready to act as the glue of the house.
Lindley held the pieces together and Sheena applied icing between the 'walls' of the house to stick it together - and I was the designated camera-person. You could tell I had never seen anyone attempt to build a cake-house before - possibly because I took a little more than seventy pictures LOL. The house wouldn't stand still even though Sheena was very generous with icing - a bit too generous as she also iced Lindley's hand, the dining table, and the kitchen floor hehehe. It did stand short enough for us to take more pictures. We also decorated its surrounding, we made a garden using sugar candy and the fence using finger chocolate. Soon enough the house collapsed so we started eating it and it was GOOD! I think Sheena is a talented baker- so does she ;) she even joked that she wants to name her children Cinnamon Roll and Moldy Bread - or maybe it wasn't a joke :D

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Lebanese Food :D yeeey

If you've never had Lebanese food then you don't know what you are missing. Our mezza and our variety of grilled meat makes up the staple Lebanese food that everyone adores. Apparently some English people know some of the mezza dishes but have no idea that it is Lebanese.

So, I have been here for three months and the only time I had a mezza dish was when I bought canned hommous (your hearts go out for me - I know :P). It was OK but not as good as the real thing. The reason I didn't have any Lebanese mezza dish - even though I love it so much - is because there are no Lebanese retaurants in Southampton :(. I had been nagging about it a lot lately and I even showed some pictures to my flatmates. They got interested in trying some out so we looked for Lebanese restaurants online. We found that the nearest one was in Bournemouth. We agreed to go during the vacation on the 23rd of December because on that day Lindley - Sheena's boyfriend - would be in Southampton. For the past few days all Sheena and I have been talking about was Lebanese Food. We were SO excited. I couldn't believe I was finally going and Sheena couldn't believe she was gonna be trying new food. I was hoping that the food would be good because it would be such a disappointment and waste if it weren't.

On the 22nd, I called the restaurant and made reservations - not that any was needed because it was a weekday but I wanted them to know that a real Lebanese was coming :P. I told some of my friends and Sarah we would have to drive to Bournemouth to have a meal, she answered 'Bournemouth, that's in the middle of nowhere England!" hehehe
The 23rd finally came. George asked me to check Google maps and see how long it will take us to get there. I did and it turned out that Bournemouth was 45 minutes away! "That food better be good", Sheena and I commented. We agreed to leave the dorms at 7:20. As always, we left 15 minutes AFTER the agreed on time - my Lebanese lack of respect to appointments was not the reason behind it :P. My flatmates and I never leave on the agreed on time :D
The car ride was quite. Everyone was quite and secretly hoping the food wouldn't turn out to be a disappointment. We got there and were seated. The manager was Lebanese but our waiter was Syrian. I handled the ordering because my flatmates wouldn't know anything. I ordered hummus, mtabbal, tabbouleh, vine leaves, fatayer sambousek cheese, and kebbi. I also ordered a mixed plate of grilled kafta, chicken tawouk, and beef meat. As Lebanese we always refer to these as: chicken, kafta, and meat. So when they asked me what I ordered and I replied meat I unconsciously thought that was clear enough. They had to ask me two time what I ordered before I realized that answering meat was not sufficient hehehe
The food came and it was amazing :D they loved all of it. George and Lindley didn't like the vine leaves but Sheena and I thought it was well nice. Then the grills were served and everyone was impressed as well :D By the time we finished we were very stuffed. To end it nicely we also had baklawa, it was amazing AND on the house - how cool was that? We decided we should go back there once again and Sheena and I agreed we have Valentine's meal there :P hehehehe

One last note, after the meal was over Sheena commented that Lebanese food is so good and that she couldn't believe I made it through three months without having any "I can now imagine how you were feeling. It must have been torture" she rightfully stated

Monday, 22 December 2008

Movies, Shakeaway, & Downtown Southampton

We went to see "Four Christmases" last Thursday. I was very excited about it because the trailer was funny. However, I thought the movie turned out to be a disappointment. George said that the movie sucked and Sheena said it was an average movie. Some scenes and jokes were funny but most of it was a cliche and a repeat of a lot of ideas from previous movies. All in all it was OK, the sort of movie you would watch at home when you are kinda bored but not the sort you would bother going to a cinema to see.
Also, on Friday Sheena and I went shopping in City Center (i.e. downtown :P). It was very lovely because the streets were decorated for Christmas. Sellers had put up their stands everywhere offering all different types of Christmas goodies and food. There were also some games for children like the merry-go-round. We walked a bit, enjoyed the smell of fresh bread and the sight of chocolate and sweets. Then we went to get shakes at a specialty shop named Shakeaway - simply because they only sell shakes. The shop was impressive, you can put anything you want in your shake ... chocolate muffins, marltesers, kinder, nutella, sneakers, Oreo ... you name it they have it and are willing to put it in your shake. Sheena bought me the shake as a treat. She recommended chocolate muffin with marltesers topping and so I had it and and it was good. I know that I will be going there more and trying all sorts of mixtures.
Then we went to shop in ASDA. It took us more than usual because Sheena was shopping for Christmas Eve Dinner. We finally headed home and I was so tired by the time we got there.

I can't believe it is Monday already. One week down and two more to go and then it's back to uni :( I want and need more days just to finish all the coursework I have to do (OK, I know I haven't been as productive as I wanted to be but give me a break I am bored and tired of studying and I really needed the day off yesterday - so don't make me feel guilty about it :P)

Friday, 19 December 2008

Changes & من عاشر قوماً أربعين يوماً (Part II)

3) Chores: so it is not a big secret that I never lifted a finger when it came to house chores ... all that has changed now (sadly *sighs)
a. Washing clothes: the first time I wanted to do the laundry I was quite nervous about ruining my entire wardrobe. Luckily, my friend Fleur also had to wash her clothes so we decided to go together. To my relief, there was a big poster in the laundry room that guides (ignorant) students like me what cycle to choose for what type of clothes. Fleur helped me sort my clothes out and we chose the proper cycle for each load and thankfully no disasters resulted. Then it was the turn of the tumble-dryer. Needless to say I was clueless. Fleur chose the correct cycle and showed me how to clean the filter and in no time our clothes were fully loaded.
The next time I did the laundry I was again nervous because I had to do it alone. But it was easy and in retrospect I needn't worry because it is a simple chore really. The only thing that bothers me about it is that I have to walk for 7 minutes from my room to the laundry carrying my heavy clothes (accumulated over a period of three weeks :P)
b. Cooking: I have "miraculously" only burnt my food once (was a few days ago, left the pan unattended on the hob for 45 minutes *shame). Although I have been "cooking" mainly pizzas and pastas lately - because they are quickest - (or oven-cooked chicken nuggets because they are so good) I have managed to cook some Lebanese dishes as well.
bazilla w riz, loubyi w riz, loubyi b zet, riz b loubyi (haidi l tabkha yalli 7tara2et), riz b khodra (haidi kamen 7tara2et ma3i awal marra tabakhta), mjadra safra, djej bel furn, shorbet khodra....w 3am yetla3o ma eshbon shi ;)
I find it really annoying that most dishes require frying onions - makes me & my clothes smell like onions - so I have rarely cooked such dishes. Oh, w kamen la2et ino l foul l m3alab bel 'khalta l lebneniyi' kter tayeb.
c. Cleaning the toilet: definitely the least favourite of all chores. The only time I ever cleand a toilet at home was during a Red Cross training camp - not a tent/sleep-on-the-ground camp, but a camp in a monastery where we slept in proper beds and had proper bathrooms. I was assigned to clean the toilet on the second day - mainly because I was a committee member and one of the organizers of the camp so I wouldn't object on such a task - and so I couldn't object on the task because I had to be a role model to the other members and actually clean the toilet without nagging,,, hmmm,,, one problem arose: how? Another committee member Souha - who later became one of my best friends - was also assigned to clean another toilet so she volunteered to show me how ... learning by observation :p , she cleaned her toilet in no time then it was my turn and *shame i faced (some) difficulties and couldn't finish on time and I had to leave it to attend the next scheduled lecture so I locked the toilet so no one would use it. After the lecture was over, I headed back to deal with the un-finished business of cleaning the toilet - this time Souha came along - and with some help I successfully cleaned the toilet (Souha asked me to re-sweep the floor twice but let's keep that a secret ;) )
Back to the year 2008 - about 10 days after I came here I thought it was time to clean my toilet ... Of course I don't remember how I managed to clean that toilet 4 years ago, and I didn't want to call my mum and ask her about that hideous chore (I am a grown up now and I shouldn't be running to my mummy at the first sight of toilet-cleaning trouble hehehe). So, I did what any grown up educated adult would do in my place --> I Googled it, DUH! hehehe Yes! I actually googled 'How to Clean a Toilet' hehehe, well I watched some videos and read some how-to sites then I shopped for toilet cleaning stuff and I conquered that toilet and after one hour it was sparkling clean (I can see you rolling on your backs laughing that it DID take me an hour but come on I had to clean the mirror, shelf, sink, toilet seat, and shower! :p) ... it was so clean I didn't want to use it again and I was so proud of my accomplishment that I showed it off to my flatmates hehehe.
But afterwards, I was very careful to keep it clean so I won't have to clean it as often and I soak the toilet and sink with toilet bleach ever few days.
But, here are a couple of pictures of my toilet directly after I cleaned it two days ago:

Anyhoo, that's about it for now, if I remember anything else there will be part III ;)

Changes & من عاشر قوماً أربعين يوماً

An Arabic proverb states that if someone lives amongst a group of people for 40 days he becomes one of them ... or he would leave them because he couldn't adapt ...
I have been living here for almost three months now and so I think it is time for me to write down some of the changes that I have been going through

1) Biggest and most important change: swearing! I never sweared in public before (except if I am really angry and only my close friends are around). It is not lady-like in my country and people would be insulted if someone swears around them. Guys swear but never in front of girls - out of respect to the girls present. My brothers don't swear in front of me and one of them uses the word fudge instead of fuck when needed. Fuck is a very expressive word and I have been using it a lot recently. There were also some times when the word fuck can be heard more than a few times in sentences coming out of my mouth, for example (please go to point 2 if you would feel insulted from reading the examples :P):
oh, for fuck's sake
The fucking broken laptop screen will cost me 100 fucking pounds to replace
I have to fucking finish 5 fucking assignments in the Christmas vacation - that is only 3 fucking weeks; and i haven't done fuckall
Well, you get the point (i am having second thoughts on publishing that now out of respect for the people at home hehehe)

2) Second most important change: my accent! I have officially lost my beautiful American-like accent and I speak more like the British now - wait make that like the Bri'ish now. OK, so I can't yet be mistaken for an English but the changes to my accent are noticeable to everyone and to me as well. My flatmate Sheena commented on this change by saying "At least now you're speaking proper English" hehehe
I am also using some British English words now, the most common of which are: cheers (an informal Thank you), ini' (= isn't it), quid (=pounds), ... I wonder when I will stop saying elevator and start saying lift instead hehehe ;)
Again, من عاشرقوما اربعين يوما صارت لهجته مثل لهجتهم :p

Saturday, 13 December 2008

ECSWomen Birthday Dinner

ECSWomen is a committee that was founded last year aiming to support women in the School of Electronics and Computer Science (in the uni of Southampton of course).
We are nine committee members this year and we have organized some activities directed to supporting women in their careers in technology - or just to have fun :D
Our latest activity was our birthday dinner. When the event was first being prepared it was called 'Girl Geek Dinner' ... can u believe that hehehe? But then the organizers changed their name because apparently 'Girl Geek' was copyrighted or something so since the night of the event was exactly one year after the first ECSWomen event we decided to celebrate its birthday.
I wasn't planning to go because I had to submit an assignment the very next day. But two hours before the dinner started Kate - the committee current president - called me to tell me that someone wasn't going anymore and that there was an extra ticket and asked me if I would go. My coursework wasn't going any further - I had two bugs which I couldn't fix and had decided earlier to submit it as-is so I said yes.
The room was lovely. My friends on the committee had prepared everything so nicely. There were balloons, birthday decorations, Christmas crackers, and of course a birthday cake.
There was a lady from accenture - our sponsor - who gave a talk about her career in accenture. She was lovely and more importantly not boring. Then it was time for dinner. It was a buffet dinner and having a hot meal was nice. Then it was desert time and we had Christmas pudding which was also nice. Finally, it was cake cutting time AND one of the ECS lecturers sang Happy Birthday to us hehehe. There was a debate on who should cut the cake so finally the lady from accenture was asked to do the honor of the cutting hehe. Then it was time to go home but we stayed for a while in a coffee shop in the same building chatting and having fun. I finally went home after wishing the committee members a nice vacation because we won't be seeing each others till after New Year's. I went back home and my flatmates started teasing me that I looked nice - which I enjoyed ;)

Friday, 12 December 2008

Salty hands = ايدي مالحة

Lebanese describe a person who breaks everything he touches as having 'salty hands'. My hands have been very salty recently!
The screen of my laptop broke ... must be replaced
Zippers on two of my jackets broke ... must be replaced
The zipper of my laptop bag broke ... must be replaced
Buttons have been falling off my clothes ... i sewed one back on my jeans, one back on a jacket, and still need to sew one back on my coat
My gloves have torn threads in them - and yes they are new!
Dropped water and juice (lost count of the number of times) on my desk, table, floor, etc ... thankfully i use plastic cups :$

Lost my cell phone three times in one day!

A streak of bad luck ... don't you think?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Road Trip to Kent and My New Monitor

NEW MONITOR!!!!!!!!!!!!! weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
FINALLYYYYYYYYYYYYY more like it hehehehe
but we had to drive to Kent to get it!
George was so nice to offer to drive me to Kent to get the new monitor we bought on ebay. We got into the car - loaded it with fuel - and started our trip at 4:45. It took us only 2 hours to get there. Probably because George was driving at an average speed of 100 miles per hour - I didn't mind it but I kept my eyes on the speedometer and the heat-indicator during the whole duration of our trip (talk about bad experiences hehehe). Sheena came along but she slept almost all the time; and when she didn't sleep she was reading in her book (it gets dark after 4:30 so she brought a torch along so she can read in the dark car hehehe)
Although it was really dark, we thought that Rochester, Kent was fancier than Southampton. The houses were bigger and more elegant. It looked nicer because there is a lake with hills surrounding it and the lights shining around the lake were beautiful. We went to the seller's house. His house was overlooking the lake. We tested the monitor, paid him, and left - the whole thing didn't take more than 10 minutes. So, we decided to shop in Kent's ASDA hahaha. I am starting to think we are ASDA addicts :p. We shopped, used the toilet, and were back in the car by 7:55. Off to Southampton - this time with an average speed of 120 mile/hr and with Arabic music playing from my laptop (yeeey). I had to blindly navigate to the music directory because I just can't see anything on the screen! We were back in the dorms at 9:45!!!! I directly hooked up my monitor and was so relieved because I can finally use my laptop properly. The monitor is really BIG and everyone is so jealous hehehe George didn't accept that I pay him for the fuel; so we agreed that I either bail him out of jail or pay for his pizza next time we buy takeaway food hahaha

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Hisham Didn't Turn 29 - Truthful Reflections on the Death of a Friend

Hisham should have turned 29; he didn't. He didn't turn 28 either. He turned 27 on November 20th 2006 but died four months before his 28th birthday.
I have seen him twice already - not him personally of course but someone who looked like him. The first time I saw the guy who resembles him my heart raced so quickly as I looked - stared - at the guy as he walked past me. I must have looked like I have seen a ghost. A thousand thoughts rushed through my head as I experienced shock, reasonable thinking about the fact that it is impossible that this guy is him - and immediate sorrow of re-living the loss of a friend. Remembering causes sorrow that is as painful as living a loss for the first time. Or maybe it is like that just for me. I never really acknowledged the fact that Hisham doesn't exist anymore. Even writing it down now is so hurtful - yet it feels unreal at the same time. Up until now I have managed to avoid writing it down - or saying it out loud. I just pretended that his death never happened. I would tell myself that he is well and living in some other city - lie to myself to make myself feel better just like you would lie to a child who can't handle some brutal truth. It is not like his death was so sudden that it left me shocked and in total denial. I visited him several times in his hideous ICU room in the hospital. I called his parents - or made someone else call them - every single day to check on how he was doing. On the day of his funeral I went to his parent's house to offer condolences. I wore black. I saw his coffin. And I cried all day long. Yet, all these never managed to really convince me that he is really gone because every time I try to logically think about this fact it seems so horrific, painful, distant, and unreal that I just shrug my shoulders and tell myself that he has to be alive and well and preferably in another city which is why we can't see him any more.
Remembering him is very painful. Walking into his office and seeing someone else sitting in his chair on his desk was something I was never able to handle. I know that companies don't turn office spaces into shrines - I didn't expect that but deep inside I wanted his office to stay as it was - and I know that the only logical thing big corporations can do is to fill up empty spaces. I know that because I was the one who was expected to and assigned to do his work. Working in his place and trying to fill his shoes was one of the hardest things I had to do. It only took me a couple of days to discover that he was protecting me from the cruelty of all the people around me. I also discovered that he dealt with insanity without ever complaining and that he always simplified things for me and asked me to focus on getting things done instead of drawing my attention to all the problems that were happening. I discovered that he was one of very few people that were honest, pure, and genuinely truthful. I had never been able to understand the extreme form of honesty he used to express. It frequently shocked me, occasionally bothered me, and in some rare cases hurt me. Within less than a week from when he was hospitalized I developed a deep appreciation and respect to his over-honesty and a disdain to everyone else's fake smiles and attitudes. I never had the brevity to stand up to people the way he did. He called things as they were. I always chose my battles and most of the times I would just ignore the backstabbing, lies, and endless gossip. I knew about them but chose to ignore them indefinitely and focus on getting things done. He would never have chosen my approach. He was very interested in fairness, justice, rights, and Truth. Seeking these made Hisham what he was and defined his death as a loss to all of us whether we realize it or not.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Last Weekend November 2008

This weekend was kinda 'interesting'. It started off with the screen of my laptop cracking on Friday.
On Saturday I went to London for the second time - don't envy me already; read this all the way through. During the whole week before that I was negotiating with my brother to come over to Southampton and bring me the rest of my winter clothes which he was nice enough to bring from Lebanon. When I went to London the first time, I took almost 70% of the clothes he got with him and left the really thick items for later. That was almost two months ago. I didn't have any time to go again and neither did my brother - and when one of us had time the other couldn't make it! Eventually we agreed that since he was already gonna be in London on Saturday because of some prior engagement then I can meet him there to get my stuff. So, I left home at 9:10 and walked to the bus interchange to take a bus to the train station. I arrived at the interchange at 9:25 - missing the bus by 5 minutes - damn. So, I waited 15 minutes for the next bus and got on it. The bus arrived at the station at 9:55 and I immediately queued to buy a ticket. Unfortunately, the queue was really slow and by the time it was my turn to buy a ticket it was 10:05 and I had missed the 10:00 train - damn again. So, I bought a ticket for the 10:30 train. I then got some coffee - ESSENTIAL (and as I am writing this I am thinking of getting some coffee as well hehehe) - and waited for the 10:30 train. The train trip took around 1hr25mins and I was in London Waterloo station at 11:55. I got off the train, met Tarek, took my bag from him, chatted with him for a few minutes and then we decided to check the schedules of the trains going back back to Southampton. There was one leaving at 12:10 so we decided I should take that train - and I did!!! The trip back to Southampton also took around 1hr30mins. I then took another bus to the interchange and walked from the interchange to the dorms. I was back in my dorm room by 2:00 PM - dizzy, nauseous, and tired!
I then had something to eat and met my friend for a course group study in the computer science lab. Luckily, the computer science lab is open in the weekends! We worked till the evening and then left.
Sunday, I woke up and went to the computer science lab to finish up working with my friend. We finished by lunch time and I was back in my room at 4:oo P.M. George then helped shop for a monitor online. We couldn't find any cheap ones :( but after a couple of hours we had narrowed our search to two used ones which we found on ebay and bid on them. We didn't win the bid on the first one; so we decided to wait for the second one. The bid on the second was gonna be over after 2 hrs so I decided to go do my laundry. I went to the laundry room and put my clothes in the washing machine then I went to have some tea with my friend while the 45 minutes time needed for the cycle passed by. Then I went to the laundry room and removed my clothes from the washing machine and put them in the tumble dryer. Then I went back to George's room and waited for the bid time to pass by and WE WON!!! We bought a 19'' monitor for £48 :) After that I used Google Earth to show him Lebanon. He thought it was very beautiful (who wouldn't :P) I even tagged my home, high school , uni, and grandpa's house. I also showed him the Cedars, the Bekaa valley, and some pictures of mountain villages. He was shocked to find out that Lebanon is green and that it snows there. He thought there was only a dessert! He was also very impressed by the fact that Beirut and Tripoli were directly on the coast of the Mediterranean sea.
After all that it was already 10 PM and I had forgotten all about my clothes in the tumble dryer hehehe. I ran back out to get my clothes, folded them, and tidied up my room. Then at 12 AM I decided to go to sleep but I went out to the kitchen and I saw Sheena and George talking. Sheena had been away in Sheffield for a Taekwondo competition during the past two days. We then chatted for a whole hour before deciding that it was time to go to sleep.
Btw, Sheena has a black belt in Taekwondo but she didn't win the competition. She has been playing Taekwondo for a few years now and she is very passionate about it. And, I think that it is cool living with someone who know how to kick ass hehehehe
AND, George thinks that Ossama bin Laden is Labanese and that he is hiding in Lebanon hehehehe I am not sure whether he was joking or not but he seemed rather convinced. I am still not sure I was able to convince him that Ossama bin Laden is Saudi and that he is 'supposedly' hiding in some cave in Afghanistan.

Friday, 28 November 2008

My Bad Luck :(

In case you haven't noticed my current facebook status, i have managed to - unintentionally of course - get my laptop's screen broken :( I am so sad at the moment ... it is inconvenient to say the least ... I have so much work to do and not having a fully-functional laptop is the most hindering obstacle one can ever face.
I was thinking about solutions to my problem and I have the following options:
1. Send it to the shop to get it fixed - this is impossible as I will have to wait at least a couple of weeks before I get it back and I can't survive without it for half a day - let alone for a few weeks. OK, so I may sound like I am dramatizing things; and I know that it is not the oxygen I breathe - but for a student - for a uni student - for an MSc student - for a computer science MSc student one's laptop is indeed as important as oxygen.
2. Get a spare one temporarily and send the laptop to the shop (or to Lebanon as my brother suggested) to get it fixed. This option is more desirable than the previous one. However, it is still inconvenient as all my programs are already installed on this laptop and all my files and data are on this laptop and a transition is just a pain in the neck
3. Go to the computer science computer lab and hook my laptop to a monitor and use it. This is actually where I am currently. This is one of the good solutions however the lab is always crowded and it has strict opening and closing times. AND, I have to leave the comfort of my room to go to the lab and stay there and can't go back to the dorms till I have finished working for the day. Or, whenever I need a break or need to grab something to eat I have to carry all my stuff back to the dorms and then back here again - sounds like torture :(
4. Buy a monitor and hook my laptop to the monitor...this is the most convenient solution - however I need at least 100 quid (i.e. 100 pounds :P ) to pay for the monitor ... any suggestions who I should ask for donations? :D
The more I think about it, the more I like the fourth option. I was thinking that I can get a monitor and use it until the term ends and then I can send the laptop to the shop to get it fixed.
Anyone else has any other solutions ;)
By the way, it is 10:30 PM - security people close the lab at 10:45 - and I have to walk back to the dorms but it is 0C outside - brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Monday, 24 November 2008

My International Friends and Flatmates

During International Student Week (Sept 24 - Sep 28) I mainly hung out with the people I met the day before: Verena, Fleur, and Peter. We were also joined by Flora from Tanzania. Flora, however, only attended the orientation lectures with us. The rest of us would meet for dinner and play cards in the evening. They were nice and we had a lot of fun. Now, after two months, I have only stayed in touch with Fleur and I occasionally contact Verena.
Fleur wanted to live in a regular dorm room where she can share her toilet and shower with other students; but because she was under 18 years of age the hall management didn't agree and they made her stay in an en-suite room (like mine). I remember she was pissed off at their decision at the time. In retrospect, I kinda like that decision because she lives in the same building I live in - only she lives in block Q and I live in block T; which is one of the reasons we haven't lost touch.
Verena doesn't like her subject at all. She has to take a course on Ship Science and she hates it. She was facing a lot of difficulties that she has decided not to go ahead with trying to get the MSc degree; instead she will just get a postgraduate certificate.
As for my flatmates, they are really nice. The ones I am close to are Sheena and George. Sheena is from Hong Kong but she has been in England for the past eight years. George is from Zimbabwe and he has been in England for more than three years now. Sheena is a third-year psychology major. George is a first-year nursing student (even though he is 30). He used to work as a nurse in a mental hospital and he decided to get a proper uni degree. He has really long hair which he braided into many thin braids. He also has a car and he drives us to our weekly grocery shopping every weekend. George and Sheena are funny.
Fleur, George, and I have this strange agreement among us. We agreed that we will check on each others every day to see if we are all still alive. You see, about a month ago a girl committed suicide in her bathroom and no one knew about it. No one noticed that she was missing. Then a few days later her flatmates started smelling a very ugly smell and they complained about it and then the hall management discovered the dead girl's body. OK, so the story is horrible and I am sure that none of us will kill themselves; but nonetheless we made an agreement that we will check on each others everyday because we only have each others in this country.
Aso, Sheena and I have an arrangement. She hides my chocolate from me! I buy 2 big chocolate bars every week and she locks them away in her cupboard so I only eat a small piece each day instead of butchering them in two days (because of the CHOCOHOLIC I am !!!!!!)
Well, I am tired now so that is all for now about my flatmates & international friends .... other stuff coming later

P.S: after I published this post, I re-read and it has the quality of an English Composition essay written by a 5th grader attempting to compare and contrast ... ahh well I am too tired to fix it anyway

Sunday, 23 November 2008

12:45 A.M. Saturday Night (Sunday)

It is 12:45 A.M. and my program is still running. This is partly my fault because I didn't work as hard as I was supposed to. You see, I have an assignment due on Monday (worth 25% of the course final grade) and I was intending on finishing it today - with the written report. I did waste some (= a lot of :$) time which is why I am still waiting for the bloody program to produce results at this time - and in case you haven't noticed some of the wasted time was spent on blogging (this is the third post tonight - hey, I have to post a lot to catch up on totally ignoring my blog for two months *bigsmile). Anyways; it is late, I am tired and sleepy, but I am too stubborn to go to sleep.

Fleur came over today and she hang out with George because I was doing my coursework. I was running my program when it produced an error :( I was so annoyed that I went into George's room to nag. We then decided to have something to eat. Fleur and George came up with the idea that we should go midnight-shopping tonight. We usually go on Saturdays or Sundays (during the day :P) but they suggested going at midnight which I was excited about. So, I decided to work for a bit; I ran my program again - it produced another error :( so I started blogging hehehe, then we all chatted for a while, and it was 11 PM and time to go. George suddenly remembered that it would be a good idea to check which ASDA opens 24hr on Saturday. With Verena, Fleur, and George in my room I went online to check out the branches. Unfortunately, NONE of the ASDA branches opens 24hr on Saturday! That was a disappointment as we were all ready to go :( anyways we agreed that we will go tomorrow at 1ish.

I always spend a lot of money on groceries (dunno why!) and I have a big list this week.

Oh yeeeeey my program just finished running; let's hope it actually produced the correct results this time :D OH NOOOOOOO I forgot to set logging on :( :@ :( :@ and now I have to run it again to see the results :( :@ :( :@ Going to sleep now sounds like the best idea ever :D

Saturday, 22 November 2008

STUPID English Taps

Taps come in all shapes, sizes, and forms....English taps also come in all shapes, sizes, & forms...except that they have an extra feature which is that they are STUPID!

You see, they come in two seperate taps:a cold tap & a hot tap....VERY COLD water comes out of the cold tap and VERY HOT water comes out of the hot one!! You can imagine brushing ur teeth or washing your face or just washing your hands & imagine having to jump your hands from under the cold to under the hot to under the cold again ....and it is not just in my bathroom .... they are all over the place....i went thru the hassle of taking pictures around campus, in coffeeshops, restuarants, etc just to prove my point!
The stupidest tap I ever saw is the tap in our kitchen .. we dont have two taps...we only have one tap....however the cold water comes from the front and the hot water comes out from the back!!!! And the big secret is that: THERE ARE TWO PIPES in that friend Peter expressed it best by saying: i khate (he is Polish, he meant "hate") English taps; they are so stupid, it is even kharder ("harder") fitting two pipes in one tap that it is to just fit one!!!!

The attached pictures are: taps in my bathroom - kitchen tap (cold) - kitchen tap (hot) - and kitchen tap (THE SECRET)

Hope you enjoyed :P

Totally Ignoring My Blog !!!

Oh well ,,,, I have been in this country for TWO WHOLE months now - and I haven't blogged anything except for the detailed description of my first day! Shame on me!!!! :$
Sometimes I feel like I have been here for much longer than two months even though at other times I still feel like a stranger in a foreign country. Sometimes when I wake up and for the first two minutes I think that I am in my bed at home but then I realize that I am in my dorm room and not at home. It is probably the smell. I realised this a couple of days ago. My dorm room doesn't smell like home and my bed here doesn't smell like my bed at home. I should probably call Mom and ask her what washing powder she uses so I can use the same one :) The city also doesn't smell like Beirut (OK so it much less poluted hehehe) but I have really missed the smell of rain in Beirut (not the flooded streets though) - I don't know if it is only me; but I think that the smell of rain falling on Beirut is different than the smell of rain here (I am not weird, really. hehehe).The other time in which I feel like a complete stranger is when riding in George's car, especially if it is dark. Not recognizing the roads and not knowing where we are heading really depresses me. I think I have to wait some more time to get past this feeling.
On a more cheerful note, the city is lovely. I love the view outside my room window and I enjoy walking to uni in the morning. The weird thing is that there are no tall buildings here. I feel like I live in some village because all the buildings are small (except for malls and uni buildings DUH) and all the houses are so small!!!!!
Going back to the topic of me TOTALLY ignoring my blog after bugging everyone at home to check it as often as they can - ehem .... well, I have been busy - OK OK not too busy to blog if I was perfectly capable to facebook as well .... but hey I did email you a lot of pictures .... :$
OK, moving on, I will try to blog as much as I can and if possible also write about some of the events that took place in the last few months and write a bit about my friends and flatmates .... is that better? :D

Monday, 29 September 2008

Arriving to Southampton

The plane landed in London Heathrow Airport at 11 a.m. Going through immigration was a peace of cake! I thought they would make a lot of hassle (given my country of origin) but the guy just stamped my passport and told me to register for the police within 7 days (which i already knew because it was written in CAPITAL letters in my visa). I went to collect my luggage and passed through customs where a man asked me it I was coming from Beirut. I answered yes and he started asking me: "Do you have labneh?", "No" I said... at this time another customs officer came dragging a black dog which immediately started sniffing my bags while I was still being asked if I have "labneh", "jebneh", "samak" ... (and I am using the words of the customs man!) . I laughed and said: "They will get spoiled anyways!"; the man finally said "just go!" and I did.

I directly found the representatives from university, they greeted me and checked my name and took my luggage and asked me to do whatever I want but report to them at 1:30 p.m. because the coach will head towards Southampton at 2:00 p.m. I wandered around a bit, bought a sandwich and ate it, read a bit in my book, wandered some more, read some more ...
A girl approached me and asked me if I was from Turkey, I replied saying No and that I was from Lebanon. It turned out that she was from Turkey and had met a girl online who was also from Turkey and the other girl was also gonna study in the University of Southampton and was supposed to arrive on the same day of our arrival. She then introduced me to a guy who was from Malta and was going to Southampton to study Civil Engineering.

When it was finally time to leave the representative from university divided us into groups based on where we will be dropped off. The Turkish girl joined another group and another girl approached me asked me whether I was going to the same destination as she was. She was from Germany and her name was Verena - pronounced Veghena. She was going to the University of Southampton to study Computational Fluid Dynamics. Anyways we queued in line outside the airport and it was a bit chilly and then it suddenly started to rain. I was kind of happy with the rain because it produces a certain smell in the air, the same smell of the rain from back home!

We finally got on our buses and I sat next to Verena and we chatted for about an hour. The coach ride was for almost 3 hours and after the first hour we were tired and sleepy so we kind of kept quiet for the rest of the journey. We finally reached the halls of residence a bit after 5 p.m. where we queued again to be handed our room keys. Luckily for me I was the first in line and I was handed my room key quickly. I had been hoping all the way on the coach that my room won't be on the ground floor; so when I asked the reception guy what room my floor on and he replied the ground floor I was very upset. I asked him if I could change rooms and he said I have to wait for two weeks then inform then because by then all students would have arrived and they can check the availability of other rooms.
A girl from the 'Meet and Greet Program' walked me to my room. She was very nice and showed me around everything. After I put my stuff I remembered that I forgot to take my bedding pack from the reception. I walked back to reception where I asked for a bedding pack. As I was waiting Verena walked in because she had also forgotten her bedding pack. After we both got our bedding packs she asked me about my room and I said it was OK but she said her room was awful and offered to show it to me. I walked with her to her room and it was actually awful. We were standing there and talking when another girl got out of her room and said she was glad to hear some noises because it was very quiet. She introduced herself as Fleur from Holland. She also showed us her room and it was also awful. So, I offered to show them my room and we all walked back to my room. We then decided to go get some food and water. A guy who Fleur met on the ride back home also came along with us. He was Peter from Poland.
We went to Burger King and ate some food then we passed by a small shop and got some water and fruits. We then walked back to the dorms and agreed to meet the next day in the morning to walk together to the presentations held for the International students.

I went back to my room and I made my bed. It was a weird feeling getting the pillow, pillow cover, duvet, duvet cover, and bed sheet out of a pack and putting everything in its place. Putting a duvet in a duvet cover is a somewhat tricky task hehehe. I took a shower and I checked my emails for a while and then I went to sleep. However, the pillow was very squeezed so I put some t-shirts under it and went to sleep.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Travelling out of Lebanon

Tuesday September 23rd, 2008: I woke up at 4:30 a.m. I dressed and said goodbye to my youngest brother because he was too sleepy to head to the airport with us. My father and my oldest brother took the very-heavy-bags to the garage and put them in the car. My Mum made two cheese sandwiches for me and put them in a bag with a cucumber because she was afraid I would arrive to my dorm room late in the evening and that the food shops would have closed (even though I already had some snacks to eat because she had made me buy some biscuits the day before).
We headed to the airport at 5:20 and got there at 5:35 and I tearfully said my goodbyes to my family and went inside. I was looking for a particular person because the day before an acquaintance of my father had given me two names of people who work at the airport who would assist me in case my luggage had a lot of extra weight (assist translates from Lebanese directly into: allow me to check them in without paying extra weight fees). My Mum and cousin had been telling me and assuring me that my bag would weigh at least 45 kg and maybe even 50 Kg; so I was pretty scared that I would have to paid a bunch of hundreds of dollars if that was true. I had to wait until 6:20 for the person (let us called him Y) to arrive. I kept asking the staff about person Y because I didn't even know how he looked like. Then when person Y finally came I went to him and told him that person X (my father's acquaintance) gave me his name and that he (Y) would assist me with my extra weight. To my surprise and terror he simply said: Who is this person X ,,,, I have no idea who he is! And he walked away! I followed him a bit then I approached him again and I told him that person X gave me his name and another person's name and that both of them were supposed to help me. To my disappointment again he told me he didn't know person X but I didn't move so he told me to go weigh my bags anyway. So I went to weigh my bags and I told the check-in person to call person Y. Fortunately for me my bags only weighed 35 Kgs. So, person Y told the check-in person to just let me in. And so I was let in without paying the extra weight fees.
After I finished checking in and got my boarding pass I turned around to go outside and signal to my parents that things worked out. Then a person approached me and told me that he knew my father and that he will help me access the Cedar lounge so I can rest there before my flight. He also escorted me outside to tell my parents what happened. Again I tearfully said another goodbye and headed inside to the Cedar lounge. It was 7:00 a.m. already. I had some coffee and my last two bites of mankoucheh zaatar. I surfed the net a bit and then it was 7:30 a.m. and time for me to board the plane. I packed my laptop and headed down and started walking very quickly because they started urging people to head to the plane. I didn't buy anything from the duty-free. But then just before the gate I passed by a Virgin store and I remembered that the flight was a 5-hour-flight and that I should get a book to pass the time. So, I went back to Virgin and bought a book and sprinted off to the plane. Just as I came face-to-face with the plane and the pilot and the hostess I realized that I was ACTUALLY, REALLY, and TRUELY leaving Lebanon for a WHOLE year and tears started pouring out of my eyes. The pilot tried to cheer me up by telling the hostess: "ma eltellek ino manzarna bebakki :)" but it was too late and it was like a door was opened and all the silent tears came rolling down my cheek. Then I found my seat - which I had read somewhere on the boarding was 32F. But there was no space in the compartment to put my hand bag and so the host helped me by sorting the other bags and squeezing mine in. I had just settled in when, two minutes later, a host said: 32F please show me your boarding pass. So, I showed it to him and he told me I was in the wrong seat, my seat was actually 24F. I had no idea why I saw the 24 as 32! So, I gave my seat up and moved to the front where to my bad luck my seat was a WING seat. "Great", I thought, "now I can't see anything outside the window :( "
The trip took 5 hours, I spent it watching TV, reading a bit in the book I bought, but mostly wiping silent tears off my face! I had no idea I would be this emotional about leaving Lebanon especially since I was doing something I had planned for and was very happy making the decision about.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Last day in Lebanon

Monday September 22: I still had some packing to do. Basically I spent most of the day packing. I also spent a lot of time taking cooking instructions and notes from my Mum. AND.....I cooked 'bazilla' - peas. It looked easy (no laughing please :p). I mean come on ... most Lebanese cooking of 'yakhni' is as follows: cook some meat using oil until they are well-done, then cook some chopped onions until they change to the desired color, the add the 'kizibra' (no idea what that translates to in english) along with some garlic and then finally add whatever thing you are cooking with some tomato sauce, a lot of water, and some salt and pepper. Once the water boils, turn the heat down and leave it between an hour and two hours. Then it is ready to be served with rice.Then came Iftar time 6:30 pm. My mum had made and/or bought several traditional Lebanese mezze dishes (AMAZING food): 'warak 3enab b zeit' (= vine leaves), kebbe (some sort of meat that needs a lot of processing), hommos b theni (chick peas), rkakat (cheese spring rolls), fattoush (lebanese salad), etc ... so I was enjoying the mezzi so much I didn't even touch the bazilla I made. My cousin had also come to have dinner with us and say good bye to me. Then we sat with her a bit and I continued packing a bit. Then my two best friends Noura and Souha came and also my uncle (father's side) and his children came. I also called my grandmother (father's side) and my grandfather (mother's side) and my uncle (mother's side). Then my friends left and our neighbors next door came in. My Mum started complaining that I had so much weight in the bags and my cousin joined in and they started saying that I won't use some of the stuff I was taking or wear most of the clothes I was taking. At 11 pm my Mum and I left to drop my cousin off. My Mum made me buy some biscuits and crackers to take with me because she was afraid that I would arrive to my dorm room late in the evening and that all the food stores would be closed. Then we went home. But at that time I was really worried about my luggage weight and so I decided to empty some things from the bag so I removed some liquids which I thought I can buy from the UK and I removed some t-shirts and my Mum made me remove three purses.
A lot of my friends SMSed me goodbye messages and some called and asked me how I was feeling. I explained to them that I didn't have any particular feeling becuase I didn't have the time to feel anything - I was just running on the program. I was so busy running errands and packing my bags and saying my goodbyes that I hadn't started yet to feel any particular emotions.
Eventually we went to sleep at 2:30 a.m. and we had to wake up two hours later at 4:30 a.m. because I had to be in the airport at 5:00 a.m.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Cooking your own food

well,i knew this was gonna happen one day or another! the looking back and regretting my total lack of experience in cooking (& the fact that i wasn't willing to place a foot in the kitchen either) ... it is a good thing though that I still have a few days in lebanon that I can make use of by making my mom dictate some cooking notes!
i cooked 'loubyi' yesterday, of eight family members only my mum and my uncle had the guts to taste it (i didn't cook the rice;i left that task to chef souad - my mum :p ) ... they said it tasted good ... i tasted it too but i wouldnt yet trust my taste buds to dare & inform me my cooking was bad ... i am sure they would be shy ...i think that one time after another they would gather some courage to demand that i throw the contents of the pot in the trash can & order a delivery from domino's pizza :Din addition to my mum, my friend shirine emailed me & gave me some recipes, my cousin suggested a few recipes ... so i am armed & prepared for the world of kitchen .... i will definitely add new posts at my early cooking stages - just because my sense of humour allows me to laugh at myself and invite others to do that too :P
stay updated on any cooking posts :D

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

First Post

Finally, no?
I've been talking about creating a blog for the past month. I woke up today & headed directly to the laptop to create one bcz today is my LAST tuesday in Lebanon -- & now I am wondering if there will be 7-last-(insert day of the week here)-in-Lebanon blogs :p
so, how does it feel...: a lot of mixed emotions, some are intense and many which I will be able to identify later.
anyways, i don't want to write everything down in my first post; so keep coming back for more :D