Wednesday, 30 December 2009

جنسيتي ... حق ناقص

هذه مساهمة لمبادرة كلنا ليلى (أعرف أن لغتي العربية قد تكون ركيكة لأنني لم أكتب بالفصحى منذ أكثر من خمس سنوات إلا أنني أصريت على الكتابة بالعربية لأن المبادرة تعالج أمور المرأة العربية - فعذرا)

في مسرحية "فيلم أمريكي طويل" يصر رشيد أن "الهوية اللبنانية تووك - تووك" (مكررة مرتين للتأكيد) ليس لقلة الوطنية أو كرهاً بلبنان بل يأساً من الإنقسام الذي أصبح يتميز به اللبنانيون*.

كلبنانيون، نحن نعلم أنه ما زال ينقص بلدنا وقوانينه - وحتى ينقصنا نحن وعقليتنا - الكثير من التغييرات والتحديثات قبل أن نصل إلى مرحلة نستطيع فيها أن نُطَمئِن بالنا إلى أن بلادنا عادت أرض الحضارات بدل أن نستمر بالتغني 'على الأطلال' (أطلال السوليدير ربما) بأن بيروتنا كانت أم الشرائع - شرائعنا هذه التي لم تُحَدَّث منذ عشرات السنين.

وأحد هذه الشرائع والقوانين الذي يهمني شخصياً هو قانون الجنسية. ما زلت أنا كامرأة لبنانية أعيش في هذا القرن وفي بداية سنة ٢٠١٠ لا أستطيع أن أعطي جنسيتي اللبنانية لأولادي. الموضوع للأسف مُسَيًس جداً في لبنان و - ككل شيء - الإنقسام حوله كبير. البعض لا يريد أن يغير القوانين خوفاً من أن يفتح المجال أمام قانون جديد لتجنيس الفلطسنيين في لبنان (رغم أن معظم الخائفين من هذا القانون لا يطالبون بحق العودة ولا يعنيهم هذا الموضوع بتاتا). البعض الاخر يخاف أن يفتح المجال أمام قانون جديد يسمح بتجنيس أزواج اللبنانيات مما قد يؤدي إلى إستغلال رجال من جنسيات عربية للنساء اللبنانيات عبر الاقتران بهنّ من أجل جنسيتهن (أخبرني هذه الحجة صديق لي ولم يقتنع بتأكيدي بأن النساء اللبنانيات لسن ساذجات أو 'إنو شو جيين أصلاً هل رجال من هالجنسية اللبنانية؟'). أما آخر نوع من الحجج يتعلق بنظرة المجتمع الذكوري لنا واعتبارنا كنساء بشر من الدرجة الثانية لا حق أو ضرورة لنا بتوريث جنسيتنا (أو دياناتنا** أومكاناتنا في المجتمع أو أسماء عائلاتنا) لأولادنا. كل هذه حجج لا تقنعني بل تشعرني أن مجتمعنا الذكوري يستسهل الاستخفاف بنساءه.

ولن تقنعني أية حجة أخرى لأنني لست مواطنة ولا إنسانة من الدرجة الثانية. يحق لي كإمرأة أن أعطي جنسيتي لأولادي, أبناء وبنات هذا البلد وأفراد هذا المجتمع, لأنه لولا حملي لهم
ما كانوا ليكونوا, ولولا تربيتي لهم ما كانوا نشؤواعلى حبه. قد آن الأوان أن أعامل على هذا الأساس وأعطى حقي الطبيعي.

قد تكون الهوية اللبنانية مازالت تووك، لكنها الهوية التي أريد أن أعطي لأبنائي.

* تدور أحداث المسرحية في ثمانينات القرن الماضي إلا أن أبطال القصة وأفكارهم للأسف يصلحون لأن يكونوا جزءا من زمننا هذا
** ما عدا الديانة اليهودية


Update: Article in Daily Star

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Graduation



So, I woke up today thinking how much easier guys have it, they don't have to go through the whole hair, makeup, tights, skirts, high-heel, etc misery...Ezgi was ready in 10 minutes, I needed 1 and a half hours! But once it is done, it feels great (here is where I get girly lol) so yes, my hair is straightened & I am wearing proper makeup :D I love special occasions and this one was lovely :) I am now officially an MSc graduate :D
The ceremony was not like any I have previously attended. I am used to speeches followed by speeches followed by more speeches lol. During my high school graduation, I had to sit through three speeches and luckily for us our principal substituted the fourth with a tenor who performed about 5 songs, awesome. I didn't attend my AUB graduation. During Lara's graduation I also had to sit through speeches by AUB's President, the class valedictorian, and the guest of honor - each followed by its translated Arabic version, talk about a LONG ceremony! Student then would be called one by one and be handed their diplomas.
Today, no diplomas were handed out. The head of the department asked the chancellor if he would award us with our degree and the chancellor answered that he would. Our names were called, we held the chancellor's hands, he asked us each a couple of questions and then we walked back to our seats. Then he gave a short speech. And that was it! Short & Quick!

Oh and by the way, during my next graduation, I will be wearing a silly mushroom shaped hat :D the kind of silly that I am looking forward to it :)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

More Execuses

So, I promised to update this thing and I didn't
Promises should be kept
but like, whatever
I have been busy people
I kinda like have opposite feelings...on the one hand I really really really want to talk all about what I have done. On the other, it is too much to talk about and I can't bring myself to even write one post
What to do, what to do, what to do?
Anyhoo, let's talk about what will happen next: I graduate on December 17th NEXT THURSDAY woohoo, so excited about it :D
Also, we may go to Winchester this weekend (we went to Portsmouth 2 weekends ago)
AND, there will be another flash mob & this should ROCK!!
Stay tuned, or not ... it's not like this thing is not dead anyway lol
(& a special word to my favorite geekette: za7ti :P - kidding kidding)

Friday, 2 October 2009

Hello

Hello World!
Actually, make that Hello My Friends :P
OK, so I am BACK lol, MSc dissertation submitted and bag being packed for my return to Beirut woooohhhhooooooooooo :D :D :D :D , maybe you can't tell, but I am excited :P
so, what have I been up to, LOADS of things since my last proper post about me, and so I will be writing about some of these stuff, they will be old & you may already know them; but what the heck, I will write anyway :P
so, CAN'T EFFING WAIT TO SEE YOU ALL BACK IN BEIRUT (and other Lebanese cities lol) :D
yalla za7to :P I will start updating bit by bit :)

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Quotes in ECS

Whenever anyone prints anything in our Computer Science lab, a front sheet is printed as well indicating the user ID of the user and some other info like the PC used to place the print order, how many pages, date and time, etc ...
In addition, a quote or expression is also printed; and some of these are hilarious ...
Here is one:
"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is"
lol

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Quotes

“ Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing. ”

— Phyllis Diller

this was one of my first favourite quotes :)

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Quotes

"I often wonder
if life is easier
for other people
or
they're just better
at faking it"

a postsecret postcard

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Funny Definition

I also found this on RD's website:
"Cupidity: The faulty logic that leads a well-meaning but clueless third party to believe that two random singles are perfect for each other."

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Quotes

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." -- Desmond Tutu

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

True Joke :)

From RD website:

When he received a journal as a gift, my eight-year-old son was mystified. "Mom, what am I supposed to do with this? The pages are blank."

"You write down interesting stuff that happens to you," I said.

"So it's like a blog … on paper."


wow how technology changed our perspectives on things ...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Two Years Ago, Today

Two years ago, on Saturday July 28th, 2007; I was awaken by a text message informing me that Hisham had died the night before. I will not dwell on this simply because I do not want to re-live that experience - I don't have the strength to do that at the moment and I have been fighting all the mixed emotions for a week now trying not re-live it for the past few days and now especially that this day has come. I have already re-lived that day several times before and I wonder when I will start being not able to remember every moment of it ...
... I remember that a few months after that day, my friends and I were talking and Souha mentiond something about seeing me that day. She said she had never seen me crying before that day - simply because I don't cry in front of anyone, because in this cruel world crying is considered a sign of weakness and expressing such emotions leads to no where good! - and that when she saw how tearful, sad, and upset I was she became very upset herself ...
... I remember talking about Hisham with Hana, she was my high school friend and one of his ICU nurses; she admired him a lot; his strength, his endurance, his acceptance to everything and how he rarely ever complained even though he was in such great pain ...
... I remember never talking about him with my co-workers (except for 'M'); they rarely mentioned him anyway - if ever - and I didn't want to be the one who always reminded them that there was a person who was much more hard-working, honest, pure, and idealistic ...
... I remember a lot, some weeks there are days when I can think of nothing else but him ... some other weeks I think very little of him, on the latter days I feel much stronger and much less vulnerable ...
... I remember that at times I would get angry at him and we would exchange words which aren't nice, and I would get angrier; I regret those times ...
... I remember telling a friend that it is always the nicer, more idealistic, better, smarter, more innocent people who always die, and the ones less deserving of life who live much longer ... it was cruel to have said that ... but I still feel it is true ...
... I remember ... and I wish I don't ...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Quotes

Ok, here is an interesting one:

"Having a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women … A wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week."

Source: University of Michigan

Tho I am pretty sure that in Lebanon and other Arab and Eastern countries it would be much more than seven hours of hoursework for women...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Facebook Group: You know you have been studying abroad in the UK for a while when...

This is so funny, I just joined the facebook group 'You know you have been studying abroad in the UK for a while when...' they have the funniest most-honest list in the description. I have put my opinion in italic and bolded out the ones which I think are so so true:

1. One out of 4 words you hear in the streets is "fuck" or "fucking"
2. You have tried the symbol of British food, a breaded piece of fish with fries and they call it "fish & chips". (Actually I haven't tried that - and won't be trying that - because I don't like fish, but all the people I know had it and I even made my mother have it when she was here lol)
3. You see semi-naked girls in the streets and boys wearing t-shirts with temperatures below zero.
4. You are shocked to see that the Uni is closed, city is collapsed and people stranded if streets are covered with more that 5 cm of snow.
5. You have travelled to London just for 1 pound with a fun fare, and you love it. (Actually, I haven't done this yet, but my friends have...but it is on my list ;) )
6. You wake up every morning knowing that it's quite unlikely that you're going to see the sun.
7. You drink pints every day and you love them
8. You see people having a pee while they get money from a cash machine. (Actually, I haven't seen this yet :S but I have seen druken people having a pee on the street)
9. You realize that dinner time is 6pm
10. You see people drunk in the streets at 8pm.
11. You see old people getting pissed in Potters Wheel (Wetherspoon)
12. You are kicked out of a pub at 11.30 pm
13. You have learned the difference between pasty and pastry and you've tried a Cornish Pasty.
14. You see people wearing flipflops and shorts even though it's raining.
15. You've said "cheers mate" more than twice
16. You've tried to buy a traditional coffee maker and you've failed.
17. You realize the most important religion is not Christianity but Rugby.
18. You wonder how people wash their intimate parts without a "bidé"
19. You wonder why the concept of "proper curtains" hasn't arrived to this country yet. (This thought hits you from day 1, all houses have the same white curtains. Needless to say that my mother also complained about this lol)
20. You hear and say "sorry" at least 10 times a day.
21. You've seen naked women on the second (and first, and third...) page of the daily newspapers.
22. After a failed conversation with someone in the street you wonder whether he/she was speaking in Scottish, Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Irish or English.
23. You see Tesco as an important social meeting point.
24. You have struggled trying to convert from Farenhait to Celcius, from Miles to Kilometers and from Pounds to Euros, but you know a pint is 0.56 litres. (Actually, I was fine with the Celcius but the weight scale I bought has Stone on it and not Kg! - still struggling with that!)
25. You have been driving on the wrong side of the road (I still have no guts to drive in this country; actually most of the time I am still scared to cross the road!)
26. You have seen old people smiling at you in the street
27. You have been asked for "some spare change" by an unknown person.
28. You see 3 kebab shops and 2 indian restaurants in every street. (and two chinese)
29. You've had a Full English Breakfast with bacon, eggs, sausages, beans, etc and you think it's amazing
30. You've had a burger, chips and beans on the same plate.
31. You've thought more than ten times that the car you have just seen was driven by nobody
32. You have tried to destroy the fire alarm at least a couple of times. (I haven't tried that...certainly thought about it more than twice!)
33. You have wondered about the wildlife present in your carpet. (and in my curtains and in the corner ...)
34. You see a group of people wearing fancy dresses every time you go out at night.
35. You have been in a pub next to a really drunk lady, that you think could even be your grandma.
36. You think you're going to visit a palace, a castle or a chapel and you only see a few old stones.
37. You realize that taking a cab is almost free (according to a certain person from Norway). (Actually no it is not!)
38. You're outside and don't even notice it's raining anymore, because it is just simply normal to you by now.
39. You realise that any kind of food can be eaten with anything else, no matter how wierd the combination is.
40. You have six months of holidays in a year. (No, I don't :( )
41. In case you need to get your hands clean, you realise that you only have two options: boil your hands in water near to 90º or see how they become two beauty ice-cubes.
42. You have a sink in your bedroom.
43. You can't buy shoes in any shop because they all smell like feet!!
44. You find machines in pubs in which you can buy condoms, vibrators, lubricant and even a Hair Straightener.
45. Your house and surroundings are full of rubbish bags because rubbish is collected just once per week.
46. You ask for a double whisky in a pub and the quantity you're given is just ridiculous!!
47. You see potatoes everywhere, in all different forms and shapes, i.e. boiled potatoes, jacket potatoes, smashed potatoes, chips, crisps, etc. (and after a while you start making them yourself :P)
48. You realize that burping in the library is something normal. (Sorry, haven't been in the library...I usually go to the computer lab :P)
49. You realize that no matter how weird the clothes you're wearing are, people just won't care.
50. You have hoovered your room at least once.
51. You shake the hand of someone of the opposite sex you've just met.
52. You drink as much tea with milk as you drink beer (at least 5 times a day). (Actually this doesn't apply to me lol)
53. You realize that being served alcohol in an academic seminar is completely normal.
54. You learn that 4 cups of tea per day is good for you.
55. You have stopped questioning why there are carpets even in the bathrooms (Not in the university, tho)
56. You know there is a fair chance your house is filled with mould.
57. Your floors and roofs are in serious decay after years of leakages and no maintenace.
58. You have a fire exit in your house.
59. You find yourself breaking into an english accent when trying to order a cuppa tea.
60. You have mushrooms in your toilets.
61. You see daffodils growing EVERYwhere, all year round.
62. You find yourself discussing what make of baked beans is the best...and it doesn't scare you
63. You see all four seasons in one day. first sun (oh blessed sun!), then rain, then snow, then hail. and sun, and rain, then...aaaah!
64. "hello/hey, how are you?" is replaced by "you alright?"
65. You find yourself going out partying wearing only a little top... and it's raining! And above all it's normal because everybody is dressed like that!!
66. You realize that burping in the middle of a lecture is something normal. (hmmm, not really! oh wait, I used to have a burping lecturer lol)
67. It's only five and every single shop is closed!
68. You've bought something at Argos!! (haven't yet, but most probably will :P)
69. You think it's normal to sleep on a mattress which was considered old-fashioned crap in Europe 30 years ago.
70. You don't go out to go out but to get drunk.
71. You don't mind the food anymore...
72. Subway is the healthiest meal you can think of
74. You find normal that in clubs the ladies are full of screaming semi-naked drunk (British) girls trying to do their make up and hair again and again.
75. You feel like being a nun when you wear trousers or skirt longer than your knees and tops to go out
76. You go to the lectures just for sleeping..lying on the table, chair..it doesnt matter!!!
77. You discover that a simple ticket of the train can vary from a price of 8£ to 30£.. for the same train, time and journey
78. You realize that you have never seen an English Restaurant
79. You move into a house and realise that you can't open the windows!! (or that they open so wide that anyone can enter the house thru the window!)
80. You're in the top back part of the bus, and a 9 years old chav asks you for a lighter (thankfully hasn't happened yet lol)
81. You realize that British people are queuing politely everywhere except at the bar counter
82. You discover there is a "potato" function on the microwave!!!
83. You phone a Hospital emergency service at night and you are speaking to a non-medical person on duty who will ask you a lot of questions and then decide if its an emergency. This person will even ask to speak to the almost unconcious patient and ask you to describe whether the person looks pale, the eyes are yellow, blue, red.Any bleeding...blah blah and then tell you that a doctor will only be available at 9.00 in the morning...(after an hour of questioning) and you are worried that the patient might die in the meantime but you have no other options :-(
84. Your umbrellas have got broken at least twice and you are still hoping not to break the new one even if it's May!
85. You see your housemate ordering chinese food or pizzas three times a week
86. You realize that you can get decent (dark, rye, healthy) bread in every European country except for the UK...and no, Toast is not considered a proper kind of bread.....
87. You are no longer suprised to see fans and radiators on at the same time (either in February or June!)
88. You are certainly annoyed by their stupid sockets
89. You realize that every product you buy "may contain trace of nuts"
90. Your sentences begin with.."to be honest"..
91. You are addressed as "treacle, sugarplumb, darling, sweetheart, love, ...." (and all other versions of nicknames in that genre you normally only call your wife/lover) by the staff in supermarkets, pubs and restaurants.
92. You are affected by CCTV paranoia.
93. You can see, on a saturday night, Dancing on ice, strictly come dancing, pop idol, x factor, big brother, big brother celebrity, I'm a celebrity get me out of here (and so on) simultaneously!
94. You are not surprised to see an old lady, her daughter and her granddaughter dancing together in a club.
95. You talk about the weather all the time.
96. You hear "WHA" instead of W-H-A-T ! and "THA" instead of T-H-A-T!!! (and now, I even say it!)
97. You have asked to borrow ten "quid" instead of ten pounds from someone
98. It is 23.45 and the bell rings in the pub. Last orders mate, lets have 2pints each...
99. You have to pull a string to switch on the light or get the water from the shower!!
100. You realize "taking the piss out" of someone is not a medical procedure
101. You realize everybody just gets crazy in a club when Dj plays Mr. Brightside (The Killers), Place your hands (Reef), Don´t Stop me Now (Queen)!!LOL or the Baywatch theme...
102. You have to mind the gap between the train and the platform.
103. Every door is a "fire door" that you have to "keep shut".

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Queen's Swans

Remember this? when I told you that there is some group of ducks that belong to the queen and some east-asian students were deported back to their countries because they hunted and had some for dinner (ya, I know, I still can't believe it myself!) ... well, I read this today and apparently the queen does own all unmarked, mute swans - not ducks - in open water lol ... oh, and it gets better, there is also a Swan Warden and a Swan Marker and they are going to spend five days counting the swans in the River Thames :D

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Quotes

This is maybe the quickest update I have ever done. I just read Robert's Fisk article about Egypt, Cairo, Mubarak, etc ... and I found a sentence that can serve as a very precise description of how I feel about Egypt and Cairo:
"the best thing about Cairo is an aircraft with a cedar tree painted on the tail flying to Lebanon"
yup he said that...damn it is like he knows exactly how I feel (apologies to my few Egyptian friends if you are reading this...but the months I spent in Cairo in 2006 were very far away from being enjoyable!)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Quotes

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved smart quotes ... I have loads of favorites.
Maybe I should share some
The first I want to share is cut out of sentence but it is still self-contained; though I am not 100% supportive of the context it came in - just 98% coz I think Ziad is one of the smartest people ever:
لازم كلّنا، نحنا عجايب هيدا الشرق الحزين، نقوم ننضبّ... تعو ننضبّ، أشرفلنا واللهِ... هلّق وين بدنا ننضبّ كلّنا ما عم بقدر أعرف
زياد الرحباني
I found it expressive of my opinion on the division of Lebanese people ...

Article

Apparently, I was one of the indirect reasons of this article
http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/135711

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Maxim Shaaya back from the North Pole

Yo Leb people, one of my fave Lebanese persons, Maxim Shaaya, is back in Beirut from the North pole. He is now one of only 12 people who have completeed the Explorers Grand Slam, i.e. made it to Everest and the other six summits, the South Pole, and the North Pole. Way to go!!!

By the way, Maxim Shaaya also reminds me of Hisham. When Hisham and I were going to Sudan in March 2007 we were first on a plane that headed to Cairo. Maxim Shaaya was on that plane as well. I didn't recognize him, simply because I don't pay attention to people around me AND I suck at recognizing people usually lol; but Hisham pointed out that it was him and I was like: Oh, yaa ... I am a big fan of that dude lol ... Hisham would have been very proud of Maxim today ...

Later edit: It has come to my attention that a lot of people googling Maxim Shaaya reach this page (it actually ranks third on Google's returned list); so I thought I would do you guys/gals a favor. To get better search results: google the French spelling 'Maxime Chaya'. Alternatively, here is a direct link to his blog: www.thethreepoles.com

Friday, 24 April 2009

Biting My Finger----s

I dunno why I decided to share this; but here goes
I was never a kid who bit her fingernails, like the other kids. Instead, I would bite my fingers! Ya, the flesh around my fingers. When I am stressed I bite more, and it would be unconsciously! Sometimes I go very deep that blood comes out ...
Anyhoo, here is a proof of my stress levels (thumb and two middle fingers)


That is one side of one hand ...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

On Sounding Bri'ish

Sarah called a few days ago to ask about something related to translating and pronouncing an Arabic word. After several sentences were exchanged she said in a frustrated tone, and I quote, "Iman you sound so British, it is scary" to which I replied "well I have been in this country for six effing months; it is about time I sound Bri'ish* and say that I ea'* po'a'os* ... "; she didn't like my answer and pointed out that I completely lost my accent and that I don't even sound Lebanese anymore! lol

I don't find that I don't sound Lebanese anymore; I certainly haven't lost my Lebanese accent when speaking Arabic (true Lebanese can never loose their Lebanese accents :P lol); though now I tend to speak full Arabic sentences with minimum use of English words which is weird for a Lebanese lol

* Bri'ish = British, ea' = eat, po'a'os = potatos: to sound like a true British you must swallow your t's and never say them :S (the only exception is if the t was the first letter of the word!)

P.S: Yes, I am now using the word effing instead of f***ing. Sheena doesn't like it; she says that I might as well say f***ing.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

More Quick Updates

Badr came to Southampton on Sunday April 5th. We wanted to tour around but discovered that Southampton has absolutely nothing to offer tourists, apart from a couple of museums. But it was fun having him around and getting to know the place. He went back to Jeddah on the 15th after having spent a whole month here.
The last two weeks of Easter vacation passed by so so quickly with me not doing much progress on my coursework :( For around 10 days I was homesick all the time that I couldn't focus properly on what I was doing. Also, I was sad discovering that each funding opportunity I was thinking of is only available to UK/EU students. I love my country so much but sometimes it sucks not having support from your government or proper institutions.
We finally started our group meetings for our group projects two days ago but we have loads of work to do. Classes start on Monday!!!!!!
I got my final exams schedule and I have my three final exams on three consecutive days - which actually makes me more stressed out though I am sure I would love it once I am done. I really want to go to Lebanon after semester 2 but I don't want to go till after the elections are over; though if I wait till after the elections are over I may not be able to go; so I don't know what to do .. all I know is that I really miss everything and everyone.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Very Quick Updates

Yo people, here are some very quick updates...this is how it is gonna be from now on as I need to do work and focus on my coursework instead of writing very long blog posts:
I celebrated my birthday twice, the first on March 25th and the second on April 2nd.
On March 25th we all went to a Lebanese restaurant in Portsmouth - it wasn't as good as the one in Bournemouth. We were: Sheena, George, Fleur, Becky, Ji, Mien (another ECSWomen member who is a Chinese Malaysian), Badr (who came all the way from London!), Darko, Martin (Darko's friend), and Martin's friend whom I can't remember his name because he has a foreign Lithuanian name. We then all went to Martin's place for a house party, apart from Badr who had to go back to London.
On April 2nd Sheena, George, and three of my course-mates (Ezgi, Li, and Markus) and I went out for lunch. Then Markus and I went to Ezgi's place so we can have arghili. I didn't do any work on my birthday (nor the day after it lol)
On March 5th Badr came to Southampton so we tour here, though to our disappointment we discovered that there is nothing here to tour lol. There are three museums but we only had time to visit one attraction - wasn't that impressive. We also wanted to have Shakeaway but the place was closed lol. But we took a lot of pictures and I am sure they will be posted on facebook soon (I forgot my camera at home so they would be in Badr's profile)
Basically this is it...two weeks have passed from the Easter vacation and two more to go ... I have TONS of work and I am getting stressed out more and more by the hour ... wish me luck people

Miss you all A LOT,,,,I have been thinking a lot about Lebanon lately and I really miss everything about it and I miss you all guys and all the time we spent together and all the places we used to go to and all the activities we used to do :( I think I am feeling homesick a lot lately.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

April: My favorite and least favorite month of all!

I love April. It is the month Mother Nature gets in the mood of flowering and blossoming and becoming green again. I love the combination of cold wind and warm sun. It is not too cold and not too hot.
But, I also hate April ... most bad things happen in April ! (OK maybe I didn't calculate all bad things and produced a statistical analysis of what month has the most bad things - that would have been TOOOOOO geeky :P; but for me, April has a lot of bad memories and bad anniversaries!)
April Fool's
My Birthday - love it for the gifts; hate it for that number which increments by one every April 2nd :P; by the way I am turning 21 this year *ehem *ehem (in addition to what Sheena calls very 'few years of experience' in being 21 LOL)
My mom's cousin "died"
Titanic Sank
Hisham got into his deadly accident
(Third) Lebanese civil war started (officially) on 13th April 1975
1996 Israeli invasion of Lebanon - Operation Grapes of Wrath - and Qana massacre
(I am sure I have forgotten some events as well :P, and even if I haven't those listed above are all very tragic; apart from April Fool's :P)

Also it is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the U.S. - COME ON PEOPLE!

But I am also happy for two of my friends Reem and Noura who are getting married on the 8th and 7th of April :)


Later Edit: I just remembered that Chernobyl disaster also took place in April; it is claimed to be the costliest accident in history! There you go folks ... :P

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Movies, London, and Cambridge

Friday March 20th:
Mike and I met a prospective MSc A.I. student to tell him about the course and show him around ECS. He was the second person we showed around. The first was a Greek guy we met about a month ago and also showed him around. The two come from very different backgrounds. The Greek is young and a fresh Computer Science graduate and the English is an Economics graduate who has a lot of work experience and is also married.
In the evening Fleur, Becky, George, and I went to watch Duplicity. I liked it and I recommend it (No Sarah you are not right; my taste in films is great; see it before judging :P)

Saturday March 21st:
Happy Mother's Day, well, as expected this year my mother's Mother's Day was a FAIL :(. It wasn't our fault because my brothers and I agreed on the gift and everything but my mother went to Tripoli to spend the weekend at Grandpa's. So, we decided to postpone the gift to sometime early this week (and the time of posting this; my mom had still not received her gift *SHAME ).
I went to London to meet Badr. The initial plan was to go to Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, tate modern, and Science Museum. However, I was running late and some tube lines had partial or no service so we were also delayed in getting everywhere and the crowds of people on the tube were unbearable. So, we first headed the Science Museum intending to go to lunch then the two other museums afterwards. After the Science Museum we went to Oxford street to have lunch. Badr was told that there are some Lebanese restaurants there but we wasted at least an hour looking for one before we gave up and ate pizzas at some Italian restaurant. By the time we finished lunch there was no time to do anything because I had to catch a train to Cambridge. So, we shopped around in Oxford Street and then went back to his apartment so I can pick my stuff up and then I headed to Cambridge. The train that I took to Cambridge was kinda crappy - the trains that go from Southampton to London are nicer. I got to Cambridge at around 11 and took a cab to Tarek's place. We had biscuits and juice for dinner (he is single not poor :P) and after chatting and trying to solve some nail-puzzles I decided to call it a night. I slept on the couch covered with a sleeping bag - reminded me of camping as a kid; those were nice times.

Sunday March 22nd:
We went to Cambridge city center and toured around the colleges and the old buildings. We also went punting in the Cam river. I took loads of pictures because I love old buildings. Beirut - and Lebanon in general - is so different than Cambridge. There are only very few old building in Beirut or the other Lebanese cities because all of them were demolished so new building are built (and also the civil war contributed to that in addition to the many other wars and the seven earthquakes that hit Beirut...). Also, there are many green spaces in Cambrdige while sadly there are only tall building in Beirut. So, needless to say that I enjoyed Cambridge because of my passion to everything old and ancient. Tarek doesn't like it anymore; he thinks it is a very boring city and he wants to go back to London. After the tour and punting we went back to Tarek's place to collect our stuff and took a train to London. Tarek will be staying in London for a week because he has some work there. I then took a train back to Southampton. Unfortunately for me, the train terminated in Eastleigh and they had to take us by bus to Southampton. The whole trip from Cambridge to London to Eastleigh to Southampton was very tiresome ... next time; I will tell Tarek that it is his turn to commute across the country :P

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ada Lovelace and Women in Technology

"I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same." — Suw Charman-Anderson

I just found out about this pledge and I took it only because as a woman in computing I know that it is not easy not being one-of-the guys. The dilemma is, I've always enjoyed ending up being one of the guys; as frankly I enjoy going all tech-savvy with guys just as much as I enjoy shopping with girl friends :).

I have always been surrounded by a majority of guys no matter what I do. I have three brothers and no sisters. In high school in grade 12 students choose a concentration and are split up into classes based upon the choice of concentration. I chose the Mathematics and Physics option though I would be the only girl in a class containing 9 guys. It was actually the opposite case in as college there were a lot of girls doing their BS in Computer Science with me and a few female CMPS lecturers as well; however I ended up doing my senior group project with three guys. At my first job there were three of us girl programmers versus six guy programmers, three IT support guys, and two design and database administration guys. At the same time I was attending MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solution Developer) .Net classes and was one of only two girls in a class of fifteen men. The track was made of nine courses and by the third course I was the only girl in a class of ten men. In grad school, I am one of two girls in the MSc of AI course and I didn't have any female lecturers; the academic and research positions are dominated by males. At my other job I was assigned to work in an area where no other girl was working on in our department in Lebanon and only one other girl was working on across all other countries in all the branches of the company. We once attended a training boot camp for the department and the two of us were surrounded by around 28 men. Talk about being outnumbered lol

I never really had a woman role model in computing or technology because I always thought that women lack nothing to be in those domains. Also, I used to get pissed off every time someone (male but much more if female) recites the gender stereotypes that women are not good or not smart enough to be in those domains! One of the stories I can never forget happened when I was working on a project for a Computer Architecture course. We were supposed to wire some gates on a board to produce an output for some function; so I was sitting on the coach with wires, diodes, a board, a big battery, and wire-bending tool. A close girl friend of mine saw me and expressed "What is this that you are doing! That is so not something a girl would do!!" I was furious because that stereotype came from a girl and a friend but I very calmly smiled and answered "Well I like it, whether girly or not, and I don't think that as a girl I shouldn't be doing that". Other stereotype remarks came from men as well; one of whom was supposed to fix the Internet connection at home and he needed me to browse to the Control Panel under Windows so he asked me if I knew how to use a computer; I was shocked - maybe because at the time I was fresh Computer Science graduate who thought that most things I knew were about computers - so I sarcastically replied "I think so", so he asked me if I will be fine if he guides me verbally to what commands need to be input; so I said that we can try. After finishing the 'task' I informed him that I was a Computer Science graduate and he was a bit embarrassed lol

Back to Ada Lovelace; the first time I heard of her was in class; only a few months ago frankly. Personally I was impressed and pleased because of all the early inventors and Computer Scientists we were being told about she was the only female. It didn't take long before I had the chance to cheer up one of my females friends using Ada Lovelace's achievements. We were having dinner and she was saying that her course-mates on the Computational Fluid Dynamics MSc always blame the fact that she is a woman whenever she doesn't understand any of her lessons quickly. I directly said, "well, your course-mates haven't heard about Ada Lovelace for sure!". I also told her about Prof Dame Wendy Hall and how she was the Head of ECS and then she became president of ACM and was also president of BCS before that. Over time, I have apparently developed an interest in finding out - and bragging - about female Computer Scientist achievers; something which I previously took for granted. I still believe that being a female in Computing is nothing special and shouldn't be judged and stereotyped; but now I enjoy when it is celebrated :) What can I say, women love attention; don't we? ;)


Final note, I took the picture above on Saturday in the Science Museum in London. My friend and I were in the Computing section and as I came next to the machines invented by Charles Babbage I directly told my friend about Ada Lovelace. A few steps later the above invention was displayed with Ada Lovelace's picture and I just had to take the picture after exclaiming "Oh Look! There she is!" :)

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Week of March 8th

Sunday March 8th:
I had Sunday Roast with Ji. It is a traditional English meal that people usually eat on ... Sundays - duh :P. I had agreed with her on Friday to have lunch together, so all weekend I knew I was gonna have Sunday lunch with her which was a weird feeling because it reminded me of the feeling I used to have during weekends at home because I would know that my family always has Sunday lunches together.
I then went shopping with Sheena, George, Becky, and Fleur - to ASDA of course *roll. I bought a new oven casserole because I had dropped the one I had before and it broke. I also bought a new dish because I broke two! OK, so I am clumsy ... :$ and this doesn't even count as news :P. The news is that I washed the new casserole and put it on the dish rack to dry. Then I was putting away the dishes and I took out two dishes and turned my back on the rack only to hear a crash and see George's puzzled looks. The new - washed and UNUSED - casserole had fell on the ground! Sometimes I feel so stupid because I am so clumsy :(. I later bought another one ... let us see how long this will survive :P

Monday March 9th:
Reena and I went to an event organized by BCS (British Computer Society) and WES (Women in Engineering and Sciences) for the occasion of International Women's Day. It was an OK evening. I was handed the task of giving raffle tickets to a free prize draw. The prize was a book published by BCS. I didn't win this time :P. The evening wasn't a big success because the organizers expected 50 people to show up and only about 15 came! There were two talks by two women; the first was a lady from WES who talked about the evolving role of women in science and technology over the past 100-and-so years. The second was a lady who described how they changed the IT structure and applications of the company that runs the airports and flight management. The second talk was really boring for me and I couldn't wait for it to finish. After the talk we had dinner and did a bit of 'networking'.
There is one thing I want to add. An English lady asked me where I was from and I said Lebanon. She then looked at me - in a strange way - and said: "I see you are keeping yourself warm; it must be really cold here compared to what you are used to". That frankly pissed me off. OK so I know that most people are ignorant about the weather and geography of Lebanon and think that it is some hot desert; and I sincerely don't expect people to even know what Lebanese is or where it is. But what pisses me off is when people make assumptions about things they don't know about then declare those assumptions in a not-so-friendly-way. But, I kept my cool and didn't say anything because Reena started talking about something related to the whether blablabla. Then I told the lady: "That reminded me of one winter when we were children and my grandmother came to take care of me and my brothers because my mom had to stay in the hospital with my youngest brother since he was sick and also my dad wasn't in Lebanon because he was travelling. Anyway, it was a very cold winter - we do get cold winters in Lebanon - but it was the first time my grandmother took care of us. So, she was afraid that we would get cold so she would dress up in a lot of heavy clothes. One day she dressed my brother in 7 blouses and sweaters! Can you imagine that! We still joke about it till now!" The lady was dumb-founded ... good thing I didn't tell her that my grandmother made my brother wear three trousers and three hats as well LOL

Tuesday March 10th:
I was intending on going to a talk about swarm robots organized by the IEEE chapter in ECS ... but I totally forgot D'oh! I don't know what is up with me these days - I am very forgetfull!

Thursday March 12th:
ECSWomen and Careers Services organized a Coffee and Cake event. I went along and enjoyed coffee, cake, chatting with people, and a tour in the careers services building. They are moving out of their current small building to new offices next year and they needed to hear people's opinions about how they can improve their services and what services people need from them.

Saturday March 14th:
I went to the zoo :P. Fleur, her uncle Mac, her grandpa Opa, and I went to Marwell Zoo. We spent the day there and then had lunch in Winchester. It was a really lovely day with nice weather and a great company. Fleur's grandpa is so nice and cute ... but hey, I think all grandpa's are cute :P. I miss my grandpa :( We took a lot of pictures of all the animals. I found the nicest were the leopard, flamingos, arabian cats, and lemurs - no wonder I don't get all excited about regular cats and dogs ... it is the leopards and other animals that are interesting to me LOL

Mother's day is in a couple of days and as previously mentioned I was the one who came up with all the ideas for gifts. We have settled on the presents; let us hope the two men in Lebanon (dad and Yahya) are capable of following gift-purchasing instructions :P LOL

A Closure, Finally ...

My tears rolled down my cheeks instantaneously, my head was stricken with internal pain, and my lungs started gasping for breath. I had just seen the picture of my relative's grave. I was reading some notes on facebook and mistakenly clicked on his daughter's notes and was immediately faced with a white tombstone with his name engraved on it. It was a harsh reality-check that I have refused to admit for almost 4 years now. His memorial is coming up, it will have been 4 years since he was buried on April 7th, 2005. I re-lived that shock because I had never visited his grave; more like always rejected to visit it; perhaps because subconsciously visiting it was an admittance that he has died; something which was too painful for me to believe. Seeing the picture can maybe finally make me oblige myself to be convinced that he has died; maybe it is the closure that everyone got and that I refused to get.
His death raised a lot of question inside me. Questions that I was desperate for answers for. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is it always the nicest, purest, loveliest, most honest, and one of my favourites. He was my third-favourite relative ever - and I have a lot of relatives; only my grandfather and one of my uncles came before him. Other questions I never thought I would be asking in regards to a loved one ... and I am not sure that answers to them would satisfy me. Why did they have to kill him that way? Why did they have to throw his dead body in the sea? (Are we in some silly Soprano's episode where if you are a threat to the big man's bank account then you are running the risk of sleeping with the fish!!!) Why did they have to torture him for endless hours until his face and body were distorted beyond recognition? When his body was found - picked up by fishermen - the police needed a family member to identify the dead body; my uncle was one of the very few people who saw the dead body ... he tried to identify his cousin and friend in that body ... he couldn't ... no one could ... he could only confirm his identity from his fingers and his wedding ring ... The family then took a decision that no one is to see the dead body because such a sight of a loved one is unbearable; they even made sure that the coffin was locked for the funeral so that none of the women of the family would be able to open the coffin in a moment of grief wanting to say to a close goodbye ...
... I googled news about him a few days ago but I couldn't find any articles because the newspapers in Lebanon don't keep online archives for more than a few weeks; I did however come across a website that had a news article saying that his body was found ... it also had a picture of his body laying flat on his face ... I got furious because it is not legal to post pictures of dead people without their families' consent! I also got another headache because I recognized the back of his head and his very grey hair ... I can deny it no more no matter how hard I want to ...
Today, as his memorial approaches, I tear up every time I remember and I wonder if I will ever forget the detailed memories of the days of that April ... but this upcoming memorial there is a different thing, there is a certainty I can't escape ... this memorial - and unlike the previous ones - I know that his death was real, I know that I can no longer lie to myself, and I know that I have finally believed that he is not coming back because he is not in this world any more ... he has died and left this cruel world that didn't deserve him ... what remains now is us and our attempts to convince ourselves that he is in a better place ...

Friday, 6 March 2009

Things have been slow lately

So I took a WHOLE month off after the final exams. I didn't do any work for the whole of February and when I did sit down to do work I would end up facebooking or youtubing or reading the news or emailing some friends or chatting with other friends (or blogging) *shame. And when I actually tried to force myself to do work I would get very sleepy and couldn't understand a single word of what I was reading - if I had managed to read anything!
But, I have been feeling very (very very) guilty lately so starting this week I cut down on almost all my activities. I only went over to Verena's on Wednesday for dinner. Verena had invited me along with Fleur, Peter, and Sheena. Peter forgot and Sheena was sleeping so only Fleur and I went but it was full of fun. Poor Verena had cooked for five people so plenty of food was left. The food was good, she cooked pasta and though I am not a fan I liked it. We then played cards and that was a blast.
Also, I spent about two days looking for a topic to do my one of courseworks on and that was really depressing. All the titles of the papers I found were complicated and scary that I just couldn't click to read what they were lol *sigh. I finally decided to go with a topic I was familiar with so hopefully that should be good.
Also, we had a room check on Monday and my toilet seat failed LOL. No, it WASN'T dirty: it had to be de-scaled. That was a horrible chore and I actually had to scrub it for half an hour before the brown limescale was removed. There are still some but they just won't go away. I think I will leave them for now :P. I miss not having to do any chores :(.
I mailed my Mom a Mother's Day card yesterday. Fingers crossed that she receives it by the 21st, wait, fingers crossed that she receives it ever :P. Letters seem to mysteriously get lost in the mail lol. This will be my Mom's first Mother's Day without me; which means that her gifts will suck LOL (if she receives any *shame). For the past few years I have been the one who handles buying the gifts for Mom simply because I know for a fact that men are physically incapable of remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions (I have three brothers, a father, and a male best friend so I know what I am talking about :P). And, if by some miracle men do remember the event in question (and by some miracle I mean they are reminded by a woman LOL) they are physically incapable of buying presents. So, I start out in the first week of March bombarding my brothers with emails till we settle on a gift. This year, however, I am not in Lebanon so I dunno how we will go about doing this. I was thinking that as a last resort I can buy her flowers and a cake online - at least she would get something.
Final note, Easter vacation is in two weeks; I don't know if I should be happy about it or dreading it because I have been procrastinating so much I may have to work my socks off for that whole month. Well, not the whole month because Badr is coming so at least I will see him a few times and also I will be visiting my brother - and if he is lucky I may cook him some Lebanese meals :P.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Changes & من عاشر قوماً أربعين يوماً (Part III)

More updates on changes :)
I have finally given in after much resistance and started to use EN-UK language when spell-checking, and I am frankly not liking it. I have to spell check everything twice; once habitually using the EN-US dictionary and another using the EN-UK one. Swapping between EN-US and EN-UK immediately produces red lines everywhere in the document. Of the major mistakes is using a z in place of an s. For example, maximize becomes maximise and optimize becomes optimise; i.e. more s's and less z's. This was a bit confusing and to make matters worse my brother told me to be careful in coursework, emails, and exams because according to him British people consider these spelling mistakes and are annoyed by them! Thanks to spell checkers I wasn't facing any issues - other than my resistance - with coursework and emails. I got confused, however, during exams. I started out writing using s's and then I started getting a bit lost "Is magazine written with a z as in magazine or with an s as in magasine; wait I've never seen the word magasine before; but still that doesn't mean that this isn't the correct spelling for the word magazine; so should I write it with an s or with a z. I know that the French word is written magasin if it means a shop and magazine if it means a magazine, so is it possible that in British English it is the same for both or is it ... oh! **** that! I will just write it as I know it" hahaha. I later checked and magazine is written magazine in both UK and US lol!

Cooking updates ;)
I know I have written about this in (more than one) other post; but the zucchini experience is a major change. Other than that one very successful time when I made stuffed zucchini in youghurt sauce; I also made it in tomato sauce. The later one wasn't as successful (and dont tell anyone but I ended up throwing half of the meal) *shame. I should call mom and re-write the recipe because apparently I didn't write down how many tomatoes to use, so yes I am blaming it on the recipe :P. I have also made my mom's special omelette AND I have finally cooked 'rice with chicken and vegetables' without burning it yeeey for me :P lol.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

London, Pan Cakes, A New Tutor, and "Hi! Kifak? Ca va"

Tuesday Feb 24th, 2009:
I went to London to meet up with Walid. He came to London on Sunday 22nd to attend a two day conference and was leaving on Wednesday 25th so we agreed to meet up to catch up. I had a class from 3 - 4 p.m. so I ran off after class to catch the bus then the train to London Waterloo station. He had told me that he was staying in a hotel near Hyde Park so I took the tube to an underground station called 'Hyde Park Corner'. After I got off I called him and he said that he was near Lancaster underground station *damn. So, I went back and took the tube again to meet him there. We first passed by a Disney shop where he bought gifts for his two daughters. Their favourite Disney character is the little mermaid; so naturally he bought them little mermaid stuff in addition to other toys. We then decided to go for dinner and we walked into a restaurant, which turned out to be Moroccan. The food was nice and the restaurant was very well decorated. We talked about a lot of stuff - none of which related to my previous job lol. After the dinner was over we walked back to the underground station where we departed and I went back to Waterloo station and then to Southampton.
By the time I got home I was tired and it was late; but Sheena, George, Becky, and Hardy were making pancakes because it was Pan Cake Day. That was a sad disaster lol. Frankly, I wasn't impressed by the pancakes - I thought they tasted like undercooked dough lol. Also, unlike Sheena and Becky, I was able to flip the pancakes perfectly (except for one which wasn't properly cooked so it was torn apart) and they weren't able to hahaha. Also, Sheena, Becky, and Hardy suddenly decided to go watch some movie which made me wonder why they made a big deal of the whole evening and then just left (the kitchen in a mess hahaha)

Wednesday February 25th:
We were introduced to our new tutor Adam Prugel-Bennett. Our former tutor Craig Saunders has decided to change jobs and is going to France. He resigned sometime in mid-February and we learned about his resignation by chance when one of our lecturers was telling us that he will change the coursework because Craig has quit. We were surprised by what he said and how casually he said it. We were a bit nervous because we didn't know how we will be assigned a new tutor and who he might be. Steve later apologized to us for making us nervous and for telling us the news without realizing that Craig hadn't told us. I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with all this. The MSc program I am enrolled in is running for the first time this year. Up until a couple of months ago they were still changing some things. Also, the person responsible for the whole program was Craig. Craig has been our tutor since day one and though we didn't need him so far, it is after Easter that we will need our tutor because we will have to choose our topics and supervisors after Easter. So, I guess it is natural for us to feel a bit lost with all this going on.
Also, I was chatting with Nabil - one of my high school friends, today. Nothing interesting there except for the below piece of conversation lol
Nabil says (10:42 PM):
w kif kil shi?
(and how is everything?)
Amun.t says (10:42 PM):

cava

kholes semester 1 ekher jan
(semester 1 ended in late jan)
w balash semester 2 awal feb
(and semester 2 started in early feb)
Nabil says (10:42 PM):

cava in england, ur 100% lebanese

lol

It is really funny, because if you are not Lebanese or you've never been to Lebanon you won't realize that we actually speak (and hence chat online) three languages in our local dialect. Also, one of the things that we - and other people - make fun of about ourselves is the way we greet each others. We use the English "Hi", followed by the Lebanese "Kifak?" - i.e. how are you?, and confirmed by the French "Ca va". It is in fact a 'trademark' and tourists who come to Lebanese buy t-shirts with the expression "Hi! Kifak? Ca va" printed on them :). Which reminds me; I want one so I will email Badr to bring me one when he comes here next month *yeey

Monday, 23 February 2009

For the Love of Cinnamon - and THE Cinnamon Girl!

Gassia Anoushig,

I have prepared a video for you. It features Sheena making Cinnamon Rolls! I can imagine you laughing while watching it, and I know you will want to make Cinnamon Rolls once you've seen it (which is actually the whole point of me making this video in the first place :P).
Enjoy it (with high volume)

video

Love,
Iman

Later Entry: after I posted it, I played it and it had really bad resolution :( I dunno why, it has good resolution locally on my laptop.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Pillow Fight and A Gig 4 Gaza - And Another Fire Alarm!

Saturday Feb 22, 2009:
I did three major things today. I worked on the Cinnamon Rolls Video for Gassia. It is starting to take shape. The actual time it took us to make the Cinnamon Rolls was about 2 hours - without the time needed for the dough to rise and bake, I have already spent about 5 hours on the video and I am only half way through!
I participated in the first flash mob in Southampton. It was a massive pillow fight in city centre :). People were supposed to gather outside WestQuay shopping centre with their pillows hidden so no one suspects anything. An organizer would sound a horn and everyone would take their pillows out and fight. Fleur, Lotte, I took the bus to city centre. We were excited and we were feeling like kids again lol. We were about a minute away from where the fight was supposed to take place when we heard the horn. We started running but we we got tired really quickly because Fleur and I had been sick for the previous few days. We got there and there were A LOT of people fighting and we quickly joined in. It was so much fun, hitting people and getting hit WITH PILLOWS LOL. The horn was sounded very-shortly afterwards and everyone hid their pillows and casually walked away. People were very surprised with what was going on. A couple asked Fleur and me what the point was behind it and we shrugged our shoulders and said that it was just for fun. Some participants uploaded videos on youtube. We then went to ASDA to do our shopping, and for the first time ever I bought less stuff than Fleur lol
In the evening we went to a fundraising Gig for Gaza organized by the Southampton University Amnesty Club. We were 7 - Lotte, Fleur, Sheena, Hardy, Becky, George, and I - and of course the person who handled organizing the logistics of reserving the tickets and getting people there was me lol. We left Glen Eyre at 8 PM thinking that gigs never start on time. We got there half way through the performance of the first band - which was the band one of my course-mates, Mike, sings in. We only listened to their two last songs. Then a second band played and they were horrible. It took forever for them to finish and they kinda killed our mood. Afterwards a guy sang as well and he was much better than the second band but still not that good. Finally a really good band played and got everyone all active again. After the gig was over we walked home chatting very loudly, telling jokes, and laughing all the way.
Before calling it a night, I told Sheena that there would be another fire alarm tonight because it was a Saturday and a pattern of fire-alarms-being-set-off-on-Saturday-nights has started to emerge lol. And, I was right - of course! :P - and at 2:30 a.m. the fire alarm was set off! I had only gone to sleep at 2:00 and so I was half awake/half asleep and at first thought I was dreaming. But the alarm was so loud that I had to actually get out of bed. I went out to the lobby but then quickly decided to go back in. I snuck under my sheet and placed my pillow on my head. The sound of the alarm was very loud and annoying but I was not willing to go through what I went through last Saturday and decided to stay in bed. Thankfully though, this time it only took the wardens and security guys ten minutes to turn the alarm off and I finally went to sleep at 2:40.

George's Birthday

George's birthday was on Wednesday Feb 18th. He turned 31! We had agreed without his knowledge to make him dinner to celebrate it. We told him one day before but he decided to go to Brighton to celebrate it with his friends there.
So, we agreed to celebrate it with him on Friday. Each of Sheena, Fleur, and I would make something for the occasion.
Sheena made Cinnamon Rolls (Gassia, I will create a special post for you about that). I made Manakish with Cheese and with Zaatar. The cheese ones were really good but the zaatar ones were OK. The dough rose in the oven :S and when I asked my cousin Ghada she told me that I had put a lot of yeast :$. Also, I almost triggered the fire alarm because I accidentally spilled oil in the grill so it heated and started producing a lot of smoke. We directly controlled the situation by turning off the grill, opening all windows, and covering the smoke sensor! That really makes me wonder what people who always trigger fire alarms would be doing and how they do it. I mean there was a LOT of smoke in our kitchen but we directly acted to prevent the alarm being set off. Why can't other people be a bit mature about how they handle cooking/illegal-smooking-indoors instead of constantly setting the fire alarm off?
Fleur made Banoffee pie. It was really good and we got to keep it in our fridge - George and I just split the last piece.
Becky, Hardy, Peter, and Verena also came along. We played cards and had some "fun conversation" until it got a little late and Peter and Verena excused themselves. Later, Fleur and Lotte also called it a night and left. I had emailed Bassam earlier to come as well because I made manakeesh and he might want to have some. He was out watching some play and came along but there were only Hardy, Becky, and Sheena left. We chatted for a while and he had manakeesh and thought the cheese ones were really good - even though he did remark to Sheena the usual "If you liked Iman's manakeesh (?) then you can imagine how really good actual Lebanese manakeesh in Lebanon are"; sadly though he did have a point :P.
Finally we all decided to call it a night and Becky slept over at Sheena's.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

ANOTHER FIRE ALARM :@

OK, this is so not funny anymore. The fire alarm went off on Saturday night at 2:45 A.M. I had to get out of my room but didn't leave the building because it was so cold. I stayed in the lobby - like I did every time - waiting for a security man to come in and turn it off.
The security man and two wardens came in and they wanted to turn it off but couldn't :S. The warden then started acting all important and asked us to go outside the building because it is against regulations to stay indoors if the fire alarm has been set off! I told him that there was no fire anyway and it is really cold outside - and we were in the ground floor lobby!! He said that those were the regulations and we have to comply. So, I said "fine, I will go get a jacket", to which he answered: "No, you can't. You shouldn't go back into your rooms until the alarm has been turned off". I thought that was the stupidest thing - THERE WAS NO REAL FIRE - so I said very firmly "I am going in to get a jacket because I will get sick if I go out in the cold" I turned and walked back to my room - initially not intending on coming back out but the noise was really loud so I got a jacket and went outside.
We stood close to the building door and watched how the warden struggled to find the correct key to open the switch box! We couldn't believe it took him almost TEN ******* MINUTES to finally open the switch box :@ :@ :@ talk about stupidity! After finally opening the switch box, the warden struggled for another 5 minuted to turn the fire alarm off. And it worked, yeeey! But a few seconds later it was set off AGAIN. He struggled for a few minutes before turning it off; then it immediately was set off AGAIN!!! That went on for a couple more times and we were starting to get really angry at his stupidity. He then left the building to make some calls; so we tried to go back to the building but the security man stopped us "You are not allowed to go back in the building before the alarm has been shut off". We got really frustrated; so the security man tried giving us the execuse of: "if you go back to your rooms while the alarm is sounding and if then a real fire starts then you won't know that bcz the same alarm is sounding - and that is dangerous" PLEASE! what is the probability of a real fire starting (given that no real fires have happened AND that all those times the fire alarm was set off there was actually no real fire)??? I can calculate that...and it is very close to nill :P
Afterwards the warden came back in and tried to turn the alarm off some more times with no success and then he walked back out again. We then asked the other warden what the deal was and she said that there was some fault in the machine and that they will call the engineer or whomever is responsible! Do you know how much time that would take? Calling the engineer and waking him up and waiting for them to get dressed and get down there and then handling the issue? AND BY THEN WE HAD BEEN STANDING IN THE COLD FOR 30 MINUTES!!!!
Suddenly, everyone started moving and then another security man came and said: "Everyone walk to the back of the building"; WHAT?
- "Why?", I asked.
- "The warden said so", The security man answered.
- "But why?", I asked again.
- "I don't know, I just do as I am told and I was told to move everyone to the back of the building, so move".
- "But it is really cold, AND THERE IS NO REAL FIRE ANYWAY! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?"
- "I don't have an answer to that, but those who don't comply will have their IDs confiscated and will be fined in the morning"
We were really pissed off and we even speculated that the warden asked that we move to the back of the building because he couldn't stand us watching him not being able to turn the fire alarm off. After about five minutes of standing with the crowd behind the building the fire alarm was finally turned off -yeeeey; so we finally headed back to our room to get some sleep. It was 3:30 A.M.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Lebanese Valentine's Dinner

After our Lebanese meal during the Christmas vacation, Sheena and I agreed to go for another Lebanese meal on Valentine's. As Valentine's came closer, we started getting more and more excited; mostly because the food is really good and partly because Sheena couldn't stop talking about it (don't get me wrong; I love the fact that Sheena has totally fell in love with Lebanese food :P She also once said: "Once you go Lebanese, you don't go back" lol). Fleur was also excited because she knew that Lebanese food would be great - based on the stuffed zucchini experience :P. I told Bassam and my Korean friend Ji (the other ECSWomen secretary) to come along as well and they were also excited. Bassam later opted out and I didn't ask him why. Also, when I met Noura for coffee I invited her along because I knew she would appreciate it a lot. She told me that she might have to go to London to visit her sister; but if she didn't then she will come along. Sheena invited Becky to come along also :)
Meanwhile, while I was inviting fans of Lebanese food to come along for our Velentine's meal in another city, Sheena was receiving attention from a secret admirer ;) On Sunday Feb 7th, someone blue-tacked a card on our flat door addressed to Sheena asking if she had plans for Valentine's. Sheena thought it was George playing with her. Then, on Thursday Feb 12th, the cleaners came in with a letter from Hardy, the secret admirer, asking Sheena out for Valentine's. They told her that the guy was outside waiting for her answer. She recognized him from break dancing class. She didn't know what to answer so she told the cleaners to tell the guy that she will think about it. Sue, the chargehand, told her jokingly "Do it like the British women, go out with the guy for a free meal. Then when he asks you out another time just tell him that you have a headache" lol. When the cleaners left she told me that she doesn't want to miss our Lebanese meal. She then asked me if it was OK with me to bring Hardy along and I was of course OK with that. He had to be warned though that there will be four girls accompanying them two lol (Fleur, Ji, Becky, and myself duh :P) On Friday night, Noura confirmed that she was coming and she was bringing Reena along. Poor Hardy was now going out with Sheena and SIX other girls LOL. He wasn't scared away though and told Sheena that he was coming along, brave guy!
On Saturday I was planning our trip with Fleur. The reservation was made for 7:00 P.M. We had to walk to the interchange, take a bus to central station, take a train to Bournemouth and then either take a bus or a cab to the restaurant. We left our flat at 4:45 and it all worked out like a charm and we actually walked in the restaurant at 7:00. Reena and Ji, however, didn't come along. I don't remember why Reena changed her mind. Ji had to stay in Southampton because her brother was visiting her. Also, Hardy brought Sheena a very big and pretty red rose.
Noura and I handled the ordering of course. We ordered everything like last time: hommous, tabbouleh, cheese sambousek , spinach fatayer, kebbe. They didn't have vine leaves :( so we ordered batata 7arra. We also ordered grills. And of course we took loads of pictures (there is always time for the silly and the weird :P). Finally we ordered baklawa which were also very nice. The restaurant was very busy though and it took them half an hour to get our check and take their money! We then made our way back home to Southampton very pleased with the evening.
After we got home, Becky, Sheena, Fleur, and I played cards in the kitchen. Darko also came along so we all started chatting (and nagging about ECS :P) till 1 a.m. We then decided to go to sleep because by then we were very tired.
I tidied up a bit, uploaded the pictures on facebook, commented on Sheena's pictures, and finally decided to go to sleep at 2:00 a.m.
I was just about to sleep when ... at 2:45 a.m. ... the FIRE ALARM WENT OFF ... more about that in a later post ;)

Sunday, 15 February 2009

I Walked The Walk

Wednesday September 24th, 2008: My new international friends and I decided to go shopping for stuff that anyone who has newly arrived to a country needs (kitchen utensils, toiletries, food, etc ... ). We had been here for only a day and so we didn't know our way around at all. We met in my room because they were still in their temporary rooms and so didn't have Internet connection - Peter and I were the only ones who were able to move directly into our permanent rooms because Verena's and Fleur's rooms were not yet 'ready' (when I accepted my rent contract, I nagged Glen Eyre management to have my room ready before moving in and they made sure it was lol). We decided to go to a Tesco (some supermarket place someone suggested) which was supposed to sell what we needed so we got directions off google maps and decided to walk there as it was only about 2.0 miles away. We started walking there and it started raining and we were getting frustrated because when we would ask people how long it would take us to get to Tesco's they would say at least 2 hours (then 1.5 hr then 1 hr); so after about an hour - and Peter giving up and going back home - we decided to take a bus to where someone had given us other directions. We met a sweet lady at the bus stop and she told us that Sainsbury (another supermarket) is a better choice than Tesco because none of the Tesco's in Southampton sells the stuff we wanted to buy. She was very nice by giving us new directions (and later even getting off the bus with us to walk us to Sainsbury). I remember that when we were waiting at the bus stop my parents called and I was talking to my brother Tarek to agree on a time to meet him when he comes back to England. He then told me this: "Listen, I didn't tell you this when you were still here because I didn't want to say anything in front of your Mom so as not to scare her. Southampton is not a safe city so be careful where you go and how you go back. If you are outing at night never go back home alone; always go out at night WITH GROUPS and go back home IN GROUPS". I thought he was being overprotective but when I told my friends about it the English lady confirmed what Tarek said. She told us about a man who was stabbed two weeks earlier. She also told us that robberies and attacks are common at night and have a very high rate in some areas. (By the way, the University was very clear on that as they gave us THREE safety and security lectures during International Freshers Week and then ECS also gave us ANOTHER safety lecture during JumpStart Week!!!). So, anyways we finally got to Sainsbury's and then after shopping for our stuff we decided to take a cab back home as it was much less hectic than taking the bus since we were carrying heavy things.

Fast forward five months.

Friday February 13th, 2009: I decided to walk to the same Sainsbury's we went thru the huge hassle to get to on the second day for us being here. I needed to do some shopping but that wasn't the reason. The weather was very nice and I really needed to take a walk so I decided to get to know the city - more like my way around the city lol - and walk a very long way to get my groceries. I used to love walking around in Beirut and taking different routes every time to get to know new streets and sometimes even getting myself lost lol; it is very relaxing by the way - getting lost in the streets between people and their homes, the cars and the children, the trees and the concrete ... and then finding yourself in a very familiar place :). So, I printed the directions off Google maps and started walking. It took much more than the 38 minutes that Google had suggested :P but I didn't mind. I got there in no hassle (thanks to the map lol), went into Sainsbury's, and did some shopping. I was queuing to pay for my stuff when I noticed "Emergency Chocolate" bars LOL. I thought it was the FUNNIEST thing ever :D. I also saw girthControl Chocolate bars. I thought these things were the coolest things so I had to buy them (for myself and also to take pictures and show them to my friends). I then took the bus home and the next day I showed the bars to Sheena, Becky, Fleur, and Darko and they also thought it was the funniest lol :)

Friday, 13 February 2009

Few Updates

Wendy's talk was on Monday. It was raining heavily. I put the food and juice that Pinky and I bought on Sunday in my handbag and dragged it to the Seminar Room. I had to use my handbag because carrying 6 liters of juice would have given me backache for a couple of days lol. I helped set the room up a bit but had to run off to class. After class I also ran back under the rain to attend what was left of the talk. Of the things I heard was how passionate Wendy is about the Web Science Research Initiative that she, Tim Berners-Lee, and two other profs at the uni of Southampton are in charge of. She also talked about how she ends up running any committee or organization she join; which kinda reminded me of how I do the same :) She, however, apparently can't park a car to save her life; while I am an expert on parking cars :P (no laughs, especially you Sarah, I did become an expert - conveniently after you went back to D.C. lol). Speaking of my handbag; people always make comments when they see me dragging my hand bag. They assume that I am either going on vacation or coming back from a vacation - I wish! Some think I have loads of books in it - ya, right! I just find it very convenient to throw my heavy things in it instead of carrying them :)

Fleur and I went to an exhibition in uni on Tuesday. Art works from ArtSoc and PhotoSoc were displayed. She had only two photos in the exhibition. There were photos, paintings, and pottery works. Most of them were very lovely displaying talents of their makers. I met Fluer's friend Ella who is also a PhotoSoc member and had several of her photos exhibited. We chatted for some time listening to a band playing music. I enjoy that type of music played at exhibitions, relaxing and energizing at the same time. Then it was time for a raffle and I won! My number came up second so I chose a kettle :) We finally walked back home and Fleur was very energetic jumping around, commenting on how lovely the full moon was, and trying to tease me by pretending to drop my kettle lol.

I attended the ECS Careers Fair on Wednesday; not that I have made my mind up on getting a job here in this country. Some companies were defense companies and so I didn't bother asking the representatives what vacancies they had. Some representatives said they don't have vacancies for people with AI experience and that I could work as a software engineer or developer - which I may end up doing though it is the last thing on my list. Also, one representative from a game development company wanted to hug me when I told him I was an MSC of AI student lol. Great old IBM said that they don't sponsor non-UK/EU nationals for a work permit - their loss ;).

I met with Noura over coffee today. She is a Syrian PhD student whom I had met on the first week here during ECS jumpstart program (a week of activities and lectures organized by ECS for new students). We caught up on what had been going on in our lives and promised to meet again before she travels to the U.S. in March. That reminded me of my uni friends Fida, Samar, and Nora. After graduation we agreed to meet au moins une fois par mois (at least once a month) - which ended up being once every three months in practice lol.
Also, speaking of coffee; I had my first cup of coffee yesterday and being a coffee addict it was definitely GOOOOOD :) For those of you who don't know, I stopped drinking coffee after my exams and was clean for two whole weeks lol; though was also sleepy most of the time haha.

Final thought: our grades won't come out till the 24th!!!!!!!!! that my friend is what I call torturing students :P

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Week of Feb 2

Semester 2 has started, oh no! But hey Amber was here to take our minds off that :D

Monday Feb02: back to class! I only have three courses this semester - double credit courses though! It should be less hectic than last semester - same hard work though because two are tough courses. I also have group projects this semester *doh.

Wednesday Feb04: I cooked Stuffed Zucchini in Yogurt Sauce (كوسا بلبن). YES! I cooked that! I had been postponing cooking it because it is a lot of hard work, even though it is one of my fave Lebanese dishes. I was telling Fleur about it once and she was impressed by the description so I decided to make it and invite her over. Since Amber was here I thought it would be fun if I cooked for them both. I also invited Sheena, George, and Bassam. George wasn't at all impressed by the description and declined the invite - his loss *roll. Bassam had other plans with friends so he also declined. So, it was us girls and it was FUN :D. Fleur and Amber came over to help and they were impressed by the way I emptied the courgettes and then stuffed it. That was even trickier as the courgettes were slightly bent so I did end up breaking two. Then when it was time to cook them, we discovered another problem. None of our pans were big enough for all 8 courgettes! lol we are all students and our pans are not made to feed more than 2 people, let alone 4 haha . So, we split the courgettes into two pans and cooked them separately! All in all, the whole meal took THREE HOURS to prepare! But it turned out to be great :D yeeeey for me! They all expressed their hmmm and yummmm and 'this is so good' :D
We then had Oreo Cheese cake that Fleur and Amber had prepared earlier and it was also very yummyy :)
My friends and family also expressed their opinions about me cooking courgettes:
Badr: "bass shu hayda ya naja? koussa b-labaaaann ?!!?!?!?!?!?
2aleeleh...wein elli ma kein ya3ref ya3mil pasta? halla2 sorna mna3mil koussaaaaa? :D :D :D...yalla bravo *clap" -- that was immediately added to my list of fave quotes LOL
Souha: "KOUSSA B LABAN eh bade 100 sene ta2a3mela hala2 na2arte koussa w hashaytiyon????????? Walla walla smalla 3layke"
Ghada: "
WALLA BRAVO 3ALAYKI..KOUSSA FI LONDON :)"
Mum: "walla ana halla2 khalas ma ba2a lezim 2e3tal hammek"

Sheena named me a Culinary Goddess lol :)

Thursday Feb05: Amber and I went to the City Art Gallery. It was a lovely visit though we only had one hour so we couldn't tour it all. Later that evening I went over to Fleur's to watch a Dutch movie about
"Sinter Claus", which is the Dutch Santa Clause except that he visits Holland on the 5th of December not the 24th! It was a lovely movie. It had the same theme as 'Love Actually' so it made us all feel good about everything. We also had Apple Crumble that Fleur and Amber made. George joined us half way through the movie because he had to work. He told us about two of his mental patients who walked out of the hospital and didn't come back! They did eventually find them, thankfully!

Friday Feb06: I made Lebanese Manakish! Finally! Sheena and I had been talking about that for ages as well and so we also said that we should make them while Amber was there so she can have some as well. We made Zaatar manakeesh and Cheese manakeesh. The cheese ones were a bit undercooked but both were really nice. We later went out for dinner as it was Amber's last night in Southampton. Sheena took loads of pictures and we made all sorts of silly faces :) It was a really fun night that ended with lots of hugs because Amber was leaving :( It was fun having her around and we will all miss her!

Saturday Feb07 and Sunday Feb08: I did fuckall and I enjoyed it LOL. I had been planning to study during the weekend but I ended up marathon-watching the Lebanese series Ghariba! Fleur and George went to see My Bloody Valentine on Saturday but I decided not to join them as I was totally in doing-fuckall mood. I should feel guilty about that but I was also in a don't-care mood LOL (apparently these two moods accompany each others most of the time :P). I think I still haven't gotten back to studying mood because I only had a few days of rest after my final exams.

New week tomorrow, should be busy as well. Wendy Hall's talk is on Monday. Grandpa's birthday is on Tuesday (I can't remember if he is turning 83 or 84 shame-on-me). I miss him loads and I can't wait to see him again! I am planning to attend the ECS career fair on Wednesday. I am meeting up with a Syrian friend on Thursday and I have no clue what I will be doing on Friday :P


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