Tag Archives: istanbul

Weekend Escapes and the Casual Racist.

Weekend escapes are a somewhat of a vacation oddity. You don’t really feel like you’ve taken time off anything, because it’s the weekend anyway, yet you feel invigorated by the feeling of discovering a city in two short days.

There’s something ephemeral and almost hypnotic about it. You don’t even realize you’re in a new city; your mind doesn’t process your short trip to somewhere new. The sights and sounds seem oddly familiar and alien at the same time. They feel mundane because you were sitting at home just hours ago, but in truth they are anything but. You’re in a trance, being pushed along by throngs of tourists in a similar state. And you start tp go through the motions of visiting the city.

By the time it sinks in that you’re somewhere new and wonderful, it’s Sunday afternoon and it’s time to head home. It happens just as you’re getting your bearings in the city. You’ve figured out the Metro map. You’ve chosen a favorite restaurant, a favorite bar. You’ve picked up a couple of unpronounceable words that can make a local cringe or laugh with you. But it’s time to check out of the hotel, and drag yourself to the airport.

You get that sinking feeling as you approach your gate. Just as landing in a foreign airport for the first time is the closest we can get to rekindling our childlike wonder in our adult lives, the departure gate on your back is probably the starkest reminder available of your adult responsibilities and constraints.

That’s more or less the feeling I’ve always gotten coming back from a weekend, wherever I’m based. Heading back to Beirut, there’s an added level of frustration. Dozens of people who’ve been acting in a perfectly civil manner for the last few days, suddenly revert to their basest instincts. As if to satisfy every cliché, they start trying to queue-jump, they want preferential treatment from staff. “Who’s flying the plane today, is it Zouzou? Tell him it’s Fadi, he loves me. I want to sit in First Class and harass the stewardess for whisky for the next 2 hours. Don’t you know who I am?”

As I flew back from Istanbul on Sunday, after one of the most eye-opening, interesting and fun weekends I’ve had for a while, I had a bemused look on my face as I observed everyone’s slow relapse into a Lebanese state of mind. Once on the plane, things got a little nastier. About 20% of the passengers decided they didn’t like their seats and caused a commotion. Typical situation on a Middle East Airlines flight, right? 300 people want an exit seat and everyone feels entitled to sit next to their 20 friends. But then one man’s request to change seats caught my attention…

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Life in Beirut: Public Parks, Dolph Lundgren, Greek Mythology and Misleading Titles.

Anyone who’s ever met me knows I’m pretty obsessive compulsive. I arrange everything in a neat grid system on my desk in what can only be described as a veritable orgy of parallels and perpendiculars. I fluff up the cushions on my couch the second someone gets off it, much to the dismay of my houseguests. I have even been spotted at the supermarket rearranging unkempt aisles of cereal boxes or sloppy magazine displays, making sure the spacing is just right. I basically love the sight of things neatly organized. I guess you could say I’m OCD Light.

One thing I have lovingly organized is the bookmarks in my web browser. Besides the intricate folders and subfolders assorted by theme and region, I have a tab in my bookmark bar simply called “Morning”. It’s the first thing I click when I wake up and it basically opens up the world in 20 convenient websites. Facebook, Twitter, The Guardian, fffffound, Metro UK, Le Monde, Arts & Culture Daily, The Onion, Not Cot and so on. My morning dose of news, design, gossip, culture and escapism.

But once in a while I like to supplement this daily routine with something a bit meatier. Something that’s a throwback to my days studying politics and doing internships at the UN. So, a couple of weeks ago, I dug my teeth into an article in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. IJURR to its friends.
As with all academic papers, reading the title of the journal took me the better part of a week. Then there’s always the cryptic title of the article to look forward to. When I was studying for a masters in international politics at SOAS, I always used to give my papers unnecessarily complicated names casually sprinkled with words I didn’t understand and semi columns and subtitles. Things like “Pseudo Dualistic Dychotomies in Post-War Glasgow: How Factory Workers Overcame the Unicornification of Labour and Triumphed Over Plethorism”. Obviously, this was mostly to overcompensate for the fact that I’d done very little to no research and the essay itself was unreadable.

I glanced at the title of the IJURR article I had in front of me: Towards a Phenomenology of Civil War: Hobbes Meets Benjamin in Beirut.
Big words: Check. Semi colon: Check. Obscure academic reference: check. “This is going to be fun,” I thought to myself as I settled into my chair.

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