Half A Century Later, It Still Works

My great grandfather, from mom’s side, 50 years ago brought home an invaluable item: The Telephone.

The phone is still here. It’s never been “serviced”, never been into repairs and never broke down. The only indication that the phone has actually aged, other than the fact it uses a two-pin prong for a plug, weighs more than an elephant and has a pulse dial, is that the voice clarity (and ring volume) just tuned down a notch earlier this year. How’s your Panasonic fairing?



And I’m Back to School

To tell you that I have been anticipating writing this post ever since I got employed three years ago is an understatement. And now, I’m proud to tell you, I AM BACK TO SCHOOL!


APR 2008 084

I shall no longer be a bachelor!

After some time of deliberation, being unemployed and lost, trying to find direction in my life, I thought it best to take this time as an opportunity to pursue things I have put on hold. And continuing my education is a major thing I want to finish – not only because it paves a way to potential better jobs, but because I really need the mental stimulation, something I considerably lacked in the latter half of my former job’s small lifetime.

APR 2008 106

some of the best memories took place on this clearing here. maybe I should post a video?

I can’t tell you what being in class meant. It was just like entering campus for the first time as a student, and that’s a heavy thing to say considering I have been familiar with the campus since 2002. The night class is a bonus – it’s quiet but there are patches of students goofing about everywhere. My class, unfortunately, goes through the duration of taraweeh prayers. The fact that the campus mosque could be heard well beyond the campus grounds doesn’t help in concentration – and I am not being negative here. Though muffled through the walls, the imam of the campus mosque has an enchanting voice when he recites the Quran. It moves me, like it did for years, and though I was trying hard to concentrate in the engaging class, my spirit was someplace else.

APR 2008 082

the window from the adjacent building? that’s my class

Back to the course – my program is called Msc in Engineering Systems Management, in English it’s sort of like MBA with Information Technology perspective. Being in a class where you’re treated like an adult makes you look at your professors differently. They suddenly seem more educated and enlightened, and the on going discussions draw from many walks of life and current news, merging them together in an interesting and friendly way to comprehend. It’s a far cry from attending the undergraduate classes – the mere fact that you’re treated with respect makes quite a whole lot of difference. Not that I wasn’t respected as an undergrad, but male egos are sensitive to signals sent by other people and, in our little sense of logic, any person who doesn’t seem to respect us – or respectable themselves – is demoted in the social hierarchy and sent way below a cockroach.

APR 2008 089

the new library is probably the best place on campus

The discussions and the fact that I wasn’t engaged in some of them because I haven’t been up to date with the news or who X person was/is made me realize how brain dead I have been. It’s quite stimulating and I’m excited to keep tabs on many things right now. It should be noted that having Wikipedia open on my iPhone (thank you free WIFI on campus) is definitive a life/ego saver!

APR 2008 094

back to basics – shelving books, filing & cross pollinating them – welcome to student life!

Dubai Bashing Guide 101

Dubai Bashing is quite the classical rage right now, the Gone with the Wind of modern media of sorts, no pun intended. If you’re an aspiring journalist or a PMS enthusiast, here’s a small to-do list to get you started on the Dubai Bashing ride.

First, you need to be desperate. Why? There can be many reasons for you being desperate. You can be jobless and seeking out money, so a Dubai Bashing article sold to the highest bidder could be your break. If you’re lower caliber journalist seeking to join The Guardian, for instance, or a veteran with nothing better to write about, then Dubai’s fake sandy dunes are a good entry point to explore (note to idiots: the sand in Dubai is not imported. Dust storms are not sponsored by the UAE government in collaboration with the Iraqi’s). There can be a gazillion reasons to why you would want to bash Dubai. From post-getting-fired anger to your wife running away with someone else from Dubai, the list is endless. It all comes down to one thing though: You have an altered sense of perception. In layman’s terms, you need to get laid.

Second, you need a sponsor. Or more. Sure, magazines and self respecting online papers will pay you a nominal fee for your flamboyant efforts. If you’ve actually been to the UAE, the biggest sponsorship you can get is from the UAE itself. How? Ask yourself, how many years have you been living in the UAE? For what reason did you come to the UAE? Isn’t it to work, and make money, because there were no better opportunities? In your own country? And let’s be a bit frank, some of us don’t like being here except for the money, but since it’s your choice, what’s the UAE’s shimmering skyscrapers got to do with your bitterness? In any case, you’ve been here for several years, or a year with really high pay, and you got enough governmental sponsorship to bash it.

Third, you need a story. A really good one. Something out of a Bourne flick or The Sopranos or Godfather or The Simpsons. Did you row a boat by yourself – with your loot – to another country? If not, then you can merely take a bus tour of Dubai for 2 hours and you have yourself an in depth cover story with Pulitzer written all over it. Heck, if you’re that desperate, visit a labour camp and write the humanitarian crisis of the century article. Or make up anything believable. Aggregate 3000 foreigeners and send them off on a one way ticket. Make sure they all park their cars in the airport parking to make a statement. Include maxed out credit cards as well in the glove compartment. Attention to believable detail counts.

Fourth, get a thesaurus, and read as many descriptions of scenery as you can for inspiration. Everyone talks about shimmering towers, glistening whatever, empty roads that collect dust (strange, I still get stuck in traffic, and from the dust storms, everything collects dust. Try not to eat it), and most importantly do focus on the word luxury. It’s Dubai’s favorite word, and with your thesaurus, you can add -est to practically anything. Make sure to add credibility to your story. Quote Regina Filangi, Homer Simpson, and BumbleBee Shoeforts (these are all real names of real people living in their cars in Dubai because they, well, have been living a lifestyle they can’t afford, supposedly). Here’s a sample writing to get you started:

Beneath the biggest, blackest, dustiest sky in the world, where once stood tall the tallest buildings in the world, with their glamour and shimmering sparkling oddly-clean windows, lies the darkest most secretest truth of all: Dubai is nothing but a mirage, a place designed to suck you dry, chew you and spit you out from the rear. Dubai should add fakest to it’s longest line of all words ending with est, for a crapfest it is, a most crapfestest of all, er, ests.

– Aspiring Journalist with a rejected job application in Dubai

Finally, find a newspaper as desperate as you are and send it off. Wait for your paycheck. GREAT! Now use that money to buy a ticket out of Dubai. Don’t forget to park your car in the airport and stick a well crafted, most apologetic letter. Then write a followup article once you get home. And remove all the nice and fun photos of the Dubai is a Blast! album from Facebook.

Note: I am not blind. There are things that don’t make sense here, some of which decreases the life expectancy of a turtle. But there isn’t anything here that couldn’t be said about any other major city in the world. Sure, the weather is inhospitable, but it isn’t generated by the goverment. Yes, it’s expensive, but so is Paris and New York and a billion other cities. And, just like any other city in the world, if you can’t afford living in it, leave. I, myself, may leave sometime soon if I remain jobless for long.

Book Review: Tell Me Why, Mummy by David Thomas

Ten Word Summary: A sexually abused kid stuggles to survive and find forgiveness.


The only time I felt breathless while reading a book was when I read The Life of Pi, which I still consider to be one of the best books of the century. Though this time I was not short on breath from the suspence, but rather from the heartache as I read word after word. It’s definitely not a summer read, then.


The story is an autobiography, about David’s sexually abused childhood by his mother – a raging alcoholic – and physical abuse from his stepfather. The story starts at his tender age of 4 and the book chronicles his struggle to survive well into his late 20’s and 30s.

The story in itself is a human achievement, with a very happy and overwhlemingly emotional ending. The majority of the story is a morbid moral and social struggle for David, written throught he psyche of each year of his age – from the innocence of a 4 year old, till he becomes sexually aware and understands what’s going on. His struggle with his demons transforms him from an abused child to a convicted criminal and later on, sex addict, to a Guiness holder of memory reciter (he recited up to 22,500 digits of mathematical Pi), a great family person with a successful relationship and a motivational speaker (if you’re interested in hearing the author briefly talk about his book, go here).

Bottom Line: It’s a bit difficult to read through as the topic itself is depressing, but the sense of achievement, and personal closure, towards the end of the book makes it worth picking up.


I’ve been sitting in front of the PC, for days, hours at a time, trying to come up with something to write about my visit to Syria. I think I have pretty much exhausted what there is to say, given that any one week trip in Syria warrants a systematic way of approaching each day.

I haven’t had a proper holiday since the college days. If you’ve been following my blog you’d know that my longest holiday in the past three years was two weeks. When I used to spend 2 or more months in Syria I barely had time to do everything lol!

JUL 2009 122

pool with a view, what’s not to love?!

But this trip was slightly different. I “returned”, so to speak, a totally different person. I returned, as my best and childhood friend there put it, “happy, disjointed, with 8 more kilograms of beef”. That’s good!

It’s not only me though who has, so to speak, “aged”. Since I’ve been there in April, many thing changed and aged back home. My grandma lost lots of weight (but docs say she is in good health), my dad’s diabetes got a bit worse, my cousins grew a foot taller and my grandfather lost his memory.

But that’s not too morbid actually. I am quite glad he lost his memory. He’s SO HAPPY! He is just smiling, all the time! He knows who he is, he knows where he lives, and he remembers some of his kids. But he remembers nothing of his problems! NOTHING! No family feuds, no recollection whatsoever with any argument or mishap. He’s living the moment each and every single moment!

JUL 2009 152

one of the oldest, gorgeous ladies in my small town; she’s still got her memory but thankfully she has a happy life

I honestly am happy for him. It’s the best feeling in the world, to be free of allllllllll the burdens of the past 93 years of his life. In my absense he asks about me, though I have to remind him of who I am when he sees me. He’s such an awesome guy, really! At lunch we all gathered and told him we were his family, and he was absolutely thrilled! We kept reminding him every 20 or so minutes and it’s always like the first time he discovers he has a family that loves him.

The least favorite son (God I am so evil) asked him “who’s your favorite son?” and grandpa says “well you of course!”. The he points to dad (grandpa’s actual favorite son) and he says “what about that guy? do you like him?” and grandpa says “of course! You’re all my kids!”.

I dunno if he forgot about my deceased grandmother. I don’t think he did, though no one brought it up. She’s always in his memory, in everything. Several times over the years at lunch he’d comment that he misses her food, or scolding someone for touching the wine bottle that he promised he’d only open when he’s with her. I can’t think of a better husband, to still be so madly in love with your wife decades after she passed away.

Leaving a bit of those memories behind I went to Tartous to meet the one and only abufares. Our meeting was quite short, only a couple of hours or so, and my dad’s presence veered the conversations off to their collective memories of Syria before I was born lol. But it was nontheless an absolute privelage to finally meet the poetic voice of the blogosphere*. I’m also promised a fabulous lunch/dinner the next time we meet. Take that DJ!

JUL 2009 127

nanananannanananananana I saw him I saw him nananananana

If there’s anything I miss the most in Syria – other than breatheable air, a blue sky, and foliage – is the social aspect. As in old-school social. Not FB and twitter and crap.


*signed photos of abufares will be put up on sale shortly