On Stigma and Vulnerability

In recognition of someone I once labeled, and proved to me that he is worthy of all what’s good in life, regardless of any vulnerability he might have.

Every person in this world has a story. No matter how cheerful, impactful, relatable or even incomprehensible, one’s story defines one’s existence.

I am someone indescribably passionate about Human Behavior: Observing how people behave in situations, ‘reading’ their minds, realizing that certain consequences trace back to hidden roots in childhood were all fascinating me. The Human Brain was such a big world waiting for me to explore it.

I studied psychology in my undergraduate years, and the more I dug deep, the more I realized the power of this entity on top of my shoulders: Beautiful yet difficult to be understood.

I used to ‘diagnose’ people in my head, nothing pretty real, yet just a matter of observation: This guy suffers from PTSD, she’s bulimic, seems like he has agoraphobia, and the list goes on.

I was fine with this idea, pretty much actually happy, being able to correctly label those people based on their behaviors. Until the day came, and felt judged.

[…]

Funny thing that when you, yourself is the object of a stigma, you view things differently. And that’s truly tragic, because despite our “human-ness”, we are so ignorant to each other’s well being unintentionally.

[…]

I am a person having an anxiety disorder falling under the name of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, more like having fear of certain situations considered as “normal” for others. Let’s simplify the deal here: people with this kind of disorder can display different kind of reactions/behaviors facing different, normally considered situations.

I, for example, have fear of new situations: A new job, a new decision to be made, a new investment, even a new friendship scare the hell out of me. They shatter my mind, cut straight into my soul and make me feel helpless. Anything that’s new, and that I have no control or power over crumbles me. Luckily enough, people don’t witness this unless I verbalize the matter to them (Extravagantly huge cheer to my close peeps for handling me well).

The good part about it is that my fear is temporary. It stretches between a day of couple of weeks to suddenly disappear, making me return to my initial stage. It doesn’t impact my daily activity in grosso modo, as I try to always control, yet it leaves scars on me every single time it happens.

[…]

I labeled people so many times in my life, not necessarily while conversing, yet more often in my head, and recently, I feel sadness upon doing so. I am not questioning my intentions, yet I am concerned about the person I exploited without considering so.

He is a human being… Just.Like.Me. And for once, I felt that my vulnerability is similar to his (being exploited), even though very different (Different conditions).

We are humans. And we are all Vulnerable. Some socially, others physically or even, mentally and that doesn’t make anyone of us any less of the other.

My vulnerability is teaching me how to accept others, despite/regardless of what makes them different; especially that what unites us is much bigger.  Acceptance is what makes us different. It is what makes us Human.

I want to accept you, the same way you embraced my existence, and encourage you to feel power through your vulnerability… Because it is okay to be different…We’re not forced to be the “Same”.

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Let’s Go Indian with “Reservoir Beirut”

20170125_183126-01.jpegExperience… Experience… Experience!

Give me the most “Chichi” restaurant to find or a dime-store, I’d still pick the one with the better “experience” on its menu. (For that, I should be scoring high on the Openness to Experience, one of the Big 5 traits of Personality – also known as OCEAN Model – acronym for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism).

[…]

Couple of days ago, I knew that “Reservoir Beirut” re-opened, with a new flair.

To those of you who don’t know, Reservoir Beirut was one of the few – actually the only – pub to exist in Ramle Bayda, Beirut. The shop was closed in early 2000s. I know about this place, because back then, when I was a young teen, pubs were still a no-no for my generation yet older people talked about it as if it was the “Hub”.

Flash forward and here I am, on the main entrance of Reservoir Beirut, the place that kept the name, yet changed the feel… Indian Style this time.

I entered the shop. Different from the images I created across the years in my head. Different yet Interesting much.

Welcomed by the co-owner, I sat with my friend waiting for the menu.

[…]

I told you earlier, it is the experience that keeps me going to such places. And that’s exactly what the co-owner managed to show me!

Here, I will highlight the main experiences that will make you want to go (or in my case, go back):

1- The Story behind this place:

When welcomed by the co-owner, the place was a bit quiet. Only two other customers were present (to be fair and square, it was 6:00, a usual dead time in Beirut – right after moving from work and just before heading to dinner).

She was very pleasant, introduced us to the place and told us some info on the Indian traditions and the type of food presented. The interesting part of the story is that, this co-owner was a waitress who used to work in this place long ago, before it closed. Days passed, and after studying abroad, she came back, passed by this place full of early adulthood memories for her,  and set her mind to revive the place again. And she did 🙂

When asked about the reason behind choosing Indian for a cuisine, her answer was that  through the years of study abroad,  most of her friends were from the Indian Community. As a result, she learned some recipes and discovered her “talent” in cooking.

Few years later, the entrepreneur student managed to actually co-open a place that is worth checking.

 

2- The spirit of this place:

One of the things that I liked in Reservoir Beirut when it comes to the setting and display is the actual authenticity. The place is not complicated. No extravaganza, no glitter. A simple place serving simple authentic soul food. The kind of food that doesn’t exist much in the area (Hindi being the only main Indian exception). This simplicity is rare to find in nowadays restaurants.

When I entered, I felt that like I am there, in a local Indian ‘westernized’ restaurant, with true authentic people sitting around one table. The wall dressed with beautiful local portraits and the menu is as simple.

The time we ordered and waited, the co-owner chitchatted with us, and with the other table. Few minutes later, the 5 of us (Our table, the owner and the second table), joined conversations about the place’s history. It felt authentic and real. And that is one experience I genuinely enjoyed.

3- The food inside this place:

Let me tell you something… This place is so “HOT” – take it in any sense you want, and it’ll fit – , you must try it out!

We’ve tried: The Indian Samosas, the Chicken 65, the Indian Corn (Oh my lord, that one is to die for) and the Butter Chicken. Of course, one cannot eat Indian without actually using the traditional Indian bread (Garlic Naan).

  • The Indian Samosas, quite like our Lebanese puff pastries, yet with a twist. Triangular in shape and filled with potatoes and peas, oh I can feel the crust. Very delicious and fulfilling as appetizers.

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  • The Indian Corn, I don’t know what that is… It is one of the simple yet exquisitely made items that will make visit again. Regular corn on the cob, marinated with different spices along with butter and lemon. Simply delicious. Highly recommended as a starter.

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  • The Chicken 65, small fattening cubes of chicken, marinated with spices and fried with ghee (Let’s add 2 kilos to my already overweight body :D). Quite frankly, a good average dish. Even though mixing it with the garlic naan made it even better, the dish wasn’t somewhat of a signature.I would replace it with another item next time.
  • And finally, the Butter Chicken. Okay let’s be real now. Butter + Chicken + Cashew = Deliciousness. Perfect creamy sauce watering the chicken with cashew gave the entire dish quite an identity. Full of flavor and nicely displayed. A ne pas rater!

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Cutting things short, the place is new yet one must give it a try… For the simplicity, authenticity and the good – unusual – taste.

Food Experience: “Oh My” Wok for Umai Wok!

Of all the years I lived (a tiny bit over a quarter of a century), I enjoyed “Experience” most. In Psychology, this trait, according to the Five Factors Model (OCEAN – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism), is coined as Openness to Experience. (I noticed that I love including psychological terms in my posts).

The fun part in what I wrote earlier is that it doesn’t apply to food for me. My openness to life experiences gets translated into conservatism.

[…]

Today I chose a new restaurant to open in Beirut that is worthy of being called a “Food Experience”.

Umai Wok – The Asian Experience

Until 2 years ago, Chinese food was a big no-no to me. Lucky enough, I tried it and ever since, my taste buds crave it from time to time.

Umai Wok, or let’s just call it “OH MY” Wok is a soul experience for Asian Cuisine lovers (Chinese, Japanese and Thai).

  • The Place:

Located in Hamra – Makdessi Street, in the Courtyard or mostly known as Alleyway (For my kind of generation). Perfect place as you can have a quick happy hour after work and then hop on the second floor for a decent Asian meal.

Entering the restaurant, a zen atmosphere welcomes you. Peaceful and serene. The beauty of this place resides in its simplicity and its details. The decor is an altruistic representation of a modern Asian home, literally: An entrance, a living room, a kitchen and a dining room. The table is dressed with black monochromatic place-mats, modern and Asian-like. The menu had the same look and feel as the shop. Coherence at its best.

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  • The Food:

I tried a Teaser (Chicken Satay) and two Mains (Ponzu Beef Steak and Chicken Cashew Nuts). Japanese Sake was also on the list.

  1. For Thai: Chicken Satay was my number 1 on the Request’s list and my number last on the rating.  This Thai appetizer consisting of chicken chunks marinated with peanuts and satay sauce wasn’t impressive much. Chicken needed more marination and the tasty flavor of peanuts wasn’t just there. 20170109_205330-01.jpeg
  2. For Japanese: Ponzu Beef Steak, Char-grilled beef tenderloin with shiitake mashed potatoes on the side. I’m so coming back for this guy. Tender beef, perfectly garnished and exquisitely seasoned. Umai (Oh My) Steak! Not only the Chef’s Choice, yet so far, winning the award of Steak of the Year! (We’re in 14 January – so we’re being fair here).WhatsApp Image 2017-01-14 at 23.15.33(4).jpeg
  3. For Chinese: Chicken Cashew Nuts is a classic. I tried it as I wanted to benchmark it vis a vis Chinese restaurant in Beirut. Not bad, not bad at all. The waiter promised a succulent taste, and to be frank, he was right. Those little chicken cubes marinated with oyster sauce and cashew nuts were just as good as fancier places in town!WhatsApp Image 2017-01-14 at 23.15.33(2).jpeg
  • The service:

Well, that’s another thing that I liked about the experience. To me (and I am sure to many), the customer service is one core factor that determines how enjoyable an experience would be. The more, the better.

That’s what I felt about this place. The waiter was so attentive and made sure that the experience is as authentic as it can be. Absolute Chapeau for the great customer focus we’ve received. WhatsApp Image 2017-01-14 at 23.15.34(1).jpeg

  • The Overall Experience:

New idea. New Experience. Worth the try.

This sums it up. Having the option to juggle between different Asian Cuisines, indulging your taste buds with food from this corner of the globe and returning with an enjoyable experience is just beautiful…

From food taste to experience to quality for price, I’d give the place a solid 3.5 and I believe it would be a middle ground for Asian Cuisine Lovers, particularly Chinese (On a scale from Chopsticks to PF Chang’s in Lebanon).

 

Switzerland: For the Love of Cheese, Chocolate and Scenery!

To those of you who don’t know, I spent 25 years of my life with Aviophobia – Fear of Flying.

I used to see family members and friends discussing trips and travel experiences throughout my life and not even feel concerned…. Until the day had come, where all the factors were in favor and I stepped a foot in Switzerland (Kind of cool for a somewhat first time traveler!). Ever since, things became pretty much dramatic, and my Aviophobic self became so addicted, managing to visit 7 countries in less than a year!

Cutting the story short, let me share with you some of the great moments of my journey in the Land of Cheese, Chocolate and Alps.

I have visited 4 main regions in total: Bern, Zurich, Lucern and Bernina Alps.

  • Bern: Needless to say that each city had its own charm, yet the impact that the medieval city of Bern (the capital) left in my heart is just magical. Remember the old stories of Beauty and the Beast? Yep. Exactly like that! Perhaps it’s because I’ve never seen a medieval city before, yet the houses, the roads, the town-hall, the big clock at the entrance of the old town, even the water pumps… just Magical!IMG-20170107-WA0060-01.jpeg Old Town of Bern – View from UpIMG-20170107-WA0064-01.jpeg Entrance of the Old Town of Bern – Zytglogge
  • Zurich: Not only a beautiful city, but also the food there is so good, you just can’t get enough of! I made sure to eat Cheese and Beef fondue daily there (and Oh God! I still crave this cuisine from time to time!).zurich

My advice for you is to try Le Dezaley Restaurant (Niederdorf, close to the GrossMünster) for fondue. Once there you’ll understand what I mean… The house in which the restaurant is located exists ever since the 13th century, and the medieval ambiance is felt inside. Try all the sauces they offer, allow your taste buds to enjoy new flavors.

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Cheese Fondue… Tasty!

  • Lucern: Now that’s a bridge worth taking photos of! (Considering that this bridge – Kapelbrüke – is of the most photographed bridges in the world). Named after St. Peter’s Church (Thus the Kapel = Chapel Bridge), it is also the oldest wooden bridge that you can witness in Europe.
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Kapelbruke – Chapel’s Bridge

What I also found interesting in Lucern is Saturday’s market. People from all around the city gathered on the sides of the lake and sold literally everything (from veggies, food to flowers, flea and crafts). The beauty of this market is that it is so diverse, you can meet people from all over the world just by visiting their stands (From France, Germany all the way to Peru and Brazil, I was impressed!)

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Saturday’s Market

Another place worth seeing in Lucern is the Lion Monument: A huge carved dying lion in a rock is placed in the middle of a small garden.

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Lion Monument

  • Bernina Alps: One cannot visit Switzerland without passing by the Alps, and I did. Took the bernina express panoramic train and visited all the mountain range from eastern Switzerland to northern Italy – Literally! (The train’s last stop was in Torino – Italy). The alps are simply majestic. Covered in a beautiful white veil, the mountains were fully decorated.
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Miralago and Swiss Alps

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Bernina Express Panoramic Train

Few tips to Consider if visiting Switzerland:

  1. Eat Chocolate from day one. I didn’t and I regret it. Laderach is the chocolate brand I loved most. Try all the variety that your eyes can fall for (Strawberry, Chilli lime, Cornflakes, Glacier, Florentine and many more).
  2. Metro use is beyond amazing. The swiss are truly of the most organized, punctual and clean community I’ve ever met. Metro works by the second – literally.
  3. If visiting several cities within the country, use the “Swiss Pass” instead of buying several tickets. It’s valid for X full days (you decide the bundle you want) and covers any kind of transportation.
  4. Switzerland, though in Europe doesn’t use the euro currency. The country has the Swiss franc (CH).
  5. 1CH = 1 USD approximately.
  6. The country has high cost of living index (Highest in the world), thus the high quality of life (And trust me, it’s amazing…)
  7. The citizens in Zurich and Lucern are by far of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Super helpful and courteous!

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That’s how I got my Passport stamped last year! Highly advising everyone to visit this breathtakingly beautiful country…

Happy Traveling Everyone! 🙂

New Year Resolutions: Universality and False Hope

Date: 26 till 31 December 2016.

Occasion: Closing 2016’s chapter and opening a Tabula Rasa Blank Slate for 2017.

FAQ: What are your 2017 resolutions?

I bet you can easily recite 2 solid resolutions. Truth to be told, You might have been using those for a couple of years now. You answer the question and smile. You wait for others to answer, and they too, recite and smile.

While asking my friends for their 2017 -New Year, New Me- resolutions, two questions popped into my head:

1- Do all people around the globe have similar resolutions? Do their hopes and dreams pivot around same areas of life?

2- Why do most of the resolutions set on New Year fail to move into Reality zone?

I researched for answers and discovered they are of value, and decided to share them..

Answer to (1):

While surfing the web, I came across an interesting Google Experience.

In the last week of 2012, Google created “Google Zeitgeist” – For those who don’t know the term, it means the Spirit of Time (How deep is that!) – where people shared their resolutions for 2013. Members from all over the globe, with various background and cultures, from the Siberian Glacial lands to the Amazon jungles, participated in this global trend.

The beauty of this experience is that each individual was able to see what others wrote as well. On a larger scale, the entire world can see full trends of regions, countries and even continents.

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Each human being pinned his resolution and made it accessible for others to see it. (That’s not the cool part yet!)

The fascinating part of this experiment is that people from all around wished for 6 things mainly: Love, Health, Career, Finance, Family and Education.

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Not a single continent didn’t have those 6. And if you’d zoom a little bit more, you’d discover that Europe’s densest resolution is related to Love. North America’s resolutions were more focused on Health and Career, etc…

In Grosso modo, people from around the globe share the same “wishlist”. Despite their huge differences from countries, ethnicity, interests, to geographic and language barriers, the world is One. And that is just fascinating – for 7 billion people to be united in thoughts.

Answer to (2):

Hello Frustration. Forget about using proper guidelines, setting SMART goals and determining rewards to small steps. The “New Year Cheer” scenario that starts a day after Christmas will fade away 2 days after year end, precisely, on the first pit-stop when your friends plan for a Burger Night.

And even this part of resolutions is Universal.

Research shows that New Year Resolutions fail to be achieved in most of cases due to something called: False Hope Syndrome.

This syndrome -legitimate psychological term – is described as the Unrealistic expectations of Self-Change. People keep on repeating those self-change attempts despite the previous failures.

People at this phase of year perceive themselves with more control and optimism. They reflect on the year that has passed and look forward for the one to come. Thus, they set tougher and higher goals, hoping that the “new” year will make them happen. Peers also, with their own wishlists help in setting the bar high.

To avoid this trap, it is always important to distinguish between what’s feasible and what’s not among those self-change goals. The key is to review those goals the moment when they start fading (day 2 of the new year) and adjusting them more realistically.

[…]

So here’s to a Blank New Year! Wishing you all Universal wishes and Realizable resolutions!

Leaving you with a laugh on past resolutions in fun tweets…

 

 

Challenge Accepted… Year 26!

Hey Again,

It took me 15 days to find out the topic I wanted to share with you. I thought that blogging would be easier… Surprise, surprise… It’s Not!

The reason why it took me so long was because of all the hesitation I got while searching for an interesting topic.  I realized that before sharing insights and tips, I wanted to connect with the readers, to introduce them to the person behind the blog… The Blogger “Wannabe” with all the events that led her to start writing.

So here it goes… one of the stories that contributed to the start of this blog…

[…] On my 26th Birthday, last year, I decided to entitle a full year of my life to Overcoming Fears (or getting courage to doing new things).

1- Fear of Letting Go (Oh, and it’s hard): I left the scout group I dedicated 7 full years of leadership to.

2- Fear of Heights: Paragliding over Jounieh.

3- Fear of Airplanes/Travel: Switzerland being the first country to visit.

4- Fear of Dogs: Happened in Dubai for the very first time. (Thanks Ashta!)

5- Fish! (Still not eating anything but Sushi – Oh and I am addicted now!).

6- Fear of swimming (after my drowning incident).

What I noticed after overcoming those fears, is that I actually love Challenges. They drive me forward. They push me overcome them.

I also discovered that I overcame each fear with a friend or more. My friends were my support system and  helped me (whether directly or not) reach my goals more consistently. They were the compass that brought me back every time I got lost. They were also there for me when I celebrated each new milestone of this journey (Naaa, I don’t like to celebrate much :P)

Wishing you fears… yes! Fears burning in your soul… and wishing you Courage and determination to overcome them!

After all,”Overcoming what frightens you the most strengthens you the most.”