Sojourn in Lebanon

“Beirut?” he enquired… looking at me questioningly. I nodded, affirming that I was indeed at the right gate at the airport. I passed through the gates and stepped into a land where I was the only brown-skinned person to be seen. And this trend did not change till I returned to Dubai 3 days later. It was a bit weird, cos I know a lot of Indians go to Beirut for work, but during my time there, not only was I the only Indian around, I was also stared at like I was the only Indian to ever set foot in the country! Other than the disconcerting feeling that I’m probably walking around with toilet-paper stuck to my shoes… the trip was excellent!

It was an internal team meeting, so technically I was traveling for work. But it really was more like a vacation! I finally got to meet the rest of the members of our team who are scattered around different parts of the GCC. Surprisingly, they are a lot of fun! And even our meetings were held under such lovely surroundings that I could barely believe that I was “working”.

How can you take anything too seriously when you’re sitting under a pavilion by the beach sipping coffee and have to compete against the sound of the waves smashing onto the rocks beneath you to be heard?

It got a bit too cold after a while, so after lunch, we decided to shift the meeting to more sunny surroundings.

Lebanon is a beautiful country! The mountains, the beaches… it’s all really lovely! But what blew me away was the food! UAE has a lot of lebanese people and a lot of lebanese restaurants as well. I’ve eaten the cuisine too many times for it to even be considered firangi food. Or so I thought!

Lebanon used to be a french colony, so the main languages spoken there are Arabic and French. Both of which I don’t speak! So at restaurants, we left it to the arabic-speaking part of the team to order for everyone, and they ordered enough food to feed an army!

The first night, I foolishly filled myself up on hummous and freshly baked arabic bread, fatoush, tabouleh, freshly caught and fried calamari rings( I actually saw the woman fishing for it!), stuffed vine leaves, grilled halloumi … the usual arabic spreadI was feeling full and sleepy when the waiter whisked off my plate and cutlery and returned with fresh ones! I looked around, a bit confused… when a couple of other waiters came in carrying platters full of tiny fried sardines. After that they came carrying a massive dish of sea bass. Then we just shifted to another table… for dessert!

It was on this trip that I tried a Lebanese specialty that I’d heard of, but never encountered in Dubai-  raw meat.

It was… strange. My boss, who is Lebanese, said it melts in the mouth, like chocolate. It does not! It crumbles. I had one bite, and discarded the rest. I did happily try the cooked stuff though… octupus, squid in black inky sauce and the likes. I just wanted to try the local cuisine. You what what they say… when in Rome… eat Roman food! ;P

While we’re on the subject of food (and with me, you’re never far away from it! ;P)… if ever you go to Lebanon, do not miss out on this one restaurant- Casino Mhanna.

It’s not really a casino, just a restaurant. Not sure why they call it casino.They have two, one downtown and one out in Byblos. You must go to the one in Byblos! The views are just magical, and the food divine!

Usually, after business trips, I ache to just get home and relax. This was the first time I was on a trip from work where I actually felt bad about leaving! I’d go back in an instant!  I need to anyway… since I didn’t get to explore Beirut as much as I’d have liked to!  Hell!  I’d just go back for another bowl of their fresh green almonds! :P

If you’re going and need a guide, you know whom to ask! :D

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Unbreakable.

Life’s been pretty crazy lately.

The job is getting increasingly stressful, which is unfortunately affecting my health in a bad way. I’ve been to 2 countries in a week and driven over 200 kms in a day to attend various meetings and be all corporate honcho over stuff I need to care for but don’t really. I’m also traveling to Lebanon on Monday. So while my travel stats on TripIt keeps increasing, my health seems to be decreasing at inversely proportional levels.

All this running around (in heels, to boot!) has taken a toll on my unfortunately hypersensitive system and my shoulders have almost given up on me from all the stress. I spent most of Thursday and all of Friday in bed trying to sleep through the debilitating pain that originated somewhere between my right shoulder and neck and coursed all the way through from my temple to my toe.

I’m a lot better now, after having been to my chiropractor  (what the hell have you put your body through?! Don’t tell me Oman and Qatar did this to you! YOU did this to you! )… and I’ve also learned that ignoring my daily yoga routine will have painful side-effects. Except, it’s a bit difficult to live  healthy when you have to wake up at 5am to catch an early flight and return home at 10pm, exhausted from all the heat and the people you meet (not all of them pleasant).

I know though, while these may be valid excuses, my body’s not about to listen to reason and be all “okay! I’m not gonna seize up on you and leave you curled up in bed for the weekend”.  On the other hand, I can’t exactly take 6 months off to recuperate either. I’m gonna have  to find some halfway place in-between and call a truce on this pain-war my body’s waging on me.

My chiropractor is a crazy, lovely old iranian-american lady with wild hair that’s a different shade every time I go there. She calls me ‘sweetheart’ and says I remind her of her own daughter back in the states.  She twists and turns my body this way and that and sets it straight and says  “It’s a good body! It’s strong, it’s survived all this. You’ve put it through a lot. Now that you know… you gotta stop and let it heal and become whole again”.

I never thought of my body that way. As being resilient, a survivor. I’ve been through this chronic pain for so long now that I’ve always thought it a weakness (though I haate to admit it and will gouge your eyes out if you call me fragile!).  I know I owe it to myself to be more careful, in all ways. I know now that ignoring the pain will not make it go away.

 

I think I’ll start by finishing that ice-cream in the fridge. (What! The doc asked me to ice the pain).  :P

 

A Birthday Note

“Love will get you through times of no money better  than money will get you through in times of no love.”

That is what I’d like to drill into your thick head, but because I know you won’t listen to me, I’m writing it out here, hoping that reading this will somehow change your mind (over time  at least!).

Apparently this is your last birthday as a single person, cos you’re worried that you won’t look hot anymore and so no one will want to be with you.  Which is ridiculous, cos you’re awesome! You’re intelligent, fun to be around, and a pretty good flirt! :P   I’ve seen the way you talk to women with their husbands standing right next to them and they lap it up like a thirsty kitten with a saucer of milk! So let me tell you my friend, you have nothing to worry about. Plus, you know… there’s always botox! :P

But even so, if you want to get married anyway cos you’re tired of all the flirting and the women seem to be getting dumber by the tequila shot, here’s what you gotta do (and yes! you gotta do this!)

1. Find a girl who’ll sign a pre-nup happily.

2. Want to marry her even without a pre-nup in place.

I don’t need to spell this out to you do I? Oh wait… it’s you! Of course it’s needs spelling out!

Points one and two mean… you gotta find a girl who likes you for who you are and not how much you’re worth. But you gotta trust her enough to be able to marry her without doubting her intentions.

Both of these are essential! Trust, is essential!  It’s time to bring down those firewalls! Like they say… “Boundaries don’t keep other people out. They fence you in.”

Okay… so this sounds more like an advice column than a birthday note… so I’ll stop now! :)

I wish you love, luck and happiness! :)  Just remember that you deserve all of it, cos you’re a nice guy, in spite of  trying really hard not to be! :P

Happy Birthday!