This is L.A: Disney Land, to love or to hate?

When i say Disney, probably the first thing that comes to your mind is Mickey Mouse, or any other cartoon character…

Being in California, we had the chance to go and pay Disney Land a visit 🙂 yeyyy us. We spent the whole day going around the huge city, getting “amazed” by all what we see! I, specifically, was looking for Mickey Mouse to take a picture with him , but unfortunately he was busy taking pictures with tens of other kids so i decided to go and do more useful things! At a certain point, i felt like a kid, going from one place to another, trying all games, looking for Disney characters and holding cotton candy in my hand! I was in a group of 8, Nada, Tala, Dany, Shaden, Mariam, Rand and Lina, we went around shoppig, taking pictures and most of all enjoying the scary rides! The roller coaster, Twilight Terror Tower, and many more, in other words i can say that we experienced Disney from all its sides. Mariam, a Lebanese participant, said that it reminds her a lot of Habtoor, “bas Habtoor arkhas w ahla”she said.

We all went home happy, and I was very tired but i didn’t forget to buy the Minnie ears and wear them in the bus on our way to UCLA hhehehehe

The next day in class we had a discussion about it and we watched a documentary about Disney, and no its not fun, happy as anything related to Disney should be, on the contrary i felt that it was aimed to demolish all the pretty annotations that come along the word Disney :s The documentary tried to show how this whole imaginary world is based on discrimination and racism, the bad guys are always Mexican or Arabs, and the good ones are always “white” , and how the Aladdin song diminishes the Arabs, ( it talks about Arabs coming from the desert…), and how women are always represented as week, dependent and waiting got their prince charming to save them out of misery.

After the discussion was over (during which i didnt say much because i was in shock of what i was hearing) I felt that this is a strong trial to destroy Disney world, i grew up watching Tom and Jerry all the time and I assure you, that didn’t affect my peronality, ot behavior. I didn’t grow up to be a woman who is looking for prince charming to rescue her, nor do i look at any other nation with disrespect. I believe that Mickey Mouse is a character that should be present at every household and not banned. Disney might contain some hidden messages, but let us not forget the good and joyful moments he brings to the kids hearts!

I might be a  little 2 biased to that fantasy world, but I spend many years of my childhood watching these characters and loving them. When i watched that documentary, I felt that a big period of my life has been distorted, I would love to see my kids, nieces and nephews watch Disney and enjoyed it as much as i did.

The question remains, shall we love Disney or get convinced by all negative thoughts and let go of it ?

I love it 🙂

Again this is only my personal opinion..


What do I think of Community Service?

I believe that Community Service is really important in anyone’s life, accepting the fact of  helping your community voluntarily helps you improve positively within your society. There are many similar activities in Lebanon, but unfortunately I never took part in any of them.

 I enjoyed cleaning the bay, the weather was nice, and when we were done we had the chance to sit in the sun, even-though it was a bit cold, we had fun. Off course we took a lot of pictures and we ate cotton candy, an some of us were late, the usual, but eventually we did it 😛  From another point of view I think it would have been better if other people came along with us, others who we do not know; the interaction would have been better and we would have been exposed to some new aspects in the American society.

An hour later, we all felt tired and decided to stop, but we actually succeeded in filling a bag full of garbage! Mission completed!

This is L.A :Tourist style :P

A part of the program is allowing us to discover how an American family spends its day, and that is why on Saturday, every 2 or 3 persons went to a different American household, expecting to learn something new.

The funny thing that all families were Mormons , so practically we just learned about one small side of the American society. Mahmoud and I spent the day with a woman, her 2 children, her brother’s wife and her three kids. We all went to the beach, and on our way back to the university we had lunch. The lady was really nice, and asked us so many questions about the Middle East, and was really surprised that we can speak more than 2 languages each . Obviously, she had no idea about where Lebanon or Palestine are located, their mother tongue or what religion the people practice there, and every time we tell her something new she would be surprised! The big difference that I noticed among the middle east and the US, and after the other participants shared their experience of the day, is that in the ME people are more concerned with welcoming their guests, and making him/her feel comfortable in any possible way, while in the US, they act normal and don’t try hard, not out of disrespect, but because it is all related to their background, that is much more simple that the middle eastern people.

Another thing that you should experience in LA is shopping in a mall, well it is a bit different because it is full of outlets stores, for the first few seconds you will be happy with what you are seeing, but then later on you will find out, unfortunately, that none of these actually fit you and when you ask for your size, well no one can help you! It is not only about malls, but it also involves beaches! They are neat, cleaned, the sand is white, the water is clean and it is for FREE!

Other then our morning visit, we went to the beach to enjoy the night 🙂

You get your chairs and food, you lay down and enjoy the sun, and NO ONE  will be staring at you!

Some beaches have markets on the side, where you can buy some homemade items. It is weird, but you don’t feel like an outsider, no matter where you are; so far i have met few American people, and lot of people coming from Asia, there is a lot of diversity.

"sarkhet el sabet, el ahad "

Having fun in Westwood

One thing that would also like to share, is that so far I only heard car horns twice, and people give the priority to pedestrians, they don’t cuss you out or even ask you to move out-of -the way, they don’t need to do that, because initially everything is organized. I can’t stand that because i believe where there is a lot of order, something will go wrong one day…I miss Beirut, as messy as it is, I still believe that it is one of the most beautiful places I will ever see..I miss Hamra…and I miss driving..

Being involved in media, we visited the L.A Times, and were lucky to have a tour around, we learned how it functions, and we saw the amazing pictures that were taken along the years.

At L.A Times

L.A Times

L.A Times

And what is better then watching a movie, as a group activity, we all took the bus and head to the movies where we watched Inception, a pretty amazing, complicated movie. It allows you to think more about the simplest things in your life, as dreaming, and it lead me to wonder about many facts in my life…

It has only been a couple of weeks here and we already feel like we are home, on the other hand, we all miss home ….yet we are not ready to leave yet.  People ar so friendly and happy, that I started to wonder if they have any worries in their lives??? Off course they do, but again I believe it is something related to their simple background.

This is L.A

Day after day, our stay here seems to take its right path, we are getting more used to what life is here, its system, rules and regulations. But, somehow, it is still a bit hard for me to wake up at 6 am because breakfast is at 7, and our classes start at 8, but in order to get there on time, we have to leave our dormitory at 7:30 :S

Anyway enough with the complaining, and let us focus on more important issue:P It is still weird how, so far, I don’t feel that I am exploring a new life style, it pretty much resembles that one i have in Lebanon. Off course there are exceptions, there are very strict driving rules that no one can ignore, or less a fine will waiting for you, the people seem to be more friendly and helpful… It feels good that we can cross from on street to another dancing, and still no one would look at you…

Westwood Village, Rand, Hani and Nada crossing the street "with style."

To feel that we are closer to home, our coordinators decided to have a cooking day; some of the participants, who are interested to cooking, came together and prepared for us a lovely meal.

Preparing dinner

Waiting for dinner ot be served

"Men el ajwe2"

At last, dinner was ready

At night, Hani, Nada and I hit Hollywood street, We tried getting into a pub there, but we weren’t allowed in, because we were wearing flip flops, so anyone can  step on our toes(that was the excuse of the lady standing at thedoor), and that is when we decided not to go home, even though time was running late

What I liked the most so far, is the community service that we had to do, we went to Food Bank and helped packing food, for those who are in need.

At night, we went to Wetwood, to Gypsy cafe (and yes it serves Hubbly Bubbly), the places was good, but since i have no idea the waitress refused to give me a beer :S The music was loud, and off course there were many “arabic” people trying to be very, unusually nice in order to gain the boss’s attention (pathetic)

This is a very quick written post but I am so sleepy, i can’t open my eyes…

This is L.A (bein kil Thank you w Thank you there is a smile :P)

Even though it has been only four days that I have been in LA, it feels like it has been 4 months…It is a weird feeling…The classes are going well, some are more interesting then the others; while some, as I see it, lack any importance and focus more on the “greatness of this country”.

Wherever I go, people act in a very polite way, always smiling and saying thank you for the least thing, even when you move from their way on the sidewalk (inu come on :s)… I don’t know if this is how it really is, or maybe they are just trying to keep a perfect image for the US (all the people are nice, friendly…) The thing that i like the most is the passion that is found for everything, everywhere at anytime! People here are always excited and happy …(like Oprah’s audience).  They always look happy and with no worries or problems..I am not used to this, from where i come from, people push you on the sidewalk if they are in a hurry, cars don’t stop for the people crossing the streets(here they are obliged to stop), and cars driving in the opposite direction “shi 3ady”.

Today we visited the UCLA Lab School (which is a school for kids), I really enjoyed what i saw, 7 years old working on programing in a robotics class, while others are playing the guitar to the tunes of Micheal Jackson song “Beat it”. We stayed there for a couple of hours, all our time there, i didn’t hear a kid screaming, or cussing out,  i didn’t see any kid beating another one, all I saw is some really cute ones enjoying what they are doing, and they were even trying to engage us in their activities. A 10 years old showed me on the class MAC (each class has a least 2 MACs), how he programs a robot that he made it himself, I was really impressed…( inu minimum :P). The school principal was explaining to us how concerned they are about “their kids” and how they try their best to improve the school ( it is a private one, so they get no funding from the government, it coasts 13000 dollars a kid). He also said that each year all the parents raise around a million dollars and help those who can’t afford going to UCLA Lab School to attend the school.

As for the rest of the day, every couple of persons, headed to a different location for the internship, Mariam and I were assigned to go to the Pancreatic Cancer Center where research is done, and help around; we did some filing. The people there were very “excited”a bout us doing some volunteer work 😛 Some of the participants were asked to go to help at a garage sale, they did, they spent 3 hours cleaning and washing in a garage the items that were on sale 😀 😀

note: It gets really cold at night, but it is always nice to lay down on the grass, stair at the sky and listen to some “good” music…

For pictures you can visit LA, day 4 and 5

This is L.A {Day 3}

Our first day of classes didn’t start well enough, we woke to the sound of the fire alarm that took off at 7:30 am on Monday at the students’ dormitory; everyone ran down the stairs wearing their pajamas and carrying their “valuable” belongings!  It turned out that some guy was smoking in his room :S

Being late, I missed the breakfast, and headed right to our first session, introduction and orientation, that took place at Moore 3340. We met the people responsible of the program who will be assisting us through out our stay. They handed us a map of the university, the different timings of the bus, taxis, and their coasts. We also had to fill up a pre-program survey.

Later on, we met with Kristen, who was our guide. She gave us a tour around the campus and gave us detailed explanation of the history of UCLA, its different departments, and she also mentioned a website where we can check the events that are taking place on or off campus. As fun as it may sound, walking around for an hour and thirty minutes is very tiring. I enjoyed looking at the different buildings of the university, what I liked the most is the huge spaces of green, wherever you go there are always tress and some green hills, as Nada felt that she has to go and lay down on the nice looking grass, and simply enjoy the sun, (which we did later on during the day.) Then we had lunch, this time I tasted the Chinese food, somehow when I was done I sort of missed chopsticks 😛 (joke joke joke )

At one o’clock was our first class, Democracy and Social Movement in the US; Doctor William Roy was our guest speaker and he addressed the issue of American Folk Music and Culture. He started by explaining what is Folk music, and how its is “simple, anonymous, and passed on orally.” It also has a social meaning, that is connected to “honest, hardworking, moral, unsophisticated, and the good old days.” Dr Roy also played some of Folk music and made us realize the difference from when it first started and how it evolved day after day.

After a 20 minutes break, we headed to the IT Lab, where we were asked to write a short blog post that either reflects our expectations from this program, or our opinion about what has been discussed regarding folk music. This is what I wrote: My expectations from this program


We were very tired after such along day, we had dinner at 6, but off course we didn’t go to rest ( I am sure that I am not in LA to spend my entire day on campus or in my room), we all gathered and left to do some shopping, Best Buy here we come 😀

Twenty minutes (maybe more) of walking we finally reached our destination, a couple of guys bought laptops, while some just got foot cream 😛 Definitely we are going there again, there are many things that I still need to get, I mean come on a WII game for only 2oo dollars …me like 😛 , and I am thinking to get a Canon EOS, that way when I go back to Lebanon I could go with Nada and Hani to have some photo shoots 😀 😀  Once done, some of the guys wanted to have a “arghileh”so we went around looking for a place that actually serves hubly bubbly, unfortunately we ended up again at Habibi Café and lucky me I had to listen one more time to “Habibi Ya noor el ein.”

For some “amazing” pictures of this day please click on LA, Day 3


My expectations from this program

We were asked in the IT class to write down a small paragraph reflecting our expectations from this program. I don’t have specific ones, if i do i believe that would make this program less interesting. But I am here today knowing that in 5 weeks from now, i will have a better knowledge about new media, the US history and leadership. Today is our first day of classes, so far it is going well, we started by a session on Pop Culture, and here we are now in the computer Lab for an IT class.

While I am here, i would like to go all over LA and discover all its new places, from what I saw so far, i think there are many places that are a must to see, and of course there is the shopping, that is a thing that I, or more likely , we wont forget to do 🙂

Till we head back to Lebanon, I am sure that I will be enjoying every minute, because i think that the other participants from Lebanon, and Palestine are making this experience an unforgettable one 🙂 🙂

This is L.A {Day 2}

I woke up today to the sound of my roommate Lina, 21 years old, majoring in English literature in the Islamic University in Gaza. I am so excited to meet her and to listen to her stories, she has many that i will be sharing with you later on.

Through the day we met the new participants who arrived today to LA (coming from Palestine), we are still expecting 4 others to join us through this week. We went to a tour in the university, and then headed to Westwood village, where we had lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen. The food was good, but when it was time to pay it got a bit hard for us, we had to divide among all of us the values of the taxes and tips, yes yes it was hard but we did manage to finally do it 😛 ( we are not used to that in Lebanon 😉 )

At 5 pm we had our orientation meeting and then went to a “welcome dinner” at a persian restaurant called Jovan.

Then we walked around Westwood Village, and decided to go into Habibi Cafe. Dany met the owner of the cafe, who turned out to be Egyptian. Inside the cafe, the red light was taking over, and “habibi ya nour el ein “song was playing…yes that makes you feel as if you are still home ;P

It is weird how so far I am still unable to feel that I am actually in LA away from Lebanon, It still feels that in Hamra when walking around, except for the way the people drive, it is so organized that it gets irritating…

Here are some pictures that can explain better what we saw and did during the day : LA, Day 2

This is L.A {Day 1}

Seven Lebanese people, including me,( in addition to ones from West Bank, Gaza, and Iraq) were chosen to come to Los Angeles-California and take part in a study program about New Media. To know more about it visit

I decided to write a post everyday or so, talking about the important things we are going to learn, sharing some of the “adventures” we will be going through and some of the places we are going to visit.

We left Lebanon on Saturday July 17 at 3 am and reached Los Angeles at 3:42 pm (L.A timing), which is about 22 hours of plane travel. We first had a transit in Frankfurt, where the airport seemed to be very unorganized, we spent 20 minutes looking for the gate where we are supposed to be, even after asking for help we ended up at the wrong place, which made us run late for the plane, but we got there anyway 🙂 That made me think that chaos doesn’t only exist in Lebanon, i was relieved to experience this feeling 😛

Eights hours later we reached Chicago airport, the flight was ok, the plane was big, and full! I watched two movies and slept for a couple of hours…anyway we finally reached L.A. A couple of persons from the program were waiting for us at the airport. Once we arrived to UCLA, the first thing we did EATING,  we were really hungry, tired…We called our parents, sent them messages and assured them that we are doing ok. We were the first to reach LA, the participants from Jordan, Palestine and Iraq will be arriving in couple of hours.

We went to our rooms, and it turned out that none of us would be sharing the same room ,we were separated in a way that each one of us would share his/her room with a person from a different enough..

At night, Nada, Dany, Hani and I went for a walk around the university campus, spoted some places and made a short list of the places we MUST  visit. Funny enough we saw a couple of cafes with arghileh, and one of these places was called Habibi Cafe (weird huh :P).

We head back, and here I am writing briefly what happened during this long hectic day, and now i should log off waiting for my roommate to arrive ….

It is just a first day, many to follow, many things to discover and experience…

Anyone who reads this post, if you have any places that you think we should visit in L.A please feel free to inform me 🙂 Thank you 🙂

“عمو عل صيفي بليز”

“الموسيقى التي تعجبني، وهواء المكيّف البارد الذي يشعرني بالحيوية، على مقعد مريح، والنوافذ مغلقة منعاً لأيّ ازعاج خارجي…”

نعم، هكذا كانت رحلتي في سيارتي الخاصة، قبل أن أبدأ بركوب سيارات الأجرة من العمل وإليه. لم أقدّر نعمة السيارة الخاصة إلاّ بعد أن بدأت أختي عملاً جديداً صادف موقعه أبعد من مقرّ عملي، فأمست سيارتنا وسيلتها للتنقل، لتقطع بها المسافة الكبيرة نحو العمل.

وأحب أن أروي لكم حكايتي التي تحدث معي كل يوم منذ أسابيع قليلة، فقد وجدت نفسي أخوض تجربة جديدة، لا تضيف إلى حياتي إلا التوتر والعصبية وهي ركوب سيارة الأجرة.

تقع جامعتي في منطقة الحمرا، وكذلك منزلي، وما إن أنتهي من صفوفي، حتى أتجه إلى عملي في منطقة الصيفي، وهنا يبدأ مشوار العذاب. “عمو، عالصيفي بليز!”، فيومئ لي سائق الأجرة برأسه رافضاً وبطريقة غير لائقة. عشر دقائق تمضي، وأنا أنتظر “الفرج”. أعي مدى التعب الذي يشعر به سائقو الأجرة، والساعات الطوال التي يمضونها خلال اليوم وهم يجولون الطرقات باحثين عن لقمة عيشهم، ولكن هذا لا يعطيهم الحق بالتصرف بوقاحة وعصبيّة أو باستهزاء تجاه من يريدون الركوب معهم، فقط كون طريقهم لا تتناسب مع الطريق التي سيسلكون.

“عمو عالصيفي بليز!” فيجيب بنبرة عالية “ايه مبلا”، ساخراً. لكن إن كنت يا “عمّو” لا ترغب بإيصالي، لا بأس، مادام طريقنا مختلفاً. ولكن لا يوجد داع للاستهزاء بنا، نحن مستقلّو سيارات الأجرة. أقف متسمّرة قرب الحائط، وأنا أنتظر أن يحّن عليّ أحد السائقين. فمنهم من لا تتوافق طريقي معهم، والآخرون يقولون: “تاكسي؟!”

إن كنت لا تملك سيارة، فأنت حتماً تخضع لحكم مملكة سائقي الأجرة. هم يتحكمون بك ويحكمون عليك. يتحكمون بك إن استقلّيت سيارتهم، حيث يجولون بك في أرجاء مملكتهم الشاسعة، قبل أن يتسلل الألم و”الدوخة” إلى دماغك. ويحكمون عليك عندما تكون مواطناً صالحاً فتصعد، وأما إن رفضت، لاكتظاظ سيارته أو لأنه غيّر المنطقة، فيستهزئ بك، و”يبربس” بالحديث عنك.

أشعر أحياناً برغبة في الصراخ عالياً، وتارة أشعر باليأس فأقرر عدم الذهاب للعمل والعودة إلى المنزل، ولكن ما ألبث أن أجد نفسي أنتظر السائق التالي لأقول له “عمو، عالصيفي بليز!”. خمس دقائق أخرى تمضي ولا أزال على الحال نفسه، والحائط ما زال جاثماً قربي! تمرّ الدقائق ببطء ولا أزال مكاني منتظرةً من “ينقذني”، “سرفيسين!”، يقول لي أحد سائقي النمرة الحمراء، ويقصد أن أدفع له عن راكبين إثنين فأومئ إيجاباً وعلى وجهي ضحكة كبيرة كمن وجد “المليون”. “لوين عمو قلتيلي؟”، “عالصيفي”، فيجيب “آه ايه، لوين عالصيفي؟” “عبيت الكتائب!”. ان كنت محظوظة، يكون السائق سعيداً راضياً عن نهاره، أما إن كان “عمو معصب”، فأنا سأضطر إلى الإصغاء إلى زنّه المتواصل عن ارتفاع سعر البنزين وكيف أنه حتى “سرفيسين ما بتوفّي معو”. أما الجملة الشهيرة التي لا بدّ منها في سيارة الأجرة فهي “ليكي العجقة، ليكي، شو هالبلد هيدا ما في نظام ولا دولة!”. أحاول الحفاظ على هدوئي، والاستماع إلى تذمره، ولكن الجو حار جداً، وأبواق السيارات لا تنفك تعلو و”عمو بعد ما خلّص نقّ”. أنظر إلى ساعتي فألاحظ أني تأخرت على عملي، ولكن ما العمل، ليس ذنبي عدم توفر سائقين الى المكان الذي أذهب إليه. أشرد لدقائق فأتذكر كلام رفيقتي التي تقضي معظم وقتها في “السرفيس”، “أوف شو هيدا، الواحد بيتبهدل ألف مرّة قبل ما يوصل على بيتو!”، للأسف كلامها صحيح!

“هوني منيح؟”، أنظر حولي فأجد نفسي بعيدة عن عملي نحو العشر دقائق مشياً، فأجيبه “لأ مش منيح”، فيلتفت ويقول لي “إيه بس ما فيني روح أبعد من هيك، ليكي العجقة يا عمو!”، أنظر اليه راغبة بتفجير غضبي في وجهه، وأسأله لماذا أقلّني مادام لن يوصلني إلى المكان المناسب. يقاطعني صوت السيارات وصراخ السائقين: “يلا يا عمي يلا!”، فأجد نفسي مجبرةً على الترجل من السيارة والذهاب مشياً إلى العمل وأنا أفكر عما سيكون عليه الأمر عندما أنتهي من الدوام، ويكون السؤال هنا: “عمو عالحمرا بليز!”

لمن لم بمرّ بهذه التجربة مسبقاً، قد يظن أن انتظار سيارة أجرة عملاً سهلاً، ولكن بعد عدد من المحاولات الفاشلة والرفض المتكرر من قبل السائق، يصبح الوصول الى المكان المنشود مهمة صعبة، بل شبه مستحيلة، فتبدأ التفكير بشراء سيارة ( في حالتي سيارة أخرى)… بعد تفكير آخر، ربما من الأفضل إنتظار “السرفيس” لبعض الوقت، ولا “وجع الراس” بقسط السيارة والبنزبن وغيار الزيت وركن السيارة

هذا المقال نشر في جريدة حبر،العدد ٧ -٢٣ حزيران

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