The wee hours of the morning. Another morning, another sunrise, where my father would find me crouched on the balcony, shivering in a mix of terror and curiosity. I was 10 and 11 and 12. Dealing with regular early teenage matters like two new chestnuts on my chest, and a school unrequited crush. And what I thought was also a regular teenage matter: deciphering the sound of the Israeli jets.
The sound of the Israeli jets, made the rest of the worries, take a seat back. I would track their altitude, their direction, their numbers, by the intensity of the…

Today, four months since the explosion in Lebanon, I ask you what is tragedy.

Is tragedy waking up to find your city demolished to the ground, with hundreds of dead, many missing, some friends, some neighbors, some family?

The city you have cried in, danced in, kissed in, loved in, birthed in, and longed for every time you were away?

Is tragedy watching that city carnaged in viral videos ten thousand miles away, on a tiny screen in your hand?

Is it a tragedy, to see the house where you grew up in destroyed, and feel nothing?

Is it still…

A Lebanese tradition

When the war with Israel broke in 2006, I recall watching on TV big ships transporting Lebanese folks, away from the Mediterranean who look like me, some of them my age, some my classmates, away from death and into hope and life. I wondered what is wrong with me. I was angry with my parents for not getting us a second passport. So we can escape the calamities. Instead we were locked up between the home and the malja’ (shelter).

The second passport is a Lebanese tradition that was born from war trauma, and lack of trust…

Raja likes sleeping in, and going to get her morning coffee around noon. She also does not like photos, and is private.

Raja is the friend that is the last to leave the party. The one who convinces you to stay out till sunrise with her. You feel so special, and so needed that you end up staying and it makes of memorable stories you continue laughing about and reminiscing about for years to come.

Raja is also the friend who never gave up on Lebanon. While everyone of her friends immigrated, cursed their country, returned reluctantly, she stayed. …

Every Lebanese knows about the phone call. And it goes two ways.

The first, looks like this. You are sitting at home with your best friend and his cousin, your aunt is over too, she is looking for a dress to borrow from your mother’s closet. You hear a loud noise, the glass around you shatters. You are in shock. You look around, make sure everyone is still breathing. You get up, dizzy, then sit down again. Your phone rings. You look for it, it fell under the couch. You pick it up, it is baba. You pick up but cannot even speak, he screams….

“habibi ebné, taménneh, sarlkon chi?” …

First day I saw patients as a therapist trainee

You woke up one morning, with the same pain chirping in your chest. You had no name for it because you had never spoken of it. Until you met her. She heard your pain without needing to speak it, or explain it, or illustrate it. She sat there unafraid in the face of your terror. She held you in her gaze. Until the tears flowed. She never asked you to explain. She wanted to be there with you anyway. She was the first one that saw you. She gave you what you did not know existed. Safety and love. Together…

I stare at my chipped right toe, murky summer pink manicure leftover from three weeks ago.
My cats are busy haunting a tiny insect, and I get to watch them in their element.
I turn on my Spotify. My therapist recommended a podcast by Tara Brach, a white meditation teacher. I link it to the speaker and listen on.

I barely listen. In fact, I forget it is on, and grab my phone to put something on. Maybe The Weeknd’s new album. Something over the something. A distraction over the distraction. A sound over the sound. …

I just returned from a one week trip to Lebanon to take part of the thawra, and find ways to help and support by being on the ground. I can say that being there changed me in ways I did not think were possible. It changed how i look at myself, my country, humanity and rooted me back into the land of my ancestors.

I urge and invite every single Lebanese who lives abroad to do their BEST to take some time off and go back home, now. Not later, not maybe. NOW. Mich boukra. Halla2. And here is why:

After years of telling her friends she wants to leave him, and silently going back to him, Lebanon suddenly woke up one day, without telling anyone and asked her boyfriend of almost 30 years to fuck off. She threw his clothes out of the window, to the delight of the neighbors who are looking for distraction from their own dysfunctional relationships.

He came back at the door of their building promising for 100th time to no longer leave the apartment messy and dirty and blaming it on their dog, to no longer use her credit cards to buy himself a…

A love letter from an immigrant to her country

Habibi Lebnen,

I am sorry.

I am sorry for that time I left you with a ghassa in my heart, tears in my eyes, and holes in my pocket
I promised you to return the next year and the year after and the one after
But I lied. I got an apartment abroad. I got a job. I got a partner. I got an accent.

I am sorry for all those times I called your sea mlawathe, and your hawa polluted

I watched the kesserat rape your valleys, and instead of…

Jess Semaan

Lebanese poet. First book, Child of The Moon, available now.

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