35 … today! 

Half a decade into the 30s. Quite a milestone! 

5 years ago, I posted a cute ’30 sucks’ image with lollipops, and I couldn’t have predicted a sweeter decade. 

These past few years have been quite eventful… to say the least! 

I began TEDxLAU five years ago in 2012, when I was 30. And it’s just been one immense journey of self-discovery. 

I got married to my crazy man when I was 33… yep same age as Jesus and proud of it! 

I finally took the step that had been delayed a decade… I started my doctorate at 34, and probably won’t complete it before I’m 40… but that’s another milestone. 

This year, in 2017, I celebrate 10 years of teaching at LAU! The papers I’ve graded! Akh… but the people I’ve met continue to impact my life. 

…and finally… this year, I’m expecting our baby at the age of 35! Something we thought might actually not be in the cards for us… but this decade proved otherwise. 

Not bad for a late bloomer! Many of my own students are checking a lot of these items off their list at an earlier age, as they complete milestone after milestone, but if my example could be of any help, it would be to simply say… there’s time. There’s always time. Even if your path takes you elsewhere at first, even if you stumble, even if you retrace a few steps at times, there’s time. Your goals will be different, and your priorities will change. 

My 30s have been my favorite decade so far… and I’m grateful for every minute! 

Thank you all for being there by my side. 

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12 Ideas for 2017

Happy New Year! Or Feliz año nuevo since we had the fortune to meet the new year on a rooftop in Havana – without Internet so I couldn’t blog about it. The best I could do was to actually enjoy it, in the moment, and that was pure bliss!

Over the past few weeks, though, I had been contemplating the 12 ideas I’d like to focus on in 2017. This was mostly for a prescheduled interview on Mariam TV, and my segment would highlight ideas from TED and TEDx talks – 12 ideas for the 12 months of the year.

Without further ado, here are my personal 12. These are the talks that personally affected me and the ones I need to work on. These are my pseudo resolutions for the year… hope they resonate with you!

Any favorites?

And here are the full messages and links. Enjoy!
01. Keep your goals a secret (I guess blogging about this list doesn’t count.)


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Never been to a TEDx event? 

Not sure what all the fuss is about?Or whether you should go?

Well, here are the top 5 things you’ll experience at TEDxLAU this year: 

  1. 14 different talks and performances from completely diverse fields. What’s in common? A passion for ideas and sharing knowledge that will definitely resonate with you. 
  2. Our social space with activities for introverts and extroverts alike as you bargain your way through. 
  3. A networking opportunity like no other as you discuss and debate ideas. 
  4. Creative surprises: Did you hear of our blood drive that sprung up out of nowhere? Or our wall of color? We did those in 2013 and 2014. 
  5. and this year? The agora!!! Be prepared to relive the birthplace of ideas! We promise to make your experience historically accurate as you go back 7000 years! 

Considering it? Pick up your ticket from the nearest Antoine store or Antoine Online. 

Join our event on Facebook for more updates. 

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Maybe It’s time to wake up: نوم الغزلان

If you’re expecting a cathartic release, think again. Through this ingenious production, Lina Abyad and her team hold the audience captive as they listen to story after story of Syrian asylum seekers. And when you’re about to scream out: ‘No more! I can’t take any more…’, you find yourself facing a metaphorical fence as you live the tales of survival.
And it isn’t survival of the fittest. Not really. Those who survive the harrowing conditions only live to tell tales of despair and dashed dreams. Where body and soul combine to kill any hope in humanity.

From the modern ‘businessman’ building his empire over the bodies of the dead, to the matchmaker trading in child brides, to the mother of two who became the carrier of one… Down to the man who swam his way… But to what? What does he really find?

Losing humanity one raindrop (and teardrop) at a time. In search of lost dreams. Where the body crumbles and the dreams are dashed.

This is ultimately a story of loss.

A lost revolution and a lost generation. Crying for the country they left behind.

And as for us in our seats? It’s a performance worth embracing. Because even if we’re not always involved, we need to get as close to the sidelines as possible.

Performances ongoing until April 10 at LAU Beirut. More details via the event page

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Why weddings are still worth the ‘weight’…

I’m about to be 33. My husband-to-be is 36. We could follow the lead that many of our friends have set for us and have a small destination wedding. Nothing at all wrong with that! You have fun, travel to a cool place, and a small group of people who love you (and can afford it) will tag along and make sure your day is worth it. I actually wanted to do that! Hello Sardinia! But, against my better judgment at first, I agreed to have the full-on Lebanese wedding experience this June, while inviting our nearest and dearest.

This has meant months of preparation, anguish, conflicts, and torture at times while we tried to maintain our own vision and creativity (and craziness). But now, during the most hectic preparation stages, I find myself finally at peace with this decision.

We are celebrators, Ziad and I. We celebrate everything, from the Nutella we just massacred to the crazy TEDx event we worked on.

So why not celebrate this beautiful day? I know it’s just a day in a lifetime of memories, so why not celebrate it fully?

We have the capacity to fall in love every single day. We’re together joyfully (minus the tons of arguments and squabbles which we also enjoy – let’s be honest!), and we can be happy without everyone around us, but while inviting our family and friends and seeing their excitement, the realisation that this is what I’ve always wanted is now concrete. The wedding is a bonding experience, not only for the bride and groom, but for all their friends and family, who gush over the simplest details or sometimes anxiously worry about the next steps ahead.

I have never been the girl to dream of her ‘big day’. I never visualised what my dress would be like. I never rehearsed my vows in some super secret dark room, but as the count-down is bearing down upon us, I can’t wait to just dance! To laugh and smile and share in the pure pleasure of having people around you, who love you fully. People who share your joy as if it’s theirs (minus the complaints about the salmon, the grass – oh why does it have to be green!, ad infinitum, ad nauseum….).

Work and a lifetime of possibilities have kept me away from family and friends at various times over the last few years, and the fact that they will all be there (either in body or spirit) IS the actual wedding. And I, for one, cannot wait.

p.s. There will be no zaffe. We drew the line on that.

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2015: Perpetual motion

In 2014, I got a tattoo. It’s a triskelion.
A triskelion or a triskele has come to have myriad meanings, but my favourites are the following: perpetual motion and the complexities of the past, present, and future. Not bad for a tiny tattoo, eh?

I’d been thinking of getting one for years…but it was tough finding a message that truly resonated. Until 2014.

Is it increased self-awareness? Maybe.
It’s taken me years (32 to be exact) to keep finding bits and pieces of myself… but it’ll take me a lifetime more to keep discovering. That’s the awe residing within the human soul…the ability to confront our own demons and our own angels as we inch our way closer … past the illusion of who we are and into the depth that only we can create.

All around me I see those making resolutions and others skeptical of resolutions…but time is only a vessel that we co-inhabit, clinging to dear life as we fear the call to disembark. This perpetual motion can create havoc within our system, causing some of us to almost fall overboard due to sickness while others glorify the movement…embrace the rails… and even scream out an “I’m the king of the world!” (I know… I know… Titanic haters out there, but I couldn’t help it).

2014. I’m grateful.
2015. I’m anxious… but anxiety is a valuable tool these days!
Though I know your waters will be murky at times, I also know you’ve given me a toolkit like no other…. a toolkit that will help guide me ashore.

2015. Be kind.

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Literature Activity: The danger of having NO story

In my literature class this semester, I had a theme relating to “The Danger of a Single Story”. This was inspired by Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, in which she discusses the nature of literature and cultural misconceptions. Why do we feel we know a culture, when all we know is a single story, a single stereotype, a single format within which we lump everyone?

And what if we don’t even have a single story? What if we know nothing about another country, another culture? This was the question I posed in my literature class. I asked my students: Is there any country or area you wish you knew more about? They all wrote down their answers, mentioning places in Asia, Africa, and Australia and Antarctica.

Students later picked these out randomly and were asked to quickly get facts and information about each area. Their next, and more difficult task, was to write a poem or a short story set in these locations or inspired by them. Judging from the results, these poems do depict one perspective of each location, which is quite natural. We are influenced by the stories we’ve gathered…but the way I see it: one story is better than none.In the hope that there will be more where this came from!

I’m sharing some of my students’ writings below (I got their permission of course… and let me quote one of them: “Yeeeey, I’m now a published poet!”).

Would I do this again? Most Definitely! These works (in my biased opinion as proud teacher) were gems of social and cultural awareness. Even though these students are basing their writing on one event or a few facts, they had to leave their current milieu to inhabit another world and stand in different shoes even for a little while, and that’s worth reliving, over and over again.

Are we really that different
When the thing we export most is our freshly-graduates, able-bodied youth?
A diaspora in over forty countries and we still can’t see that the blame is with our

From Daniel Ganama’s “Are We Really That Different”. Read full poem here.

A land of twenty-something soils – natural and man-made masterpieces;
India’s Teardrop dressed in green,
The Hermit Kingdom with all its flashing screens,
And The Red Dragon which falls in between.

From Mazen Sleiman’s “Asia”. Read full poem here.

Picking you by chance
You, eastern land
You, hosting 49 countries
You, divided into 6 cultures
You, curry, spice, sushi, hummus, vodka, and rice

From Michele Matta’s “Asia”. Read full poem here.

I read about magic,
in glittering eyes.
in a sanctuary of light.
I read about forgotten wars and unsung heroes.

From Mia Melki’s “Chinese Lantern Festival”. Read full poem here.

Far East Asia is viewed to be exotic
To the rest of the world that is
Some stereotypes are quite moronic
To those who know that is
I shall pour me some tonic
And elaborate, list some facts that is

From Mira Sheaib’s “Far East Asia”. Read full poem here.

Those looking for serenity and magic often find Nepal as a refuge for their quest. The 15-year-old knows this; he plans to mediate for a long time.
From Nour Zouya’s “Nepal”. Read full freewriting piece here.

I see worker ants scurrying about the colony roads,
Poor, dirty, and full,
Carrying tea leaves, bamboo shoot trunks, and hickory nuts to be processed for the glory of the State.

From Jade Doumani’s “Revolutions”. Read full poem here.

Plastic dolls,
Squeaky treat
Thousands of people
To compete

From Natasha Tabet’s “Russia”. Read full poem here.

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Speaker Workshops: An immersive journey

It’s two weeks to event day, and some people are still pitching ideas, hoping to be part of the speaker line-up on the 23rd of August. What many don’t realize is the absolutely mesmerizing creative process that our speakers immerse themselves into while preparing for their talks… This doesn’t happen overnight.

Our process isn’t that demanding, or so we hope ;)…

1. Pitch your idea
2. Audition
3. Give yourself over to this experience as we take you on a one-month ride! And it’s quite a roller-coaster!

To me, this is akin to being placed in the slicer. Your speech slowly dissected and then put back together. One of our 2013 speakers likened this to having your babies taken from you…that’s how emotional this process can be, with every sentence you’ve written being so dear to your heart!

Jasmina Najjar

But the emotional roller-coaster that accompanies these workshops is worth it!

Yesterday, our speakers and organizers cried (lots of crying I tell you!), clapped, engaged in ‘healthy’ debate, and cheered on as they watched one another rehearse… getting feedback from every single person in the room! Our speakers become one another’s cheerleaders… supporting each other all the way. Speakers at TED and TEDx events aren’t paid; this is common knowledge. What is more interesting, though, is that over a period of a couple of weeks, our speakers become full-fledged volunteers in their own right! Need some extra articulation lessons? One of our speakers might volunteer! Need help with the lights on stage? Why not, a speaker can share their expertise! Need some dance tips that can help you look confident? One of our speakers rushes to the task!

Our speaker coach, Rabih el Khodr, shared this hilarious – and quite accurate – video yesterday… a must watch for anyone contemplating public speaking. It’s TED: the Musical

Thank you for being our uncle in this crazy journey of ours…!

And to everyone reading this… the more I get to know these speakers, the more I know that I won’t be letting go of TEDx anytime soon 😉

Join our event and be part of the TEDx movement in Lebanon!


And of course… nothing can be accomplished without food! right?
Thank you CreamdelaCreme for ensuring we remained sane over the past couple of weeks!


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To Grandma Weddo

Why don’t we have eulogies in our culture?

For someone like me, who expresses herself through words, I need that sense of closure. So I guess a blog would have to do.

To grandma,
Who had the imagination to write a love story about the time when Charles de Gaulle saw her in her yellow dress in Damour and fell in love with her. But that she refused him and picked by grandpa instead. (And never let him forget this for the rest of his life)!

To grandma,
Who lived a life quiet. About the things she most wanted to talk about. Oh she nagged about all sorts of crap. But kept silent when she saw the stupid bickering all around. Hoping each of her 10 kids and their spouses and 4-5 grandkids (on average) would resolve it on their own. Oh grandma, you should have spoken. You had so much to say!

To grandma,
Who was so rebellious in spirit that you’d have done wonders if you had been born at a different time. I sit and write this while unconsciously shaking hands with passersby who are here to pay their respect. And I wonder if any of us really knew you.

To grandma,
Who reminds me so much of myself. With her anxieties, her worries, her endless desire to be present. To be seen. And yet she lived her whole life on the sidelines. Someone’s mother. Someone’s wife. Someone’s grandmother. Never her.

Even in death, one can’t be the center of attention.

So this one’s for you grandma. Wish I could say this out loud. For now, this blog will have to do.

p.s. To answer the question you would definitely have asked: yes, we’ve eaten. We’ve had coffee. We’ve had a banana. No. We’re not going to starve.

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On My Mental Health

I have always kept my hair straight, though it’s naturally curly.
I don’t know how to sketch, but I’ve perfected the art of drawing lines.
I’m an onion with layers, but someone told me the best part lies at the center.
I’m a control freak, but it seems to help people around me (or so I like to believe).

These are some of the statements that comprise my “self”, but they’re not me. They’re just extremely important parts of me.

As licensee of TEDxLAU, I’m usually working on a number of tasks, but my favorite is always the curation of ideas. A “curator” in TED lingo could be a fancy word for the person who decides on the talks, speakers, and overall theme of the event. And this time, I knew it. We had to talk about mental health.

They say one in four people suffer from mental distress, and I could easily identify the people around me who were the most vulnerable. But undoubtedly this led to a lot of self-analysis (just ask the rest of the organizers!): though some people are obviously in need of support, others are so much better at hiding it and putting on a “brave face” – a mask.

Why do we mask our feelings? why do we draw these lines? why do we find it so hard to let go and open up? to show that supposedly sweet core?

I, for one, am scared to death of that possibility. I’ve lived my whole life in a state of transition – with very little stability save for my mum’s presence by my side (Yep, I have daddy issues, but who doesn’t?!).

Is my onion layering causing me distress? I guess a therapist might tell me I do have plenty of bugs to work out. But since I’m a control freak, I’ll be my own therapist for now. My layering helps me cope. My layering helps me remain strong enough to support everyone around me when they need it. But my layering doesn’t allow me to live the moment to its fullest potential.

Though I would like nothing more…

I cannot seize the day for I may not know what tomorrow may bring.
I can only analyze the day in anticipation of what may occur tomorrow.

Does my story have a happy ending?
Well.. I’m a fully functioning member of my community, and despite my many hurdles, I’m blessed in so many ways! And this self-assessment due to our upcoming event has allowed me to realize that I seem to surround myself with people who wear their hearts on their sleeves – watermelons who open up and show you their core, and there’s no mistaking who they are after that – and it is these lovely souls that allow me to soar high from time to time… only to quickly get back down to earth (for you never know what might happen!).

Yours sincerely (very sincerely),
a realistic dreamer – AKA the onion.

photoshoot1Photo taken during a TEDxLAU photo-shoot promoting the mental health salon by the lovely and talented Zayna B. Ayyad.

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