I love America

I will always love it because I earned education there. Concrete knowledge. The equation is very simple.

Since I was a kid, I have always had huge respect for my teachers. And for teachers in general. Maybe it was my grandmother’s guidance that we should always listen to them. Maybe it was my fascination with knowledge and my curiosity and thirst for receiving more and more of these magic stories they used to tell. About the universe, about history, about geography, about the human body and the animals and the flowers and the volcanoes and everything. I am still in love with teachers who give me something. Maybe it is simply my Itani genes. Who knows! But this is why I love America most. Because I was taught there what I waited ten years to study and for that I will always feel indebted to the US.

I remember the first time I flew from Doha to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. I was on the one hand super excited about the trip and on the other hand super doubtful about what the hell am I doing taking a cross atlantic flight on my own to the unknown.

I was excited because this was finally it. This was my dream coming true. Did I not want to do this since August of the year 2000? YES! Here I was on the plane, financed by my own money, the money I worked hard (for real) to earn, to study film. I was ecstatic. Screw all the Lebanese & Arab money that is dedicated to teach yet more engineers and more doctors and more lawyers. Screw them all. It felt like a crazy thing, to spend your money studying cinema, and doing crazy things is great. Nothing feels better. Maybe. Except when you think of the other hand of the equation.

One colleague of mine at Aljazeera had been always telling me that America hates muslims. This regardless of the fact that he’s never visited the states –because it hates muslims. And although I always told him that the American people have no problem with us, I still had never met the American people to see for myself. I was going to be my own test. And, then, for the first time during all these years, I ask myself for the first time, in mid flight: Do I really want to do this? Am I sure? What if I discover I don’t like screenwriting? What if I turn out to be a horrible writer? What if I don’t understand their spoken English very well because they speak too fast? What if? What if? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Shut up.

I always wonder if my love for a foreign country is just like foreigners love Lebanon. A poetic love of the superficiality of what America stands for and what Lebanon stands for. Because many of my American friends wonder what is it that I love about their country. And I always wonder what do foreigners love about our miraculous country.

However, I owe the people of Virginia in general, and Roanoke in specific, a lot. They welcomed me like no other. In fact, I still remember the first time for me entering the United States, the immigration officer looked at the passport cover and said, “Lebanon! How are things there now?” And I could tell he was sincerely asking not just chitchatting. And I told him things were alright. Because that is what things always are in Lebanon. Alright. Maybe this officer was the one who made me love his country. Because a young muslim woman who’s never set foot before in a certain country will expect anything from a pat down to an interrogation, but not a “How are things in Lebanon now?” friendly check. Today when I read a humiliating incident that happened at the Beirut International Airport, I realize that individual people like us, can change the world for the better and for the worse.

I owe all the Hollins community a lot of warmth and love. Klaus, Cathy, Euboea, Cynthia, John & all the other people (too many to list) who are now my best friends & teachers on the planet made it feel like home within few hours time -namely in the welcome reception. Hollins & Screenwriting have been changing my life for the better since we’ve known each other, and I hope that through this knowledge I’ll also be able to make other people’s lives better as well inshallah.

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Yesterday I rose up for the Lebanese National…

Yesterday I rose up for the Lebanese National Anthem.
It was the first time I had done it for years. I don’t remember for sure, but one thing that I am certain of is that for more than five years while I lived outside the country, the only National Anthem I had to rise for -ironically- was the National Anthem of the United States of America.
The emotions were conflicting yesterday for the Lebanese episode just as they were conflicting during the American one. Sure thing is, both countries have given me one thing I value so much: great university education and times, and great friends.
For that, I would rise for their national anthems forever.

Just watched Little Miss Sunshine with my beloved…

Just watched Little Miss Sunshine with my beloved students. It made me realize how much I miss the freeways of America. With the trucks, the crazy drivers, the Harley Davidsons, everything.
Then I walked down the slums of Hamra.
Passed by Cafe Younes and said hello.
You always bump into acquaintances at Younes.
If you don’t, then you’re not in the art scene in Beirut.
I went to Chico and got my weekly dose of DVDs.
I passed by tourists at Socrates, smiled to a woman trying to attract customers, and almost bumped into a man selling vegetables.
These slums have their joy. When I walk, I see myself from above, a happy carefree soul.
But I still miss the freeways of America 🙂