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Friday, December 26, 2014

Ho, Ho... Huh?

'Tis the season to be jolly, at least that's what the song says. I actually really like how everyone is so into the Christmas spirit here. I know that a lot of people get stressed over Christmas shopping, but I'm not one of them. I am an expert shopper. This year was a world record, even for me. Black Friday, laptop... BOOM! All shopping done in two hours.

You can't really online shop in Beirut. There were about two destinations where I could do my Christmas shopping: ABC Mall and downtown. I do miss the tacky decorations along Hamra Street, though, and the smell of roasted chestnuts on every corner intermingled with shawarma roasting and manakeesh baking. I don't know if they still do this, but they used to play Christmas carols through loud speakers all down the main road as people shopped or sat in cafes. It was a nice counter-balance to the constant 'toot' of car horns and people yelling out of car windows because of traffic.

Over here, we get the Tacky Christmas Light tours instead. I have to admit, they are a lot of fun. The lengths people go to to make their homes look like the North Pole threw up all over the place just to blind your retinas is really quite extraordinary. As for music, there's even an incredibly annoying festive radio station solely dedicated to playing carols (no, it does not make me roll my eyes; no, I did not just roll my eyes thinking about it). And of course, every mall in the country plays Christmas music while you shop. (Side Note: Mariah Carey must get tons of residual checks this time of year. All I want for Christmas? Stop hearing that song!!)

Because I am so thoughtful and considerate, I pick out my own gifts and send the wish lists out so others don't have to stress about what to give me. These gifts rarely work out for me though. Although I am a great in-real-life-shopper, my online shopping persona is not so effective. I look at things online and think, Ooh, this would look so cute on me. Click, item put on wish list. I put so many things on my wish list that I often forget what I picked. So, come Christmas morning, when I open up the present and see what's inside, I'm almost always like, 'Oh... this is um nice.'

This year, for example, I got red pants. I opened up the box and inside there were red pants. They made me think of Mr. B and his red pants, for which I constantly made (make, he still wears them) fun of him. I think I must've been drunk when I was picking them out because, WTF, Anissa? Red bloody pants! Never Sits Still was like, 'But you picked them'! I did a quick recover and immediately professed my love for them while trying to remember what the hell other questionable pieces of clothing I sent out as part of my disastrous wish list.

I soon found out. A pair of still-can't-determine-what-color-but-could-be-some-kind-of-beigy-grey pants with giant pockets down the middle of the thigh with huge shiny buttons. Because, you know, my thighs don't look large enough as they are, so let's add more material and bling to accentuate them even more. Tres chic. Surprise, surprise, don't remember those either, but apparently, 'They were on your wish list,' said another gift giver, who shall remain anonymous because she is awesome, and I did pick the hideous thigh enlargers, so it's totally not her fault.

Ok, so the moral of the story is Christmas is not about the gifts (yeah right, but had to put that in there to stave off hate mail or any chastising about the true meaning of the Christmas spirit, etc), and also don't do your own shopping online.

In fact, if you're in Beirut, head over to Spinneys (or any number of official resellers and pubs) and get yourself a few bottles of this instead! (Shameless plug for J2 Vodka, but it's my blog!) The best present you can give and the true 'spirit' of the holidays!

Merry Happy New Everything!

Follow me on Twitter @anissarafeh 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Amusement Park Fun a la Libanais!

I'm just going to pretend that it hasn't been six months since I last wrote a blog entry. I'm going to be one of those people that sweeps things under the rug in hopes that no one will notice. (A six month absence isn't really such a long time in the blogosphere, right?) Sweep, sweep.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of spending a weekend with Harry Potter. It was AWESOME! I hadn't been to an amusement park in decades, literally, because of my whole complete disinterest in roller coasters and such. But this was different. This was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To walk in Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley and take the Hogwarts Express was a dream come true! Yes, I am that much of a geek.

The long weekend trip could not have come at a better time. Benedict Cumberbatch got engaged (insert tragic crying emoticon here)... and I was definitely in need of a bright picker-upper. With Never Sits Still and her gang in tow, we headed to sunny Orlando for the vacation of a lifetime.

First thing was flying there. We found a great deal on some tickets, but at the airport, I discovered that this airline does not have assigned seating. It's a first come, first serve kind of thing, which made me kind of panic. My Lebanese blood started to churn as I imagined everyone fighting to get a seat. This was going to be a nightmare, I thought. Images of my life in Beirut and the enigma of the Lebanese people's inability to wait in line in a cordial manner consumed my thoughts.

But then I remembered, Hey I'm in the US now and Americans love to wait in line. Since I moved back here, I noticed that whenever there are two lines, there are always 800 people in one and only two in the other. Sure enough the ordeal was short lived and we all found seats with little fuss (and no bruises).

As soon as we arrived to our hotel, we dumped our bags and headed to Diagon Alley. WHOPPEE! I was literally jumping up and down in excitement, but with grown-ups dressed as cartoon characters on every corner, I didn't feel like too much of an idiot. But then on the second day, we decided to try some other non-Harry Potter attractions. As always, I styled my hair in the morning and wore a comfortable yet stylish outfit that I thought was suitable amusement park attire. Maybe in Beirut. Boy did I feel like an idiot after going on a water ride! I looked like a drowned rat.

While other people were screaming in fear, I was screaming because my hair got wet. I'm not kidding. Through all the 'Ahhs', you could hear me yell, 'My hair! My hair!' This one couple on the ride started laughing at me, and rightly so. They were like, "Um, why'd you dress like that?" I gave them death stares and said, "I'm Lebanese, ok? We only wear gym clothes to the gym!" Ok, you caught me. I didn't say anything, but laughed along with them. I really was a sight. I tried to imagine MadGlam in my predicament, with her gold and diamonds dripping all over the place. At least I'm not wearing jewelry, I thought.

I looked over at the couple that were mocking me (in good fun, but whatever) in their gym gear, hair in a hassle-free ponytail or a cap, and flip flops, and where 10 minutes before I was thinking, pick up a copy of InStyle, I was now thinking these people are amusement park fashion geniuses.

Before going on the ride of hair-disaster-hell, I saw people cramming into these giant hot air blowers and thought how moronic. It cost $5 and I was like, what a waste of money, suckerrrrsss! Guess where I headed as fast as my soaked, denim-clad legs could take me afterwards? You guessed it: the giant dryers. If my hair looked bad before, you can imagine how it looked after five minutes in those dryers. I sent a picture of myself to a What's App group of my peeps and one wrote back that I looked like Monica from the episode of Friends where her is so awful frizzy, she has to put it in dreadlocks. That was one of the nicer comments.

I looked around for a hat store or any place I could buy a hair band. I messaged the What's App group and informed them of my emergency hair rescue plan. Miss HotStuff responded immediately, "No no no, your hair will stick out at the sides and look worse." "No no no," I countered, "I look good in hats." Well, not to toot my own horn, but I do. Long story short, I found a hat. It cost $30 and was made of paper, but it did the job so I consider it a good investment.

The moral of the story is this: you can take the girl out of Lebanon, but not Lebanon out of the girl. And also, water + Anissa's hair = disaster that not even Harry Potter's wizarding can fix!

Follow me on Twitter @anissarafeh