Positive Psychology

In the Hollywood classic White Christmas, Bing Crosby's character sings a song to Rosemary Clooney about how he deals with anxiety-driven insomnia. It's actually a highly forgettable song, just filler like many others in that movie.

But, since I've brought it up I'll go ahead and tell you that Bing Crosby's character overcame his worries by counting his blessings. If he's running short of cash, he remembers times when he was broke and then things seem better. It's a simple exercise in positive psychology, choosing to notice the good in life and allowing that to encourage happy thoughts and well-being.

It works, at least that's what the social scientist say. And I'm inclined to agree with them.

It's what I'm doing with this picture.


Keeping Up Appearances

The other day I noticed this little remnant of a facade with not much behind it. It's fun to see it from this angle, because you can tell. Head on, you might not know.

There a lot of things in life that are like that, different behind the facade. Some things are better once you get past the surface, others aren't. And some things are just different, not better, not worse, just unexpectedly different.


In Transition

Tomorrow is winter solstice, the shortest day. Thereafter the days will grow longer, the sun will rise higher. Spring will come.

Seasons are in constant flux, transition.

Behind the little wall, a grape vine is declining into a brief dormancy. And behind it, an orange tree bears fruit.

Nothing stays the same.


'Tis the Season

Last week, little winter wonderlands sprang up around town. Pictured below is the one in Celemenceau's Gefinor center, a smaller version of another one at Zaitunay Bay. When I first heard of these markets I was immediately hopeful. We used to live in Germany, and the Christmas markets there are almost magical. I'd love to have that here in Beirut.  But my hopefulness eroded slowly as well-intentioned yet skeptical friends warned me that it wouldn't be like Germany.

A few days ago I went to the market at Zaitunay. The kids had a nice time, but I felt a little empty inside. Santa was there, but the Christmas spirit (whatever that is) wasn't. I left feeling sad.

But wait, that is not where the story ends!

I happened to pass by the market at Gefinor yesterday evening. I didn't expect to like it, after all it looked almost identical to the market at Zaitunay.

But I couldn't help liking it. Not because of the imported wooden chalets and not because of the dressed-up bell-ringing Santa. Not because of all the delicious things on sale or the festive music playing in the background.

I liked it because I saw families and friends, happy to be together, enjoying the season and a pleasant time together. That was it, the christmas spirit I'd been looking for.

If you're in Beirut, you should go. Go with friends.  Friday's your last chance.


Looking Down

Hello again.

Mostly in Beirut, I take pictures on the street looking up. Not this time. This time, I was up in a flat, and then we went to the roof of one of the tallest buildings in my part of town. Those pictures are coming soon.

It was wonderful, looking down on things I'd seen from below over and over again.


Sunny Picture, Rainy Day

It's cold and rainy out. Not a very nice day to go looking for a picture. Instead, here's one from yesterday, a day that was clear and sunny.

Maybe when the sun comes out again I'll post a picture of the rain.


Pink Face

Pink is such a nice color. It makes a cheery backdrop for age, wear, dirt, and deterioration.

It was mid-day when I took this photo and there was way too much light to capture the gradations of color across the face of this building--the very thing that drew me to it.

So I came home and edited the photo to within an inch of its life to bring out the facade as I remember it. And I feel a little guilty about that. I prefer to leave photos alone as much as possible.


No Place

Oh, Beirut.

There's no place quite like it.


Kitchy, Wonderful, Awkward, and Foreign

Being stuck in traffic is pretty normal in Beirut, especially if you have to commute to school or work. Turns out most everyone else in the city had to get somewhere too.

So, recent bad traffic had me stopped next to this little statuette, camera at the ready. It's Mary, gazing out over the highway. I feel quite conflicted about roadside shrines. For me they're at once kitchy, wonderful, awkward, and foreign. It's complicated.

I'm fond of this one, though I'm sure a big part of that feeling comes from the candy striped awning below.

For most people, there's neither school nor work tomorrow. It's Ashoura, wikipedia can teach you about it if you're curious.


It Helps

We have had very irregular and lengthy blackouts lately that have proven to be quite disruptive.

I hope things will be getting back to normal soon. Meanwhile, oranges are ripening on the trees. This is the season when you can get clementines of other-worldly deliciousness in every market and on nearly every corner.

It's one of the things that makes December in Lebanon perfect.


Corbels in Brown

In case you though I was done with this, here's your proof that I'm not.

Corbels in Brown. To see corbels in almost every other color, click here.


My Kind of Action

Usually when it's the first of the month I participate in City Daily Photo's them day.

Not this first of the month, though. Why? Because the theme is action shots, and everyone is being very literal about it. I mean, this is an action shot too. But what we've got are the slow, patient actions of peeling, rusting, deteriorating, and most of all, the act of surviving.

That's my kind of action.


Beirut: World Capital for Corruption

A few times in the past, I've posted pictures of what I believed was Lebanon's quintessential basket. See those photos here and here.

And so, it is with some difficulty that I'm suppressing an inward grin at a recent series of posters that feature this basket. I love being not wrong, and the use of the basket in this context makes me feel that way.

The posters first caught my eye while I ran the 10K on Sunday. There they were, again and again. And here they are now in a photo I took recently:

The little bit of English text says Beirut World Capital for Corruption. I looked for them on facebook, as directed by the text on the poster. I wouldn't have found the page without google though, so here it is.

Lebanon is a pretty corrupt place, worse than most but not as bad as some. At least that's how it looks when you compare countries world-wide, as they do at Transparency International. I got this handy map from their website where you can check out results for 178 countries.

While nosing around online I also pulled up a few other sites for other anti-corruption initiatives in Lebanon. The Lebanese Transparency Association seems to be doing a lot in this area, and of course, I hope it works.


A Corbeled Arch

Over the past few weeks I've posted many photos of corbels in and around Beirut. And today, we have a corbeled arch. The way it works is that corbels on either side meet in the middle, bridging the space between.

I found this example in West Beirut on Bliss Street.


Beirut Marathon!

About a week ago signs like this one appeared all over town. Today is the marathon, and many of the main streets through town are closed for the races. In addition to the marathon, there are 10, 5 and 1K races too. This is the first time I've participated in this event. I signed up for the 10K with family and friends.

Last year my husband ran with a group from work, but this year we're running with a Lebanese NGO, Live Lebanon. Some friends are working closely with Live Lebanon and we're supportive.

Here are some photos that I took at the race:

The friends I ran with, see the Live Lebanon T-shirts?  Oh, and I didn't take this picture because I'm in it . . . I'll edit more carefully next time.

I got this photo on my way home. Runners, just past the 9K mark

The crowd outside the finish line area.

The crowd inside the finish line area. These folks are watching for marathoners.

All in all, a very fun experience. Glad I did it.



I took this photo recently after dropping in at the school in the middle of the day--the light was lovely and the leaves looked like fall.

Though this may look like fall, temperatures around here finally feel like winter, which is to say, it's a little chilly when the sun isn't shining.

Beirut's climate has absolutely spoiled me. If we ever return to a place with life-threateningly cold winters I'm likely to pout, whine, and cry like any baby.



Too many times I've sighed over this gorgeous palace. It's built into a steep hill, and once upon a long time ago, I'm sure it had a panoramic view of the sea

The city has grown up arround it, as cities are wont to do. That's changed things. But one thing that hasn't changed is the gate keeping the outside world out

It keeps me out just as it does everyone else.

Which is why I can only show you a little bit of this wonderful place.


Cilicia Museum of Armenian Culture and Spiritual Heritage, Antelias

I love going to museums in and around Beirut, and then blogging about it.  This is another post like that. 

The Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia (or the Holy See of Cilicia) is headquartered in Antelias, a suburb just north of Beirut. It is the regional authority for the Armenian Church in Lebanon, Syria, and Cyprus. I learned that from wikipedia.

The headquarters is situated on the south-eastern side of the junction between the Dora and Antelias highways, and includes a cathedral, a library, a residence and a museum. A large wall surrounds the headquarters complex. This wall and the Holy See's location directy at the junction of major roads makes it very easy to find.

The museum interested us more than anything else. I'd seen online that they had an impressive collection of religious artifacts, paintings, carpets, and so on. It looked like something the kids would enjoy, so not long ago we took the children for a visit.

These are the postcards that the museum attendant gave me. The three with red backgrounds are reliquaries and other religious objects typical of the museum's collection. There was a room filled with objects like these and we tried to help the kids understand the role they play in the Armenian faith.

The postcard at the top left shows a page from an illuminated manuscript.  A large room in the museum is devoted to these texts and the opulent covers that typically went along with them. Their collection is enviable and our kids liked searching the drawings and book covers for interesting people, animals, and things. 

The postcard at the bottom right shows the exterior of the building that houses the museum.  In real life, the building's surroundings aren't  anything like the postcard--which looks like a photo of an architect's model . . . and maybe that's what it is.  In real life it's surrounded by other buildings and the wall, so maybe this is as good as it gets.

Visiting the museum is free of charge, and I love that! They're open Tuesday to Saturday 10-5 (last entry 4 pm) and Sunday 10-1(last entry 12 noon). Check out the museum's web site for a little history lesson and a preview of the collection.

And, a map in case it helps.

The pale yellow square is the headquarters, and there is an entrance on the Antelias road. Entering through this gate, the museum is ahead to the left, past the cathedral, facing you.


Google is Thinking of You

For better or worse, I almost always start my day with my PC, the world wide web and Google.

Today is Independence Day, and look what google had waiting for us (in Lebanon):

This is the second time Google has done this - put up special versions of their name - to commemorate Independence day. They're doing it all the time for special days in various parts of the world. You can see them all here. The archive extends back to 1998.

Here's last year's logo for Independence day.
Which one do you like better?


Peeling White and Rusted

The holidays are here. Yes, they are. Tuesday is Lebanon's Independence day, Thursday is American Thanksgiving, the 26th is Islamic New Year, December 5th is Ashoura, and then, of course the Christmases. . . .

I love holidays, school vacations, celebrations, parties here and dinners there. It's a lot to look forward to.

And it makes me appreciate a picture of something calm and manageable all the more.


At the Gate

Waiting at the gate are plants in boxes and pots. The lock may have rusted through.

We could be waiting a long, long time.


Me and the Weather

It's still raining. At times a lot and then a little, but raining all the same. At this time of year rain can be relentless. And what with all the rain stopping and starting, there have been rainbows. Oh yes, every day, sometimes more than once.

I head into the rain only when forced by necessity, prefering like most people to stay warm and dry. Just now I'm home and warm and delighted to have a good roof and windows between me and the weather.


Rain, Rain

It's rainy, rainy, rainy lately. But before the rain started, I was out with my camera, looking for the usual suspects.

And you know, if you're looking for something that's what you'll probably find.


Can't Decide

Looking at this entryway, I feel conflicted. I'm not quite sure what it's telling me. Perhaps it's that it has seen better days.

Or, maybe it's saying that the best yet to come.

It could be both, though it takes a little effort to marry those ideas.


After All

Sometimes, you stop to take a picture for no reason other than to see if you can get it right. What the eye sees and loves isn't always what the camera can capture, after all. And so it was, not long ago, that I stopped before this window and tried a couple of times to get this one right. It was worth it, those lovely little balustrade curls peeking out of the arched window are socks-knocked-off charming.

It's just another gorgeous day in Beirut.


A Lot Going On

This is a photo that I unabashedly love and for so many reasons. It's full to bursting with lines pulled in every possible direction. We've got wires ascending and wires descending, they're hanging and swaying, snaking up the wall, falling back on themselves, draping, cascading, bunching here, stretching there. And then there's the radiant mid-day sun casting hard-edged shadows everywhere.

And then there's how typical all of this is here in Beirut. The street light, the yellow electric pole, the generally French architecture of nearly every building from this era. It's a lovely, lovely thing.


Keeping it Simple on Sunday

It's Sunday, and today we're keeping it simple. Tomorrow we aren't. It'll be my birthday and I'm having a party.

I share my birthday with an eclectic range of people: Condoleezza Rice, Prince Charles, King Hussein of Jordan, Veronica Lake, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Aaron Copland, and Claude Monet.


Not Yet

Phases come and go, infatuation starts and stops, chapters begin and end.

Those little phrases are so tidy, opposites divided yet linked by that amazing word "and". It's the space between the starting and stopping, coming and going, beginning and ending that really gets interesting. How does it happen? How does it go, stop or end?

It'll happen to me and my interest in broken down windows and wall. But it hasn't happened yet.



Three corbels holding nothing, jutting out as if attempting a triple fist-bump.

I love that association.

I'm also drawn to the lone, bare light bulb hanging from the nearest arch, ephemeral in the presence of all that stone and iron.


I Wouldn't Have

Ordinarily, I wouldn't have taken this picture. The deteriorating wall and shutters peeling red weren't enough. In the end, it was the white paint dripping the wrong direction that won me over.


Zoom In, Zoom Out

Zoom in. Focus on one small piece

of a bigger picture. Zoom out

to see where it belongs.


Eid Balloons

While I was out last night I noticed some shiny balloons strung up across Ibn Sina. I didn’t have my camera with me, so I made a mental note to come back with it later. First thing this morning, we awoke to the sounds of the Eid Adha sermon going on at the nearest mosque to our place.

It reminded me of the balloons.

I got dressed and went out take some pictures. I was there shortly after 7 AM, just as things were wrapping up at the mosque and people began returning to their cars. For occasions like this, cars are allowed to park on the pedestrian sections of the Corniche, crowding out the regular joggers and walkers.

The balloon letters spell out ‘EID MOBARAK’—or happy holidays. It's Eid Adha, after all. Creative use of the upside down U to be the second A.

The kids are out of school until Thursday and we so far, we're having a lovely holiday.


In the Sun

It's nice to have a little space, a ledge, where you can put a row of growing things. It's nice to have a little variety, some of this and a little of that. And it's great when one of those green, growing things catches sunlight in a transformative way . . .

. . . and then bounces it all around.


Better With Age

This is one of my favorite balustrades so far. It has lines like Art Nouveau.

I wonder if it hails from the same time period. 

It's my 12th wedding anniversary today. Cheers, everyone!



Lately, I'm drawn to monochromes like a child to sweets. I have a tendency to overindulge. 

Yesterday, while the rain was still at bay, I wandered around Beirut looking for a satisfactorally washed out something-or-other. Anything would do; a window, a door, a balcony. I was looking for a color fading just so. I found one. I found many. Beirut is generous like that.

This wall has been patched--the dark grey is tell-tale. It could be that once upon a year the stucco flaked off, or it could have been worse. It could have been a structural problem that required deeper, more invasive, more substantial correction.


Tiles Once Again

Tucked in with the old ottoman mansions and the shiny new shopping malls, run down flats from the 1940s and 50s and brand new luxury high-rises you'll also find one a tiled mosaic or two. It has been far too long since the last time I posted a photo of tiles like these.

This one almost  feels like a cartoon, like theater scenery or an illustration in a children's book.  It makes the whole street feel different, dynamic and optimistic in a cup-half-full kind of way.


Corbels in Tripoli

It's been a while since the last time we visited Tripoli. We didn't have a map and not much of an agenda, other than to find the Souk. So, for a little while we wandered through town, just looking around.

We passed this little street. It was so ornate that I had to stop for a few photos.


One Eye

In Clemenceau, there's a downhill stretch of road that I see more often from a car than on foot. The raod skirts past this building with a sharp zig zag, first to the right then the left. It's a street that forces you to slow down, proceed with caution, carefully inch your way past parked cars, construction rubble, pedestrians, cats.

And while I do all that, I have one eye on the corbels, the balustrade with its line-up of curls, the flowering whatever-it-is brightening up the balcony, and the tangle of wires going about their business.


I Run Beirut, Nike 5K

On Sunday at 7 AM, I arrived here, to participate in Nike's 5K funrun with my with my husband and kids. There were several hundred people there, and I was a little surprised to see how many people turned out so early in the day. 

The event was good--well organized and fun. Plus, I got a cool shirt. The lady in the foreground to the left is wearing one just like it.

This is the first 5K our kids have ever done, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Nike plans to make this event an anual thing, so here's to next year!


Reinforced Corbels

Sometimes, a few corbels just aren't enough.  The triangular reinforcing beams aren't pretty, but I'll overlook that small failure since they allow the pretty balcony to go right on existing.

This balcony has a really great balustrade.  I'm of that opinion because a child absolutely could not accidentally squeeze through. 


Sanayeh, Detail

Today, a detail shot of the lamp posts in Sanayeh park. I like the art deco flavor of the floral pattern.

Quite a while ago I posted a picture showing these lights (allbeit not very well) from a distance.