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I love writing about first impressions of a city. It’s spontaneous and blunt, a random thought that is swirling in your head, it might not be accurate but it’s somehow more real than actual facts. It’s like snapping a photo. You’re there and you see something, a light, a shape, an atmosphere and you try to catch it before it goes away.
Abuja has a special atmosphere. It’s a capital, but has nothing of it. Well it does have embassies, a parliament, it is house to a president and to a few 4 million inhabitants, but that’s more or less it. There isn’t much to see unless you’re into malls and hotels. You can’t really walk around the city since it’s all highways, and if not, the streets have no pavement and the houses are inside compounds that have high walls so walking wouldn’t be interesting anyway. And it’s crazily expensive. Much more than major european cities. The corruption is one of the worst it the world. The people are nice, but hey, I’m white. I feel I’m a foreigner, that I’m not very welcome, especially as a Lebanese citizen. Lebanese people are known to be racists and which is totally true. I wish there was a special paint that could make me go black ((and never go back)–(I couldn’t resist to the temptation of doing that joke…hahaha)). But even with all this, I love it. I wouldn’t say I would live here, I would never, nor do I say that I would like to come back again, I probably won’t; but I’m happy I’m getting to know something so different than anything I have ever seen. I don’t judge cities by the number of museums it holds (this one has none), or by the quality of its clubs or the brands of cars they import. How can a city still stand against globalization? I’m not saying it has completely, but somehow it’s still very African. I went to shower after swimming in the pool today, and all the white women were dressing up under their towels while African women were all naked with no taboos whatsoever. That’s in my opinion much more “civilized” (argh how much I hate that term) than the foolish middle aged grumpy women who respond to their governments requirement of civility and morals.
But that’s not what makes this city a city. You start from zero here. Everything is so new. 20 years ago it was still a village in a deserted land. What is striking the most is being there in time, seeing things building up. Seeing it grow bigger and wider, and knowing that if you come back in a few years, it would probably be completely different. It kind of reminded me of the game Sim City. Oh we have an empty space here, let’s put up a lake.
Well that’s my impression after 2 days. And no photos for now as the internet connection is probably the slowest on the planet (finally I found a country that has slower internet than the former Lebanese connection haha).
Until I write again,
I traveled to New York City 3 years ago, and at the time I had decided to study photography so I took a film camera with me. When I got back to Beirut, I went to the university on the first day and I was telling my teacher about the trip and about the photos that I took there. He told me that I shouldn’t even try to develop the photos because the scanning xray in airports completely damages the film. I was very disappointed and I blamed myself for not having known that crucial piece of information before I went there and acted all artsy with my black and white film.
3 years and 3 months exactly have passed since then. Every once in a while I open that drawer where I keep the unprocessed films and I remember my teacher’s words.
Then, a few days ago, I was talking to one of my friends (thank you Amandine, by the way), and she was telling me that xrays are not a fatality, that the film could still be in good condition. Although I had very little hope, I went to the photo store to process my films as I really wanted to clear the matter up.
A few days later I came back to take my developed prints and it was the happiest day of my week:
Today is a Sunday. Probably the most inspiring day of the week. This post is the first post I write in this blog without having a clue what to write about, and I kinda like that.
Sometimes I think I should write really personal things in here, but then I think again and I decide to stay low profile, after all just by reading the few lines here, you can already get a trait of my personality. I don’t want to be over-exposed, chaque chose en son temps.
Steve Jobs died 2 days ago. Yey. Makes the world a bit less capitalist I guess. Or not. But all I want to say is that success and all the shit that comes with it, is waaaaaaaaaaaay overrated. I hate the world we live in. Argh sometimes I wish I was president.
Ok, I’m not in a good mood today. I’m rather in a bad mood even. In fact, one of the worst I’ve been in a long fucking time.
Cheers to Barbar, cleaning the cats of the streets and putting them in our sandwiches. I was out last night, after some drinking and a terrible headache, we decided with the guys to go eat a sandwich at 5 a.m. Probably the worst idea ever. 8 hours have passed since then, and I can still feel you, little chicken inside my angry stomach. You too Mr. mayo.
On another note, two great discoveries, and probably the best films I’ve watched recently:
I don’t understand contemporary modern art, and I’m sure I’m no exception.
Generally museums are located in the best parts of town and offer the best views you can find, so I prefer to look throughout the windows, most of the times the sight is much more interesting than whatever is hanging on the walls. I love to go to Centre Georges Pompidou and look at Paris from high up as much as I love visiting Karlsruhe’s Schloss and lookout to the magnificent gardens from the narrow windows.
Don’t get me wrong, I love art (if that alone means anything), but sometimes I’m annoyed by how much trash artists/museums dare to show us down-low human beings. As if someone could shit on a painting (literally) and impress me. I’m not an artist, or at least don’t consider myself to be one (cause the use of the word itself repulses me) but I know when I’m being fooled and brainwashed, thank you.
But besides all this hate, while visiting the Orangerie in Karlsruhe, I stumbled and immediately fell in love with an artist called Guillaume Bresson. His work reminds me of a modern Delacroix.
Something mysterious always happens in Paris.
Every time I come here, the same sentence comes back in my little head: “fuck this city, I’m not coming back again anymore for at least 10 years”. Yeah right.
So I was walking in the streets of Paris, beautiful Paris; the weather was okay, but there was something I couldn’t quite grasp. A strange indistinguishable feeling came over me. Why wasn’t I enjoying the oh so loved city of Paris?
Then later at night, I went with some friends to a seafood restaurant in Monmartre; and I was talking to this girl and she asked me why I didn’t like Paris. Suddenly, it clicked. I had the perfect answer. The sentence flashed in my head, as if I was waiting for it all my life, and I said: “Paris has a negative energy.”
It might sound stupid and cliché now, but it felt so right at the moment, and not only did I say it, I also felt it from the bottom of my lungs, if that’s even an expression.
Yep, Paris has definitely a negative energy. It’s something I feel and can’t really describe.
Fuck this city, I’m not coming back again anymore for at least 10 years.
Today I went to the zoo.
I’m always confused when it comes to zoos. A feeling of culpability takes over me. I know we probably all have the same questions whirling around in our stupid heads. I hate caged animals. But I love animals. Where else would I see them if not in a cage inside a zoo. Some will tell you that zoos keep certain species from disappearing. Others would tell you they are happier because they always get food on time and they are taken care of. No need to struggle. But what about pollution? What about equality? What about freedom?
I was looking at the sea lions, and one of them was looking back at me. Fixing me. And then I thought maybe she thinks I’m in a cage. How the hell would she know she’s in a cage if she’s never been out of it? So I kinda used a reverse psychology to make me feel better. And I did feel better for a while. Until I saw Simon.
Simon is probably the closest I have ever been to a chimp. Although a glass wall separated us, he was sleeping with his head stuck to the glass and I tried to put my hand on the wall, seeing if he would do the same. But he looked at me with sad half closed eyes and all I could think of at that time was if the glass would break if I punched real hard into it to save my fellow friend or if I did so would he run away to the inside corner of the cage instead of fleeing.
I stayed there for about half an hour. Although the zoo did quite an effort in doing a cage that is relatively quite big, it’s still so hard to see my brother confined inside a cage, dreaming of the lands of Africa. I left just when I felt the tears starting to form in my eyes.
Will I ever grow up?
(Read the post while playing the video. Don’t concentrate on the content on the video; it’s only an emotion I wanted to share.)
I hate banks.
I arrived at Frankfurt airport with no cash no phone and the machine wouldn’t let me withdraw money. My credit card was not working I have no idea why. I started panicking and my throat was tight. I wasn’t producing saliva anymore. I was seeing myself sleeping on the airport floor until someone would be kind enough to lend me money so I could get to my destination, as if that could happen. I even thought of changing my return ticket to Beirut but that would’ve involved money as well. Buying a phone card was also not an option with the 5$ left in my pocket. Then after some time trying different ATMs while wheeling my suitcase up and down the airport, it finally worked. I booked my train ticket to Karlsruhe and here I am now.
Music by Four Tet – Slow Jam