Stories from Afar & Up Close

Filtering by Category: Beirut

In the analog era there was no CTRL+Z, either

I was waiting in line at the photo-shop on the corner for the girl in front of me to pick up the prints of a roll of film she had brought in earlier. She was probably around twenty years old. The man in the store fished out her order from the stack and opened the envelope. Instead of a pile of prints, however, what came out was an unrolled roll of film – entirely overexposed. Not a single image captured on it.

See, he explained, there was too much light when you took the pictures, and you kept the lens open for too long, so they are overexposed. We weren’t able to print any of them.

The girl didn’t understand. What do you mean? she said, your machines can’t find what’s on the film?

No, he explained patiently, there is nothing ON the film. It’s overexposed. It didn’t capture anything. He held it up against the light for her to see – a completely yellow strip, with a dark spot of something or another on each end.

So… so… the girl asked, is there anyone I can go to who has the machines to retrieve the pictures from a film like this?

The man in the store just couldn’t explain. I think he advised her to use a digital camera again, next time.

Déjà vu

It’s been four summers in Lebanon, this year, and I’m seeing the patterns, the rituals, the routine. I’ve seen the Lebanese expatriates come, party, and go. I’ve seen the international students at AUB getting lost in Hamra in June and looking like they own the place in August. I’ve seen the enormous Saudi cars fill up the streets, and I’m seeing the streets emptying again.

I’m feeling the familiar end-of-August heat – oppressive, with no wind. Without looking at the calendar I know the end of the summer has arrived, when life in Beirut returns to its pre-tourist state. No more emails from strangers saying ‘I’m coming to Lebanon, what should I see?!?’, no more going out every night because inevitably somebody has just arrived or somebody else is leaving, or everybody who’s here on vacation just wants to have a good time.

It’s Ramadan already. Instead of being taken by surprise, I’ve been looking forward to seeing the stages built on sidewalks with strange installations of Dar al Aytam. I’m happy to see the little kiosks around Hamra specifically for Ramadan donations, and the decorative lights in Verdun and on the Corniche. It’s nice to see life going through its cycles. It’s nice if life feels familiar.