Tag Archives: ashrafieh

Small Stories from Beirut: Bouchée Continues

Roger(57), Nada(50), Paul(30), and Mira(23) is an example of most of the Lebanese families – who was brought up with extreme hardwork and determination.

At a time, before huge franchise chains came to Lebanon, small local businesses made our generation get to where it is now. Most of us own family-businesses and have grandparents who basically worked in the same “self-made industry” that our parents inherited or somehow managed to continue. They raised us, put us in good schools, then in reputable universities. We are generally, a generation that is cultivated, educated, and programmed in a way to enroll in huge hierarchical institutions – mostly, we aren’t interested in our parents’ institutions and we aim for something bigger. Others of us believe in the success/unsuccessful stories of our parents’ businesses, and decide to walk the same path adding our self touch in whatever they started.

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Jack, George and Bernard are a third type of young men, who believe in the story of Bouchée, which isn’t any of their families’ business, but the investment of one of the boys neighbor. When Jack told me what the three of them have in mind, I got curious to know more about this family that previously owned Bouchée.
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Bouchée was previously a video-cassette store – that for obvious reasons wasn’t profitable anymore after the millennium. Roger and Nada decided to open Bouchée in 2000. Specifically, it was Nada and her friend’s idea to open the restaurant. All they asked Roger for was an oven and a fridge. They started out with selling pastries, before starting with their Plat de Jour plates. “I’d have customers wanting to buy a man2oushe, while I was cooking for my kids. Out of good manners, I’d give them some, and they’d love it! Due to my customers’ demand, we starting selling home-cooked-meals. It wasn’t the initial idea of the store, but I thought it was a good idea”, Nada says, “now, if someone asks me for a Man2oushe, I’d scold them saying WHO AM I COOKING FOR? I became like their mom.”

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The family lives in the floor right above the store. “Sometimes, there wouldn’t be any food at home,” says Mira, their daughter, “I’d go down to have a bite and I’d get lost in the midst of the chaos at the store. It was always so crowded and busy, I’d runaway back up – without having anything to eat – and wait for it to calm down.” When asked if she is happy that her parents are somehow retiring and there’s a new management for Bouchée, Mira answered, “my mom was always at the store, sometimes she’d stay till 4, 5 am – I’d barely see her an she’d barely sleep, seeing her sleeping standing up was something pretty normal. I think my parents deserve to rest, they raised us well, and they can just take it easy from now on”.

Paul, their older son, and Mira both majored in business. Paul studied Economics and is now working, and Mira majored in logistics and is now doing her Masters. “They both can do it on their own now”, says their father, “we do not have huge expenses anymore, and therefore we don’t have to work as hard as we used to before. Honestly,” he continues, “I was thinking of closing the place if these three fine boys didn’t approach me.”

One thing I admired about Roger is his honesty when he described inflation. “Everything was getting expensive; I had to either keep the same ingredients and profit less, or buy cheaper products and double my profit. Believe me, I tried to be cheap on the products, but I personally couldn’t digest the food. I couldn’t make people eat what I didn’t enjoy. Customer comes first, even if it were going to affect my business”.

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Roger knows nothing about food. Previously working with computer gadgets and production, food was not his specialty. However, he believed in his wife and supported her, and it was indeed a good step he took! At Bouchée, Nada does all the cooking, he usually answers the delivery calls and doesn’t interfere with the food. He knows every corner in Beirut, and especially in Great Ashrafieh. He describes the location to Ayman, the delivery boy – who’s remaining at the shop with the new management.
Ayman said that he loved working with Roger and Nada and so far, the boys (Jack, George, and Bernard) seem quite cool. He doesn’t mind the new management; he supports it.

Jack, George, and Bernard were inspired by the family and their hard work. They were looking for a venue/ restaurant to invest in and I guess they found the best energy out there. Having such honest previous owners, with a good heart, definitely encouraged them to start their own business.

I guess with the whole unemployment rates, investing in already made establishments is not a bad idea at all. Instead of closing old shops, and working from 9 to 7, we can use our education to keep those brands going. It’s nice to work in big institutions, but it’s also nice to invest in what is already there and who-knows maybe shift small shops to worldwide Lebanese-originated-franchises. Even if it weren’t our family business, we can look around for other shops out there. It definitely takes a lot of guts but it is worth a shot!
Best of Luck guys, you set an example for the rest of us!

I DIED TODAY: A Message from A Lebanese Martyr

I DIED TODAY: A Message From A Lebanese Martyr

I died today, but I didn’t think I was in danger.
I passed by the church around the corner, went to the grocery store under my building, and I was going back up when I heard a huge explosion. I didn’t get what was going on, everything went grey, and I couldn’t feel my legs. The weight I was carrying completely disappeared, and I felt myself in a white space.
Then came my dear husband carrying my grocery bags. I couldn’t believe my eyes, my dear Samir is giving me a hand after 30 years of waiting for him to return from the Syrian prisons. They finally let go off my innocent husband! A sudden joy rushed through my veins as I caressed his cheeks, a feeling I haven’t felt for SO LONG!
Samir looked so handsome, so young, so happy to see me as well! Finally, we were joined again, lovers of the past.

But where did my building disappear? Why’s everything so white? I couldn’t get it. My body was so light. I haven’t been able to move so freely in such a long time!

That’s when it hit me: I am no longer alive. My handsome Samir wasn’t alive as well. All this hope I lived for has been for no use, they’ve killed him… He was already dead waiting for me to rejoin him in this white space, waiting to give me a hand with my grocery bags.
I was happy because I was with him again, after all this wait. But I wasn’t happy for what we lived.
My life was a hard one. I had 4 daughters, and 5 sons. I lost two of my daughters during the Lebanese civil war. In 1981, my husband was taken as a hostage because he was expressing his sorrow to our neighbor and blaming the powers for my daughters’ death; was that a crime? It never made sense to me.
My husband’s kidnap led all my sons to participate in the war, and fight for Lebanon. I pleaded that they don’t go. I begged them one by one. I didn’t want to lose them, too. I couldn’t lose them. But they didn’t listen, they didn’t care about risking their lives for their beloved country. They wanted to get their father back. They wanted to be free; they persisted to fight.
I guess this is not what only my sons did. This is what most of the youth did during the war. I understood that, being a citizen. But the mother in me could never digest it. My only children, the children I fed ever since day one, my vulnerable kids, my BABIES, joining the war…
WAR. What a selfish word; the word that destructed my home, the word that tormented my soul, and left me in despair.
One by one, they joined the war and one by one I lost them, my four baby boys. Yes, Habibi Rami made it. He was lucky. He was shot in the leg (that later got paralyzed) but he was alive. My other two daughters got married and traveled to Canada with their husbands scared from the situation. They wanted to take me with them, but I wanted to be here when my husband returns home.
Plus, I couldn’t leave Rami. He wanted to stay in Achrafieh, he wanted to prove to the powers that he will stay in Lebanon, that he will never give up. That’s what we did. That’s what we’ve been doing since 1992.
But life didn’t treat us right. All I had was my house, at Sassine’s Square. My husband lost all his money in the late 60s when Bank Intra went bankrupt. My two daughters sent me some money every now and then, but I could never ask for more, they have their own lives over there. They have a family. They needed the money more than a woman my age needed money. Rami changed a lot of jobs till he settled at an office in Fern El Chebbek, working as an accountant. But you know Lebanese salaries; I don’t want to get into details.
Public transportation is very messy in Beirut. Electricity and water is not so promising. But I could live with it. However, there was no healthcare, and I was getting older.
I soon realized that the country all my babies lost their lives for had no responsibility towards me, a mother of martyrs and a wife of a kidnapped innocent gorgeous man. My dear Rami did his best to take care of me, but he didn’t really have to, he deserved to be a bit happy in his life.
I wrote endless letters to the Ministry of Health, to the MPs, to journalists, and to anyone that I thought could assist me. They all described my case as a Cliché Lebanese family story and told me I should stop begging.
Begging? I lost 4 healthy boys and 2 lovely girls for a country. I got detached from the love of my life for a nation that labels me as a beggar and a Cliché Lebanese woman?
Ironically today, I realized that I am no longer a fighter but a martyr as well.
And as I promised, I stayed here. I stayed to welcome my husband back, exactly where he left me.
Ironically today, as I move freely between the Lebanese households I still see the youth hating. I see people pointing fingers. I see handsome gals wanting to risk their lives for yet another time. I see dirty minds preparing schemes to bomb, to kill, and to destroy.
Ironically today, I understand that all that blood that was shed by my kids and other young souls didn’t solve anything. It’s all the same… same as 1975. Same as 1989. Same as 2005 and what follows… and it’s all a shame.
Why don’t you get it? Why don’t you wake up? Why can’t you change the way you perceive things? You can make a change! Change Lebanon! Stop breaking the hearts of your parents and of your nation. The elections are soon. Think rationally. Think as a citizen. Love your parents. Cherish your lives. Do not let all those people who died for Lebanon regret that they did. Do not let the powers and the media brainwash you! You hold the power with your unity. The government is nothing without YOU.
Sadly, this will remain a cry from a mother who doesn’t know what she’s talking about because YOU KNOW BETTER; YOU KNOW POLITICS. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND AND FEEL ANYTHING. I am pathetic to you. I nag too much. I should only clean the house and cook you good meals.
As for Rami, I’m right next to you. We are all watching over you. I hope life treats you better than it treated us and you witness a better Lebanon.
When you get home from work you will find our house broken down in pieces. Be the boy I’ve always known you for. Be strong.

Your salary can get you a descent home close to your work, and hopefully the Lebanese government and your sisters will help. Now you do not have me as burden, you can spend your money as you please. I am sorry I brought you to a country such as Lebanon. I am sorry for all the troubles you’ve faced and you’re about to face. You will never cease to be my inspiration. I love you, Mum.

also found on : http://www.mayaakra.blogspot.com

lebanese anthem

Lebanon 1933 – 2012

جبران خليل جبران
حديقة النبي ١٩٣٣

ويل لامة تكثر فيها الطوائف وتخلو من الدين
ويل لامة تلبس مما لا تنسج ، وتأكل مما لا تزرع، وتشرب مما لا تعصر
ويل لامة تحسب المستبد بطلا”، وترى الفاتح المذل رحيما”
ويل لامة تكره الشهوة في احلامها وتعنو لها في يقظتها
ويل لامة لا ترفع صوتها الا اذا مشت بجنازة، ولا تفخر الا بالخراب
ولا تثور الا وعنقها بين السيف والنطع
ويل لامة سائسها ثعلب، وفيلسوفها مشعوذ، وفنها فهن الترقيع والتقليد
ويل لامة تستقبل حاكمها بالتطبيل وتودعه بالصفير،
لتستقبل اخر بالتطبيل والتزمير
ويل لامة حكماؤها خرس من وقر السنين ورجالها الاشداء
في اقمطة السرير
ويل لامة مقسمة الى اجزاء وكل جزء يحسب نفسه أمة

——————————-
بْحبّ قولْ:

ويلٌ لأُمَّةٍ لا تَتقَدَّم
وَيْلٌ لأمّةٍ لا يَزالُ يُطَبّقُ عليْها شعْرٌ كُتِبَ منذُ ٨٠ سَنَةٍ

وَيلٌ لأُمةٍ تَخسَرُ شَبابَها مِنْ جَرّاءِ عدم مُبالاتِها
هَبَلِها… جَشَعِها… وَتَبَعِيَّتِها

وَيلٌ لأُمّةٍ لا تَضعُ الشعبَ أَوّلاً
وَويلٌ لشعبٍ لا يَكْتَرِث للوَطَنِ أَوّلاً
يَحبُّ ذاتَهُ.. يَبغَضُ غيْرَهُ.. ولا يأْبَهْ بمصيبةِ أَخيهِ

نحنُ نرى الويلَ بِأَعْيُنِنا
ونَلْمسُه الآن كُلّ دقيقة

والعَتبُ ليسَ على الدّولة
وَلا على القانونْ

العَتَبُ عَلَيْنا نَحنُ

شَعبٌ طَمّاع… يُباعُ وَيُشْتَرى…
قُطْعانْ
وَسَلْخُنا قريبْ.

with Love
M