I Do Not Want to Work; I Only Want A Puff

paris eiffel tower by eva the dragon 2014

Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas déjeuner
Je veux seulement oublier
Et puis je fume

I discovered this song several years ago. Dreaming of running away to Paris, I picked up a “Paris” compilation album. In the midst of diapers and cheerios, Julia Child’s 1950s Paris seemed like the place for me. I only understood the woman when she sang,

I do not want to work
I do not want lunch
I only want to forget
And then I smoke.

Washing the dishes, I joined in during the chorus.

Fast forward a decade.

All over Bahrain were banners with a fantastic photo of a grey-haired man with a bow tie and a woman with an umbrella who obviously traveled by hot air balloon. Paired with an elegant Japanese woman – together they were Pink Martini and Saori Yuki. I had no idea what their music was but I loved the photos. My friend called and said she bought us front-row, balcony seats for the National Theater show. YEAH.

Pink Martini’s lead singer China Forbes stepped out wearing a bright green Bahraini jalabiya embroidered with silver. We were expecting a Japanese diva. In an American accent, China sang Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love. She had a fantastic voice. Wow!

“I bought this dress yesterday in Bahrain,” she announced. “I love it.” Everyone clapped their appreciation.

Thomas Lauderdale, the piano player, welcomed us and gave a little speech in Arabic, obviously thanking everyone for inviting them to Bahrain. The Bahrainis were thrilled and applauded his effort. Pink Martini was off to a crowd pleasing start.

China introduced the next song, Sympathique.

“This is the first song we wrote,” she said.

Suddenly I was back washing dishes. It was my theme-song. China was the woman who only wanted to smoke and daydream. She was my soul sister; the singer I am not.

Finally, in a long, sparkling red dress, Saori Yuki appeared moving like an elegant geisha. I have decided to adopt her graceful small steps that made her move like a mermaid. After singing Yuuzuki from their album 1969, she said,

“I was in City Center the other day and I saw a big photo of me near Shoe City. That is me? I was so surprised. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said with beautiful delicate bows.

Thomas Lauderdale introduced Uskudar as a traditional Turkish song the ALL Turks know the words to.

“Are there any Turkish people here?”

The lady sitting next to us raised her hand and hooted.

“Would you please come up on stage and sing it with us?” Thomas and China asked.

Nobody moved.

“Please all Turkish people know the words to this song.”

I reached over. “Go on, go sing.”

That was all the encouragement she needed. The woman jumped up and made her want down to the stage. She radiated pure joy as she sang and belly danced.

How do I describe Pink Martini? Excellent orchestra. China Forbes has beautiful, clear voice. Thomas and China know how to engage the audience with their jazzy songs that evoke a playful era. Pink Martini has a crowd-pleasing show.

Near the end Saori Yuki sang Puff, the Magic Dragon in Japanese.

With that, my evening was complete.

My mother took me to my first concert. It was Peter, Paul and Mary at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. The only song I remember was Puff the Magic Dragon.

 

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Fearless Living in Jordan

You might wonder what this beautiful, blond, self-help author and this grey-bearded, Syrian refugee have in common.

Years ago, before Oprah, before Starting Over, before she was America’s #1 Life Coach, Rhonda Britten and I were friends.  Even then, as a young, 20-something, she was full of wisdom and optimism.

I remember being amazed at her beautiful, rented apartment painted in feminine colors and angels.  She replaced the industrial shades with soft, white curtains.  Saving my dollars, it never occurred to me to spend my money to decorate someone else’s property.

Her answer has always guided me,

I don’t know how long I will live here, but I want this space to be my home.  Having the colors I love makes me feel like it is mine.  When I open the door, I feel safe and warm.

During the Salam Neighbor filming in Jordan, people have shown their make-shift classrooms and sleeping mats inside of their UNHCR tents.  The camp’s desert sameness is a bit dreary.

fearless living jordan salam neighbor fountain zaatari camp

The other day, three, red-haired boys appeared and pulled Zach and Chris’ hands.  They led them through the tents to a beautiful fountain their father had built in the middle of the Za’atari Refugee Camp.

An innovative recycler, Ziyad has decorated their camper, planted a garden and built a bread oven.

As he told Zach and Chris his story, he explained his efforts by pointing to his sons and saying,

I don’t know how long we are going to have to live here.  I want my family to feel at home.

Regardless of how temporary our lives might be, our hearts are filled with joy when we feel we are at home.  Creating beauty amidst the ugliness in the world is Fearless Living.

ABOUT ZIYAD AND SALAM NEIGHBOR

You can read the entire posting called Neighbors of Za’atari Part Two – Ziyad. at Livingonone.org.

What does the daily life of a Syrian refugee really look like?

In partnership with 1001 MEDIA, Living on One founders Chris and Zach have just launched Salam Neighbor. They are on a bold, immersive journey into the heart of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. From January 19th through February 15th, Chris and Zach will live alongside refugee families in Jordan to uncover the daily realities, struggles, successes and dreams of displaced Syrians.

Chris and Zach can’t do it without your participation! As they film they will be releasing weekly blogs and live-stream hangout sessions to hear and help answer your most pressing questions about the humanitarian crisis and life as a refugee.

Join the Salam Neighbor film and journey. Learn about the humanitarian crisis. Take action to change the world!
www.salamneighbor.org

Cheese Versus Beans

I am comparing the UNHCR refugee lunch to the Wadi Rum, sack lunch my Bedouin guide gave me when I was in Jordan.

We both got tuna.  What I wondered was whether Zach and Chris had a guide who taught them how to use the tuna can lid as a knife?

As a paying tourist, I got an imported apple and plastic plate.  And my lunch was all mine.  I didn’t share my cheese with anyone.

Looking at the refugee lunch, it struck me, is it possible a family of four can live on that can of beans?

You can read all about Zach and Chris eating their lunch at Registering as Refugees.

 ABOUT SALAM NEIGHBOR

What does the daily life of a Syrian refugee really look like?

In partnership with 1001 MEDIA, Living on One founders Chris and Zach launched Salam Neighbor. They are on a bold, immersive journey into the heart of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. From January 19th through February 15th, Chris and Zach are living alongside refugee families in Jordan to uncover the daily realities, struggles, successes and dreams of displaced Syrians.

Chris and Zach can’t do it without your participation! As they film they will be releasing weekly blogs and live-stream hangout sessions to hear and help answer your most pressing questions about the humanitarian crisis and life as a refugee.

Join the Salam Neighbor film and journey. Learn about the humanitarian crisis. Take action to change the world!

www.salamneighbor.org

Salam Neighbor – Hello Neighbor

1001Media Mohab Khattab Salam Neighbor leaving for Jordan to film

I just dropped my Mojo off at the airport.  Carrying two extra bags of winter clothes, he is on his way to Jordon.

His first stop is Amman to meet American filmmakers, Zach Ingrasci, Chris Temple and Sean Leonard, the creators of  Living on One.  They flew in from California.

Why?

Zach and Chris want to say “Salam Neighbor” to the 570,000 Syrian refugees.

On January 19th, he will drive them and their Jordanian translator, Ibraheem, north, five miles past the Zaatari Refugee Camp, to the Syrian/Jordanian border.  There, in the middle of the wintery desert, he will drop them off, and they will walk away with the clothes on their back and a camera.

You might be asking, “What kind of evil plot is he involved in?”

The Jordanian government and the UN have given Zach, Chris, Sean, and Ibraheem permission to become a refugee for the next month.  Like a half-million Syrians, they will walk away from the bombs to the the fourth largest city in Jordan, the Zaatari Refuge Camp.  Joining the long-line, they will be checked in, given an UNHCR tent, a ration card and, maybe, a blanket.  Sean will film everything and post to YouTube.

Why have they given this opportunity when international reporters have not?

Because these extraordinary, twenty-somethings proved in Living on One that they are willing to take themselves out of their comfort zone and live in unimaginable circumstances.

The state of Syria is currently unimaginable.  And the refugees keep crossing into Jordan.  No one knows how or when it will end.  No one knows what these young men are going to encounter.  Security measures have been put into place but Zach and Chris want the full experience: getting tossed out of their home; crossing a border; and setting up a new life in a UN refugee camp.

Salam Neighbor is not just a film, but a social action campaign.  Generous donors will give $1 for every Facebook LIKE.  The funds will be distributed between UNHCR, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee

On January 19, they will leave Amman and journey north.  Zaatari will be their home-away-from-home until just after Valetine’s Day, February 15th.  

I invite you to stay abreast of how Zach and Chris fare during this winter. They are already tweeting @livingonone and put up blogs on their website.

You can participate by sharing Salam Neighbor on your FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts.  And in your nightly prayers, send your wishes for Salam to the Syrian refugees and their Jordanian hosts.

ABOUT SALAM NEIGHBOR AND LIVING ON ONE

What does the daily life of a Syrian refugee really look like?

In partnership with 1001 MEDIA, Living on One founders Chris and Zach have just launched Salam Neighbor.

They are on a bold, immersive journey into the heart of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. From January 19th through February 15th, Chris and Zach will live alongside refugee families in Jordan to uncover the daily realities, struggles, successes and dreams of displaced Syrians.

Chris and Zach can’t do it without your participation! As they film they will be releasing weekly blogs and live-stream hangout sessions to hear and help answer your most pressing questions about the humanitarian crisis and life as a refugee.

Join the Salam Neighbor film and journey. Learn about the humanitarian crisis. Take action to change the world!

www.salamneighbor.org

56 Days $56 Dollars

Anyone reading my posts can tell that 56 Days $56 Dollars has nothing to do with me.

The title refers to young filmmakers and change-makers, Zach Ingrasci, Chris Temple and Sean Leonard.

During university, they were curious how 1.1 billion people manage to live on $1 a day.  They decided to explore extreme poverty by going to Pena Blanca, Guatemala and living on $1 a day for 56 days.  They filmed their experiences and uploaded them to YouTube.

Watching the young men learn to grow radishes, manage a tiny, volatile budget and waking up covered in flea bites was only part of the story.  The rest was about the friends they made in Pena Blanca who taught them how to add fat to their diet, take out a microloan and bargain in the market.

When they returned home, 700,000 YouTube hits convinced them they had something worthwhile to share.  Their experiences became Living on One, a full-length documentary.  The film and the post-production tours are a great demonstration of how a small group of people can absolutely make a huge impact and help improve the lives of others.

Inspiring, not only because of their willingness to give up their American lives and literally walk 1,000 miles in the shoes of another, Living on One shows us how Gen Ys combine their passions, idealism and social media in new and constructive ways.  It is a lesson for those of us who ask our kids, “Do you watch anything useful on YouTube?

It is not enough to simply watch the film.  You must click through to see their social impact campaign and what has grown out of their efforts.

The Pearls of Our Lives

“My mother loved pearls.”

“During my college vacations, I returned home to Ramallah.  We sat together at her dining room table, stringing pearls and talking about my life in the US,” said Lina, Juman Pearls’ designer, to the gathered women.

We were at the Anamil 296 Gallery to hear women artists describe where they found their inspiration.

“I got married and moved to Saudi Arabia.  My finance studies were, how shall I put it? Not wasted, but I did not get the opportunities I wanted.  After a tearful visit, my mother sent me home with a bag of pearls.  She said pearls saved her life after my father died, perhaps they could help me.”

Pearl by pearl, Lina sorted through her bag to design pieces inspired by the particular pearl’s luster.  Working with eastern-province goldsmiths, she created jewelry she imagined elegant women, like her mother, Wedad, would wear.  With each sale, her confidence grew.

Together the mother and daughter traveled to Hong Kong to bargain for cultured-pearls, diamonds and other gems.  Wedad loved stringing pearls, while Lina loved designing.  Their “pearling business” grew and before they knew it, they needed an official name.  They named their company Juman Pearls, after Lina’s only daughter.

Since antiquity, legends say within each pearl was life – everlasting life.

Gilgamesh, British royalty and Jacque Cartier found their way to Bahrain, the land of two seas where the tiny, high-quality, juman, pearls were found.

Bahraini Pearls at Qal at al-Bahrain UNESCO World Heritage Site

“The pearls round Arabia on the Persian Gulf…are specially praised,” wrote the Roman, Pliny the Elder.

By the 1930s, pearl buyers flocked to Japan for Mikimoto’s less expensive, cultured pearls, and the Bahrain pearl divers lost their livelihood. Today 95% of cultured pearls come from China.  Rumor has it, the Japanese have returned to the island in search of Bahrain’s now-elusive, natural pearls.

Like other pearl merchants, Lina eventually made her way to Bahrain.  And as life happens on the island, one day, while she drafted designs, she discovered she sat side-by-side with Bahrain’s preeminent, pearl trader, Mahmood Pearls.

“Your designs are wonderful,” she was told.  “Could you create a line for us featuring Bahraini pearls?”

Lina was thrilled to be invited to build a collection around such legends.

She confided to our group that day, “I never knew how expensive Bahraini pearls were.  And now, after so many oyster beds have been reclaimed, few pearls are big enough to make into necklaces.  A single-strand, pearl necklace is about $40,000.”

No wonder the pearl trader only gave his wife one.

“On a gold chain around her neck, she wore a round white pearl, a gift from his father; it shone like the moon in the night sky.” from The Little Pearl Merchant.

Mahmood Pearls will be debuting Lina’s designs at Jewelry Arabia.  Perhaps you will find your own moon, wrapped in gold, to hang from your neck.

ABOUT JUMAN PEARLS

Since the 1990s, Juman Pearls has found favor with Saudi Arabia’s high-end buyers who seek unique pieces that are not mass-marketed.  Lina also designs for expatriates who are tired of the traditional, 22K gold bangles and want more up-scale treasures.

For the first time, Juman Pearl’s designs will be for sale in Bahrain.  In conjunction with Mahmood Pearls, one of the oldest jewelry companies in Bahrain, Lina created the Arabesque collection with Bahraini pearls set in gold.

Juman Pearl’s showroom is at Desert Designs in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.  The entire Arabesque Collection, featuring cultured pearls set in gold, is on display at the showroom.  The website is www.jumanpearls.com.

ABOUT JEWELRY ARABIA

The biggest jewelry show in the Middle East starts November 19th at the Bahrain Exhibition Center.  Look for Al-Mahmood Pearls.

Girls, Dogs and Gratitude

give a girl a break film video Jenny Laura dog training school mentor

Last night, during dinner with my writer-friend, I raised the issue about which medium tells a better story – writing or video.

A reader since childhood and now a writer, I cannot imagine life without printed words.  My kids’ generation, the Millennial generation, don’t know an Internet-less world.

We live in a country where public libraries do not exist and books cost more than most people’s daily salary.  YOUTUBE is free and pirated DVDs can be purchased for less than a cup of coffee.  Instagrams to family 2,000 miles away are cheaper than a phone call.  Twitter is the source for local, breaking news.

Visual and graphic communication are the future.

Inspiring stories about young women who overcome emotional and financial barriers to creatively express themselves are the topic for the GIVE A GIRL A BREAK contest.

Through video, three, young females filmmakers offer their stories both as an artistic expression of themselves as well as highlighting how a small bit of support helps other reach for their dreams.  Created in Los Angeles, these girls had access to lights, cameras, computers, actors and great locations to create their short-films.

On the other side of the planet, a smaller exhibit highlighting women and communication took place.

IMG_3652

Graphic communication was the focus of the EIGHT DEGREES OF DIFFERENCE exhibit in Bahrain.

Eight, Bahraini women presented their graphic design, video and digital photography projects.  They focused on life-affirming topics such as gratitude, family communications, healthy eating, and imagination and on clear communications through maps, typography, signage and even graffiti.

Milling with the audience composed of Bahrainis, Pakistanis, Africans, and Europeans, it became obvious to me that the women’s messages transcended culture.  Whether one spoke English or Arabic, the visual exhibits spoke a language everyone could understand.

ABOUT GIVE A GIRL A BREAK

team alana matching making skills

My best friend Jenny is featured as the inspiring mentor to Laura, a young woman in this film TO THE RESCUE.  Watch TO THE RESCUE and the other two finalists and vote by JULY 2nd.

Always is sponsoring Give a Girl a Break.  Three aspiring female filmmakers are vying for a Talent Grant to help them pursue a career in film.

ABOUT EIGHT DEGREES OF DIFFERENCE

IMG_3651

June 26-27, eight, female students at the Bahrain Polytechnic Institute displayed their third year projects.  The depth and quality of their work was evident.  I was so pleased to see how Bahraini women envision effectively engaging others using modern methods.

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