Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"I have a dream"

My first bicycle
I don't know what dreams I have in my sleep. I rarely wake up remembering any. But it is my daydreams that keep me going. Daydreams have the power in them to turn real. You just need to crave for them eagerly and recognize the signals when they come knocking.

My first memories of daydreaming are from Baghdad, when between the ages of four and six my fantasy was to be a blonde and be surrounded by all things yellow. My clothes had to be yellow, I loved sunflowers and I had a few yellow raffia wigs that I wore all the time, except to school. But my hair didn't turn blond and the clothes got smaller, so that daydream evaporated gradually.

I was then going to become an Olympic swimmer and springboard diver. That went well for a while and I still have tiny trophies to prove it, (although I don't remember in which storage box I mothballed them to show you their pictures).

Moving to Tunis, my first dream there was to cycle to school. My mom, Vicky, taught me how to ride my first bicycle. Being a bit clumsy, I kept falling off (and the scars are still there to prove it), especially as I insisted on using only one hand on the handlebars and keeping the other free to carry flowers from our garden to the teacher every morning. The flowers never arrived in good shape.

Then, to my parents’ bewilderment, the fantasies shifted. I wanted to become a nun. That didn't last for long. It developed, through choir singing, to wanting to grow to be an opera singer, a pianist (with scales sessions starting at 6 a.m.) and aspiring to be the new Joan Baez -- hence a guitar and guitar lessons...

The Tunis-La Marsa TGM I'd catch on Saturdays
I'm sure I've forgotten a myriad of daydreams in between, but the next serious one was to be a journalist! Every Saturday (my dad’s off day), I would take the modest train to return home from the Lycée. At the station I would buy Le Monde with my pocket money and during the half-hour journey between Tunis and La Marsa, I'd feel full-grown reading it and envisaging myself covering all the stories therein.

Exam registration
Working towards that vision, on getting my Baccalauréat, I wanted to study Political Sciences, but my dad's aspiration was for me to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer. So I joined the Faculté de Droit et des Sciences Politiques et Économiques at Tunis University. A year later, we were leaving Tunis and I was sent to the Sorbonne in Paris. But before the start of the new term, there were a few other daydreams to see through. One was to hear The Who performing "Tommy" live in concert in Paris and the second was to hitchhike to Nepal. I did get to see The Who, but my sister Asma intercepted the letter with the meeting arrangements for the trek to Nepal and hid it. I was very disappointed my friends had let me down and she only told me what she had done many years later. So Nepal is still a pipe dream...

Due to an assortment of circumstances, I moved to Beirut and enrolled at the Université St. Joseph (USJ), which closed its doors shortly after because of the civil war. That's when I landed my dream job as a journalist – a job I have kept ever since and that has taken me to such landmarks as Pyongyang in North Korea, the State Department in Washington D.C. and Tiananmen Square in Beijing (but that's another blog post...).
In Beijing's Tiananmen Square
During the 1975-1985 internecine strife in Lebanon, the obsession -- apart from dreaming of water, electricity, and even food supplies at one point -- was of leaving and escaping alive. So it was off to London! In retrospect, maybe I should have stayed put. But what’s the point -- better keep looking forward.

The Vastarids -- the flat in Cannes...
...and its swimming pool

When the cold weather and gray skies in much of Europe start getting to you, the daydreams revolve around the sun. So, on one wet and cold morning in August 2000, I saw a newspaper ad about a flat for sale in Cannes. It was just two lines, but the magic word was "swimming pool." I picked up the phone and a month later I was the proud owner of a flat in the South of France that I had never seen and would only visit once. That time, I was about to fulfill another dream -- of one day owning a Picasso! I was about to buy one of his signature plates from the Madoura Pottery in Vallauris. Again, Asma stepped in and got me a postcard instead (to add to my collection)!

Picasso Original 1963 Madoura Ceramic Plate
But the apartment in Cannes allowed me to get nearer to my roots in the Middle East and the Gulf, serving as a stepping-stone to realize the dream of owning a flat in Dubai. (The thing about property is that it’s always the right time to buy but it's not always the right time to sell and make money -- or at least that’s been my experience!).

Many pies in the sky keep popping up and many will remember me speaking of the "dream job" I recently applied for. Though I never heard back from them, it was fun trying.

That leaves me chasing my never-ending daydream of owning and managing a Mich Bed and Breakfast inn.

For now though, my focus is to realize “a first” at Mich Café. You will read about it of course if it comes through. So I dream on... Light bulbs keep flashing and I always hope that, sooner or later, one of them will stay switched on.