A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘babies’ Category

the namesake chicken

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 10, 2008

Two days ago, I received a group email from my friend H, who was brimming over with excitement about his new role in life: uncle.

[My niece] is less than 48 hours old, and, like all babies, is believed by her family (us) to be the cutest thing alive, EXTREMELY bright for her age, and very interactive, H wrote.

As an aunt, I know exactly how H feels – and I was delighted that he wanted to share the news with us.

But I was flummoxed by what came next:

P.S. Diamond, H added, you get a chicken because the baby has your name!

Don’t worry – H’s niece isn’t really named “Diamond”, although “Massa” is used as a girl’s name in Arabic. Her name is my middle name, which is much less flashy.

And while I have been thinking about getting a pet – there are so many animals in need of loving homes in New York, as in Beirut – I wasn’t exactly dreaming of a chicken. (Nor, I imagine, are my landlords.)


H very kindly promised to keep the chicken until my next trip to Lebanon (which I imagine will please his roommates even less than my landlords). Apparently the giving-a-chicken-to-people-with-the-same-name-as-a-newborn was a new tradition for him, too.

As for his family, they have a lot of chickens to buy. My middle name isn’t the most common in Lebanon (imagine the truckload that families naming their son Fadi must order), but I do know a few women with it as their first names.

I wonder whether farmers give volume discounts: Namesake Chickens! 10% off if you buy six or more!

Happy uncling, H – and please take good care of “my” chicken!


Posted in advertising, animals, Arab world, babies, Beirut, friends, humor, Lebanon, parenting | 3 Comments »

good parenting

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 30, 2008

I saw this advertisement in the online edition of the Daily Star, the English-language Lebanese paper, on Wednesday, and it made me terribly sad:


This is a legal notice to Hassan Trabulsy that his child or children are about to be placed in foster care or an orphanage. From reading it, I could tell that he obviously hasn’t been around to take care of him/her/them in some time, since his address is listed as “parts unknown” – but also that someone must have reason to think that he returned to Lebanon. And the court is trying to let him know what is happening with his child/children, and to give him one last chance to come back to the United States and be a good father to him/her/them.

In the US, when parents split up, custody generally goes to the mother. We see mothers as the primary, care-giving parent.

In the Middle East, when parents split up, custody almost always goes to the father. Children are his responsibility, but also his right – and they belong to him. Hence as my friend M told me years ago, when I asked him how his mixed-marriage parents decided which religion he should follow, Religion follows the father. And religious courts automatically award custody to the father.

Its a tragedy whenever either parent chooses to abandon his or her responsibilities towards his or her children. But coming from a culture in which fathers are so centrally involved in raising their children, I found it all the more heart-breaking that Trabulsy should abandon his.

Except that when I googled his name to find out more, I learned that he didn’t – or at least, he only abandoned one of them.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Hassan Trabulsi had three children with his American wife Holly: Tristan, Afif, and Serena. Afif and Serena are fraternal twins, and Serena has Down’s Syndrome.

Holly and Hassan, who went by “Richard” in the United States, divorced in 2004, and Holly received full custody of the their children. In 2005, Hassan asked Holly to allow the two boys to come to Lebanon to spend the summer with him. At the end of the summer, he told her that he was not sending them back.

I suspect that this loss-of-custody notice is for Serena, in whom Hassan/Richard seems to have taken no interest. And knowing that he abandoned one child while abducting the others is even more heart-breaking. This is not an example of good parenting. Hassan Trabulsy should be ashamed of himself, and so should the rest of his family.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, babies, childhood, family, Lebanon, parenting | 6 Comments »

getting and having: on laundry & love

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 9, 2008

Last night H & I took my aunt’s advice and went out for date night. We had a hoot of a time – especially since one of us is a very fine dancer.

“Date night” was a very satisfying end to “laundry day”, or rather “work and errand punctuated by laundry folding” day. Truth be told, a trio of sweet maids did the laundry, and I merely showed up at folding time – my kind of laundry day.

An advertisement I’ve seen on several billboards recently is also focused on laundry: a 6-kilogram load washing machine on sale from Homeline.

The washing machine looks fine, but the ad copy has been driving me nuts:


I get it – the new father of two wants to get a new washing machine so he can catch up on his sleep. Right – because so many Lebanese men do the laundry.

But that’s not what bothers me about the advertisement – its the bad grammar.

Just got his second baby? In English, one “has” a baby. The verb “to have” is a dictionary-recognized synonym for “to deliver” or “to give birth”. “To get” is not. You can get a disease, or get a new car, or acquire a new diamond bracelet, or even get (in the sense of “become”) married. You cannot get a child, because a child is not a possession.

On the other hand, I have heard several Lebanese people talk about siblings or friends “getting” children. So perhaps the ad copy was written wrong intentionally. You never know 🙂

Posted in advertising, babies, beer, Beirut, Lebanon, nightlife, parenting, photography, words | 1 Comment »

an overwhelming sense of specialness

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 1, 2007

Sometimes life in the Arab World drives me nuts.

There are aspects of life here that infuriate me because they are so far from life in the United States (and other democracies).

One of these aspects is the delusion of irresistible specialness that afflicts people – and especially men – here.

For example, standing in line at General Security the other day, I watched person after person enter the room, look at the line and … go directly to the counter, lean over the person currently at the front, and attempt to jump the line.

After all, why should he (or, in some cases, she) have to wait? He was special.

Thank God the General Security officers were not as impressed with each person’s sense of self-importance as the person him (or, in some cases, her) self was. They told each and every special person that special or no, they had to stand at the end of the line.

Being told to stand in line is not a common experience for people here. I watched their faces, and saw: shock. horror. dismay. How could they not be special? How could they be forced to … wait?

Notions of citizenship and equality can be difficult to come by in this region – particularly when it comes to equality before the law. I noticed this Associated Press article online today, and it made my blood boil:

UAE presses Bush on child jockey lawsuit

MIAMI, Florida (AP) — The United Arab Emirates’ prime minister has asked for President Bush’s help winning dismissal of a federal lawsuit that accuses the country of forcing thousands of children to work as jockeys racing camels.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, also the ruler of Dubai, stressed the UAE’s role as “a key partner in the global war against terrorism” in a letter to Bush filed in federal court last week. Three American military bases are in the Emirates, along the Persian Gulf.

Maktoum asked Bush for his “personal attention” to the lawsuit filed in Miami federal court, which the prime minister said “is causing an unnecessary interference with the good and mutually valuable relations” between the two countries.

Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Wednesday he was not aware of the sheikh’s letter, which was dated February 11. He added that “typically, the White House does not get involved in legal matters such as that.”

The State Department did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

In December, however, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote a note assuring the Emirates’ foreign minister that her department was watching the case and praising steps taken to address the child jockey issue.

“We appreciate the efforts made by the United Arab Emirates to regulate the treatment of camel jockeys,” Rice said in the December 26 note, also recently added to the court file.

The jockey lawsuit, filed in September, seeks unspecified money damages for about 10,000 boys and thousands more relatives. It alleges the boys, from countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mauritania and Sudan, were abducted and sold over a 30-year period to ride racing camels in various Persian Gulf countries.

The Emirates is trying to persuade a federal judge and governments around the world that it has adequately dealt with the issue by creating a program to compensate, provide services for and repatriate the child jockeys involved. That program was recently expanded and extended through April 2009.

The Emirates’ aggressive legal and public-relations efforts follow the international dispute last year over the purchase of some U.S. ports operations by Dubai Ports World, a deal critics said threatened U.S. security. It eventually went through, although the company is in the process of selling the operations to a U.S. firm.

The attorney for the Emirates, Joseph G. Finnerty III, said the sheikh’s letter to Bush was “part of normal and necessary diplomatic relations between two allies.” More important, he said, was the agreements the Emirates recently completed with the affected countries regarding children who raced camels.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga has scheduled a July 16 hearing on the Emirates’ motion to dismiss the case. The Emirates contend the lawsuit should be thrown out because U.S. courts have no jurisdiction and its rulers are entitled to sovereign immunity.

Among other things, the lawsuit contends that Miami is a proper venue because Emirates family members own horse farms in Ocala and because no other court in the world would adequately deal with the claims.

And there it is: that overwhelming sense of specialness that says:

Because we are a global partner in the war on terror, you should bankrupt the US judicial system in order to prevent our being prosecuted for our abuse of little boys.

Maybe we should rethink our choice of partners.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, babies, Beirut, citizenship, Dubai, media, news, politics, tourism, traffic, travel, vanity | 2 Comments »

Paradise is at the foot of the mother (and father)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 15, 2007

I enjoy reading Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha’s blog – its nice to see someone with a well-rounded life in the foreign service. I also admire him for posting so much of his private thoughts – on books, music, art – and experiences – dinners with friends, travels with his wife – as well as his dissertation and other scholarly works online. It takes courage to make oneself so transparent, particularly as a public figure.

Moustapha and his (second) wife have become parents for the first time, and he has a delightful blog about the joys of new parenting. He includes details that will amuse and delight both new parents and those who love them – for example, his agreement with his wife that while “she was to be in charge for everything that goes into the baby, I will be responsible for every thing that comes out of her. Accordingly, I became fully responsible for changing her diapers and bathing her.”

His latest post, Sidra meets Ludwig, is well worth reading in its entirety – and especially for his account of how he has begun introducing his daughter to the world of classical music:
Yesterday, I introduced Sidra for the first time to Ludwig. Immediately after Rafif had fed her, and I dully burped her and removed her soiled diaper, she seemed very relaxed and ready to savor Beethoven’s Fifth. Naturally, I helped her live this new experience by moving her hands in harmony with the rhythmic pulses of this vibrant and energetic symphony. The moment the music was over, and before wrapping her with a new clean diaper, she peed on me giving me her most eloquent indication of what she thought of my musical taste.

On Monday, my sister and brother-in-law sent photos of their son at six weeks old. Babies, regardless of their incredible input-output capacity, are such magical creatures. My sister and her husband somehow find joy in everything their son does – and humor, which is the best leavener of some otherwise rather grave no-diaper incidents :-).


My nephew, in a sporty outfit from his Massachusetts relatives.

Posted in Americans, babies, blogging, childhood, Damascus, family, parenting, Syria, words | Leave a Comment »