Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tensions in Lebanon Again

It feels surreal to know that violence and bloodshed are happening nearby but yet I am completely ignorant until I learn about them much later.

I didn't know that fighting has started between Lebanese security forces and militants sympathetic to Al Queada in Tripoli, north of Beirut, until I read the CNN a day later. 27 soldiers and 10 militants were killed in the attack. It seems to me that those poor Lebanese boys doing national service never stood a chance against the well trained Islamic extremists.

Neither did I know about the bomb that went off in Beirut on Sunday until I spoke to a staff in my hotel.

"Did you hear about what happened in Ashrafieh last night?"
"What happened?"
"Some bomb went off at ABC"
"Wow, I was just there one day ago!!! Anybody got injured?"
"A women died."
"Wow! That's terrible. Was she nearby?"
"She was sleeping in her bed when the wall came down on her"
"Two guys from Emirates, staying in this hotel were injured also, do you know them?"
"One guy got a cut from a stone on his head. Another guy had his ear injured."
"Are they going to be Ok?"
"I think not so serious. Be careful, don't go out at night, if you can, stay in the hotel."

The same night, another bomb exploded in Verdun, an upscale shopping area I visited several times.

"Did you hear the explosion yesterday night?" A colleague was asking this morning? We are both staying in Hamra, which is near to Verdun. I didn't. I was eating dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, a good distance away from Hamra.

I remembered taking a nice stroll after dinner along the beach and Bliss street before returning to the hotel. It was still difficult to imagine that just a few streets across, firemen were trying to put out fires from the explosion.

"Be careful." The same colleague said before ending our chat. Hmmm... how to be careful? I don't think I'm able to spot a car bomb anywhere.

Cleanup after Beirut blast (Source: CNN)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Movie Etiquette In Beirut Theatres

I watched Spiderman 3 at Verdun Dunes cineplex last Saturday. The movie was a good sequel to the previous spiderman movies as it had some interesting plot and character development to offer. However, I'm not going to review the movie here, instead, I want to comment on the behaviour of movie goers in Lebanon, especially at Verdun Dunes and Hamra Concorde cineplexes...

Movies like Spiderman, X-Men and Harry Potter are not children movies! Parents, please do not overestimate the attention span of your children and think that they can sit still for an entire movie. When you let them watch movies beyond their league, they become restless.

Restless children in the cinema don't behave, they started to draw unwanted attention to themselves through:

  • crying
  • talking to other movie goers
  • running about
  • standing on front row chairs and start WAVING at the rest of the audience!!!

Contrary to what parents may believe, your children stop being cute at these moments. Also contrary to what parents may believe, letting your children disturb other movie goers is not socially accepted behavior in civilized countries.

The theatre is not a country club. Do not come to the theatre if:

  • you seemingly don't understand English, and,
  • you prefer to chat and joke with your friends;
  • you want to engage in an sms message conversaton with someone

Instead, save your hardearned 9,000 LL (SGD $9.00) and go somewhere else for coffee and snacks with friends.

When somebody shush you, it means he/she wants you to be quiet. Do not shush back and start a shushing chorus with your friends and subsequently involving half the audience. Perhaps you may not easily comprehend but people are actually there to watch a movie.

A movie is not the same as a play or musical. Movie goers do not have to clap:

  • when the movie opens,
  • everytime the hero vanquishes the villain,
  • when the credits roll

Do not catcall or jeer at the screen everytime an intimate scene comes up. Keep your sexual insecurities to yourselves.

Having said that, I would like to add that movie going has been the most enjoyable experience at Empire ABC at Ashrafieh. The theatres seats are comfortable and well positioned to ensure a good view of the screen. And, most important of it all, a well behaved audience.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Moroccan Business Communication 101

I got this information from Yudabong. The University of Iowa's Business Communication Program website keeps an international communication etiquette resource that provides how-to information for meeting people from different nationalities. Read Yudabong's blog entry about communication etiquettes with Singaporeans here.

Working in the MENA region, I am interested to know what are some of the common etiquettes which I may not be aware of. I was able to find something for Morocco but not Algeria or Lebanon. Here are the some of the ones on Morocco I found interesting:

When Moroccans greet each other they take their time and converse about their families, friends, and other general topics.
Yeah, I'm familiar with that. I usually get asked how was my flight 32 times everyday after my arrival to Morocco.

Who you know is more important than what you know, so it is important to network and cultivate a number of contacts who may then assist you in working your way through the serpentine bureaucracy.
Right on! Things never get done if you follow the rules.

Once a relationship has developed, it is common to kiss on both cheeks, starting with the left cheek while shaking hands, men with men and women with women.
Everyone seems to be kissing everyone, I'm confused.

In business it is extremely important to verify anything that has been agreed to in front of others as it may not have been a sincere agreement and the person may have no intention of following through.
Very true! They promise the sky but upon the deadline, they look the other way.

Since Moroccans judge people on appearances, dress and present yourself well.
Dress to kill!!! *Roarrrrrr*

Moroccans prefer to do business with those they know and respect, therefore expect to spend time making a personal relationship before business is conducted.
Whew, I wonder when this meeting will ever end?

It is best to avoid scheduling meetings during Ramadan since Muslims cannot eat or drink during the day.
Better yet, avoid scheduling work.

Companies are hierarchical. The highest ranking person makes decisions, but only after obtaining a group agreement.
False. With or without group agreement. As point 2 is true, most of the group don't know anything or say anything, the decision gets passed by the highest ranking person either way.

Eat and drink only with the right hand.
Right for input function, left for output function. Makes perfect sense.

Expect to be urged to take more food off the communal plate. Providing an abundance of food is a sign of hospitality.
Ordering food in excess amount is a sign of opulence.

Everything else can be found here