Soon after I graduated from college in Massachusetts, I shipped off to Lebanon where I planted my feet on the cracked, dusty pavement of Beirut and found myself in need of shelter. When I got that, I applied for a job as a copywriter at GoNabit, the Middle East-based daily deals website much like Groupon.
Every week I expected an answer from them, and every week they never answered me. Finally, they reached out to tell me they loved my copy test. Then they kept blowing off follow-up meetings. All the while I was quickly running out of money.
The CEO himself reached out to confirm a date for a phone interview. “This is it,” I told myself, the Big Kahuna’s gonna call. But he didn’t! I thought I’d never hear from them again. Yet one morning as I slept soundly in someone else’s bed, I received a call from GoNabit. It was my interview although it was very unofficial, as I hadn’t been warned about the time or date beforehand. Even sleepily, I nailed it.
They finished it off asking me what I thought my salary should be. I wracked my brain, trying to figure out what a decent salary was, how to adjust for international living, what I thought a grownup should make, and all that jazz. I really had no idea, so I shot out a cool $4000 a month. The head of HR, a terse British woman sputtered back at me, “Do you mean dollars?” I guessed I had missed the mark, which an American friend confirmed later that day telling me senior architects in Beirut don’t even make that kind of cash, much less an entry-level copywriter.
But they offered me the position anyway, expressing concern over the amount of money I demanded. The British HR manager told me I could have the job, at a much smaller salary (something more in line with Lebanese rates). I said I’d take it!
Two weeks after I started at GoNabit we were acquired by LivingSocial — and that is how I landed a job at LivingSocial in the Middle East.
Five months into my first real job, which by comparison, was the coolest job even of all my American friends, I was promoted to Senior Copywriter. My responsibilities expanded to editing all the deals published throughout the Middle East: Lebanon, Egypt, and the UAE — which totaled to about 15 markets including the longer form Escape deals.
LivingSocial made sure to carry the startup feel across the Atlantic and sent in graffiti artists to decorate our walls, gave us money to party and bond together, made music videos with us, and did their best hiring the coolest, smartest, sassiest employees in Beirut. In total I worked there for 11 awesome months, until pretty unexpectedly (from a lower employee’s perspective) LivingSocial pulled out of the Middle East laying off 90 employees throughout Lebanon, the UAE, and Egypt.
We were all shocked when it happened, but hey, it was time for a change anyway. They eased the pain with more than decent parting severance packages. In fact, with my savings I stretched mine for over a year and ended up staying in Lebanon, travelling to Nepal, and pursuing totally new projects.
My first stint in the business world, the rugged 9-5 (actually 6) taught me a few lessons from which anyone can learn. Here are some I wrote down:
1. If you want something you better be damned persistent about it.
Regardless of how cool a company is or how sweet and lovely and supportive your boss is, a company is a company and they’re not going to make sure you’ve got the best deal for you. So if you want a raise, make a statement that you deserve that raise. And if you want that interview, email them every damned day that they don’t call you. I even experienced it on the flipside. When I needed to do ten tasks for ten different people, it was the person who kept bothering me about it who got theirs first. Business is business.
2. Take breaks and keep your health in check.
I was supposed to be at the office for 9 hours a day. Although I did my best to cut that time down as much as possible (while still completing all my tasks, I mean honestly productivity is the key not clocking hours), I would still stay in the office for a good 7 hours.
At the office, I’d try to stay active by doing jumping jacks, playing around, walking outside and whatever I could think of. I had coworkers who would sit glued to their chairs staring at the computer for the entire time though, which I’m sure is not healthy. It’s certainly never necessary.
3. Do not eat the cake and cookies people shove in your face.
Seriously, the skinniest hottest girl in the office will walk around to everyone’s desk and demand you eat the cupcakes she brought in for everyone, at the same time she herself doesn’t eat a morsel. Working with people in an office makes you fat. Stay strong and eat some cookies, but not all the cookies. I actually lost 20 pounds after leaving the office and I’m sure it’s because I stopped eating cookies all day long.
4. Befriend your coworkers because they are the ones who are willing and able to have fun with you when you all get laid off.
As soon as I lost my job I was a ball of boundless energy. I was free! I had absolutely no schedule and tons of repressed freedom to exploit. Everyone else was either working or freelancing or not in the mood. So meeting up and day roadtripping or getting wasted on a weekday is possible with in your position. An added bonus is you can talk shit about your old job and all of your job-related greivances that absolutely NO ONE outside of your workplace really wants to hear anyway.
So yea, I’ve learned a few things. But one of the most powerful things I learned this year is that it is really important to follow your dreams, regardless of how batshit crazy they are (you know, moving to the Middle East without any security or job or even money).
They say you’re supposed to take risks and follow your heart. To keep moving in a forward motion and avoid the comfort zone. I did it and while being 23, laid off, and in a foreign country might seem sucky to you, it’s only the door to an even awesomer journey for me.
Electric Youth, cherished in my heart for their dreamy electro sound and renowned for their song ‘A Real Hero’ on the Drive soundtrack, just released a video for ‘Runaway’ which is directed by Noel Paul and cast and shot in Lebanon.
Noel as you remember, was our first famous guest on the Radio Show Layal and I hosted in Beirut, so I caught up with him via email to get some insight regarding the video.
He has directed music videos for Portugal the Man, Royksopp, Bat for Lashes, and now Electric Youth — but this is the first time he has ever shot a music video in Lebanon.
The band itself is Canadian, so the link between Batroun/Beirut and Toronto isn’t obvious. But it was Noel’s idea, he said in a more
“We’ve had to cut out a lot of shit to get here”-Adrian
Back when Layal and I started our own radio show we broadcast through a spotty Internet source at our favorite local beer joint in Beirut.
While hardly anyone in Lebanon had good enough Internet to stream the show, and those outside Lebanon couldn’t rely on the weak stream to listen either, we were lucky enough to have the space, equipment, and support to try our hands at something I had never even done before.
The idea of two audacious and liquored up ladies spouting off stories and erotic news was novel to all five-to-ten people drinking at that bar, and for that, we are grateful. With the “anything-goes”, “be as wild as you want” and “explore your creativity” spirit, we were able to grow, evolve, and get an idea how to become better entertainers.
Radio Beirut was awesome to us.
But then we moved to Norway and things got real. Because in Norway, the radio is a BIG DEAL. Like, almost 100% of the Norwegian pop... more
Camping, off-festival events, environtmentalism, and the biggest acts in Lebanon
“It doesn’t get better than Wickerpark.” says Philippe Manasseh, lead singer of last year’s Canadian-Lebanese headliner Wake Island, and recent member of How Sad, also part of the 2014 lineup.
For the fourth year in a row, Junior Daou and his family open their large swath of land for a day of music, art, and environmental awareness to the Lebanese people. It is the highly anticipated grassroots project that has turned into a proper annual event on the Batroun coastline: The Wickerpark Festival.
If you’ve been to the Wickerpark Festival before, don’t just expect another one-day concert. When Daou first started WP the goal was simply ‘To make a festival where local acts get to perform on a proper stage with proper sound and light.” This year’s festival has a couple of awesome events that mark a drastic expansion since its inception as well as a fresh new line... more
-But Berlin DJ predictably denied into Lebanon for Israeli stamp
You know what, I’m glad the Middle Eastern Gulf region is taking into account all kinds of sexy when it comes to deporting men.
Because the most recent deportee is a 55-year old German man, Rolf Buccholz, internationally known for holding the Guinness World Record in having the most body piercings.
Buchholz flew to Dubai to party it up at Circque le Soir, a club that promises to bring out all the freaks and fantasy fetish stuff, as a paid appearance. But at the Dubai Airport he was denied entry into the Emirate on the account of possibly being a High Priest of the Dark Arts and a practitioner of Black Magic. Yes, that is why he was denied entry, because he looked as sexy as a Black Magic Priest. And yes, I would probably be wooed by him.
That’s why I’m q... more
Norwegians are the masters of understatement. When something is gargantuan, they’ll say ‘It’s a bit big’ and when something’s breathtakingly beautiful, they’ll say ‘It’s nice.’ If a friend made a $10 million profit on a business deal, they’d claim he made ‘a bit of money.’
I still don’t understand whether it’s humor or specific cultural brain wiring (for example: how different cultures understand time). But there is one thing that reassures me in all of this, a ray of hope that cuts through the vague cloudiness which always has me scratching my head asking “Is he/she joking…?” — and that is when a Norwegian talks about the Lofoten Islands.
Because they don’t understate anything about it. Any Norwegian will tell you how magical Lofoten is — how emotional it is to stand next to giant mountains that dive straight into the sea, or how disoriented one b... more
-I was the only dancer and they noticed
It All Started With Lena Dunham
In March my sister, Margaux, sent me a Youtube video with a perfectly succinct message: “This is Lena Dunham’s boyfriend. She directed the video.” Dunham’s boyfriend is the guitarist of Fun and started the band Bleachers as a solo project. Loved Lena’s video, died for her boyfriend’s song, “I Wanna Get Better!”
Admittedly Margaux knew how to pique my interest with the reference, but that day I became a Bleachers fan too. The thick riffs did what they wanted to my body, the lyrics “I didn’t know I was lonely till I saw your face” literally made (makes) me cry; I played the song on repeat and told my boyfriend to dance at a distance in case I exploded into a rainbow — it was that wonderful.
Slowly more singles like &ldq... more