Khartoum & My Cigarillo Break

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My dear reader…I’d like to share with you a fresh story from my day…

So I was in an office…in a specific building somewhere very specific in Khartoum (I don’t even know the address of the office I’m working in…I guess you’ve figured that by now). In the afternoon, I felt like having my usual afternoon coffee and cigarillo. But I didn’t want to smoke in the office (though I had the whole room for myself). So I found the nearest balcony..had my cigarillo ready, my aromatic black cup of coffee (which I prepared 30 min earlier) in my hand and opened the balcony door.

What came next was what I’d like to call a wake up slap…it was a sudden rush of oven-hot, sun-dried scorching winds that drilled their way to my skin as if my whole suit wasn’t there. It was that sensation of standing in the midst of a BIG OVEN with a big shiny projector in your face!

Nevertheless, I embraced nature, embraced what it was telling me in those warm breaths of the Sudanese desert…I listened and smoked…for what seamed like eternity..but was actually less than 2 minutes. I looked at my cigarillo, which usually takes me around 5~6 minutes to smoke, and it wasn’t even half way done. But I just couldn’t get along anymore with the heat, so we decided to part, I turned off my smoke and went back in.

Now the first thing that came to my mind was: Thank God for ACs!…but the second thing I realized is that my coffee…yes that same 30min-old-barely-warm cup of coffee is HOT it was actually steamy again like I first made it!

Now many of you would ask why did I even bother and smoke…well it’s more like a ritual for me after lunch and a busy day, especially if there is a lot more to be done. It’s a means of self pampering and a moment of reflection. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not a heavy smoker nor am I a promoter of smoking, I just know how to enjoy my cigarillos and cigars, they got their own moods and times…let’s just say we get along.

So the lesson for the day is: If you think you know what nature is and believe you can defy it or play along with it…think again!

Thank you Khartoum!

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Aie Serve: Uniting Youth Through Service

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The bellow article is featured on Youth Action Net Website
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What began in Tunisia in December 2010 led to the mass demonstrations in Egypt starting on January 25, and now the rest of the Arab world is following. Lebanon is no exception. On February 27th, many Lebanese youth activists gathered for a demonstration against the sectarian system in Lebanon, demanding changes in both the constitution and the way daily governmental business is carried out.

This rising consciousness and refusal to succumb to the status quo is rooted in the same spirit that prompted myself and a group of friends to launch Aie Serve four years ago. Instead of staying silent, we decided to take positive action.  Aie Serve is a youth-based, youth-managed, and youth-funded organization dedicated to promoting a culture of volunteerism in Lebanon. Translated from Japanese, aie (pronounced “I”) means love.

The idea for Aie Serve came during the aftermath of the 2006 July War on Lebanon and resulted from the sharp polarization of Lebanese youth along sectarian, political, and religious lines. We started brainstorming ways of tackling this issue and agreed that three basic values were missing in Lebanon: Love, Tolerance, and Respect. We espouse love for others based on who they are and not which political background or sect they are from, while promoting tolerance and respect of others’ point of views and beliefs.

Over time, we started gathering more ideas and people, organizing ourselves while focusing on serving our community and society at-large. Aie Serve evolved from a group of friends, to a group of community-service minded youth, to a team and an organization. Examples of Aie Serve volunteer activities include book and clothing donation drives, reforestation and recycling projects, and assistance to orphans and the elderly.

In the last four years, we’ve experienced exceptional growth in the number of projects we do, our members, and our outreach. The impact we see on the ground is both fulfilling and inspirational. We find volunteerism is now contagious wherever we go. What’s more – in keeping with our mission – we find that caring for others is a universal value that brings people together and bridges divides.

Those around me know quite well that I am an optimist and a hard worker and so I believe that with a vision, hard work, and true commitment a small, dedicated group can achieve great things… and the biggest proof is where Aie Serve stands to day!

Afif Tabsh is Co-founder and voluntary President of Aie Serve. In 2011, he was named one of ten finalists selected for the King Abdullah II Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement.