Friday, April 16, 2010

Brighter. More Relaxed.

It wasn’t until concerned emails and phone calls, plus comments from multiple friends here in Palestine started coming in that I realized just how “not okay” I was. As I was writing last week’s update, the experiences seemed normal and I felt like I had handled everything and it was all under control. In Palestine-sense, I think it was pretty normal and for life under occupation, I was dealing with it all quite well.
Reading my face, a few friends of mine here reached out. At first, I was resistant and stood strong, telling myself (and them) that it was all under control that I’m fine and nothing is wrong. Luckily, one of them saw through it. He convinced me to take a break one night from my night shift at Sheikh Jarrah. Despite my overly maternal feelings about the tents, new playground, ISM volunteers and residents, I took him up on it. We met at a restaurant a few blocks from the tents. For three hours we sat and talked while smoking hookah and eating pizza. I talked about my weekend, the feelings of too much responsibility, Trip leaving, and my impending departure from Palestine. He talked about his family, job and girlfriend. It is hard to describe the feeling, but after that night my mind felt clearer and I was more capable of both thinking and interacting.

I had a few other really nice experiences this week that have really brought my spirit up. On Wednesday, I met with a woman named Fatima. She is from Gaza and now lives in the village of Quarot Benni Hassin in the Salfit district. She runs a woman’s action office that organizes woman from around the region in resistance movements. We met in her office and she told us terrible stories of settler violence (Salfit has more settlers than Palestinian residents) and the women’s movements against the occupation. It was so refreshing to be near such a radical and amazing woman. Better yet, she took us on a hike (yes, Palestine physical exercise!) to the spring she and others have begun to reclaim from the expanding settlement on the hilltop. It was a short hike, just a few kilometers, through some of the most beautiful Palestinian hills I’ve ever seen. The air was quiet, clean and hot. She told us stories of the resistance movement as we walked. When we reached the last spring, we sat in the shade and ate oranges. I got to pleasure my inner science-nerd and caught cute little green frogs in the spring. I also learned the word for tadpole, abudunyba. Since I’m leaving soon and my Arabic is still shit, I’ve taken to learning fun, senseless words instead. Sitting in silence amongst nature was so nice. I would wish this experience upon everyone.

On the way back to Jerusalem that evening for Wednesday night dinner I opted to hitchhike instead of waiting for a service. Hitching reminded me of being back in Europe and the thrill of it made me happy. Thus far, I have usually been lucky, but always smart while hitching. Today was no exception and shortly after passing the driver my phone with a Palestinian guy friend on the other line just to reiterate where I was going, when I was expected to arrive, etc, I found myself in Sheikh Jarrah with over 30 international, Israeli and Palestinians for a tasty community meal. The evening turned into a bit of a photo shoot at the end, as ActiveStills (check them out on Flikr!) snapped shots of us for their upcoming exhibit of Sheikh Jarrah. We made funny (mostly gangsa) poses with the shebab and a few cute girly ones with just ladies.
On Thursday, I talked myself out of doing volunteer training and stayed in the apartment all day napping, doing laundry, and working on a few long overdue reports. At 4pm my friend from Jerusalem came to pick me up and we left for a hip hop and bboy show in Nablus. Just being in Nablus is relaxing. It is a city in a beautiful valley with clean sky. The show was my first live music in months and watching girls in hijabs and boys with enough hair gel to endure a hurricane getting down Palestinian style (boys on one side, girls on the other) was great. After the show we went out to a café for fresh squeezed juice and ice cream. A few of the shebab had janib (international) fever which I describe as an intense interest by Palestinian boys 13-30 in international women. It is a funny game.

After the café we went back to the ISM apartment in Nablus. The apartment has a beautiful view of the countryside. Unfortunately, if you sit in a certain spot (the spot we were in), the neighbors below have a very disrespectful view of the bottom of your feet. This, combined with the “cigarette incident” five months ago, where an ISM volunteer threw their spent cigarette off the edge not realizing there was another level below, was enough provocation for the neighbor man and his very very irate sister to come to our flat, start yelling at us and call the police. Yes, the police.
After about 30 minutes of back and forth arguing with this man who seemed sure that the police had to be called (this would be really bad for ISM’s image in the region), I sat down on a stool, lowered my eyes, and began the most culturally appropriate (ie submissive) apology I could manage. Without raising my head, I told him that we were unaware of the disrespect we caused his family and now that we understand how disrespectful we were being, thank you for telling us, it will never happen again.
Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!! Ok, he accepted and the police never arrived. I (still) love Palestine.

1 comment:

  1. The tone of this blog is much more relaxed, which is a nice change for us eager-readers. Hope you are still feeling well. I can't wait for you to come home! I love you! :)