bits, parts, memories

new subdivision being built across the wadi from where I used to live.

Ramallah feels like a dream I had.  Another life altogether.  I can’t paste the last year of Palestine into my “new” life in America.   I feel a repair needs to be made.  Something rough about the way my time over there is bumping up against my life here.  Not mixing well.  Not so much oil and water, but lumpy dough.  Still needs work, requires patience.

World Peace.  Whirled Peas.

Amazed at my ability to drown out the rest of the world when being sated by products, choices.  I buy a toothbrush made from recycled yogurt containers.  I can get Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and organic hippy/natural food within a 3 minute drive from home, and all along the same street.  No one smokes.  A Palestinian man (friend of a friend) is beaten by Israeli troops at a “flying checkpoint” outside his village while on his way home from the hospital where he was visiting his very sick wife and newborn son.  The sun sets and rises and sets and rises.  My kids sleep, and I lay awake wondering what’s next.  Full of memories of winding roads into Jericho, late night coffee in al-Manara, playground in al-Bireh, cabs everywhere.  A Turkish bath outside Ramallah, a birthday with friends.  My mind is populated by people I may never see again.

Where am I?

last morning in Palestine: sunrise in Ramallah.

Remind myself that this is the mid-west.  Those are mid-western faces, fashions, hairstyles, accents.  I am here, not there. Or there.  Or there.  So many moves in 2 years.  Incongruous memories being stitched together:  packs of wild dogs, sunsets over foreign cities, stone buildings with iron bones poking out into the wind forever.  Then:  NPR, Tejano music, Whole Foods, upscale playgrounds.  Now:  gingham, wild geese, vast grassy fields, salads as main course, Bob Evans, public libraries.

pack of 8 wild dogs near Qalandiya on our way out of Palestine

Easter at the public library story time included a visit from a chicken. Easter is so strange: bunnies who sneak in and leave baskets of eggs and chocolate, egg hunts, chicks, marshmallow peeps and what was that holiday all about again?

mmmmmm!

pretend sleeping on a bed of soft grass in the sunshine.

When it’s just who you are

Invited to a dinner honoring a visiting Tibetan monk.  In fact, I contributed food for the dinner (momos, sepen, and date cakes)*.

first attempt...hardest part is the shape!!!

A chilly night, I showed up to dinner wearing my multi-colored keffiyeh.  The house was a beautiful hand built home in the country.  I couldn’t get over the beauty of the place.  In talking to the hostess over the next few hours, the word “Palestine” came up 2, maybe 3 times.  Things the kids mentioned, things I mentioned.  Each time, the word dropped like a stone between us and lay there, momentarily stopping the flow of conversation (or so I thought.  Maybe she was just distracted by hosting a big event).   It wasn’t until I was back at home that I was reminded that her husband, the talented home builder with the bright blue eyes and warm demeanor, is Israeli.   I liked them both a lot.  I’m ashamed to admit I first had a lower brain reaction (“I can’t go over there again.  Too confusing.  You can’t expect me to be comfortable with that.”)  But now I see that it was an opportunity for…(dare I say something this cheesy?) growth.  Mine.  I had no idea that her husband was Israeli, so my keffiyeh and my conversation were innocently perfect for the occasion.  I include this story to highlight the fact that my landscape is forever changed.  I’m not neutral, but I am successfully fighting off the urge to hate.

*(the recipes:  for the momos, I omitted baking powder since that was not part of any of the other traditional momo dough recipes that I found.  You can use the stuffing recipe you’ll find at the link, or just stuff them with anything that sounds good to you.   For the sepen (hot sauce) I used only 1/2 C of dried red chilies.  Still really hot.  I also used fresh cherry peppers for another batch, and it was excellent and milder.  I encourage you to make the sepen, it’s super easy and really delicious)

Q & A

Commenting about Palestine can be a minefield, it’s true.  But when people hear we moved to this area from “Palestine”, discomfort trumps polite conversation.  So far, most people don’t actually respond with anything beyond, “Palestine?”.  Shift their feet and widen their eyes.  Drop the subject like a hot potato.  “Is she pro-terrorist?”, they must wonder.  A Muslim?  Weird/dangerous/activist/anti-American?  If they ask anything, will they sound ignorant?  Say the wrong thing?  I feel the weight of the word “Palestine” in my gut before I have it on my lips.  I try to toss it off lightly.  That does NOT work.  I have tried saying simply, “The Middle East” or “Overseas”.  Largely unsatisfying, but often avoids the uncomfortable silence.  Now using the silence as a screening tool.  Am reminded that Americans don’t hear much good about Palestine, certainly not much to feel sympathy with.  Not much fodder for polite conversation in the news about Palestine.  Rachel Ray ad pulled for wearing a black and white paisley scarf that looked too much like a keffiyeh for “her critics”, and that just about sums it up.

OUTDOORS and LOVING IT!!!

We probably spend 80% of every day outside now.  It’s fantastic.

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5 thoughts on “bits, parts, memories

  1. It’s interesting what you say about the keffiyeh in the US. That was one of the first things i noticed when I came to Germany. A lot of young people where them here, and you can find them in a lot of shops.

  2. Grass, public libraries, smoke-free space! It boggles my mind. Those are blessings that I wish every child could take for granted.

    It is both jarring and amusing to see an encounter with a live chicken as an “activity” for kids in the U.S., when encountering live chickens on a regular basis is definitely something children in Palestine can take for granted.

  3. Nice, spring has officially arrived in the midwest! Love the rolling in the grass pics. Especially the one of Laila with pure joy on her face! :) Glad you’re enjoying so much time outdoors- I think the kids will really love the little trails and creeks and parks on our street when you visit!

    On another note, I hear you with that feeling you have about moving away from a place that you love and now feels like such a separate and incomparable life. But I can’t even imagine what it feels like to move away from such a different culture that’s become so much a part of you but no one else understands. I’m sure there are so many complicated and conflicting feelings and thoughts involved. Looking forward to hearing more.

  4. Lovely heartfelt post. It is so strange to really sit and think of all the varying degrees of “normal”, “typical”, or “daily” lives that are being lived right now, the world across.
    Sweet and innocent wishes on a dandelion gone to seed…

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