Sunday, October 23, 2011

Alluban Alsharqia

I got picked up by an 18-year-old girl at a football game and now I'm wearing purple pajamas and getting my makeup done by my new friend Nancy in a village called Alluban Alsharqia.


So here's what happened today. I left Moheeb's and headed to the Service station at what I thought was 2pm. Bas, turns out his clocks weren't set to winter time and I had another hour to kill. I indulged in my third shawarma in the last 36 hours and set up on the second floor of the restaurant with my shawarma panini and laptop. This song came on the radio and it was really catchy, so I asked the servers who the singer was, and they grinned and said, "I'm waiting for you." It was Elissa. "Min Lubnan?" From Lebanon? Yes, they said. Sweet. The repertoire has expanded.

I caught the bus to Nablus and spent most of the ride scribbling in my daftar (notebook). Daftar is more fun to say. But I was writing down ideas for Al Aqaba. Village website: Paypal account, couchsurfing, movie nights, international holiday celebrations, volunteer coordinating, house-building, guest-hosting, weekly cultural workshops, visiting artists, news coverage, networking, funding for it all. It's gonna be a busy week, but first things first: Halloween!!!! More on that later.

I got to Nablus and walked to the Municipal Stadium, but I went to the back gate by accident. I walked around and couldn't find an entrance, and this other girl in a hijab holding a daftar was lost too, asking the security guards if there was a way through. She looked annoyed. I left the back gate and started hauling buns around to the front of the stadium. I'd missed the first 45 minutes already! Then the other girl caught up with me and asked me if I spoke English. Yes. From America? Yes. Ahh, I have brother in America. Chicago. And my sister too, in Puerto Rico.

We walked to the stadium together. She was a student at Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Open University in Nablus. Her name was Nancy. We got into the stadium and her friend told her the score was Japan 4-Palestine 0. Not very surprising. I noticed all the players were wearing shorts and t-shirts except one girl, who wore long pants, long sleeves and a hijab. A few hundred girls were on this side, cheering with Palestinian flags. A girl scout troupe was there, with flags painted on their cheeks. It was pretty adorable. There were a fair amount of foreigners too.

I couldn't find my friend Yuhki, who was helping coordinate the event with Al-Najah University, but Nancy told me to come with her, and brought me to her friends. It wasn't strange, being adopted by a stranger. After we'd gotten some water and returned, she asked me if I'd come to her village. I didn't really hesitate. Sure! Why not? "Really, I love you," she said. "Oh, thanks! I love you too!" Then we took a picture in front of the game. A swarm of girls surrounded us and they all wanted a picture with me. Nancy thought this was hilarious. As we headed out, she told me "many peace people come to my village and sleep at my house because my father is the head of the majlus (council). They come to take pictures of the settlers." It was happening again. Of course I'd met the mayor's daughter.

After the game (Japan 4-Palestin 1), we found the other girls from the village and all piled onto a bus. Immediately it turned into a party bus. I remembered Club Whatever in New Orleans, the purple bus with poles and speakers inside. On this party bus the teenaged girls were mostly piled in back, dancing to the music and waving their flags out the windows. The teachers from their school took role, and we were off. Nancy and I sat together and compared favorite music, and I pulled out my laptop and showed her a video of my students from New Orleans. They were on a bus singing "Lean on Me" during the Civil Rights Tour of the South, and I told Nancy that this bus reminded me of my students. I probably would've taken a video for comparison, but in my experience a lot of women who wear the hijab don't want to be filmed. That might just be older women, but I let it be.

We passed Huwarra checkpoint, and got into the village. Alluban Alsharqia. I could see why people came to photograph the settlements. From the bus I could see the streetlights lining the hilltops. They were so bright. Nancy brought me to her apartment, on a hill, on the top floor. The family had a rooftop apartment too, and we got to climb up another level and see the whole village. Many people in Alluban Alsharqia live abroad, in the States, France, Germany....They had very nice houses. Very large, dignified houses. I thought immediately of that word, dignity. How dignified could it be to live under those lights?

I told them, while we were hanging out on the kitchen balcony, ma bujeb al-mustautinin, al-odwou, baqdaresh ashoof al-najun. "I don't like the settlers, the lights, I can't see the stars." They laughed. I asked them if they had demonstrations, they said yes, all the time. The settlements were build on their land. I asked if they had any problems with the settlers (pantomime a fist-fight), and Diana said, "Yes, of course. they burn the olive trees and they made a fire in the mosque and the Qur'ans too, they burned them."

I read in the news that according to Oxfam, settlers cost Palestinian farmers around $500,000 this harvest.

We ate dinner, soup and bread with yoghurt and hummus and egg and olives and jam. Then I took a shower and changed into a new pair of purple ruffly jammies. They were a little small, but my clothes were so stinky I didn't care. Along with Mama and Baba, there are four sisters here, and a five-year-old brother, Abdullah. He loves action, and wrestling, just like Karim. He has John Cena jammies.

I called my parents and my grandpa on the family's Magic Jack. That was absolutely wonderful. My grandpa told me to send him a photo of the olive harvest and he'd make a painting out of it.

So here I am, surfing the net with Nancy. She plays Enrique Iglesias and Westlife and Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely. I played my song from Bil'in, "Ya Ward Ala Ful Wa Yasmeen," and the sisters all knew it and sang with me. One of the sisters reminds me of Amy Poehler.

Tomorrow we're going to harvest some olives, and I'm going to take a tour of the majlas with Nancy's dad. I think there might be some makloubeh and knafe to be had. Why did I not bring my toothbrush? This weekend turned out to be longer and more sugar-filled than usual.

Sweet, sweater-knitting dreams from Palestine,

Alluban Alsharqia