Monday, October 24, 2011


This morning I was surprised to wake up and find that I knew where I was. The village of Luban Al Sharqia is right under the Israeli settlement of Eli, on the other side of the main road between Ramallah and Nablus. I'd passed it a few dozen times, but I never really noticed it. Israel controls the main road, and the settlements take priority. The signs are in Hebrew first, and I don't think Alloban Alsharqia is even marked, unlike Eli. The other reason I never noticed it is that…it didn’t really look like a village to me. The moment Nancy mentioned “her village,” it was a home, a place with a name, an identity, and a council… not like those collections of houses I passed on my weekly taxi rides.

I’m going to see this village every time I go to Ramallah, and a lot of other villages too….:)

Today I harvested olives with the Daragmeh family (not the same Daragmeh’s as my students in Tubas, but they know of each other!). I was really tired and grumpy in the morning, but by the time we got going out in the fields, it was smooth sailing. It's easy to get into the zone while picking olives. You have a tree, all the olives go on the tarp, all the good olives go in the bucket. It was me, Mama Daragmeh, little Abdullah, and three sisters, Nancy, Diana, and Yasmeen. Like most young Palestinians I know, the sisters all had music stored on their mobiles, so we rocked out to the Arabic Top 40, as well as Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas, and Justin Bieber. We listened to “Take a Bow” a lot, which reminded me of Glee. And my student from last year, Rachael, who tried to sing for her lunch on the end-of-year trip and got as far as “You look so dumb right now…” before cracking up. She and her friends settled on Umbrella instead.

Nancy taught me a lot of new words. I try to come up with devices, but it’s hard to know what’s going to stick. I asked her how to say “change,” like change clothes, and she said “yatahawal.” Yatahawal. That doesn’t sound like anything. No, wait. Yatta, that J-Pop song, and Howl….’s Moving Castle? That one stuck.

The houses of Eli were right above us. I took some pics.

We de-olived one tree, then sat down to a picnic lunch. Mama Daragmeh is really fun to talk to, even though my Arabic is limited. She would holler at all the passersby, which were all male, and I realized how important age and marital status was here, since the daughters couldn’t have hollered at any man or boy their age. Obviously, that’s not just Palestine, but it was cool to see how much respect everyone had for Mama Daragmeh.

Really, her name is Umm Ala, meaning “mother of Ala,” her oldest son. Even if she had ten daughters then one son, she would adopt her son’s name. I wonder if that tradition is going to stick with the younger generations.

Yasmeen pulled out a packet of chocolate wafers after lunch, and Nancy joked that I didn't want any because there was Hebrew on it.
"Ma shteret," I didn't buy, I said, and took two wafers.
"Ah, made in Beit Shemesh."
"Fi thamania arbein?" In Palestine 1948?
No one knew. I googled Beit Shemesh and other people are asking what side of the green line it's on. A lot of people say the green line doesn't exist. anywho....

After Baba joined us and we tackled a few more trees, the girls and I headed up the hill to shower and get ready for makloubeh. I’d eaten a lot at lunch (it’s hard not to when you’re eating with an Arabic mama), and it’s an ominous feeling, sitting down to makloubeh when you’re not hungry hungry. My plate was heaped high with rice, potato, cauliflower and chicken. I just barely polished it off. Afterwards, the sisters gave me clothes and took me to meet their grandmother. I spent the rest of the night chatting on various peoples’ balconies, singing Arabic songs and trying not to get set up with brothers and cousins. We ate knafe back at the Daragmeh apartment, and now here I am.

I'm really looking forward to getting back to Al Aqaba.