Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin-hunting in Jenin

Today, after teaching the boys' class, I spent some time in the principal's office trying to explain the idea of the Halloween party, with some help from the English teacher. The principal said he would probably be able to send a few classes over to the party at the end of the school day. Then I found Abu Abed, the groundskeeper, and asked him what he'd heard from his vegetable guy, and he said that pumpkin season was almost over, so they'd be hard to find. But his friend was headed to Jenin, so I could go with him and try to find a pumpkin there.

Sure, why not?

I hopped into a car with Abu Abed's friend, a man who works for an NGO called COOPI. He introduced himself as "Osama...but not like bin Laden." I told him I had a student named Osama, so he was the second Osama I knew. He wanted to stop by one of the houses in the village that was demolished last month, so we took a side road to the house that stood on the village outskirts, and while Osama checked in with the family, I waited and took pictures of the remains and the tent they were sleeping in. COOPI is helping the family build a room on the edge of their property so someone could stay near the goats, without having to sleep in the barracks (ya haram, the mother told me, that was shameful). Osama checked on their progress. It was a warm, sunny day and the hills were beautiful. I understood why the people of Al Aqaba loved their land. I felt lucky to be standing on it.

As we got back into the car, Osama told me the family had wanted to use their home for their son's wedding party, but they had to postpone the wedding after the demolition.

"What are we going to do? We hope there will be peace, but in reality, I don't think...."

We drove to Jenin, which I'd never been to before. Between Zababdeh and Jenin there were lush fields and greenhouses and sprinklers and when I started filming, Osama said this was the first year they could grow these crops, since they started bringing water in from another city. It was beautiful. At a few points, it reminded me of Minnesota. 

We got into Jenin, which had a bustling main street market, and we headed straight to a vegetable shop. I saw three yellow pumpkins, two quite misshapen. Osama offered to buy me the good one. 9 kilos. 9 dollars. I cringed, that was a bit more than I thought. He also offered to bring more to Al Aqaba if he found them, but I said thanks, I'd try my luck in Nablus, where the pumpkins were originally purchased. Then Osama took me to his brother's bakery, and loaded a bag full of bread and rolls for me to take home. Then he took me to the Service station, paid the driver, and saw me off. I didn't spend a shekel on that trip.

The taxi brought me back into Tubas, where I hopped in the taxi to Al Aqaba. One of my students, Urwa came in after me, and said, "heyy, MorgAN!" He lived in Tayasir, between Tubas and Al Aqaba. He told me that Abdel Naser (another students') car had finally been fixed, and we could go on our Jordan Valley tour this Saturday. I told him I might be busy with Halloween shopping, so I needed to think about this. I reached for my purse to pay the driver.
"Don't pay," he said. He gave the driver ten shekels and said, "ithnain." Two.

Now I'm in my room with a big yellow pumpkin. I think I'm going to carve it outside the kindergarten as they're getting out of school, as a demonstration. I could wear something silly too.

Hopefully it all works out. 

Tent on top of the demolished house, Al Aqaba
The new room in construction
The Arab-American University in Zababdeh
My baby