Friday, January 6, 2012

Back in Al Aqaba

I was in a bit of a rut last night. I knew I had hours and hours of uninterrupted silence ahead of me if I wanted to get work done, but I was tired of blogging and video editing, and Haj Sami had just told me that someone from Tayasir had just raised an objection to the pictures on my Facebook account. Really, it was stupid of me of accept so many friendships without changing my privacy settings or cleaning out my photos. I was specifically called out for having photos of me in swimming pools or at the beach, wearing a swim suit, and being in a bed with boys. I knew the photos exactly, with my AmeriCorps friends in New Orleans. As I nodded my head, yes, yes, I understand, I'll fix it right away, I was also thinking to myself, why did I put myself in this situation? In some way, I must have wanted this to happen.

"The student, he can't study if he see you and he think about you and the boy..." Haj Sami had defended me to this person, saying I was a good girl and I had been living here without problems for three months, but he had never had this problem before. I hadn't done anything bad in Al Aqaba, or anything to anyone that anyone knew in Al Aqaba. Anyone could use their imaginations when I left for the city every weekends, but I was always modest and respectable, albeit a little goofy in my lessons. I did break with tradition by hanging out with the (male) mangers of the sewing cooperative, at first just to get internet, but now they're really my good friends. I have no qualms about that.

But I went back and made some of my albums private and I removed some photos. There were 20 or so that stood out, girlfriends at the beach, sorority sisters at fraternity functions, the group cuddle sesh at an AmeriCorps-mate's flat. I paused at several pictures. tanktops. hugging boys. toasting wine glasses. would someone automatically know that growler is full of beer? I knew a lot of my friends had already taken this step, and I was just dragging my feet. But I was also beaming as I looked through my photos. Part of the reason I hadn't reviewed my albums (and again, that was stupid) was because I've only ever been a student and volunteer, and I hadn't had any reason to be ashamed of my photos. I found a few from the early days of Facebook, when membership was exclusive, albums were a new concept, and drunk faces were more acceptable. I cleaned a few of those out. But most of the photos in question were from New Orleans. Those were two....excessive years. I guess I just assumed there were no apologies for that city. But what happens in New Orleans doesn't stay in New Orleans, nor does anything stay in any city anymore.

And now I'm in a traditional village, on a hilltop. I've always been that ajnabia, that foreigner, that blonde girl. But I always had the support of teachers, parents, kids, women....If anything, I'm more inspired to bring in visitors and volunteers, because I think the kids would really benefit from the new energy, not that I'm trying to Westernize or liberate them or anything.

I accept Facebook friends because I know I'm the only, or one of few, foreign Facebook friends around here, and I want to share my life with people. Is it good thinking, or is it a cruel joke, seeing as it's so hard to get out of this place? My friend Hamudeh from Deir Jareer has the best chance I know-he's private school educated, speaks good English, and has a Jordanian passport. He could get a scholarship to a university in the States or Europe. But he's one of the fortunate few.

So that's why I was in a rut last night, and it's also why I decided to stay in the village for the weekend and catch up with people. As I was walking to buy groceries, I was invited into a house in Tayasir. The father is a taxi driver and the mother is an English teacher in Al Aqaba, and their kids are adorable. We were helping one daughter study for her science test the next day, all about fossils and dinosaurs, then someone went on a tirade with the word Facebook in it and my friend the schoolteacher asked if I knew so-and-so. I didn't. I wish I remembered the name. I need to clean out my friend list.

The rest of the day with the kids was wonderful, and I was able to help Haj Sami in the office with some correspondence, so I came back home feeling energized and optimistic. I've been writing for four hours straight. And there's still more to go. I've fallen so far behind. Tomorrow I want to go to Nablus to see about the website, then there's a Fatah rally in Tubas, then we have guests on Sunday and a theater troupe on Monday....things are moving.....alhamdulillah.