Friday, January 27, 2012


So I've put myself in the position where I have two blogs, one for...anything really, and one for the guest house. Here's the link:

Anyway, I'm in the process of making a website for Al Aqaba, and the guest house blog is just a link on the site. So I have more personal freedom with the blog, but it still needs to be professional because it represents the village and Haj Sami. Alright, but this is my personal blog, and I just have to share this.

Last night I was in Tubas having dinner with a family. This man, Hakam, runs a TV/photo studio in the city, so he's up in Al Aqaba sometimes, shooting footage for Palestine TV. He was there when the demolition orders were delivered, and he asked why I never visited his studio. It's true, I had flaked on my last visit, so I promised to come the next day. Haj Sami told him right then, "She loves makloubeh...." har har, thanks Hah Sami. So I was invited over to have dinner with Hakam's family the next night.

His family lives in an apartment above the studio, next to his brother. He introduced me to his brother and I saw that there were also four Koreans there. I'd met a Japanese woman who lives in Tubas, but it was rare to see any foreigners there. They seemed very excited to meet me, and I was happy to see that they'd made it all the way up here, but Hakam was eager to shoo me into his apartment and introduce me to his wife and kids. He and his wife wanted their daughter to practice her English with me, and were prodding her to ask me quetsions. She whipped out her English for Palestine book and asked me, "what do you do on the weekends?" Good lord.
We ate makloubeh, and it was heavenly. Everytime I finished my plate, they heaped on more, because I haven't learned to leave food on my plate. I think I'm just incapable of it. Then we drank juice and watched the 6 o'clock news from Palestine TV. Haj Sami was on the screen, talking about the demolition orders.
Then the Koreans came in, because Hakam's brother was leaving to see his grandmother, or something. They sat down and I saw that they had a guitar with them. Cool, to travel with a guitar, seriously. One of the guys was playing from a book, it looked like a hymnal. I asked, are they Korean songs? Or "misihiye?" Christian? They replied, yes, we are Christian. I told them I'd been to Seoul once and walked around E-Day market, turns out one of them lived next to E-day. I don't remember their names, but I'm not trying to lump all Koreans together. Remember this :)
They were two pairs of siblings, and cousins. They asked me why I was here, and I said I was working in a village, and I just love Palestine. One of the girls lit up, "me too! I love Filisteen!" That made me smile.
I took some video of the two girls, asking them questions about why they were here, what they love about Palestine, what they miss about home, what their favorite word in Arabic is, I'm hoping to make it part of a film on foreigners in the West Bank. Baby steps. But they were very eager to help. Two of the guys were giving Hakam a massage, and contributed, "the people here, very warm, very kind...."
After we'd been there a while, one of the girls asked me when I was going, I said maybe 30 minutes, and she said "oh. see, we don't know where we are staying tonight." Interesting. Well, I said, "come stay with me, I live in a guest house!" They said they didn't have any money, I said if they supported Al Aqaba in some way, they could stay anyway. They were very appreciative.
Before we left, they wanted to sing a song to the family, as a gift. One of the guys strummed on his guitar, and it was a beautiful song. It sounded just like a worship song in English. A worship song? I realized they were all reading lyrics in Korean, but they were a transliteration of Arabic, and they were actually singing in Arabic. Ohhhhh. Their accents made it difficult for me to understand, and maybe it was traditional Arabic, but I could imagine it had something to do with Jesus. I wondered if the family understood. I watched the mother, she seemed to enjoy the music, but she wasn't smiling. I thought of my time in Jordan, someone told it was illegal to try to convert people to Christianity, that this issue was taken very seriously. These guys weren't in trouble or anything, but I wondered if at some point they would run into the wrong people and shit would hit the fan.
Anyways, they finished and everyone clapped. Then we started to go, the taxi was outside, and one of the girls, said, oh, wait! I forgot to give her my gift. She was holding a piece of paper. Ok, I went outside and waited for them. I waited for 5 or 6 minutes, while the driver got impatient, and then they all piled in, and we went to Al Aqaba. Apparently the driver had seen these guys in the Ramallah taxi station. Small world!
So we got into the village, and Haj Sami heard us arriving and came out to greet them. They put their stuff in the guest house and then we met Haj Sami in the office. There we talked and Sadiq came to join us, and Haj Sami told them about the situation and asked them, "why does the Israeli army want to damage the houses in Al Aqaba? All the time we talk about the peace!" and they sat there and mused for a while. One of the girls then told Haj Sami and she would pray for his health, and for Al Aqaba. Then they all approached him. "Are you religious?" one of the girls asked.
"Yes, I am a Muslim," he answered, smiling.
"Ahh, ok, so you know....Jesus loves you...." and she took out her paper.
Oh man. I didn't know what to do.
"Jesus, yes, he is in the Quran, like Moses and Abraham....nabil, what is nabil?" he asked Sadiq?
"Hmmm...what is nabil?" Sadiq asked me
"Prophet." ahh yes, prophet.
"Jesus is malak," the girl replied. He is king.
Hmmm. Haj Sami seemed to be taking this pretty well. One of the guys was massaging his shoulders and the other was massaging his hands. Haj Sami liked that. Now I realized why they were doing it.
The girl said a few more things about Jesus, and Haj Sami pointed to the paper and said, "I know this paper, they did this in Jericho, at the church, when they try to heal me, they try to make me walk, I know this paper, you can take this paper, I know this paper...." He dismissed it, jovially, then added, "but this, you can keep doing this," he said to the massagers. Sadiq and I burst out laughing.
Then they all touched Haj Sami and started their "gift." It was a prayer. I sat there and listened. It was in Korean, I could tell Haj Sami was like, wtf, but he was being a good sport. Then the words got faster and louder and they were each saying their own thing, mumbling or yelling or gasping for air, and Sadiq and I weren't smiling at each other anymore, just staring at the ground, lips pursed, eyes wide...I felt bad. It might look like I brought them here for some special reason. Whatever it looked like, it was going to be a sore subject, and I was walking a thin line as it was, trying start this visitor program and put something concrete in place, and now this.
Haj Sami nodded and said thank you and smiled, but as we locked up the office and said goodnight, I could tell he was simmering a bit.
We spent a bit of time up in the guest house. One of the guys re-strung my guitar, apparently I had put the wrong stright on my E-string, and strung it backwards. Whoops. They played some guitar and learned some new songs, then they asked me when I first loved Jesus. Oy. I talked to them about feeling Jesus in Palestine, going to the church in Bethlehem, getting my friend's prayer request sent out in the church in Jerusalem, singing in a church choir in New Orleans, a bunch of things that didn't really answer their question, but kind of skirted it. Every time they felt unsatisfied with the answer, one of them told me their story about how they used to drink and mess around, then their friends prayed for him and they found God. I just nodded, "that's great." And that was the end of that. They went to bed and I stayed up until 4am trying to figure out how to make a website. I got the basic structure down, then passed out for a few hours.
I woke up to the next morning to more songs. My guests were gathered in the other bedroom doing morning worship. I sat and listened for a while, then asked i they knew English songs. One of the guys started singing "How great is our God..." and I joined him..."sing with me, how great is our God, and all will see how great, how great, is our God." Wait, we knew the same songs? When I was a teenager I had a Bible Camp crisis, wondering why I sang all these songs without believing in the words. I knew at least 100 of them. For two years of New Orleans church choir I just let it go. I just like to sing with people. And harmonize. And make people happy. And be involved. I told this born-again Christian with the megaphone on Bourbon Street that that's where I see God, and he told me I was lying to myself. We talked for an hour while drunk people cussed him out and told me to stop wasting my time. I knew he was right. Maybe I saw what I was looking for, but was I looking for God? Maybe not. Maybe I don't care to answer this question. I just end all these conversations with "I feel so blessed, to be in this place, with these people, doing what I'm doing." So many people don't have that, am I still supposed to feel like I'm lacking?
Anyways, they signed my guest book, wrote some Korean on my whiteboard, and we took some pictures for the website. Honestly, I liked these guys, and I liked that they stayed at the guest house. Though, these nice friendly feelings were mixed with accusations that I was just thinking of PR, and being a diversity whore. I arranged for the group to take a Service taxi from Al Aqaba to Ramallah, which is a pretty sweet deal, thanks to Abu Karam. Haj Sami was in the office, and I decided not to say goodbyes. They invited me to a party in Bethlehem on Saturday, with Tae Kwon Do demonstrations and stuff, I said yes, maybe. They departed.
I went to the office to talk to Haj Sami about the website.
"Where the Korean??" he asked.
Ramallah, I said.
I went to type the URL into his computer and he pinched my neck from behind and pretended to strangle me, "why you bring them here?? this is not good! i can't sleep all night because i think about this!" I said I was sorry, I didn't know, all the while laughing with Tahrir the secretary and feeling relieved because he wasn't actually pissed. At least, not enough to let on. But I still felt bad.
Then I spent a few hours gathering logos and information to enter into the website. I found a few tutorials online, and I realized I would need some help with coding. Maybe someone in Ramallah could help me with that. Maybe that was a good excuse to take off. Truth is, I get antsy every Thursday, because that used to be the start of my weekend. Now I have no schedule, but I want to leave on Thursdays anyway. A big reason was a church service in Jerusalem.

Thursday Jan. 26 4:00 Upper Room outside Zion Gate, Benedictine Brothers of Dormitian Abbey

Seriously, doesn't that sound cool? Anyway, the guest house was dirty and my stuff wasn't packed so I didn't know if I'd make it in time. Typical Thursday dilemma.

To be continued in the next post....