Friday, April 13, 2012

That's my daughter in the water...

I was sitting with Bader and Jehad and my couchsurfer at Zamn cafe in Ramallah, and Bader started showing me pictures of his daughter on his iPhone. He told us "in Arabic, we have a saying, ayouni illak, which means, my eyes to you." This means you give them your attention, your support, everything.

He said this phrase is so normal, people say it as a sign of respect, but with his daughter, he would actually do it. He would go to the doctor and....

Sabrina and I laughed. Jehad said, after showing us his daughter in his phone, that he thinks in this culture, the father loves his daughter more than his son. I told him this is something the West doesn't see, we're only shown images of patriarchy and the oppression of women here. He said this is a very bad picture.

There are so many instances where I've seen Palestinian men doting on their little girls and I wanted to whip out my camera and film them. In Jaba I filmed Nizar throwing his daughter up in the air, she was squealing with delight and had the hugest grin on her face. With every bouncing knee, every massive grin, a stereotype shattered.

As Sabrina and I were walking home from the bus station today, my friend Adeeb from Bil'in drove by in his taxi and shouted "Morgaan!" I shouted "Adeeb!" before the cars behind him started honking madly and he had to keep going. I told Sabrina that I met Adeeb after I fell in love with his daughters, of which he has seven. He's always bragging about his eldest daughter, who is now a doctor and just got engaged to one of her classmates from med school, and he has a kindergarten picture of his youngest daughter Batool (Tutu) below his rearview mirror.

What song would I put in the background of a Palestinian father-daughter film? John Mayer's Daughters? Or perhaps Daughter by Loudon Wainwright...

I recommended this song to John, the owner of Beit Anissa, as we were sitting outside the bar last Friday afternoon. I told him it was one of the sweetest songs I knew, and he might like it because he had a little girl. Though I realized immediately as I sang him the chorus that water is a touchy subject here. As a successful business-owner in Ramallah I'm sure his daughter had access to a swimming pool and they'd probably traveled to a country with a beach or a lake or something....but she'd probably never seen the Palestinian coast, which is about 28 miles away. I don't mean Gaza, I mean Jaffa/Tel Aviv.
Maybe John had seen his "daughter in the water" many a time and the lyric wasn't controversial for him. But watching this video made me realize how unrelatable that idea is for most Palestinians, who don't have enough water for recreation (except for a handful of private hotel pools) and can't get a permit to visit their sea.

That's my daughter in the water
Everything she knows I taught her,
Everyhing she knows.

I asked Bader what his daughter likes, and he responded "me." I laughed and said, "well, I know that." Jehad chimed in, "no, she doesn't mean what she looks like, y3ani, sho bt-heb, what does she like?"
To which Bader replied, "aha, she likes to draw, and to look at books. She likes to go to the library, and the mall. When we go to the mall, first thing, we have to go to the bookstore..."
Jehad added, "For children, the books have to be in the right package...or they won't be interested..." I told him I loved pop-up books when I was a kid. He said his youngest daughter destroys pop-up books, and said "ooh, bird" and pantomimed yanking a bird out of a book.

This made me think about the library in Al Aqaba. The kids there don't have this same love for books because they don't have a lot of them, let alone "well-packaged" ones. Fortunately our new librarian is on the job. I have a video of her tour through the library that I need to get translated for the website, which should be live within a week, insh'allah.

One day at a time :)