Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Boy from New York City

Last night I had another dream about Israeli soldiers, but it left off a little more optimistic than usual.

I don't think the dream started out about Palestine, but as soon as I sensed that I was doing something audacious, the IDF made an appearance. It's like when you're flying in a dream, and suddenly you start doubting yourself, and you start to fall. Gravity thwarts you.

In the dream, I was with some friends, outside at night. We were supposed to rendezvous with someone on a rock.

Then we entered a room and I made room for my friends by standing behind the door. Then I realized they saw something I didn't, so I hid behind the door, knowing they were being caught by something. Of course, when you're hiding from something in a dream, it tends to find you. A soldier saw me behind the door and detained me. I tried to be sneaky and use my phone or iPad to contact someone for help, but it didn't work. Then we were just hanging out with the soldiers on some couches. They were waiting for their superiors, or for the rest of the revolution to blow over. Or something.

Then we were playing ping pong. I was laughing. I wanted them to think I was cool. They were about my age, young adults in uniform.

At one point it crossed my mind to say, "why don't you just defect and join us?" but I didn't say it.

I felt a sense of comraderie, aside from the ideological divide and the fact that I was being held against my will. I remembered what an Israeli girlfriend told me, that she had converted at least five people at a conference to One State/BDS. Now I could say I converted five soldiers to putting down their guns and joining the cause of justice and equality!

I don't remember anything else about the dream. I just got out of bed and clambered upstairs and told my dad about it.

On the way to Tully's, this song came on the radio. I'd been singing it all weekend for some reason, and here it is...

This video cracks me up! My parents went to a lot of shows when we lived in Japan, and apparently it's always a struggle to get the Japanese up and dancing. They actually say, "tatte kudasai," which means, "stand up, please!" Then the rest is history.

Oxford Comma

After I got home from Vashon, I watched some episodes of How I Met Your Mother. The last episode featured this song, and it made me smile.

Why? I'd just gotten a ride home with the same person who introduced me to this song in New Orleans two years ago, and we just had a conversation that relieved a lot of my anxieties from this summer.

I don't think much about what I have in common with the people around me, instead I assume that no one will understand and I'd best not get into it because it's just. too. complicated.

But it's not. And I'm not the only one who's anxious. One thing I really came away with was that I fixate too much on how generous other people are with me, and forget to ask myself how generous I am with them....

And when you start to think about generosity and common ground, everything else seems so silly.

So what's the nutshell? I'm anxious because I left a messy, confusing place with little direction and watched the people I left behind make more of it than I feel like I ever could. My parents tell me I'm too hard on myself, and maybe I should talk to someone about it. But who would understand? My expectations for myself are so high that I feel like if I took someone else's advice, I'd be compromising my vision. Yeah, it sounds funny to me too. Then you look at all those interviews of inspiring people who sounded like such anxious little things before they made it big, and maybe at the time they thought of giving up, but the dream, the dream....and do I dare compare?

I can still see the beauty in what I've done. The connections I made, the connections I enabled and couldn't be a part of, and the fact that they're still waiting for me...I see beauty in the fact that I experienced anger and sadness and now I feel more open than I've ever felt. It shows me what matters most, honesty, love, adventure.... 

Why would you lie about anything at all?
First the window, then it's to the wall...
Lil John, he always tells the truth....

In one of those episodes of How I Met Your Mother, Ted is making his new intern do all this work for his new architecture firm, while he sits at his desk and puts off calling clients. He wants the website and the portfolio to be perfect before he makes the call, because it's his first big venture and he only gets one shot. He wants his dream to stay a dream, instead of turning into something he just failed at one time.

Then he gave up on being an architect and decided to teach. And it's not just because that's "how he met their mother," though I recognize that when you follow your passion things just click, but I feel inclined in that direction too. At the age of 24 I feel like I have something to teach, which is a pretty cool thought.

Rock on, Ted.

The Book of Love

I heard this song played at Tully's in downtown Seattle last week, and just now at the Tully's in Woodinville.

LOVE it.

But I love it when you sing to me
And you can sing me anything.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Goodbye to You

I've been out of town for the last eight days, six in the Cascades and two on Vashon Island. The first chunk was with my younger brother, we were escorting my mom's two cousins and aunt, whom we were meeting for the first time, and meeting up with our older brother who's living at our house in Plain for the summer....also our grandparents, who live out there by the art guild they started in 1980, and my aunt, uncle and cousin who live there during the summers and teach back in India for the rest of the year.

I think that sums that up.

The second chunk was with some Whitman graduates, who weren't friends of mine in college and now I'm looking back and wondering why the hell not. They're a great group, and we spent the weekend playing wiffle ball and football and making forrays into downtown Vashon for Strawberry Festival. Saturday night there was an 80's cover band at the Red Bicycle and I just had the time of my life, no reference intended...well maybe.

While we were walking the fair that morning I asked why there was almost nothing strawberry-related there. I learned that Vashon used to be full of strawberry farms, then a majority of the farmers, who were Japanese-American, were interned during World War II and lost their property. I asked if there were ongoing court cases, or if the island recognized what happened. They weren't sure, but I found a few links online about it...

One of the fortunate guys was Masahiro Mukai, whose farm is now used to educate visitors about the history of Japanese-Americans on the island.

The Mukai's strawberry farm and processing plant became the first in the nation to experiment with freezing berries for long-distance shipment.

Masa had a friend in the United States military who tipped him off to the internment plan in 1942. Rather than being told to leave, he left his business in trustworthy hands, and moved his family to Dead Ox Flats, Idaho, and began farming there.

Although he considered himself a "voluntary evacuee," he encountered hostility and prejudice nevertheless. To counter this, he spoke at community gatherings, hoping to convey to his new neighbors that he and his family were "Americans like them."

I did a final paper on internment in my Alternative Voices class, knowing that a few families in Walla Walla had been interned. I spent a bit of time asking people from my grandparents' generation what they remember about that period, how the war influenced their patriotism, and how they had viewed Japanese-Americans. After learning about internmant in 9th grade Washington State history, I was fascinated by the connections this community made with Arab-Americans after 9/11.

On the subject of speaking in the community, I gave my first presentation since I got back from Palestine while I was up in the mountains. It supposed to last 45 minutes, but I talked for an hour and a half straight. About 40 people sat in the Grange Hall (at my grandparents' art guild) for the whole thing, and we were all sweating buckets by the end. I was a little embarassed that it went that long, but really happy that it felt so natural and easy.

I only had a few moments of pause. When I realized a few of my slides seemed a little redundant, and at the beginning when I was trying to give historical/geographical context on Israel/Palestine. That doesn't come easy. How do you estabish trust with an audience before giving the "gist," given that the gist can be so offensive to some?

I usually start off with this:

After the presentation I got a lot of good feedback about what people found meaningful. They liked hearing the personal stories and seeing how I connected with people there, it seemed very warm and genuine. Even the fact that my slides were pretty randomly ordered and I reacted as I saw them made my cousin feel like it wasn't a lecture, but a conversation. Which is what I want, even though I know I'll have to tighten it up time-wise. Some said they needed the geography lesson, and a discussion on what the terms mean, "Palestine," "Israel," "The occupied Territories," "the West Bank..."

Now I wonder how it would go with a different kind of audience. But I'm so grateful, that was amazing practice...

There are a couple of to-do's for next time:
-come up with a 2-minute video of clips from my year
-talk about the conversation itself, what kinds of messages are being spread about the conflict, and what implications those messages have...are they meant to make you afraid? or hopeful?
-give a quick summary of organizations, NGO's doing work on the ground
-have a plan of action for the end, ways that people can get involved

Al Aqaba certainly is a good focus. A woman asked me in the middle of my slide about demolitions, "why is the Israeli army targeting this community?" I answered, "they're not. There are over 12,000 demolition orders out for structures in Area C."

I think that made an impact. Like, ok, this is something we SHOULD be talking about.

So that was something that happened this last week that made me feel very present. Getting out there and talking to people. Spending less time in front of a computer screen. Being at one with nature. Jumping up and down and singing "Goodbye to You" while being sprayed with glitter.

This is what I took home from this week: Keep living the dream, and love yourself.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I'd Be So Happy

I'm with my mom's aunt and cousins at our family's house in the Cascades. It's wonderful. I was only going to stay for a night and drive back with my brother, but I decided to stay the whole week. These women came from Santa Barbara and New Jersey and Florida to spend some time in the mountains. They are amazing and lively and tell the best stories, and sing like angels. My great aunt Margaret is one of the funniest people ever. And she makes a killer caramel sauce that we all drizzled over our ice cream last night.

Stephanie and my uncle Mike are working on a website/archive for my grandfather's artwork, which is fun to watch. They're interviewing Papa and recording him and flipping through all his sketchbooks and portfolios. We found the shop in Wenatchee that displays some of his paintings and Stephanie just up and bought one of them. It barely fit in the SUV. All in all, I'm thrilled to be spending quality time with these people and getting some fresh mountain air. We hiked to Hidden Lake today and all stuck our heads under the waterfall. Three generations. Stephanie said again, "that was delicious."

On Monday I spent a little time walking around the campus of my grandparents' art guild. The doors are always open, so I wandered into the Grange hall, the pot shop, the barn with the woodshop downstairs and lofty classroom upstairs, and the fiber arts studio, where my grandmother weaves. The sun was hot and air smelled like pine needles, it was a little piece of heaven.

All day I had this song running through my head:

And something still told me that I needed this for some reason. The same reason I can run for so long, and I have to remind myself to breathe deep sometimes. This little ball in my chest.

I've just been quiet. Until I get this website and fundraiser and these films and stories and everything done...I just don't feel present where I am. My brother gave me a little advice, which was to get back into my body, especially my feet and hands. Meditation, yoga, sex, exercise....Today whenever I felt like I wasn't present I just looked down at my hands. Somehow it makes me feel better.

Now we're at my uncle and aunt's cabin perched in the middle of this beautiful forest, and I just made a Famous Chocolate Cookie Cake. It's supposed to be a log of cookies smothered in white whipped cream. I've never done it like that. My two white logs transformed into a blue and a red chromosome crossed with a purple center. It looks really weird but I couldn't resist. We're a family of artists after all....

Saturday, July 14, 2012

You Still Touch Me

My mom's cousin Stephanie is visiting from California. Her sister and mother and coming in from the East Coast in about an hour, and after they get back Stefan and I are going to caravan with them to our house in the mountains, and hang out with our other brother and a few cousins and uncles and aunts and the grandparents. Uncle Mike and Stephanie are working on promoting my grandpa's paintings, which is really exciting!

Anyways, we spent a long time hanging out with Stephanie last night and towards the end of the night she told us about her experiences at Burning Man. I think it's easy to buy into the negative things people say, I guess I didn't know of anyone's first-hand experience before, but I have to say that now I'm really intrigued.

I asked her, do people stay in touch with people they meet there? Will the movement spread? Do some people just burn out after a few days? Does everyone have to offer a service?

She said one night she was sitting on her camp's storage container looking at the city, which was bright as Vegas, and her friend said, "you know what blows my mind? No one is making money here."

I asked, "so...people feel like this is humanity at its best?"

I'd like to go to Burning Man. I also have an idea of who I'd like to take.

In any case, I'm really stoked for this weekend. Stephanie woke me up this morning and made some coffee and I turned on Pandora and this was the first song that came on. I just sat on the couch and looked at the screen and thought, "aw."



Just like a waving flag

Yesterday was the first day of the All Nations Soccer Tournament in Tukwila, WA. Team Palestine was playing for the first time, and they had the biggest and most enthusiastic fan base by far. I got some good footage for the promotional video, and since I can't be there for today and tomorrow's games, I left my camera wth the coach's son so he could carry on the project. I'm excited to see all the pieces we end up with. I think film editing does give me the "it" feeling I want out of a career. Now for some training and a job!

Anyways, my camera is no longer with me (ahh!) but I got these pics on my phone:
During opening ceremony, all the team reps assembled on the field. Hanna's daughter was the most dressed up of everybody, in a traditional Palestinian thob.
The fans!
Huddling before the game v Brazil.

Brazil beat Palestine 3-0, but spirits were still high. Bring it on, El Salvador!

Here's a crazy moment from yesterday...I was sitting at a table with a young soccer player and her mother. They were both Palestinian and living in Michigan. Their family was from Hebron, so I got the mom's contact information for in case I go back there. She got me to look up this song on my phone, it's K'Naan's Waving Flag, but with Nancy Ajram in it as well...sweet combo.

She spent a lot of time talking about the occupation, in typical Palestinian mother fashion. Oh, how we suffer! I don't begrudge it, but her daughter and I shared a few glances. She was telling me about how her brother was shot in the face by settlers, and taken to a hospital in Beer Sheva, and I told her the mayor I worked for was also shot by Israelis and still had a bullet in his heart and was still in a wheelchair.

She looked at me in disbelief and asked, "were you in Al Aqaba?"

"Umm...yeah! How do you know it?"

"I saw it on the TV program...you're the girl....from the guest house!"

I stared at her. She watched Palestine TV in Michigan? She saw our program?

"We have the channel. My husband watched the program and said, this is a strong girl."

I didn't know what to say. We were just looking at each other like...wow.

That made my day. For the rest of the game she was telling the mothers around her how she saw me on Palestine TV and I had a nice house in Al Aqaba village.


Kiss From a Rose

My brother is playing this song on guitar a lot.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What a Feeling

I had two highlights of today.

One was hearing a mom speaking to her children in Arabic at a catholic school Cheer Campe finale performance. I was there watching the girl I babysit perform with the youngest group, and I turn around and hear these "habibis" and realize I can understand most of what she's saying. She must be close to Palestine, not from Morocco or the Gulf....

After five minutes of almost saying something, I finally asked her, "lo samaht, bas min wein intkom?" Excuse me, but where are you from? About half-way through the sentence she realized I was speaking to her and she was so surprised.

"Tatakalum Arabia!" You speak Arabic! she said in modern standard.

"Ahki shweya, sakanat fi filisteen thaman shuhur," I speak a little, I lived in Palestine for eight months...

"Ana masriye!" I'm Egyptian, she said, and I was so excited that she was choosing to speak to me in Arabic. "wa inti min wein?" And where are you from, she asked, flipping her hand up.

No way she was confusing me withan Arabic speaker..."Ana amrikia, bas..." I'm just American...

"But your accent....I can't even do the Palestinian accent..."
"Ahki fallahi.." I speak village, I said, and laughed.

"Oh, for heaven's sake..." said a blonde cheer mom, who was obviously good friends with this woman.
"She speaks Arabic! And she's American!"

"I can see that!" the cheer mom looked at me and joked, "we tell her English-only please!"

The boy I babysit was staring at us like "whaaat."

I told the woman "sharrafna," nice to meet you, and we took off to go get popsicles.

While we were standing with our popsicles the woman went up to my again and said, "so you're the nanny?" I said yes. She said, "you know, your name means coral..." I said, "yani, fil bahr," you know, from the sea, poking fun at all the people who'd tried to explain to me what murjan means...

"....or Morgan Ahmad Morgan is what people tell me most..." and her eyes lit up..."you know that movie!" That was a piece of Egypt right there.

So that was as highlight, and it encouraged me to speak Arabic more.

The second highlight was running at the gym. I didn't stop for 30 minutes and that's really strange. I wondered on the way home what exactly it is that made me want to blow off all that steam. While I ran I thought about all the creative/fundraising/writing projects that I should be completing. They make me happy to think about, but they make me anxious too. Isolation and collaboration and success and failure...that's what kept me going, and I probably could've run across the country like Forrest Gump if my mom hadn't been waiting for me.
But My Pandora was on fire today. This was the second song to come on:

First when there's nothing
but a slow glowing dream
that your fear seems to hide
deep inside your mind.
All alone I have cried
silent tears full of pride
in a world made of steel,
made of stone.
Well, I hear the music,
close my eyes, feel the rhythm,
wrap around, take a hold of my heart.
What a feeling.
Bein's believin'.
I can have it all, now I'm dancing for my life.
Take your passion
and make it happen.
Pictures come alive, you can dance right through your life.

Visit to the U.S. Consulate

We woke up in Ramallah.

My alarm rang at eight. I wanted to make sure I had enough time to get to Jerusalem for my appointment at the U.S. Consulate, so I rolled out of bed at 8:20 and showered. I left Souli’s apartment by nine and taxied to the bus station, where the 18 bus would leave to take me through Qalandia checkpoint and on to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Qalandia checkpoint is made up of gates, kiosks and turnstiles, flanked by the Wall. Garbage is littered on the streets, and children are peddling Kleenex packets. This is supposed to be part of Greater Jerusalem, but it's been passed over for city services, because it the beginning of the "other side."

The crossing is easiest for internationals, and Jerusalem Palestinians. West Bank Palestinians, if they can get a permit, have to go through the large pedestrian checkpoint, the“chicken run,” as my mom called it. On the 18 bus, sometimes internationals and Jerusalem Palestinians have different instructions. Sometimes everybody has to get off and go through the smaller pedestrian checkpoint. Sometimes the internationals get to stay on the bus and the soldiers check us there.

This time there were a few people who didn’t budge, so I stayed seated and waited for the soldiers to get on. I was wearing aviators. Did that look suspicious? Would they ask me to take them off?  I realized I was also wearing a kuffiyeh scarf, and yanked it off and stuffed it into my bag. I never wore a kuffiyeh, but last night I told my friend Jehad that I liked his, and he took it off and gave it to me without pause. It was olive green and black.

But the soldiers came on and looked at my passport and told me I had to join the others. So I got out and waited in line at the small pedestrian checkpoint. I attracted the attention of both the Israeli soldiers and the Palestinian pedestrians. What was this ajnabia doing here?

I considered the possibility that I wouldn't get let in. The last time I went through, the Israeli lady guard asked me what I was doing in Ramallah. Panic washed over me. Umm...just passing through? I kind of live there? I think I said I was visiting friends. What friends? More panic. If you're trying to please an Israeli soldier, there’s no right answer to that question. They don't want you to be in Ramallah in the first place. If we live with Palestinians, we must be terrorist apologists. I certainly wasn't up until three drinking vodka cranberry's and listening to reggae with my Palestinian, and Palestinian-American and American friends! Oh hell, there might have been some Australians! I doubt me and this lady soldier had spent the weekend much differently. I'm sure she would have fun if I invited her to Beit Anissa, from outside her bullet-proof kiosk.

I thought about how to respond if I got any trouble. I could tell the soldiers I had an appointment at the American Consulate. How would I phrase that? Stand up straight and say “I can call the Consulate, or I can not….it’s up to you.” I watched the Palestinians ahead of me rushing through the revolving door, as if speed would make a difference. After four clicks the light goes red, and if you’re rushing or not, the door will bounce back at your face. Of all the things that sap your dignity at a checkpoint...you hold your breath as the door goes around and hope it doesn’t bounce back in your face, and if it does, you produce an equal and opposite reaction, as if the door is to blame. Then you turn around to the line behind you, maybe to remind yourself that others are with you, to commiserate, or crack a joke. One time we saw three small boys squeezing their bodies through the revolving door next to ours, and the man next to me said, “walla, ashtar minni,” “wow, they’re smarter than me.” Someone else chimed in, “and skinnier.”

I hopped from one foot to the other, counting the clicks of the revolving door.

“I can call the Consulate, or I can not…this is going to happen through you, or over you.”

What a metaphor. The longer you stay in the dark, the less likely it is that you’ll control your destiny.  How long can these soldiers bar the door to Jerusalem? Foreigners cross from Ramallah to Jerusalem every day, and they’re made to feel like criminals for it. Not to mention West Bank Palestinians, who could live their whole lives in the shadow of the wall and never see Al Quds, the “holy city.”

And I wouldn’t wear a kuffiyeh through the checkpoint, because I was afraid to be seen as “one of them.” Because I didn’t want to jeopardize my entry. I felt so gross.

The light turned green and I pushed through the door and put my bags on the conveyor belt, and went through the metal detector. I put my passport up to the glass and the girl soldier spent a minute typing in my passport number. I wondered if any of my encounters with Israeli soldiers in the Jordan Valley had resulted in anything in the way of a record. She made a face after hitting enter, and I started to sweat, but after a few seconds, she waved me through. Of course I’m fine, hahahaha, I tried to act nonchalant as I threw my backpack on and made a beeline for the revolving door exit. Of course I’m going to Jerusalem, adi, adi, adi, normal, normal normal. I trudged onto the bus and was so preoccupied with being adi that the driver had to remind me to pay the second half of the fare.

As the bus drove along the Wall and into East Jerusalem, I thought about my visit to the Consulate.  I'd been looking forward to this ever since I went to the British Consulate and sat down with one of their senior officials. He told me he'd driven his car into Nablus (the West Bank) and stayed with a family for a while to practice his Arabic. I thought that was really cool, for a diplomat. He was in the Human Rights sector at the Consulate, which was located in Sheikh Jarrah, in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

During that visit I learned that the American Consulate had moved to West Jerusalem and their officials couldn't enter the West Bank without an armed escort.

WHAT. It was one of those things that wasn't surprising to hear, but shocking and sad anyways. This meant that the person in charge of making the Human Rights report in the Palestinian Territories at the U.S. Consulate 1) works in Israel, the country that is occupying the Palestinian Territories and committing most of the human rights abuses, and 2) has to arrange a security convoy if they even want to see the Territories.

And I was going to walk in there and invite them to visit me where I lived, at the guest house in Al Aqaba, in the Northeast corner of the West Bank. It seemed absurd, and daunting, and honestly, kind of awesome.

I got off the 18 bus and checked my watch. 10:05. I still had 40 minutes, so I could walk. I walked to Damascus gate and through the Old City market, between my church and the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is said to have been crucified. I asked a man in Arabic where Jaffa Gate was, and after he pointed, I turned red and wondered if he was Jewish, I mean, not Arab, I mean, not an Arabic speaker. I couldn’t tell, and that always seemed to be a point of hope, that this city seems to want to be mixed, and ambiguous. In the Old City market, where you could find pro-Israel and pro-Palestine t-shirts in the same stall, it didn't feel as heavy a mistake.

I walked out of Jaffa Gate and the Old City, towards the outdoor Mamilla mall. All the brand name stores were represented, and loudspeakers bathed the occasional shopper in acoustic covers of the Doobie Brothers and Sting. It was a quiet, sunny day. Once outside of the mall, I walked along the old Mamilla cemetery, where the new Museum of Tolerance was being planned over Palestinian graves. I walked by Independence Park, and read the words in Arabic, Hadiqa al-Istiqlal, under the English and Hebrew.  

I stopped after the park. Where’s the Consulate? Across the street was a monastery, and I could see a security guard in front. There were a few security guards along that block, so I assumed the Consulate was behind there somewhere. I backtracked and crossed the street, wondering if confusion and kuffiyeh (which I’d put back on) and big backpack made me look suspicious. I walked past the monastery and up to a sign that read “Consulate General of the United States of America.” The crest with the eagle. I was home.

The guards (not soldiers, they were wearing nice sweaters and wires in their ears) approached me immediately.

I said, “Hey, I have an appointment at 11….I’m a little early.”

The guard chuckled. What was I thinking, getting there early? My face went red. He went inside to confirm my appointment, and I perched on a stone potter and looked around, swinging my feet like a little kid. I wondered how many Americans wandered up to the Consulate every day. I didn’t feel normal.

The guard came back out and waved me in. I did all the security checks, left my backpack, camera, phone, passport. They gave me a visitor’s badge and after a minute, my contact Tammy came to escort me into the Consulate. She was a smiling, blonde woman in her 30’s.

Tammy walked me through the compound, full of old buildings and palm trees. The section we were headed to was indeed an old monastery that had been converted into the Consulate. The monastery was beautiful inside, with cavernous stone walls, plants and trees, and red oriental rugs. Tammy led me into a medium-sized conference room, also with stone walls, also kind of cavernous. At the end there was a tree that went right up through a hole in the ceiling.
“The smaller rooms were all full, so we have to use this one.”
"This is great." I set down my purse and my book on the big table and took a seat. We chatted for a while before our third person arrived.

“So how did you get here?" Tammy asked. "Did you take an Egged Bus?”

“Egged? From Ramallah?”

She thought I rode an Israeli settler bus from Ramallah.

“No,” I said, “you know those mini-buses with the green stripes?”

“Yeah, like the green busses with the Egged sign?”
“No, I took an…Arab bus.”

It didn’t occur to me that the consular officials weren’t allowed to ride Palestinian public transportation.
“Ahh, ok.”

We chatted for a little while longer. I found out that she’d gone to high school in Portland, so I knew her school and she knew my college in Walla Walla.

Then Sandra arrived. She was a young, very pretty brunette. She was from Indiana, like my mother. She wasn’t keen on moving back to Indiana, like my mother. She was in Human Rights at the Consulate, and was very curious about my project.

I gave them both my business card and a flier for the Guest House. Tammy told me it might be possible for them to visit, but not to spend the night. I asked, “why is that?”
“If we go into the West Bank, we have to be out by sundown.”

I had this image of Palestinian zombies and werewolves coming out to feast on American flesh. Miskina, poor thing!

"Wow," I said. Then I felt rude, and awkward.

There was a brief silence and I waited for them to respond. Tammy said there’s a meeting to assess the security considerations of every Consulate, and this is what was determined for their U.S. Consulate.

“But…” said Tammy, I think…we make the security threat…higher…than it actually is…..”

Sandra was staring at the pen she was clicking on the table, nodding in agreement.

“If I want to visit a headmaster at a school in the West Bank, I have to have a motorcade with armed soldiers with me.”

I didn’t know what to say. We sat there for a moment.

“There are just some places where you shouldn’t bring guns, you know?”

Just then our conversation was interrupted by sirens and flashing lights. A male voice came onto the intercom saying, “THIS IS A DRILL. DUCK AND COVER.”

Through the din Tammy and Sandra looked at each other and made a face. “Can we just not and say we did?” We waited a few minutes for the siren to die, and it finally did, and we continued talking.

They wanted to know how I got connected to Al Aqaba village, so I told them the story of how I found the website for an American organization that built the Al Aqaba kindergarten, and now the Israeli army was threatening it with demolition, so I went in to teach English and now I’m running the guest house...


“Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Tammy and Sandra worked in a different building, so they didn’t know the procedure, but a young woman came in and said, “this is your floor monitor reminding you to evacuate to the area of safety.” She said it good-humoredly, and Tammy joked, “at least we have a nice floor monitor.” We walked into the lobby, and down some stairs, past the office refrigerator where I noticed a huge stash of Palestinian Taybeh beer, into a small room where forty or so people were gathered. We were the last ones in, so we stood in the center, while the man in charge of security gave a few instructions on how to use the safety room. I looked around the room and saw people mingling on couches, old, young, black, white, in the middle of their 9 to 5.

I was just standing around, a twentysomething in jeans, wishing I could communicate like the security guy, shout something like, “I work in the West Bank! Come to my guest house!” They couldn’t stay over, and their families couldn’t stay over, and I was curious about their lives.

The alert was lifted, and we all shuffled out. Tammy and Sandra and I walked back up the stairs, past the billboards and the hot pink flier for the next chili cook-out, and we wrapped up our meeting.
Sandra told me to keep sending her updates about what’s happening in Al Aqaba, especially videos, because they could use those for the Human Rights Report. I told her I would. I couldn't tell if it was a productive meeting. I didn't know what I expected to accomplish....
Tammy escorted me through the compound, and we kept chatting. Her husband worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, which I found fascinating. I asked her what the relationship is like between the Embassy and the Consulate, and she said, “well, let’s just say they like to shift us around, because you kind of get Stockholm Syndrome with the people you work with...”

The European diplomats who’d visited me in Al Aqaba told me about the Embassy-Consulate divide. The Embassy people spend their time in Israel mostly with Israelis, and the Consulate people spend their time in East Jerusalem or Ramallah with Palestinians. One of the Belgians told me it was sometimes a strained relationship. Their counterparts at the Embassy in Tel Aviv didn’t understand their routine, which involved forays into Gaza and government meetings in Nablus where sonic booms made the buildings shake. It made sense to me that the Brits, and the Swedes, and the French, and the Belgians....would get Stockholm Syndrome. I didn't see how the Americans could get it.

I parted ways with Tammy at the metal detector and collected my stuff and headed out. It was a strange feeling, walking past Independence Park towards….anywhere. I could go anywhere I wanted. I could hop on a bus to Ramallah, like I’d done a hundred times before. It leaves every five minutes and costs 7.30 shekels. The bus with the green stripes and the Arabic on the side.

But I wasn’t headed to Ramallah tonight. I was staying with my Italian friends who lived in the Old City. They had found me on Couchsurfing and stayed with me in Al Aqaba the week before, so now I was going to be their Couchsurfer.

I went to get some work done at the Educational Bookshop on Salah-Addin Street, which is a modern bookshop/cafe, and an informational gold mine of everything Palestine. No matter how much respect one has for Israeli democracy, the existance of this shop feels subversive, even in East Jerusalem. I ordered a latte and hunkered down at a little table with my laptop and looked at the people around me. Mostly internationals and Israelis. Hebrew-Arabic study buddies, human rights lawyers with stacks of paper piled high, speaking hurried Hebrew on the phone, Christian accompaniers in tan vests, taking a break from checkpoint-monitoring, journalists, aid workers, murmuring or clicking away. The last time I was here, two British men in suits sat at the table next to me, and I asked them directions to the British Consulate. They’d just come from there, it was a fifteen minute walk away, to Sheikh Jerrah.

Looking down on the shop from the balcony I heard every customer’s request, for an Arabic book, a Joe Sacco graphic novel on Gaza, or a map of the Territories. The shelves were floor-to-ceiling on conflict and peace, at least every book on Palestine you could ever need. And a nice chocolate cake with coconut sprinkles. Foreigners were practicing their Arabic with the owner, who knew me by now, if only as the girl who had her camera stolen down the street and only realized it at the register. He inquired about my camera every time after that.

Fairuz was playing softly on the speakers, and I heard the same album on repeat several times. I thought of Souli, who had played one of those songs this morning. Fairuz's whimsical voice sang habibi, habibi, and it sounded like falling flowers...
Early evening my friend Mattias called, and I left the bookshop to meet up with him and Andreas. Andreas is about my height and Mattias is tall and slender. They're both boyish and charming and laugh a lot. They're from Sud Tirol, the northern part of Italy where more people speak German than Italian. The two of them were studying design through a university program in Jerusalem.  We wound through the Christian Quarter of the Old City, which is a labyrinth of stone alleyways and tunnels, and ended up in their little cavernous apartment. We sat around and drank tea for a while, and I confirmed that Souli was coming over as well, since he had things to do in Jerusalem in the morning. Crossing Qalandia in the morning could take hours. The boys had only met him once and there wasn’t a lot of space, but they were gracious hosts. Couch cushions on the floor would have to do.
Eventually we decided to go out and get dinner. After wandering around the Old City and nixing pizza, falafel, and street kebab, we decided on a restaurant near Damascus gate and got a whole spread of salads and grilled chicken and meat. It was delicious. I spent a few minutes staring at an aerial photo of Jerusalem on the wall. You could see right over Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and Jordan. Was this land really that..small?

Souli arrived on the 18 bus from Ramallah around ten, and found us at the restaurant. It was a school night for the boys, so we all headed back to their apartment to hang out and get some work done.

Inside Damascus gate, everything was quiet. Only one shop was open, and only a handful of people were walking up and down the wide steps to the empty marketplace alleys. It was a beautiful place to walk at night. The four or five Israeli soldiers were still at their post. Mostly they hung out in the same spot, but now one of them was questioning a young Palestinian man. Souli skirted to the other side of me and picked up his pace and I didn’t understand what he was doing until it sunk in that his Israeli permit wasn’t a 24-hour permit. It expired at 11 every night. He mumbled, “it’s ok, I stay over in Tel Aviv all the time,” and he laughed. He had countless Israeli friends. I could see he took great satisfaction in that. But we weren’t on that side of the country, we were on the border, and the Jerusalem police are vigilant about Palestinians and their visas, so I walked faster, and we turned the corner without incident.
Back in the cozy little apartment, the boys were working on a design project for school. One was a city-sponsored project to design new manhole covers for Jerusalem. Andreas had designed a cross-section of an olive-tree with Quranic scripture in Arabic, English and Hebrew on it. I thought wow, that is a tough sell for this municipality. But the scripture was beautiful, about an olive tree and East and West…I thought it would make a beautiful statement about the city.

We set up the cushion bed for Souli, Mattias and I each took a couch, and Andreas had the single bed. I realized that just that morning I'd woken up in the West Bank, where my diplomats were forbidden to sleep. And now we were in Israel, where one of us was "illegal" for the next five hours.

I looked down at Souli, who was settling into the cushion bed. Months before he was my first couch surfing host, but we’d never couch-surfed together before. Just then I wished my couch was bigger, but I squeezed his hand and smiled and said goodnight, tisbah ala kheir, buona notte...
We fell asleep in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I can't get no satisfaction

The best part of today was watching the last practice for Team Palestine before the All Nations tournament on Friday. It was a beautiful evening in Shoreline, and there was a good turn-out. I did an interview with Hanna the coach, shot some footage of the drills, and met Ramzi.

 He asked me if I'd spent much time in Ramallah. I took a deep breath and said "yeahhhh." He asked me if I'd met any of the Houranis. That's a bit of a stretch, what are the chances I'd know...Hourani?

"You know Jehad?"
"And Khalid?"
"And Khalid!"

Ramzi and Jehad were in prison together during the first intifada. And there we were, on a sunny field in Shoreline, listening to the ball being kicked and the teammates yelling and the sound of I-5 across the street. It's amazing how normal this will always and never be.

This song was playing in the car on the way home, and I think it was the first time I really enjoyed

When I'm watchin' my TV
and a man comes on to tell me
how white my shirts can be
Well he can't be a man 'cause he
doesn't smoke the same cigarrettes as me.
I can't get no, oh no no no... ..

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The other day I was driving home from babysitting and this song came on. It's really big on the radio right now, but I don't like it that much, so I usually change the channel. This time the song was almost over so I heard the 98.9 lady naming it- "Ellie Goulding-Lights."

My first thought was, "that is a Jewish name."

My second thought was a flashback. I was sitting in a bus in Tel Aviv the day after Purim, next to a young man dressed as Mario. I'd woken up at my friend's place in Jaffa, and my friends hadn't even come home, so I ate a shakshooka breakfast with Mario, a fairy, and a really hungover flatmate.

While Mario and I rode the bus to the Tel Aviv Central Station, I told him about Al Aqaba and he told me about his army duty in Hebron, and we swapped numbers (though I never made it up to the Galilee where he lived...) and he told me his cousin was in the States now, she's a singer...she's actually doing pretty well, her name's Ellie Goulding....

I slapped the steering wheel and laughed real hard.

Just another thought from "over there..."

Monday, July 9, 2012

Don't Stop Believin

On Sunday a bunch of uncles and aunts and cousins assembled at Bayou on the Bay, a southern restaurant in Bellingham. It was incredible. I had crab and scallop Eggs Benedict and a side of cheesy grits and a Bloody Mary. That was a treat.

Then we had donuts and coffee down the street. So much for the lake body.

Then we went to the lake and hung out in the sun and swam and boated all afternoon. Josh made a Pandora station on my phone and this is what came out:

I got mad sunburned. Then Stefan (brother) and Kai (cousin) and I hung out at their friend's big house on the other side of the lake and I watched them play pickleball while I got even more sun. Then our pizza arrived and we stuffed ourselves for the second time.

Then we went back to Kai's and fixed the Al Aqaba poster that I used for my guest house fundraiser. In the first edition, the Arabic ended up saying "saalam" instead of "salaam" because the computer didn't recognize the script and it separated the letters. We had to import the word as an image and insert it that way. I'll post the poster in the next post.

Then Stefan and I drove back to Woodinville, and arrived at midnight 30. I felt absolutely cooked. And passed right out.

Trapeze Swinger

Song of Saturday:

My cousin and I sang it at a family dinner in Bellingham, at our other cousin's request. It's one of his favorite songs. I think it's one of the most heartbreaking songs ever, but Iron and Wine are just great at singing about loss. In a tragically optimistic way.

I heard from someone you're still pretty
And then they went on to say
That the pearly gates
Had some elequent grafitti like
We'll meet again
and Fuck the man
and Tell my mother not to worry,

So please, remember me.

For the rest of the night us cousins recorded songs by Bonnie Raitt and Bon Iver on a love sac in their living room. We didn't know we were being recorded until my cousin revealed that Garage Band was up and running. Then we were like, oooooh no you didn't! Then we were glad it was a secret because we get stage fright.

Chloe and I are going to record more next weekend, when we're all back in Plain, where our families have cabins and my brother is keeping his recording studio....

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Poisoning Arafat

Uri Avnery's column: Poisoning Arafat

I honestly don't know that much about Arafat. Except Palestinians call him Abu Amar, and he lived in Lebanon and Tunisia for a while, then the Mukaata in Ramallah, then he died and many people told me he was poisoned. One guy told me it was probably in his chocolates, because he had a weakness for those.

Suffice to say he is seen as a hero, an icon, a beloved leader. There was a picture of him in almost every house I entered. The very few people I met who didn't like his leadereship at the very least respected him.

I met a guy at the Art Institute of Palestine and went back to his mosaic studio to see his work. Most of his pieces were of Handala drawings...and Arafat.

There's going to be a lot of talk of Arafat in the coming weeks. I'm going to do some research.


When I woke up yesterday, I'd gotten about three hours of sleep. I was updating things on the other blog and looking into Wordpress and Buddypress features for the new website, then I went to bed and spent another half hour surfing the SmartPhone. The other night I spent two hours on that thing WikiBinging on South Africa. I really want to go there now.

Then I tossed and turned for a while.

Anyways, when I woke up yesterday, I vowed that I would come straight home after babysitting (by 6pm) and immediately pass out and sleep all night. I often make these promises.

Then my mom and my brother and our friend Catherine and I ended up catching a 10:25 showing of the Amazing Spiderman and didn't get home until 1am.

I fell asleep so fast, and probably dreamed about how to get into Andrew Garfield's spandex pants.

I'll lend this morning's song to yesterday. I woke up this morning (ok, 12:30) to Duran Duran blasting through the house on Pandora. If that isn't a mood setter, I don't know what is. I just get stuck in this song.

We'll find another song for today. Currently my mom and Stefan and I are concocting a spinach and salmon strata. Then Stef and I are driving up to Bellingham to hang out with the cousins for the rest of the weekend. Bring it on!

Friday, July 6, 2012

This land was made for you and me

The other night I was on a rooftop in the U-District with my friend, and the song Born in the USA came up in conversation. I said that I never liked it, because I couldn't relate to it. Really, I can be a whiny baby sometimes. He responded that the lyrics aren't really what you'd expect, and looked them up on his phone.

Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says "son if it was up to me"
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said "son don't you understand now"
Had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there he's all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now
Down in the shadow of penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a long gone daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a cool rocking daddy in the U.S.A.

I just never understood what Springsteen was saying...:P
On NPR the other day, they did a show just about the song "This Land is Your Land." About the seldom-sung lyrics. When Obama called Springsteen up and asked him to sing it at his Inauguration, Springsteen said yes, if he could sing it with Pete Seeger. Obama was like, k cool. Springsteen called up Seeger and asked him to sing it with him, and Pete said yes, under one condition...they sing all the words. Bruce said he wouldn't do it any other way. That really sparked my curiosity....

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

A great high wall there had tried to stop me
A great big sign there said private property
On the other side, it didn't say nothin
That side was made for you and me

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I got walking on freedom's highway
Nobody living can make me turn back
This land was made for you and me

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York islands
From the Redwood forests to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

July 4th, 2012

At midnight on the 4th I ran the Firecracker 5000. Ringing in Independence day with a 5000 metre dash. Sounds downright un-American. But I ran it non-stop!

I'm on Season 4 of How I Met Your Mother and in this episode Robyn has to get a job in seven days or she'll have to go back to Canada. visas suck. anyways....


Yesterday my brother and I drove up to Bellingham to spend the 4th with our uncle and cousins and their friends. Stefan played me some Bjork, which I've never really listened to before. I liked this song:

We got to Lake Samish and joined our famliy/friends on the dock with the trampoline. We drank lukewarm PBR's and played with our cousins' new puppy Havoc. I ended up on a a little party barge with bikini'd strangers drinking a Dreamsicle.

Then we headed into town to meet our uncle at the house (i.e. mansion) they're renting. Four stories with a big deck and a lofty attic and a roof for sitting and watching the fireworks over the water.

I bounded around the mansion by myself for ten minutes before realizing that was my first 5-Hour Energy and I was WIRED.

There was a lot of eating, drinking, mingling and sunset-watching to be done. And it was awesome. An hour later though, I was up on the roof by myself listening to the neighborhood fireworks starting up. I remember thinking at one moment, "if I just get a little drunker this might get easier." Last 4th of July was in New Orleans, and all the AmeriCorps were lighting off fireworks and I started thinking of the demonstrations in Bil'in and Beitin and army bullets and tear gas, and I had a panic attack. It only lasted about fifteen minutes and after venting to my my boyfriend and debating if the feeling would and should go away, I joined the crowd again and just went on with the night.

Then I wondered why I was up on the roof by myself and whether the feeling would and should go away, and another drink later everyone was up on the roof with me and I eventually pushed it out of my mind. But it wasn't hard to get at. It wasn't subconscious, or spiraling, or vague. I was so angry. Last week the army was training in Al Aqaba, and the children were hearing these noises, not knowing if a bullet was going to come through their window, or where that rocket would land. And we paid for it. And it was happening in Afghanistan. And it sounded like this. Booms and whistles and shouting. It sounded like our celebration, and I wondered if the feeling would or should go away. But like I said, I drowned it out. I ended up roaming the streets of Fairhaven with my brother and cousin, trying too many locked university doors and a quirky hot dog stand and my first cigarette since New Orleans and a bush to squat behind and a random party to crash and leave after five minutes, and finally, the mansion basement to claim couches in, to gossip in the dark, and catch a few winks before the drive home.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Crescent Noon

My little brother wants to record this song as a sibling trio. It's beautiful.


I opened up a Dove chocolate today and found this message. It made me laugh.

I want to believe it. I'm usually good at believing it. All you have to do is make the best of any situation, right? My desktop is telling me it's 70 degrees and sunny in Ramallah. I'm not ready to be back there, but I want to be ready...to make the best of it. What does that mean?? I edited a few demonstration videos today (just need to have some things translated), and added some albums to the guest house blog.
Check 'em out: www.alaqabaguesthouse.wordpress.com.  

List Update
Things That Remind Me of Palestine:
-going to the bathroom and not throwing toilet paper in the waste basket
-hearing things explode on July 3rd

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Life for Rent

This song was playing on Pandora when I got up this morning (ok, it was like noon...) and at first I was like, great, this station again...then I listened to it and it kind of punched me in the stomach. And I thought Dido was old news...


 I'm back at Tully's, installing Wordpress plug-ins for the new website, and trying to envision what this thing is going to look like, and if someone is going to beat me to the punch. Seattle seems to be the only cold city in the country right now. My uncle and cousin just got back from Indianapolis, and 104 degree weather. Well, the sun just came out a little.

 Tomorrow is the next Team Palestine soccer practice, then the Firecracker 5000, which is a 5K run at midnight around Seattle Center. I need to get my Genesis playlist ready....

This is a picture I took last week, as I was driving through the U-District in the rain. That's some good New Orleans jazz....

Traffic in the Sky

I went wine-tasting in Woodinville today, with my mom and our friend Catherine (who also came to Palestine to visit me :) and her daughter Emma. We visited three wineries and Redhook Brewery. The first two wineries played 80's music. I remember... Whitney Houston-I Wanna Dance With Somebody Phil Collins-One More Night Jefferson Starship-Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now My Stefan drove us around like a good sport. He sat in the Scion reading The Hobbit. At the third winery, we'd run into our friend CPort, so Stefan came in to mingle. Just before we headed out, a couple in the winery asked Stefan where his t-shirt is from. It was the t-shirt my mom picked up at the Stars & Bucks in Ramallah. It had the knock-off logo with the words Ramallah, Palestine below it, and there was some Arabic on the back. My mom and Catherine laughed and replied, "We got it in Ramallah, in the West Bank!" and the couple was like, "woww." See, Palestine t-shirts.... I didn't foresee posting more than one Jack Johnson song on this blog...but here ya go. My parents got this surround-sound system installed and now my mom likes to play Pandora off our TV. I was lying face-down on our couch, recovering from all the vino, and this song came on. It was my favorite song from the album On and On. My friend Mitra burned it for me in high school and I used to drive around in my little black bug listening to it. I liked the "mm-hmm's," especially. Puzzle pieces in the ground, No one ever seems to be diggin. Instead they're looking up towards the heavens With their eyes on the heavens, mm-hmm. The shadows on the way to the heavens, mm-hmm. It's enough to make me cry, But that don't seem like it will make it feel better. The answers could be found, We could learn from diggin down, But no one ever seems to be diggin. Instead they'll say: Well, how could we have known? I'll tell them it's not so hard to tell, No, no, no, You keep adding stones, Soon the water will be lost in the well... I'm thinking of Jerusalem. New IDF Military College to move to East Jerusalem My pastors told me this might happen. The Lutheran World Federation campus sits on top of the Mount of Olives, and this new military school would serve as a pretext for expropriating more land from the church. This is what I did on a handful of Wednesday nights in Palestine. I'd take the 18 bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem, take the 75 bus up to the Mount of Olives, walk up the Mount past the Augusta Victoria hospital, and through the gate at the Lutheran World Federation. Every Wednesday there was a volleyball/potluck night with members of our congregation and friends. I'm terrible at volleyball, but I think I can get some good use out of all the footage I've taken....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

You're the Inspiration

My brother and I ate a classic little drive-in (mostly) restaurant in Bothell today, the same one my swim team friend and I used to go to and pig out before swim practice. It's hard to make good choices in that place.

But they played this song. Or rather played the radio station that played this song. That was a good choice.


Today I went to Nathan Hale High School to film a practice for the Palestinian soccer team. Made up of men ages 18-50 something from around Seattle and even some from Tacoma and Puyallup. They just pulled together and now have two weeks to train for the All Nations Cup.

They are all wonderful gentlemen. I interviewed about 8 players, and they came from Bethlehem, a village near Bethlehem, Nazareth, a village between Tulkaram and Jenin, Acre, and that's all I remember right now. I'm going back on Tuesday to film more. I'm not sure what kind of shape this story will take, but I'll collect as much footage as I can and see what comes of it. It was cool hearing some of the guys meeting each other for the first time, and understanding the Arabic! It kinda felt like home.

On the way home I drove by the Lake Forest Park Anti-War demonstration, which I've seen several times before and maybe honked at a few times. This time I pulled a U-ey (how do you spell that?) and parked by them so I could ask the demonstrators some questions. I don't think I got a lot of useful footage for the I/P solidarity film, unless I talk about Seattle activism in general and use some pan shots. Anyways, it was cool to hang out with those folks for a while. There was a peace pole that read "May Peace Remain on Earth" in four languages including Arabic.