Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mooning Over You

This last weekend was absolutely fascinating and wonderful.

On Thursday night I went to a meeting at San Francisco State University put on by a Marxist group in Oakland, it was a lecture and discussion on our political choices this year :P and the goal of creating a Revolutionary Workers' Party. It's rare that I ever hear the words "the capitalists," meant so derogatorily. I had brought along a friend of mine, one of the guys I met at Burning Man decompression. This was only the second time I'd seen him, and I kind of forgot that he had worked on Wall St. and was a registered Republican.

That being said, as a Palestine advocate I'm always going to events and thinking, "gah, they're preaching to the choir again." Which is ok, the most staunch supporters of any cause need to be kept in the loop and know where to direct their support, but a big Palestine love-fest is always missing the people who, arguably, need the message the most. Right now, that's still the people with money and power.

Anyways, I was glad that our little group of eight in this classroom was not entirely "the choir," and we had some good discussions. I'm not well-versed in political theory or economics, so I asked about their reference to charter schools as a "union-busting scheme," since I'd worked at a charter school in New Orleans, and heard a lot of arguments on both sides of that issue. As a newb, I just wanted to know how they felt about education reform and healthcare, given the criticisms about socialism where competition and quality are concerned. Naturally, the issue was privatization and teachers' union rights. I just voted to ok charter schools in Washington, not because I want all schools to privatize, but because of this idea that they encourage public schools to step up their game, even though most cities aren't like New Orleans, and privatizing is no guarantee of success. And I agreed that it does pave the way for a frightening situation in which low-performing schools are starved for funding. Well, that's happening already. 

It reminded of the anti-war protest in SF the other weekend, where one of the speakers was advocating for San Francisco City College, saying "our schools cannot be treated like businesses, education is not a commodity!"

I need to do more research on education reform. 

I also wanted to know how Marxists felt about Libertarians, since a lot of people have jumped the two-party ship to support Ron Paul. I asked if there is a recognized overlap in the goals of ending the Fed, IMF, UN, the war on terror, war on drugs, etc. Suffice to say, these guys wanted nothing to do with Libertarians, and said the military-industrial complex won't be shut down within the capitalist system.

I'm really glad I took the time to go and hear their ideas. I never would have pushed myself to go a meeting like this, had my friend from Seattle not been an organizer, but I'd recommend it to anyone. At the very least, more people need to be getting together and talking about our lack of political choices.

The following morning, I took the train down to Santa Clara to help Rebuilding Alliance sell olive oil at the big Muslim Community Center mosque. It was Friday, and it was also Eid Al-Adha! I have so many good memories from Eid in Palestine, and I couldn't believe it had already been a full year since I was celebrating Luban Asharqia, Al Aqaba, and Tayasir.

Here are two videos I made from Eid last year:

Weekend in Palestine (Nov 3-5)
Happy Eid from Al Aqaba!

This was only my second time in an American mosque, and that's another experience I'd recommend to anyone. I had never heard a Muslim sermon in English, and that's so important! Now I need to go to a synagogue!

One of my favorite things about the Muslim Community Center was seeing people from so many different countries. Between Somalia, Pakistan, Egypt....the languages and the dress was so varied. Also, the image of everyone's shoes in the hallway. Sandals, boots, fancy heels. Everyone was shoeless inside. Everyone was equal.

I was selling olive oil outside the men's worship space, so I could see the men and the imam. The men were sitting on the floor all over the room, but when it was time to pray, they moved inward and stood shoulder-to-shoulder. Seeing the little kids following the lead of the adults as they prayed was so precious. Something a non-Muslim might see as strange, until they think of children of all faiths. I memorized the Lord's prayer at a very young age. I prayed in church very early. I went to Sunday School and Bible Camp since before I could remember. How is this any different? It was wonderful to hear the imam talk about generosity and humility. You have to give, and give, and thank God for everything you have! Honestly, I learned a similar lesson from Burning Man (though we thanked the Universe mostly). The importance of giving gifts, and being grateful for the gifts you have. Ahh, the secret to happiness, if only we could remember it more often!

That night I went with Carin (who I'm staying with currently) downtown to see a screening of The People and the Olive. The title isn't very telling, but it's about a group of marathon runners that runs from Hebron to Jenin, almost all the way up the West Bank. I didn't really have the energy to go, but I watched the trailer and knew it was going to be worth it.

The trailer!

What I loved about the trailer is that it encapsulated the joy of solidarity. This movement is often seen as just an "anti" movement. It's anti-Israel, it's anti-peace, it's anti-Semitic. Why aren't we asking, what is it PRO? That's a question I'm always asking myself when I write or make videos...how can I capture the people involved, their stories, their emotions, that their motivation is actually love, not hate....

The movie was really good. What stuck with me the most were hearing from the American women on the run, and seeing the Israeli jeeps following the runners and eventually arresting their organizer. It was very typical, this absurdity that accompanies a lot of the hard/alarming/scary situations. It reminded me of the bike ride I went on in the Jordan Valley, when the army forbade us from biking down the highway, then our bus was followed by three jeeps. It was just....absurd.

The next night I went to a Halloween party called Ghost Ship, in a hangar on Treasure Island. This was another event I wouldn't have found on my own, but my friends from Burning Man Decompression (that night is feeling more serendipitous all the time) were going, so I met them in the city to assemble costumes and head out to the island. I was a Sith Housewife, though apparently Sith Lords can't get married, so I was Darth Maul's girlfriend. I had a Sith robe, big sunglasses, and black and red lipstick. This was very last-minute, and it worked pretty well. Though, the hangar got too hot for the robe, so I didn't look very Sith-y for most of the night. No one seemed to mind...about anything, really.

The hangar was full of art cars from Burning Man. Big, two-story cars with dance floors and balconies. They also had the big metal sculpture that was outside my camp this year, which you can climb up and hang out in. There are cushions and everything. I loved that sculpture. So I ran around and hopped on every art car, and danced on every dance floor, and examined every tripper trap. Even swung on a rope swing before they took it down. Unfortunately, my phone was dead, so I couldn't get any photos, but the memory will live on. I found a kind of electronic music that I can't even identify, and danced my butt off.

Five hours after the party ended, I was in church.

I was a little nervous about this arrangement from the get-go, but I couldn't forgo either experience, so I took it pretty easy at Ghost Ship, and made sure I had nap/shower time in between.

Peace Lutheran Church is a church my grandfather did the paintings/mosaics/stained glass for. When I called them, they welcomed me with open arms to give my Palestine presentation, and arranged it on very short notice. It was great to walk around and see all the pieces my grandfather made, and people were coming at me left and right with stories about his time there. I also got a great response to the presentation. They gave me a lot of encouragement and advice, and it made me really realize what a friend I have in the Lutheran church. And how could I not talk about the importance of the Lutherans to my time in Palestine? 

Yeah! Lutherans!

Then I went back to East Bay with my friend from Ghost Ship (what a trooper!) to rest, then I went back to the city to fetch my bike. On the way down the hill towards the BART station, I started hearing people on the street hooting and hollering. The Giants had just won the World Series! People were honking and running around and high fiving each other and there were bands playing on sidewalks, and it reminded me of being in New Orleans for the Saints Superbowl win. Not nearly as intense, but seeing people so jubilant and celebrating with each other was really cool. A lot of people were wielding brooms, because the series was a clean sweep. Ha!


Getting home took a bit of time, because I missed the last Caltrain, so I had to take a SamTransit bus home from the BART station. This song was in my head all the way home. It wouldn't leave until I had remembered every word of it. Mission successful but....really?

My brother played this character in 9th grade. hahahaha.

I couldn't find any English stage versions with decent sound quality. HOWEVER, I found one in Swedish and it absolutely made my day.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Ascent of Stan

I know why this song was in my head this morning.

"Being poor was not such a drag in hindsight..."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Caltrain Pub Crawl

            This was the Caltrain Pub Crawl, organized by another Whitman graduate. I found the invitation on Facebook and thought, whoaa, Drew lives in San Francisco? You can drink on the Caltrain? The dress code is tite and brite? Something is actually happening in South Bay?

So I jumped on the party train in San Mateo. A bunch of neon hooligans, they were. And my friend Chris from Whitman was there too! What's up?!

 Drew played Gangnam Style and LMFAO out of a speaker in his backpack and people danced from train to bar, and bar to train.


My last month in Palestine was probably the most important month to post about. But I didn't want to show how unorganized I was. I didn't want to look vulnerable.

I got some updates from Whitman classmates today. It seems like everyone is in grad school, or TA'ing, or passing the bar. That wasn't what made me bike to Stanford today...right? I spent some time perched at Peet's Coffee trying to absorb some motivation from people around me. I stayed there for a good six hours, and I was one of the last to leave.

I just don't know what I'm waiting for. I feel like I'm treading water.

I got lost on the way into Stanford, and on my way out, bu it was nice to get some exercise, and some California night air. It was also strange leaving campus and remembering that Souli was invited to speak at a conference here. His last visa never came through, seemingly after they found out he'd been in prison. But wallahi, Stanford.

They don't get it, do they? Or they don't care? I mean, hell, everyone's trying to get in to this country. There's just no indication that either of our likely leaders knows the first thing about making peace. You want peace with the Palestinians? Then let them in to tell Americans about their peace work! p.s. half of them have been to prison....

And yet, what year was Nelson Mandela taken off the U.S. terrorist list? Answer below....

This was in my head as I was biking today....I remember listening to it while on safari in Kenya, in my Disc-Man CD player. I also listened to Jessica Simpson.

so...just be patient with children. they'll get it eventually.

(answer: 2008)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Soldiers fire guns outside Mayor Haj Sami's home

As I was putting jam on my toast this morning, Donna told me that soldiers had tried to bust down Haj Sami's door in Al Aqaba last night. ooooook. That's messed up. Not very surprising, but that kind of thing had never happened in Al Aqaba before. A large training yes, but a three-jeep midnight harassment? It sounds like they were drunk and went rogue from the camp down the street. In any case, I knew we had some work to do, at least to figure out what the soldiers wanted, and if it was related to the upcoming demolition review for the Jaber house.

We drove to a coffeeshop to draft a report of the Arabic version Haj Sami sent us, and called him from the parking lot. This was the first time I talked to Haj Sami since I left in May.

 "The people is...very fried!" That's how he says afraid. We found out that the soldiers were outside the gate to his house, not his front door. I was relieved to know that they hadn't broken protocol (entirely) and entered the center compound, and I could still assure visitors that the Guest House was safe. Of course, this was unexpected, so what else could they go and do?

Donna and I translated the report into English and gave some background information:

Three Israeli Jeeps Enter Al Aqaba Village at 1am, Soldiers Fire Bullets Outside Mayor's Gate  

At one o’ clock in the morning on Oct. 10th, 2012, three Israeli military jeeps drove through Al Aqaba Village to Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih’s house at alarmingly high speed. They banged on his gate and yelled for him to open immediately. Because he is paraplegic, Mayor Haj Sami needs time and assistance to get out of bed. Before he was able to approach the soldiers, they fired bullets above his house and then drove away firing into the air. Villagers were terrified for Mayor Haj Sami and his elderly mother who lives with him. 

Mayor Haj Sami received no message from the soldiers — neither oral or written. This raid seemed to be an intimidation tactic against the mayor, a peace advocate who continues to build and welcome visitors despite demolition orders against 97% of his village. Forty years ago at the age of 16, Mayor Haj Sami was shot by Israeli soldiers when working in the fields with his parents, and since then has been wheelchair-bound. He was the first casualty in the Israeli Army’s live-fire training exercises that killed 12 people and injured 36. In 2002, by order of the Israeli Court, the Israeli Army signed an agreement barring live-fire training exercises within Al Aqaba Village, but the next year the Army issued demolition orders against the kindergarten, the mosque, the medical clinic, and most of the homes. 

“I was not afraid, but the people were frightened,” said Mayor Haj Sami, “I will stay steadfast and serve the citizens, God willing, these criminal acts will not scare me.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weekend on the Bay

Riding the Bart on the way to Oakland to meet up with my next-door neighbor from Woodinville, and check out the Friday night street fair!
As I approached the street fair, I saw scalpers on the street and wondered if the fair actually cost money. Turns out New Order was playing....a few days after I learned their name, and here they are....??

Of course there's a creme brulee cart....I liked that guy's beard.

Art Murmur, it's called...

On my way to Arab Fest the next morning, I emerged from the Bart station and ran into an anti-war demonstration! I stuck with these guys for a little while.

Code Pink represent!

Finally, I made it to Arab Fest, and just in time for the Palestinian fashion show.
Arab Fest in the heart of San Francisco

Cool sidewalk statue

The NEXT morning....between three modes of transportation on our way to the Bluegrass festival, my cousin and I hit up the farmer's market by the Civic Center

I led the way to Soul Rebels, a New Orleans Thursday night tradition. It was great to hear brass again.

Glen Hansard was my cousin's choice, and I got chills all through that set. He was phenomenal.

At Burning Man Decompression, some of the installations made a reappearance. People piled on the ground to watch the fire swirl around this hanging bowl.

"Char Wash," where people stand inside a pen and get "cleansed" by swirling flames

This man's tuba was on fire.

When I got back to Menlo Park, I was absolutely famished, so I made shakshuka for me and Carin! That was a tasty batch, if I do say so myself....


I'm sitting on the sidewalk, charging my phone, watching hundreds of people walking down this narrow street dressed in fur coats and platform shoes and capes and funny hats while the music blasts out of the sound camp at the end of the road.

This fest is so finite. There's a road block on 22nd and a road block six blocks down. Burning Man Decompression is constrained to these six blocks, and things are being sold for money, and there's a little bit of litter on the ground. It's strange to see this transplanted in an urban environment with tall buildings and a freeway overpass...many people look dirty but no one is covered in dust, and some people are just here to party in San Fran. Mostly it's familiar and recognizable and extremely comforting, which I need. I look around and know that most everyone here is my friend, if I want to reach out and ask for help. I could disguise my plight and hit the dance floor and just trust....that I will find someone.

I missed the last Caltrain, the last straight shot home. I had no cash for a bus, and not enough on my card to withdraw a 20. If I asked a stranger for $4, it would probably take 3 or 4 hours to find a MUNI bus, catch a BART, then SamTransit back to Menlo Park. I had stranded myself big time.

Everyone here is my friend, everyone here is my friend. I knew that wasn't totally true, I'd weeded out some sketchy looking guys surveying this madness...they clearly didn't get it. Those people look nice, those people look like they have a comfy couch, those people look like millionaires in disguise! The music was good, but I wasn't in a good place, so I found an electrical outlet next to an interactive dance floor that lights up as you dance on it. I spent a half hour watching a guy with a tail and a girl in spandex and fuzzy leg warmers dance their butts off while I charged my phone and waited for a plan to emerge.

I was a little surprised and extremely grateful that I could bring myself back down to Earth. The music was making my head bop, the dancers were making me laugh, and I knew somehow that everything would be ok. I was also a little disappointed that I couldn't just let go of my anxiety and join the party. If I didn't know where I was going to sleep, I couldn't let loose. But I was intensely grateful for having a clear enough head. Checking my phone, I realized it had only been an hour since I left my friends to catch the train. The hour before that I had surrendered space and time to a piece of chocolate. Every five minutes felt like an eternity, and what was Sunday, and what was tomorrow, and what was San Francisco, and what was Menlo Park? Do I have a problem? How serious is it? All I know is, every face I see is supremely interesting, and everyone finds me supremely interesting, and I love my new friend Joshua.

And an hour later I'm sitting on a sidewalk by myself in a new city with a dollar in my pocket and a dead phone. This is not how you're supposed to do it!

I didn't call Menlo Park to get rescued. I thought about 4 dollars, and sitting on trains and buses for three hours, for the purpose of waking up on Monday morning in Menlo Park, and I think that scared me as much as finding a new place to sleep. Not just the journey, and the effort of going back, but the resignation to waking up in Menlo Park, because that's what I'm expected to do.

I'm afraid of where I'm going, I'm afraid of where I've been. 

In that moment I decided to have a little faith. I would find someone, I would end up somewhere safe, and I would hopefully have fun on the way. Walking down the street I could see that a lot of the dance floors and art installations were being broken down, and I tried not to panic. I saw a lit-up tent in the park so I went up and saw a lot of people sitting on a carpeted floor, looking very zen, and two guys said, "hey, wanna sit down?" I let myself come back to Earth. It was 10pm on a Sunday night, I was in San Francisco, and I was extremely blessed to be here. If there's something Burning Man teaches you, it's to look for blessings. Plus, you're supposed to do one thing every day that scares you.

My two new friends and I talked, and greeted people, and met Alex from Romania, and had our fortune told by Gabe, who looked like a cherub, and got serenaded by a older long-haired blonde guy on a ukelele who sang about the troubles of his home in Hawaii. I was afraid people were staring at us as he wailed rather loudly about condominiums, but after two songs he told us he was the leader of this camp we were in, and I reminded myself to quit judging. Another lesson from Burning Man....

One hour later, I found myself at an after-party with my two new friends, discussing the Middle East on a balcony with newer friends.

And one hour after, I found myself on a couch in an apartment in San Francisco, eating pizza and watching Rookie of the Year.

Fast forward seven hours, I was on a Southbound Caltrain, listening to an 80's dance remix, seeing texts from new numbers pop up on my phone and glancing over at a baby that was staring at me.

I love my life.


This song played twice at the after-party. I'm not that into it, but it goes well with the theme of today.

Home is wherever I'm with you.

...and the people in this picture look like.....yeah. 

Never Goin Back Again

John F. Kennedy wrote this letter to his dad in 1939, after his trip to Palestine. Fascinating.

 In "Dear Dad" letter, JFK calls for independent Jerusalem

I'm staying at Donna's tonight. Her and Martin and I had dinner and tea and ice cream with brownies, then Donna and I finished up our fundraiser while Bonnie Raitt was on Pandora and a lot of quality songs turned up...this being one of them. I got my boyfriend to learn this on guitar in high school. Sadly, I couldn't belt those notes like Lindsey Buckingham :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wuthering Heights

Three times in the last 24 hours I've felt compelled to think, "wow, I'm surrounded by awesome people." There's something to be grateful for.

Last night I drove to Stanford to attend the first meeting of their SPER- Student for Palestinian Equal Rights club. I was excited to go to Stanford. I'm living within biking distance of campus, and now I'm convinced I need to be a proper townie.

It kinda freaked me out, actually, driving into Stanford. I have a few friends that went there, but the name, it's so illustrious, and I'm just not used to being in places like that. I can't even really explain it. I've been to dozens of university campuses. Tulane, and Northwestern, and the University of Chicago were very impressive. My school was miniature, but still the same kind of nice. 

This was something else. I kept craning around to look at the buildings and dorms and tennis courts, I was afraid I would actually knock down a Stanford student! It was a strange feeling, seeing all these younger people around, and wondering if they actually "had something" on me. I just did two years of AmeriCorps and spent a year in Palestine, dangit, I have something to say! I remembered how much time I spent in college wrapped up in things that don't matter, and thinking mostly of myself.

It was the spring break trip to New Orleans that made a huge difference. It made me feel like I had a unique message. Was that selfish too? Does it matter, if it inspires and educates and helps people?

Those thoughts tie in to the second batch of wonderful people, the two men who own the store I've been working out of. More about them in a minute.

So, Stanford. I drove as far inward as I could, and miraculously found a parking space outside the Old Union building. As soon as I entered I saw the glass-walled conference room. Looking back, I don't know if it was natural confidence, or the fact that Room 121 had to be on the 1st floor (in America), or the ethnic diversity that told me this was a Palestine meeting. But I went in, 15 minutes late, and tip-toed to the back of the room and sat on a table.

There were about 25 people in there, a few faculty members including the founder, who was sitting next to me. When I introduced myself and said I'd just been in Palestine, and worked for a non-profit in San Mateo, he already knew Rebuilding Alliance and Donna. So that was cool.

The members of the club were going over the history of the group, their programs, the BDS movement, and the conflict for some of the prospective members. They said that they'd made great friends here, and really found their niche in a social justice/activism sense. I couldn't help but compare to my experience at Whitman. Did we even have an activist community? Did I even look? All I remembered was the flyer I was handed when Aayan Hirsi Ali came to speak, a campus group wanted the audience members to have some basic information about Islam before they heard Ali's message, which was very anti-Islam.

I just e-mailed my Middle East history professor from college, I've been thinking a lot lately about the impact her teaching had on me. I wasn't a very serious scholar back then. I was pretty much in the shallow end, motivation-wise. Now I'm wondering what kind of graduate student I would make. After three years of service out in the field, could I hit the books again? I would definitely take myself and my professors more seriously, and learn a thing or two about collaborating. 

Enough of this lone wolf nonsense. I'm a little sick of it.

But the fundraising page and the video are almost finished, and I'll be going on a short speaking tour soon. Only good things. Again today I felt grateful to be doing things I really care about.

So the Stanford group was great, and I almost wanted to take a picture just to capture that they were together, and doing something. But then I felt that old familiar feeling that I'm an intruder and probably from StandWithUs, or the Mossad.

Or it just wasn't a good moment to photograph a meeting I just wandered into.

One of the organizers said there was a Palestinian lawyer coming to speak on Thursday, she led the Freedom Ride that happened earlier this year, when six Palestinians boarded an Egged settler bus in the West Bank and got arrested at the checkpoint going into Israel. I asked, "Huwaida Arraf?" She said yes, one and the same.

I told Donna today that Huwaida was coming to speak at Stanford, and it turns out Donna's known her for a long time, so she contacted Samer at Stanford, the guy who was sitting next to me, and got me lined up to sell our fair trade olive oil at the event. I'm actually really looking forward to that! And meeting Huwaida, I've heard a lot about her.

I looked at the Stanford website when I got home. They have documentary and film studies, but to my knowledge no Middle Eastern Studies degree. Other schools would give me more focus, but there would be some amazing professors to study with at Stanford. Just...so many classes devoted to theory.....ugh.

I feel like watching Orange County now :)

The second time I was surrounded by awesome people was today at the office/shop. The two guys who run the Peace book/games shop invited us to join them for tiramisu and sparkling lemonade. They were celebrating their colleague's 100th shift. While we stood around and ate some bomb tiramisu, the guys told us about some of their upcoming events. Every third Wednesday of the month they host the local writer's club, which is part of the larger California writer's club tradition began by Jack London. You can go and share your work, or just listen...I've never been to something like that before. I'll go in a few weeks, and maybe I'll have something to share! :)

They also told us they were raising money to send to the school district to coordinate free trips for middle schoolers to see the film Bullied in theaters. They were almost up to $500. I thought that was so cool.

The shop is also hosting a Halloween party for families, with a few local authors and illustrators, including the one for Horrible Hauntings. He busted out the book, and said, "this is a new kind of book that I think is going to get really big..." I thought, how could a children's book surprise you anymore? They've done texture, they've done pop-ups, they've done recordings...what else is there?

Well, I wasn't thinking of holograms....that's still in the works. But this surprised me. What you do is you download a Smart phone app, then hover your phone over the pictures in the book, and your phone recognizes the border of the picture as code, and produces a moving image over the scene. So there's an empty staircase in the book, and a ghost moving down the staircase on your phone. It blew my mind!!

They said it's so hard to get kids to sit down and read a book because everyone has a cooler gadget these days, so this was a way to combine the two. It's a little sad, but I've been so impressed, after nannying a two-year-old, how amazing some of these new toys and shows are at getting kids to read! That kid had the alphabet down!

Finally, they were talking about a new initiative they're fundraising for on a kickstarter account, to connect students to the issue of homelessness. They have alliances with various organizations that deal with the homeless, and there's a simulated online character that answers kids' questions about being homeless, and they can earn points for locating a shelter or soup kitchen near them, or writing a report, or doing a multimedia project, or submitting something to a newspaper....it sounds amazing, getting kids to learn more about their communities. That's what made me think of my lack of involvement in my younger days. I really hope their fundraiser succeeds! 

Anyway, so that was the second "these people are awesome" moment. It made me want to make a short film about them. The line of films on my list is getting pretty backed up, though. I'm looking forward to getting into a comfortable routine with a camera and software and being able to crank out a video like THAT.


The third moment was during the Fundraising committee meeting for Rebuilding Alliance. Carin was there, and Jose, a veterinarian who carves wooden goats, and Amal, an enthusiastic young volunteer, and Rudy, our Global Giving coordinator, and Fidaa, on Skype (her name means redemption, I remember it from the Palestinian national anthem every morning, Fidaaaaa'i! Fidaaaaaa'i!)

The energy and creativity was just zooming. We talked about goat's milk ice cream factories, sandwich-boarding on Market Street, throwing a party for the fundraising competition, contacting celebrities? Everything was centered around Al Aqaba, and everyone brought something different.

I'm excited to table at the Stanford event tomorrow, and meet even more amazing people.


I couldn't think of a song for today, so I'm posting this, an old fav! 

I started writing a song in my head today, but I didn't hum it into my phone recorder so I'm having trouble remembering the melody. It was peppy and upbeat, but it came out of a ridiculous Facebook conversation about Rachel Corrie. I think I'll have a full album of Palestine-inspired music before long...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bizarre Love Triangle

The other day I commuted up to Berkeley to see my friend Tom. The last time I'd seen him was at the protest at the Jewish National Fund building in Jerusalem. Gila had introduced me to him, but we never got to really formally meet, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to see what the Berkeley activist scene is like.

In the end we got some Turkish food and knafe downtown, which was fine by me! We talked about Israel and Palestine for a good three hours straight. It was the same with Khader and Danielle, I just couldn't shut up. Tom is researching for a massive report on settler states and how they justify ethnic cleansing while it happens. I found that really interesting, and made a mental note to dig up that video I have of Janice in Al Aqaba, talking about her discovery of ethnic cleansing in Australia. She told me that a guy in Germany asked her where she was from, and when she said Australia, he said, "well, you don't treat your indigenous people very well!" And she was taken aback. She didn't really know any indigenous people. And thus began a long career of community service.

The words "community service" have become so meaningless. Now it just sounds like a punishment. hmmm.

While I was on my way to see Tom I had an incredible BART journey. It began in Millbrae, which was nice and sunny and clear, then as we emerged from the tunnel, the city of San Francisco was shrouded in this post-apocolyptic fog. I'd never seen anything like it. I've seen a lot of overcast Seattle days, but this was just...eerie.

Then the BART crossed the bay and we emerged out of the fog into Oakland, and it was perfectly clear once again. I actually paid attention to Oakland this time. It looked...spiffy. The sun was setting, and bouncing off the downtown buildings in a really colorful, brilliant way.

Seeing a beautiful looking city never made me feel so sad. I tried to collect in my mind all the things people had told me about Oakland. It's a shit-hole, you're going to get shot, just...don't bother going to Oakland. Not really worth it. Just...you're better off not going.

I thought of all the AmeriCorps volunteers at our mid-year conferences, talking about the schools they taught at in neighborhoods that had been similarly labeled. No doubt there was some truth to the labels. But New Orleans had the highest murder rate in the country, and you wouldn't think it by the looks of us. We were the proudest of all AmeriCorps groups, just beaming with the energy and light that that city gave us. 

Lafcadio Hearn said that "it's better to live in New Orleans in sackcloth and ashes then to own the entire state of Ohio." Haha, sorry Ohio...

Anyways, I'd benefited a lot from those conferences. But apparently we didn't have a group from Oakland, because all the bad things people said about it stuck on me. I was ashamed to still be surprised by this, because I'd prided myself on going to places that give other people pause. I just like to be....in that kind of place. To find the challenges, and the inspiration, and the comforts, and share the good news. 

When my friend Nina started posting pictures on Facebook of her life in South Sudan, I had the same reaction..."wow, there are like, other foreigners, and restaurants, and a fun-looking community." She wasn't just riding around in jeeps from hut to hut, dodging bullets. How had I come to that conclusion, while being so aware of the stereotypes of Palestine, and trying so actively to show positive images?

It's been a long journey, and a lot of people never really get to draw these conclusions. I guess 25 isn't bad.

I remember thinking towards the end of my stay in the West Bank, how I considered Gaza. It was partly other people's opinions, but a lot of it was testimony and news and images, it scared me, honestly. But I have seen photographers post beautiful photos of life in Gaza, and I know a handful of people who've been there. I think I'd like it. Someday. 

That's coming to me because of the Rachel Corrie trial verdict. The judge in Haifa ruled that her death was 100% her responsibility, because she had entered a war-zone, and the IDF did a commendable job with the investigation. My friend from Jerusalem actually posted this in response to Cindy Corrie's Seattle Times Op-Ed: What Rachel Did Not Know About the ISM

I'd read it before, I've read a lot of StandWithUs stuff. This nugget in particular just epitomizes willful ignorance. If you try really, really hard to not learn anything about Rachel Corrie, even though her life and legacy and family are fairly visible, I still can't understand how they pump out that garbage.

She was a smart, compassionate human being. Or a gullible little puppet terrorist sympathizer? I feel so bad for people who don't even seem to try to err toward the former.

But it's not worth wasting too much time over those people. There are much more productive things to do.


I'm really into this song right now. It came on my Twin Shadows Pandora station while I was doing some film editing, and I got goosebumps. There's an acoustic version on YouTube, and I will learn it.

While I was driving from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara a few weeks ago, I had this yearning to accumulate a humongous repertoire of 80's acoustic covers. That could be my party trick. I have "King of Wishful Thinking." Kryie Eleison would be fun, and Man in Motion. The songs aren't that complex, but that's a lot of chords to memorize....still. A fun endeavor.