Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Keep Living, Nablus

I want you all to always remember that I am not a Middle East, Palestinian or Israeli expert. I am not hoping to say that what I say can represent the whole of the people of anywhere. People vary a lot everywhere, but they especially do here in the Middle East. Remember always when you read me that these are but the experiences of a woman who crossed the wall a few times and in her path encountered the people she did.

It is but my experience with strangers that through the journey have become friends. Whatever ideological or political beliefs you come from remember that we must always be more empirical about what we think to be true. I am not saying this is Palestinian or this Is Israeli, I am just telling you what happened to m when I encountered these specific human beings.

Now that I have taken this out of my chest I will write about what it is like for a 30 year old separated women to travel in the middle east after already having been here before.
First it is to be taken to be a friend. In my particular case, with my previous abandoned PhD research it also means to avoid whenever I can political conversations. Which is to me almost impossible. It means that most people ask you about babies, and husbands. And that they all wish you all the best, which here means a family.

It means that being sick in the house of the family of my Russian Jewish friend Maya, or sick in the house of the family of my Palestinian friend Sam is basically almost the same. They are  100% of their time changing everything around for me to feel better. And also that when my natural feeling of wanting to go away to not disturb them even more are usually met with shock. They hold me, comfort me, and tell me I can always stay.

That is how yesterday after fasting another day I ended spending the day in the living room with the two brothers (in their twenties) of my friend Sam and Aida his mom. It is hot in Nablus and I enjoy fasting even though they tell me to eat and drink bc I am not Muslim. I explain I am doing it to recover from being sick and they accept it even though they don't understand it. Then I show pictures of Brasil on my Facebook to Aida, and her sons. We attempt some conversation and little by little I no longer need language.

We lay down in a mattress in the living room. It is hot. Then her sons show me songs in Arabic they like on youtube. Songs about what happened to a rapper who did too much drugs and his family collapsed, then Bob Marley, and they finish by showing me Lady in Red. There is something incredibly cute about these beautiful tall Palestinian men being moved by the songs they are. And when it is time to break the fast we all gather around a table.

I had not eaten for 24 hours and today I feel good. I seat around the table. Yahyah, who
I knew from before, has now gotten married. He brings his wife and we eat. Bread, lentil soup, Hummus, Babaganoush, falafel, zaatar bread, salad and some other things I cant remember the name of.

They laugh, talk, eat. They translate to me. I practice the little Arabic I know. We use my Iphone to show images of things I don't know how to explain. Coffee is served and I who love the smell of cardamon refrain from it. I am fasting and have been taking coffee totally out. It is hard. Extremely hard. We have some arabic desert and then we go into town.

Have you ever been to a Muslim place in Ramadan? The night is precious. Here The temperature cools down. There are children running everywhere. Couples hold hands. There are bands playing traditional songs. There are Palestinian flags. Lots of street vendors selling coffee that the cardamom seems to carry you flying like in a cartoon. Corn with spices. Almonds. Nuts. Meat and who knows what else. Shops are opened. Balloons fly in the air people and cars walk in the street and you hear the joy of people.

My friend and I talk about their lives. How did he meet his wife. Whether he is happy. I ask them if they get upset I was in love with an Israeli. They say it does not matter for them because I come to both sides of the wall. But that talk brings us back to the many talks we had before about the region. We talk of Syria and they assert no one really knows what is going on in Syria. I ask them if they think there will be another war just like my Brazilian journalist friend had told me before and they say they don't think now , but that they think that eventually it will happen.

I ask them if they are not scared of it. They are not. And I cant really assess if they don't think it will affect them, or if because they have experience with the Intifada and the conflict between Hamas and Fatah they are just used to it. Used to the possible enormous violence towards them? they know I don't understand and they explain to me that they don't complain that they just go on living as this is all we can do.

We reach home. And I go to bed and I fall asleep. I am suddenly awaken by explosions. If I were in Brasil I would think they were firecrackers. Here I just don't know. I hear cars racing. And a siren. it is all so close to my window. I am terrified. Is this a war? Is this the IDF coming in the middle of the night? Fights between different parties?

The more I hears cars racing the more scared I am. I am so close to the window and to scared to look up. But as there is nothing you can do I write. I call my friends in vain. After a while I stand and I walk to the living room where Aida sleeps during Ramadan. When I get there I see her sleeping deeply.

I still don't know if it is a war, or celebrations of ramadan. Yet somehow I realise like I had in Bolivia when every single Bolivian passenger slept while we almost fell in a precipice that humans get used to anything. Somehow my fear eventually vanishes as well, my heart slows down and I too not knowing what is happening in the Middle East fall asleep.

I wake up with a call from my friend to tell me it had been nothing. It seemed so distant now. Another day was starting I squat to shower feeling happy that today Aida would teach me how to cook Mahalabia a desert I adore.  Yes, that is what people do, they just keep living.

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