November 2008


Beirut- No Comment

Beirut- No Comment

 

I had arrived at my doctor’s clinic on time and as is the case in any doctor’s clinic you wait. The appointments are packed back to back without any real thought to how much time an appointment requires. But that’s not my gripe today.

 

So knowing as we all do that there is wait, I took a book. I sat myself in a chair and strategically placed my backpack on the chair next to me, ensuring some space from other patients who like to sit close and start conversations about their ailments. And there I was pretty in my black suit, sitting cross legged, totally engrossed in my book when these two women appear in the waiting room. One sits across from me and the other thought about the seat next to me but takes the one to the far right. Immersed as I was in Iranian history and politics I barely notice her come up to me until she was upon me. Her big black coat open on either side of her like massive black wings of a bat. She stood over me and enclosed me with her coat and told me with an innocent smile on her face that I might want to modestify myself! And so I was accosted by a veil wearing coat wielding woman.

 

I was expecting this, overzealous moralists had tried to pull that on me before; and so I looked up at her and without batting an eyelid I told her thank you but I am fine the way I am. Her smile was immediately wiped off her face, her chest fell and flustered she slinked back to her chair. I turned back to my book and continued to read until the nurse called me in for my appointment.

 

What I had really wanted to do was to lecture this woman at how inappropriate her behavior was. What right did she have to impose her moral beliefs on me? How would she feel if I went up to her and told her I thought the way she dressed was inappropriate and that she shouldn’t cover her head? Who knew that the fate of this upright society rests on my bare legs?


This woman, in my opinion, has a filthy sex obsessed mind such that when she sees skin that is what she thinks. And its not her its everyone and anyone who constantly watches innocent people doing their own thing yet think the worst of them. They are constantly pointing fingers at others accusing them of immorality or indecency, yet to me, they are the filthy, dirty–minded and immoral ones.

 

Next time a woman comes up to me and tells me I am immodest I will ask her for her veil to cover my legs maybe that way we will both be happy!

 

 Dear Friends,

I am collecting quotes for a project and would like to ask for your help. I am collecting quotes that are related to the areas listed below, and I would love it if you shared your favorite quotes for this project, (dont forget to let me know who the quote is for). The project will be using these quotes to promote these ideas as part of promotional materials for an organization.

 

Key ideas:

– human rights

– development

– family

– women

– youth

– positive change

– education

 

If you have quotes that you like that are not related to these topics then also feel free to share them too.

 

Thanks in advance for all your help.

 

S.

 

If you read the book you will know that this is a very satirical and personal account of Suad Al Amiry’s experiences in Palestine and more specifically in Ramallah under siege. The book is an easy read and as you go through it you learn more about Suad and her perspective and approach to living under occupation.

The play was my third encounter with Sharon and My Mother In Law. I had read the book, attended a reading by the Author and now this. The play takes this book and adapts it for the stage. In one hour they try to convey the emotion, the confusion, the resilience of not just this woman but rather this struggle and how people adapt and cope even under the most difficult of circumstances.

I thought that the play was well done. They adapted the book superbly and were able to make it a cohesive one hour work. The acting was good even from the back row. Considering they didn’t have much in terms of sound and depended on their voices I thought the actors did well. However Albalad Theater leaves much to be desired in terms of seating and sound. I love the place and what it does however as a venue I always dread going there for fear of being stuck in the back and missing much.

Being part of an audience that saw that adaptation, that laughed at the jokes and exaggerations I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings. Each one of us has their own Palestine and their own relationship with this Palestine. Laughing and making light of the trials and tribulations of this woman may be a coping strategy for her but it created within me a conflict. Laughing lightly, from the safety of my seat at what can only be a tragedy. The play confronts you in a way a reading whether by yourself or the author doesn’t. It dramatizes and brings to life the words such that they strike a completely different cord.

But if this is what this play achieved I am happy. Why because it gets people thinking or so I hope. If people’s emotions are conflicted then Palestine is not a distant memory. It gets them thinking of their own Palestine and how it is similar or different from Al Amiry’s.

There are numerous scenes that stand out in both the book and the play. Namely Suad’s mother in law and their fleeing of her house to live with Suad and her son. Suad persuading her to leave things behind and with one statement Um Salim drives home reality of the situation “That’s what we said in 48”. When reading the book and seeing the play my throat clamed up at that statement. We are losing the generation that saw 48 happen and it is in these small references that we can only begin to understand what this resistance and this struggle means. The other is Suad’s dogs freedom of movement and how animals seem to always get what humans cant .

I won’t say more read the book, attend the play, and see where your Palestine fits into all of this. My Palestine is a bittersweet place where all this happens and much more. We laugh at it, we adapt, we watch from afar, but the real heroes are the ones who live day in day out under occupation, trying to etch out a place for themselves and their children in a god forsaken land called home.

Bits and Pieces. A Short from Jordan

These past few weeks I have been helping a friend work on one of her projects. I really enjoy running around and doing the random things that culminate in a purposeful film. This one was directed at an American audience and is meant to extend a hand and send a message from Jordan, it has been submitted to a film festival in the US.

 http://current.com/items/89513881/bits_and_pieces_a_short_from_jordan.htm

I have had mixed responses from different friends who saw it. I know that I am interested in hearing what you have to say as is my friend… so leave a comment here or where ever you feel comfortable… I will write more later perhaps after you’ve seen it J

Enjoy 🙂

 

I got an unwanted call today from someone that exited my life a while ago. It was a surprise, a perplexing one since there was no purpose to the call. This person was at one point important to me. We spoke every day, saw each other as often as possible, exchanged so much, but it all came with a price… one that was too high, and so this relationship ended. We haven’t spoken in months, I have moved on so far from where I was and if truth be told I am happier now.

 

When it ended there never was a major blow out or discussion about it, it was a sore point for a while but right now I don’t care to have that discussion nor do I want to open a channel of dialogue. I’ve move beyond that and don’t really care if this person knows, understands or realizes what they did, it is not my place to teach them, but rather I have learned. I have learned to let go, I have learned to value myself, I have learned to love, I have learned to what extent I can give. But I also learned not to be in an unequal relationship. I have learned not to undersell myself. I have learned that I don’t need to validate my decisions through others. I have learned who my true friends are.

 

 I have done well to erase all traces of this person, what is left doesn’t move me, doesn’t interest me, doesn’t even sadden me anymore. But what gets to me is flimsy excuses to call, random SMSs once every blue moon to wish me a good Eid, and the casualness of voice, the tone that nothing happened. The fact that this person thinks we can pick up where we left off astounds me!

 

Every time this happens I want to blast off an email saying stop it you have no place in my life anymore and I don’t appreciate you trying. But I don’t because I don’t want to start a dialogue, I don’t want to give any false hope that we could be friends ever again. I lost all emotion, respect, and feelings for this person. I want to be left alone without the infrequent attempts of civility or contact. I am not interested in being a part of this person’s life in any way or want them in mine.

 

So I guess this is an open letter to this person to stop! We will never be what we were, we will never be friends, we can not have long conversations or short ones. There is no need to wish me a happy Eid when it comes or condolences when someone passes. There is no need or want for you in my life. Your space has been taken up by many others whose presence is much more rewarding. Our time together may have been special, it even had its beautiful moments, but it came at such a hefty price I am not willing to even consider anymore. If I were writing a book this chapter is over, closed, the ink dry and now there are many others after it. So just stop.

 

I would like to say to those in similar situations that they don’t have to keep going back, or keep the lines of communication open, the fear that there is no other way does leave you eventually, and that time does heal. There is life beyond a person, place, job, life even. Stop being afraid to move forward because if you stand still you won’t go anywhere. Take it from me, I stood still for a long time and now time has healed the hurt, the anger, the frustration and because I have moved forward I have so much behind me that the past is a mere speck on the horizon. It is a long long ways away and now my life if full of many others who bring more, give more, return more, and deserve more and I’m the better for it. So yes time heals, but only if you move forward. 

Three years ago three bombs went off in three different hotels. Many killed and injured from the blast, many more traumatized. When asked where was I at the time? I was at the 3rd circle and heard the explosions. I had my back to the third circle walking to the second. When I heard the sound my friend turned to me and said “What was that?” I dismissed it as fireworks again or even construction, we didn’t even look back! Twenty minutes later if not less I was working to make sure all my American students were safe and had to track down each one of them. I worked two phones and was fielding calls from my boss, from students, from families and from my friends and family. I even ended up taking a cab that night to one of my student’s homes to make sure she was OK. It was one of the most taxing and stressful few hours that I have spent at work having to invoke the emergency response system and account for the 25 some souls I was responsible for.


By the end of the night I had done my job but the enormity of what happened had not sunken in. I remember the next day much more clearly when it really hit me! I remember the silence that descended on the whole city. The eerie feeling of driving through the streets of amman and not hearing a sound. Not a car engine, no honking, no music, no street noises… nothing. It was as if someone had hit the mute button. People were walking zombies. There was anger, disbelief, shock, horror, and sorrow. Most importantly there was solidarity, there was unification, and everyone was your brother or sister. That afternoon the world came alive again; Jordanian flags, solidarity marches, patriotic songs were everywhere. People came together.


I remember my distressed response; I cooked and cooked and cooked and cooked out of distress. I remember the feeling of emptiness. I remember the shock that choked me up. I remember the sorrow. I remember the anger. Senseless murder and terrorism! I hope that we never experience this ever again. I personally have had enough war, murder, terror, pain, fear and displacement.

 

OK so the US elections have concluded and Obama won. The sigh of relief has been heard all over the world with people expressing such joy at his election. I have seen this in emails, conversations, TV, blogs, even facebook statuses and just about every form of media that exists. Obama is being hailed as this messiah that will be the answer to the US’s and the world’s problems. I have not done the research; I have not followed the campaign; I am not into politics; but I will make a few observations from my end and what I see has penetrated my bubble. I know a lot won’t agree and I know a lot will call me cynical, jaded, pessimistic or what have you… but I am not jumping on the Obamarama band wagon.

I really don’t think that Obama is the “be all, end all” solution that the US is looking for. He is now part of a system where he does not have absolute power but answers to another: congress and the senate. At least that is my understanding of how the US works as a democracy. The people vote for a government not just a person. And so the rest of the vote is just as important as this one person. Who gets elected into government as a collective system is much more important that just its one representative. Which is why the results of more democrats in congress and the senate is more significant an indicator than just the Obama win.

This brings me to my next point, how much of this election was based on voting for one person or voting for all those issues on the ballots and for the seats in the house? This election was not just about voting in a president but also about congress, about laws, about issues in each state and making them or breaking them. The amount of work and the awareness that had to be raised for people to really mobilize and understand that they do make a difference is much more significant to me in so many ways. The amount of money it took to get people to go vote and make their voices heard it is phenomenal. That is how apathetic Americans are today, you need to spend millions and millions of dollars to get a person to move off their ass and into the voting booth. This may be a sweeping generalization but it looks like Americans who live in the epitome of democracy needed to be taught that their voices count, their opinions do effect change and that a democracy doesn’t work without the people!

I also wonder and would love to see any research or any polls as to how many people voted against McCain (or even Palin) rather than for Obama? The difference is not subtle and is in fact essential to understanding what happened in this election. Does the rhetoric work? Did the campaign of hope really create hope, a hope that the US desperately needs? Or are people just not wanting more of the same last eight years and so anything will do? Is America really ready for change or is this just their best choice?

I honestly think this is not an election of foreign policy or what Obama will do to or even for the world but rather on homeland issues right in the backyards of the American people. Looking at America today and the recession it is in and all the issues its people are dealing with and the topics that the candidates had take stands on there is no way this vote was in consideration of the rest of the world. It was only in consideration of The US and the cities, and States within it. Foreign policy may have been something that was considered but it was not the essence of the campaigns and so for the rest of the world to be hailing it as this massive celebration perplexes me!

I am not sure what the next four years hold. I don’t really see much change in how the US views itself and how it views its place with the rest of the world. There will be no change there I think and that means there will be no change in policy, just a delay of the inevitable. This change can only happen when the peoples of America truly learn to look outside their windows and not point out Russia, but visit it, study it, understand it and respect it!

Looking around me and seeing Americans chanting “yes we can” every chance they get, patting themselves on their back, and being smug and self congratulatory is grating on my nerves at this point. I smile and say mabrook (congratulations), but really people it took you long enough! It’s about time they took responsibility for who they put in office, it’s about time they paid attention, it’s about time they went out and voted. For a country that proposes to teach democracy education to the rest of the world their track record of bullying, waging war, human rights abuses, ignorance, and condescension to the rest of the world is no example to set. And my hope is that the slogan “yes we can” is one of responsibility and accountability not just to themselves but to the rest of the world, which is watching, and not the response of yet another bully in power!

I am not a pessimist by nature, I want to believe that this is the catalyst that will start to shift the world to a better place with more understanding, with more respect, with more exchange, with more listening; A place with less anger, less frustration, less bullying, less fighting. But I will wait and see. He is only now forming his team and so far does not signal change!