review


On December 24 I wrote a blog post that I never published. It was entitled Here is to 2009. I thought I would wait a bit before publishing it and then the Gaza Massacre happened and other things became more important than my personal rants and raves about 2008 and 2009. Yet I have been thinking about the post and I have decided to post it below. I post it and yet want to comment on how three days after the positive note the year was ending on was turning sour, the big bang I wanted to start 2009 with was not that of guns and bombs.

 

Yet I look at it on a personal level again and though I first felt impotent, angry and I didn’t know what to do with my energies, I put my first resolution to the test. I did get more involved with different initiatives and will continue to get more involved on different levels.

 

In positing this I am still thinking there is much to be done and some of what I want to achieve is trivial but these trivialities are a privilege and I am thankful for the privileges in my life.  2009 did not start on a positive note with occupation, genocide and abuse being the dish of the day. But I am an optimist and I think that things will change and turn around. I think that because in my own way I know I can help initiate change even on a small scale with a word, a picture, an action. Small change can become big change and there are ways to turn misfortune into small wins. We just need to find that silver lining.

 

So if you wanted to know what I was thinking that happy day here it is, but do watch this space to know how things have changed and progressed in the mundane life that is Shalabieh’s World!

 

 

Here is to 2009

 

Last year I ended the year with a Thank you note (And I want to thank…)

 

It was a review of a year gone and passed it was year that ended positively for me 2007 was great. It was the year I turned 30 and it was definitely a milestone year. Looking back at 2008 I can only say it just keeps getting better. My thirties are definitely better than my twenties. And as the fortuneteller in Bangkok said: “30 good, 31 better, 32 BETTER. Good money, good job, good lover!” So 32 here I come. But not before I say good bye to 2008.

 

The year 2008 was a wonderful year. This year saw some much growth and change and all for the better. This year was a turning point in many ways with many wonderful things happening:

  • It was the year I reconnected with Palestine after an absence of 8 years
  • It was the year I met my nephew for the first time and really knew what it meant to be an aunt
  • It was the year I got connected at home with a new laptop and allowed internet to reinvade my private space (not so sure that’s a good thing)
  • It was the year I took a passion to the next level and bought my first SLR camera and I love taking pictures with it
  • It was the year I made a lot of new friends near and far and got close to a lot of them
  • It was the year I realized how much I liked development work and working with people underprivileged and underserved to better all our lives
  • It was the year I explored more of the Middle East than any other with travels to neighboring and not so neighboring countries and I realized how much I love the Middle East
  • It was the year I reclaimed me once again from the clutches of an unfulfilling love.
  • It was the year in which I stood my ground
  • It was the year I asserted myself

 

It is a year that is ending on such a positive note that I can only look forward to 2009 with anticipation and excitement. I am looking forward to a number of things on so many different fronts that I will have different kind of new year resolutions’ list. 2009 will be the year that

  • I will get more involved
  • I get out of debt no matter how miniscule
  • I will work on a photography project that will result in an exhibition
  • I will write more here and start a writing project too
  • I will take up learning to ride a bike again
  • I will reclaim the kitchen again and start cooking for myself
  • I will go somewhere new I have never been before and I am not just talking about travel

 

2009 is my year because I want it to be, not because a fortune teller told me it would be. So I will defiantly be drinking to 2009 and bring it in with a nice big bang!

 

Happy New Year everybody and see you in 2009.

  

 

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.

This weekend I went up to Shatana, a village in Irbid. This is my second time up there and both times have been to see the results of the Triangle Workshop taking place there. These workshops bring artists together for two weeks and they culminate in an open day which showcases some of the results of the workshop.

 

This year’s event was spread out all over the village and we basically walked through the village for three hours with a map trying to find the locations of the art work. It was a fun experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

I loved the fact that we got to explore all parts of the village. Seeing the old and the new, walking on paved roads and clambering over rocks, walking into abandoned old homes all added such flavor to the art treasure hunt we were on. I especially liked interacting with the local villagers who were so welcoming and friendly. We engaged a few in conversation and others we waved at and got invited into their homes in return. I loved it.

 

But thinking back at the art work that we saw there were only a few pieces that really caught my eye. I loved the work of a Moroccan artist who used 1 piaster coins to make a map of Jordan and then asked people to take a piece of Jordan home, and if you are from Jordan to take a piece of where you are from. I loved the concept so much. It was simple, inclusive and eloquent. Another piece I liked was an installation that used old doorways from the village that had not been used and then lined up for people to walk through them. I loved it. There was another installation that had sting crossing a room from place to place with little messages at the end. This one was about our life paths and how it is like a river, you had to walk through and jump over, bend down to get through the strings; it was fun, deep and spiritual at the same time. I also liked the little cats painted all over the village as talisman warding off evil. They were fun and cute, as a cat lover it get a two thumbs up from me. There were other projects spread all over the village that were interesting and thought provoking, on the other hand some were disappointing and to me were not strong participations and I could not relate to them or understand the concept behind them, or how they come to be called art. They may be fun ideas and interesting implementations of ideas, but to me were not art. But who am I to say what is and what is not art? Each of us has an experience with each piece and an interpretation that is different. That is the splendor of diversity and exposure to different cultures and worlds, we may not understand but we learn to appreciate the differences.

 

Shatana may not have been up to artistic expectations but it was definitely worth the drive. Seeing the openness of the village of Shatana with its peoples, its houses, its lands was beautiful. Even if the art work wasn’t as provoking it was still good to go out there and see it. And what better way to end the day then with a full moon rising and accompanying us back home.

 

Play poster

Friday night I saw a play being performed at the King Hussein Center. It revolved around two people and their confrontations with daily issues. It was in three acts. the play required a lot of concentration, which if you know me I lack after the sun goes down, especially if I am placed in a dark room in a comfortable chair. So I made sure I put the effort in to stay awake and focused, the result of which are the following impressions.


The play, to me, was a commentary on modern society and relationships at the very basic level. It was the give and take and confrontations of two lovers, a married couple. It was daring in a way I hadn’t seen before: in its interaction between the actors, the dialogue, the issues. They were everyday things that we never really talk about. I heard a friend say it was about couples and as single people we can’t relate. For in their portrayal they spoke of their neurosis and their issues, things we can all relate to. Even in their struggle between each other I could see the dichotomy that lies within each of us and how we struggle between two poles.


We are all part male and part female. We are all socially conditioned and predisposed to certain behaviors and opinions. We all adhere in one way or another to the socially acceptable ideas, norms and ethos. Yet at the same time we struggle against them. We struggle with our selves, our fears, our beliefs, our gender roles, equity among others. And it was all there, if you chose to see it. And like us and our lives, it was inconclusive.

 

I think the play was enjoyable with its satire, sarcasm and cynicism. The actors, while maintaining the conflict, were able to make us laugh on numerous occasions. They reflected us and when we laughed we laughed at ourselves too. I only wished I could concentrate more on what was being said, for both actors spoke at the same time most times. But that too is part of our communication style, internally our confused soul and its voices try to drown each other out. With others we just want to be heard and so we don’t listen, we just shout, talk, drown the other out. We only hear ourselves. This makes our lives, our issues, our strife inconclusive, despite there always being an outcome of sorts.



That evening was mentally stimulating and even taxing. I enjoyed it and it was worth the hour or so of my time. I look forward to more theater in our cultural scene.