On Going to The Theater Alone: Anniversary June Part 1

I walked into a theater alone once. I was bored, and it was cold, so, I walked in the rain a few blocks to the nearest theater from my place of residence. I bought a ticket to the movie Loving, based on the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving’s fight for interracial marriage versus Virginia. It has been fifty years since that case, and this June has held a number of significant…anniversaries, if you will, of which more I will write about in the near future.

I walked into the theater alone, and I felt awkward. Who goes into a theater alone? Well, it turns out, more people than I thought. In a theater of six people that came to watch the movie, four were sitting alone.

As I watched the movie, my mind kept turning and twisting the question: Why does society makes us think that being alone or doing things alone, like watching a movie or traveling, is lonely? Why does society pity those who choose to walk alone?

I don’t know what need society wants to fulfill by slapping on labels or choosing what is the “norm” and what is not, but from my almost-a-year away from a place I call home, my friends and family, I learned that regardless of what society thinks, it is okay to want to be alone. Technology and social media make it difficult to be secluded completely, but it is okay to want to break away and be with yourself for some time. It is okay to get to know yourself on your own. It is okay to sit in a coffee shop by yourself or go watch a movie. You start listening to yourself – hearing what your mind, body and soul want and need so that when you decide to hang out with the rest of the human population, you know what is worth your time and what is not.

Mawtini: On singing and grandparents

I don’t remember when I first heard Mawtini , a poem written by the late Palestinian poet Ibrahim Tuqan, but I do remember a beautiful memory associated with it.

It was May 2014 at my brother’s high school graduation. I was sitting next to my maternal grandfather who was sitting next to my grandmother. As it goes during graduation ceremonies, we were whispering and looking around and ahead at the graduates. Then, the national anthem began playing on the loud speakers, and we all stood up. Immediately after, Mawtini began playing.

At that moment, I heard my grandfather singing along. I turned to look at him and smiled. He was happy. He was looking ahead and singing along. I never before had heard or seen my grandfather sing. I have heard and seen my paternal grandfather sing but never my maternal grandfather.

I wasn’t the only one that turned to look at him. My grandmother also looked at him and expressed her astonishment over the sound of the music. “Ye, Mohammad – Oh, Mohammad! – I never knew you knew how to sing this.” My grandfather kept looking ahead, singing along, and smiled playfully at my grandmother’s comment. The song finished, and we took our seats to watch the ceremony commence.

I have started singing along to Mawtini whenever it plays. I still feel nostalgic, for Palestine, for my grandfather, and for beautiful moments that turn into memories.

May his soul rest in peace. We miss you over another Ramadan, Sido.

 

 

The 3rd World Countries You Come From

“So is it considered a 3rd world country?”

Cringe. Didn’t they stop saying “third world”? 

“I’ve been to a third world country. It was beautiful. But, like, people like going to those places.”

Those places? Why the stress on ‘those’? Stress on what was once unstressed. 

“We have to remember. They’re still third world countries.”

You don’t have to remind us. We have to remember why they’re still, as you put it. 

 

 

Podcast Episode: “Um Kulthoom Sang Here”

I am very pleased to announce the release of our very first podcast, “Um Kulthoom Sang Here” for AnOther Story. Get ready to be taken on a journey through Nablus’s coffeeshops that attracted artists, including Um Kulthoom, and hakawatyya from all over. In this story, you’ll meet some of Nablus’s locals with the most interesting stories!

I hope you enjoy this story as much as we enjoyed working on it. Thank you to Nicholas TurnerHalima Awad, Mustafa Azizi, Bara’ah Ab, Ramsis, Tahir Baker, Abu Ahmad, Abu Emad, the Kalbouna brothers, Deema, Ghaith, and everyone else who contributed and encourage the story. Below, you can find the links to the podcast in Arabic and English.

ARABIC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9QprcZS0SE&feature=youtu.be AND https://soundcloud.com/user-393460129/j2pzljn48v2d

ENGLISH: https://soundcloud.com/user-393460129/um-kulthoom-sang-here and https://youtu.be/CNPnOgV6r0U

The Storm Within

She watched as the waves rose,

folded,

and collapsed,

hitting the shore with all its force,

and thought, “Not many of us choose to observe storms.”

We only listen to hear if the storm has calmed.

But we rarely listen to the storm.

We take cover.

Run.

Hide.

 

Put on our sweaters

and

go home.

She thought of the storm within her.

She observes,

listens to why it is there

While those around her take cover.

Run.

Hide.

Put on their sweaters

and

go home

before they’re swallowed deep down.

She wonders if anyone out there

will ever embrace the storm within.

 

Anyone who would run towards it

and not away from.

Anyone who would overcome the fear

and observe,

listen.

Who would find calm

in the storm that is her.

 

People from Over There

“I read so much about Afghanistan. It’s a shame what is happening over there.”

Over there. 

My father and I were at the register when the woman at the regiter began speaking about the books she reads, where she checks them out, and the episodes of National Geographic she watches. We looked foreign to her. We looked like people from over there. 

“Yeah, well, war does that,” my father began. “Just like what is happening in Iraq and Syria.” I wondered if my father was thinking of the Syria and Iraq my grandfather – his father – would tell us about. I was thinking about how his eyes would almost begin to sparkle when he’d say, “Baghdad kanat Baghdad.” Baghdad was Baghdad.

“Yes, yes. It’s a shame. I believe everyone deserves equality. No one should live like that in Afghanistan.”

“We’re actually from Palestine, anyways,” my father responded.

“Hmph.”

Hmph. The number of times I heard that hmph. 

“It’s a shame for the people of Afghanistan. I’m going to keep reading about it,” she said as she printed out the receipt.

“Yeah, you keep reading,” my father told her.

“And praying. Reading does no good. Praying does it,” she replied.

“Then, pray for equality.”

Later that day, my father asked me, “How many books do you think they need to read before they finally get it?”

 

Conversation with Grandma: Before the immigration ban

I would say that a good deal of my over decade long stay in Palestine was spent around my grandparents homes. Some of my favorite memories growing up in Palestine revolve around my maternal grandparents’ home. I especially enjoyed my grandmother’s conversations with her daughters – my mother and her sisters – and her friends and neighbors. I loved going there in the afternoon and listening to the current gossip in the “grandmothers’ clan” and hear the plot of the story change with each person adding to the conversation.

I also loved when the conversations get political. The comments were not based on any specific ideology or analysis, but it was based on what they truly thought…with no filter, if I made add.

So naturally, when President Donald Trump was running for president, I wanted my grandmother’s and her friends’ inputs on it. So, I would ask, “What if he starts kicking us (Muslims, Arabs, etc.) out?”

One of my grandmother’s friends, who has never left the country, would say, “Good. Everyone in the [Palestinian] diaspora would come back here, then.”

My grandmother, who is a U.S. citizen, would agree and add, “I only go to America for medical check-ups.”

Shortly after Trump won the election, I was visiting my grandmother, and I falsely told her that Trump is kicking all of us (Muslims, Arabs, etc.) out, even those with U.S. citizenship. (Yes, my grandmother and I analyze false scenarios). What did she tell me?

“I have a U.S. passport. He can’t.”

For my grandmother and myself, the conversation ends there until we are told otherwise…until another executive order arises adding more characteristics to the community that should be “banned from entering.” However, to so many others – to green card holders, to visa holders, to refugees – the conversation continues.

 

 

 

 

Where The Journey Begins

“My teacher asked me if I was Amreekia today,” my youngest sibling told me over the phone. Her teacher had asked the question because she noticed she caught on English quicker than the other students.

Amreekia. American.

“And what did you say?” I asked her.

“I said…I told her no. I’m not.”

“Well, what are you then?” I asked with a mount of curiousity at what her answer will be.

“I’m Falasteenia.”

Falasteenia. Palestinian.

If someone ever told me that my youngest sibling would tell me things that would have me reflecting on my past, I would have probably shook my head. Yet, in just a few words, she managed to take me back to the beginning of my journey with identity…my American-ness and my Palestinian-ness…I am never quite enough of each in the eyes of others.

My youngest sibling’s journey starts out in Palestine. Her vacation destination is the United States. She notices that she can go to America, and some of her relatives cannot. In contrast, my journey started out in the U.S. My vacation destination was Palestine. I noticed that I would go there in the summer, and my American friends did not know where I was going.

I remember two vivid moments when I realized I was also from somewhere else. The first was the language I spoke and how all I wanted to do on my first day of kindergarten was look for someone who spoke Arabic like me. The second was when my parents watched and commented on the news of what was going on in Palestine. I remember the television showing images of Palestinians throwing rocks and Israeli tanks roaming the streets.

My youngest sibling has me wondering. Does the search for identity start where the individual’s journey begins? Or does is it start when we are asked if we’re from somewhere else – and we are?

 

 

 

 

Obama’s era: Transitioning feelings

I don’t quite remember what the assignment entailed days after the Barack Obama’s victory speech in 2008, but I remember exactly what I prepared for it. I dug into the closet where my father had folded a few of his ties and pulled out a blue patterned one – or not that I think of it, was it red? – and I opened my laptop and watche Obama’s victory speech over and over again. I studied his body language, and I listened closely to the stresses. I printed out the transcript of the speech and highlighted the parts that I was going to say – by heart – for the assignment. I suppose you can imagine the assignment had something to do with public speaking.

On the day of presentations, I wore the tie around my school uniform collar shirt and got up to present Obama’s victory speech as said by me. I imagine I did a pretty good job because I, like Obama, got a good wave of applause from my high school classroom.

“Yes we can.” For a high school student, those three words meant everything. They meant that if you dream, you can, just like Obama. Here he was, standing on stage in Chicago, as the first black President-elect.

However, come his 2012 victory speech – and up until the moment he bid farewell to the White House – I have had mixed feelings about Obama. He has a vibrant personality. He is a charismatic individual. And he is a great speech presenter. However, I once read somewhere that “personality doesn’t trump policy.” I agree with this statement in the case of Obama’s administration. I did not agree with Obama’s foreign policy, and that, at the time of living in the Middle East, is what concerned me. I smiled when I saw Obama’s appearances on different television shows, but I was quick to remember that his administration’s foreign policy was…heinous, and you can read more about how it affected the Arab world here.

As I was watching the pictures of Obama looking out of the helicopter window at the White House, I felt sad and angry at the same time. Sad because it is the end of an “era” as they say, but angry for two reasons: one being who office is for now.

I want to find a reason to thank Obama like many of my friends are thanking him, but I can’t find it. I think of all the times his administration could have stood up for justice in the world but didn’t. That’s the second reason I am angry. Some will argue and say that America isn’t everyone’s savior. Then, why is America up in everyone’s business?

Obama’s administration may have done great things. Obama may have led office with grace. But “personality doesn’t trump policy” for me.

He leaves office to an unpredictable man – a man who has a greater potential to make things worse for Americans and the world. I sit in a coffee ship and watch people as the buy coffee and go off to the “Women’s March” with posters like “Liar in chief.” I wonder where we go from here, as Americans and as global citizens.