“Forget where you want to live…”: A Conversation

“Forget where you want to live.” My advisor began our long overdue meeting that I have delayed constatnly out of fear of a conversation like this. Her piercing blue eyes make the firmest eye contact I have ever been exposed to.

“Forget that part. Tell me, where do you see yourself ten years from now?”

Well, somewhere good. Doing something good. I knew that question was going to be the premise of the meeting, hence the reason I have avoided meeting with my advisor to begin with.

It’s not like I have no clue what I want to do. However, I also know that things change. I know people grow from their shallow ideas of the world – or at least, I hope so. I also know that sometimes, plans, even those that seem to be made for something right around the corner, can (for one reason or the other) vanish. Therefore, I avoid such conversations. Outloud, anyways.

I started mumbling my way of what interests I have and how I’m still feeling my way around – having recently moved back (and experiencing a major culture shock, if I may add). She nodded and added a word or two of advice and encouragment, and I left the meeting with a good feeling.

But “forget where you want to live” walked out of the office with me. The conversation happened a few months ago, and here I am thinking of it now.

Before I graduated, the Dean of my faculty told me and a friend who was also moving half way across the world, “But you’re going to come back, right?” He grinned and looked at us from over the frame of his eyeglasses.

“Well, let us leave first,” I told him.

I wanted to go on a tangent and tell my advisor that “where I want to live” is a difficult choice, and unlike many people, I have the privilege to choose. I wanted to tell her that politics may also affect where I live. I wanted to tell her that I’m here to make another place she’s never been to a better place…in one aspect, at least.

Where I lived is in an unstable mess – always has been, I suppose – but for some reason, I feel what one of my dearest friend’s once told me on our way home from our university more than ever now that I am not there: “Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.”

I wonder, for how many generations have people said something along that line?

I also wonder, is there anyone out there who saw themselves ten years from where they were and actually ended up exactly according to their plan?

 

The Sound of Time

Years ago, I met my second cousin for the first time in years. She’s a few years older than me, and at the time, her being 15 was the most mature age you could be (until I turned 15 and now, I look back at being 15 and shake my head at how ridiculous I was). Anyways, we were outside of my grandparents’ home sitting under a grapevine when the call for Maghrib prayer sounded from speakers of the surrounding mosques. She didn’t live in Palestine, so I think that had a lot to do with when she turned to me and said, “You miss this. The adhan (call to prayer). It’s my favorite thing.”

I remember thinking about it and how, back where we lived (and where she still lived), there isn’t this. I don’t think I ever conciously realized this before this conversation.

On the last day before I moved miles away, I went to the back of the house and stood in the quiet night and listened to the call of ‘Isha prayer, the last call of the five daily prayers for Muslims. There was definitely something soothing about it. I’m not a religious person, but I don’t believe you have to be religious to be soothed by the words.

And there’s something else about this. If you didn’t have your watch on or your phone turned off, you can tell the time by the call of the prayer. If it’s calling for the ‘Asr prayer in the summer, then it’s probably 4:30 P.M.

This kind of reminder doesn’t exist where I am. I actually have a steamboat whistle that indicates the time for me where I currently am. The steamboat whistles three times a day. It whistles once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. That is how I estimate time here without having to dig for my phone in my purse.

The daily calls to prayer are definitely on my list of favorite things. My heart breaks when I hear that a bill is being negotiated to ban the call due to “noise pollution“. It is consoled. however, when I hear that churches raise the call to prayer as a result.

Is there something in your community that you attribute to the sound of time?

 

Short Fiction: My Mother’s Hair*

*You can read the first scene, “My Mother’s Alzheimer’s”, in the Stories section of this blog.

“What would you like to do with your hair, Alise?” The stylist, Sandra, asked.

“Well, I want a change. I was thinking of getting a different haircut. It’s long enough for layers now, right?”

“But it’s so beautiful this way,” Sandra commented, shuffling her fingers through Alise’s hair.

Alise sighed. “I know, but I want a change. I haven’t really done much after my mother passed away.”

“Very well, then. Give me a few minutes till I finish with this customer, and I’ll be right with you.”

“Sure, I have nothing else to do today.”

Alise took a seat on the sofa and grabbed a magazine from the coffee table. She was flipping through it when a woman and a little girl with curly bright red hair walked in. The girl must have been around six years old.

Alise closed the magazine and placed it on her lap. She stared at the little girl watching her mother pick out a color to die her hair from the book of hair colors.

“I think you should have red hair like me, Mama,” the little girl said.

The mother laughed. “Well, I could use a change from the honey brown I usually get.” She placed a kiss on the little girl’s cheek and nodded to the stylist. “Yeah, we’re going red.”

It was then that Alise remembered the time she went to the salon with her mother. She was five at the time, and her mother had woken her up that Saturday morning.

“Alise, baby, want to come with Mama to do her hair?”

Alise had rubbed her eyes. “Can I do mine?” Her mother smiled at her. “We can have them make you a hair-do. What do you think?”

“Sure, Mama,” Alise replied. Hand in hand, they walked into the mall and into the salon. Alise and her mother were greeted by the stylist. “What can I help you girls with?”

“Well, I want to do something different with my hair,” Alise’s mother said.

“What were you thinking?”

“Well,” Alise’s mother looked at Alise. “I’ll do whatever Alise thinks is pretty.”

Alise  grinned from ear to ear that day. “Anything?”

“Anything, baby.”

Alise thought of how her mother started crying as the stylists were fixing her hair. “You don’t like it, Mama?”

“Of course, I do.”

“Then, why are you crying?”

Alise didn’t remember what her mother had said to reassure her that day, but when she was old enough to understand, her mother would tell her that she thought it would be her last time ever to do her hair. Earlier that month, Alise’s mother was diagnosed with gastric cancer. It was still in its early stages, but she was going to have to undergo chemotherapy. Her hair, she had told Alise years later, was going to be controlled by chemotherapy. So, that Saturday, one week before she would start treatment, she wanted to have one last say as to what would happen to her hair.

“Alise, I’m ready for you,” Sandra, the stylist called.

Alise smiled at the woman and the girl with the red hair, put the magazine on the coffee table and followed Sandra’s voice.

 

 

 

 

Between “Best Coffee” and “Ka’3k!”

About every morning for the past few months, I would sit on the same coffee table at my favorite coffee shop in the city, turn on my laptop to do some work, people watch, and sip some cold coffee.

And on these mornings, one of the tourist carriages (a carriage with tourists and a tour guide) would pass by and the tour guide would yell, “Best coffee in the city!” She’d wave at me, and the tourists would also wave along with her, and I’d wave back.

It took me about a month to think of what this encounter reminded me of. There was yelling, and there was food, but who was yelling and what the food was I could not pinpoint.

And then, it struck me! It was a Saturday morning, and the tourist carriage passed by again. She yelled, “Best coffee in the city!” She waved. The tourists waved. I waved back. And as I began to turn my attention to the work I was doing, my eye caught someone eating a croissant.

Aha! I heard it.

I heard the ka’3k* man. He was yelling “ka’3k! Ka’3k!” through the quiet streets on a Friday morning. I heard my mother telling my sibling to run across the street and go buy some. She’d place a shiny 5 NIS coin in his hand, and he – barely woken up – would walk grumpily up the hill to the next street and buy ka’3k from the man yelling “Ka’3k! Ka’3k!”

Every time the same carriage passes by, that is what I think of, and for a few seconds, I feel welcomed. I feel like there’s a routine, and isn’t home, sometimes, a routine?

*Ka’3k is an oval or round shaped bread with sesame seeds on it, often eaten with falafel or zeit o za’atar. My favorite ka’3k is that of Jerusalem’s.

“What happens when the green is gone?”

Ask many Palestinians not in Palestine if Palestine ever comes up casually, and they’ll probably tell you that, yes, we often mention Palestine in our introductions about ourselves, and somehow, political conversations branch into conversations about Palestine for us. It just does, and we have every right to do so.

Throughout the past few months, I have pulled up this map to “explain” where Palestine is and what is happening to it.

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-9-27-59-pm

Source: The Map: A Palestinian Nation Thwarted & Speaking Truth to Power http://www.juancole.com/2014/07/palestinian-thwarted-speaking.html

But yesterday, I was asked a question I did not see coming when I was showing the map to a colleague who asked where Palestine was.

“What happens when the green is gone?”She asked.

My heart sank. The green can’t go! I wanted to cheer. I knew she’d ask – or her facial expression would give away her thought – “but how can’t it go?”

“Well…” I started a sentence that I did not know how to finish.

I wanted to say that the world would not allow that to happen. It would not make room for an indigenous population to be displaced from their land. Then, I remember that it has.

I wanted to say that World War 3 would erupt. Then, I remember Syria.

I wanted to say that we, Palestinians, wouldn’t let it happen. We just wouldn’t. I know people that wouldn’t. It’s enough to know people that wouldn’t, right?

But I started the sentence with, “Well…” and I couldn’t finish it because, well…

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I hear when I listen to Fairouz

Yesterday, as my brother and I were running errands, we somehow got to talking about Fairouz, a famous Lebanese singer. Famous is an understatement. She’s….she’s Fairouz. She’s probably your uncle’s favorite singer, too. . My brother started talking about the times we used to wake up and go to school with my uncle. My uncle’s a cheerful guy. He’d bid us a “good morning.” He’d ask how we’re doing. We’d hop into his Opel, and he’d turn on the radio to Fairouz.

My brother and I, sitting in the back of the Opel years ago, would look at each other and make “what kind of music is this?” We’d widen our eyes at each other in disbelief. We couldn’t wait to get out of the car. For some reason, we didn’t find her music or songs appealing.

I can’t speak for my brother, but I’ll say that that view has changed for me. It took about eight years, but it did. On my way to my university, the service taxis would also have Fairouz playing on the radio. Three things were usually playing on the radio at any given time:

  1. News broadcast
  2. Words of the Holy Quran
  3. Fairouz

I became accustomed to hearing her in the morning, and I would actually look forward to hearing her on my way to classes. Even the university cafeterias would have her music playing. There’s a calm in her words and her voice can somehow draw you in. It can bring you to sit in silence for just a moment with your thoughts.

Now, I’m halfway across the world, and I miss hearing her voice carried from radios through the streets again. I wish I can hear her voice coming from the radios. What I hear when I listen to Fairouz’s voice is the sound of the man selling ka3’k in the streets of Ramallah. I hear the sound of the serivce taxi engines as they’re driving students to Birzeit. I hear the cafeteria owners humming along with her music. I hear peacefulness. I hear my own thoughts…and a nostalgia, which I don’t know stems from where.

I open a YouTube video and listen to her, and her voice has the ability to sit me down in silence for a moment. A moment much needed.

Here’s my favorite playlist I found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlDAzMpbZso

Enjoy.

“I need to go vote.”

“I need to go vote.”

I have heard this sentence over and over again this past month. I have also heard, “Aren’t you going to vote?”, “Why aren’t you voting?”, “Our votes don’t count”, “But we shouldn’t let him win.”The day is finally here.

I agree. We shouldn’t let ANYONE with an ideology like that win.

And those that are not voting for him are not necessarily voting for her.

I have always have mixed feeling about voting, as i explain here: http://www.fairobserver.com/region/north_america/us-candidates-offer-nothing-different-on-palestine-23230/.

“So why aren’t you voting?”

Because. That’s my statement.

Watch: Poetry

Time ticks on the watch,

a bit ahead of the time

I fought for,

I recieved,

I need…that’s what I tell myself.

I can’t bring myself

to turn the hands of time to their past

and my future.

I want their past.

I understand the meaning to their past.

Now.

My left wrist

remains bare;

the once covered skin

integrating with the rest of the tan

from walking through time.

I can’t bring myself to put it on.

I feel a shock run through my veins,

a shock I am not ready to accept.

Time ticks on the watch,

a bit ahead of the time

I fought for,

I recieved,

I need…that’s what I tell myself.

 

 

Abu Ward*, “Father of Flowers”: Poetry

Abu Ward, the “father of flowers”:

Abu Ward, the flower forced to rest

by your “accidental” missles

fighting a terror created

by your own terror.

Silenced.

Silenced. 

Leaving his flowers in gray-colored pots,

 

not growing in dirt but dead under the rocks.

His son’s tears irrigating his late father’s plots.

Abu Ward’s halo is their sunshine…

Their very own photosynthesis…

if they still grow. I hope they still grow.

The flowers he once plucked,

and handed them to those who saw the dirt

in the midst of rubble

the way he saw the blue sky

in the midst of the smoke and fire raised,

are now laying on his tombstone by his son…

a tombstone made too soon. Flowers plucked too soon.

Abu Ward, the father of flowers growing in war. Remember him.

 

*I learned about Abu Ward in four minutes while sitting in a coffee shop in a comfortable area. Abu Ward was a gardener in Aleppo, Syria, who was killed by airstrikes recently. In the midst of war that eventually took him life, he was growing life. Abu Ward is just onr story. Those four minutes I watched don’t even cover his life. May he and those lives lost to heinous regimes rest in peace. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJGp3g93h6M