A year ago today, I wrote the following while sitting in the Stars & Bucks (yes, you read that correctly) café in Ramallah. I had been in the West Bank for four months at that point and decided to write a little blurb about how I was feeling. In third person. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Somewhere in the Middle East, a young American woman sits at a cafe (a blatant and hilarious rip-off of a well-known American chain) contemplating the day's events over an iced latte.
She looks out over the scuttle of taxi cabs and pedestrians. The soldiers lean apathetically against the beige stones; flicking cigarettes to pass the time. Trash swirls in tumbleweed fashion amid the vendor stalls where fat tomatoes sit in stacks with dirt still clinging to their taut flesh.
It is noon.
The call to prayer bounces off the hills and hangs in the air for a moment before falling on the ears of the dutiful and the not-so-dutiful. This young woman falls into the latter category and pulls her sweater self-consciously around her shoulders. But even with this gesture of insecurity, she thinks with satisfaction that she feels comfortable in this place.
Jostling through crowds and swinging from buses and taxis like an over-confident kid on the monkey bars has now become a familiar routine and adds a confident swagger to the spectacle of her blonde hair in a crowd of brunettes, shiny raven locks and brightly colored hijab. She is an outsider, but she is an outsider who is learning how to belong.
She can march past the gawking teenage boys in their tight jeans; their crude phrases falling a foot short as she glares with a ferocity that silences even the most rambunctious of them. She knows to examine the wares of the vendors while shaking her head with disinterest and murmuring "ghralli, ghralli. expensive. expensive." Her palate has learned to crave warm pita bread drenched in spiced olive oil, washing it down-oddly enough--with buttermilk.
But today is special.
Today her heart has nestled into the foothills of this place.
Today she knows she will never escape its hold and her heart will always beat a little faster when she sees the flag bearing the red triangle with the three stripes.
Today she sips her latte and knows that whatever chaos this place might hold, she belongs to it.
Painting on a building in Bethlehem
Painting in Tel Aviv
(Sorry for the quick post of old material, but...getting ready to head to Italy for a few weeks, then to the UK, and then home to California for the holidays. Possibly Spain in-between. Chaos. The best kind of chaos, but nonetheless chaos.)