Jul 24

My life is rough right now. I’m really angry about a lot of things. I’m angry that I’ve lived so long in Utah that I’ve finally learned with Mormon culture here is REALLY like. That pains me. I’m angry that my life is in turmoil and change. I’m angry that I’ve let things happen to me.

A couple of years ago I posted a post that talked about how I was coping with my father dying. One of the ways  was to listen to Suheir Hammad. Her beautiful voice reminding me about this place that I fell in love with and these people that I fell in love with two years prior. I haven’t stopped listening to her voice. I’ve been looking for other voices like hers and while I’ve found some, I always go back to her voice. Her passionate voice that helps me learn some Arabic because she so beautifully interweaves it into her poems. When I was in Jordan I asked what “Ymaa” meant because I kept hearing my sister’s son saying it and every time I heard him say it I could hear Suheir Hammad saying it. “Khan Younis. Ymaaaaaaaaaaa.” I played it for my sister and she was moved as I was.

Just now I watched Salt of this Sea. I finally bought the DVD of it. It’s a beautiful movie about being Palestinian. Suheir Hammad is in it. I’ll be honest, I think she’s a better poet and poeter than actor, but she still filled my soul up at the end when the Israeli’s were asking where her Palestinian passport was and she said “it’s in your hand.” (It was her American passport with her Palestinian being on that passport that made it her Palestinian passport.) I’m so far away and Suheir Hammad keeps my soul in touch until I get there. I need that. I need that a lot, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

I know, it’s probably all colonialist of me to be so interested in the Palestinian issue and to call a Palestinian-Jordanian woman my sister, but my soul can’t help it. I hope, though, that I am using my americanism to help them, instead of just hurting them. I worry though. I worry that I’ll take a job from a Palestinian-Jordanian, I worry that in trying to be myself that I’ll be too american and that will continue the cycle of cultural colonialism that I despise so much. I hope not. I hope that by introducing my loved ones there to Suheir Hammad’s voice that not only does my soul stay connected but that she gives them some comfort and hope and they will to never stop being Palestinian and they will teach their children to be proud Palestinians and to never forget Ein Karem and Bayt Natif. I hope that’s the case.

Suheir – if you are still stopping into this place, I want you to know how incredibly grateful I am for who you are. I suspect I am just one of many. Really, though, I am. In fact in the thank you section of my dissertation – if I ever finish the rewrites – you are mentioned, along with Alix Olson. You two remind me of my roots and passion in all things good and just. I hope one day to meet you. Yeah, like so many others. I hope one day my sister and her family can hear you poet, in person. I remember Alix Olson saying, I think in a performance in my hometown of Eugene, that she was like one of those old traveling news tellers. She meant that as she travelled from place to place she told the news and connected communities. You are one of those too. You tell the news in your poems and you connect people back to a land they dream of every day. Do you know how important that is? Do you know what a gift that is for me to be able to give to my sister and her family? Thank you. Now, if I do, in fact, have your attention, will you please put out some of your poems in Arabic? The people who really need your poems can’t understand English, or don’t very well – not well enough to get the meaning. I know you are busy, but please? Will you? If I could I’d translate them, but I speak stats so much better than I do Arabic. I am only just learning.

Thank you,

نَهر

Jul 9

that relay for life thing is coming up again. dammit melissa, last year you were alive for it. shit. this is just wrong. i’m sorry to be so public with all my curse words, but, fuck, you know, i’m not one NOT to curse. it’s who i am. i curse. and thinking about you being dead when you were alive last year kinda pisses me off. okay, it doesn’t just KINDA, it really fucking pisses me off. okay, it doesn’t piss me off, it makes me incredibly sad, but you know – anger is easier than sadness to deal with. so i’d rather be angry because if i think about the sad then i’m screwed.

the amazing and blessed k has contacted me a few times and i’ve not responded. not because i don’t want to, but because i can’t. i’m a bad bad person melissa. we were in touch during shock, but now i suck. i suck at death. and i’m taking it out on k. i hope she’s 1/2 as forgiving as you are. i’m trying here melissa.

there’s just so much i need to talk to YOU about. there is no substitute for YOU. dammit melissa. come back, please? dammit dammit dammit. i need you to come back. for selfish reasons of course. totally selfish. i need to talk about some big things with YOU. i need to process with YOU.

okay. see, i’ve not forgotten about you. i think about you more than the amazing and blessed k would imagine. i think about you every day. some of those days i get hit upside the head with “fuck. i CAN’T call her. shit. dammit. fuck.” yeah, lots of cus words. because that’s how i run, ya know? you know.

i love you every moment of every day. i always will. please come back. please? i need you. oh, and i bet the amazing and blessed k needs you too.

love,

me.

Jul 4

Okay – so the other day I was in a store, I forget which one, and the cashier said to me “Have a safe 4th of July” to which I responded “I don’t celebrate the 4th of July, so no worries, I’ll be safe.

No, I do not celebrate the 4th of July. Should that surprise anyone reading this? Why? Because I think the country that my ancestors came here to start isn’t the country that exists today. Plus, with all this Palestinian stuff going on in my mind I suspect that my ancestors saw this land I live on as a “land without a people” and they were a “people who needed freedom from persecution” so thus they could move here and live on land that wasn’t inhabited.

Wrong.

Yeah, we all know that. We all know how wrong my ancestors were.  This was not a land without a people. This was a land with a whole bunch of people with a rich culture and history. So, as I thought about today coming, and as I’ve walked through my day I’ve thought a lot about how this could very well be “Nakba Day” for the Indigenous people’s of this land just as it is for the Palestinians on the day the Zionist government of Israel celebrates it’s independence day.

Since I can think about it in those terms it’s hard to swallow today. It’s hard to make sense of it. It’s hard to accept it. I don’t like it, not one bit. I don’t like my participation in it.

So, I am making a very specific choice not to celebrate this day today. I can’t. In my heart of hearts I just can’t. I love Thomas Jefferson and his ideals, but I can’t celebrate how those ideals were put forth at the expense of the indigenous people and their culture and their language. I just can’t, sorry TJ.

Jul 1

I have become a wicked wicked introvert these past few weeks. I mean, I have huge tendencies towards introversion, but the last few weeks have seen me take my tendencies to a whole new level. I’m teaching 2 hours a day and I thought that may be impacting how much energy I have to give out, but I don’t think that’s it. I just have a lot on my mind. Too much? I don’t know, just a lot. And no, I haven’t started my dissertation re-writes so please don’t ask about that.

One thing I seem to be sarcastically expecting every day I check my mail is a questionnaire from the Israeli government: “We’re taking a survey of all those who have been detained and questioned. We are doing this so that we can make your next detainment and questioning more effective and more comfortable for you. Please fill out the following form and return it as soon as you can. Thank you. The Government of the Nation of Israel, est. 2000 years ago.” No, I’m not actually expecting it, but as I go to my snail mail box and see it filled with so much junk mail of various types, it does amuse me to think of getting such a piece of mail. These days I’ll take as much amusement as possible.

No. Do not ask me about the job search. If you want to go away. Also, don’t ask me if I have been exercising. I haven’t. Yes it’s hot, yes paddling out at Hyrum would be nothing but wonderful, but I don’t like being stared at by kids, which happens. My growing introversion tendencies don’t like being stared at by a bunch of kids, most of which are probably a part of the local population – to which if they knew me – I would be the most diverse person in their lives.

Oh yeah, and I’m feeling rather bitter too.

So there. Blah. If you want to communicate with me text based ways are by far the best.

Jun 11

i haven’t yet figured out how to re-enter this place after my time in jordan. i have no motivation or energy to do anything unless i’m meeting with someone. then sometimes i cancel. i have no motivation to apply for jobs, even in jordan. i have no motivation to read the cool things i have to read. i feel utterly lost. i don’t know where i fit anymore. i don’t belong in logan anymore, but i don’t have any place else to go right now. no reason to uproot myself just to do so and then have to uproot myself again. *sigh*

Jun 5

I am reading other’s stories about their refused entries into Palestine / Israel and so I believe it’s important that I add one more voice to the many that are out there. The more instances that are recorded, the more likely it is that maybe, some day the international community will take action. What follows is not a detailed account of what happened to me. I tried to do that the day after it happened, but it was too traumatizing. What follows is an account as detailed as I can make it.

On 16 May 2012 I intended to travel to Palestine and Israel from Amman, Jordan. I was visiting a dear friend in Amman and since I was so close to Palestine and Israel I wanted to go back. My trip to Palestine & Israel (henceforth called “The Land”) had 3 purposes: a) to connect with a school that I hoped I would be able to establish a professional collaborative relationship with that is located in the Galilee; b) to visit the holy sites of my Christian faith; c) to visit the village of Ein Karem, the ancestral homeland of my Palestinian-Jordanian friend, the village that both sides of her family fled from in 1948.

I intentionally decided to travel the fastest, but potentially most difficult, route to The Land – through the King Hussein Bridge into the West Bank and on to Jerusalem where I intended to pick up rental car. I also intentionally wore a hijab (head covering) and abaya (traditional Muslim dress) for my travel; the same dress code I had been following since my arrival in Jordan a week earlier. I wanted to see how the Israeli’s would react. I expected to go through extra security, but I did not expect what would follow.

As soon as I arrived at passport control at approximately 12.30pm on Wednesday the 16th of May 2012 my passport was taken from my control. I was first submitted to security questioning by two seemingly innocent and nice people. They asked me lots of questions and then would discuss among themselves my answers and come back and ask more. This was done rather informally and off to the side of the crowd going through the crossing. At one point I was asked if I had a flight out of Amman and I said yes and pulled up my phone to show them my travel plans. That was a mistake because I’d forgotten about the picture I had on the entry screen – an image of a woman in a hijab with a Palestinian flag on her face and the word “Hope” at the bottom. They saw this but lied and said they weren’t bothered by it.

After my questioning by them I was taken to another spot where I was asked to place my bags on a table and I was led to a room where I was asked to remove my abaya, hijab and shoes. Luckily underneath my abaya I simply had a pair of shorts and camisole so while it felt invasive, it wasn’t traumatically invasive to me as it was as if I was standing in my bathing suit. After this search I chose not to put my hijab back on as I was physically more comfortable without it. After this search I witnessed them searching every item in my bags, including reading a journal. I witnessed my belongings being tested for explosives several times and going through x-ray machines several times as well.

After this I was sure I would be allowed in. None of my belongings showed that I was a threat because there was no explosive materials to be found. I had plans to travel within the Israeli side of The Land. I texted friends around this time (2 hours in) stating that I was being search and I did not know what my fate (sent back to Jordan or being allowed in) would be.

It was after this search, after I was told I could put everything back in my bags, that things got incredibly scary for me.

I was introduced to a woman who seemed nice. She was petite, not thin, but slim, with long wavy red hair. I asked her if I was going to be allowed in or sent back to Jordan and she asked me what I preferred. I told her I was getting rather tired of the security searches and that I’d rather just go back to Jordan. Her kind response led me to saying something along the lines of “well, then, maybe I’d like to go for a couple of days to visit Jerusalem and then go back to Jordan.” That was the last bit of kindness I was offered by this woman. I was led into a hallway and she requested my phone and any simcards I had. She took them through a door and soon came out and asked to be let into my phone. I told her there was private information on there about an illness I have and that it was against US laws for her to have access to it. What was I thinking, that was stupid to say, because this wasn’t the US.

After sometime, and me taking my laptop out to work on some stats work, she came out and said something rather harsh to me in Arabic. I asked her what she said and she said I knew Arabic, to which I responded that I did NOT know Arabic, except for a few words. I don’t think she believed me, but she let it go. At this point she took my laptop, camera, e-book reader, guidebook, and journals. All my media. I was left again in the hallway. Below is a picture I took of myself in the hallway just before she came and took my computer.

Before she went away with my belongings I asked her what they were going to do with me – detain me, send me back to the USA or send me back to Jordan. She said she didn’t know what they were going to do with me. Needless to say I was rather confused at this treatment and started to break. I began praying, and crying, and pacing.

I don’t know how long after this that this woman’s assistant – a tall lanky woman with a hoop nose ring and black hair tied up rather lazily – asked me to come into the office. This is when I was interrogated. I am not going to go into great detail because it was rather traumatic for me. What follows is some detail about the questions I faced.

I was asked about everything in my life. I was told that I was Muslim and that my God was Allah. I ended up responding to this repeated question by eventually reciting the Lord’s Prayer. That stopped that. I was asked what organization I was with. I told them I wasn’t, that I was on my own. They didn’t believe me. This questioning ended when I gave them a couple of friends’ names who are activists and the name of an organization I worked with a long time ago. They asked me about who I knew in the International Solidarity Movement. I told them I was not affiliated at all with the ISM. They asked me how I knew about the ISM and I told them that being an activist I had heard about them. They continued to ask me about the ISM and names in the ISM – I finally gave them one – Rachel Corrie’s. They stopped that line of questioning. They asked about my illness, and who my boss was. They asked me to open my Facebook account. They told me they’d read my emails. They asked me about a video I had on my phone about Suicide Bombers – I told them it was there because I wanted to understand that mentality more and that, in fact, I think it had been produced by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. They asked me who Suheir Hammad was and why videos of her performing were on my phone. They asked me about my trip in 2008. I told them about an experience I had had visiting an Israeli settler who lost her son in an attack on a yeshiva nearly a year to the date after the shootings at Va Tech. I told them how I cried for this woman because she lost her son and I had been lucky not to loose anyone at Va Tech. I told them I wasn’t anti-Israeli, but that I was pro-peace. They told me that they were just a small problem of mine, that if I went back to Jordan I would have bigger problems because I’d visited Baqa’a refugee camp and the Jordanians didn’t like that. I believed them, I shouldn’t have.

They kept telling me that they knew everything and that I should just tell them what they wanted to know. I didn’t know what else to tell them. I understand now why innocent people lie and say they’ve committed crimes they haven’t. I nearly did. I nearly cracked and told them lies about things and people I didn’t know. I didn’t.

Eventually I was put back in the hall. They still had all my media. Every time someone came out of the door that my stuff was behind I asked about what was going to happen to me. They offered me water. I wouldn’t take it. I cried. I apologized for whatever it was that I did to offend their country. I cried more. I cried a lot. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I just cried.

Eventually I was given everything but my passport back. I started texting, calling and emailing people. I got in touch with my activist friends in Eugene. I knew if the situation got worse they’d know what to do. I emailed a friend in Logan. I emailed and called my friend in Amman. I texted my pastor. I called a friend in Logan. That was the best voice I had heard all day long. Thank you L. My Eugene friends said they were talking to each other and I felt even better. Thank you S and J. People told me to call the US Embassy. M’s blessed and extremely well thought father told me to call the embassy. I didn’t want to because I knew they wouldn’t care. After 3 people told me to, I did. By this time I was let out of the hallway and told to wait. By this time I was told I was going back to Jordan. The wait for my passport was still long, so I called the embassy. The first person was very empathetic and cared that I was scared, but he was just a night watch person. The person who was supposed to be able to help me simply said “this happens sometimes, and I’ll call the person on the Jordanian side to let them know you are coming back.” I was grateful Jordan was being called, but the lack of empathy by the official at the US Embassy was exactly what I expected.

The best thing that happened was when I got on the bus to go back to the Jordanian side of the border. The bus driver asked another rider (who had not been detained) why I was so sad. I told them and the 5 men on the bus were all outraged for me. They told me Jordan would let me back in. They told me that they’d be witnesses for me. I don’t know any of those men’s names, but they will all always have a special place in my heart. They cared about what happened. They were angry for me. They were all Palestinians too. They understood that I cared about what happened to them. Yes, I will forever be grateful to those strangers.

I finally got back to the Jordanian side of the border. I had to go through some extra questioning – why the Israeli’s didn’t let me in and of course I started crying again. The man in charge said “no problem, just a few minutes, no problem.” And it wasn’t. In that moment I fell in love with Jordan. I know Jordan is far from perfect, but they cared that I was upset. They were kind. The taxi driver back to Amman was incredibly kind and reduced his fare for me. M’s family, they waited for me and sat with me as I cried tears of fear, and gratitude that I was back in their fold. Little D, M’s oldest son, talked about wanting to hurt the people who did this to me. He wanted to protect me. 3 1/2 years and he wanted to protect me. In those moments I fell in love with M’s family, and my love for Jordan grew stronger.

The morning after my 8 hours with the Israeli’s I started talking about forgiveness. I told my friend M that I had to forgive the Israeli’s for what they’d done to me, for scaring me. I’m still not there yet, but I have to forgive them. I have to “forgive and yet not forget.” If I don’t forgive them then when does the cycle begin? If I don’t then the cycle of hatred just continues. That is the challenge of both pacifism and my faith. To forgive and yet not forget. To love in the face of anger. To understand and empathize in the face of empathy lacking. I have to break these cycles of disregard, anger and hatred. If it doesn’t begin with me, who does it begin with?

So, that’s my story. In a long nutshell. That’s being detained and terrified and having a happy ending for myself. I know that for many the ending isn’t so good. I know that many don’t get re-embraced by anyone, that they are stuck in jails indefinitely. I know that others get wrapped up in their anger and hate. I don’t begrudge anyone for their anger and hate. I understand it. I respect them for it. I love them for it. I pray that they find peace one day. That I find peace one day. That the Israeli’s find peace. That the Palestinians can go home and live side by side with their Israeli brothers and sisters in peace. I pray that peace will come to my holy land, The Land of the amazing M and her family. That they will proudly stand on their land again, hand in hand with their brothers and sisters from all over the world and that I will be there to witness it.

Jun 3

a lot happened on my trip to jordan. mostly what happened was internal changes to my psyche. thus, i’m not saying much to anyone. well, that’s a lie. i am willing to talk about the trip with some people, specifics of the trip. i’ve shared a lot of the trip with one person in particular. i’m still processing it and making sure i don’t make mistakes i made in the past. i’m also re-entering with all the issues i put on hold while i was gone. i really did “live in the moment” on my trip. it was survival.

i will say this. i miss my friend more than i could imagine. why does she have to live a world away? i just want to see her in person, to kiss her head, to give her a hard time about this and that. to hear her giving me a hard time about that and this. to hear her daughter following me around “khaltos, khaltos” (aunt, aunt). to see baby m and to coo at him and see his smile, for me. i want more time to talk to her husband e. he’s fascinating and knows a lot. he’s wonderfully sarcastic and beautiful with his children, sometimes both at once.

so, silence on this blog because there’s so much noise in my brain, and my heart wants to escape back to amman. my heart wants to put a hijab on with my cross underneath it. it’s more respectful that way, the hijab on the head.

i hate re-entry. i really do. i’m not a fan of this country and i don’t fit in very well here, and so every time i leave and then come back it’s especially hard. i’m not sure where i fit in at all. i wonder if there is anyplace in this world that i fit in, any culture at all.

so, i’m processing. sometimes out loud with someone, most of the time in my own head. and i’m not ready to start life back in logan and yet i have to. i wish i didn’t. i wish i could just continue to escape and process and then follow my heart back to m and her family.

May 20

i will write about..

being detained for 8 hours by israel.
finally getting to the red sea after 4 years of wanting to come back and then getting the flu.
my visits to my friend’s school.
the fun of living with 2 little monkey butts who don’t speak the same language as me.
the stories about the nakba and the naksa.
attending a nakba day rally at a refugee camp.
the wonderful and kind hearted father of my friend m, and the delicious cooking of m and her mother.
little cuddle butt and how much i’ve spoiled him.
how much the der yassein massacre impacted people during the nakba and the naksa.

but i just woke up from a lot of hours of sleeping and am waiting for the hotel staff to wake up so that i can get a taxi back into aqaba so i can take a bus back to amman. i’ll tell you this. i’m not leaving amman again. when i do bad stuff happens (flu, 8 hour detainment by aggressive foreign government who doesn’t want anyone knowing about how they are treating the people who’s land they are occupying).

May 14

After traveling for 23 hours, including the van ride down to SLC and then getting through immigration, I finally found M. When I saw her I literally screamed her name! At first I couldn’t findher, and I panicked, but there she was. Thank God. I was tired, a bit panicked because her cell number wasn’t right, and I was tired tired tired. Thank God for all that therapy, especially this new stuff. I held it together, pretty much. Carolyn would be proud.We’ve basically spent the last 24 hours in the house, with the children, and then going and visiting family. They are all impressed that I wore my hijab for the ENTIRE trip. Sometime, around 11pm Jordan Time, M’s father went to sleep and her mother told me I could take it off. How nice. My poor chin is getting chafed from having something there all the time. I’ve got cream and I feel more comfortable looking like I fit in rather than standing out, so it’s okay. I’m also slowly learning morearabic words, with the help of her oldest, D, and also have discovered the wonders of how technology is able to speak across languages. At least between and adult and child. Also how making funny noises can do the same, and finally that “yumm” is universal for “yumm.”This morning I awoke to a sight I couldn’t get over – a geography that looks like Israel and Palestine, but without a 30 foot wall interrupting the landscape. No one here has seen it, and I’m glad they don’t know what the experience is like. On the other hand, they haven’t seen it because they can’t go home. On the horrible hand, it is there because their parents, and some of them, were forced to flee.The situation makes me angry.Oh, a side note. On the plane from Paris to Amman I was sitting next to a very nice fellow who is Palestinian Jordanian. There was no handy map on that plane, so we kept debating about where we were. At one point I told him “there’s the boot of Italy!” and he didn’t believe me. It ended up I’d been right.. but the side note was that I told him that if we were going to fly over Israel they were going to tell us at one point or another that we could no longer get up, even if there was no turbulence. He hadn’t remembered this from his previous trips home (he has been living in the US for 25 years), but I assured him it would happen if we were, in fact, flying over Israel. I was right.Eventually we were told we could not get up and walk around. They first said it in French, then inEnglish they said it but they explained it as “special circumstances.” Being that on my other flight into the area they told us it was because we were entering Israeli airspace I knew what the “special circumstances” were, which, of course made me angry that they wouldn’t say anything. Eventually we spoke to a flight attendant for some other reason and I asked her if the special circumstanceswere because of Israel and she said yes. Of course, that made me even more angry. But that’s a story for another day, as well as more thoughts to sort through.So, I’m learning how to properly wrap a hijab with a scarf. That’s better than the things I have. I’ve interviewed one person about her experience in Palestine, but she was only 5 when she left. Her mother is still alive and she is going to ask her mother if I can come record her telling her story. We are also going to go visit a friend of M’s mother who still lives in a refugee camp near Amman. We will also go to M’s school on Sunday and talk about a good time for our workshop. We may even get to visit a few schools.Finally, since Mai is not coming into Palestine/Israel with me I’ve decided that I am going to go via the Allenby bridge. This is a crossing directly into the West Bank from Jordan and is controlled by the Israeli government. I am going to do the crossing wearing an abaya and a hijab. It could possibly be an emotionally difficult day, but I am here, and I have this opportunity face the Israeligovernment looking like “the other.” I also have the HUGE advantage that most of the other women wearing a hijab going through that crossing don’t have, which is a happy little american passport. They will ask me why I am not wearing a hijab in my photo I am sure, and I will have to come up with a good reason. I will, of course, take my cross off, in case I get searched.

I’m not sure what we’re doing tomorrow. If they are going to the mosque, I may see about taking a bus into Amman. On Saturday evening I’m going to services at the Anglican church over in Amman. That will be nice. I feel a little stuck here at Mai’s house, but that’s okay. I’m here with a woman that I was worried I wouldn’t discover the same level of friendship with. Low and behold I have discovered that yes, indeed, I adore this woman, and her children. Her husband is a very good man and likes to talk about politics – which we mostly agree on. The jewish issue is touchy.

May 14

When I get to Jerusalem, God willing, I will have some time to process everything: from playing with the children in the park, to seeing M’s school, to the horrors of the camp today- and this was a ‘good’ camp, if there can be such a thing. Even M’s mother, a refugee who first fled Ein Karem (West Jerusalem) in 1948 as a baby and then Ramallah as a 17 year old, was horrified at some of the sights in this ‘good’ camp.

After the camp we went shopping in the camp’s market. As any good American does, I took part. I bought another abaya- all but one of the 3 I brought are too heavy!!! I also bought 2 scarves / Hijabs, and a kite for M’s little boy D (4) and his papa to play with.
I’m still figuring out the getting into Palestine thing- which bus, renting a car, getting an appointment with the school in the Galilee. I’m still intending to go directly into the west bank so I can experience that notorious crossing (Allenby Bridge) looking as a Muslim (re: Palestinian at first) with my American passport and accent in my English only voice. It really is the only thing I know I can do to have an itsy bitsy tiny notion of what the Palestinians go through every day. I still also have to figure out my story- why I’m not wearing a hijab in my passport photo, and why I’m going to the land. If I talk about the school they may expect a letter of invitation, or ask why I didn’t go through the northern crossing. So, I have to think of something.

« Previous Entries