letters from palestine, 3.5 years ago
August 12, 2011
it is 3:40 am
I just got home from this party that some guys invited me to
I am tipsy. I am in my room and the other guy who I share the room with is asleep. he snores gently.
outside the window the morning adhan prayers ring across the valley from the minarets of each mosque. it is everywhere. the sound bounces off of surfaces, valleys, buildings, and so all I hear is a cascade of prayers, layering over each other, allah becoming all-all-ah-all-ah-all-all-ah, reverberating and repeating. it is night, after all, but after morning, and I imagine people praying towards mecca, eating and starting their fast. reverberating sounds. it is wonderful wonderful wonderful. I will try to send it to you.
I met this architect tonight who is working on a project dealing with an old train to mecca; apparently there used to be trains going straight to mecca, a multi-day trip, and so I imagined these families, religious individuals, getting on a train and watching the world swoop by to the destination of their faith.
I came back from this house party that these journalists work at -- they work for this newspaper called the palestinian monitor, and they write two articles a week and stay at this apartment for free. big, spacious. couches everywhere. a typical house party, except with expats from all over the world, and I chatted and said hi, met a few other photographers, editors, dancers, doctors, and suddenly I felt like I was at dean st, with all the fluidity and ease and comfort it gives me - and perhaps you are there now and some aspects of it are annoying you now, but all I can remember is the ease, the ease it has given me and that I take inside.
I was thinking about you today in a bus.
I guess you're curious about how things are and what it's like? it's hard to describe. having been here now things are slippery and they slide and I am not sure what meanings things are. everything is laced with politics. and that is not bad, but that is just present everywhere, which makes things complicated, but people are relentlessly curious and kind. the other day I jumped into this sweets shop (think baklava and its cousins) to ask if they had any good places to eat food nearby. the dude at the counter calls down a different guy, and so this young spry guy, Mohammed, jumps down. he has a perpetual grin and after he gets what I ask he thinks for a while and then bounds out of his shop to show us. I say - no, it's okay - but he insists, so we wander around a little. he finds a place, but the people I'm with don't like it. So I say that we'll head back home, and he understands. In the meanwhile we talk and I learn that he goes to a great university nearby, and he doesn't like his bullshit summer job, and all of a sudden with the word bullshit he suddenly becomes even more alive.
he says: want any sweets where I work? so I say sure, and go in and have some stuff called knafeh, which he packages up for me -- and he's sort of hoping that I can stay there, I can tell. but I smile and so - I'll have it to go, so how much is this? - and he sort of shakes his head smiling as if he forgot something, or as if he's suddenly interested in the wall behind me -- that is to say a too-deliberate 'naaah, you don't have to pay'. and I say naaaah, cmon! but he runs around ignoring my money with a grin, and I smile, and he smile, and so I decide to just come back later (which I did.) but suddenly I feel like I am in korea.
I keep on thinking of Korea. there's no place that I've been that made me think about Korea [this much].
ther ewas something else I wanted to stay but I am
I wake up having read what I wrote last night and it's all a little sleep-hazy delirious and now it's all a little awake-hazy delirious
August 27, 2011
I'm sorry that I haven't been writing back so much. I don't know why but it's hard -- not hard to talk to you, but hard to know what to write, because while I want to talk to you about everything, it's strangely hard to know what to talk about.
I have these encounters and I know not how to parse them and I am still thinking things over.
I'm sorry that I was so sharp about gaza - I just remember being so quick so affirm that no no I wasn't going to such a dangerous place, and I didn't know that it came across as a retort. I'm really sorry if I did.
sometimes when I travel (like last summer) I travel alone and it's a little hard and I don't talk with people that much and all these words sort of marinate and coagulate into this sticky thing that I can then take out and put onto paper. and for some reason this time we're working on a project and so all my waking hours are either spent wandering, talking, or working, and so it's like that sort of stickiness is gone, or not so much there.
I don't know what to say. there are a million different things going on. I say I'm going to palestine! and a friend emails me and says: are you back from the west bank? and I don't know if that's a political statement or not, to not use the word palestine but the neutral region designation, because if it is it's so in the most silent kind of way and it scares me a little to confront someone that way, silently. is that a statement? and this is not just like a pro-choice pro-life abortion fight, but this deals with religion and nations and senses of belonging and spilt blood and people holding guns to people's heads, and in that light it's hard to talk about, because there's depth in these angers. I went to tel aviv, where all these protests are, and this film crew interviewed me with a camera and a light and a boom mic, and asked me what I thought, and I surprised myself by being super neutral, I said I was just thinking, just sussing things out without judgment.
afterwards they left I thought to myself: well what do I think? and I am still trying to answer that question.
I am sorry. it is strange, this feeling of not being able to write about something. and because everything here is about this something, it means that it is hard to write about everything. so I know what you mean about it being hard about talking.