Excerpts from my journal during a three month journey of photographic discovery in the Land of Troubles
June 19, 2009, Friday, Ramallah Friends School apartment:
An introduction to dreaming in Palestine: nothing specific to the region last night that I could detect. Running barefoot with others over sand, flying rapidly. Crossing a bridge. A young woman, maybe even a girl, in the lead. Problems with leadership. Problems with caring for my grand daughter Eleanor who seemed along for the ride.
And back to reality, a listing of my troubles, the minor ones: Internet at home doesn’t work, partially worked awhile yesterday after Achmed, the school’s maintenance man, tried helping me in consultation with Salim, the intelligence technology expert. And the teachers’ computers, maybe because Achmed moved the wireless router into my apt, when I checked late last night, also do not connect with the Internet.
My mobile phone, hard to set up from when I unlocked so I could use a new local SIM card to the recent purchase of a card, now mysteriously, after only few short calls, has a zero balance. So theoretically I can’t call out and no one can call in. Yesterday, I asked a local mobile phone dealer to set up the phone for English. And I still have no voice mail.
The day before departing I banged my left foot into the hard shell luggage I was packing, injuring my middle toe. Not seriously, but the toe is ugly and moderately sore—red and swollen.
What else to list here, any more woes? Only one light bulb for the entire flat, so I am in the dark at night, except for that one bulb. I’ve asked Achmed for replacements, will buy them myself if needed. Walking up and down the hundreds of hills here tires me out; I’m not sure how many more times, at my age, a ripe 68, I can manage.
So I wrote at the Pronto Café last night, for the internet access, and learned how noisy the café can become after about 8 pm. Jammed with people, many of them westerners, many smoking, music loud. Basem, the owner, the man who’d introduced me to Fadia, the now deceased Fadia Daibes Murad, the politically astute Palestinian hydrologist that has been so helpful to me greeted me solidly with the Arab hug and cheek kissing. We commiserated over the loss of Fadia, he showed me her portrait behind the counter, and reminded me that the best mourning we can do is to continue her work.
Thinking of AM’s sister who is a hydrologist, I decided impulsively to write her about my immediate experience with Basem, and point her toward my mourning site for Fadia on my blog.
Strolling thru town, saying hello to the barber (whose son is suffering again from leukemia, in the Hadassah hospital in Israel—I hope to visit him) and Walid the stationary shop owner (he told me that most of Ramallah’s water is supplied by Israel via Mekerot, only once per week, and can be shut off at any moment and sometimes is as retaliation against violence or resistance, also about a spring or cistern near Ramallah, one of the few local sources of water, I may contact the Palestinian Water Authority, PWA, which I’ve worked for before, and try to locate it), I happened upon (thanks to the muses, those usually trustable muses of mine, operating in the background, most active when I sleep, revealing themselves to me in dreams, fantasies and reveries, leading me usually beneficially, but sometimes astray—I am frequently lost, but am I ever truly lost?) I noticed a water tanker setting up to deliver water to a roof top tank. So I stopped, observed, noted the light, and photographed. While doing this a police officer stopped two cab drivers to check papers. I observed, noted the light, and photographed.
Before doing that I’d lingered at Al Manarah (the title means light house or beacon in Arabic), the town center , noticing that the railings did not fully prevent pedestrians from daring the traffic to walk directly across the street. I videographed that, after first observing the scene, noting the light, choosing my position, and only then making the short video. I followed the video with a panoramic still image.
Last night the noise lasting until about 3 am was nearly unbearable. Despite the heat I closed my window. I considered inserting earplugs as I had the night before at the Palm Hostel to quell the loud ricocheting snoring of my dorm room partner, John from New Zealand. Leaving the Pronto last night around 9:30 pm I noticed the park opposite was jammed with people, many eating at the outdoor restaurant, with many children playing on the apparatus. This is the first time in all my visits that I’ve seen the site in use. No doubt it’s because this is now the summer season. Did the reveling sounds come from here or elsewhere? I might explore tonight.
A further thought about the night noise source—and by noise I mean singing, musical instruments, loud talking, shouting: it is end of the school year, perhaps these are graduation parties. I shall inquire. And last night was the eve of today’s weekly Islamic holiday. If the night sounds continued, I could imagine Y, should she have been here with me, disturbed by the noise. And insisting we find other housing.
She wrote me a new idea for a slide show: about those from Palestine and Israel we mourn since the beginning of my project. A short slide show, Skip, not one of your usual monumental, never-ending, efforts. This would include Fadia for sure, perhaps the lost Yusef from Gaza, Ibrahem injured and near death, Smadar killed in a suicide attack, the 1,400 killed during the Gaza massacre, Hilda Silverman, etc. A brilliant idea, one more reason I love Y and find her my soul mate, karmic friend, and in some strange way, life long partner. I can’t shake her, nor her me (maybe). We resonate on the deepest levels, yet, paradoxically, cannot remain together.
Filming the 2nd Intifada in Al Manarah, Ramallah, Occupied Palestine
Today is Friday, until a few moments ago I thought it was Thursday and I had an extra day before either attending Women in Black in West Jerusalem or the nonviolent vigil against the separation fence in the Palestinian village of Bil’in. But no, it is Friday, no one will be at the school, I will have free reign of the downstairs facilities, and perhaps no one to help me with my internet problem. So today, what do I do besides possibly meet with Nitin this afternoon and attend the concert tonight? Write, review photos and videos from yesterday, contact the Bethlehem folks to find out when I should arrive, and how and what to expect. Recharge my phone with airtime. Expect some shops to be closed for most or all of the day.
At times this is an easy life, much less frantic and scattered, more concentrated, deliberate, reflective than when at home. Full time photography and a form of vacation—that’s my life here. So when people ask, Oh, you’re going to the Mid East, work or play? I could answer, Both. Not only can this traveling and living in other regions be restful, it is a time for intense concentration on my photography. writing and The Land of Troubles.
But, my friend inquires earnestly, What about the danger? Aren’t you just a little worried about being arrested, detained, injured, or killed? Getting sick, losing your equipment, running out of money at least?
I will save my reply for another time.