We went shopping last weekend for handmade, traditional Palestinian needlework. We found a store in the very busy Manara called Artezana. And it was packed with examples of this type of embroidery. Check out these pictures of the tiny store stuffed floor to ceiling:
With all these amazing pieces of hand embroidery, cultural relics, and ancient Touab, you would think this place would be famous or easy to get to. But these culturally relevant pieces of art are still being made all the time, and in Palestine the past is not as distant as it seems. I see horse drawn soil tillers at the top of my street and shepherds walk their flock amongst the downtown buildings. Hundred year old things are not uncommon in this ancient part of the world. Touab are still worn daily (especially by older women). The Manara especially is so crowded that stores are the size of large closets and they use whatever space is available. Artezana is located deep in a corner behind what seems to be a Taxi depot.
Speaking of All What the Ladies Need….
These cold, rainy days make me feel like I’m made of lead. My house is stone from ceiling to floor; cold clings to everything. Like a cave, it’s always colder in here than out there. I crave a thick blanket, a cup of tea and a hot bath. Throw in the latest Peabody Mystery and you’re looking at my current version of “What Mama Would Do With An Hour To Herself”. If that sounds mundane, I ask you to reflect on your day: did you get to pee with the door closed today? did you shower? did you have a hot meal that was actually intended for you and eaten anywhere but standing at the kitchen sink? If you answered yes to any of those questions, it’s one “yes” more than I can say. At this point, I would settle for a warm wash cloth and a cold cup of coffee.
Winter in Ramallah is wet and cold and windy
It’s early winter and I’m in Palestine, so I can’t just turn on a tap and get hot water. There is the whole rig-a-ma-roll of solar panels, boiler pot, and heating water on the stove to make a bath. And sometimes the system doesn’t work. Like tonight. We got the monkeys naked and ready for their bath, thinking there had been enough sun on the panels for their limited bath needs. But when we took them to the tub we had filled, instead of warmth and steam there was a tub of ice water. Crap!
step 1: Re-dress the kids.
step 2: put on the boiler.
step 3: put 2 pots of water on to boil.
step 4: ponder my poodle-like preference for conveniences like instant hot water and wonder if this is a lesson in how the world really works outside the American bubble, or is it just crappy city planning?
I think about the issue of convenience daily, in terms of everything from water to food to oil and gasoline (which is very expensive here. Our car costs about $100 to fill). Nothing is as cheap or easy or available as it was in America. And this is just another way that moving here has been good for me. Seeing how the rest of the world deals with the truth of scarcity and limited resources has been an eye opener.
Speaking of a wake up call and limited resources…
“Solar” (not to be confused with anything to do with the sun) as I mentioned last winter, is the name of the mind-bogglingly expensive fuel we use when we heat our house. To be more specific, “Solar” is actually a diesel fuel which sits in refillable tanks in the basement of our building. This is a common heating system. When the tanks are empty we call someone to fill them and filling the tanks of diesel costs about $1000. According to the guy who fills them this lasts the average family 3 months. We, on the other hand, burned through our “Solar” in about a month last year using it SPARINGLY. And by sparingly I mean by day we were all chattering teeth, slippers and sweaters so that at night we could turn it on and our kids were warm enough to actually sleep. And still we only got 1 month of heat for our $1K. It’s the heating bill from hell.
Whole Paycheck Me vs DIY Me
me before Palestine:
Off we go to Whole Paycheck for groceries! Let’s see….I want a fresh juice cocktail made with ingredients designed to balance my dominant dosha, a side of organic grilled kale tossed in wheat-free non-GMO shoyu, and some wild caught halibut grilled over designer charcoal while I wait. I will browse the (nano-zinc and paraben-free) mineral makeup and maybe pick up a bracelet that was hand made by a woman in the congo who uses my “donation” to buy her family a goat. Cute! Then I want to go home and take a bath in my pure essential oil bath salts and wash my hair in fragrance-free organic shampoo that assures me my dollars go to fight clear cutting of the rainforest. (Where is that again?) I’ll light a beeswax candle with a lead-free wick (for indoor air quality), eat agave sweetened truffles (clear conscience sourced cocoa of course) and have a glass of red wine that was personally recommended to me by the sommelier in the wine department with whom I bonded over his excellent choice in eco-footwear. He says it has a velvety fruity tobacco-y chocolate cherry finish.
Me in Palestine:
Let’s go to Brafo! Subermarket. Damn. ALL the peanut butter (all 3 choices) has hydrogenated oil and sugar. I want peanut butter. Forget it. I’ll make my own.
I want bread that is not full of chemical fluffing agents (there was a little incident here about 6 months ago that involved a little carcinogenic chemical used in large quantities in lots of bakeries in town.) So fine, I’ll make my own bread. I’ve always wanted to do that anyway.
I need clean fruits and vegetables. We can’t get organics (though I hear there are organics here, these stories are like Yeti sightings. You want to believe, but you just can’t). I’ll make my own veggie wash and keep a maniacal washing regimen of all produce (grapefruit seed extract we brought with us mixed with vinegar and water).
I need familiar ingredients for recipes we know and love. Like Chili Powder. My husband goes out to buy Chili Powder and returns with “Chili Powder”, which is 100% powdered chilies. Nevermind. I’ll make my own.
I have also made my own “instant” mac & cheese sauce, applesauce, and fig newtons since moving here. At first I was dismayed at what I couldn’t get and couldn’t buy.
But who doesn’t want homemade bread? Bonus if the kids can get into the mixing, baking, kneading action. It scratches that Little House on the Prairie itch. Check this out, I’m so LHOTP now that my kids are in organic red wool pajamas as we bake our WW bread together:
Who doesn’t love a good fart joke?
ps: I had my first Arabic lesson with a tutor. When reading out loud from a story, I mistook a “b” for a “t” and ended up talking about a little boy who farted without good reason. And I couldn’t stop laughing for the REST of the lesson, which is so embarrassing. I was cracking up long past the appropriate time to get over it. Ah, fart jokes. If you are related to me and reading this, you’ll understand when I say fart jokes run in the family.
Mom Thought for Today: on why I blog and boundaries.
I blog to get the thoughts out there, to keep a record of our life for myself and for my kids. I blog to have a place to vent, brag, and lament. I blog because I miss journaling, and actual writing is too slow. Isn’t that sad? And yet, I am recording more of my life now by typing than I ever would have writing by hand so something lost and something gained. From time to time I look at the stats for this blog and I see what search terms led people to me. Twice in the last week I have seen something that really creeped me out. Someone googled (and I am going to try to trick the search engines so you will have to figure out what letter is missing. Here’s a hint, it’s the letter “n”) the term “_aked Preschooler” and then later, “girl _aked” and “child _aked”. According to my stats, these searches lead to my blog. My first reaction was to take down any picture of my children missing a piece of clothing. Even socks. But then I calmed down and thought about how ridiculous it is to think I could put up a picture of anything and try to control what someone else thought about it or “got” out of it. I’m torn, though. Is my child’s _aked bum (which has occasionally made a guest appearance on this blog because I think it is SO CUTE) R rated? Do you fellow mom bloggers have a policy about this? Because I am also afraid that taking down every picture in which a benign, dimpled baby bum appears is lending power to the hysteria that any _udity of someone under 18 is _ornography. It’s like the crazies that try to demonize public breastfeeding, I want to ask them what is in THEIR head that makes breastfeeding sexual? It’s my job to protect my children, though…so any thoughts out there about this?
Yoga Thought for Today:
Well the Farashe Yoga teacher training program is underway. I am so happy and proud of us for getting this going. It’s the first yoga teacher training program in Palestine. We have an amazing group of about 13 women (and I hear a few have joined recently) from all over Palestine. I am just thrilled.
Teaching yoga here presents some unusual challenges that in my 10 or so years of teaching I had never had to deal with before.
Challenges like what to do if there are women in the group who are in full hijab and can’t remove their hijab if there are men present. No men had registered so the women had just gotten comfy when 2 guys walked in and wanted to join. Gah. What to do? Well, I hesitate to tell you that in fact we decided that the men should have registered in advance as we had asked and we didn’t let them join. I know it seems sexist, but one way to look at the decision is that this is very much a man’s world and women have very little space where they can be free and relaxed. There are coffee shops and restaurants where only men are allowed to go. We offer mixed gender public yoga classes, but this training is going to be a place where women can be themselves and learn in a group. The men can join next session once we figure out how to make the training mixed gender. It’s a difficult problem, actually, when you want to train teachers who are native to Palestine so that yoga will root here and not come and go with the foreigners.
Also, teaching yoga philosophy to a group who mostly speak Arabic as a first language is incredibly hard! We have to ask one of the students to translate, and I am so grateful to her because she seems to be really good at relating what’s being said. It’s not as if philosophical concepts translate easily from one language to another, not like a recipe or a dinner order. It’s specialized language, and so I am having to recalibrate the depth and length of discussion to fit what is possible to convey. Given that blank stares are the norm in a philosophy “lecture” while it all sinks in, I can’t always tell what is a question waiting to be asked and what is a polite facade of understanding. I will have to dig deeper to convey what I mean, and this is a good challenge to have.
Finally, what direction is the Qiblah from inside our studio? Our classes go through prayer times and some of our students are devote Muslim women who need to pray at the right time. The call to prayer and the constant reminder of God is something I LOVE about here. And after all, this is a yoga teacher training. The highest, the divine, God, Allah, your highest self….it’s all relevant. But where IS the Qiblah from Farashe studio? We didn’t know until last weekend.