Picture Post: street scenes, road trip, New Years Eve 2012

Good Morning 2012!

The New Year finds us in Palestine.  It’s a sweet, sunny morning in Ramallah.  My kids are outside buying c3ak (delicious round sesame bread) from a man with a cart walking past our house.  There is a gentle breeze.  My husband has an extra day to spend with us.  Life is good this morning.

leftover party hats in the morning sun

First coffee of the new year:

6:am coffee, New Years Day 2012. Yum. Now I need to go back to bed. Hahaha. Just a little mom joke. Back to bed…heh.

It never fails.  I get into a tough mental space about living here and being an isolated SAHM, and then all it takes is for me to get out of the house and go see Palestine (!!! we live in PALESTINE) and I feel alive again.  Get me out of our icy, freezing house, get me away from the piles of laundry and our tiny washer that needs encouragement every 10 minutes (it seems a little depressed and reluctant to actually wash our clothes unless I go in and visit it frequently while it washes), get me out of the mix of 2 little ones bouncing off the walls and voila!  Things start to look up.

So we decided (after agonizing about the disruption to nap schedule and the variable of having 2 kids with head colds) to get out of town (on the urging of family members) and go to Jericho (after being prodded by at least 3 phone calls from family members).  And we didn’t regret it (thank you, family).  I grabbed some interesting shots of life in Palestine on our drive to the oldest consistently inhabited city in the world.

As we drove, I tried to capture the outskirts of Ramallah

Headed toward Qalandiya check point. Everyday view.

View into Al-Amari refugee camp from our passing car.

View into Al-Am’ari refugee camp from our passing car.  Note the cognitive dissonance of the word “camp” and what you are actually seeing. These “camps” are small cities, small slums actually, that have solidified from displaced Palestinians living in temporary housing to generations of family living in what is only a little step above temporary housing. This is not a camp, it’s permanent.

Roadside furniture for sale...and a bike?

Lovely Toys

(Sponge Bob.)

My Toys

(More Sponge Bob.  He’s big here)

wares displayed outside the shop is a normal thing here. Something I had never seen before moving to the Middle East.

And then we were headed out onto the road to Jericho 

the kids entertained themselves...and us. Laila sometimes takes this reindeer nose too seriously.

"The Container" checkpoint, just past Hezmeh.

Being obvious about taking pics of checkpoints is not recommended so I snapped this on the fly and you can only barely see the assault rifles which resting on the sill of the both shacks and pointed at passing cars.  I mean “pointed at” literally.  On the way back through the Container, you pass much closer to them and it is a totally creepy feeling to have a gun pointed at you.  Oh, which brings me to my next question:  Have you ever had an assault rifle pointed at you? What about with your 2 kids in the back seat of your car?

As you get closer to the soldier, you see him or her: young. bored. Texting.  Glaring.  Today as we drove in the soldiers in both shacks were ignoring us and seemed to be texting. Other times they’ve stared directly into my eyes as we pass by. You never know what you will get from them. This checkpoint is internal in that it’s inside the West Bank and doesn’t separate Israeli’s from Palestinians so much as simply harass passing Palestinians.

On top of the hill an illegal Israeli settlement. Below in the foreground, the outskirts of an Arab village.

Settlements are everywhere.  This particular settlement overlooks a beautiful grove of olive trees and a small village that once had an entrance via a little tunnel under the road we are driving on.  That entrance has a welcome sign hanging over it, but the tunnel has been blocked with boulders so that traffic can be redirected to be scrutinized by soldiers and so that settlers can have a private entrance to their illegal homes.  For so many Palestinians, coming home means going through a checkpoint.  What if entering your own city (coming from Round Rock into Austin, for example) you were subjected to guns, possible interrogation, certain hostility, unpredictable closures of the entrance to your town, and forced to produce ID and answer questions about where you have been and why you want to get back into your town?

The start of the wall. Damn ugly.

passing Beduion encampents. Snippets of life lived on the outskirts of everything and everyone.

packmules beside the road.

A woman and a young boy walking beside the road.

There are lots of people walking alongside these long roads in the middle of nowhere. I think this is because they walk from Beduoin encampents. Most people can’t afford cars, so taxis are a major form of transportation.

Arriving in Jericho

I always see camels in Jericho.


A water canal running along the road in Jericho.

This made me pause and give thanks for the years I spent growing up in the states and having water at hand any moment I wanted it.  It also made me sorry for all the water I’ve wasted over the years.  Talk about taking something for granted. 

New construction in the ancient hills of Jericho

imagine this is your front door, and every time you open it this is your view: the ancient, biblical hills of Jericho.

I really love Jericho, and the idea of having a winter home here.  It’s much warmer than Ramallah due to it’s significantly lower elevation and the earth is so fertile that the city feels lush even in December. 

The view from a villa in Jericho. Looking toward the mount of Temptation.

The view from a new villa in Jericho, where we attended a get together of friends who had known each other for over 30 years.  This view is looking at the mount of Temptation area.  I would LOVE the live here in the winter, and I love the colors of the walls. 

We headed home after dinner and after Laila took a nap.  It was too dark to take photos with my little point and shoot camera, but the way home was an intense experience for me.  The long, winding road into the ancient hills took us out of Jericho and into the darkness of just past dusk and no streetlights.  The sun was someplace behind the hills, leaving the us surrounded by the shadowy shapes of the hills and the emptiness of the desert.  It felt like the very ancient place that it is.  I could imagine the time before Christianity, and before lights and running water.  As my friend said to me about living in Palestine, here people stand in the context of a longer arc of history.  So much longer and more ancient than anything I grew up around.

And then it was New Years Eve, so I took a few more pictures of Ramallah which was alive with pedestrians and parties. But, um, the parties were happening about 3 hours after we would be home in bed so here are some pics of Ramallah on New Years Eve before New Years Eve really started…what can I do?  I have 2 little kids.

strings of party lights

Mr. Fish!

Mr. Fish!  Woot!

Ziryab, 2nd story, where my husband and I landed for a salad and the fastest glass of wine 2 parents ever drank.

cozy inside Ziryab with the fire going.

no matter how cozy, the occupation is always present. This is a candle with writing by a Palestinian imprisoned in Israel. Go ahead and read it...

It’s a strange feeling sipping wine and getting comfortable and then glancing over at your romantic candle to read these words.  It’s a feeling that sums up a certain part of life here, the part that remembers the occupation at all times because life in Ramallah never escapes the fact of being under occupation, despite the “Ramallah bubble”.  And it shouldn’t.  Still…just one glass of wine…

Mom Thought for Today:  God bless the grandparents…

sparklers and grandparents and a very very very happy Laila (Sufyan, however, found the sparklers scary so he was hiding while I took this one)

My husband and I went out for exactly 1 hour (though I am sure the grandparents and our kids would have spent a few more happy hours together if we had let them).  One hour at 7:30 on New Years Eve and grateful for every second we had.  When we came back I was not surprised to see that my kids made their grandparents work for it:  Laila was naked, covered in lipstick and blush from Grandma’s purse and having a blast.  Sufyan had taped various items to the legs of the dinner table and was busy with a miniature screwdriver that he was loudly pretending was a power drill.  Food was on plates in the playroom, having followed my 2 reluctant eaters around until finally giving up at cucumber sticks and some forlorn orange.  There was a blanket rolled out under the dining room table to accommodate someone who refused to eat anywhere else and who was, besides, naked in this icebox of a house.  In other words, my kids had had a blast and the grandparents did, too.  I think.

he dug the noisemakers, though.

Yoga Thought for Today:  OM.

Practicing with OM 108 times post asana and pranayama.  An incredibly sweet practice with an edge of emotional poignancy for me: the sound envelopes my whole body and then my mind.

After I practiced I had these words in my head:

An empty bowl.

Empty me of what I thought I knew of motherhood.  Empty me of what I think is me.  Empty me of what I thought I knew about friendship.  Empty me of what I think I know about my daughter.  Empty me of what I think I know about my son.  Empty me of what I think I know about marriage.  Empty me of what I thought I understood about my mind.  Empty me empty me empty me so I can see more clearly.

Happy 2012.


12 thoughts on “Picture Post: street scenes, road trip, New Years Eve 2012

  1. Such an amazing post. I really enjoy all the pictures you take and the description of the life you are living that is so different from mine. While I was reading it my three year old came up, looked at the pictures of the Beduion encampents and packmules and asked me what it was. I told him they were pictures of another part of the world, far from us. He looked at the pictures, then at me and said “A very old part of the world, momma?” So very intutitive.

  2. Clair ‘read’ this post with me. When she saw the last photo, she said, “sufyan does Yoga too. When he is bigger, they do Yoga together!”

    Happy New Year mama! Cheers to another challenging year…. hopefully, just a touch less challenging than this last one!

    Om Namo Namah!

  3. Thank you for your blog. It is truly such a gift. I look forward to reading it each time.
    I appreciate your sharing of life in Palestine. (from my social justice perspective, I appreciate learning and knowing more).
    And I appreciate your thoughts on parenting.
    I love the reflections on bring am empty bowl.
    This blog today was a gift to me. Thank you.

  4. Great post! Glad you have a nice day out.

    After looking at the awsome picture of the front door overlooking the hills, I imagine living in Palestine: mixed feelings about it. But for sure I would love to go some day and tour the land.

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