For the last 11 months I have mentally packed my bags and left Palestine at least 3 times a week. While I feel accomplished for moving sight unseen to a foreign land and slugging it out for nearly a year now, there are times I feel too remote from the comfort of “home” and vulnerable to the unknowns of being under occupation. While the things I have seen and the people I have met have eased my transition to life here, sometimes I just want to run and hide. At those times the thought of not being able to take a hot bath without hours of planning and boiling water can bring me to tears. But wait, the tears are not what this post is about.
The imaginary suitcases at the ready
At those times, when I feel anxious or just homesick, I imagine packing my bags. The neighbor’s sewage tank overflows and I mentally pack our bags. My child burns with a fever far from familiar pediatric care and I mentally pack our bags. Another week without play dates, with no age mates for my kids and no other moms to talk to all day and I mentally pack our bags. Our clothes reek of detergent perfume so that my eyes water and I mentally pack my bags. The crazy driving conditions, the trash, the parks with broken equipment, the loneliness, the tales of innocent people being detained or harassed or worse, and everywhere people smoking: pack pack pack pack pack. Lay in bed at night and imagine I myself packing it all up into suitcases and flying (home?). “Retreat!” screams my inner pessimist.
Then, every night the incessant conversation: “Should we stay? Should we go?”. I decide to go and then I wake up the next day to the sunshine, birdsong and beauty of the olive trees and the wadi behind our house that is also Palestine and I decide to stay. 8 hours later, after a day of tantrums and solitary mothering, the electricity going out for the millionth time and a beggar at my gate ringing my obnoxious buzzer doorbell to ask for money, I mentally pack to go again. Lather, rinse, repeat. For months. The feeling of being in limbo has been unbearable. We didn’t allow ourselves to buy anything because we might leave. For every purchase we weighed our need against the cost of shipping the item overseas. Living in a house furnished by a stranger and drinking from a stranger’s coffee cups intensified the feeling of limbo. We hung borrowed art on the walls and we use borrowed blankets on our beds. I’m grateful for all that we have been given and at the same time I just want to be “home”.
So. We decided to go. And we began to hunt for a job in America and Canada. We hunted and hunted.
We shouted into the employment void and heard our own voices echo back.
Between job apps and telling our extended family that we were going to leave there were confusing moments where the small doubt that was harbored in my heart welled up and became a huge doubt. Eventually I couldn’t ignore it: I don’t actually want to leave! Leaving felt like a loss more than a win. Despite all the things that
freak me out challenge me about life here, I am just not ready to leave. Not yet. I love Palestine. I love (lots, but not all) parts of life here. I love the adventure.
So we have decided to stay for another year.
Staying requires making changes. My parameters for staying include finding housing that is less remote from town. The new house has to be less museum-like and be easier to heat. The stress of being freezing cold all the time is depressing me and is part of my distress about living here. The new house also needs to be tied in to a real septic system instead of septic tanks that overflow periodically.
So we found a house in a great location that meets our needs! YAY!
We will be moving to a quieter neighborhood and a smaller, more affordable house at the end of this month. The new house is a stone’s throw from our favorite park, and rather than an apartment building it is freestanding. Big bonus.
Staying. Glass half-full. Inner pessimist taking five.
The beautiful sunrise and sunset; I’m staying.
My kids are speaking more and better Arabic, my kids spend hours exploring ancient groves of olive trees; I’m staying.
The nearness to antiquities; I’m staying. The adventure of being abroad, of making it work when things are difficult, of being a stronger family and becoming stronger, more resilient people; I’m staying. The benefit to my kids of close family, of being in a culture so different than American culture, of being close to what is half their heritage; we are staying. The incredible people I’ve met, the opportunity to teach yoga here, the family I’ve come to love, the fascinating little stores I have yet to discover, the recipes I have yet to try; we are staying.
And I am going to expand my work with Farashe Yoga to help them keep putting down the roots of yoga in Ramallah. Our first teacher trainees graduate next month, and in the summer we are working with Anahata Grace to bring a 100 hour YA certification program with a yet-to-be-determined focus (prenatal maybe?).
So there you have it. Posts from mid-west meets mid-east will continue for at least the next year.