super mom breakfast: leftover birthday cake (Brown Butter Hazelnut cake with granache) and green jasmine tea.


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.

more of the building process here, which fascinates me. These half built buildings with their "bones" sticking out and grey inner stone are all over the place in Ramallah.

A new neighborhood being built nearby

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.

The view up the street from my gate. I know, this is a picture of nothing interesting. But it's my daily view.

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.

it's fairy tale-like view. look at the colors, the long winding road, the hills off into the distance. Now if only that cute little village wasn't an illegal Israeli settlement situated on top of a hill for tactical advantage. And if only the hills were rolling away into a beautiful kingdom instead of Tel Aviv. ugh.

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.

sunset over the wadi. because I can't get enough

sunset and ollive tree

My kids are speaking more and better Arabic, my kids spend hours exploring ancient groves of olive trees;  I’m staying.

Laila trees a cat. Actually, the cat was playing with her and she was LOVING it.

The wadi up the street from us.

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.

view into our neighborhood housing goods store. Want bring your 2 and 4 year old in here?

current produce at our green grocer, Abu Issa's shop

Sufyan squares off with Mama about sugar consumption at Kiswani, the shop where we get our roasted nuts and other little items

Kiswani roasted nuts

Kiswani grocery aisle. Want to bring your 2 and 4 year old in here?

Kiswani: bulk nuts and candy, Christmas Santas, and argileh/hooka

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.


32 thoughts on “staying.

  1. Ahhhh! the relief. Dealing with the fallout of a decision made is always far easier than struggling to make the decision (usually).

    There is always an open invitation to visit us in the next year if you like. My home is yours.

  2. I’ve been in a similar limbo for the last year as well. Reading your post, I can feel vicariously in every part of my being how awesome it must be to have made a decision, a commitment. Happy for you! And maybe that means the tides are about to turn for the rest of us in limbo land? Ha – we’ll see. Love to you!

  3. I loved reading your post. What incredible changes you have experienced. What a great writer you are. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  4. Y.M-
    You do not know me at all. I “stumbled” upon your website quite by accident and have been an ardent reader since. I spent 5 weeks in Ramallah in the fall as a volunteer at Friends Boys School. I am a retired school administrator from Pennsylvania and it was a lot of bizarre life twists and turns that led. I wish I would have seen your site before I did….I would have loved to have met and shared perspectives. I found your site two days prior to my leaving. You are a superb writer and have great skill in portraying the magnetism, convolutions, repulsions and seductiveness of this region and particularly, Ramallah. I value great writing and young lady, you have a gift! I may also say, I am taken by your depth of thought and personal reflection….I am THRILLED you are staying….I also understand the ambivalence. When I left Ramallah, I felt like I was leaving a bad lover….could not stay….but did not want to leave….I am anxious to hear where your new home will be. I lived right down in the heart of the City by the Al Kasaba theatre. You may want to explore that for your kiddies. When I was there, Smurfs 3-D was playing! There was also a very cool cafe right around the corner from me where a lot of expats hung out. It was called LaVie. There was always something going on and a good place to meet Internationals and Americans. I know young Moms may not get out much to Cafes….but grab Tetta for the evening and take your hubby out! Pardon my misspells/grammar errors….have not yet mastered corrections in the Comment section of Blogs….take care and In’shallah you will continue to find you have made the right choice by staying,

    • Wow, thank you for your kind words. I love that you know the places I am writing about! I do enjoy occasionally getting out to Cafe La Vie. I like it, and at night it reminds me of a little cafe that might be in NYC. I can almost imagine I am in the US when I’m there. Almost. I LOVE your description of the relationship to Ramallah as like a bad lover. I TOTALLY get that and it’s so true. Ramallah is a charismatic alcoholic boyfriend who you keep taking back even though you know you are just going to end up exactly where you were the last time you asked for your keys back. If you ever come back this way I hope you’ll look us up. And feel free to get in touch any time.

  5. You go for it sweetheart! I miss you and the kids. I am so proud of you. I wish I could be there for your happy times. May you have many of them. Post pics, can’t wait to see the new place. Tell L I said happy birthday!

    • You will be there for the happy times! I will send you pics of the new place when we get there at the end of this month. Meanwhile I hope you will send us pics of yours!

  6. What a perfect solution; leaving yet staying. Hooray for a new easier to heat house in a quiet neighborhood. I must say I was feeling a bit selfish while reading this post and all the while hoping you were staying so I could enjoy more wonderful posts from the Holy Land. As always, I adore the photos that pair so nicely with your words.

  7. Your pictures are beautiful and the way you write puts me in your shoes. Congrats on your moving to a house that best fits your needs.

  8. ..from Uncle Phillip
    Well I derive inspiration from your living/loving/longing situation in Ramallah, Raven.
    Remember, grass IS always greener on the other side of the fence. It was fun to see you on the computer when we were down in Athens. I look forward to someday meeting Sufyan and kids.. Love, Uncle Phillip

  9. I’m so happy you’ve decided to stay! 🙂 The experiences you’re having will be something you and your children will always treasure. And, I understand the desire to stay there… I felt that way while living in Germany. Every day is an adventure when living as an expat, and one can learn so much about themselves when having to deal with all the daily challenges that come with living abroad. When we first moved to Germany, I had the same thoughts as you did about just packing my bags and going back home… But, after being blessed with so many amazing experiences (and many challenging situations), it was around that first year mark, that the thought of returning to “normalcy” lost its appeal. Needless to say, I completely understand your feelings about staying. 🙂 I wish you nothing but the best and I hope that this next year is full of many wonderful new adventures for you and your family… I look forward to reading about them! 🙂

  10. Hi there! I just stumbled onto your blog from a friend’s facebook post. I can relate to so much of what you are going though! I moved to Turkey almost 3 years ago when my boyfriend was deported from the US. We live in the southern part, in Adana. The pictures you post (especially the markets and grocery store, the never-ending apartment building construction) look exactly like where I live. We have a nearly 2 year old daughter now, so I can also relate to the joys and struggles of being a mom in a foreign land dealing with a language barrier. It’s tough but rewarding all the same. What part of Texas are you from? I was born and raised in Austin. Anyway, couldn’t help but comment, glad to know that I am really not alone!

    • Wow this is an amazing coincidence! I am also from Austin! I lived there 13 years. I would love to know more about your time in Turkey so far, and what it’s like to be a mom there. If you get a moment, feel free to email me at colorofgravity at gmail dot com. We can exchange stories of mothering in a strange land and just being an Austinite in a foreign culture. I am so glad you commented. No, you are not alone.

  11. Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any points for rookie blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

    • Thanks for your kind words about my blog! I wish I had points for “rookies” but I am still in that category myself. It’s quite a compliment that you think I’m not. I wish you all the best in your writing and if you have a blog, send me the link because I would love to see it. All the best and good luck.

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