(Tonight I am writing from the upstairs seating of a new cafe in Ramallah called “Sindyan”. I’ve been told many times that I should try Sindyan for it’s excellent Thai food, but I am shocked that no one mentioned the more amazing fact that the tables, doors, floors and even a few walls are oak. As in wood. Like from trees. To get a sense for how unusual this is, let me just say that upon complimenting the chef for his fantastic food we spent about 5 seconds talking food and 10 minutes discussing a gloriously curly-patterned oak door as if it was a unicorn. Everything is made from stone here. Except inside Sindyan. The food was very good, but I’ll be back just to run my hand over a wooden table top.)*
Stop Touching Me!
At the end of today I thought I would crawl out of my skin if one more person climbed on my back without warning, hung from my neck, or accidentally stepped on my hair. I’m not sure exactly why, since it was a good day and these things go with the territory of motherhood. Oh, wait, I know why! I have not been out of the house by myself (read empty car seats) in over a week! Stop touching me, stop touching me, stop touching me! I need to get out more even though I love them so.*
Alone time, is it so wrong to love you?
Computer, is it so wrong to hide in the bathroom, sitting on the floor to answer emails?
Coffee, is it so wrong that I look forward to you every morning?
Frozen Pizza, is it so wrong that you are the first one I call when I can’t face the groceries, the cooking, and the dishes?
A glass of wine with a side of white man’s burden.
Me: “What type of wine do you have?”
Waiter: “We have red and white.” (pen and tablet ready to take my order)
Me (and believe you me, I am very polite to waitpersons having been one myself for a number of years): “Is the red a cabernet or a merlot or….?”
Waiter (lengthy pause): “Yes. It’s red.”
It’s hard to find a good glass of wine here. I know, I know. My life is so hard. I live under occupation by choice, can afford a glass of wine out every now and again, and am relatively free to come and go should I feel up to facing the hostility of the occupation head-on. Poor me. This post is suddenly a bit embarrassing. But despite it’s wealth of grapevines, wine is not part of the culture of Palestine what with alcohol being forbidden to practicing Muslims. The most common alcohol is a licorice flavored spirit called “Arak” which is clear in the bottle, turns white when poured over ice and which I am sure could be used to preserve meat and/or start your car.
There is a small beer brewery in Taybeh, which is a little village near Ramallah, that turns out a decent golden, amber and dark beer according to my beer drinking friends. They give tours of their brewery, and because this is Palestine the bulk of the tour revolves around how importing their ingredients and transporting their product is extremely difficult due to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.
There is also a local wine maker, turning out a glass of wine that the waiters I have spoken to have unanimously recommended against. Unfortunately, there does seem to be a tendency to disparage local goods and perceive imports as higher quality. This attitude is a problem for a country trying hard to pull itself up by the bootstraps with a campaign to buy local produce and support local businesses (called “Intajuna“).
What if I forget to be afraid of being here? What if I forget about organic food? What if I forget to see the trash? What if I get used to the occupation? What if I forget that we are supposed to leave, and that we belong elsewhere and that we need to get going before elsewhere forgets about us?
It’s an identity question more than a crisis, but it’s on my mind. Maybe you more experienced ex-pats knew this was coming, but it took me by surprise. I know it sounds ridiculous on at least 2 counts to worry about the above questions. One) how could I possibly forget? Two) why does it matter? Isn’t forgetting these things essentially what change is, and didn’t I know that this experience would change me? So why am I afraid of the changes that are taking shape and taking root the longer I stay here? What, exactly, am I afraid of? I have always considered myself to be at peace with change and interested in growth. But since we have decided to stay, I feel like the ground has slipped away and I am in free fall. What is it that I identify as me when everything that I knew as me is changing to adapt to a new culture? I am close to simply arriving at the question, “Who am I now?”
Parent Thought for Today: on a recipe to share.
I am working on a post that commemorates Laila’s 2nd birthday, which was last weekend. In the meantime I thought I would share a recipe for Fatayer, a little stuffed bun. The recipe is adapted from our self-described “fallaha” friend (villager or peasant) who gave me measurements like “One coffee cup almost full of oil”. You can stuff these with just about anything, and they freeze well. They are also lovely little snacks for older toddlers.
This recipe makes a lot, so consider halving it or be prepared to make about 50+ fatayer
8 cups flour (I used 6 white and 2 WW)
approx. 3/4 cup olive oil
heaping tsp. salt
1 TBS or 1 package yeast
approx. 1.5-2 cups warm water (more as needed. start with less.)
put the yeast in the water (no hotter than slightly above body temp, same as with proofing yeast)
mix flour with oil until it is decently well mixed
add the egg, mix
add the salt, mix
add the water and yeast, mix.
knead the dough until it’s elastic and slightly sticky. It should be similar to pizza dough. It’s pretty hard to mess this up. So long as it doesn’t stick to your fingers like cookie dough and it isn’t dry like making crackers, you should be fine.
Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour until it doubles, covered with a wet towel.
punch it down and knead for about 5 minutes.
Basically anything you want to stuff them with is great. Here is what we have done today:
1. chopped onion mixed with tons of fresh oregano leaves, sumac (a purple red spice avail. at an import store probably) and chopped white cheese (use halumi from a middle east import store or some other firm cheese that isn’t normally used for melting. a firm mozz would do but then I would add salt if the cheese is not salty)
2. cooked spinach and onion with whatever spices you like.
3. chopped dried fruit cooked in apple juice with cinnamon
make the fatayer:
preheat oven to 425
pinch wads of dough about 2 TBS in size and roll them into a ball. flatten with your hand, making them thicker in the middle and thinner at the sides (like little pizzas).
put a spoon of filling in the middle.
gather the edges by first starting with pinching the middle together like a taco and going from there around the edges. seal by pinching.
place on greased cookie sheet (use olive oil). press them lightly to flatten.
brush with egg and sesame seeds. Or if making fruit filled fatayer, brush with egg and cinnamon
bake for about 15 minutes until golden and puffy.
eat fresh and freeze the rest. They do well reheated in the toaster oven.
Yoga Thought for Today: on confused motives.
Well, I’m only human after all. Around January 1st this year I decided that it was about time to lose some of the “I-moved-across-the-world-and-am-eating-my-way-to-happiness” weight. And since I have a daily yoga practice that I don’t want to give up and since there are only so many hours in a day, I thought I might just combine my practice with my goal to lose some weight. I am well trained, I reasoned, and I should be able to keep myself healthy using yoga while not sacrificing the integrity of my practice for tight buns.
And then my ego got involved and I found myself huffing and puffing my way through classes like a first year ashtanga student, determined to “feel the burn”. And now I’m injured. I can barely turn my head to the left and I my right shoulder is so stiff that I can’t shrug it. Why oh why did I do it? So now, back to my training to help me heal and then back to the mat to work not on my spare tire but on my mind and my ego.