Free Fall

(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!

I do yoga for times like these, when they both need to be held at the same time.

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“).

skyline with mosque

the incredible sky. Texas, where I moved from, is known for it's huge skies but I was never so in love with a sky as I am here in Palestine.

Free Fall

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?

view through a hole in a playground wall

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?”

an old woman walking on Tireh street.

a pair of vintage shoes that I really and truly love. I even brought them over the ocean with me, to remember some part of who I was. They feel irrelevant 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
1 egg
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.

yoga in the kitchen while dinner cooks.

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.

just before the slapdown.


19 thoughts on “Free Fall

    • thanks for the kind words! I almost used a couple of pics of yours, giving you credit of course, of the sky here. Can I??? I LOVE the sky here.
      Re: fatayer. Make them. Their super easy. Easier than you may think.

  1. Hey! I know that injury! I gave it to myself last spring. If it helps, my dad was suffering similarly toward the end of our vacation when he was doing a lot of baby sitting and baby carrying. I think this particular condition is strongly correlated to a symmetric baby lifting which can lead to instability we are not used to having in the upper back and neck.

    By the by, let’s talk yoga for weight loss off line. I have been reflecting on this lately.

  2. Do you remember the last “who is the new me?” moment? I remember talking with you about this ground-falling-out-from-under-me feeling while walking with our newborn boys to Thunderbird. EVERYTHING had changed. We absolutely loved our new status as Moms. We chose it. And the change was both exhilarating and defeating. I mention this because I wonder if remembering this might be helpful to you? Maybe not–I have no idea what it’s like to be an expat under occupation, and I know that your life-changes in Ramallah are different from entering the land of parenthood. Maybe writing a list of attributes of the ‘new you’ might be helpful?
    On another note, that fatayer looks delicious! I’m totally going to try it. And I smiled when you mentioned that the dough shouldn’t be the consistency you would find when MAKING CRACKERS. Because that totally showed how you’ve adapted to the food access changes in Palestine. Who in the un-occupied western world makes their own crackers? 🙂 You’re awesome Ravyn; I love reading about your new life in Ramallah and thanks so much for staying connected to your old friends with your blog!

    • oh, thank you soooo much for that memory. I just love that we have that particular history to share. Our first babies, our first houses, our time in A-town. Yes, it helps. Thanks.

  3. I think your definitions of self are your safety net. I wonder what would happen if you let go of all of these little ideas about what you should and should not do, feel, think, etc…. Metaphically speaking, if you let go of all of these things – I bet you won’t “free fall”, I bet you would soar!

  4. I refuse to forget about you even if you move to the moon! I wish you a speedy recovery from the injury. I KNOW what it is to be injured and it’s not fun. If I were near as good as a cook as you, I’d never be able to lose weight! Thank goodness I can’t cook!
    And on that note–you look beautiful and any “spare tire” you may have I cannot see–I just see you as beautiful. That’s it.
    BUT, I do understand that feeling completely of not feeling “right” in clothes, etc. I would never tell you not to want to get to the body you are most comfortable in.
    I need some friggin’ cardio, come to think of it! 😉
    Sending love, Ravyn. xoxo

  5. I really like the ‘who am I now’ question. It is one I use often. I say, ‘what am I?’ It is obvious that we are not what we were x amount of years ago or will be x amount of years to come. And then of course we will die and what will we be then and where were we before we were born? We are this drifting stream through all of this, and then what really matters? These are good questions to contemplate I feel. It helps to bring perspective. But oh this life keeps us so busy. How can I best live it? I crave simplicity, time and space.

    • What am I?
      I feel that the most intense part of that question is that it can be asked at all. We have room to wonder about what we are because there is room to not know.

  6. This comment came from my Friend Laurel at
    You are not forgetting, the process you are going through that makes the trash seem normal and occupation ‘OK’ are called adapting, and it’s a good thing! Think how much stress your body and mind were taking on when everything seemed strange? This is a good step in the expat process.

    When we came back from China, I would stare at the Austin skyline, not because it was more impressive than shanghai’s (hardly) but because the outline of the buildings against the sky was so crisp. I had gotten very used to hi pollution levels. I found myself staring into people’s carts at the grocery store, speaking loudly in English things that should not be said out loud if the people around you speak the same language and unabashedly spitting on the ground. I had to re-adapt.

    About forgetting, yes you may. You may forget how cheap and available organic is at home and think how wonderfully surprised and appreciative you wl be of that fact when you do return home? You are also forgetting how much it sucks to be stuck on I-35 Friday traffic, and that you will not be so excited about.

    I’m glad for you, and hope things do look more and more like ‘home’.

  7. The new year arrives with the best intentions to lose a few pounds, but your dad shared some of his Zaater with me and I have to tell you that hot pita bread with olive oil, Zaater, and a little parmesan cheese is becoming my new comfort food. Not exactly a calorie free food. The questions – are they the big questions? I don’t know, but am discovering that no matter what age, they are always being asked. Maybe that helps us on the upward spiral of self-discovery. It keeps us wondering and not takiing life for granted. It is good to stay in the moment, but anticipation keeps me feeling alive. FYI – you will never be forgotten if you stay away! Thanks for keeping this blog. Your writing is so fun and interesting to read.

    • Thanks so much Aunt Carla! I love hearing from you! And oooooh, sorry about the zatar addiction. Not as bad as some things you could be eating, but yes…not a diet food. Ah, well. Enjoy it! I will bring you more when we come to the US. much love to you and your family.

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