It’s 4am.   The kids have been up for 2 hours already.  Sufyan is break dancing.  Laila is building a tower out of blocks.  I am making 2am snacks and we are seriously jet lagged.  It’s raining outside, a steady downpour that sounds like heaven and makes my eyes want to close.  I have a strange feeling of déjà vu as I look around and wonder where in the world I am.  Everything is familiar…and everything is foreign.  This moment is nearly identical to moments of our arrival in Palestine almost a year ago.  The jet lag, the rain, the break dancing.  All of it.  We have just moved our family across the ocean for the second time in a year.

Here I sit, surrounded by my jet lagged family and the emotional fallout of a sudden, urgent departure from Palestine.

After over 36 hours of travel including 6 buses, 4 taxis, 2 planes, 4 passport control points, 1 passage through no man’s land, endless metal detectors and one argument with a soldier at the Allenby Bridge we have arrived back in the States with our entire lives in boxes and bags.

Travel pics

We said "Goodbye, Sarriya" and goodbye to everything else as we drove out of town.

goodbye to the wall

goodbye to the wall

goodbye Qalandiya traffic as our taxi drove by

goodbye Beduoin herders and sheep

Laila said goodbye to a gang of dogs near Hezmah

In the taxi, Laila watches Palestine out the window

Sufyan on one of the many buses we took

taxi in Amman loaded with our things

view from our gate at the Amman airport...

view from our gate of the Amman airport, which has a certain "ambiance".

Starbucks in the Amman airport

trying to sleep on the plane

the 14 hour flight was too warm, and we were so glad when we landed. 14 hours of too warm toddlers on a plane full of sneezing, coughing families is an ETERNITY. Just like last time I flew Royal Jordanian, there was applause on landing.

2 weeks ago Sufyan was recovering from surgery performed at St. Joseph’s hospital in East Jerusalem.  His recovery was not going well, and he was in increasing pain around the clock.  Without going into details about our many reasons, we decided that we had to get him back to the States immediately to correct what had gone wrong.

So, while packing our old house and while only half-moved in at our new house, we were packing yet again.  This time into suitcases.  Since my son was in pain we had to move quickly, actually running from our closets to our suitcases and from room to room throwing things in boxes.  Family came and went with food for us, with words of love and support while we handed Sufyan ice for his teeth and ibuprofen to sleep.  Teta and Sido came to stay and play with the kids while we turned our world upside down–again.  I tried to breathe, look out the window and memorize the skyline of Ramallah and the hills I love so much.  Laila and I made 2 early morning excursions onto the roof to see the sunrise and feel the breeze that is constant in Ramallah.  And to say goodbye.

sunrise on our last morning in Ramallah

last morning in Palestine, Mosque across the wadi


Just like that, we have moved overseas again.  Our second overseas move in a year.  Just like that, my time in Palestine has ended on nearly the exact same day in February that it began a year ago.

Tonight I sit here at my computer in a kind of shock.  It all happened so fast, I didn’t get to say goodbye to Ramallah.  Being back in the States is so familiar, and yet nothing is the same.  I’ve changed.  We all have.

Tonight I miss the hills, the sunsets, the breeze, and my friends and family in Palestine.  My heart aches for the suddenness that was unavoidable.  Our belongings are peppered with items in Hebrew and Arabic that are no longer local;  now they’re exotic.  “Where am I?” is the question that keeps popping into my head.  Laila is pretending to sell Rukab ice cream, Sufyan is looking for shekel rides.  We are all piecing together the life we had and the life we have now.

S and L playing with friends on a big trampoline.

Laila at a playground here

friends with another trampoline! woot!

waking up in another time zone...but super happy

As difficult as this has been I am looking forward to seeing my son out of pain and on the road to recovery, and I am grateful for the loving arms of friends and family that have received us here.  My kids have had more playtime with other kids in the last 3 days than they had in the entire year we spent abroad.  That alone is enough to know we are doing well.  It brings tears to my eyes to know how ready they are for playmates.

I had not planned to leave like this.  Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans, right?



11 thoughts on “Gone.

  1. Well yes, the sudden change must leave you spinning in many ways. It’s too bad it had to happen like that. But the decision certainly seemed unavoidably clear and that must go a long way to making you feel at peace. Can it be called destiny?

  2. I have enjoyed reading your blog SO much and was looking forward to another year of your breathtaking posts and pictures of Palestine. Still, the health and safety of family trumps any obligations and plans. I hope that Sufyan feels better soon and that you have an easy transition back here in the States.

    So true: life just happens.

  3. Holy cow. I totally forgot that the journey began on v-day last year! So, destiny intervined to assure a one year trip. It all makes a little more sense now, right?

    Good luck finding your bearings again. Enjoy the scent of the Whole Foods cosmetic area for me.

  4. Wow. I can only imagine the shock of such a sudden move back to the states. I will be thinking of you during this transition. Email me anytime you want to talk culture shock with someone who can empathize. All the best to you and yours.

  5. Sorry to hear about your sudden departure, but you’re an amazing mother for putting your child before everything else. I pray he gets good care back in the good ol’ US of A. Thank you for sharing Palestine with those of us that may never get a chance to see it.

  6. Oh my goodness! I hope Sufyan gets the care he needs and is free from pain very soon. I must say that it makes me very sad, your departure from Palestine. I am unclear about why your move seems permanent – is there no going back? Either way, I am glad you and your family are all together, safe and sound. I look forward to hearing about your next life adventure.

  7. Wow! That is definitely sudden! Reverse culture shock can be harsh. Especially when there are so few people (if any) around you who can truly empathise with you about your experiences of life in Palestine. You can tell them in words but they still won’t understand. That’s the hardest part, I think. Surrounded by people but still a bit lonely and isolated, somehow. Everyone is familiar and everyone expects you to slot back into life (you were only away for a year, after all) but you and your family are a big bit different and the little hole you used to fit in isn’t quite the right shape anymore. You end up having to whittle away at yourself until you fit in which is just a little bit sad, I find. Good luck!

    • Completely agree regarding reverse culture shock. People around you will NOT be able to understand what you’ve been through and how you’ve grown, etc. I would recommend sticking with this blog for a while longer, maybe even posting about your experiences transition back as a returning expat, and also looking for online communities to connect with in order to counteract the reverse culture shock.

  8. You’re amazing. And poor Sufyan (and your whole family!). Don’t know how things ended up, but I’m glad you’re back and able to get the help and support you need. xoxoxo

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