In Search Of Living Stones

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Month: November, 2012

One Week Out

So here I am, sitting in my room in Brisbane, Australia. Its hot outside and I can hear my two teenage sisters talking about the latest Dr Who episode and what top looks the best on who. I am home.
I’ll talk more about how that feels later.

I’ll start with Thursday night, I got into my nesher, said my goodbyes and farewelled Jerusalem, a city I fell in love with 2 years ago.  And the favour was returned, in a way only Jerusalem could pull off.
People who have been to Jerusalem know that the traffic is enough to make you want to scream.
On this night, when it was so important for me to be on time(and not on Arab time), the traffic was 10 times worse, and roads were closed. So I voiced my concerns and prayed. A lot.
I got to Ben Gurion at 8:40pm, I was supposed to be there at 8, but I had no problems.
I was a bit concerned, as Ben Gurion airport has a reputation for giving people a hard time on their way out. Luckily, they just searched my luggage and let me through. Once I’d checked in, I bumped into my friend Shany, who had stayed with me in Australia earlier this year. It was really nice to see her and we stood talking for a good 20 minutes. She works in security at the airport, so she looked at my boarding pass, saw that my line was full of people and took me to the front of the line, telling her friend to be nice to me. So lovely.
And then I flew for 24 hours.
I landed in Auckland, tired, grumpy and looking like I’d just flown half way across the world. As I walked out with my bags, expecting to simply walk out and catch a shuttle, I spot my sister.
Cassia had flown to New Zealand just to surprise me, so nice.
We got to the hotel where I promptly fell asleep, waking up at 5pm thinking it was 5am.
Finally on Sunday night I get home, see my family, deliver gifts and hug my baby sister.

This week I have just relaxed, unpacked my bags, set up my room and reacquainted myself with the western world. Reverse Culture Shock is a little bit weird considering its your ‘own’ culture. Luckily, I was recommended a great book called ‘Re-Entry’ which is for people coming home from missions trips. It was one of the best things I have done since being back.
To say that being home is amazingly wonderful full of rainbows and butterflies would be lying. Its not.
It has its ups and downs.
I miss the languages.
I miss people, I miss places, sights and sounds. I miss my apartment.
I have to get used to living with 7 other people again.
And as much as I talk about stuff, and try to explain it, people just don’t understand completely. How can they? They haven’t seen it, felt it,  experienced it like I have. How am I supposed to communicate all that?

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The art of finding your place

My feet find their way on the worn cobbled roads
Often graced by pilgrims in search of something bigger than themselves
Once a confusing maze of white stone and merchants selling their wares
Now is the path that arrives me at the door of my house

Words, phrases and expressions can be heard all around
once foreign to me, now recognizable and quick to pass through my lips
Often met with surprise as I try to practice my new found skill
And laughter as they try to correct the way the words roll off my tongue

People, once strangers unknown to me
Started as unfamiliar faces and names
Became acquaintances, friends and family
Quick to offer a smile, a meal, a much needed hug

As I continue to the next part of my journey aptly named ‘life’
I carry these roads, words and faces promising not to forget them
Swearing to tell others of their stories
And desperately trying to remember the meaning of the word ‘bishufak’

PS, it means ‘I’ll see you’

Making Lists

So because I am my mothers daughter and I have started packing, I have made some lists.
A lists of what I’m packing, a list of what I leaving, a list of what I’m not sure about yet, a list of gifts I have to buy, a list of people I need to see before I leave, and a list of last minute things I need to do.
One of the things on that last list is to write this blog and because I love the satisfaction of crossing things off list, here I am.
If you have been following even a tiny bit of my travels here you will have learnt that I have fallen in love with this place, so I am making a list of what I will miss about here:

  • My ‘families’
    while I have made several friends here, some of them have become more than that. These people literally have become my family here, I eat Sunday lunch with their mothers-in-law and drink tea with their extended families. I help prepare birthday parties and clean up afterward. More than anyone else, these people have made me feel welcome and accepted.
  • My friends
    One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t have any friends here, but the people I have met here, both locals and foreigners have become incredible friends.
  • Arabic Music
  • Friday mornings in Bethlehem
    I love walking through, the quiet almost deserted streets on my way to the bus.
  • My bus driver
    So long as I don’t sleep in I have the same bus driver every morning. And  every morning I get a ‘Sabah ilkher!'(good morning), ‘Kifhalik?'(how are you) which I almost always respond with ‘Mabsuta, humdilla'(I’m happy, thank God). The usual response to this by my bus driver is laughter & telling me that ‘every morning you’re happy how is this possible?!‘. Once I even left a bag on the bus which he kept for me.
  • The baker who insists on giving me free bread every morning.
  • Speaking 3 languages a day
    I like the challenge. I will miss the random conversations I’ve had with people in Arabic. Its also fun to be able to know 10% of whats going on when people don’t expect you to understand anything.
  • Saying one word in Arabic and getting responses like ‘inti btikhi Arabyeeee?!'(You speak Arabic?!)
  • My independence, the life I live here.
    Although I’d moved out of home before, I was still living with a family, and going back to my own family everyday. Here I have had to rely on myself completely.
  • Mint Tea
  • Working in the Musalaha Offices
    One of the biggest signs that my time here was a God thing was how much I love working in the offices and how much I love the staff here.
  • Living in the Middle East
  • Conversations with Musalaha staff
    Whether it is a serious conversation about identity and land or an inside joke speaking in accents all day.
  • Dressing conservatively
  • The Muezzin

Things I will not miss:

  • Not being able to flush toilet paper
  • Running out of water
  • Having every car beep at you everytime you step outside
  • Going through checkpoints everyday to get to work
  • Feeling useless in the face of huge problems
  • The footpath doubling as a rubbish dump
  • The smell of said rubbish
  • When Muezzin wakes me up at 4am
  • Not being able to eat/drink publicly during Ramadan
  • People not understanding my accent

Things I’m excited about going home to

  • Seeing my family
  • DRIVING MY CAR
  • Family
  • 3am beach trips with my sister
  • Summer roadtrips
  • Sisters
  • Midnight swims
  • Brother
  • Being able to share my experiences from here

A voice crying out in the wilderness

So I’m down to my last week,
of course I always knew this week would come. You can’t go on a short term trip without think how short that term would be. That doesn’t make it any easier, it doesn’t make the fact I have to say goodbye to everything and everyone.  But I’ll post more about that later.
One of the things I have enjoyed and will miss greatly is the conversations shared over lunch in the office. Naturally, with so many people from so many backgrounds, discussions are bound to happen and they are almost always fascinating.
Most recently we started talking about how someone could be involved with Musalaha but still hold very close to their beliefs of land and ‘chosenness’ which turned into a conversation about staff members and their personal beliefs and how they feel about the land, conflict and the Christian response.
I have often said that the young people I have met here inspire me and keep me passionate and I will carry their stories with me for the rest of my life.
But day-to-day, getting up to go to the office every morning I am kept inspired by the people I work with, they truly are ‘voice crying out in the wilderness’ and you will be hard pressed to find many like them in this part of the world.
Its these people that make me believe that there is a Third Option, a both-and way of approaching this ugly, monstrous conflict.
Like the Jewish-American mum who finds herself unable to do nothing when faced with the realities of the conflict for a Palestinian mum,
or the Palestinian woman who is passionate about the younger generation seeking out the ‘other-side’, and gives up her time and energy to see it happen.
The conversations and time I have been able toe spe with the staff here has been life-changing and opened my eyes to completely different ways of thinking.

And so as I prepare to go and I start saying my last goodbyes, I find myself in a weird head space.
Trying to figure out what effect my stay here has had, and whether it has been for better or worse.I know for a fact that it has had an effect on me, definitely for the better, I am leaving a different person.
But for Musalaha Youth, for the situation, for the people, have I had a lasting impact?
Sometimes as just one person, it is easy to feel so small, so helpless in the face of injustice.
I won’t go into details as it is a story for another time but this week I found myself face to face(literally) with the ugly, snarling face of injustice and I was paralysed  I did nothing, I didn’t move. I just sat there.
The guilt that came with that inaction is indescribable, I have always known that guilt is a result of certain actions, but of inaction also? That’s a new one.  And the guilt weighed on me all day, its easy when you can trick yourself that you live in a little bubble where nothing goes wrong and nothing affect you. But the minute that bubble bursts, you’re faced with real life. Its like the song from my favourite Kiwi song bird, Brooke Fraser;
Now that I have seen, I am responsible‘.
So here I am, carrying around this responsibly trying to figure out what to do with it.

I’ll leave on a positive note, last night was my last night at church, and as I sat taking it all in I was able to thank God into bringing into that place. Church has been amazing, I have learnt so much and loved so much simply by being part of the community. One of the worship songs we sang I felt was fitting as I prepare to go back and figure out where to go from here;
Where You go, I’ll follow
Where You stay, I’ll stay
I will follow You

How You love, I’ll love
How You serve, I’ll serve
If this live I lose, I will follow You

Peace.