What am I doing?
Well, for one-finding my way around "suburban hell", as my friend put it. Its been quite a long sretch of non-blogging for me and my fingers are starting to itch. but I'll make it up over the coming days I promise! between packing our things, getting ready to move down to North Carolina, finishing up some work and giving talks and interviews, and well, just having fun with my family and niece and nephew, I've had little time for anything else. we're currently staying with my brother in a suburb of Maryland meant for DC commuters known as "columbia".
It is a "planned community" meaning it was built from the ground up with family suburban living in mind-and the picture-perfection of it all can really get to you-everyone has a perfectly manicured lawn, two kids, and a dog; there is a park on every street, and the "town villages" are named things like "King's Contrivance", "Harper's Glen", and "Hickory Ridge"..you get the picture! You begin to feel like you are living in this bubble where everything is jolly good and the people are shiny and happy, to quote REM, and where nothing else matters in the world; to me, as comfortable as it is to slip into that zone, it is discomforting and uneasy.
Its also a very stark contrast to everything in Gaza of course (which I"ll get to in another post), as BBC's Dan Damon suggested to me in an interview last week; but one needn't go that far to see the divide-journey twenty minutes to downtown Baltimore and you'll get the picture: the contrasts in America itself between rich and poor are as vivid, if not more so, than perhaps anywhere else. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, some 13% of Americans are poor-in the richest country in the world. And of course Katrina gave us a taste of that. Mindboggling.
Luckily we won't be staying in Columbia much longer; in a few weeks we move down south to Durham, NC where Yassine will start his Opthalmology residency in Duke. In the meantime, Yousuf and I have been enjoying our re-union with Yassine, and with my brother and his two children. Here are some pictures from our journey out of Gaza into Suburbia, and in between.
Yousuf says goodbye to his nursery in Gaza.
Yousuf takes his turn in line on the once-dreaded bus of Rafah Crossing. The journey was smooth and effortless (as effortless as an 8 hour journey across a dessert can be to access the closest usable airport). Only Palestinian ID card holders are allowed through Rafah to Gaza, and Israel still ulimately controls who goes in and out through a remote "control room" in Kerem Shalom. Many families who live abroad but whose spouses and children lack ID cards have been unable to unite in Gaza.
My father purchases peaches from a farmer in Sinai on our way to Cairo.
Yousuf is excited about the journey to Egypt
Taking a break on a beach-side fish restaurant in al-Arish, Egypt.
Enamoured, Yousuf kisses his cousin Sereen, who approvingly gives the "thumbs up".
Boys will be boys. Yousuf and his cousin Zade play with the dirt and later, eat tree leaves and scrape their knees.
Celebrating Yassine's 30th birthday
Yousuf gives baba his gift- a hand-carved olive wood "key to return", with names of villages burned in it.
Yassine and Yousuf choose their dinner during a night out on the town, in which Yousuf insisted on tagging along. To our (and the waiter's ) surprise, he ended up eating all the clams!
Yousuf hopes no one is watching as he stuffs his face with fresh-picked strawberries as a local farm.
At the farm, we met a palestinian family from Jerusalem; a Syrian woman; Sudanese; Jordanina; and Egyptian! The Palestinian woman is a Jerusalem resident who must renew her residency status every three years, and keeps addresss at her father's, in order not to lose her right to return to her homeland. Her husband, who is from Ramallah, and her kids, have to sneak across checkpoints through the mountains to join her in Jerusalem.