What I've been up to: talks, travel guides, and other things
I realize I've been absurdly negligent of my blog lately. My poor, poor blog; once a daily visit would not even suffice, now I'm lucky if I get around it to it even once a week.
But hopefully that will change soon: I'm happy to report I'll be returning to Gaza for a few months in November (assuming the border is open by then).
I've been busy-this time not with potty training, but with making arrangement for various upcoming travel.
I'm scheduled to give a series of talks in the coming weeks: on Thursday, in UNC Chapel Hill with Marty Rosenbluth; the Kessel Memorial Lecture in Minnesota State University on October the 18th, and then speak at the Norwegian Social Forum on October the 20 through the 22nd.
So last week I travelled to DC to apply for my Norwegian visa, which I got in a record two days (I figured the whole "this passport was issued pursuant to the Oslo Accords" line in it might help). I was also meeting with my colleagues in the new Aljazeera International bureau in Washington, arranging for a neat-and bold- project I'll be working on for them on my way to Gaza: a self-filmed "video diary" of the journey to Gaza, across Rafah, with Yousuf.
I've also been working on updating the Gaza section of a (fabulous) travel guide published by the Bethlehem-based Alternative Tourism Group. Its one of those kafkaesque type experiences, an exercise in the absurd.
I write about all of the wonderful experiences in Gaza, where to stay, what to do, and of course, an update on the humanitarian and political situation; yet as I write I realize in the back of my mind no one can GET IN to Gaza in the first place, unless they have a Gazan, Israeli-issued Palestinian ID or are UN staff or diplomats.
And if you try and get a permit through Israel, you are taken on a wild goose chase where, as in Alice's Wonderland, no one can provide you with clear answers and nothing is what it seems: We aren't responsible for Gaza, and therefore don't issue permits to travel there; yet we still occupy it and control its border-including what and who pass through there.
Yet I continue to write anyway, and with conviction at that; Yassine thinks its an exercise in defiance to the occupation, to the political status quo. I think I agree.
Its the same sort of experience I go through when I read about various restaurants or travel agents in the West Bank or East Jerusalem in the al-Quds daily paper: its not physically possible, yet everyone likes to pretend it is. I think its part of trying to psychologically imagine create a reality other than the one imposed upon us.
So in a nutshell, that's what I've been up to. That and fasting Ramadan of course, which is simply not the same as it was in Gaza, where stores fill up with Eid candies, dried fruits and nuts, and other Ramadan staples faster than you can say "bismillah". That, and Atayif stations on every corner. mmm.
But of course there is a black shadow cast over Gaza this Ramadan,quite literally. My neibhour told me today they went 24 hours with no electricity in Gaza City, with generators overburden the limited supply they have. And its bound to continue like this for a while. I'm anxious to get back to tell you more, firsthand.