Friday, August 12, 2005

The little things

Am I becoming a militant mother? First, I go around chasing down truck drivers throughout Gaza to secure some end-of-the-season oranges for Yousuf. Now, I argue my way into a hotel pool which didn't allow "males" in on women's day, issuing a few threats in the process.

I had been preparing to take Yousuf to one of two (clean) pools in Gaza for several weeks now, making sure I would have the whole off, nothing to disturb us. Women's only day is just once a week, and at 35 shekels a pop, not exactly cheap. Still, its not something we do often, so I figured its worth it.

So when I learned from the hotel receptionist that "no males are allowed in" (nevermind the fact that the "male" accompanying me was 17 months old), you can bet I was furious. Nothing, and i mean nothing, was going to spoil my special day with Yousuf. I had to, calmy, casually, relay this message to Osama, the receptionist. But all I got from him was an enthusiastic waving of the finger at a sign on his desk- "see-no males allowed! and this is NON-NEGOTIABLE."

Worse: "Unless you are from the Mortaja family, you can't take him in." Hello. The Mortaja family? "Wait, so this is pool only for Gaza's who's who? Am I not special enough for you to make exceptions?". I considered asking if he wanted a bribe, just to see if that's what he was getting at.

I later learned that the Mortajas are the hotel owners . But I also learned that families of Ministers actually can "reserve" the entire pool for themselves.

"So this pool is exclusive, despite the fact that we pay a hefty fee to get in" I asked. ..angry exchanges. More finger-pointing. "Can I please speak to your manager? Listen I don't want problems." That set him off. "NO please, make problems. Come on show me what you got lady!".

I though of all the smart things I could have said to him in restrospect but didn't. "No no, Yousuf, I dont' want him to let me in just because I'm Mr. Mortaga's estranged cousin, he should let me in because I paid him to." Unfortunately things went from bad to worse when my good-natured but hot-tempered mother began to do some finger-pointing of herself, accusing the man of discrimination and issuing a few verbal threats of herself ("I know people that can come here and teach you some manners!").

In the end, one of his superiors intervened and let me in, Yousuf in hand, though I couldn't help but feeling humiliated, like an unwelcome guest. I thought-this is something I would have never done for myself, even though we paid the full fee. But for Yousuf...I have learned to cross all the boundaries. Yet I couldn't help feeling miserable. Being yelled at is no fun.

Later that day, we went to the farm, and Yousuf, as usual, reminded me that its the little things that matter. Together, we watched ants crawling through the sand together. We tracked the stars. And we laughed till our sides ached playing hide and go seek. No matter what a miserable day I've had, how many mean hotel receptionists yell at me, or snobbish government officials snub me, I always have Yousuf there to remind of what really matters. His big goofy smile and wet smooches makes it all better. I love him. He is my world. And though it may make me selfish, having him around makes things all better. I think I need him just as much as he needs me. Or more.


Blogger Anonymous Me said...

What a strange and silly rule, to consider a 17-month-old baby a "male" - babies are babies for goodness sake. I know what you mean, though - I would do anything for my two-year-old beloved, even if I wouldn't bother for myself.

1:05 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

As the mom of my own 2-year old little man, I give you a lot of credit for fighting (albeit peacefully) for your son's right to use the pool facilities. It's a right that we Americans' take for granted, but a right that all should be allowed nonetheless.

I know that the next few months are going to be crucial for you, your son and your family. Be safe, and thank you for sharing your story! Please keep blogging!!!


4:11 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Thanks for stopping by Molly and Nancy!! YEs, these are critical, uncertain, and exciting times for everyone here...

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are, said Robert Benchley, two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't.

People who feel themselves powerless often attempt to compensate through arbitrary judgements such as that made by the gatekeeper you describe.

People who realize that all this power-struggle garbage is an illusion manage to keep their sense of the valuable while fighting the illusory powers.

Clearly you're in the second group. I applaud your devotion to what matters, namely Yousuf, and I deplore those who make your life more difficult than it needs to be. Though I'm half a world away, you've entered my thoughts on a permanent basis.

7:10 AM  

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