There was a big thud of the airplane’s wheels meeting Cincinnati’s runway. With that thud I awoke to my new reality. I had already said goodbye to my fellow travelers in the Philadelphia airport and I was alone. What am I supposed to say now? When people ask me how was my trip, they just want a soundbite. Unfortunate for them my trip dosn’t come in a soundbite, and unfortunate for me I wouldn’t even know where to begin in a conversation. So here I am, my new challenge in America is to figure out how to stay in touch with the information I discovered and what to make of it.
I apologize that this blog entry has been jumpy, but with the initial emotions of being back jumpy is what you’re going to get.
Re-entering America was the real culture shock I got out of the trip. Walking down the long terminal I passed faces who for the first time in two weeks, weren’t a statement on American politics or the conflict, and they didn’t see me as someone who was making a statement either. But the minute I open my mouth to say where I was coming from– it happens.
I spent the last week in Rammallah falling into a deep love with Palestine. The culture, the people, the colors, and even the roaring blur of Arabic harmonies that woke me up routinely at 4 in the morning and repeated throughout the day. Basically the only thing I did not enjoy during my stay was the cold rain that seemed to pour from the minute we arrived until the minute we left.
I have never felt more connected with any culture then the culture I found around every corner in Rammallah. I was at a friend’s house Saturday night and they put on Arabic music and started to do traditional Arab dancing– debkah. It was incredible. It was culture. On the drive home, my friend told me that there is never a moment when he doesn’t feel Palestinian. Going through a check point or even just down the street to the super market, he is surrounded by people who are struggling with the oppression that he is struggling with. We drove down the empty street and looked over the hill to a settlement. “So when you’re older, you want to live in Palestine?” I asked. He turned the corner and the settlement disappeared. “Absolutely. I’m going to do whatever I can to free my country.” I’ve never felt that way about my country. Despite their hardships, I am jealous of the kids at Rammallah Friends School. They have culture and they have pride and connection with the place they live in. After learning about America’s involvement in the conflict and even prior to this trip, I don’t think I would say the same.
So already I have felt emotion and struggle with Palestine that I haven’t even felt for my own country, and I refuse to let that die. Looking back to the first blog entry I wrote, I asked if Palestinians could ignore the conflict. Unfortunately, the conflict isn’t just present in their lives it is banging on the doors of their houses, it is uprooting their olive trees, it is locking them in to a place where they can feel nothing but hate from the power that is oppressing them. When I went to an Israeli’s house for dinner before my flight, they said that Israel isn’t even focussed on Palestine right now; it is concerned with Iran. That brought tears to my eyes.
Sitting in a classroom for my final months of senior year is not going to be ideal after the trip I’ve had. I feel like sitting down in the White House and having a conversation with Barack Obama instead. Someone needs to explain to me the benefits our country has in financially supporting a military occupation that is far from just.
Westtown describes Senior Projects as a “transformative experience” and I sort of smirk at that. Transformative to me describes a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and with the two weeks I’ve had I feel like I’ve witnessed a mountain growing from just one stone. I look forward to the day when I can return to Israel and Palestine. I dream of a day without Israeli occupation there. I see peace as a goal not as something unreachable. This was truly an incredible experience and it will never be over for me. Right now I have hope pumping through my veins and I’m trying to figure out how to put it in use.
PS- students interested in having this experience as your senior project? DO IT. And ask me any questions about it too.
2 thoughts on “A Rough Landing”
Meg, your blog became better and better every day you posted. By the end of your trip, I felt like maybe I had a personal glimpse of the conflict. After all, the conflict is an amalgamation of story upon story. You are digging down layer by layer. Cathy
When I returned from my study abroad experience in 1971 I landed in New York and had some time before my flight to Boston. The culture shock was so powerful that I found myself in the ladies room disolved in tears. When my daughter Marie (Westtown 07) returned from a study abroad experience in South Africa she too found it challenging to try to verbalize all that she had experienced. In fact, the organizers of the program sent parents a letter explaining that this would happen and how to be suportive. The fire that was kindled within Marie still burns. Her experience has given her a path, a dream, a goal. She is working hard to gather the tools, experience, contacts and credentials to return to South Africa and make a meaningful contribution to a reality that touched her soul. I have no doubt that she will.
Your post is a beautiful summary of your experience. Thank you. I have no doubt that your fire has been kindled and that you will find the path.