Sunday, October 4, 2009
You know how you go on vacation and you take your camera? You take tons of pictures to share with friends or even upload them on facebook? Yes. I took photos during this weekend’s trip to the South, but this time I took “mind pictures” which I’m sharing with you :-)
From sleepy head, with smiles
In my diary: My father’s mother had a sister. That sister had a son. That son has a family up in the village of Babliyeh, a few miles away from Akbiyeh or Basriyeh: all of these primarily Palestinian villages are not too far from Tyr in South Lebanon where many have witnessed missile exchanges between Israel and Lebanon’s Southern borders. We spent the weekend there during this summer-like October along with my father’s sister, who came to visit from Germany for a week. Confused? Fabulous …
These villages are full of orchards also known in Arabic as “Basateen” where many Palestinians would live as farmers in lands other people own who are primarily Lebanese citizens. The ordinary scenario is one in which a Palestinian father and mother have a dozen, literally, children running around in the “Bustan” (singular for Basateen, or orchards) where some of these children would take pride in making money tilling the earth, while the rest of them dream elsewhere far beyond the boundaries of the orchard and never take interest in becoming future farmers like their parents. This last one, this last category was my father who dreamt of becoming a journalist while living at the orchard with his dad who was very business-minded and believed his son should be more practical in his career decisions. Hence the title of my father’s first book published around the age of 21 in Lebanon titled: “Father, have mercy”.
Everyone in the family seems to know the same story which goes like this: my father defied all odds, walked a tough journey and became what he wanted to become. Then he died of cancer. But what remains in the air as I step on the earth in the orchard, step after step, probably on the same earth that my father threaded around 50 years ago as we both walk towards the sunset in between a line of lemon trees shading us along the way … is …
At the village in Babliyeh: Asma is 14 years old and she has cancer. She is one of the daughters. I don’t want to think of her sentimentally because that’s the last thing on her mind. Last Ramadan, in 2008, this family lost their other 22 year old daughter in a bus accident: she was standing at the bus stop, bus came, hit her, she died. Six months ago, the family lost another one of their daughter to illness. Two butterflies hang on the wall in their living room right above the frames of their two angel daughters who are as beautiful as sunset in October.
When I did not know yet, I asked Asma who is their living sister who those girls were in the pictures. She looked at them and said with a smile and casual manner: “oh that’s Halimah and Bisan”. We continued talking and I just thought that the girls were married off somewhere.
In the hallway: “ You’re sure he’s gone?”
“Yessss I promise dad’s in the other room!”
“Okay just one more time. Ready!”
Asma and I are in the hallway and we’re ready to Tango! :-) Like literally. Okay hands on my waist Asma, head up like a Chihuahua, rrrrrrrrrrrrready aaaaand go! Ta Ta Ta Ta TA Ra RA RA Ra Ta TA TA TA Ta RA RA RA RA “heyyyyy I taught I’m Al Pacino and you’re the girrrrllll: you’re so not my senorita” and we laugh!! :-)
In the girl’s bedroom: Have you heard the latest song called Bisan?
No I haven’t, let me hear it.
Asma hands me her music player and describes the song to me while she gets the headphones ready. “The story is about this girl named Bisan, she was in a car with her cousin going home. Her fiancée who really really really loved her was driving in the car behind them. The car with the girl in it lost control and went flying in the valley and the guy saw all this while he sat in the other car driving behind them. So he wrote this song after he lost his fiancée who he really really really loved”. She giggles.
I hear the song.
Oh Asma I can’t continue hearing it. So touching I’ll cry and you’ll need to get me tissues. Let’s go outside and see what the cat is doing …
At the garden outside: Aunty, I really want you to help me with this. I need to get my Palestinian ID issued. For god’s sakes there is nothing on this green earth in any official document out there that proves I’m Arab. I’ve got a Canadian passport that says I’m born in Germany. Do I look German to you.’
When I say this to my aunty, my friend interrupts and exclaims: “What for. You don’t need the ID. It’s enough that you know you’re Palestinian and Lebanese”.
At the Bustan (Orchard): So you are Abdullah, my cousin’s husband and these are your two boys eh, so nice to meet you.
Likewise. I’m looking for a second wife, by the way.
Indoors: Dear Lord Jesus Lord Dear Lord Jesus Lord: where’s the washroom! Gotta go Gotta go Gotta go. I’m in the washroom getting ready to go. I lock the door. I turn around. Where’s the toilet? Where. Is. The toilet. I look around and hello: An Arabic style washroom lies there for my eyes to see and for my bowls to look forward to. An “Arabic style toilet”, for those interested, is a hole in the ground. And that’s where you go.
On the bus back home, my friend says: “ I can’t believe the father smokes in front of his daughter who has cancer but he totally freaks out if she touches the cat because he thinks it carries ‘bacteria’. Like? I’m never coming to this country again (frown). Except for the food. And beaches. And cats”.