I am in Balata Camp, West Bank, Palestine. I am playing with silly putty with a four year old girl and realizing that there is no toy or trinket or technology in the States that is not here also. Same goes for snack foods - chips, candy, cookies - multiple flavors of each, and the kids are constantly asking mom or dad for a shekel to go buy something. (A small bag of ketchup-flavored potato chips cost about 12 cents.)
I press the putty into a sheep mold and make a sheep sound. “Renam,” is the word for sheep. The child is happy. An older sister who looks about 12 puts music on the computer and turns up the volume. Loud. Them she gets up to dance, hips and feet moving, singing along with the words of the music, hands making graceful gestures in the air. Eleven year old Dareen joins in while Dareen’s mother claps and smiles joyfully. Then she too gets up to dance. A few minutes later I am pulled off the sofa and required to pretend I know what I am doing. I really wish that I did, but at no time have I been a good dancer.
After about half an hour it is time to go. I use the bathroom and peek into the kitchen. Like other refugee camp apartments, this one is small. I marvel at the size of the kitchen which might fit two people standing up. Here the mother prepares meals for a husband and four children. Heaven knows how.
However, we are not focused on the crowded camp or the tiny kitchen. We have been distracted by music and snacks. Good, because life here could make you crazy. Just a little distraction keeps you sane. The Occupier would like you to be very distracted so you will not think about what they are taking from under your nose. They are pleased if your nose is in your iPhone.
Dareen’s sister, Lena, lives in Beita outside the city of Nablus and outside the refugee camp where she was born. She has a nice kitchen on one side of a large room that triples as a living room and bedroom for the 3 children, ages 10, 9 and 6. I think Lena distracts herself with parenting and cooking, and that she does very very well. She serves us a lunch which includes homemade pita bread, babaganoush, hummus, chicken, 3 kinds of salad and baked pasta. Followed by dessert and coffee. I ask if there are settlements near her town. No, no settlements so no settlers come to harass like they do other towns. But, her mother tells me that the army (Israel’s) enters Beita every night, searching homes and arresting young men who look like they are the right age to be terrorists. That won’t happen to Lena’s son for a few more years, but her husband, only 33, might get snatched when he returns from work after dark.
Back home I too am distracted. I have a vegetable garden which must be planted, weeded, harvested. The harvest must be frozen, canned, stored or cooked. I have emails to read and respond to. Now I have my first i-Pod Touch to learn to operate so I can take better photos when I am traveling. This new devise has all sorts of bells and whistles that get me into trouble, and take up time.
I try to keep track of my Occupier, but the media is tricky and I get distracted.