Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Don't Plan to Adjust

"I don't plan to adjust." My friend made this statement a few days ago when I asked him how he felt about being in the U.S. for a few months.after spending a year abroad, primarily in Albania.

I don't plan to adjust either.

When I went to Tel Aviv for a few days, it was easy to forget what was happening not many kilometers away in Palestine.  It was a wonderful break and as I relaxed, I thought, "This feels like normal life." It felt much more like the comfort of living in Louisville. However, the thought itself made me uncomfortable.

Normal life (for an international) in Hebron is so different from normal life in Louisville.  Normal life here means frequent encounters with Israeli soldiers.  Normal life means the water runs out sometimes.  Normal life means clashes.  Sound bombs.  Teargas. Normal life means sometimes having stones thrown at us.  Once a tomato.  Another time a banana peel. Normal life means waiting. Normal life means seeing children get arrested.  Normal life means being welcomed into homes. Normal life means sharing tea.  Normal life means sharing taxis.  Normal life means walking through the tunnels of the Old City. Normal life means seeing freshly butchered meat hanging and sometimes seeing the blood flowing towards the drain in the street. Normal life means buying fresh produce from vendors in the street. Normal life means eating za'atar and olive oil, hummus, and freshly baked bread.  Normal life means greeting the street cleaner in the
morning. Normal life means buying mint and sage to add to tea. Normal life means visiting the falafel stand around the corner. Normal life means answering the curious questions of those we meet and taking pictures when children ask us to. Normal life means walking through the lands I read about in the Bible.

I don't plan to align myself to the life I lived before I came to Palestine.  Though I will be happy not to breathe teargas, though I'll enjoy uninterrupted access to water, I don't want to arrive home as if nothing has changed. If I fit seamlessly back into the life I lived before coming here, my time here would be worthless.  I fear that I will settle into complacency.

I anticipate pain when I leave.  Saying good-bye is not easy. I will carry with me the question of whether anything or anyone besides me has changed.  My ego will wonder who will remember me when I return.

I anticipate pain upon arrival in the U.S.  How will I "catch up" with the people I left behind?  How will I respond to a life that shelters me from so many people's harsh reality?  Harsh reality is ever-present here. Will I choose to remain sheltered or open myself?  How will I answer those who ask about my "trip," as if it were a carefree week on the beach?

How am I going to go back, go home (if that's what it still is), and remain faithful to my time here? How will I bring both the blessing and burden of my time in Hebron to those who have never been here?

I want to share both.  I want to share the joy and sorrow.  I want to share the complexity and imperfection of this place and the people who live here and work here.  I want those who have never been here to care as much as I do. I want to keep caring.

I want to feel the depth of emotions that I have allowed to emerge sometimes in my words, but not often enough in my body.

I want to be a pot of stew, where the tastes of my experiences blend but do not mix so much that they are indistinguishable from each other.  I want to nourish others with the flavors of life I offer.

I don't plan to adjust.  I hope to keep allowing life to fill me and empty me. I hope that the mixing and stirring within me will stir others who also don't want to adjust.

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