27 November 2005

Face to face

Me and my son had another day out on our own again! We had a long walk through the city. The weather was nice and hot. This time I gave the camera to my 6 years old little boy and this is what he noticed. Here's me starting off our walk in our neighbourhood.
A flower shop. He liked all the colours.
A three. There are not that many of them here in Gaza, so my son noticed this one.
Well, you can tell he's a real swedish patriot. A VOLVO TRUCK! Of course, he had to take a picture of that one! Notice the donkey coming up beside it.
Here's a roundabout. He thought the man resting on a stone near this busy street looked funny.
The entrance of an apartment building. Almost ready.
A busy street beside a University.
The inside of a beautiful mosque.
Mummy having a mango juice in the park in front of Al Azhar University.
To end the story of our day out I would like to tell you what happened as we passed this mosque. You might see just behind the red van the shape of a woman in black sitting outside of the mosque. She's begging for money. It is strange how you've become used to that image. We passed her. Another woman was sitting on the other side of the mosque, having a child in her knee. We passed her too, as she was calling out to us, begging for mercy. Having passed her my son said to me "Why don't you give her money?". I couldn't come up with any good answer. I took out my wallet from my handbag, thinking first to give her some coins. Then I thought, why not give her a twenty, she will be really happy. Not having any twenties in my wallet, I thought, well, why not give her a hundred. She sure need the money more than we do. I let my son run back to her and give her the money. Upon recieving them she pointed to her heart and to the sky as to say "Allah is surely great". We walked on feeling very happy about what we just had done. After a while I heard somebody following us and calling out for us. It was the woman. I thought she had come to thank me. She told me that her husband had died and that she had no other family. She had four children. Her son who looked like 4 or 5 years old stood beside her. Their clothes we're torn and very dirty. She seemed to be begging me for money, I couldn't understand all what she said, and I felt so sad that she wasn't pleased with the hundred I had given her. After she insisted for a while I told her "but my son gave you money, didn't he?". Then she said "No, that wasn't me. It was the other woman!". Then I realized that there had been TWO women sitting at the mosque's two entrances and that the woman who recieved the money first had gone to tell her friend, and the friend came running after me. Of course my heart gave me no choice but to also give her a hundred. A hundred is not a lot to me, but a lot to them. She was so happy and thankful. She kissed me and blessed me and my children.
Coming face to face with poverty in that way really makes you think. With a very little effort I could change that woman's life and the life of her children. What if I was to collect money to let her children go to a good school, to buy them clothes, to bring them money for food?
I encorage all of you to go out today to face poverty. Give to somebody who really need it. Don't wait.

26 November 2005

All you need is LG

Any advertisement appears a bit out of place here in Gaza... "Life's Good. With LG, get all the smiles that you want". Does it work even in Gaza?

23 November 2005

This is what I've been up to...

The last three days I've been doing a "fieldstudy" as a project within my Socialanthropology studies. I have been sitting in a classroom, following a 24 year old english teacher at one of Gaza's most progressive private schools. Here's just a taste for you all of what to come within short at a blog near you.

19 November 2005

Beautiful Gaza

This is the breathtaking view from one of my friend's livingroom window. Gaza City at sunset.

Blogotherapy: A Britney Spears moment

This is gonna seem strange, a muslim Qur'an reading gal like myself quoting popstar Britney Spears (and you thought you knew me by now...), but I simply cannot help but sing along with her catchy tunes. God help me. I once saw an interview with her on TV, she was obviously bored and tired having answered the same old questions from journalists the whole day. The swedish journalist critiqued her for singing anti-feminist lyrics, such as "I was born to love you" or "I'm a slave for you". She responded politly for a while, but then told him off: "You know, man, it's really not that deep".

I've already had a Frank Sinatra moment (and been smiling ever since) and now it's time for some Britney-filosophy. I'm trough analyzing.

For a while anyway.

18 November 2005

Sheik it

I know, it's not even funny... a sheik shaking it, well ok. Speaking of presenting another image of life in Gaza, I thought it's time to present another image of the Gazan men. Did you know they dance belly dance? I might be haunted by the Hamas for publishing this, but I'm willing to take my chances for the sake of peace, love and understanding.

At weddings the men usually dance, and they dance in a very feminine way. I will need to study some more anthropology before I can analyze that properly, but for now I just find it amusing. The arabic man is surrounded with too many stereotypes, I think, and this should give another side to it.


I don't believe in fences. And I am very happy for all my readers in here. I personally believe that it is from feeling alike, that we can respect each other without necessarily having the same opinions or even faith.

That doesn't change the fact that there is a fence between Israel and Palestine, sometimes a wall that you can touch, sometimes a wall that you can feel.

I think on both sides people mostly just try to live their lives. In my blog I want to show just how ordinary (and sometimes not ordinary!) life can be even in Gaza. Not to say that we are not affected from the political situation because we are - I still didn't get my DVD back - but we also just live. We wake up, eat, go to school or work, watch TV, meet our friends, talk on the phone, surf the net, as I think most people do.

I am now studying Socialanthropology (from a swedish university by distance tuition - must be an old fashioned word but that's what my dictionary said), a subject that suits me very well and has been a great help for managing my situation as new in a different culture. It is also my beginning towards becoming a journalist, God willing. One of the things that I've learned is that the more you learn about others the more you learn about yourself. Reflection.

Another day in my life...

My life in Gaza pretty much goes up and down. The good news is that I feel that our efforts during the first months are finally paying off. The other day walking my son back from school I saw some newly planted flowers by one of the apartment buildings. They made me very happy for two reasons. First of all because they ment somebody had taken the time and effort to plant them, and also because I noticed them! They woke me up from my usual depressed, homesick, kicking-around-carbage, mutterung kind of mood.

I cannot really describe in words how much this experience, although it is extremly difficult at times, has improved my life. To see things from a different perspective, to be "forced" to walk in somebody elses shoes is life changing. Clearly I'm at a turning point in my life. I am realizing many things about myself and my life and I feel that I finally see things clearly. A wise TV-personality, ms Oprah, say that you should be best at being you. Those words are deeper than they seem, at least for me. Be best at being you!

That's where I'm at right now. I often compare the life to a puzzle and as years goes by the bits fall into place. Coming to and living in Gaza has contributed with so many bits of my puzzle that it is overwelming. I'm struggling to hold on to each single bit, trying to understand them and apply them.

The bad news is that there are still difficulties at my son's school. I am preparing a separate post on that, God willing. We tackle them as they come along, but it's getting old.

It's also getting cold. You might think that I, coming from the North, would handle cold weather very well. Here however the houses are also cold, so we are freezing 24seven. On that subject a friend of mine in Sweden said to me "The winter might not be that much fun for you" to which I replied that if the summer had not been that much fun, the winter would sure not be that much fun. Misery needs to be laughed at.

Life goes on. But there is not a day that goes by without questioning our existence here. I got many comments on my previous post, all of them worth thinking about. As to what the hell I'm doing here, I would like to quote myslef (from an earlier post);

"Coming to Gaza has turned my life upside down. Some might wonder if I am naive and simply stupid for even thinking of Gaza as The place to raise a family, and until now I'm not sure if I have any satisfying answer to that. Perhaps I was naive and stupid."

It is still an ongoing process for me. Even though I of course see many benefits of our stay here, for me and my children as well, there is also a limit to how much we can take for those benefits. And where to draw the line?

But I would like to turn the attention from my choice of living here to the other mothers with children who are forced to live here under these circumstances. The children who are the same age as my son have never seen anything else than the effects of the occupation. They don't have the possibility to draw the line.

13 November 2005

Remembering Arafat

I had picked up my son from school a bit earlier. Now we both stood by the street waiting for a suitable transportation to the city. As there are no public transports, people on their way stop to pick up people in need of transportation, for the cost of one shekel. They pull over to hear which area you want to go, if it suit them they stop the car, if not they just continue. After some time we got lucky and jumped into a car and we were on our way. I had not told anyone that we were going. I wanted it to be my own day out with my son. My relatives, being overprotecting, would have either joined me or stopped me from going all alone. However, I knew that I at this point had gone along many times enough to know what to say and how to handle certain situations that might appear. I wanted to test my wings.

Soon I realized that there was something going on, because streets were blocked by police and we had to take other streets than usual to get to the city centre. The taxi had to stop a bit earlier and as we walked the last part I was suddenly face to face with thirty something masked men with machineguns who were lining up on the street. I heard music coming from the park were we had just been the other day and saw yellow flags and palestinian flags all over the place. I realized I had chosen the day of Arafat’s death one year ago as my first day out on my own. I reached for my camera in my handbag and realized another thing; it was still on my kitchen table at home (sorry guys!). As we tried to cross a street a minivan pulled up in front of us, full with armed and masked men, wearing black clothes, army clothes, some had the Palestinian scarf rapped around their face. The man closest to the window looked at me for a second, then pulled out a rocket as to show off and you will realize now that I’m totally ignorant when it comes to weapons, but my feeling when I saw it was that it’s that kind of rockets that land in Israel… When he didn’t see me I stuck out my tongue to him. In my imagination.

At first I of course got scared upon seeing all this and I would have turned around if it wasn’t for the fact that there were many families walking around the streets. In general the people seemed excited and happy, they were waving the flags and singing along with the music. In a park nearby a man was giving a speech. All I could think about was that Judy would have really liked me to take photos here and now…

Me and my son went shopping as the people marched the streets. Being ejnabiya (foreigner) I usually pay too much and I hate to bargain, but I figure it’s still cheap for me comparing to the prices in my own country. My son bought some toys for his Eid-money and I bought a new table-cloth for my kitchen table. We drank chocolate and strawberry milkshake at a little coffee house.

Upon returning I started doubt my skills since we couldn’t seem to get hold of a taxi. No one was going our way! Or did I do something wrong? After waiting for almost half an hour by the street, being rejected by car after car, we finally got lucky. The driver asked if I was thinking to pay for one passenger or two (my son usually sits in my knee and we get away with paying for only one seat) Now we had two big bags with us as well so I had already prepared two shekels that I was holding in my hand (I wasn’t gonna fight over one shekel, that’s for sure). Upon seeing them he stopped the car and we were on our way home.

We made it. The next morning I saw Arafats picture upside down on a t-shirt hanging in the sun to dry.

11 November 2005

Thanks God for Omar

Yesterday was a big day in my dear son's life. It was the first day since we arrived to Gaza in late June that a friend of his came to our home to play. Omar is in his class and they found each other from the very beginning, both being calm and kind. Kids here can be very violent and therefore my son has had a hard time relating to other boys in his age. That's why we are so grateful for Omar. This little six year-old is the reason our life runs more smoothly making my son love to go to school in the morning in spite of other difficulties.

After speaking to Omar's mother a few times at school and over the phone, she finally took my invitation of letting Omar come over to play. We tried to spoil him as much as possible with Sprite (his choice) and chocolate.

09 November 2005

A visit to the park

Today me and my children's cousins went with my children to eat at McDonald's lookalike restaurant. After that we went for a walk in the nearby park while sunset.


Yesterday I met a woman (clearly from the looks of it not palestinian) who came to pick up her son at the same school my son is in. I had already seen her in the morning when she and her husband had left their son (who turned out to be eight years of age) in the care of one of the teachers. As I come to the school daily I understood that this was their son's first day. They told him good bye and he stood beside the teacher. As I had witnessed the first weeks of starting school I knew very well that there would be no warm welcome for this son. In fact, he followed this teacher around until she told him to stay put and wait for her, until she would show him his place. He stood waiting, looking at the other children, who were all lining up in front of their classrooms. I heard some girls beside me wondering which class he would end up in, they went to eavesdropp beside the teachers who were speaking together, found out and return to their group and said "Not our class. It's enough, we already have one from England!".
As I returned to the school I saw the mother again. I introduced myself and found out that she was from Ukraine, she and her palestinian husband had just arrived to Gaza a few weeks ago and was now looking to establish a life here. Of course he was a doctor, what else do palestinians do in East of Europe? I asked her what her opinion of Gaza was so far, and she told me she was very satisfied and pleased with her new life. Oh, I thought to myself, could it be? But I actually think that speaks more of Ukraine than of Gaza, to be honest.

There are many east european woman living in Gaza. Usually they are not that optimistic as the woman I just met. Another Romanian woman I spoke to some months ago said that "any foreign woman who (have to) live in Gaza will go straight to paradise". That's another view.

The next day I spoke with another, this time palestinian, mother at the school, and she of course asked me what my opinion of Gaza was so far? When my face turned ugly, trying to find a not too unpolite answer while still being thruthful - it's haram to lie!, she said "Oh, I know... it's not easy. I've lived twenty years in Egypt and just moved here. When you are outside of Gaza you dream of living in Gaza, but when you are living in Gaza it makes you very tired". Then she added "Not because of Gaza itself (referring to the "situation") but because of the Gazans!".

Over the months I have come to the same opinion. I can manage the dirty streets and the electricity cut-offs, the closed borders, even the sonics (which in my other world used to be a game caracter... eh, not anymore) and the fact that my DVD is broken and the little technical thingy that is broken doesn't exist in Gaza but in Israel so I have to wait... I can live with all that (for some time at least), but I cannot, and I repeat cannot, live with people who behave badly.

I am of course complaining out of love, so then I ask myself why this wide spread bad behaviour exist? I know some answers, but it's never that easy. It may in fact be what I miss in their caracters that is the most difficult thing to bare.

Having published this it rang on my door. A woman, a friend of my relatives, greeted and kissed me and invited me to her daughters wedding party tomorrow. She looked into my eyes and made sure I promised her to come and that I would also bring my lovely children. She was so warm and friendly, I liked her at once, and then suddenly I felt so bad over what I just published for the world to read about Gazans (yeah, I have great expectations for my blog) on the world wide web. It's true that I've come to learn first hand that there is too much kalam fadi (empty words) going on here, too many lies told too easily, too much surface and cheating, too much beating and hard hearts, people driving like lunatics, too little evaluation. But also people like her.

I just hope the "good guys" will win.

06 November 2005

Eid ul Fitr

There is not that much that lights up your life living in Gaza. Being invited to one of my friends the husband asked me upon arriving about my husband (who is currently working in Sweden) "How is he? Is he ok?". I was silent for a few seconds, then I said "No!". We couldn't help but laugh, being aware of our difficult situation. Then he said, more serious "You know, it was a long time since I heard of someone who is ok...". This is life living in Gaza.

Even though Eid really isn't that much different from every other day it still gives an long needed opportunity for joy. The house is prepared by cleaning (even the walls are being washed) and re-decorated. At this time of year it was also the perfect opportunity to bring out the beautiful carpets as the winter is arriving. New colourful table-cloths are displayed. Everyone wears new clothes for Eid, even new shoes and handbags and jewellery (not the real stuff though).

On the first day there is Eid prayers in the mosque to be attended. In Sweden that is a family event, but here it is a male event (at least in my family). Eid is spent with family and friends, you visit your neighbours to wish them a happy Eid. The day before Eid they bake ma'moul, a date cookie, that is served when guests arrive along with coffea or tea. They talk, listen to music and dance. The children are given some money. People go to restaurants to eat. Walk the crowded streets. They say "al dunya Eid!", meaning something like "It's Eid out there!".

We've laughed and had a good time. I haven't seen people that joyful and happy since I arrived to Gaza.

01 November 2005

This is where I would be...

The person always gets a little extra homesick on hollidays, isn't it? Our Eid is coming up and I cannot help but think of where I would be with all my friends, if I wasn't here.