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Tuba, I’ll miss thee

If you’ve been reading our reports for the past few weeks, you’re already aware of some of the struggles faced by Bedouin families and the challenges of traveling to visit them.
(If not, see the reports:

http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2008/04/remote-desert-life-in-wild-west.html) The families live daily with threats of attack and danger, and on our last visit, it took us a full 2 1/2 hours to get there!

Martha tries to maneuver her way through a flock of sheep.

But if you ask me, every one of those 150 minutes of traversing hills and valleys is completely worth it. What I’ve built in my visits to the small community of Tuba are relationships that I will always remember and people I will think about when I’m sharing the story of the people of Palestine back home. In a world where you needn’t compete with video games or reality television, you actually have a chance to get to know others and have some “good old fashion fun,” something I think many in the United States forget exists. Some examples:

With the help of some dictionaries, a teammate who knows more Arabic than I do (though still not much), and the help of children who know a little English, our team has been able to discuss a school field trip, the arrest of one family’s son/brother, and other work MPT has done in different locations. It may take 10 minutes to say something that would otherwise take two, but that challenge of communicating is part of the fun and a good incentive to learn a new language.

On my first visit, the last hour before bed was set aside for the children of the family to do their homework – by kerosene lamp light. While the other teammates rested from the long journey, I enjoyed the experience of reading a book in a cave, which was as enjoyable as almost any TV show I can think of. On a subsequent visit, I talked with the 16-year-old son about his mathematics course, and it was fun for both of us to realize that he was doing work similar to those his age in the United States and that boys and girls of Palestine and the US both have a general dislike for geometry proofs!

Night time means its time to study!

On my second visit, it was near my birthday, so I shared this as a topic for conversation and asked others when their birthdays were, since I had gotten fairly proficient with my numbers in Arabic. It was interesting to learn that no one could tell me the birth date of the youngest son, signifying the insignificance such a date holds in this culture. On the next visit, I spoke of this with the other family, and soon we were also discussing my weight and height. (I am 6’ 4” and thin.) As I was pondering a quick foot to centimeter conversion, one of the boys of the family pulled out a tape measure, which led to enjoying moments of measuring one another’s height.

Children have fun comparing their heights.

And as this picture shows, an Israeli military helicopter stopped very close to the village on our last visit, right around the time Israel was inundated with prominent world politicians in connection with their independence celebrations. Though the military helicopter landing is likely connected to a nearby Israeli military base, we joked that maybe George W. Bush (a name known by everyone in Palestine, for worse rather than better ) or Tony Blair or Ehud Olmert were coming to visit the people of this small village and see their situation. “If only everyone could truly see what was going on here,” I thought to myself as we laughed together.

Is someone "important" coming to visit?

Without all the accessories and gadgets that use up and compete for our time, we’ve had time to help with harvesting wheat by hand (environmentally positive compared to a huge combine ), draw water from the well, assist in the milking of the sheep [additives in the milk], and participate in other necessary chores. I’ve played a volleyball-like game using a half-flat basketball and a pipe net until I couldn’t see anymore, though somehow the others seemed to be still going strong.

Playing "volleyball."

Doing some chores.

In a place where no one locks the door before you go to bed (if they have a door, I try to remember the wonderful experiences and not think about how these families could soon be expelled from their homes and livelihoods because of Israeli colonization of the area if something isn’t done to change the current course of events. I pray that history will write for these families, and all Palestinians, a peaceful and safe outcome to the current occupation so I might one day introduce my family to these amazing new friends of mine.


Great new friends.

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