Friday, October 29, 2010

A Jerusalem Story: smile on my face. coins in my hand.

October 25, 2010

We only had an hour and a half and I was not in the mood for shopping.

We entered the old city through Damascus Gate on a mission to find old coins. Old coins to make jewelry with, old coins I find on my adventures around the world. It was a hot day, we had just left Bethlehem, made it through the Israeli checkpoint and like I said, I was not in the mood for shopping.

We made our way to one of the Stations of the Cross, part of Via Delarosa, otherwise known as antiquities row. There were many Christian Pilgrims walking through the small ancient street following the path of Jesus carrying the cross. I, was looking for a coin dealer. We wove our way through people and came across a shop with coins. I looked a bit and still just didn’t feel like shopping. Continuing along the street, we looked some more. It just didn’t feel right. So, we found a small Arabic café, we sat and ate hummus and falafel, read our books and suddenly large group of Christian pilgrims from Alabama joined us. I stared outside into the ancient surroundings and thought to myself, I have a 1000 blessings in my life, (as my 92 year old grandmother says)

Why at this moment, am I numb to this sacred surrounding? We were completely surrounded by people who had traveled half way around the world to come to the spot, the spot Jesus carried the cross from one part of Jerusalem to where he was going to be crucified, and all I could think about were coins and whether or not I felt like buying them.

Immediately becoming aware of this attitude, I shifted it and engaged, talking to my neighbors, listening to the stories of their pilgrimage and hearing the excitement in their voices. It was magical, quite magical!

We slowly finished and I told my dad, let’s go back to the shop, I think I’m ready to buy some coins….

And I did. 2000 year old Roman coins found beneath the ancient and spiritual city of Jerusalem, along with 1800 year old Greek coins and Byzantine coins all of which I plan on setting in gold to make earrings and pendants and rings…. And I bought an old Bedouin headdress, that I may or may not take the coins off to make into jewelry.

Dad looked at his watch and we had to go. We were meeting his childhood friend, he hadn’t seen her since 1981. So, like we entered, we left, weaving through the crowds of pilgrims. This time with a smile on my face, coins in my hand and happiness for all those who were on their sacred journey.

Thanks to my sister for the first two photos..

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The check point

West Bank, Palestine
The Check Point
October 25, 2010

Bethlehem to Jerusalem: 6 miles. It took us 1.5 hours.

We left the West Bank and it’s not a very fun experience. We had to take a taxi (along the segregation wall) to a check point, walk through a 50 to 60 yard uphill ramp, as if being herded like cattle, with a metal railing dividing the ‘arriving’ and the ‘departing’. And finally we arrived to the actual check point. A 19-20 year old Israeli military woman sitting alone in a metal shack, checked our American passports. Suddenly, for some reason, we were ‘in question’, so we had to wait…and wait…people were lining up behind us, also waiting, for us. She asked us questions, more people lined up behind us…She spoke to someone on a walky-talky. We all waited.

There are some people from Bethlehem who have passes and can go to the other side of the segregation wall. There are others who don’t and can’t have passes. Just normal everyday people, like you and me. They can’t leave! They can’t leave! Can you imagine? I just can’t get over how oppressive that is. They can’t leave their own village to the other side of the wall. A wall that was put up just a few years back, a wall of segregation, a wall that has separated families who can’t go back and forth to see each other. A wall built on cultivated Palestinian land, now rendered useless.

So, we waited and finally, after standing there, the girl gave us our passports. We had to walk across the street and again, walk through a ramp, this time a winding ramp. The 2 young military men were laughing, and joking over a loud speaker, as we gave them our passports. They started to sing the (American) national anthem. They were calling to and provoking the old Arab man in front of us. Over the loudspeaker, and echoing through the hall… So incredibly rude and although not the most humiliating thing they do, still, quite humiliating!

Again, we walked through a long winding hallway, not knowing where to go, it was quite confusing until we asked one man from Bethlehem. He pointed us in the ‘right’ direction, towards the x-ray machine, which we put our things through. We walked some more and again had to give our passports to 2 young military men. Again, they questioned us. So, many questions. Finally, they stopped asking questions, but just sat there with our passports and chatted with each other, not giving our passports back, to provoke us. After 5 to 10 minutes, they gave us our passports. We left the check point and got on a bus to Jerusalem. We arrived 1.5 hours after we left. It is 6 miles away!

Compared to many, our experience was quite easy. I can’t imagine the continued humiliation and oppression the residents of Bethlehem have to endure on a daily basis.

Monday, October 25, 2010

West Bank, Palestine; my amazing experience

Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine
October 24, 2010
It’s 3am. I can’t sleep.

Did you know Bethlehem is surrounded (on 3 sides) by a 27 foot tall segregation wall? Not a wall of choice, a wall put up by the Israeli’s. A wall imprisoning the Palestinians from the rest of the world. Trapped in the city of peace where Jesus was born. Trapped without hope. Trapped with fear.

Can you imagine trying to leave your own city, only to be rejected because the people surrounding your city, decided that day, they didn’t want to let you leave, just because they can? This happens on a moment to moment basis, even when people are just trying to visit their family on the other side of the wall. The wall the Israeli's decided to put up between your two homes, on your land. Seriously, take a minute to imagine this….

Did you know that Bethlehem has a 38% unemployment rate? No, it’s not because the people here are lazy. It’s due to their complete oppression and ‘imprisonment’.

In the United States, we hear, mostly negative news about Palestinians.

I would like to tell you something positive, from the bathroom floor of my hotel room. It’s 3am, I can’t sleep and I didn't want to wake my dad in the other room

First of all, many of you don’t know this, but I am Palestinian-American, my father moved to the US many years ago. I was born and raised in Middle America, but my heritage is important to me. And I have always felt connected to Palestine.

Last June, I was visiting my family in Wisconsin. During that visit, I attended a talk by a man name Rev. Mitri Raheb from Bethlehem, Palestine. He spoke of the school, he has envisioned and built with the help of others. A school of hope amongst rubble and oppression. A school focusing on culture and the arts.

I thought to myself, no one is doing this. No one is focusing on the arts in the time of conflict. I love it!

When people are struggling just to survive, the arts can get pushed aside, but those of us, who are artists, need to express ourselves through art.

Arabic culture has a long and strong and important history of arts, music, visual art, poetry etc. Since 1948 when the Zionists took over this beautiful land and Palestinians were forced out of their homes, separated from their families, Palestinian art has diminished. This ongoing diaspora of the Palestinians has left the people without many necessities and thus the artistic culture of the people has dwindled.

When Mitri spoke to us in Madison, I met him and he invited me to give a talk to the students at his school in the West Bank, Palestine. I liked the idea, thought about it and put that thought in the back of my head.

Then, about a month ago, I decided to join my father on his journey to visit family (who live within Israel, and are known as Israeli Arabs politically, but are Palestinians culturally).

I told him, I wanted to visit places of peace within a land of struggle. So, he contacted Mitri and told him we were coming and, again, he asked me to speak to the students here.

Diyar is a consortium of many things, one of which is their school focusing on the arts. Teaching tradition, yet giving them the freedom of their creative minds to expand on the ideas.

They have a ceramics program, a jewelry program, glass, mosaic, music, documentary film making, performing arts, fine arts, graphic design, communications, Tourism management and more. It is a two year community college and like I said earlier, no one is doing this. It is an amazing place, with great teachers and wonderful students. I am completely impressed. They are empowering young people (especially young girls) with the freedom of mind, the creative mind. Guiding them with the power of artistic thought..

We arrived a couple of days ago, the school is in a beautiful old building, which was and still is a part of the Lutheran church, but the space has been transformed into an artistic oasis. Old arched ceilings, old stone walls, intermingled with modern architecture, glass and outdoor areas, which were filled with students playing music, studying and talking. This place also has a café and a bar, it has a gift shop, a guesthouse, an amazing gallery in a cave…It is quite remarkable and creates a beautiful aesthetic environment for artists. It’s even more remarkable because of the occupation they live under.

Yesterday, I gave a presentation of my work and my approach to it, about 30 students and teachers were there. It was a lively 2 hours, the students asked a plethora of really good and hard questions, they were critically thinking about what they had seen in the slide show. It was an amazing experience for me. I hope the students were inspired too.

You have to remember, most of these college age students have never had the opportunity to take an art class before. This approach is unlike any other they have ever experienced and they are supported and encouraged by their teachers to continue on. They are continually exposed to the outside world, by bringing the outside in. They are literally surrounded by a wall and illegal settlements and it is very very difficult and sometimes not possible to leave. Remember, the unemployment rate in the area is 38%, well the students who graduate from here more than halved that. And to me, that is impressive and a great success. The arts can keep them alive, channeling their fear and anger into something productive and creative!

I am inspired to come back again one day. It is truly a place of peace and creative energy, amongst mass oppression.

For more on the school please look here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thank you New Orleans!

NOLA was/is just one of those places that I felt immediately comfortable. Things just worked out, and not just that, there were amazing coincidences.

I think I told you I ran into a childhood friend on the plane down to New Orleans… Well, it turns out her sis was getting married in New Orleans. They told me to come. Steven had flown home that day, and I had no plans. So, I crashed the wedding. It was so much fun to dance and talk to and see a whole bunch of people from the little Wisconsin town I grew up in… So. Much. Fun.

I also attended a yoga workshop while in NOLA. I know. It’s not what you do when you go to New Orleans, but it is what I did and I enjoyed it. I met an amazing woman who then, drove me back to my hotel, all the way on the other side of the city and then the next day, Sunday, the day I was flying, she drove me back to her house after the workshop. We sat in her garden and talked ate and I met her family and then she took me to the airport. I’m not actually doing this story justice, because it was a very special experience, but I just want to tell you how much I love New Orleans and it’s people. So open, kind and generous.

I got to the airport a bit early with the idea, I would make some phone calls before I left the country. But instead everyone at the gate wanted to talk. I love it! Seriously. The guy to the right of me, saw my guitar and wanted me to play,… no…. Then, his whole family was talking to me to about music and books and travel. The woman to my left just wanted to tell me all about her mother and what an amazing musician she is and she was on Letterman and her dad died 10 days after her 40th birthday and then suddenly we had to switch gates, get on the plane and fly far far away.

New Orleans is definitely one of those places, I will return to again and again and can’t believe it was my first time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I love New Orleans

I love New Orleans...

We got in the taxi and the driver said, "Welcome to New Orleans. Is it your first time?" Steven answered, "No I've been here many times." The driver, "Well thank you for coming back. Thank you very much, we are having hard times here...." And he went on and on the whole drive, not just about how they are having hard times. He just wanted to talk and he told us everything about every place we drove by... On our way to breakfast... I loved him.

It's a breath of fresh air from the stiffness of those of us in the north. First of all it is sunny and 80! And every single person, I have encountered in the last 12 hours I've been here, has been kind and open and genuinely helpful. The pace is slower, the people are super friendly, the air is thicker and the architecture, is... well... gorgeous.

I walked and walked and walked til I got to Satsuma Cafe in the Bywater an awesome little cafe I heard about from Michael Stipe (well, sort of... via Gwenyth Paltrow, via my friend, who subscribes to Gwenyth's email newsletter called GOOP.. You should check it out, the newsletter and the cafe if you are in New Orleans). The cafe is awesome and I had a lovely and wonderful beet and fig salad, and took lots of photos on my walk.

The weather is perfect! And I am feeling inspired.... Thanks NOLA

travel saga, part 2

BRUCE P won the pissing match..

I flew to Minneapolis, landed, looked at the clock and RAN off the plane, we were late, and my flight to NOLA left in 30 minutes. I ran for 15 minutes solid, making it to the last gate on the opposite side of the airport, just in time to sit down in first class (I had gotten an upgrade... not because of BRUCE P. ,just because.. yay for upgrades). I sat down in my seat, got a glass of wine and as a great surprise a childhood friend walked on, just after me (she must have been stressed too).

My mind shifted into a better space. The flight went quickly, I talked to my friend for a bit and may meet up with her later on this trip.

As we were landing in NOLA, I got a phone call, oops, I forgot to turn my phone off. Steven called me, he was in Memphis and would be in NOLA an hour after me. So, I got off the plane, got my luggage including my in tact (thank god) guitar and waited for him.

He arrived... without his computer... but they did look at the video and saw that he did put it through security... I feel so bad for him.. We took a taxi and went out in the French Quarter.

On a side note.. We got out of the taxi at our hotel and the first thing the man said to me was, "do you speak english?" hhhhmmmm that is a first, in the US.

We had a great evening and even ran into my friend again on Bourbon St.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bruce P., the asshole, & todays travel saga

Hmmmm…So, it’s the day of departure. Steven and I are on our way to NOLA, but on different flights.

We took the bus, to the train. Steven’s flight left an hour before mine and on the train, he realized his flight actually left 20 minutes before he thought. So, he had to RUN off the train and try to get to his flight, he got on the plane and realized he forgot his computer at security. So, he had to make a quick decision and got off the plane, which unfortunately meant he missed his flight. In the meantime, I had just gone through security and was walking to my gate and realized, I had forgotten my guitar at security…. Shall I say, I think both of our minds were in different places… This is not our normal way of being.

Just as I got my guitar back and was walking back to my gate, again. I get a phone call from Steven, telling me his saga and that he was on his way back to security. So, I turned around, again and went back to security to see if I could get his computer. I couldn’t. We met up after running all over the fricking airport and then realized I had to go to my flight and we were going to see if he could on my flight, without his computer, they just couldn’t find it… OMG… We took the train to the s terminal and talked to the nice woman at the delta desk., but it was 29 minutes before the flight. So, they closed the gate and could not get Steven on the flight… He had to figure out if he could a) get his computer back and b) get to NOLA tonight…He is going for a work meeting!

This is where the asshole, BRUCE P. comes in. I got in line to board and they took my guitar. I have a very very small travel guitar. I have traveled to and all around India with it. I have traveled to Turkey, France, Spain and other places. I have never had to check it. NEVER! It is in a soft case. It is fragile and it is much smaller than the 3 bags some people were bringing on the plane. This dickhead, BRUCE P., would absolutely not let me take my guitar on the plane. Then he wouldn’t even gate check it and then he wouldn’t even let me get it in Minneapolis. He made me check it all the way to NOLA. My small, fragile, travel guitar, in a soft case… So, I got on the jetway to board and was totally BITCHING to the other passengers, the ones with the 3 carry on bags they were not supposed to have. So, this very very nice man, Mr. Smith, an employee of Delta got off the jetway with me to go talk to BRUCE P. and Mr. Smith said he would check his bag for me so I could get my guitar. BRUCE P. kept saying…” I’ve made up my mind, she can not take it on the plane. We can not reverse this decision. I will not go back and forth on this. And will not reverse my decision. It is our policy” (our policy my ass, I’ve traveld on Delta in the past and have not had even an issue) I told him, ‘this is fucking ridiculous.’ He told me to watch my language. Ha, whatever dude… He also told me they are very careful in baggage services and if something happens to my guitar I can make a claim. Great! Just great… if you let me take it on the plane nothing will happen and I won’t have to go through claims process. I seriously don’t understand how this guy has such a power trip. He could have switched my guitar for any one of those too big carry ons that people were carrying on. The carry ons that were not fragile, like my guitar.. He totally didn’t care. WTF???

So, Mr. Smith stayed and talked with him for a while but, he would not budge. Mr. Smith got on the plane after me and gave me Bruce’s name (Bruce would not actually say his last name) and said I should write a letter to the airlines. So, I am going to and I would like you to too…

Gate s4
flight 2214
from Seattle to Minneapolis
October 14, 2010.
Bruce P is a supervisor in Seattle. And he is a total jerk and was not friendly or accommodating at all!!! It's not so much about my guitar as it is about how RUDE he was to me and to Mr. Smith.

click here for a link to write a complaint

So, now, I am on the flight (in flight wi-fi), Steven got a ticket for the next flight to NOLA and will be there an hour after me. Hopefully…. All will work out.

I will keep you updated!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Time Management!

'Let's talk about time management' a phrase my husband has been known to say to me more than once. He is the king of time management (T.M.). Me, on the other hand, well, I am an artist, and I am an organized artist, so I get it all done, but sometimes, it's not in an efficient way. Or shall I say, not in the same efficient way my husband does things.

This week, though, I wish I had his T.M. skills. The next week of my life has to be efficient, organized and time managed and I think I can do it. I mean, I know I can do it!

The last two months have been quite amazing here. My mind seems to have shifted into a new space. A space with a different perspective, a focused, motivated and excited perspective, which is kind of fun, actually... It's also been quite busy. Last week, I got a big big order with a very cool little cruise company here in Seattle. It has been rocking (in a good way) my world the last week getting prepared for the order. Yesterday, I sat for hours making earrings, ordering the needed goods from all over the world and enjoying getting into the groove of production jewelry making. While that is going on, I am also getting ready for a big journey east, in one week!!

EEK! One week!! So much to do....

I fly to New Orleans (for the first time) and from there will fly to Israel/Palestine and will travel around the country(ies), I can't wait!

So, here's to time management and getting it all organized before I leave, so I can get it all done when I get back!!