Okay. I am facing a blank page on my computer, about to write the blog post that will get my website going once again, and wondering where to start.
Last time I wrote something on here, I had just left Palestine, I had just arrived in Egypt and I was trying to figure out what the hell had happened to me during the last few months. Trying to make sense out of all of it. After a month of relaxing in Dahab and trying to pretend that everything was okay, I went to Cairo and realised nothing was okay. So I went home, promising myself that I would stay away from the Middle East for a long time, for my own sake, for my own mental health.
And here I am, two months later…. in Beirut, Lebanon.
You might be wondering what the hell happened in the meantime. What succession of events brought me back to the place I was so eager to run away from? That is a good question, but I am afraid the answer isn’t a very funny one.
Let’s go back a bit. I am in Switzerland. I have never been so grateful for the country I come from. I am free, I am safe, and I can be myself. It’s easy to take these things for granted, and my most recent experience has been a good reminder of that. Actually, it has been the biggest slap in my face of my entire life.
So there I am, still trying to deal with the fact that what has been for me a difficult and beautiful experience, which I was incredibly happy to have lived but also to have left after only 4 months, is reality for some people. It’s all they’ve ever known, maybe all they’ll ever know. Some images seem to constantly go through my head, such as the checkpoints, the soldiers, the wall, the gunshots, the refugee camps, the fear, the suffering, the hopelessness, the helplessness, such as the night where I saw the PA aim at their own people, such as that time when little girls were laughing about a shooting happening right next to them instead of being terrified because that isn’t anything exceptional for them. And the injustice, and the anger, and the frustration, and everything else.
Parallel to these images are the good ones, the soothing ones, the type that you have to hang on to if you don’t want to go crazy, the memories of friendship, of hope, creation, endurance, perseverance, solidarity, laughter, of love. Lots of love, love everywhere, love all the time. And the love I shared with someone special, against all odds, away from all the horrible things I mentioned above.
I was thinking about all of the above. A LOT. Saying goodbye has been tough and I am still very sad about it, but I don’t regret my decision to leave Nablus. There was also that theater play, Incendies, that takes place in the Middle East and is unbearably heart-wrenching to watch and even more to act in. I was very scared to confront the load of emotions that immersing yourself entirely in a role of such intensity implies. I was also preparing myself to walk the famous “Camino de Santiago”, an 800 km hike through Spain that I thought would bring me some peace of mind, some closure; a welcomed perspective at this point of my life.
However, as one very talented man once accurately said, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. And life did indeed have other plans for me.
I would have liked to say the following in a poetic, meaningful way but I realised there was nothing beautiful or poetic about it. Numan got sick. The person whose love I was trying so hard to move on from got cancer, at 20 years old. Suddenly, the reasons that still made me sad whenever I would think of him seemed so stupid. Suddenly, I would have given anything to be crying because I missed him and not because the rest of his life suddenly became so uncertain.
I didn’t have to think a long time about it, my mind was made up. At the time, the doctors were still not agreeing on the diagnosis, and there was a lot of mistrust, so the conclusion was reached that he should go to Amman to be sure to fully understand the situation. A week later, I was there with him and his cousin Thameen. And not much later than a week after that, he was gone already, back to his country, to be with his family when he goes through the heavy treatment waiting for him.
So I boarded a plane and a couple of days later, I landed in Beirut, where a whole new adventure has started.
I am going to be honest with you, it has been much harder than it seems when I present it like that. I have been nesting a bit too much in the hostel I’m staying at since I arrived, even though I have so many things to explore here.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair that I get to run away from all of this so easily, just like the first time. Unless this time Numan isn’t only going back to his daily life under occupation and me to my ridiculously privileged life of part-time student, part-time traveler, he is going back to months, maybe years ahead of him of fighting and suffering and living with cancer.
I truly believe he has the strength and the emotional support to overcome this hardship, and that it will make him an even more beautiful person than he already is. For my part, despite the guilt, despite the sadness, I have to live my life and enjoy every second of the incredible chance I have, because I don’t feel any other way of doing it would honor him better than that, him or anybody else who doesn’t get to enjoy the freedom I have.
I liked Beirut at the second I arrived, and I am thinking of staying a while here. I want to learn some more Arabic, and I want to unravel the history of this fascinating, deeply wounded country. And if in the process and can meet new amazing people and wonder the streets of this multi-faceted city, then I have the ingredients I need to be happy.