Is it just me, or does anybody else feel woefully unprepared for the world we’re now living in?
Man, there doesn’t seem too much left to say about it all, because we’re all heavily addicted to our media of choice, telling us the version of the world around us that corresponds most to the world view to which we’ve already subscribed. Orwell’s Newspeak seems to be the lingua franca of this brave new world, and history is indeed repeating, though the stakes are higher, seeing as how the powers that be now have godly powers, the ability to take decisions about the environment or international conflicts that render the future of humanity and the planet as we know it obsolete.
Suffice it to say, for whatever number of reasons, I never thought it could get this bad.
I’m writing from a hostel in Jerusalem; tomorrow I’ll make my way to Gaza. The last several months have been a whirlwind of wonderful and terrible, and this place seems so appropriate to the narrative of my life this year. I’m still hopelessly in love with the city I’ve called home in 2016, though it’s looking increasingly likely it won’t be home too far into the new year. Work is excellent on so many levels: I’m working with the most intelligent, dedicated team I’ve ever had the pleasure to collaborate with; it’s an honour to call the organisations we work with partners; I’m constantly challenged and learning and realising how very much more there is to learn, how very many more challenges lie ahead.
Work is, unsurprisingly, also disheartening and frustrating. As a humanitarian organisation, humanity is our imperative – i.e., the rights of the individual human being to dignity, safety and, in a more perfect world, maybe even self-determination. There are so many terrible contradictions and seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way, we bob and weave and discuss and negotiate and of course, in the words of one of the wisest activists I’ve known in this life, we explain, and explain, and explain again.
Tomorrow I will meet our colleague in Gaza. He should have come to Istanbul some months back, but freedom of movement isn’t a human right he and so many more can take for granted. Permit denied. We’re invited to a fully vegan meal at his family home. I can’t wait.
And yesterday I walked with a colleague through the old city, trying to make sure I said “Shukran” and “Toda” as appropriate. I watched the Orthodox Jews run through the Arab alleys as though trying to avoid the threat of Islam rubbing off on them. These past couple of days I’ve been unsurprised by the number of faces I couldn’t identify as Jew or Gentile, in this crazy place where there are Arab Jews and Palestinian Christians and people from all over the world calling these streets home, for better or worse.
Since coming into post, I’ve been able to travel a little for work. I spent a few days in Suleimaniyah, in Iraqi Kurdistan, visited Beirut and Tripoli, with a quick stop-over in Byblos, and a couple short trips to Amman.
In all likelihood, Amman will be home in the next couple of months. I try not to think about the logistics of starting all over, finding a new apartment and figuring out the local transport. I try also not to think too much about what it means that Americans are treated there often with more respect and dignity than Jordanians, or how it will feel not to see the arms and necks of most of my sisters – with no disrespect to those who choose the veil, it’s still hard for a girl from California. I try not to fixate on the contrast between the vibrant, colourful streets of Istanbul where cats are king and faces have become familiar, and Amman, where the bland yellow of sandstone buildings stretch as far as the eye can see, broken only by the blue of the sky, where pedestrians are fewer and street animals are just a nuissance. I’m trying instead to think about all the hidden treasures there will be to find, how I might be able to pick up some street Arabic, how delicious the food will be (Fatoush! Falafel! Hummus!), and of course this exciting new adventure.
The holidays are nigh, and I cannot wait to put on my boots and go for a walk in the familiar Haute-Loire countryside, coming home to find my father-in-law preparing vin chaud or arguing with my mother-in-law about the heating. Nearly 2 full weeks with C by my side, medicinal after 2 long months apart. And I guess all this constant change and newness helps to distract me from the woes of the world, even if they sit front and centre in my worklife. Obviously I offer my too-familiar excuses for not writing, though methinks there’s enough out there for all of us to read at the moment…most of the time I’m not sure how my voice can add anything valuable to the cacophany.
As 2016 draws to a close, I’m reminding myself about the magic of the new year, the feeling of anything being possible, the renewal, the sensation that we’re somehow starting fresh, no matter how culturally constructed that notion might be. And in this moment, I’m refusing to lose hope, even if it seems hopelessly foolish. Because I can’t think of anything more foolish at this precipitous moment in history than giving up. And in that spirit, I will think about all the amazing people risking everything in the name of the Something Better I still believe we’re capable of (see here, here, here, and here for a sampling of my personal inspiration…and feel free to share your own below).