25 September 2010

losing my disk-on-key – discovering an Arab at the pool

Losing my disk-on-key – discovering an Arab at the pool

Yesterday morning I lost my wallet. Everything in it was replaceable of course, but the shock of losing my disk-on-key stayed with me all day long. As I don’t trust technological gadgets, I always make sure I have backup for my writing on 2 computers and an external hard-drive. I try to send a copy of my “Life in Fragments” novel in progress to my email when I remember. But the most updated versions are always on my disk-on-key, as I use different computers when I write. Well, the last back-up I did was two weeks ago, and since then I wrote a lot. All that is lost now. I cannot replace the words I wrote or retreat them from memory. It took me a full day to overcome this small tragedy of mine.

This morning, I religiously updated all my back-ups, and then decided to stop moping around and get to work. I started going through the hundreds of writing files that accrued during my years of writing. Many of them unfinished pieces and beginnings of short stories. I discovered a piece I wrote back about three years ago, about my experience when a receptionist at the pool said to me, after I showed her my ID, “You know, if it weren’t written down here, I would have never believed you were an Arab.” I discovered other stories left unfinished for various reasons. Going through them, reading some parts, I am filled with renewed energies. I never discard a piece, even if it’s only one paragraph. I believe that if I wrote it, then there’s a reason behind it. Sometimes I leave a piece because I feel I’m not ready to cope with the subject at hand. So I’m taking this as an opportunity to go back to my past writing and rediscover themes. Sometimes it’s good to stop and go back. Writing about an experience with a distance of time can give new perspectives.

Follow up here for the whole story of the pool – and other stories. Coming soon.

11 September 2010

family matters

The following event succeeded in getting awed replies even from my friends here in Haifa who are well aware of these issues.

I was invited for a job interview at one of the largest Palestinian NGOs in Israel advocating for the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. I walk in the room, and am greeted by the director (needless to say he’s a man), and the two deputy directors (both women). Before we start the interview, the director asks one of the women to make him coffee. Then the phone rings, and he asks the same woman to answer the phone. She picks up, and says that it’s for him. He doesn’t approach the phone, but rather asks her to ask the caller what it is, and then tells her what to reply.

A few minutes later, we are all seated at a round table, the director looks down at my resume, and reads out loud “khulud kh____.” A short pause, while he tries to figure me out. “Where are you from originally? And are you related to so and so?” For about ten minutes, I find myself answering these questions that have nothing to do with me or my skills. He needs to know whose daughter I am, which village my family comes from originally, whether I’m related to the Kh who is a member of the Haifa city council, and if – by chance – I’m related to that Kh who married a Jewish woman. Of course he doesn’t ask me if I’m Muslim or Christian, but this is also important to him. He discerns this from the answers to the other questions.

I was accepted for the job, but needless to say that even before they informed me of their decision, I made up my mind. I will not work in a place where part of my job description is making coffee. I will not work in an organization where my family’s background is more important than my abilities, skills, and potential.

This incidence is an example of why I tend to drop my family name. I resist the labels people attach to me just because of my family name. I resist the preconceptions people have about who I am based on my family’s background. Yes, I share a collective history with my family. I’m not breaking away from them, no. All I want is to be accepted for being who I am, and not for being the cousin of, or the daughter of.

Family reputation here is of great significance. So if I come from a “respected” family, lucky me. But if I don’t? I don’t even want to go in this direction here – because this is not what matters to me. I am not trying to hide my family’s name and thus my family’s background because they’re perceived as “respectable” or “not respectable.” This is not the issue here. Just as I don’t want people attributing negative conceptions to me based on my family’s name, I also don’t want them attributing positive ones based on it.

I am a full, complete person with abilities, emotions, ideas, and my own political stance. I have my own goals and visions as well as my own challenges and dilemmas. In an ideal setting, I imagine meeting a person and introducing myself as khulud. khulud the individual, complex person.

Of course family plays a significant role in how I developed to be the woman I am today. But this is in the small daily interactions with my close family members. The fact that I’m related to someone who’s on the Haifa city council doesn’t count here. I don’t see how the very distant relative (whom I never even met) who married a Jewish woman has any effect on me, or the fact that two of my cousins are advocates. What’s that got to do with me???

2 September 2010

Notes from underground

I am continuously faced with the difficulty of negotiating my spaces of existence. It is becoming harder and harder to find the emotional space to write, not to talk about the actual physical time and space. I find myself increasingly sitting at the computer screen into the small hours of the night, at times even greeting dawn, as I sit here with my coffee (trying to replace it with ginger tea, but it's not really working), cigarettes and two dogs.

Sometimes I reach the breaking point. Sometimes I want to give up. The effort to find the space and time - to clear all the clutter of the day from my mind - becomes an unbearable task. But something deep inside me keeps tugging at me. Keeps telling me that I need to do this. I need to write. To me, writing is like breathing. I imagine sometimes breathing as painful - but there is no other option. I have to keep breathing even if it causes agonizing pain.

Lately, I received some very heartwarming personal emails from some of you. Some even from people I don't know. I just want to tell you that your emails - maybe you didn't think of them like that - are lifesaving to me. They join the other life-lines I hang on to. I don't know what you think of my person, maybe you think I have all the confidence in the world and that words come easily to me. Well, writing is a struggle. It's an amalgamation of agony and ecstasy. But confidence? That's also a problematic word. Sometimes I believe. Sometimes I waver and am uncertain. Sometimes I have faith in my own abilities - but more importantly in my mission. Other times I feel frustration and don't see any progress. But with all this - it has never crossed my mind to abandon my goal.

But I think that a major cause for my frustration is actually not directly connected with writing itself. It's connected with being unable to find that silent, free space: mental, emotional and physical. The small tasks of life are so demanding, sometimes not leaving us time even for a hug. But I make an extra effort. Sometimes I give up another hour of sleep, pass a good read, or skip a nice relaxation. At the end, it's a matter of choice.

What's the point in writing this post? I think it has served its point!
Good night all and see you around the corner, khulud.