Sunday, 17 October 2010

Kifak inta?

The hot Iberian sun shines directly in my face, and I walk around squinting my eyes. I look at my phone to check the's only 11am. I take it as a "welcome back" and I do nothing to stop the change in my facial expressions from extreme fatigue and squinting into happiness. I'm not a dreamer but when I dream, I dream of living in Spain.
The Basque
This trip would mark my third to the Iberian Peninsula. The first time, my family and I walked around Madrid, a visit I only remember through photographs of me running around chasing pigeons, throwing my arms up in the air or clutched in my father's arms with a large Rain Man poster above us or an El Corte Inglés sign in the background. More than twenty years later, I find myself scrambling to find the meeting place and stop in front of the exact same El Corte Inglés sign and attempt to recreate the photograph I remember vividly.

Replace the "Sex and the City 2" poster with "Rain Man" circa 1988 - Madrid

El Corte Inglés - Madrid

The second trip was, and will always be, the only family trip I have ever enjoyed. With my father acting as a historical tour guide, we exhausted our feet touring all of Andalusia. If there's something you need to do before you die, it is visiting Andalusia.

The Basque

My most recent trip included stops in Madrid, the Basque, and Barcelona. Offering independence to the latter two? Not on the agenda. But attempting to learn about their struggle/ideals definitely was.

The Basque

I arrive on July 11th, the date of the World Cup final (Spain vs Netherlands). I am set to go to the Basque country on the same day and understand how disrespectful a celebration of a Spanish victory would be to my hosts. A quiet celebration takes place, despite the Netherlands always being my number one team (Italy #2 - no one looks that good not scoring goals, Spain #3), when in Spain, cheer for the Spaniards!

Surprisingly, the Basque was filled with sameness. The men and women had similar hair cuts, piercings and style. Even the children had pseudo mullets. The biggest difficulty, alongside the enormous amount of rainy days, was language. No one spoke English, or French, and they had a certain dégoût for speaking Spanish (the ones I met anyway). I do not speak Spanish, but if spoken to, I can understand most of what is being said. The Basque people speak euskara, and unfortunately, it is difficult attempting to make up anything they said - especially in a small town. It's even more surprising that I managed to have an hour long conversation with a 70-year old coffee shop owner about the history of the town and about Moshe Dayan. Luckily, he had visual aids to help present his point, including putting his palm over his eye.

Donostia-San Sebastián

The Basque country is a beautiful place: the greenery that spread all over the mountains overlooking the beach in Donostia-San Sebastián, the hospitality of the people, and the fact that they are a wonderfully united community. Stylish teenagers, the ones you categorize into people who only seem to care about popularity, clothes, and "existentialism" were very aware of the Basque struggle and, better yet, active within community events. This was a shock, especially after coming from such a politicized place like the West Bank where many teenagers and twenty something steered away from politics and focused mostly on friends and music.


Once my time in the Basque is over, I take a trip to Barcelona for a few days before having to take my flight to Jordania from Madrid. Unfortunately, I only managed to enjoy being care free in Barcelona for a few hours because as we sat listening to Fairuz at the Arc de Triomphe, my bag, containing too many passports and id cards, got stolen. The moment I felt Palestinian (stateless) was when I had to walk into the Canadian consulate without a single piece of identification proving my citizenship and figure out how I can convince them I am Canadian in order for me to get a passport. Luckily, I found a scanned copy of my passport in my google docs (saviour) and I had my application sped up from 24-48 hours to 6 hours due to the urgent nature of the request. I managed to enjoy the rest of the day in Barcelona on foot checking out Gaudí's architecture and getting lost with my two [fantastic] companions.

I have never lost my wallet, credit card, money, or even a metro pass, or gotten anything stolen except a bag in Montreal that contained only my ipod which was taken when our rental car was broken into by some separatists (note: do not drive an Ontario license plate car in some areas of Montreal). It was not only shocking and upsetting to have all these belongings stolen and be left with nothing in a foreign country.
On my flight to Jordania the idea of this adventure coming to a close began to hit me, although I had almost a month and a half left. My plan A (what I would upon my return) failed and I had no plan B or C, but I did not regret a minute of this trip. I had met too many wonderful people, experienced a multitude of cultures, had a fatwa issued against me (Nablus), got held up for too many hours at checkpoints, and dipped my feet in many parts of the Mediterranean sea, amongst other things. But the idea or guilt of uncertainty starts to consume you, especially when you're asked in emails from friends "when are you coming back? and what's your plan?" After 1 year or so of not planning, it's biting me in the ass, I guess.

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