One of the harder things about being a foreigner living in the West Bank for a year is how many of the people who you meet and like… go and leave… not long after they’ve met you.
With many students graduating after the winter semester, Palestinian friends from university – even if fairly local; from Jenin, Tulkarm, Bethlehem and Jerusalem – are likely to leave Nablus for good at this time of year. (Happily, my exchange partner has left for Norway because she won an acting scholarship!)
Other foreigners are mostly volunteers or interns or consultants or shorter exchange students, posted here for a few months. Waves of them come and go. Come to think of it, every foreigner pictured on this blog (eg here, here, and here as well as below) has now gone.
I know I am not the only one of us who is here for a year who has felt some guilt in the prospect of leaving at the end of it – not just leaving behind friends, but leaving behind friends who without our privilege of nationality will face huge difficulty in attempt to travel abroad.
One of those I was saddest to see go was Shia, named after Hollywood superstar Shia Le Beouf.
The name did cause a little consternation with Israeli border officials.
Shia was found by an American volunteer tiny and nosing around some dustbins. She was only a few weeks old, and flearidden, and shivery.
Once Elise picked her up, she relaxed, and Elise knew she couldn’t let her go.
Shia is now safely (and warmly, I presumed with envy as I typed up this post) in the United States, several visits to veterinarians and ministries and very expensively later, and learning about new things like the sound of a wet finger on the rim of a wine glass.
In this last pic she is with our Fede, also departed, being forced to pose for him so he can use her cuteness to attract women on social media.
The rush of goodbyes, the finding that half the contacts list on my phone are numbers for people who aren’t here any more, the long winter break… they remind me how little the bubble I have made myself in Nablus is. How few people I see day-to-day. How few roads I walk.
I have moved house to a warm, dry flat only a few streets away from the leaky mouldy one, which has expanded my world not a jot. When we met the British Consul in August or so (that’s the students we, not a royal we) I asked him where the parties are at. He didn’t seem to know of any events in the West Bank. (In fact, it was only his second visit here at all). An acquaintanceship was not pursued, on either side, but now, I think… I should be getting out more. I should go and hunt down the events, not the engagement parties but the film festivals and opening nights and book launches. I should be putting the glitter into the West Bank soirées.
(Namedropping the Consul reminds me that my mother met an Englishwoman who is friends with a former ambassador to Syria. ‘My daughter lived in Syria!’, she enthused. ‘She’s studying Arabic in the Middle East. Perhaps you could put them in touch?’
‘I don’t think that would be of any benefit to either of them’, came reply. Write that one down).
It is time.
It is time I went out and schmoozed.