Friday, June 19, 2009

"This is my village, this is my country"

We're one day into a three day mid-season break. I elected not to travel in order to get work done; the first day and a half have resulted in an epic failure to do just that. Yesterday, most of the "kids" (younger/less experienced team members who have never been to Israel) left for Jerusalem around 12:30. Trouble was, the day's work was not over, so other more senior members of staff and I spent the next few hours sorting, reading, and bagging my pottery and helping another trench supervisor complete his locusing (in about 3 weeks, I will tell you all about locusing. Consider yourself tantalized.) I was a bit grumpy that just because I wasn't going anywhere, I lost time from my break, but then the directors treated us all to a wonderful dinner at a steakhouse that I don't remember the name of and can't find on the internet right now. I had filet mignon medallions and portabella mushrooms in a sauce of ginger, garlic, and honey, with pecan pie and ice cream for dessert. The signs on their doors said "Shalom y'all." Wish I'd had the nerve to take a picture.

Today, we had been invited to Buq'ata, the village in the Golan Heights where our Druzim workers live, we thought for dinner but it turned into a 6 hour, full afternoon outing. We had a wonderful time, and it was fantastic to go somewhere and see something a bit different.

When the six of us got there, we first were led into a small anteroom with long cushions on the ground around the room. We chatted with various people aged one through 70 (almost all men) who came to say hi or sit with us for awhile. Most of them were people we work with on site and their relatives. Our host was Hamid, who speaks passable English, and translated for us when he was not drifting in and out himself. We were served small cups of strong, seasoned coffee and giant plates of fruit. After a couple hours, we adjourned to a larger living room with similar ground cushions and a huge spread of stuffed grape leaves, chicken, tabboleh, cheese, stuffed eggplant, hummus, and another salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and fried flat bread, plus pita and huge folded pieces of flatbread which we used to pick up assorted bits of food. The food was wonderful, perhaps a bit heavy on vinegar and oil, a factor compounded by the single mug of water shared among the eight or nine of us dining. Then followed a small dessert of slices of honeyed cake and a rolled chocolate cake, with strawberry, mango, and grapefruit sodas.

From there, we went to Hussein's house. (Hussein is sort of the foreman/Godfather of the whole operation.) His house was huge, beautiful, and full of assorted archaeological relics like an olive press and column capitals, plus an old fashioned sewing machine and a saddle. There, we had more soda (Fanta and Coke), sweet fried honey balls and cakes, and coffee.

After that, Hamid and Hussein took us for a drive through the countryside surrounding Buq'ata, including orchards, other villages, a beautiful lake, the forest where all the men go to eat and drink on the weekend, and a view of Syria. Here's Hussein pointing out Syria to us: he's wanted there (we're pretty sure for spying for Israel in the 60s) so he proclaims Syria "no good." By the time of the car trip, we were all entering severe food comas, despite the coffee, when Hamid broke out a 6 pack of Carlsberg in the car and started opening bottles. Drinking beer! In a car!!! What a novel experience!The afternoon was much more enjoyable than I had thought it might be. I have some lovely memories, a full belly, and a deeper understanding and awareness of these people with whom I have worked side by side for two summers now but because we lack a common language, it's so hard to really learn about their lives. They were wonderful hosts who shared their homes, food, and life with six American graduate students in need of a little escape.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite part of international travel has been the times I've spent with "ordinary" people.