Sunday, September 28, 2008

Southampton- Round 4

Of all the places in England, I keep coming back to Southampton. This is my fourth time now. My journey continues from Swanage to Southampton. Here I will catch the ferry to France-- that is after I make a couple visits. 

I am in the midst of one of them now. I am visiting with an old Palestinian friend who I met in the West Bank eight years ago. Back then I was working for a Canadian NGO out of the computer science department of the University of Birzeit. We met as he was working on his masters and I on web project. My time in Palestine, a relatively brief 6 months, was hands down the most intense of my life. I was living in the chasm between two cultures in conflict forefront on the world stage. Check points, guns and grenades, soldiers and protesters, the oppressed and the oppressors made up my life. I experienced a personal religious melt down, was caught in the country as it virtualy went to war, and was finally evacuated out by the Canadian embassy.  

My friend Ashraf is the first Palestinian, that I have managed to meet up with again since my abrubt departure. He is insightfully articulate on everything from religion, to relationships, to England. We share many things in common, in particular having lived such an intense moment together. Yet, beneath how much we agree and how well we get along, we still come from such different upbringings and places. People don't bike and camp out in Palestine for instance! If you think I am crazy, imagine how crazy he must think I am!  

However, it all makes for great conversation. It certainly beats talking about the weather- a common conversational theme amongst the English! I've told my stories about my time in Palestine so many times over the years that they've started to loose their sheen. Telling them again to Ashraf, someone who was there, gives them new life and new meaning. I sense that the process of sharing these stories with him is really good for me. It was a very difficult and even traumatic time for both of us.  

But its not just talking that bring back the memories. Ashraf and his wife have revelled me with fabulous hospitality-- in particular a sumptous three or four course, home cooked, palestinian meal, complete with arabic coffee.  

I LOVE arabic coffee! Perhaps a little too much. Our conversation carried on until 2:30 in the morning!

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