Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday, September 14th

I can't believe I'm packing.  It feels like I just got here and at the same time, it feels like I've been here for months.  I'm exhausted.
Another disappointment today as Kasem contacted me this morning to say he could not meet me for "reasons beyond his control".  He won't say over the phone what it is so I'm left to imagine it's something horrible.  He said he'd see me tomorrow before I left so whatever it is, it must be temporary.  Probably some 20 year old punk in a bad mood wouldn't let him in or out of some place.  I don't think I'll ever come back to Jerusalem.  There are too many restrictions here and the streets are full of spies.  I'll keep to the West Bank where I can trust people.  Where I can be close to my friends and far away from the insanity of this place.  I said my good-byes to the Old City today.  I even walked through the Jewish Quarter again and took some pictures.  If I keep my sunglasses on and my head down at all times no one bothers me.  It doesn't however stop them from staring.

Once again my spirit was in the gutter because I wouldn't see my friend today.  I really had no desire to do anything else.  After wandering inside the city walls for awhile and taking pictures, I left through Damascus Gate and walked to St. George's Guesthouse.  This was my place of convalescence in 2008.  After I was released from the hospital, I stayed three more days at St. George's until I was allowed to fly home.  My group had gone on without me and I was left in the care of Father Bob and the staff at the guesthouse.  Every day I hopped, crawled or was carried out to the garden so I could sit in the December sunshine.  It's such a beautiful place.  Even Mordechai Vanunu took refuge here upon his release from prison in 2004 after serving 18 years (11 of them in solitary confinement) for revealing details of Israel's nuclear weapons program to the British press.  It's been a sanctuary for many and it was one for me, too.  Someone was always checking up on me, Father Bob, Alfred the gate-keeper (as I called him) or one of the other guests.  If Alfred took a break for coffee, he brought me a coffee.  If he stopped for lunch, he brought me some of whatever he was having.  Orange juice, cookies, hummus, anything he had for himself he brought the same for me.  He's a very sweet man and always kept me company.  The night I left he was too sad to say good-bye to me so he wrote me a letter & gave it to Sarah.  I still have it.

St. George's looks alot different today but it still feels the same.  The same manager was at the front desk and he remembered me.  I'm pretty sure everyone that had to carry me at some point remembers me : )  He told me that Father Bob had gone back to the US two weeks ago and that someone would be replacing him soon.  I asked about Alfred and was told he didn't work in the guesthouse anymore, only inside the church.  A little disappointed, I wandered out to the garden to sit in the sun for awhile and it felt like I had never left. That first experience in Palestine was extremely emotional and ultimately life changing and while I sat in St. George's garden today I felt all of those emotions again.  I had a nice little cry and when I got up to leave, I found Alfred standing in the doorway waiting for me.  He was so excited to see me.  He's such a funny guy.

We caught up as much as was possible since his English is about as good as my Arabic.  He just kept shaking my hand, laughing and pointing at my leg.  I gave him a small token of my appreciation.  (Aztec bark from Annedore's)  He loves it.
I spent the rest of the day taking pictures and then came back to the hostel lobby to edit them.  Mohammed from Chicago came over to talk to me because he said I looked too serious sitting there.  He said this hotel is a family business and he came here to run it for only one year and then he's going back to the States.  When I made my reservations here, I knew this was a Muslim hostel but I had no idea it would be so conservative.  It doesn't matter though.  Mohammed has made me feel very welcome here and if I was ever coming back to the Old City, I would stay here again.
My plan for the rest of the evening is to edit photos and cry as much as possible.  I figure the more tears I shed today, the easier tomorrow will be.  It's going to be hard enough to say good-bye to Palestine.  It's going to rip my heart in two to say good-bye to Kasem again
If those fuckers try to keep him away from here tomorrow there's going to be hell to pay.

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