Palestinian woman living in tent in Gaza
A few summary comments as I get ready to take the 9 hour flight over the pole straight from Amsterdam to Seattle, non-stop. Surprisingly, Iraq turns out to be the easiest, quickest country to get your passport approved of, one minute in and out, and Amsterdam, heart of liberalism and carefree-ness, the most difficult (next to the Israeli crossings)..almost didn't let me through...something about not liking the Iraq, Israeli travel itinerary and all....imagine if I hadn't been of the White American persuasion...
(By the way, all the comments made on this blog are my personal reactions, opinions and commentary, and mine alone. They do not represent the position of MercyCorps or any other organization).
Gaza: Worse than expected. Gaza felt like the near-perfect breeding ground for cultivating and growing hatred. Not a good strategy for peace. Israel seems to me to be in a position where it has enormous power, doesn't have to do anything, but to create some kind of positive change will need to make a magnanimous move. But they may not do it unless Palestinians go into a big non-violent civil disobedience campaign to force the moral issue, like Gandhi did with Britain. Things felt to me to have gotten worse here instead of better, since I was in this part of world 30 years ago. If only because of what Israel has created here with its settlements in the West Bank, erected walls and guard crossings nearly everywhere that have been created out of fears (very real), and an abundance of power. It has been said that power tends to corrupt. I hope Martin Luther King was right when he said “the arc of truth bends toward justice”….it better start bending here, and soon. What happens here continues to deeply affect the political situations in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and elsewhere. Yes it's complex here with the myriad of cultures and deep histories of mutual hurt, but I know we can do better than this.
Iraq: Way better than I expected. More patriotic toward US than I expected, even if it is Northern, Kurdish Iraq). Felt much safer than expected (although the breath of paranoia rustles the hairs on the back of your neck at times due to the possible unknowns). Taking photos is tough when you have one eye on the item of focus and one out for some underground security personnel who might not approve. Young people I met in both places (over a hundred I talked with) seemed generally optimistic, had a good dose of hope, and good and unique senses of humor. Mohammed and I, (he is local teacher, Arabic, that I got to know) we were joking around and grandly fantasizing one day in the car, planning how we could fix things right up in the world.
“You organize the Arabs, Mohammed, I will organize the Christians, but we need someone to organize the Hindu’s”…
To which Mohammed replies, “Go find a Cowboy”.
“What?”, I say.
“A Cowboy. You know how the Hindu's revere cows”…..
Jordan. Feels quite rich, relatively speaking. And is westernizing at breakneck speed. McDonalds, Burger Kings, KFC’s, western clothes, jewelery everywhere. Hard to find indigenous stuff. (Also hard to find it in Iraq too, and they have few of the chain stores anywhere.
Food. Great food in Iraq and Jordan! Lots of vegetables, superb spices. Could eat the same stuff for weeks in a row… Come to think of it, I did.
OK, internet access here in airport is going kaput now….got to throw in another 6 g’s if I want to keep it up, and my wallet is drained as usual. By the by, there are no ATM’s in Iraq, so bring cash when you come! Even in small African and Guatemalan towns you could find an ATM. I nearly had to beg on the street, and I didn't even bring my backpack banjo this time to draw a sympathetic crowd!
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Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.