June 28

Leaving Palestine

I will miss the evening jasmine. I will miss the blood-red sunsets. I will miss the green neon on the minarets and the calls to prayer they broadcast over the hills. I will miss the way the olive leaves change colour during the day – from green, to silver, to grey. I will miss the nightly firecrackers. I will miss the way every Arab man greets everyone in the café the moment he steps inside, and I will miss the tiny coffees we drink there. I will miss sitting in the back of the service taxis and wordlessly passing my coins to the person in front of me who then passes them to the driver. I will miss eating falafel for breakfast. And for lunch. I will miss walking beneath the mulberry trees and mashing the berries under my sandals. I will miss olive oil sold in recycled water bottles. I will miss all the white stone. I will miss the plates of termis that accompany my beer. I will miss the men who replace the coals on my nargileh pipe without me having to wave. I will miss the casual copyright infringement – Stars and Bucks in Ramallah, Facebook Café in Birzeit – and the knock-off Levis’ jeans. I will miss the way the shirts here make my arms look big and my waist small. I will miss za’atar, and labneh, and those weird battered peanuts. I will miss the five dollar haircuts. I will miss working up the street from a circus school. I will miss the hills on the road to Nablus. I will miss the fresh green figs.

I will miss the Palestinian welcome, but more than this I will miss the thanks Palestinians express to me just for coming here – a gratitude I hardly deserve. Because if I think of all I’ve learned here, of all I’ve taken from this place, and realize that all I gave in return are some writing lessons, I feel like a thief.