Thursday, May 9, 2013


Poppies for endurance...

I’ve been back in Portland for almost a week now.  I’ve resumed my early morning swims, played a few bridge games, attended my own church (with its English-language service!) and  had numerous encounters with people who have noticed that I’m back!

For me, one of the strangest, and most difficult, aspects of homecoming has been that many people don’t quite know how to talk to me, or how to treat me!  After all, the questions one asks when someone returns from a two-week vacation are not the same questions one asks when someone comes back from an extended stay in what is widely perceived as a “conflict zone!”

Still, “Did you have a good time?” is a common question.  The words that spring to my lips are, “I wasn’t there for a good time,” but I know that comes across as sarcastic, and I really don’t want to turn people off!

I have lots of photos of cute children...
Another common question, “How was it?” is an open-ended query that is impossible to answer in one word or one sentence.   One slightly more savvy person said something to the effect of, “You’ll have to be careful of what you say, won’t you?”  I’m afraid I was less than tactful when I replied that this was a topic on which treading lightly didn’t really factor in – I’ve seen too much to walk on tip-toes among those who don’t know and don’t care.

I told my pastor today that returning home in this situation was a little like having a family member die – many people don’t know what to say!  May I offer a few suggestions?

When I hear “tell me everything,” what I think is meant is “tell me one quick story that won’t change my pre-conceived notions, and then be prepared to discuss the latest episode of ‘Mad Men’.”  If you really want to hear my stories, spend enough time with me to let them emerge slowly.  Some of my stories are painful to tell – and painful to hear.  Are you sure you want to hear them?

...but do you really want to see photos of children being arrested?
If you don’t want to talk about where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing – don’t!  Tell me how unusually good the weather in Oregon is for the time of year.  Ask me what kind of food I’ve been eating while I’ve been gone.  But don’t ask questions that you don’t want honest answers to!

Don’t ask to see my photos – unless you really want to see my photos!  Yes, I have lovely pictures of cute children, blooming flowers and produce markets overflowing with abundance.   But I also have photos of crowded checkpoints, children being arrested and men in hospitals.  Do you really want to see those – and hear those stories?

or photos of "caged" men at checkpoints? 
If you care about me – and about what is really happening in Palestine – ask me openly and honestly.  I’ll respond in the same way – and maybe will shed a few tears or embarrass you with a spontaneous hug. 

If you care about me – but, for whatever reason, feel uncomfortable discussing this place where I’ve left a large chunk of my heart – that’s okay too!  I still love you.  Just try to understand that I’m seeing the world in a different way from the way I saw it a few months ago.

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