Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Young Leaders Visitors Program- Stockholm, Sweden

A few months ago, I was informed of my acceptance to the Young Leaders Visitors Program in Stockholm, Sweden, from May 15-29. ( a great program organized by the Swedish Institute.  Priceless moments and precious experiences, but I'm going to share two brief experiences during the program had a special influence on me.

Palestinians in Stockholm 

On our very first evening in Stockholm, we were having dinner in one of the city's main centers when we saw through the glass walls black balloons flying in the air. We looked carefully at the plaza where they flew from only to find a mass of people waving the Palestinian flag and wearing the Palestinian kuffiyeh. Within an instant, I ran downstairs to the plaza with the other participants from Palestine, Amal and Hasan, although we had just met and had barely memorized each others' names.

Naturally, we were warmly welcomed by our Palestinian counterparts in the protest, who were commemorating the 63rd anniversary of Al Nakba (the Catastrophe). Without even having to state it here- you can imagine that we immediately felt a warm bond between us; the Palestinian-Swedish, the Palestinian from Ramallah, the Palestinian from Gaza, the Palestinian from Nables, and the 2, 7, and 10-year old Palestinian-Swedish children.

An Arab Breakfast

One particularly quite morning in Skytellholm (a lake resort that we stayed in for the first week of the program), I was having breakfast with the other participants, including Roger, an Egyptian participant and Afrah, a Yemeni participant. The tranquility and the peacefulness of the place were extraordinary. I was still half-asleep when I started imagining a bomb that was about to explode nearby. Yalla, I told the bomb, explode and get it over with, I want to go on with the rest of the day. YALLA! What's taking the bomb so long?

Of course, the bomb was never going to come. This was just the part of my brain that Israel was able to psych out with its spontaneous sonic booms, F-16 bombs, tank missiles: you name it. They come in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, whenever its too quite and whenever the moment is too good to be true. Well, that moment in Skyttelholm was too good to be true, so it HAD to be disturbed by Israel!

I hesitated before sharing my crazy thought with Roger and Afrah. I thought they were going to ask me how many imaginary friends I had, and what their names were. Regardless, I did share the story. To my great surprise, they were nodding in agreement.. ?! Roger surprised me by saying: "YES! I know what that feels like! As soon as I came out of the plane here in Sweden, I thought I had seen two state security jeeps waiting to arrest me, just like they did during the revolution in Tahrir!" Wow, I thought.. To which Afrah loudly added: "It is SO quite in here that sometimes I think I hear people chant "Al Shaab, Yureed Isqat Al Netham" 

At that point, the whole table blew up with laughter. Seriously- it is these simple -humorous- humane stories that BEST explain the Middle East. Nothing, absolutely nothing else can explain the situation that even we do not understand.

1 comment:

  1. This is sweet but heartbreaking ,, I even blogged about it

    Can't wait to see you again sweetheart :*