During the last couple of weeks, every time I sit at my computer to write a new blog post, my fingers hover over the keys, hesitant. Suddenly, I am a deer in headlights; I’ve been cornered. My hands won’t type. My mind races over possible topics: food? Weather? Something about school? I seem to be willing to write about anything, really, that will help me avoid articulating the hardships of being here.
In truth, living in Nablus right now is not easy for me. I actively daydream about going home on a daily basis. I imagine moving back into my old apartment, getting a job at a neighborhood school where I know the language, and living in the same city with close friends and family. I think about good coffee and nights out and wearing whatever I want, and navigating life with the relative ease of a White woman in the United States.
I also think about what a privilege it is that if I made the choice, I could go back to that life. Unlike the Palestinians here, I have the freedom to move. I can pass through checkpoints (usually) unscathed. When Israelis point their guns at people, they are never aiming at me. I don’t have to worry about getting arrested for my political views. I can go where I want, when I want, without asking for special permission and getting denied. I am not the target of violence.
Last night, cagey, I grabbed my headphones and went for a walk. I didn’t care where I was going, as long as I was moving. Wrapped in a scarf and tentative about the dark, I carefully made my way south, up the hill by my apartment. Nablus is a city comprised of switchbacks, with the old city at the base and mountain parks, residential neighborhoods, and Israeli military watchtowers at the top on either side.
Up and up I went, bracing myself as each car passed me for the usual shouts, whistles, and honks I get as a foreign woman. (To be fair, the honking of car horns here is extremely commonplace. They communicate everything from greetings to warnings.) It was my first time out after sunset and my first time walking alone. My heartbeat felt good. The wind cooled my face, and the temperature changed as I got higher. Cars were barely honking.
I wanted to keep going, but just as I was about to round another switchback, I caught sight of a wild dog. I made a quick decision and retreated back down the mountain, back down to my apartment, back down to face the choice I made to come and teach art at a private school in Palestine.