“Forty is a very special number in Islam,” Habib lectured, as way of answer when we asked why he refused to let us clean the dishes or help cook dinner. He pointed to the chicken on my plate. “When a guest comes to table, she must eat at least forty bites. After forty days in the home, she is a guest no more, but one of the family. Until then, sit and eat and be happy.”
Well, today marks my fortieth and final day in Palestine, so upon returning I should no longer be considered a guest, according to Habib. Just a part of the family, or an old friend who’s been away for too long. Then I’ll throw the dinner parties and complain when people get up to help with the dishes.
Our final mission in Nablus was to broadcast ourselves over the air. Hakim, the director of Project Hope, scheduled a slot at Kuffiyeh Radio and Radio Nablus for us to present ourselves as volunteers to the community (better late than never) and play a song over the air. This basically meant that Tessa, Giulia, and I sat in a studio with our instruments, straining our ears to catch what we could of the rushed but perfectly enunciated stream of classical and dialectic Arabic (Fuhsa is nearly incomprehensible to me). Once, we were asked to talk about our experience of Nablus, and, with Hakim translating, Tessa gave an answer that perfectly capped off our entire trip: “We love Nablus. Everyone’s so welcoming… between our friends and work and the town itself, we truly have a home here. There’s a real sense of community.” Then the Arabic resumed. At some point, the host would stop talking abruptly and stare at us expectantly, which was our cue to start playing our arrangement of “Blackbird.” We only messed up a little, and turned the mistake into a sort of canon that I’m sure somebody out there thought was neat and intentional. But in general, the two demos went over well, and I got a kick out of seeing how a foreign, professional, commercial radio station operates (I deejay for KZSC Santa Cruz, a college radio station in California). We were buzzing from radio afterglow and the fact that we had officially finished everything we needed to do in Nablus, so, logically, the next step was victory knafeh.
All that was left was to say goodbye. We spent a good two hours with our neighbors upstairs, who were the first people to make us feel at home in Palestine. Then up to Sama Nablus, for one last round of hookah and coffee with our circle of friends on the mountain overlooking the most beautiful city.
I’ll miss these faces: