In 2006-7 I grew up. I needed a job. I reviewed the website musicalchairs.info daily and finally stumbled upon something that I was ecstatic to apply for and do: conducting two orchestras, 1 choir, and teaching violin and flute all in 1 place - the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. I didn't look at the flag, and applied. When I got the job, I realised that I would be moving to Pa. les tine. I was 25 years old. That was the year that I grew up and lost my stupid American naiveté.
In these series of blog posts I'll be sharing the email updates that I sent to my friends, family, and colleagues at the time.
Dec 8. 2006:
• Here it comes . . update #4!! Well, “my brain is flying” with all sorts of thoughts and observations of my still new home, and here is a sort of mumble jumbled organisation of these thoughts. Let’s start off with some funny Arabic expressions to laugh a little before the more serious schiesse is thrown at the fan.
o Expression #1, “Bukra fi’il mishmesh” (tomorrow in the apricot) or . . when hell freezes over: said when the taxi driver demands too much money for the fare
o Expression #2, “Kullna fi lhawa sawa” (we are all in love together) or . . we are all in the same boat: general term for this “situation” that we’re all in. I guess we think in terms of boats in America, but the Palestinians have their minds on love.
o Expression #3, “qahwe daayme” (coffee always) explanation needed?!
o Expression 4 MY FAVORITE, makes me think of the movie Shrek: “yoom 9asal, uwyoom basal” (the 9 is a low a vowel that we don’t have in the US) -- one day is honey, and one day is onion.
o The last one, which I think is simply hilarious if you endorse mental imagery: “9aqlo taar” (his brain flew) or, . . he went crazy.
• Palestine, Palestine. Things are going well here, and each day brings me more security and happiness, thank goodness. My beginner orchestra is showing serious signs of improvement . . they sight read some music today with generally good intonation and rhythm which they would have viewed with ultimate suspicion and incomprehension at the beginning of the year. We also are creating some kind of special “Hebe and Orchestra” language which includes all sorts of funny expressions that have a history of development. For instance, “tutti tutti” was repeated so much that it became old and therefore turned into “tutti frutti” and now has progressed to “tutti schmutti”. The word “upbow” finally has been drilled into their brains that they must start at the tip, and if anybody doesn’t it results in some annoyed but funny Arabic commentary from the faster ones. I pulled a few special ones out of the big group to form a smaller chamber ensemble . . . the first piece we are playing (me with them as first violin) is a rather trite Tango, but a very good beginning piece that finally is getting them to use their bow in the lower half!! So this is also part of our new dictionary, as I refer to these kids as either the “tangos” or the “tangers.” Every week I do a listening quiz where I give out 4 cds and a sheet of questions and whoever emails me first with the right answers gets a prize the next week (candy of course). . and I’ve found to my unsurprised luck that candy is a wonderful incentive and disciplinarian device. And finally concerning this crazy and wonderful kids, I’ve decided that my new goal in life should be to bulldoze enough brains around here to eventually have an orchestra that can play a Beethoven symphony (well)!! At first I was rather depressed with the level here, but the talent that is progressing here now is inspiring and I am looking forward forming a part of their musical learning process.
• Every time I go through a checkpoint now (especially at Kalandia) I have to do something to pass the time . . either take out my Ipod or read a book, or daydream which takes me to thought-land. . .
• The other day my thought-land made a disturbing but for me accurate observation. You see, the lines you wait in at Kalandia or any other checkpoint are actually much better and faster than the lines that you might encounter at say . . Great America, Disneyland, or for the Europeans, de Efteling. When we go to an “amusement” park, we wait in absolutely horrendous lines in order to be thrown around, spun, tossed and dropped until at least 50% suppress a nastily real urge to vomit. And then most of us run like crazy people in order to do it again. So why is waiting for an unknown period of time (sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes 1 hour, sometimes 2 hours) at a checkpoint where all is required is to wait, show a passport and check your baggage through a machine (if you are not questioned) so bad? I guess the main issue is freedom of choice. And fear of the other. From both sides.
• On a happy note, all of the 5 boxes that I sent from Indiana with at least 15 years of scores and music arrived safely to Jerusalem without any trouble of inspection. It’s strange to think this way . . but in fact a large portion of my brain is stored in those very pages . . my first score markings in the Beethoven symphonies and Brahms symphonies. . those red and grey pencil scratches and blotches contain a wealth of synapses.