8 Chapters
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8. The Plan

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM A PALESTINIAN REFUGEE CAMP IN LEBANON

 

The moment the new art teacher walked into Rami’s classroom, he and every other boy bounced up straight in their seats. With her cheerful smile and green eyes, her shiny brown hair and pink smock that said “You Gotta Have Art,” she looked like all the flowers of springtime.

“We are very fortunate, boys,” announced the principal in his best speech-making Arabic, “to have Miss Nuha Trabulsi to teach you art for the rest of the term. Of course, she has to go to other schools in the camp as well, and therefore she can come here only one day a week, on Thursday. But she will make you learn many things about art—how to draw and how to paint, and maybe other things.” He glanced at Miss Trabulsi for confirmation.

She smiled. “Definitely,” she said.

Rami thought, only one hour a week? And he’d have to share Miss Trabulsi with more than a thousand other boys?

Others might have been discouraged by such odds, but not Rami. After one good look at Miss Trabulsi, he decided on his life’s mission—for the next three months, at least.

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2. Faces

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM SYRIA

 

Shifting uneasily on the velvet-cushioned divan, Suhayl surveyed the grand reception room. This was his first visit to the Turkish bath, a treat from his father. Upon his arrival he had been awed by the ancient building with its floors of colored tiles, the marble fountain, and peacocks painted on the walls—almost like a palace, he thought, where wonderful things might happen. As for the bath part, in some mysterious inner chambers he’d taken a good hot shower and then gotten dressed quickly, while his father went through the whole process: thumping massage, thorough scrubbing, and a final dip in cool water.

Now the time had come to talk. Suhayl shot a furtive glance at his father. Even now, he tried to hold on to a few wisps of hope. Maybe … maybe Papa would say he was coming home. In spite of the anger that had simmered inside Suhayl for months, he still longed for those days when they’d been a family, when his father and mother had both been there for him.

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5. In Line

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM EGYPT

 

Halfway home from school, on a lovely clear day in December, I did something really daring. I decided to change my route. Not much, of course, because my mother knew exactly how long it took me to get home and she would be waiting. I just thought it would be nice to walk along the canal a bit and pretend it was the Nile. That’s how it happened I ran into Fayza.

I’d noticed her in class. You could hardly not notice her, even in a classroom as packed with people as ours. She always raised her hand to answer the teacher’s questions—she even asked good questions of her own! What’s more, she was a lot smarter than most of the boys and wasn’t afraid to let them know it. So I’d begun to think I’d like to get to know her. But how? Most people still acted as if I were from Mars, or someplace even farther away, and they couldn’t figure me out. I was afraid Fayza might feel that way, too.

Well, I would try, at least.

Fayza was standing at the edge of the canal, holding a big bunch of flowers—roses so bedraggled they looked as though the flower seller had given them to her for free. But what made me curious was the way she was staring down at the canal. I stopped near her to see what she was looking at. It was a donkey, dead, lying there in the water.

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6. Scenes in a Roman Theater

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM TUNISIA

 

With a sigh, Hedi plunked himself down on a stone seat in the Roman theater. As the last of the afternoon’s tourists straggled off and disappeared among the ancient walls, he stared dully at the grand view of the ruins and the green hills of the Tunisian countryside beyond.

He hadn’t done very well today. Only one hat sold. His mother would be disappointed, and he wouldn’t blame her … having to make those hats every night after her day’s labor in the fields, weaving straw till her fingers were sore. Tomorrow he’d try harder. Midwinter break from school gave him a few days to earn money, and he couldn’t waste the chance.

It’d be so much better, Hedi often thought, if he could be a guide, more interesting and more money. Once in a while he did manage to latch on to a friendly couple and show them a few sights … the temple, the theater, the baths and marketplace—and best of all, the communal toilet where twelve people could sit at a time. That always got a laugh, and Hedi would get a few small coins. But that was all. A real guide had to be older and know a lot more.

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4. The Olive Grove

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM PALESTINE

 

Hustling along behind the other boys, Mujahhid stooped to grab a stone, then quickly caught up. About halfway across the open square they stopped. Right next to the military checkpoint was a two-story stone house that the Israelis had taken over. The boys could see the olive-drab helmets of soldiers behind sandbags on the flat rooftop.

“Take that, you dogs!” Mujahhid shouted in Arabic, hurling the stone toward them. “Get out of Bethlehem—it’s our town!”

Shouting with every throw, he then flung whatever he could get his hands on … chunks of plaster, pebbles, concrete rubble, worn bricks from the older streets. The soldiers, of course, had every other kind of missile—bullets, stun grenades, tear gas, shells. Today they weren’t firing, though, not yet. The boys grew bolder and started making dashes to throw from closer range.

You can get near enough to see faces, thought Mujahhid, but not what’s in their eyes. Anyway, they’re all the same … they all hate us. Even the young guys, just three or four years older than us, hard as their rifles.

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