Loads of Language II

Loads of Language II

I look at a picture of a hillside filled by those low stone walls that divide it into evenly spaced terraces, so to allow the olive trees to grow with the least possible effort.

The scenery this picture depicts is amongst the most familiar sceneries in Palestine; so familiar that one wouldn’t have looked at its picture with such an attention, as I did. This also would have not been the case probably, hadn’t I just returned home from outside. It was a dinner party in a restaurant in an old neighborhood in Seoul. Vast tins stuffed with pepper and sesame plants stood next to huge jars; huge enough to allow Aladdin to hide inside them, but for now they were filled with sauces and fermented food. Tins and Jars all were neatly arranged all over the place: down the alleys, in doorways, on balconies and over the low rooftops.

On leaving the neighborhood to sink in the silent darkness, I decided to take the bus instead of the subway back home. The bus came even before I could finish bowing before my friends. I quickly climbed up and sat on a seat by the window at the back of the bus, and left my eyes to be dragged into the night of Seoul. Streets scribbled with car-lights, young men and women coming and going on the streets pavement, and brash colours of neon signs flickering non-stop, making the city look like a jukebox standing in a corner of a cafe.

So when I arrive home and see that picture, I suddenly, terrified, realize how distant I’m. Over the past five years, after leaving Palestine, hillsides like these have disappeared from my sight. And only tonight, here, I realize that. Such scenery, of which my existence was an indivisible part for so many years, has become out of reach. I am outside.

From such distance, I rush to look for what may have remained with me, despite my leaving. But even the ground cardamom, which I have insisted on carrying, as it somehow kept me attached to many of the people and things there, I have recently stopped carrying; its small particles seemed to grow too heavy for me. And all I find is words.

For a wanderer like myself, which her primary concern is to possess as less as possible so to carry as less as possible, only words are left. Words that have no weight, no size, no smell; quiet, invisible, intangible, are all I can carry in my ceaseless wandering from one city to another. Words, though, are able to do what the stones do in the walls in that picture of a hillside. In all sizes and in all shapes, small and large, heavy and light, they join together to turn a strange land into a land I can live in with the least possible effort.


Adania Shibli (Seoul - September 2008)


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