Sunday, May 27, 2007

Broke Down in Bethlehem

After a day of visiting, eating, socializing, eating, drinking coffee, playing cards, socializing again, dancing and twice trekking back and forth up and down the streets of Bethlehem with a 30 pound baby in my arms, my host family finally decided that it was time to head back to our home in Beit Sahour. Inwardly, I was relieved. It was already 10:30pm, and beyond being exhausted from the events of the day, I was starting to stress out about getting enough rest to head out the following day at 6:30am for a day trip to Jerusalem that I felt reluctant to take. That said, we all piled into the beaten down Renault station wagon that my host is driving, which is more like two tattered seats on wheels than a proper car. The breaks sweak, none of the doors can be opened from the outside, and the exhaust from the vehicle itself is enough to render one with a day long high from the gasoline fumes. Like all nice families in this part of the world, there isn't a single working seatbelt and the adults act as veritable carseats for their own small children. Because I am an adult, I was given Ju-Ju, my favorite 30 pound child shadow to hold, who promptly fell asleep in my lap, drooling not only all over himself, but all over me as well.

Ju-Ju and I were chilling like mad villians in the back seat as we approached the very steep hill that leads to our home. Suddenly, as my host made the turn up the hill, his transmission slipped in 2nd gear, and he dropped down to first. Then the car stalled. Then we started drifting backwards. Fortunately, he had the wherewithal to turn us around, but the car was still not starting. We ended up drifting back down the hill and into on-coming traffic. Fortunately, when I say "oncoming traffic", what I mean are a few donkeys and a couple of cars that periodically fly around the bend in the road. While common sense would dictate that if a car is broken down, it may be best to allow it to drift to the side of the road, we still came to a complete stop in the middle. Fair enough. I had a sleeping child on my lap. And, oh yes, the fumes from the sputtering vehicle itself were starting to melt every braincell in my head.

In America, I would have been the first to put the child aside and say, "Dude, you're either out of fuel or your carborator just went out. When is the last time you had your fuel filter checked?" But as the female guest of a Palestinian man, I sat there behind his wife, as their child snored sweetly and fully annointed me with his baby sweat. I sat like this for nearly an hour--broken down in Bethlehem with a sleeping baby on my lap. In the distance, I could see the lights of the Israeli settlement across the valley. Even in the day time, the sight itself is ominous and looming. At night, it's just as disturbing. The rest of the valley twinkles here and there with a smattering of expensive electricity, while the settlement itself is ablaze in the night. Overhead, an Israeli drone plane buzzed on top of us for a little while, taking note of yet another poor Arab man with his family having to deal with his broken down car. Silently, I held the baby in my lap and fantasized about covering my head in a turban and finding a donkey to ride around the hillside whilst looking for an inn...but I digress.

An hour or so later, a friend of a friend of a cousin of someone's uncle showed up and told my host that his carborator was clogged. He brought fuel and did a quick job under the hood and we were quickly up and running. By this point, I was so drugged up from the fuel fumes (the gas tank was right beside my window) that it didn't matter much to me where I slept.

The good news is that I love holding these babies.

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