You know you’re a Middle Easterner when…

20 May 2011 § Leave a comment

I just got an email from a Northern Irish (though he’s the sort, I suppose, who would just call himself Irish) friend of mine who is doing research in Palestine. He’s young. Actually, younger than me by a bit, but as things go in Europe, he had a law degree by the time he was 21, was doing the masters program with me by the time he was 22 and now at 25 is nearly through with his PhD – which is sort of a comparative between Norn Irish and  Palestinian conflict and post-conflict narratives. Now, this friend is old enough to remember the later days of the conflict in NI, but I don’t think he was directly exposed to a lot of confrontation or violence. I genuinely can’t say for sure though. He is a buoyantly upbeat guy and not the sort to disclose a sob story if he has any.

Anyway, every once in a while he sends out an email dispatch about his experiences from the field, and it so happens that he was in the West Bank for the latest commemoration of the Nakba which, by his own accounts was quite aggressive and tense, and by news accounts is one of the most tumultuous commemoration they’ve had in years. So, anyway, my friend is writing about the day in his email and starts describing how he was perplexed when he saw a couple of young Palestinian guys carrying these huge burlap bags filled with…onions. He starts laughing to himself, wondering what these crazy kids are doing coming to a commemoration march with onions?

Now, of course, I think all us good Middle Eastern kids have caught on to what these Palestinian blokes were doing, but my friend is describing how crazy he thinks this is (and no doubt it is perceived as crazy by the mostly Irish recipients of his email as well) and finally comes out with why these dudes were passing out the onions, see? Cause you’re supposed to sniff ’em to counteract the effects of the teargas!

By this point in the email I was just smiling to myself and shaking my head knowingly, and then laughing at myself because of course I knew that, but when someone handed me a cracker at a Christmas dinner PG and I attended this past December I was wary and wondering WHAT CRAZY MANNER OF CONTRAPTION IS THIS? What madness! Why are they handing me this tube of paper instead of letting me eat my turkey? Oh, I get it…are there napkins in this thing? PG eventually caught onto the look of total bewilderment on my face and kindly explained under his breath what I was meant to do.

Bag of onions
Christmas Crackers

What an odd odd world we live in.

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