I’ve finally had time to catch my breath and begin posting the Chapter Companions promised at the end of my book, Fast Times in Palestine. They’ll contain most of the text left out of the newer version (most of which can also be read here) plus links to other relevant stories, articles, and photos.

Visit my Footnotes page to find links to all articles cited in the book. I’ve saved a copy of each article, so if a link is ever broken, please let me know (pamolson @ gmail) and I’ll post it online and link to it there.

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    COMPANION TO CHAPTER ONE

Chapter One’s text isn’t much different in the final version that it was in the original, and you can read it here, with the following pictures to illustrate it:

The Sinai

Dahab

Dahab

From a trip I took to Dahab in 2005. I'm the one in the wetsuit, getting ready for a dive north of Dahab.

Mars-like Saudi mountains across the Gulf

Mars-like Saudi mountains across the Gulf

IMG_0673

The Citadel at sunset

The Citadel at sunset

A sliver of an expansive sunset view of Amman from the Citadel

The same view with a bit more light

A small part of the expansive view from the Citadel

Wheeling pigeons (under the flag)

Wheeling pigeons (under the flag)

Night draws near

Night draws near

The Treasury at Petra

(For maps of the region, see my Maps page.)

But two (out of four) epigraphs (quotes at the beginnings of books) were left out of the new version. The first was:

    “There are people who prefer to say ‘Yes,’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘No.’ Those who say ‘Yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say ‘No’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”

The most impactful class I took at Stanford was called Improvisation for Theater, taught by a visionary professor named Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. Through her and Johnstone’s wonderful book, I came to see that the tenets of Improv could be applied not just on stage but to life itself — because after all, what is life but one big improvisation?

This quotation in particular inspired me to say ‘Yes’ to a lot of strange offers after college — including the one to travel to Egypt instead of Greece or Italy as I had originally planned.

    “I am a man; nothing human is alien to me.”

      ~ Terence, Berber playwright of the Roman Republic

This one spoke deeply to me. If I had any pre-conceived ideas before landing in the Middle East, this was it (though at times it was sorely tested). In the end, the more I learn about the world and other cultures, the more truth I see in it. We are all one human race, with far more similarities than differences. And we truly have no idea what we might be capable of if were found ourselves thrust into certain situations.

This Orwell quotation was included in the new version, but it was cut down a bit. Here it is in full:

    “So much political capital has been made out of the Barcelona fighting that it is important to try and get a balanced view of it… Nearly all the newspaper accounts published at the time were manufactured by journalists at a distance, and were not only inaccurate in the facts but intentionally misleading. As usual, only one side of the question has been allowed to get to the wider public. Like everyone who was in Barcelona at the time, I saw only what was happening in my immediate neighborhood, but I saw and heard quite enough to be able to contradict many of the lies that have been circulated… It is… necessary to try and establish the truth, so far as it is possible. This squalid brawl in a distant city is more important than might appear at first.”

Chapter One was tricky to write because it required squeezing a very dramatic and life-changing year and a half into 13 short pages (so that we could get to the good stuff in the Middle East).

I had to leave out a lot of freshman-in-the-world philosophical musings, tortured self-reflection, a summer backpacking trip through Europe that I had no business taking (a rational person would have paid off her student loans instead), an affair with an Irish sailor that went horribly wrong, my summer at a crazy Russian summer camp, and nearly everything I experienced in the Middle East other than the times I had in Palestine.

It’s a brutal reality of writing a memoir. In the process of taking many wild events and finding the thread of meaning within them, a tremendous amount has to be left out. Otherwise you’ll end up with a two-thousand-page monster that no one will ever read.

I’ve compiled some of these “outtakes” into inexpensive eBooks, which you can browze on my Amazon Author Page (or check out below). But most of the stories can be read for free at the links above.

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Siberian Travels:
My journey from Moscow to the Sea of Japan in December 2000

Camp Golden Shaft: Adventures in southern Russia and the Middle East in 2003

Camp Golden Shaft: Adventures in southern Russia and the Middle East in summer and fall 2003

Tribute for Ronan: A true story of love, death, and betrayal that landed me on the cover of an Irish tabloid

Tribute for Ronan: A true story of love, death, and betrayal that landed me on the cover of an Irish tabloid


The Fable of Megastan: If America had been Iraq for the past 30 years

The Fable of Megastan: If America had been Iraq for the past 30 years

The Brimming Void: Poetry (mostly inspired by California and the Middle East)

The Brimming Void: Poetry (mostly inspired by California and the Middle East)

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Simple eBook Formatting for the Technophobic Author in case you’d like to format and publish your own eBook — with a little patience, anyone can do it