Apologies for not being in touch for a while. I’ve been focusing on finishing a novel and dealing with a personal issue that’s taken up a lot of bandwidth. My novel, Sinai Moon (formerly The Bracelet), has changed significantly since its humble beginnings, and I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the year. The book has made me laugh and helped me through some tough times, and I hope it will do the same for others.
Last time I wrote was just before my book tour through Scotland, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, and Turkey in the spring of 2015. It was exhausting but awesome. Highlights include a lively interview with the BBC in Scotland and a live interview on Turkish TV with a presenter who didn’t really speak English (luckily he prepped me ahead of time on what the questions would be).
And a lavish event at the La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art & Spa (& Restaurant) in Bahrain. The venue is a massive restored 19th century mansion with atmospheric interiors and romantic courtyards with elegant art installations and a gargantuan fountain (perfect for discussing dangerous politics, as no one could overhear you above the roar).
I don’t think this picture conveys how truly massive that Fontaine is
A band of traditional Bahraini musicians set the mood during the event, and I gave a book talk and Palestine presentation to a large audience under the stars. (I was surprised how many people in the Gulf in general were surprised by what I had to say. The news just can’t show how beautiful it is or how bad things really are.) Afterwards I found the band having dinner in one of the courtyards, and we talked into the late hours.
In May of this year Ahmed and I did a 6000-mile road trip to the Grand Canyon, LA, Big Sur, the Bay Area, the Lost Coast, Oregon, Montana, and Yellowstone. Ahmed liked the Grand Canyon best, and I loved watching sea lions play in the mighty current of the Klamath River as it flowed into the Pacific Ocean (and catching up with old friends along the way).
Had to see Hollywood… even though you can’t really see it
McWay Falls in Big Sur
We’re back in Tulsa now, living a few steps from the Arkansas River. We love to walk along it and watch big sunsets over Turkey Mountain as geese and herons fly overhead. Ahmed is doing great with his web design business (referrals welcome!), and I’ve been doing Palestine-related freelance work and a book talk here and there (one is coming up at UMass Amherst). We still play lots of soccer and recently rescued / adopted a wild, sweet grey kitten named Mateo.
On the Palestine front, a teacher from a refugee camp in Bethlehem, Hanan Al Hroub, won the Global Teacher Prize and the million-dollar award that goes with it. She came from modest means, offers special care to children exposed to violence, focuses on providing a safe space of freedom and play in a difficult environment, and is a regular at conferences and teacher training seminars throughout the West Bank.
Remind you of anyone?
Yep — My friend Rania is still doing all that work and more in Tulkarem. She offers desperately-needed counseling for victims of trauma and abuse, activities for children in refugee camps, programs for the disabled (including at a special school for people living with Down syndrome), and training for other counselors and community leaders. The number of lives she touches is truly staggering and humbling.
And she’s still not getting paid a dime for it. We’ve both tried several times to find outside funding, but due to the urgency of Gazans under siege and Syrians fleeing war, aid funds are scarcer than ever, and the Palestinian Authority can barely cover teacher’s salaries and garbage disposal.
So, I’m still raising money each year to pay her a modest salary of $300 a month, which not only helps her family survive but also helps hundreds of vulnerable people in her community. You can view the fundraiser here, with rewards for various levels of contribution and pictures of her work and her beautiful kids:
Lusan and Karam continue to thrive. Both are at the tops of their classes, and they just get cuter, funnier, and smarter as they get older.
Gifts of $5 or $10 add up very quickly and are more appreciated than we can say. I sent $900 before the fundraiser started, so to support the family for another year, I’ll need to raise $4500.
If you’d rather send a check or use Paypal, let me know which reward(s) you would like and I’ll let you know the best way to pay. My Paypal email is email@example.com
I pay for all rewards as well as Western Union fees, so 100% of what you give goes to Rania for her work. The generosity of so many people is the only reason Rania has been able to get through some very tough years and become a pillar of her community in a place where Israeli authorities do everything they can to stifle Palestinian life. To me she is the definition of sumoud (steadfastness).
Thank you for anything you can chip in (if you can), and please stay in touch!
Love and light,