“Oh-oh! You must be kidding me,” we gasped the moment we set foot in the place where we were supposed to sleep. “Are we going to sleep inside those?” sneered one. “Yes!” I grinned, stating the obvious. I enthusiastically hurried to fetch my tent among the other 500 tents on each written the same number our badges have. Having had such a hectic day of flying from Cairo to Madrid then to Granada, the last thing we all needed to do was to search for our assigned numbers, and all what we needed was to snuggle down into our sleeping-bags. Dragging myself from one tent after another, I finally managed to find my number. Phew, mine was 353! This camping trip was such a blast. Whoopee!
The very next morning we asked each other whether we had a good night’s sleep inside those tents. One friend got a stiff back from sleeping on the hard ground since I, at his insistence, was generously given his sleeping-bag because I didn’t bring mine –as if I ever had one. I actually owe him much gratitude. Then, my friend and I had much fun nicknaming those tents. Greenhouse-like tents, hatching farm, tuna cans, egg-shells and incubator-like boxes are among those funny nicknames.
Excitedly following my Facebook updates, my too-concerned lovely mom gave me that long-distance call only to ask about what the hell those tents were meant for. “Those were substitutes for bedrooms, mom,” I giggled trying to have her relaxed. Yet, she showered me with a series of concerns. In such a motherly tone, she started “tell me, dear, how you manage to sleep in such a tiny thing. Is it big enough to stretch out in? Is it safe? Solid? Cold? Hot? Is it…? Is it…?”. “Mom,” I begged, “please, you need to stop worrying about me. Wallahi (I swear to God) I am fine. And, more to the point, I didn’t come here to sleep.” I hung up, not expecting her to worry less. She is a mom after all. No matter how hard we try to assure them we are fine, and there’s no need to worry, they keep worrying just in case. God bless all mothers.
Actually, it wasn’t the tent that annoyed me the most, but rather the discordant melodies of the snores that made my nights sleepless. I didn’t tell my mom that each night I had to sneak on tiptoes so as not to disturb the snoring bodies that already disturbed me, over to the Computer Hall where I could enjoy the liveliness of the place. I couldn’t help but think of all the Palestinians in refugee camps. It wasn’t the tent that worried them the most, but rather the home that was replaced by such a tent. In any case, my mom needed not to worry. Surrounded by extra protection and further benevolence from those whom I was lucky to meet and befriend, I couldn’t have been safer.
I am thankful for the one who generously gave me his sleeping-bag, for the one who patiently accompanied me during my shopping, making sure I wouldn’t get lost in Carrefour Market, for the one who tolerated my many stops whenever I got attracted by something, for the one who volunteered to give me his laptop when mine broke down, for the one who showered me with wisdoms and inspirational moments, for those whom I kept bothering with my constant would-you-please-take-a-photo-of-me interruptions during our hikes and for all those amazing people who were in charge of the whole event. I can’t but miss all those friends, especially the Syrians, Algerians, Egyptians, Tunisians and, never to forget the amazing Palestinians, from the West-Bank and Jerusalem, whom I could only meet abroad since the apartheid-like structures imposed by the Israeli Occupation on our land have made it impossible for us to pay each other some visits in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza, Hebron, and any place in our Palestine, wherever that may be.
And, finally, my special thanks are due to our kind coordinator who told us that we were free to take our tents back home, so I could show my mum that my tent was big, safe and suitable enough to accommodate me. Only then did she realize that my tent is perfectly usable to the point that it becomes an essential piece of equipment needed each time we go camping on Gaza beach. This tent will always remain a memento of my trip to Granada. This tent will always be a poignant reminder of our refugees’ right of return to their home the soonest they can.
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|F. William Engdahl|