A power outage (nothing new here) is a good time to contemplate the moon, the clouds, the stars, the sighing sea… if you have no more pressing matters at hand.
The days still sear with heat, the nights bring little relief until early morning hours. Many sit outside or rooftop when the power cuts, avoiding the oven heat unique to cement block homes packed tightly together in camps.
In the ministry of social affairs a few days ago, I inquired about electric wheelchairs, hoping to connect a disabled 18 year old with a source of independence. But, I was told, there are just 33 functioning electric wheelchairs to be given (by lottery) to 500 waiting applicants. These 33 are thanks to one of the Viva Palestina convoys which brought 39 in total. The remaining 6 wait for new batteries, the batteries depleted and US voltage not compatible with chargers here. How many small complications there are that make for larger problems… if only borders were open, chairs could be brought in, batteries and chargers, too… if only…
Speaking later with an NGO worker in touch with the different bodies and NGOs of the health sector, I learn that among the most pressingly needed items are: an MRI, a CT-scan, a catheter system, an x-ray imaging system, and eye surgery machinery (I think of 70 year old Mohammed Kahawish who applied over a year ago to leave Gaza for surgery on his cataract-covered eye which has left him more than half blind–his other eye is poor –throws him off-balance and lends more difficulty to his already difficult work of scavenging through rubbish for recyclable plastics.)
An earlier taxi ride has its problems: a passenger gets out of the car on the traffic side without warning the driver. The traffic police are close by and the driver disappears for several minutes while explaining his version of the story. He re-appears, still broadly smiling, and resumes the conversation we’d begun about where I came from. Amazed that he’s kept his good mood after dealing with universal police bureaucracy, I humour him when he asks me to speak to his brother, who he’s already begun calling. “He loves foreigners,” the driver keeps grinning, assuring me. So I go along with it, and surely the man does love foreigners. We just get past “how are you?” when he’s insisting over the phone that I come for tea.
Nothing new in Gaza.
Yesterday, a driver humoured my photo penchant, allowing me to snap the rows of tissues he has on hand to give instead of the missing half-shekel coins –for those who will accept the barter (in this sweaty heat, it’s a fair trade).
Today, I can’t pass up the chance to photograph the stuffed toys another driver has propped with care on his dashboard: these are all too common, along with: teddy bears on motorcyles, ‘cowboy up’ stickers on windows (complete with cowboy hat), and other cute, furry decor hanging from windshields and mirrors in most vehicles. [The incongruity of such fluffy props and their broken down, shattered-windowed vehicle hosts never ceases to strike me. Nor does the incongruity of a grown man who proudly displays such creatures, although many outside of Palestine might frown upon such display of childishness. But I don’t see it as immaturity, but in sync with the very open ability to love children and the fun side of life.]
No sooner do I snap, then does the taxi itself snap, rolling to a stop (note: the ‘taxi’ is in fact, like so many, a beat up private car used as a means of income; the driver has to hold the lock up and have someone open the passenger door from the outside in order for me to exit). Driver and other passenger get out, passenger seeming to know about cars. But in the end, it doesn’t come back to life. Nothing new in Gaza. Driver attempts to return my fare, but I’m thinking of how I can accidentally drop some extra shekels to help with repair costs.
Sometimes, the only solace comes in the early hours, when the heat blows away and only the rooster are talking.