I Remember by Nima

Nima, one of my former students, took a “Writing as a Spiritual Practice” class with me and one evening we explored the theme of memory. Now a fourth-year medical student, Nima wrote this recollection of her time in Egypt and Gaza with the activist group Viva Palestina USA.

I remember walking up and down the street where Grand Pyramids Hotel was located a million times.

I remember the smell of El-Kahera, el habibi, Cairo.

I remember being surprised at how many young people were going to Gaza.

I remember feeling like I would lose it if I had to stay in this hotel one more day.

I remember feeling hurt about all the Cairo-bashing from those who spent no more than nine days in the land of the Nile.

I remember the first moment of getting on the minibus, thinking that I would reach Gaza two days later.

I remember the feeling of my heart sinking when we were stopped at the checkpoint at Suez and it was 30, 60, 120 minutes later.

I remember spending the night at the Suez Canal.

I remember my exact heart palpitations when the two young Palestinian-American boys tried to hit the Egyptian officials.

I remember thinking of torture when they called the Riot Police.

I remember my chest tightening when I saw 2 boxed black vans pull up with Egyptian Army men sitting in the back.

I remember sitting in front of the minibus the following morning with Ameliano and the girls from Jersey talking about which protest experience was the scariest for us…I remember thinking this has been my scariest one and then remember wondering why people thought protesting somehow made you a hero and remember thinking we definitely need to re-think stuff.

I remember talking with Rheem when he came with me to buy toilet paper in Cairo and I learned that his parents were revolutionaries in the Eritrean Independence war.

I remember ordering lamb curry with Ahmed, Rheem and Khouri and watching Ahmed slowly fall asleep.

I remember on the way to Suez Ameliano telling me “I thought you were just some do-gooder doctor chick that just wanted to help, I didn’t know you were all into social justice and economics, that’s pretty cool”

I remember how he never looked at me the same way.

I remember thinking “Man, I hope I don’t come off like that to everyone”.

I remember peeing twice in a toilet full of shit at the Suez check point.
I remember entering the gates at the Rafah checkpoint and remembering why I came.

I remember my first step on Gazan soil.

I remember feeling like it was all unreal.

I remember big buildings with big holes.

I remember chicken and rice at every meal.

I remember being on the balcony staring at the sea, feeling waves of peace and turmoil crash within me.

I remember thinking 24 hours is not enough.

I remember the press conference with Hamas.

I remember Hamas officials not letting us pay for anything.

I remember children waving in piles of rubble, men waving from tiny shops, boys holding pens in the 
air and notebooks.

I remember seeing tents with people praying, temporary masjids built on ruins.

I remember thinking “what God” do these people pray?

I remember feeling exhausted always.

I remember hunger pangs.

I remember walking with the beautiful dark-haired-dark-eyed Palestinian-American Lawyer, who, when I told her I was a medical student looked straight in my eyes and said so genuinely “good for you”, I remember the empty look in her eyes when she spoke of law.

I remember the “Free Gaza” banner falling slightly from one of our AID trucks.

I remember wondering if I was really helping the Palestinians by being here.

I remember the smell of the garden herb a Gazan woman handed to me when I stepped off the bus.

I remember flocks of media- none of it was American.

I remember standing around Galloway listening to his speech.

I remember feeling greasy and dirty.

I remember feeling like I’ve never been so sleep-deprived in my entire life.

I remember thinking I can’t even begin to comprehend what the Gazans went through even though I’m here.

I remember the gut-wrenching feeling of emptiness I feel when I miss Cairo.

I remember the guilt I felt leaving Gaza.

I remember how there were never any tears, that I had been waiting for all this time.

I remember wondering where all the tears went.

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