My name is Catalina. I grew up hearing Biblical stories and imagining from a young age what my life would or could be if I lived in Palestine. I wished to be able to share life with individuals there and hear their own stories. Fast forward about 15 years, I am studying Arabic Language and Culture, and Islamic World Studies at Loyola, and meeting wonderful professors and peers with Palestinian lineage. From their insight and perspective, I colored more of my image and independently decided to travel to Palestine a few months after graduation.
Upon my arrival in Nablus, I couldn’t have been more grateful for the level of Arabic I gained while at Loyola that quickly allowed me to pick up much of the local dialect and converse with the Nabulsi community. Learning and speaking Arabic was my gateway to learning so much about culture and history.
While buying my produce in local markets, I learned from Abu Samir what the region grows, what produce is in season, and where to buy all the best food products. While drinking tea and eating knafeh, I learned about international relations, wars, and the impact that has on daily life. During dinners at Balata refugee camp, I learned to cook mujaddara, maftoul, maqloubeh, makdous, and madloqa. After a compliment, I ended up learning tatreez ( broidery) with my Palestinian contemporary. Over an aside about my martial arts background, I trained with the Palestinian National Taekwondo team. While greeting people on the street, I learned about the Palestinian circus and popular music events. All my experiences came out of immersing with the community and speaking their language.
Being in Palestine was much more than the experiences I wrote about above. My experience was about gaining perspective and witnessing lives that are not precisely written down in books or translated into English. My experience was about living with a community and learning.