Where To This Time?
By Samar Sha’aban

I am sick and tired of moving. The fear of getting attached to friends clutches
at my heart… I am so terrified at getting attached to places….
From Shatila to Mazraa, to Ouzai, back to Shatila, then to Raouche, then
Shatila another time and from there where to?

I was born in Shatila a year before the War of the Camps broke out. My father
and sister were killed in that war while my mother, brothers, sisters and I
moved to Mazraa area to live in a building inhabited by Lebanese and Palestinian
displaced. My childhood was spent in the one-roomed Mazraa house. Our house in Shatila did not mean anything to me for I had left it at a very young age and before getting attached to it. Maybe places did not mean anything to me back then.
I started to discover the world in Mazraa. The four years I spent there taught
me a lot. With Samia, Joumana, Bilal, Nidal, Nihal and Amal, I learnt the
meaning of cooperation through sharing the candies we used to buy together or
through accumulating the money we got on the Adha feast and then go together to
the Luna Parks. When I was five years old, the owner of the building we lived in
got the permission to vacate his building. So Bilal, Nidal, and Nihal went to
the Horch, Samia went to Hamra while we were transported by a mini bus to Ouzai
where my mother had rented a small house.

On my first day at Ouzai, I cried until there were no more tears in my eyes. I
was scared by the place and I missed my friends and neighbors in Mazraa. Only my
mother’s promise to visit them soon calmed me that day.Under the fig tree in Ouzai, and after playing with Zeinab and Manal, I started to like the new place and my new friends. There, the girls’ father used to sing us:" Yesterday under the fig tree you said you loved me." But as soon as I started to feel safe in my new home, my mother decided to move back to Shatila, to our house! to the place where I was born and which did not mean much to me? Darine, Halimeh, Souhaila, Rasha, Insaf, Mohammad, Ihab, Soubhi, and Othman became the new friends that I loved, was loved by, and played with " Koraimshe" and cards.  My second mother, Um Mohammad, used to pamper me a lot. Most of the times, I used to find myself waking up to go and spend the night next to her. In Shatila, I learned that Like Sobhi and Othman, I was Palestinian while Nihal and Manal, my friends at Mazraa, were Lebanese. My mother got married and handed us to our grandparents who lived at Raouche in the Attar building for the displaced. A new place. Would I come to love it and have new friends? Would I find there a new Um Mohammad or new Nihal, Rasha, or Ahmad? What if I came to love them and had to leave them another time. No, I wouldn’t allow myself to love the place or its inhabitants… But the ice-cream man and our gathering around his car at sunset, the sea and walks on the seashore, the Raouche Rock, all hooked me to the place and its inhabitants.

One night, as I was returning home with Iktimal and Nisrine from the sunset walk, we read the paper hung on the building’s wall: "The building should be vacated in 20 days, or else violators would be held responsible."Packing and bidding the place farewell, going to Shatila for the third time, to where I live now. At Shatila, I know many youngsters and old people, but I try not to love them a lot…. That is why I am accused of being cold and distant! Maybe, but I don’t want to love the people from whom I would be separated soon. Moving from Shatila to Mazraa, to Ouzai, back to Shatila, and then to Raouche, and Shatila has taught me new words and their meanings, I learned and lived separation, farewell and instability. These places never gave me the sense of security…  My constant moving did not allow me to get attached to it.

Currently I live in Shatila, but who knows where would I be next. I only want to leave Shatila to return to Palestine where I belong…. Isn’t it my right to settle in one place like all human beings…? To settle in a place where I would have a house that gives me security and embrace me? Such a place can only be there, in Palestine.