Saturday, April 9, 2011

April 9th-Seminar and Remembrance

Today was my seminar. The fruits of a full semester's work condensed in a 20 minutes presentation. I have freaked out, found solace in retail therapy, practiced for hours, and got the unwelcome dark circles under my eyes. But I was ready. I had finished the rough draft of my paper, some 22 pages full of gloriousness, and I was happy with my powerpoint. I was ready to ROLL.

Seminars in BZU are a huge deal, especially in the business/tijara building. The guy dressed in his new suit comes out of his presentation riding on someone's shoulders waving his hands regally and blowing air kisses to the minions below. His friends start singing and a drum/tableh is procured out of thin air. A whole zaffeh starts, with the guy's mother/grandmother/aunt ululating like there's no tomorrow. The zaffeh travel around campus before making its way to the main cafeteria where everybody who feels like it joins in, all cheering and clapping. It always brings a manic grin to our faces because the whole atmosphere is just so infectious. Naturally this leads to a discussion between me and Heba, where we plan our own seminars, what outfits we'd wear (red, white and striped all over), and what sort of people will lead our very own zaffeh (belly dancers and old men).

The girl's seminar is different from the guy in that she spends more time on her clothes and make-up than the presenting time, and afterwards there is no zaffeh or matriarchal ululations. Pictures are taken, bouquets are received, and the customary dinner with friends at some restaurant seems to be the routine, all of which I did today.

I remember my older brother's seminar three years ago. The whole family came, and while my brother was presenting a snoozefest about something to do with finance, my father kept us all in stitches by causing a silent disruption as he kept moving all around the room taking pictures. Chocolate and candy were passed out afterward, and then we went home while my brother stayed with his friends.

When it came to my turn, at first I was adamant that no family should be present. I didn't see the whole seminar day as a big deal, especially since I wouldn't be graduating in May but sometime in August (I have to take a summer semester). The real reason was because my dad couldn't be there on my big day, and I didn't want to see any other family for fear of getting the waterworks started again.

My dad currently lives in Amman, Jordan because he doesn't have the correct Israeli military issued identification papers. He holds a Gaza ID because he had the audacity to be born in Khan Younis. The rest of my siblings (apart from my older brother) have a West Bank ID since we were registered under my mother's ID. The whole drama is documented here. My dad places a heavy stress on the importance of education, and I knew how much this day meant for him. Needless to say, he sent me a text very early in the morning, called me twice before my presentation, twice after, and I'm expecting a lovely email from him soon. He told on the phone, "We'll all be together on your graduation day, I'm very optimistic" but I just said inshallah and changed the subject.

I envy those students who treat their seminar days as they would any other day; after all it is just a 20 minute presentation. They don't bother with bringing any family because they are reserved for the day of graduation, and they don't let the hype get to their head. My family...well we're a pretty close-knit bunch. You can't even go through puberty without some interference. That was a joke. Anyway, instead of three weeks left I've still got the whole month of June, so it's better for me to keep my head down until then. When people asked me, "So how does it feel to be done?!" I replied with the customary "Amazing. Really happy!" but the smile wouldn't reach my eyes. I enjoyed all the lavish attention by my friends and honestly did feel a sense of accomplishment when done. In the middle of my presentation, when the door opened and my mother walked in--carrying with her a potted plant because apparently the flower store she went to didn't have any bouquets--I stuttered and mumbled a bit, before regaining control and finishing the whole thing off. Because somehow during the presentation, with my younger brother (who came especially from Amman where he's studying, in place of my dad) and my sister sitting there, I dismissed all emotionality that is typically associated with a seminar and treated the whole thing as a normal day. No waterworks.

Gosh, imagine what I'd be writing on my graduation day.

I went home after my outing with friends and the house was packed with the extended family. A huge feast adorned the dining room table, kabseh and dawali and salads, all thrown in celebration of my mother finally getting her West Bank ID and me finishing my seminar day. For some reason, I suddenly remembered that today was the 63rd anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre, where 254 women, children, and men were slaughtered in 1948, causing the residents of other villages and towns to flee in case they too would suffer the same fate.

Way to ruin a party.

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