Hoops in Palestine
Ay folks, this is Colin checking in for the first time from Nablus. Since touching down in Tel Aviv, time and space have blurred in a whirlwind of new sensations, sights and sounds. That said, I promise to strive for coherence and to capture a bit of the rhythm and rhyme pulsing through these early February days with TYO. The last ten days or so have spun on an axis of acclimating, orienting, learning, fooding, butchering elementary Arabic, being encouraged to continue on despite my disgraceful renditions of elementary Arabic, butchering elementary Arabic again and for the second time receiving back only smiles and “you will learn” sentiments. I've met new people, created new lesson plans, taught, connected and just begun to grasp the staggering and striking smallness of this land forever defined in biblical (literally and figuratively) proportions (cognitive dissonance, I tell ya).
Without fail, every time I walk through town I'm greeted with kind eyes and faces, with whatever English greetings people around town may have in their repertoire, with handshakes, fist pounds, free samples of food, and general good cheer. The essential kindness of Nablus' culture has exceeded any expectations I could have had.
On Sunday, I went to take some jumpshots and soon found the court surrounded by neighborhood kids watching, asking questions, introducing themselves and running through the limited cycle of their English lexicon, echoing shouts of “HELLO! WELCOME! WHAT IS YOUR NAME? HELLO! WELCOME! WHAT IS YOUR NAME?” Their curious eyes remained peering through the fence for the duration of my shootaround.
If I’m honest, though, while all their kind words were quite nice and appreciated, what made me most comfortable out here in Nablus, what reminded me most of home, was that there were also a few brave souls amongst the onlooking group bold enough to offer a little smack talk. As I've established, my Arabic leaves much to be desired. Nonetheless, some messages transcend linguistic divides and can stand alone without the burden of translation. The sporadic heckling I heard when I missed a shot speaks thus speaks to the universality of trash-talk while also reminding me that hey, maybe New York is not that far after all.
Basketball has never been a game based on cordiality and gentlemanly propriety and, for me, hoops minus trash talk invites an identity crisis. So, for the one or two lads bold enough to express their inner Rucker Park MC, I thank you. In a strange twist of events, their cool helped me find my own in Nablus. I’m sure I’ll be seeing plenty of them in the months to come, and if you're reading this lads, I'll be out here all spring. Come on down and play, let's see what you got!
I’ll be checking in again soon. Until then, stay fly.
Colin is an intern at TYO Nablus.