Pamela Olson
25 December 2005

Just a quick message to let you know I got home safe. Israeli airport security held me for four hours, confiscated only one item from my luggage (in fairness, it was a piece of a grenade), and gave me nearly 20 minutes to rush to my departing plane.

I have spent a lovely Christmas in Oklahoma and am heading to New York / DC on December 30th. I have a few more stories to finish about Palestine but will try to post them on my website and send links so as to minimize ex post facto inbox cloggage.

Thanks for hanging in there. It's been lovely having some good, thoughtful folks along for the ride in spirit.

Our new cat is permanently on acid and is playing with the dining room table right now.

All my best for 2006.


P.S. For a holiday treat, read this out loud to a friend or loved one: "I'm Sofa King, we taught Ed." My big brother always knows how to make the season bright.

January 30, 2006

Christmas with the family this year was awesome. I hadn't seen anyone except my mom and step-dad in two years, and nearly the whole extended fam got together, four generations of aunts and uncles and cousins and great-grandkids, nearly 30 people, and played football and frisbee and soccer and bean bag toss all day on our lawn in Stigler. This was after telling all our armadillo and turkey hunting stories for the year over a massive Christmas dinner. I also got to know my best friend's fiancee, who is awesome. Their wedding will be in July. And I nearly got attacked by a mad momma cow at my grandparents' house. She thought I was trying to assassinate her baby or something. I just wanted to pet it.

New York was amazing as ever, and I spent time with some great friends, including a college roommate who lives in Brooklyn and a high school roommate who flew in from Texas to visit me and another friend of hers. And I had some sushi that was so good I really almost passed out. I'm not kidding. Ask Liz.

I'm settling in nicely in DC now, living near Dupont Circle, a twenty-minute walk from the Capitol building, with two cool guys, one of them a friend from my freshman dorm at college and the other a very chill tall dude who did Peace Corps in Turkmenistan and speaks Russian. My most exciting news of the week was getting a futon from a friend of a friend to replace the leaky air mattress I'd been sleeping and shivering on up 'til then. It's just like heaven.

Other than that I've been connecting with old and new friends, going out a bit too much, going to political talks at bookstores, looking around at various job opportunities, and showering constantly to wash off the Dick Cheney vibe that saturates this place.

Ha ha, just kidding, actually the vibe here is quite nice -- a lot of smart, eager young people who want to make a difference. Most seem smart enough to have figured out that Bush isn't doing any of them any good, and I've heard that DC is about 90% Democrat. The people closest to the regime are the most turned off by it. And the Abramoff case has done a lot to restore my faith in our system, which seems to be so dangerously flagging under the onslaught of the Bush Administration. (Attorney General Gonzales's reason for not enforcing the law against spying on Americans without a warrant? It's too much of a pain in the ass. I'm not even kidding.) It even appears that some Democrats have started to grow something almost resembling a spine.

I watched an amazing address by Al Gore a couple of weeks ago about the rampant, unprecedented, and un-Constitutional abuse of Presidential power going on these days, and there might even be an Alito filibuster (hold onto your uteruses, it's going to be a bumpy ride) despite the overwhelming atmosphere of contented defeatism in the media. And then there's the 2006 elections... and then maybe, just maybe, it's payback time for Kenneth Starr. After all, killing thousands of Americans due to lies, corruption, and incompetence is a little bigger of a problem that a stain on a blue dress... though, to be fair, not nearly as titillating.

My birthday was on the 21st, and another friend from my freshman dorm made a reservation at a lounge bar called Ozio for a party. His housemate baked me a lovely white cake with blue sparkles and stars, and we invited about twenty people. It was really nice, kind of a homecoming as well as birthday party, with a good mix of old friends and new people. The drinks were superb. It's rare for me to find a bar that makes drinks better than I do. But my hat went off to their gin Cosmo.

I'll have my first big job interview next week. Wish me luck.

I got the 300 minute per month cell phone plan and can talk for free on weekends, or so T-Mobile tells me. I chose T-Mobile because Catherine Zeta-Jones is just so sexy. That little grey sweater? Man, they had me right there.

But the way companies here require years-long contracts, impose monthly minimums, allow you to choose only between unimpressive services, and charge you for RECEIVING calls and SMSes is infuriating. In Palestine and Israel, calls were cheaper, SMSes cost almost nothing, you paid as you went with no monthly fees, and receiving calls and SMSes was completely free, so you could mooch off your friends if your credit ran out, and they could mooch off you. The hierarchy of mooching based on who had more disposable income was a proud and vital aspect of Palestinian culture, a very nice way to spread the wealth a little. I think it's that way in Europe as well.

I know, I know, we only get ten paid vacation days and no free health care, either, and that's outrageous, too. But charging me an entire nickel to receive SMSes -- I don't even control who sends me SMSes! -- is just beyond the pale. I think so far that's been the worst of the culture shock.

Oh yeah, and some have asked what I thought about the Hamas win. The short answer is that I feel cautiously optimistic. Which isn't saying much, considering that the status quo was humiliating and unbearable.

And while I'm not a big fan of political Islam, I do think it's fair for me to mention that I come from a town where they erected a monument to the Ten Commandments on our courthouse lawn in gleeful violation of the Constitution, which itself is largely based on the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition with a heartening amount of secular humanism and relativism thrown in.

And the Islam of, say, the Taliban or the Ayatollahs bears about as much resemblance to the Quran as Bush bears to Jesus Christ.

I'm not apologizing for anything, least of all the repugnant repression of women in many societies at home and abroad, or the killing of innocents by anyone. And I'm a secular humanist, so I don't want anyone's dogma running my life, thanks. I'm just saying it's fair to note these things.

I'm working on a longer answer.

Next: New start in DC

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