“Brenda Abou El Ola’s book is a perceptive account of one woman’s experience of crossing borders – Britain’s and Lebanon’s. Two ‘ordinary’ people – both divorced, both with children – come face-to-face with red tape, misconceptions and each other as they struggle with language, customs and their own personalities. The author shows particular insight into her own character. “
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“I was a middle aged British teacher with grown up children. He was a Palestinian living in a notorious refugee camp in
Lebanon, a member of Fatah the major Palestinian political party, with teenaged boys. I went to
Lebanon and lived with my new family in Ein El Helwa camp, in Saida, (despite advice against this) Crossing Borders records the journey that we undertook to become a family and the problems that we seemed to hit at every turn. It tells of the gradual understanding through my experiences of the little that most of us know (or care) about other cultures and societies and how pre-conceived ideas, from the media or other, have a major impact on our impressions and comprehensions of the world, the people in it and the way we live. It is also an understanding of the barriers we humans put between ourselves, culturally, socially and emotionally, and the extent of the borders we are willing to cross.”
Chapter 3 - First Days
A sound like a 1940’s air raid siren being slowly cranked up gradually penetrates my sleep disoriented ears. As I struggle into wakefulness it seems as if the siren has now been joined in disharmonic reverie with some ancient bagpipes. Then, after a struggle the sounds become almost recognizable as a voice, strangely stretched and wailing, distorted almost beyond human capability. It grows clearer and as it does so another voice joins with it from close by, then another from further away, echoing and reverberating across the roof tops and tree tops, and back around the town where I am sleeping.
‘God is great….there is no God but God..’
If I knew Arabic I would know that this is what we are being told in the first of the five exhortations to prayer of the day. This is the fajjer, the prayer of the sunrise, and though it is dark still, it must be approaching dawn. I reach for my watch in the darkness and see that it is 4.30am. It is easy for an infidel such as I to close eyes and ears against the calls and fall back asleep.