Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Visit from Kamel

Kamel Boudjemil came to stay on my couch as a gift from my young French friend Felix, who joyfully lodged in our third bedroom for six months as he worked at Human Rights Watch last fall, before he high-tailed it to Beirut to put his Arabic lessons to the test. I had asked for some of the crepes Felix is making at a creperie, back in Paris after a tour in Yemen and before he heads to Syria. Or, I'd said, "you can send someone to make me crepes..."

Kamel did not make crepes and I felt too guilty to take him up on his offer to make Quiche Lorraine though he brought us a delicious bottle of French wine and a book of Babar in French for the kids. Next visit he'll make us the quiche.

It was a joy to host Kamel, who was relegated to the couch since Lisa, a poet from New Jersey, currently resides in the extra room. A political science major at Sciences Po in Paris, he offered up great wisdom on the Middle East regions he understands well and offered up, for me, as Felix had, some great hope that the next generation will figure all this out, that we will somehow come to some peace simply because our future politicians, like Kamel and Felix, will not think to do otherwise.

I gave Kamel a big gold star, which he placed in the middle of the red felt square he had attached to his hat, the remnants of a friend's slightly Marxist club. Who knows what -isms, if any, will work. He left New York with a lot of memories and a bag full of great American books including George Orwell's Animal Farm, Charles Bukowski's Women  and some Woody Allen. We talked, hopefully, of doing an international book club over Skype. I would love it.

These cultural exchanges are crucial for understanding others, for finding a way to appreciate one anothers' practices instead of hating them, to, ideally, finding peace. My fingers are crossed that my young brilliant friends will work fast, saving regions like Beirut from falling, again, into ruin.

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