At the end of December, Orlando and I planned a last-minute to trip to Paris to ring in the New Year. With the recent attacks in the city, I thought there would be a lot more tension, but we found the people there to be very optimistic and friendly—Overall, the city felt welcoming and happy to celebrate a year of new beginnings. Initially, our visit was supposed to last four days, but on the last day of December, Orlando was on a plane bound for Toronto—without me.
My family and I had traveled across the United States and Canada, stopping at almost every antique store and historical site we passed, capturing the memories on film. I’m no stranger to taking the road less traveled, but this trip to Europe felt different. I was in a place that was so foreign to me and from the western world. I knew there where so many more cities to see, people to meet, and experiences to be had beyond the City of Lights. The East was calling my name with moments that I had yet to capture and stories to bring home with me. With only my passport, cameras, and a backpack I prepared myself for a journey that would bring me to 13 countries over 24 days.
I have 58 rolls of 35mm film that I am still going through, but the most memorable part of my journey that I felt compelled to share was my visit to the West Bank in Palestine. There is a long history of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and in the west, all we know is what we see on the news—the partisan views of media outlets such as BBC and CNN. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in the West Bank. I’ve always considered myself as someone who would rather experience something first hand than base my beliefs on stories from other sources. Although I didn’t know what to expect, I remained neutral, but I wasn’t prepared for the sequence of events that occurred during my stay in the West Bank.
Everything happened so quickly, but at the moment, I had no concept of time. It was like watching old footage of a train wreck in slow motion, with no sound. In reality, the sounds were deafening—a chaotic symphony of gunfire, breaking glass, the silence before an explosion followed by screams. Sounds that I would never want my children to hear. Sounds that no child should ever hear, but in the West Bank, these sounds are what make children grow up before their time. Amidst the destruction, some boys believed they were men, unfazed by what was going on. Civilians being wounded and killed are commonplace in the West Bank.
Questions surrounding the tension between Palestine and Israel have been a complex subject, often with no straight answer. Although I am back at A Nerd’s World, fulfilling my duties as the owner of my business, I have more questions about the West Bank now than before I had left. The experience changed me and the way I view the lives of the people in North America. I see people complain about the length of lines at Starbucks, yet will still wait ten minutes or more for a caffeine fix. I hear people blaring their horns because they’ve spent ten minutes stuck in traffic.
What I am sharing with you is only ten minutes of footage—yet with very few words, it speaks volumes to me. People are entitled to their own opinions, ones that are formed around the obscurity shared by the media. I’m not here to shape your views, but I do know one thing is for certain—my perception of what can happen in ten minutes will never be the same.
Chris A. Hughes