Day 5 The Barbecue and the case of the lost blue suitcase

I know I’ve tantalized you with the mysterious blue suitcase and I’ll tell that episode.  But first the barbecue.

Our host surgeon Dr. Ehab has taken us under his wing.  He is a very gifted vascular surgeon working is sometimes less than ideal circumstances.  He says we have everything we just cant use it.  Which is and isn’t true.  They have a lot of stuff we have to ration or rarely use and the just don’t have a lot of specialized equipment.  And help are very nice people but don’t know how we work, nor highly attentive. Today was Marty and my day to create access for dialysis patients doing 5 fistulas in an outpatient.  Things went well but for you medical people out there to get an idea of the conditions we operate under often less than ideal.  We decided its part of the experience.


As mentioned Dr Ehab is a very good surgeon but an even better person.  Last night we went to his house for a Palestinian barbecue with his four children (8months through 7 yrs), his wife who teaches medicine at the local medical school, his mother in law who cares for the kids and his father in law who does the garden but unfortunately recently suffered a severe stroke.  The night was highlighted by Marty bonding with the kids.  As I said the last blog people are the same everywhere.  Here the father in law, Dr Ehab, and the 7 and 3 year old boy took turns playing with the fire and almost setting each other or themselves on fire.  A remnant of men everywhere from our cavemen days.  I know I have it.   The menu was pure Mediterranean.  Multiple Mediterranean vegetables as well as several types of olives, hummus, with a special type of Palestinian ground something meat combo, onion, tomato, and chicken kaboobs.  The only thing difficult to eat was the sheep liver kaboobs.  Marty and I did not have seconds on that.  The first alcohol of the trip was what was called ARAQ, I have no idea what it was but tasted like fire.  It was a memorable evening.
20150327_193854.jpgDr Ehab grilling (center above), Marty bonding



Now the short version of the case of the missing (no longer) blue suitcase.

As you all know I lost my suitcase.  No big deal except my magnifying loupes were in the case, which for an old surgeon doing fine work is a problem.  The lost and found assured me no problem as the airlines Al El and Israeli airlines we were switched to (that’s another story) said but turns out it was a big problem.  No Israeli (Jewish) delivery an deliver a large blue suitcase to Nablus West Bank Palestine (Muslim) and no West Bank(Muslim) currier can go to Israel(Jewish) and pick up a suitcase.  I was told I had to go myself. 

After our second 12 hour day we had supper and at 9 pm I started out with a driver for Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv which should be a 2 1/2 hour round trip.  No problem.  The  first check point slowed us down a bit as well as getting behind a slow woman in full Muslim scarf texting and driving (see people are the same everywhere.  But the roads are excellent, the speed limit isn’t enforced, and a taxi driver who likes to drive crazy fast or get home quick (not sure).  No problem.

Until we told the security checkpoint which looked like a military camp that we were picking up a blue suitcase at the airport and taking in to Nablus, West Bank.  We were force into a little detention parking space.  I was an objective observer but my Palestinian driver who lives in Israel and holds an Israeli card, speaks perfect Hebrew, Arabic, and English was furious as were the Israeli military.  One could feel the hatred.  His face was red.  We were separated and interrogated, searched, as was the car thoroughly gone over, and then just made to wait.  My driver chain smoked the whole time.  The Israelis were quite intimidating save one very nice one who talked to me.  They wore full body amour and all carried automatic weapons and side arms.  Were all body builder type.  The Palestinian taxi driver at one point was surrounded by 4 and there were several more at the checkpoint.  It was very intimidating.  Finally at the airport they were pretty good to me but again the Palestinian was questioned.  It took us over 4 hours round trip.  I returned to our hotel exhausted.

I relate this obviously not to be humorous, but this is the way of life over here. This is very common.  Israel rules with an iron fist.  But the Palestinians consider this their country by right.  They call Israel 1948land, meaning that’s when Israel won the first Arab Israeli war and that is the land that established Israel.  Maybe more on this later but the mutual hate is palpable.  We are living with the Palestinians and they feel like prisoners in their own country.  As I watched this I noticed a wedding ring on one of the soldiers, and my driver had pictures in his cab af his two young kids.  So they were basically the same age and spot in their lives.  They were the same just on opposite sides of and ethnic and religious fence.  The middle east is going to need the worlds help to figure this out is about all I’m sure of for now.

The people live their lives and are happy, its a pretty modern state here.  But this is just below the surface always.  A humorous example was during one of our very long cases we had a young muslim tech.  Her name was Essrah.  The women here cover up themselves except their eyes and they make their eyes up which are naturally beautiful with care.  Marty and her were talking and for some reason he forgot her name and called her Israel.  That would be worse than when I was a kid at my Lutheran church to mention the pope, sign the cross, or worse yet call the service a mass.  You could have heard a pin drop.

Marty and I otherwise are doing well.  We played a little cribbage tonight.  I know why I don’t like cards as I always lose.  I forced myself to exercise, we went for a walk, as its beautiful here, wanted to blog.  The only bad part is I’m missing the Masters.  And you guys all get on Marty for not writing enough.  Otherwise all is well in Nablus West Bank.








2 thoughts on “Day 5 The Barbecue and the case of the lost blue suitcase

  1. Great experience dr asplund! I felt like i was there as i followed your story. I will travel to nicaraqua in July to work in a clinic. My first mission trip outside of the us. I am looking forward to these experiences as well. Thanks for sharing. If you need an RN on your next trip, I may be the one.
    Kelly pospychala
    Emergency RN


    1. we always enjoy the feedback. I hope to find an anesthesiologist to go and at least one nurse and an assistant as Marty can’t go I hope to be going back I think in November. I think I am going for a month but people can go for less time. The organization is Palestinian Childrens Relief Fund (PCRF) Check out their website. Have fun in Nicaraqua. I would like to go to central or south America as I can speak Spanish.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s