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Journey From A Palestinian Refugee Camp to America
 
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Oceanside, California

By JAMAL KANJ

July 2012

Oceanside is a beach city located about 35 miles north of San Diego. Historically the city was a Marine camp backyard town. One of the largest US Marine bases is located just north of the city. Historically, Oceanside economic cycle tied directly to the activity of the Marine population.

Just like small University towns with high vacancy rate and snail pace commercial activities during summer holidays. Oceanside economy suffers whenever the Marines are mobilized to war. In the early 1990s during the first Iraq war, the city's economy suffered badly with the disappearing Marines population from the city streets.

Like San Diego to the south whose economy once centered on military bases and businesses, has since diversified its economy and moved away from over relying on the Marine population.

In the summer, the beaches are busy with swimmers and sun bathers. During my daily morning walk and before the beach gets crowded with beach goers, the people at the beach usually are either strolling, running, or surfing and amateur prospectors with metal detector scavenging the sand for precious metal.

It is awkward, how prospectors find fulfillment when others lose their valuables. Some have very sophisticated metal detectors with very sensitive ear muffins. In the other hand a strainer to sieve the sand when the equipment dings.
 
I talked to a treasure hunter one afternoon who explained how these sensors work and was happy to share stories  of his discoveries, especially old coins and a diamond ring. 

I remember the first time in my life when I was first exposed to these types of metal detectors. It must have been in 1972 following an Israeli air raid on my camp. The Lebanese army brought several of these doctors to scan the area of the raid for explosives left behind from the raid.

It is ironic as I always connected the detectors with bombs. On US beaches it is more associated with treasures.

Surfers in their dark wetsuit can be confused with seals waiting to ride the next big wave and fishermen lining the Oceanside pier waiting for a fish to bite. Several years ago I noticed a deaf fisherman; he was their again this summer.

There is a small bait and rental shop halfway on the pier. They sell coffee and snack. Couple of old retiree were a morning fixture on a small table to the side. They were there this year too.

I remember two years ago noticing a homeless woman scavenging inside trash cans for recyclable items that might be worth some money. But that is not the story, what stood out for me two years ago was her hair. Her mesh of hair may have not touched water in years, not even the ocean water.

Today, I was at the local store standing in line behind another homeless woman with the same type of hair. Observing it up close, her meshing hair and worn down clothing said much about her harsh life. 

One thing I noticed the two women shared, a peaceful smile that beats the stress from the grim faces of people driving the nicest cars around the city.

Until next time, Oceanside!