Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Leaving It All Behind

Important note before I start blogging. I am temporarily disabling my Facebook. DO NOT FREAK OUT. I will bring it back up once I'm back in the States. This is merely a precautionary measure in case airport security decides to be super thorough with me.

So the end has come. I leave in the morning to go to Ben Gurion Airport where I will face the gauntlet of airport security and long plane rides to get back to the States. Fun.

This past week has been a whirlwind. I've said many goodbyes: to the women in my English class, to the dozens of kids I've come to love, to my volunteers, to the translators that I've become friends with, to the wonderful TYO staff, and soon to the other interns. Lila left already, but tomorrow I'm the first to head out. So goodbye Tommy and Megan. It's been a blast.

Last Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving. The Americans all cooked (except Lila and Tommy who got fired from cooking duty due to ignorance. They got set-up duty). I made a killer sweet potato casserole. The Palestinian staff have done Thanksgiving before, but you could tell some of it still mystified them. "What's this?" Futoon, our outreach coordinator, said as poked at the cranberry sauce in concern.

Thursday was also the field trip with the kids and my last sight of them as a group. I've seen a couple of the neighborhood kids since, but it isn't the same.

Over the weekend I had a horrible sore throat so didn't do anything which sucked.

This week there was a party for Samin where I got to see some of my women for the last time but other than that it's been cleaning, reports, cleaning, and reports. I never thought I'd find cleaning preferable to another activity, but I did and that's report writing.

I also got to hang out with the translators a couple of times which was good. The three of them (Ruba, Amani, and Mohammad) have worked with us so closely and I consider all three of them friends. Ruba especially since I spent about eight hours a week with her but all them are wonderful. Megan and I even got to go over to the dorm where Ruba and Amani both live and hang out one last time today. It was really sad to hug them goodbye.

So goodbye Nablus. Thank you for being so wonderful and welcoming.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Just Hanging Out in Nablus

First things first, I am safe. What's happening in Gaza has very little effect on my life here. The news sounds scary, but here in Nablus, it's pretty much life as usual. And now there's a ceasefire! So hopefully the violence will end!

This past weekend was three days, which was super exciting. Thursday was Palestine's independence day (when asked what this meant for a land under occupation, the Palestinians mostly said that it was about the hope for independence someday). We still had to work on Thursday so to make up for it, we got Sunday off instead. Yay three day weekend! Of course, we're all too broke to do any more traveling, and since we've mostly seen everything we really wanted to here, we decided staying in Nablus was fine with us.

We didn't just bum around the center either. On Friday Megan, Lila and I went to Hanin's house for dinner. Hanin is our Arabic tutor as well as translator for women's aerobics and IT. She made us the Palestinian version of dolmas as well as stuffed eggplant, stuffed zucchini and stuffed cucumber. It was a lot of fun, and her family was really nice. (Note Tommy did not come. He husband was apparently uncomfortable about having a "strange man" over.)


On Saturday we got even more food. Lila, Megan, and I went to the home of one of the women that we taught in aerobics class.  Abeer fed us more food than I thought I was capable of eating. She would not take no for an answer. Seriously. She took my spoon, heaped it with food, and PUT IT IN MY MOUTH. She's such a mother. We had a lot of fun. She's a total sweetheart who doesn't deserve to be married to the old jerk that is her husband.

This is chicken on top of rice and veggies (peas, carrots, etc.) with hummus, lebaneh, salad, etc. We also had fruit, cake, and tea later.

Now I'm in my final week of classes so it's been a lot of goodbyes. It's truly terrible. I've already cried once (one of the women in my English class gave a speech during our volunteer/intern appreciation ceremony about how much she liked my class--I managed not to cry until everyone left though so that's a win). I will certainly cry again.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving so I'll be making a sweet potato casserole for the staff dinner, and we also go to see The Lorax in Arabic with our kids. It's the last time I'll see them before I leave.

I'm going to be a wreck.

Friday, November 9, 2012


I'm really starting to feel how little time I have left over here. Honestly, it's freaking me out. Three months is a very short period of time. Despite a craving for a steak, I'm not really homesick for America, and I know that when I leave here, I will miss a lot of people. The other interns, the women in my English class, my translator Ruba, and all of the children I have come to love. But it's still too early to say goodbye; we still have a few adventures left before heading home.

Today was one such adventure. Us interns did a day trip to the Dead Sea. Now I know that the Dead Sea is super salty and, therefore, people float in it very easily, but I had no concept of what that would actually feel like. Let me tell you, it feels weird. First of all, the water feels slick on your skin, like oil. Secondly, it isn't just easy to float, you have no choice but to float. You float so well that you can't even swim. As soon as you stretch out your legs to kick, your feet pop into the air. Then there's the salt. This is not water you want splashed on your face. A wave hit me in the face, and I had to have Lila lead me out of the water while I kept my eyes screwed shut because the salt burned. I didn't really open my eyes until she had a bottle of water ready to pour into my open eyes to wash them out.

But it was so much fun!!!

Floating in the Dead Sea while I read a newspaper. Actually, the newspaper is in Arabic so there was no actual reading happening, but we thought the photo op was cool.

The Dead Sea is not just know for its salt; it is also know for the mud. People sell that mud for exorbitant prices at spas, but we just scooped some into jars while there. We also slathered ourselves in it before leaving.

So here we are, covered in mud. I felt like a little kid again. Playing in the mud is always a blast. (Also, I can't quite figure out how Tommy managed to keep his shorts that clean...)

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. We're actually several hundred feet below sea level here. Pretty cool right? We celebrated with beer.

You can't walk by "The Lowest Bar in the World" and not stop for a drink.

So there you have it. A blog post, with photos. Yay!

Friday, November 2, 2012

In which I blame my slow internet for everything...

A few weeks ago I went on an amazing trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I've pretty much told everyone who reads this blog about it by now, but I thought I maybe should put something about it on here anyway. The reason it's taken me so long? The internet here is SO SLOW that adding one photo to the blog takes so long that the thought of uploading them makes me invariably think of something far more productive I could be doing with my time.

Anyway, the trip was great. Highlights of Jerusalem included the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jesus' burial site), wandering the Old City, and a very informative visit to the US Consulate. Less awesome was the fact that I was horribly nauseous the whole day.

Bethlehem was even more amazing. We were shown around by a wonderful cabbie named Murad who also took us to his house for lunch. We saw a lot of awesome street art as well as where Jesus was born. Many photos were taken. I think I'll just do a picture post eventually with photos and captions for you.


Anyway, moving on. The weekend after that trip we stayed in Nablus. There was an awesome Halloween themed library day (we made the cutest crafts) but little else of note. Classes are going well. I'm no longer teaching at An-Najah University, however. My attendance was down to one person so we added him to Megan's class and I get to teach English to TYO staff members instead. This is actually a lot of fun since mostly it's just me getting to know them.


Currently we are on the tail end of our week long break so I did some traveling with Lila and Megan and am now back in Nablus. Tommy went to Jordan so was not a part of our escapades.

We went back to Jerusalem first so that we could explore more (without me being nauseous and Megan having a cold like last time). I spent money shopping for souvenirs...and stuff for me. Getting to Jerusalem this time was kind of funny because the soldier that boarded the bus at the checkpoint (making sure all the Palestinians had their permits to enter the city) was SO CONFUSED by the three American women on the Arab bus. He kept looking at the visa stamp, then at the picture page, then at us, then at the stamp, then at the front of the passport, then at us. Obviously we got through, but he could not figure out what we were doing there, poor boy.

We also met up with two cool chicks in Jerusalem that Lila and Tommy met last time we were there. We had burgers for dinner and went to a cool waffle place for desert with them. It was lots of fun. Other highlights of the trip included having a gay Arab in the Old City make jewelry for us. Okay, so he didn't TELL us he was gay, but we all knew. I felt bad for him as he's going to be in the closet his whole life. Also, it was fun to see how far the prices would drop when we would talk about how we live and work in Nablus with refugee kids. I got some great stuff.

After Jerusalem we had a brief time in Tel Aviv. It was much the same as my last visit though we had a very American night where we went to a bar the US embassy people all hang out at and ate nachos, drank beer, and watched the Patriots destroy the Rams (they weren't playing the Packer game, but at least I got to keep an eye on the score). The next day we went to the Carmel market, spent a couple hours at the beach then wandered around Old Jaffa where we met a French artist with the coolest gallery. Seriously cool artwork.

After Tel Aviv we went to Haifa where we were so happy to be staying for more than one night as schlepping our bags around was getting real old. Haifa is a beautiful beach town renowned for the stunning Baha'i gardens there. Our first night we basically just got to the hostel and crashed. The next day we went to the beach where a Scottish-Israeli guy fell in love with Lila and introduced us to his cousin who's a lifeguard. We hung out with them as they were really cool. Also, it was the lifeguards birthday so they invited us out to his party and bought us drinks. The Scottish-Israeli guy--whose name is Barrie--engaged Megan and I in a very satisfying debate about Middle East politics in general and the Israel-Palestine issue in particular. It was a lot of fun, and we were all still friends at the end (the way a debate should be).

There was more beaching the next day (which also happened to be Halloween). Barrie was gone to Tel Aviv, but his cousin (the lifeguard whose name is Manny) taught us how to paddle board, which was super fun. I managed to be pretty good at it. Lila was the best, but she's a jock from SoCal so that's not surprising. We were also introduced to a wonderful tuna sandwich recommended by Manny at a beachside place where we also met a bunch of old men spending their retirement as beach bums. After the beach we tried to go to the Baha'i gardens but it was too late and they were closed so we went the next morning (they are pretty dang stunning). We then had a very brief beach visit where we said goodbye to our new friends and headed back to Nablus.

Shalabi, a Samaritan from the village here, picked us up and took us back. We made a brief stop at his house so he could introduce us to his family and show us this fruit thing he did on the ceiling. I don't know how else to explain that one, sorry. Eventually I'll have a picture.

Some of the funniest parts of the trip were us trying not to tell people that we worked in the West Bank. There were a couple of conversations that went something like this:

Person: So how long are you in Israel?
Us: We leave Thursday.
Person: You should stay longer!
Us: Well, we have to be back at work on Sunday.
Person: Oh? Where do you work?
Us: Ummmm....

So yeah, a blog post. Pictures will happen someday, I promise. Seriously though, the internet is SLOW guys.