Monday, July 2, 2007

Ya salam!

Hello hello everyone! Sorry it's been so long since I've written a blog to update you. So, we will do a whirlwind tour of what has happened since Amsterdam (which never ends up been as whirlwindy as I want it to be). Elizabeth and I left Amsterdam hitch hiking to Prague. It was long night and it ended up with a tour bus of old German people feeling sorry for us and picking us up. We spent a few days in Prague and really loved it. It's much less prim and proper than Amsterdam and even Spain, which was refreshing. Grafitti and dirty streets are nice. Then we trekked down to Cheskz Kromlov, a small town in the South of Czech with a nice castle. It was really touristy, but very beautiful. After that we took a train to Budapest (when we had to switch trains we got on the wrong one and went back to Prague and then had to get a new ticket, but I don't like to think about that...). We got to Budapest in the morning and bought another ticket to Belgrade for the night. We spent the day wandering around and ended up going to a thermal bath which was a perfect break from our travels. Afterwards I got an idea to start a really good bath in Nablus just for women and decided that through this hammam (thermal bath in arabic) women were going to be the ones to end the problems in Israel-Palestine by slapping on the boys on the hand and telling them that enough is enough! Our spirits much restored, we got to the train station early because we had no where else to go. Of course we were messing around taking funny pictures and almost missed the train. The store clerks must have thought it was pretty funny to see two girls sitting on a bench with their towels and swimsuits hanging to dry, drawing moustashes on their faces and taking pictures for a couple hours, then looking scared, getting up and running to the right tracks. We got to Belgrade at 7 in the morning and I was hoping we would get to spend the day looking around, but the next train to Thessaloniki left in 5 minutes so we got right back on the train. We got to Thessaloniki and of course I hadn't written down Kristin's phone number or address, so we had to find an internet cafe to look it up and then call her and then get to her house. Sometimes having technology makes you lazy and causes more troubles. We spent the next 4 or 5 days in Thessaloniki, in the north of Greece hanging out, chatching up, eating Gyros, drinking coffee and going to the beach. We said goodbye to Kristin and made our way to Athens for 2 days of sightseeing before catching a plane to Milan. When we got off the bus from the airport, the first priority was find something to eat and second was find somewhere to sleep. So we went to a restaurant that happened to be empty, but they had really good pizza and pasta. We asked them if they knew of a cheap hostel in the area and they spent the next half hour helping us to figure out a place to stay. They called a number of different places and ended up giving us bus tickets to get the the place they found for us. They were so so so nice. Meeting them had the same effect as the thermal bath in Budapest. You get tired of traveling and then you remember what amazing people you can meet and how nice it can be. So Elizabeth left in the morning. We both couldn't believe that a month had gone by that fast. I hitch hiked to Bern thinking I would stay with my friend who I met in Jordan there. But once again I had technical difficulties. I had sent him an email asking for his phone number and address while I was in Greece, and thinking back on it I remembered a window popping up after I tried to send this email. Of course it was in Greek, so I didn't pay attention and I just closed it. When I went to the internet in Bern I was assuming I would find an email from him, but I didn't. I realized that the email I had written hadn't been sent. So I picked up my stuff and got a ride to Basel instead where Irene was staying with her aunt who lives there. Their family was really nice and I had a nice, relaxing time with them. After a couple days I left for France and made it there in a day where I met up with Mahmoud and the rest of the circus there. I suppose this requires some explination. Mahmoud is my boyfriend from Nablus and he started a circus for kids and adults there. They are now partnered with a circus in the north of France. Mahmoud went to France to train with them for 3 months and I was invited/invited myself to come stay with them as a circus slave. I offered to do anything from moving things to brushing their teeth for them. So far I have been there for about 2 weeks and I haven't brushed any teeth but my own, but I have moved a lot of things and I also learned how to weld! Ok, sorry I get excited. So I made it to France where Mahmoud and another Palestinian friend are living in an apartment and the rest of the circus people (about 10) live in trailors (although they call them caravans, which is much more bohemian and hip) around the tent. Arras is the town where they have been (although they're moving soon and we're moving into a caravan!) and it's nice and quiet and quaint. So basically I just hang out and speak some french, some arabic, some english, try to help out where I can and still try to figure out what makes French people laugh. (It's not easy being American among the liberal French!) Maybe by the time I come home I'll be a welding juggler on a uni cycle!! Haha. Ok, so now I'm actually in Germany for Bavaria Summer Camp 2008 with 3 of my friends from Nablus (one from Paris, on from Amseterdam and one from Bavaria). We had a really good time, played a lot of pounce, ate a lot of good food and drank good Bavarian beer. Life is good to me. We had to say goodbye today and although traveling and making lots of friends that you really love is one of the best things there is, it's equally as hard to be saying goodbye all the time. I just wish I could take everyone, put them in my pocket and carry them with me all the time! So yes, I'm leaving tomorrow morning to go to Bern for another shot at seeing my friend and then the next day I'm headed back to France. Whewwww, finished. Well, I would love to do a paragraph about trust or hope or love or something profound, but I'm going to go watch a movie intstead. I'll just say once again how much I love people and that I am thankful everyday for the good people of the world. I miss you all so so so much. As much as the ocean, as much as the world (as they say in Arabic). I'll be home on July 23rd and I can't wait to see everyone! Give eachother hugs and kisses for me.
Love, Lisa

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Smile Goes a Looooooooong Way

Hokay, so...last time I wrote I was in Mauritania, now I'm in Amsterdam. I wonder how many miles that is.... how did I get here unscathed? Answer: I try my hardest to speak to people in their own language and I smile A LOT. It's amazing how nice people are and how much more fun it is to travel when you smile at everyone.
Now, logistically, I rode from Nouachott to Agadir, Morocco in a truck carrying furniture with 3 french people and the Moroccan driver. It was a pretty good trip, although tiring because of the road or lack thereof, the heat, speaking French and attempting moroccan Arabic. I realized that I speak better French, but I can tell jokes/make people laugh better in Arabic. I guess that's because I learned my french in school and my Arabic from friends. They all made fun of me because I slept so much of the way, but hey, when the back is full of couches and Mom used to drive us around to make us go to sleep, I couldn't help it. Plus my eyes hurt from all the sand, so I had to close them, and by default I would fall asleep. So when I was awake, I stared at the vast stretch of desert, listened to Jay-Z and unsucessfully tried to make the French people laugh. I have yet to figure out French humor, but when I do, I will conquer the world. We stopped in Layounne, which is southern Morocco, northern Western Sahara (which isn't a country yet, but the problems between them are clamed down) at a friend's family's house. Luckily one of the girls had lived in Jordan, so we could get by in Jordanian/Palestinian Arabic together. The two girls took us to the Hammam (Turkish bath) and scrubbed sooooo much dirt off of us (the french girl and me). We had never felt so clean in our lives. Then we at couscous with our hands, which is kind of hard to do without having to just lick it off your hand, but we managed. Just trying won me a new Moroccan family to come visit whenever I want. The next day we continued on our way and made it to Agadir where I decided to continue straight to Tanger by overnight bus. I spent a nice day in Tanger by myself wandering around and caught the first ferry the next day to Spain. I met Elizabeth in Madrid and we spent about a week in Madrid, Valencia, Tarragona and Barcelona before flying to Amsterdam. Now we're staying at Alicia's (who I lived with in Nablus) house. We're planning to head to Prague in a couple days and then down to Greece to see Kristin and then to Italy for Elizabeth to catch her plane on the 14th.
So now that you've been updated, let's talk about trust and fear. When I think about how many people I have trusted with so many things part of me is amazed that nothing has gone wrong or gotten stolen or something and part of me thinks, of course nothing went wrong, people are trustworthy. So I would like to state my gratefulness for the luck I have had in my travels, but I would also like to make a big blanket statement that everyone is trustworthy. I know that's probably not true, but right now I feel like then benefit of the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you trust someone and they don't break it is well worth the slight risk that they will break it. Also, so you don't all worry that I'm handing my wallet and passport to people just to prove that they won't cheat me, I have learned fairly well how to trust people in a safe way. I do keep everything that is essential in my bag and keep it with me all the time and I trust myself more and more that I won't put myself in bad situations, but all this fear so many people have of strangers is not fair. You're a stranger to so many people and you would never hurt them or cheat them or steal from them, so why would it make sense to think that every stranger is dangerous? Maybe that's naive and tomorrow everything I have will get stolen and I'll become cynical, but right now I see things through rose-tinted glasses because people actually are rose colored and the glasses just look cute. :) That's all for now, I'll try to write more often! I love you all more then free breakfast at a cheap hostel and european coffee.
Love, Lisa

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I get the news I need on the weather report...

Hello everyone!! Hope all is going well with you. I am writing from Nouachott, Mauritania, I'm still getting used to the Frech key board and I don't have much time left on my card, so I'll try to make it quick if that's possible. So, I arrived in Senegal after a long layover in Madrid on the 23rd of April. It was really good to see Irene and her older sister was there visiting too, so we had a good time. We spent a week in Dakar meeting Irene's friends, buying fabric for traditional dresses, speaking a lot of french, learning to cook the favorite senegalese meal and just hanging out and catching up on a year of news. Then we took a ferry (12 hours on the way there and 14 on the way back) down to the south of Senegal to a region called Casamance. It's really nice and relaxed down there. There was some political unrest a couple years ago so there aren't very many tourists and there are nice beaches and huge mangos. We came back up to Dakar and I left for northern Senegal (St. Louis) in the evening. I got to St. Louis at midnight and hadn't booked a hotel, so the woman next to whom I was squished for the whole ride offered to house me for the night and of course she fed me a big pile of meat and onions too. I got up at 6 this morning and made it to the border, rode the ferry across the Senegal river into Mauritania. Then I took another shared taxi to Nouachott; the capital where I ate lunch with one of the men from the taxi and his second wife. He's a Maribou, which is an Islamic religious leader here in Senegal and probably the rest of Western Africa. Technically his job is to pray for people, and provide a quranic school for young boys; but of course it's usually corrupt and the children end up begging on the streets all day and then have to give all the money to him. It's a pretty sad situation, especially because it has a religious guise. And now I'm staying at the Auberge Sahara in dusty dusty hot hot Nouachott. There's my update, and now I think I'll break it down into categories of bests.
Best food (the most important): I ate pork!!!! We were having a drink at a little restaurant by the river in Ziguinchor and as if she read my mind, the owner of the restaurant came out to talk to us and asked if we wanted to come back the next day to eat pork!! the 50 year old vegetarian chemical waste managment chemistry welch guy we had met earlier was disgusted by these three American girls getting so excited about pork; but I was not ashamed. We came back the next day and it tasted soooo good!!! Unfortunately; she didn't have applesauce; but it didn't matter.
Best Ride: The mini bus from some village (I forgot the name) to Elinkine was the last one of the day, so we all piled in. Everyone was sitting on everyone else's laps and there were chickens and babies and everything. After a few minutes we found out that everyone on the bus was actually from Ghana and they were coming to Elinkine to fish for hammer head sharks. We had a good time talking about Ghana and singing the national anthem and they invited us to go out on the boat for 5 days with them catching 20 foot long sharks at 2 in the morning. Unfortunately, we didn't have 5 days, but it would have been fun.
Best Animal: this one is hard because we saw lots of cute goats and pigglets and funny birds, but the best was a giant jelly fish stuck on the beach. It had two huge tentacles that were dark purplish red that looked like they could do some damage. I touched to top part and where I had a cut in my finger it started to sting and later my finger kind of swelled up and trobbed. Think it barely touching the non dangerous part did that what the whole thing could do if you encountered it in the water when he had his witts about him. oooo, it makes me shiver!!!!
Best Conversation: After dinner one day we were sitting around talking and one rasta guy from Mali who we had met earlier said that he wasn't going to send his kids to school because it's just a tool of old french colonial society. That got some people worked up and the cook and the hotel workers ended up sitting with us discussing the merits of traveling, using money and technology and speaking lots of languages vs. living in the bush growing/killing your own food and that stuff. It was kind of tiring because it was all in Fench and everyone was talking quickly; but it was really interesting. It fizzled out when we tried to explain the phrase don't throw the baby out with the bath water in French.
Best Drink: Bee Sap. A cross between hybiscus fowers and koolaid that they sell in old washed out break fluid jugs. Probably not a good idea; but it tastes so good.
Alright; that's all I can think of for now. Hope all is well and I send you all my love. Miss you all more than fixed prices and clean bathrooms!!
Love, Lisa

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Beginning of the END!!!!! Muahaha

Hokay so... It has been quite a while since I wrote last. Sorry, things got kind of busy toward the end of my stay in Nablus. So the last few weeks were filled with moving apartments and the Project Hope office, saying goodbye to all except 2 of my roommates and then saying goodbye myself. First of all, we moved the volunteer's apartment and the office into the same building. It's a really nice, old building with a garden in the back. Moving is always more work than it seems and you always have more stuff in your house than you think, but it all went pretty well and we got settled into the new house quickly. The next day everyone left to travel around Palestine/Israel before they flew back home, so it was kind of quiet and lonely in the house, but that didn't last long. I was still teaching a full schedule, but getting ready to finish up and leave in less than 2 weeks. My university conversation class went really well up until the end. The students were all kind of loud, but they were generally loud in English, so it was ok. The new class I had with about 20 little girls went really well too. I alternated between reading stories to them and playing games. Once they found out I spoke Arabic it was harder to get them to speak in English, but we still had a lot of fun. I also made friends with the guys who started the center. The center has been going for 3 years and was started by 5, 20 year old guys who just thought their neighborhood needed a place for kids to come and hang out and have fun. The two guys we hung out with a lot don't speak any English so it was really good for my Arabic. They were really funny with us though because if I asked what a word meant, they would just say in Arabic, "I'll tell you later" and laugh and move on with the conversation. So there was never a whole lot of pressure to understand everything that went on, but we ended up understanding each other somehow, so I think laughing about it helps. As the final week rolled around, I started getting through my many invitations to eat at people's homes before I left. I went to the girl's school because when Alicia left they canceled all the classes there, so I hadn't been able to say goodbye. I was so happy to see them because they were the girls I had spent the most time with and they were the most fun and energetic. Then my electricians had dinner at the Union for Ryan (their new teacher from Canada) and me, which was really fun and nice to see them all again. Unless you're literally leaving the next morning, it's hard to say goodbye in advance because they will always invite you one more time for coffee, just before you leave. But Wednesday night finally came and surprisingly, I had successfully said goodbye to everyone, but of course, it was midnight and I hadn't started packing yet. Per usual, I ended up throwing everything in my suitcase thinking I would deal with it later. I don't even think I folded my clothes. Woops. So the next morning at 8 I left Nablus very tired and very sad. I really did fall in love with the city and so many of the people there. It was also frustrating to have to go through the check point as I was crying a little bit. They asked what I was doing in Nablus and I said (to avoid trouble from them) I was a tourist there for a week. My giant suitcase and the fact that I was so sad to leave might have tipped them off, but they were in a good mood that morning, so they let me go through without asking any more questions.
So, although I was still sad, my mind had to change to the next order of business which was the fact that I was going to Jordan that day and I didn't have a visa yet. But don't worry, I solved that problem and made it to Morgan's apartment in Amman by the afternoon. It was really good to see her and everyone else who's still studying there. I was in Amman for 3 days seeing old friends and visiting my host family, who I missed more than I thought i had.
Then I set off for Egypt by way of land and sea (bus and ferry) and made it to Cairo in a day with no problems. Barbara and I have been snooping around Cairo a lot and then on my birthday we came out to the pyramids where we're staying at the (very fancy) Mena House which used to be a hunting lodge for rich English people. Agatha Christie stayed here and Barbara tricked me into thinking there had been a murder here. Well, she didn't really trick me as much as I was really ready to believe it. Egypt is still really amazing just like it has been for thousands of years and probably always will be. (Side note on Ancient Egyptians: Barbara just told me that back in the day the royalty used to put a scented cone of fat underneath their wigs on a hot day and the fat would melt down their faces and body and make them shiny and good-smelling. Hmmm, I don't know how it would feel to be hot and sweaty and covered in fat, but hey, for each his own.) There are so many people and things going on everywhere at all hours of the day. It's a big change from Nablus or even Amman.
And now I'm going to go walk around and snoop into tombs with Barbara (one of her favorite things to do), then pack up and I leave for Senegal (via Madrid, strangely enough) tonight. Luxury vacation is over and I'm off to shoestringing it again. Hokay, I didn't even cover the half of it, but it's too hard to sum up a month! Hope all is well with everyone and that everyone is healthy and happy. I'm sending you the view of the pyramids from the hotel window and lots of honking horns and I'm asking all of you to send me the eloquence of speech I need to be able to update Irene on everything that has happened in the past year, which I will be attempting in less than I day! I miss you all so much and I'll keep you updated as the third and final leg of my year begins!
Love, Lisa

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Waaaa Happen?

Hello all! Sorry I haven’t written in a while. I actually don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve written because time is all confused in my head, so maybe it actually hasn’t been that long, it just feels like it. Maybe. Well, my last entry was about the Israeli invasion, and things have definitely calmed down a lot since then. I haven’t even thought about Israelis in a couple weeks. It’s weird that things can go from so drastic to very normal so quickly. Some humanitarian groups here go from place to place to protest what the Israeli army is doing, but living in one place, doing normal, every-day things gives me a different outlook on the situation. Sometimes I think about it a lot and I talk about it with my friends, but other times it doesn’t come up for days. This reminds me of one of the families I have become friends with (their father was one of my electrician students and now their daughter is in my university-level conversation class) who have invited Ina and I to dinner a couple times. The first time after we ate we were sitting around eating fruit and drinking tea (something you must do after dinner), they told us about how the Israelis destroyed their house and the entire apartment building where they live. They said that at 7am the soldiers came and told everyone they had to get out as fast as possible because there was a wanted person in the house and they were looking for him. So the entire building was standing on the street, all the men had their hands tied and were forced to stay on their knees on the curb looking away from the house. The soldiers bulldozed a hole in the building to get at it more easily, then after a day of ransacking the house and not finding anyone, right when the sunset call to prayer went off, they blew the building up. They showed us a video tape of it and you could see the building, then hear the beginning of the call to prayer, then a huge cloud of smoke and a boom and it was gone. All the people in the video were yelling and wailing and then they all started yelling “Allahu Akbar” (god is the greatest). When the mom saw the film again she got tears in her eyes just thinking about it. Luckily they had saved money and other people pitched in so they could rebuild the building and now they’re back where they started, having replaced all their possessions and furniture and cars and everything. It was really sad to think that this family who had done nothing had everything they owned and their entire house destroyed. But then, the next time we went over for dinner something completely the opposite was the topic of conversation. As we were eating, a couple women showed up at the door unexpectedly. As it turned out, the family didn’t at all know them, but they were coming because they heard that there were two girls of marrying age living at the house, and they had sons that wanted to marry. So everyone was all a flutter, both the girls had to go out and “be seen” and the father grumped in the kitchen because as he told us, this was an old fashioned way to marry and he couldn’t believe complete strangers were coming into his house to look at his daughters. Both his daughters of course agreed with this, but for him I think it was more that he didn’t want to think of his daughters marrying yet, although they are 21 and 23, which is prime age here. Then one of the daughters rushed back into the kitchen and said, “Can you believe it! They’re asking for 3 girls because she has 3 sons!” They all slowly turned their heads and looked at Ina and me. We both pointed to each other, but she’s older, so she had to be sacrificed. All in all it we had a lot of fun with the whole situation with people coming in and out of the kitchen gossiping about the women and lots of eye rolling. After they left we heard lots of stories about how the mom and dad met each other (which was, as you can guess, not in a traditional way like this) and their grandparents and so on. We laughed a lot and had a really good time with them. So yes, that’s the way things go. Everyone here has horrible memories like this family, but life still goes on and you can’t always talk about them and think about them. As much as I’m here to learn about the situation with the army and everything, I’m mostly here to meet people and make new friends and tell jokes and all that warm fuzzy kind of stuff.
So, in general, life is good with me. We’ve switched classes, which I wasn’t happy about because I really liked all my other classes, but now that I’m used to the new ones, it’s really good. I’ve been kind of sick for the past couple days with flu-ish kind of stuff and people have been calling me all day to make sure I’m ok. Seriously, every single person I’ve met here has taken me into their family like one of their own. If I ever needed anything (especially home-grown medical remedies, tea or food of any kind or quantity) I could have 20 people at my door with it. It’s kind of exhausting, but mostly it’s just really nice. Ahhh, I really do love people here. Hokay, I know all my blogs end up like this, but it’s true. Other news, pounce is still thriving here. I can hear my roommates playing right now and the only reason I got out of the game is because technically I’m sick. It’s going to take over Palestine and then the world! Muahahaha. Also, I’m reading a book by Willa Cather and I forgot how much I love her writing. I recommend her to everyone. I spent my whole day in Nebraska as a pioneer. It was awesome. Oh, and just to tie things up, we have hot water now and it’s been going strong for a couple weeks. Hamd lilah. (Thank God). Ok, there’s a fight about someone cheating at pounce in the living room so I’m going to go see what it’s about. That reminds me, my roommate Eric had a dream that he cut his finger off in the kitchen and came to the living room to tell us and we were all playing pounce, so no one paid attention to him at all. Hahaha, I’m sorry to say it’s probably not far from what the truth would be. Anyways, I’m sending all of you lots of laughs for ridiculous situations and I ask you to send me some non-swollen tonsils (I think you can UPS them if you want) and some strength to say goodbye to all my roommates who are leaving within the week. I miss you all more than corn on the cob and beets in the summer (why is it that I always pick food to miss you more than? Hmmmm…….) Love, Lisa
p.s I have more concrete travel plans now for the next couple months, so if anyone wants to meet me, or will be in the same place at the same time, or has a better idea in mind, let me know! Leave Palestine in mid April to Jordan for 3 days, then to Egypt for a week with Barbara, then to Senegal on the 22nd for a couple weeks with Irene, then trekking up the coast to Morocco and into Spain by May 15th. Travelling around Spain, Portugal, France and Italy for a month with Elizabeth, then to France for about a month to stay with the circus guys I met here with a week excursion to Greece to see Kristin and one to Germany to see Ina somewhere in there. Then back to the good ol’ US of A. Anyone interested? Maybe just maybe we could have a lot of fun!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Operation Hot Winter Could Last Indefinitely

Hello everyone. Well, things have gotten a lot better and a lot worse since I wrote last. I still don’t have classes in one of the refugee camps, but my other classes with the adults and the other 7th grade girls are going really well. All of my roommates and I are getting along really well and we have a lot of fun together. We finally figured out how to make the oven work, so we’ve been trying to make bread, which hasn’t gone too well, but it’s still fun to try. I made my first Arab meal yesterday called Maqlouba and it was ok for the first time. The Palestinian guys who ate it with us said it was good, but I think they were being nice.
So, as you might have heard on the news, the Israelis invaded Nablus last week, putting everyone in the city center and the old city (not where I live) under a curfew. They called the operation “Hot Winter” (we had a lot of fun with that name, changing it to Temperate Spring and Freezing Summer, etc.) and they were supposedly looking for 5 wanted resistance fighters, but I don’t think they were so successful because when you announce that you’re coming and then drive into the city with 50 jeeps I’m pretty sure the fighters would go hide somewhere else. In my opinion, they made the operation so drawn out and such a big deal because they want not only to find the fighters, but also to remind all the people of Nablus that they still have power in the region and that any day they could come in with some sort of agenda and put everyone under curfew and close schools and work for everyone. Now I really understand why no one here plans anything too strictly; because they aren’t sure if in a week they will be doing normal things, or sitting at home watching tv hoping their bread doesn’t run out before the army leaves. One of the Israeli newspapers tried to estimate how long it would take to find these 5 people and they said, ‘Operation Hot Winter could last indefinitely.’ If that’s not a sign that they’re not at all interested in leaving the West Bank alone, I don’t know what is.
But, one good thing that came from this invasion/curfew thing is that I taught all my roommates how to play pounce and they’re completely addicted now. I lurve it. It’s so funny that no matter who you play with or where you play, pounce always makes you swear. We've all learned swear words in German, French, Dutch and Arabic because of it.
Well, I think that's it for now; sorry I don't have more to say. Teaching English grammar is draining my creative juices. I can't believe I only have a month and a half left here. I'll be sad to leave. The problem with staying more than a short while in places is that I get attached to them and then I love too many places and I feel skitsofrenic (haha, that's not how you spell that but I have no idea, so deal with it!) hokay, i love you all more than moqlouba and I'm sending you lots of fun pounce games in return for lightning quick speed and good hand eye coordination :)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Hello everyone! I hope everyone’s doing well. I’m doing fine over here, although things have gotten kind of rocky. First of all, I went to Jordan last weekend, which was really fun, but kind of hectic. A lot of people to see and stories to catch up on, so I didn’t get much sleep and I ended up getting a really bad cold that I’d been fighting off. My trip back to Nablus was also kind of hectic because it was Saturday, shabat, so one border was closed and I had to go up north to the other border, then the taxi guy tricked me into giving him more money because he said I hadn’t given him enough and of course, being too trusting, I believed him. So I didn’t have enough money to pay the exit tax and get out of Jordan. I was trying to give him my left over Lebanese and Syrian bills that amounted to about a dollar and a half, but they didn’t want those. Luckily a guy helped me and just made me promise I would call him the next time I was in Jordan. So I finally got through the Jordanian and Israeli borders after being questioned about why I was carrying a Quran translated into German with me (I bought it for my roommate). But I convinced them that I was just a tourist wanting to go to Tel Aviv and that I would definitely not be going to “the territories”. But after all that, I came out of the building looking for a taxi or bus to Nablus and not only were there none, but there were no cars at all, once again, because it was Shabat and this border is in Israel, which I hadn’t realized. So I asked someone to take me to the nearest town, and he dropped me off at a deserted bus station saying that he thought there would be a bus to Jerusalem later in the day. So I waited and read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya sisterhood and luckily, a bus did come. I was so sick by then that I passed out and was probably snoring and sniffing and hacking phlegm up for the whole bus to hear. I got to Jerusalem, at some Thai food and showed up at a hostel hoping they had rooms. I left early the next morning, still feeling really crappy and got back to Nablus by 9am. I was so happy to be home and ready to have my two classes and go to bed, but I got called into the office for a “chat”.
Ok, now I’ll back up and start at the beginning of this mess that I got myself into. Last week at my class of 7th graders at the Balata Refugee Camp UN Girls School, the girls started off the class by asking me if I was a Muslim. I said, no, I’m Christian. They were curious and asked how Christians pray. I just put my hands together and said, like this and sometimes we kneel down in church. Then they showed me how they pray, and told me some things about Islam. One girl read a section from the Quran and we talked a bit about how they learn to read from the Quran (because they read in a melodic way). Then they asked if I thought Jesus was the son of God. Now, it’s easy to say I’m Christian when we’re talking generally, but when people ask specifically what I believe, I find it harder to lie, because I don’t believe that Jesus is God. So I skirted the question and said, yes, people do believe he is the son of God. The girls all started yelling, that’s not true! There’s only God above all else, he has no son or family because he’s God. So I told them to quiet down and said, ok girls. If you’re going to be in a discussion with people who believe different things, you can’t yell at them. If you think you’re right, you need to explain to them why because if you yell and tell them they’re wrong, they won’t want to listen to you. So they all said they understood, it was just that they love me, so they want me to go to paradise. I said ok, and continued the class on a different subject. After the class I felt pretty good about the talk we’d had because it was more interesting than going over fruits and vegetables and I felt like they understood what we talked about, which doesn’t always happen. But, the next class their English teacher said that the kids went home and talked to their parents about what we’d talked about and the parents had complained that I was talking to their kids about religion. So she politely asked me not to talk about religion or politics again. I apologized and was a bit embarrassed, and we went on with the class. So then I went to Jordan and came back and here we are again the morning I got back. My boss sat me down and said that all of my classes in Balata Refugee Camp were cancelled because the parents stormed the school saying that I was trying to convert their kids to Christianity and that the program was in a lot of trouble because of it. In my head I said, at this point in my life, I’m probably closer to being a Muslim than a Christian, but I sat there and let him finish. The head of the Balata schools came to him complaining and they forbid me from going to Balata again. I assumed that after I explained the conversation we had had, he would realize that this was a misunderstanding, but he’s kind of a hard-ass, so he just said, use a little common sense. So I hadn’t slept much in a few days, had had a long travel back from Amman, I was sick and I had been up since 5:30am. I was not on top of my game so much. So after apologizing multiple times for causing him so much trouble and forcing him to give all the volunteers a rules sheet, I left the office, sat on some back stairs and cried a bit while I ate a banana. Then I went to my other class, afraid to say anything at all and feeling like everyone in the town was talking about how there was a foreigner in their midst trying to convert their children to Christianity. I went home and passed out and didn’t wake up until my roommate came in and said she had baked a cake for me. They thought I had holed up in my room all afternoon because I was so sad about what had happened, not just because I was really sick, so, knowing me better than I thought, they lured me out of bed with cake. So, that’s the end to a long story about how a 20 year-old girl from Iowa got kicked out of the biggest refugee camp in the West Bank. I still feel pretty shitty about it all and all of this combined with the perfect spring weather makes me really not want to teach anymore, but after having my other classes again that are just as good as they were before, I feel less like a witch in Salem that the whole town is talking about. So, that’s the update for now. I woke up this morning with a great idea to try to make applesauce. Also, the circus is going well. I’m learning lots of new juggling tricks. My Arabic is also improving more than I thought it was. I dreamt in Arabic last night! Broken Arabic, but it was still Arabic. Hokay, I have to go make some worksheets. I love you all and have been missing you so much lately. I’ll send you some of this perfect, perfect weather that makes me want to roll around in the grass and run really fast without stopping, and you please send me some courage to keep stepping into my classrooms even though I’m a bit nervous about what I’ll say this time. And send everyone open-mindedness. Hokay, have a good week! Byeeee!