Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Initial Obersvations

Something I noticed nearly immediately upon arriving in Jerusalem is the feeling that I am like a tourist attraction. Being well over a head taller than nearly every man I've met, and a good six inches taller than most of them women (not to mentioned redheaded) I stand out a wee bit here. As I walk around Zababdeh I notice the people sitting in their shops chatting often turn as a group to watch me as I go by. I'm a bit of an anomaly, and I imagine that they wonder what I'm doing here. In fact, often when I go into shops people ask "Where do you live?" I say, "Here, but I am from Seattle in the United States." That response is usually followed up nearly immediately by the question, "What are you doing here?" Though it sounds mildly suspicious I presume that the question is one of general interest which sounds odd due to the language barrier. I laugh about it.

I also can't help feeling like a celebrity, because people in the town whom I have only met once are eager to have me over for dinner or to stay at their homes. It's truly amazing how hospitable the people are here, and I feel very impressed by how eager they are to offer whatever they have. Considering that some of the people here are probably stretched rather thin anyway it becomes quite an invitation.

On another note, sometimes the toilet just doesn't flush. I'm not sure if it's because the water has been diverted somewhere else or what. The first time I think Ruba was giving Andrew a bath, but last night and once this morning there was no water and I was the only one awake, so I don't know why it didn't work.

Hot water is not available at all times. Because of the energy required the dishes and showers are all done at night, after Ruba or Fadi turn on the boiler. After about an hour it has heated enough for showers etc.

The houses here are all stone and tile, so even if it warms up a little outside and turns into a mild day, the house is still chilly. Everyone uses propane heaters indoors, though Fadi and Ruba have two electric heaters, one in the bathroom and the other they put in my room. As far as I can tell they are also one of the very few families around who have a drying machine for their laundry. Most people hang their clothes to dry in the yard or, in the cities, from the windows of the balcony or hallways.

Greater Palestine/Israel are in the midst of a drought which threatens the olive harvst in the fall. F. Bob informed me that there have only been about 7 days since mid September in which any rain fell at all. And unlike Seattle, he doesn't mean it rained all day, only that it rained for a few minutes and then dried back up again. The water catchment barrels on the roof of every home and building are a testament to the dry climate here.

It did however rain today. We also had sunshine, hail, and strong winds. The power blinked several times, though now that we are having a thunderstorm the lights flickered and went out. My dad's advice to bring my Maglite was good. Ruba was already prepared with a large floorlamp which runs on batteries or perhaps another propane canister. The fact that the back-up lamp remains in the hallway at all times indicates to me that it is probably used with some amount of frequency. In any case I'm glad I heated up my room before the power went out, and that I have a laptop with a well-charged battery.

sunday afternoon we had a bbq here at the house with the youth from St. Matthew's. During the course of the day I counted 17 F16 fighter jets fly overhead in twos or threes. It's not a sound I'm quite used to yet, but I'm getting there. Though Fida' and Fadi said that it was nothing and that they fly by all the time, to me it almost seems like a not-so-subtle reminder from the Israelis of their occupation of the land here.

Similarly, a building or neighborhood looking "bombed-out" is not just a slang phrase here. It has literal meaning from real-world experience. The old police station in the town down the road for example is bombed-out, literally.

Finally, Fadi and I were talking about dreams this morning, and it came up that he has one recurring dream which has always frightened him. In the dream he is being chased by soldiers and there is gunfire etc. It turns out that this dream is the result of an actual experience about 20 years ago in which some Israeli soldiers came to the village, rounded up some of the young men and made them clear all the stones from the street. After that they marched them up into the hills, where the men were afraid they were to be killed. They eventually were released back to the town, but it seems that the memory will haunt Fadi and probably the other men present that day for many more years to come.

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