Jericho & the Dead Sea

There is not a lot to say about our trip to Jericho. Our first stop was at St. George’s Monastery, which is down in the cliffs outside of Jericho. Absolutely gorgeous. After that we stopped at a place (I forget) that had some ruins, and we took some pictures, and that was that. Then we went and paid a lot for a lunch that was…okay (I’ll be nice, because I know that some of the wonderful people that plan our trips read this blog, so…yah, but I know that even they knew the lunch was pretty damn bad). I picked up some gifts at the store next to the restaurant (I think I may need to buy another suitcase for all the items I’ve picked up while I’ve been here…this is not a good sign). I think we all assumed we’d head to the Old City of Jericho to see the walls of what is one of the oldest cities in the world…

…but we didn’t. Our tour guide said we didn’t have time, and he also said that we weren’t going to miss much (although, those were also his sentiments about an absolutely gorgeous chapel in St. George’s Monastery; “Okay folks, so…there isn’t really much to see here. It’s pretty small…yah, nothing much here.”) – so we skipped that, and went to meet with the Governor of Jericho. I’m sure he said some pretty interesting things, but I got lost during his explanation of how the local bureaucracy works, and then I never really jumped back on board. I was busy making lists of fun things in my journal.

And then we were off to the Dead Sea. Now THAT is trippy. It’s crazy. And it’s something that you really can’t describe, but for those of you who have floated (not swam, floated) in the Dead Sea – it’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? I’m certain there is no way that anyone could drown, even if they were trying to, in the Dead Sea. As long as you keep it out of your eyes and mouth, you’ll be okay (although, there were a couple of us, all guys, who have some “bowel” issues and go to the bathroom a lot, and hence, well…yah, let’s just say that our butts were stinging like mad! – sorry if that was TMI for you).

The coolest part of the day was when we were told that for one of our directors, it was the first time in 2 years that his whole family (wife and baby boy) were able to travel out of Bethlehem together. His wife was born in Jerusalem, and so she doesn’t have a Palestinian ID card, and they won’t give her a Jerusalemite ID card. So she has no ID card and wouldn’t normally be allowed to pass through the checkpoints, but because she came with our entire bus of Americans, she was able to get through the checkpoints (although I was a little nervous for her when the Israeli guard walked down the aisle of our charter bus with his fully loaded M-16…). It was a really big deal for their family, and it was cool to be able to help her get a 1-day vacation…

We’re a quarter of the way through this program. I think it’s going pretty well so far. I have two more weeks with the summer camp for kids, and then I’m sure what I’ll be doing (with my volunteering as well as with Arabic) for the 2nd month that I’m here. I sent out a ton of emails a few days ago, and I’m kind of waiting to see what happens with those. Thanks again to everyone who is leaving comments – it’s fun to hear from you and hear your different opinions about everything.

Living in Beit Sahour

My mom, and some others, have asked for a little info on my living conditions in Beit Sahour. I am living with the Rishmawi family (well, a small portion of the Rishmawi family, apparently, there are a TON of Rishmawis in the Beit Sahour area). It is a 3-level style, with the parents (who I live with) on the bottom and their two sons both having homes above the 1st level.

They have another son who lives downstairs with us, Hassan, who is pictured on the right. Hassan has Down Syndrome and is probably the happiest young man I’ve ever met. He’s a real joy to have around and it’s great to see how much his parents love him and have committed to him. We eat breakfast every morning, which consists of pita-bread and a ton of different things to dip it into and eat with it (see pictures here in my new Random photo album), including my two favorites, the apricot jam which is amazing and the hummus (which I now LOVE!).

This picture on the left is of our living room. My roommate Andy and I have the room above and a bathroom to ourselves. It’s good to be living with a family, to get to experience what Palestinian family culture is like (people yell A LOT; they generally are not mad, but that’s just the way communication occurs, a lot of yelling). I think that this culture is not necessarily suited for introverts, so trying to find some time to have my own space and time to relax is a bit difficult, but hopefully I’ll figure out more how to do that during my time here.

My daily schedule as of right now is something like this:

7.30: Wake up
8.00: Breakfast
8.30-12.30pm: Volunteer at Summer Day Camp
1-3.00: Nap, Lunch, Chill time
3-5.00pm: Arabic class (or until 4pm if I decide to jet early)

Some evenings we have group gatherings at local restaurants, lectures, films and other time with our host family. I’m generally in bed by 12 or 1am, and the day starts over.

Saturdays are trips (this Saturday we travel to Jericho and the Dead Sea) and Sundays are free days. The days are packed and they tend to fly by pretty quick.

I hope that helps give you a bit of an idea of my daily life here in Bethlehem for the next 7.5 weeks.

How to Survive Arabic 101

Lesson #1: Put pictures of the girl you are madly in love with inside the folder you use for Arabic, so when you get bored, you can look at pictures of her and you and then just smile and realize that it really doesn’t matter whether you are fluent in Arabic or not, because there is a girl back at home who loves you back…