how to convey the experience of our first week in Ramallah. i’ll jump in with what is on my mind tonight.
I am told Ramallah 7 years ago was a much more tense and anxious place. guns were everywhere in the hands of civilians, and one would see machine guns (imagine!) in the hands of private citizens. there was much more rage. much more honking and yelling car to car.
today handguns are banned. and though there is honking, i have yet to see people raging at one another and yelling out the window driver to driver. I am told the mood is less angry, and more relaxed. people are a bit buttoned up here, kind of like new york. but they are also very personable once you get past the first chill of being a stranger and (probably) a foreigner.
NOTE: I see machine guns every day, but *only* in the hands of municipal or private guards. There are a few guards up the street from us, standing in fatigues and a beret and tall black boots with their guns in hand. They generally look bored but vigilant.
everywhere there is the reminder that the soft envelope of american life is gone. there is a lot of trash here. literally trash on the ground everywhere and it’s a damn shame. i cannot find Bactine, fig newtons, or tofu but for some odd reason I can find Mum-Mums which here are called “Want-Wants”.
every restroom i’ve seen has a bidet! A public bidet is a new idea to me and I’m not at all sure how I feel about it. the playground we visited would be impossible in American litigious society with its real merry-go-round, wooden swings and metal see-saws.
there is a very real need to be vaccinated against tetanus here i’ve noticed.
We’ve already had Laila see a doctor, who made a house call for us! He came with a black doctor bag and wrote out 2 prescriptions for her (she’s fine, no worries) and we paid him directly. Directly! About $45 USD, total. There is no insurance and health care is affordable, so we get the care we need and the doc gets paid right then and there.
to get hot water in the summer we just let the sun heat the water tanks on our roof, and now in winter we need to turn on the radiators which heat our house or switch on a boiler that sits in our bathroom and wait 30 minutes. to drink water we transplanted westerners buy bottled water and boil the filtered water that we have at our tap. brushing the kids’ teeth is done with boiled filtered water and we don’t eat vegetables at restaurants yet. only cooked things.
the main issue we have right now is that Laila LOVES to drink her bath water, which of course is tap water since there is no way we can boil an entire bath of water every night for the kids. She has managed to get a gulp or 2 in despite my best efforts (she simply leans over and puts her face defiantly in the water now that we have taken her bath cups away). She has had a little diarrhea. nothing serious (knock on wood).
2 days ago we went to a fabulous restaurant (“Darna”–some of the best food I’ve had) and got a front row seat to one gigantic storm. rain, hail, wind…and the street washed out. people were oohing and awing as the storm thrashed the high skylights and windows of the restaurant. it was exhilarating. The rain was so loud we could barely hear ourselves over it!
the electricity here just goes out sometimes. tonight we went to a rug store to shop and found all the lights out. the infrastructure isn’t sound. toilet paper goes in a bin and not in the plumbing.
baby proofing is non-existant. when the electrician was here we asked about outlet covers to which he said, “no no no. your outlets here are very good. look. see how hard it is for even me to get my screwdriver into the outlet…” . There are NO BABY GATES anywhere in town. I am certain I am the only baby-wearer here and we get very curious stares when we go out with Laila in the Ergo.
The strangest thing is that every night since arriving here I have had a moment or 2 before falling asleep where I am struck by the gravity of the human condition (I think that’s the right way to say this.) We are all going to die. And all we have is each other. Truly family, friends, love…that’s all there is. Maybe this thought is haunting me because I packed my life into bags and moved across the globe from anything familiar and the only thing that stayed the same is my family. I love them endlessly. I miss my friends. Maybe it’s because I’m suddenly feeling old and wishing I’d done this move earlier. Maybe its that Faris and I just had our 7th wedding anniversary. Whatever it is, it just keeps hitting me that all we have is each other.
Here is a video of our first morning here. Sufyan and I went out on our balcony and the weather was wild and windy with a rare (Faris says) wind blowing in from the desert and making everything dusty and cold. It’s called the “Toez” or something close to that. (Pronunciation note: when trying to say Toez, I end up accidentally saying “Tzz”, which means fart. And when meeting a neighbor, I tried to say “tusharufna” which is a greeting like pleased to meet you, but instead I said, “tusharubna” which means something like “I’ll drink you”.)
Anyway, here is a moment: