I know it’s not legible but it says “Kentucky Fried Chicken. Checken. Hampergers.”
(there could be several titles for this post: air out of the balloon, rain on my parade, the downside of 3rd world family life, the money pit, laughing so hard I’m crying, the seams are showing, the scales have dropped…)
“ARAB TIME” they tell me
we’ve been totally without internet connection for 7 days (this is a big deal for us since the phone we have to call people from is a Vonage internet phone). The internet company says its the phone company, who says they’ll call us back. the supervisor is busy. he’ll call us. they’ll send someone out in no more than 72 hours. it’s been 72 hours already, but 72 more. ok. then they come and go without knocking on our door or fixing the problem. we call, and they say its the internet company. who (after putting us on hold then hanging up on us 6 times) says its the phone company and we should call back tomorrow. we do. they say its the phone company who says its the internet company.
the electricity keeps shutting down. turns out its the dishwasher motor is getting wet and short circuiting the house. even our window shades are electric, by the way, and with the marble floors the darkness when the lights go out is like being in a mausoleum.
the washing machine is leaking—again. only this time it leaks from the bottom AND the sides. The manual it came with is from some other machine.
The dryer doesn’t work. It’s like an amusement park for our underwear because it spins but doesn’t dry anything.
we still don’t have a car (delays in paperwork for the loan) so we can’t go anywhere by ourselves. Family has been VERY generous with their car and time but sometimes we just need to get out for a quick trip to the park or a store, and for that having one’s own transportation with no need to orchestrate the outing is needed. (not to mention that the massive amounts of snack crumbs from my 2 kids really belong only in my own car….sorry Teta and Sido)
WHO TRASHED MY PARK???
but we can walk to a park!
i’ve made a little happy place for my kids and I away from the stress of starting up the appliances. Its the park in our neighborhood. When all else feels like stress and disorder, we can at least go have fun there. And though it is quite different than parks in Austin we like it. Then, yesterday hit us. The washer, dishwasher, internet, and dryer are all broken at once. It was also Faris’s first day of work. So the kids and I escaped the house and went to our happy little park, which usually looks like this:
but today it looked like THIS (this doesn’t nearly capture it. It was I mean to say TRASHED. I personally cleaned up 6 entire place settings of food, napkins, plastic wear, and cups):
Trash EVERYWHERE. It was the last #$%*! straw for me. As I cleaned up cat poop from the sandbox area and the debris from this trash/food party I went numb. And last night I lost my confidence and my cool, as you might imagine. In my mind I immediately moved my children home to a less insane place where electricity can be counted upon and dryers dry and washers wash.
But I don’t want to leave. I like Ramallah. I like this adventure. I like this city a lot. I love having Faris’s family near and feeling like I have new things to experience and a new language to learn. I LOVE it when Sufyan plays with Sido and when Laila repeats, “Hiiiiii Teta!” all day. (Sido and Teta are our words for Grandpa and Grandma here in case that isn’t obvious). I love it. And I like solving the mystery of Palestine in my own mind. As an American, Palestine has been a kind of anti-fairy tale land where soldiers arbitrarily kick people out or lock people down and where maybe the women are all covered and the men are all misogynistic and the food is probably amazing and where protests somehow mean something and politics is not an armchair sport and the world is beautiful and very dangerous. But I actually get to see for myself what is true and what is just imagination and media inspired fabrication or even islamophobic urban legend. I like knowing. I like Ramallah and its a beautiful place. Life is not simple here.
2 things that people have said to me since I arrived that are holding me together:
“if you never do anything hard for you, you never grow”-(auntie Hanan)
“part of loving this place is the agony of watching what is being done to it.”-(Faris).
So here we are.
Last week I applied to be added to Faris’s Palestinian ID card which would make me, in the eyes of Israel, a Palestinian but doesn’t change my American citizenship (perhaps because Palestine is not officially recognized as a country? not sure why). More importantly it would allow me to enter and live in Palestine as a citizen and not as a visa holder. I currently have a 3 month visa that I will apply to commute to a 1 year visa. And if/when I get that 1 year visa I will have to leave and re-enter at which point I will be at the whim of the Israeli government and the mood of the soldiers at the checkpoint. I may be denied entry, particularly if they notice I come and go a lot. Well really they are more interested in the coming back part, I suppose. It shows an interest and intent that is somehow not palatable I guess. Or maybe it smacks of Palestinian sympathies—right they are.
FIRST OUTING ALONE
And yesterday I had my first outing without my kids! I went out with my friend, another expat American, and she showed me the neighborhood shopping area (we are in the Old Ramallah city part of Ramallah.) It was great!!! We got a cup of coffee from Zaman, I bought peppercorns from a little shop vending bulk spices which was super fragrant but seemed to be only about 20 square feet total, and I was introduced to the butcher. The butcher was a really nice man named Said who knows Sido and who wants to get us a turkey for christmas and who poured us glasses of mango juice so we would stay and talk. That’s normal here (the stay, talk, sit and sip with me hospitality) and it’s happened again and again. At the rug shop: cups of coffee as we bargain for our new rugs. At the Ministry of the Interior: an nice lady in hijab invites us to her home for coffee. Even at the Allenby bridge checkpoint the same thing. It’s nice.
And finally, some pictures of life lately.
playing on the new rug
the rainstorm we got caught in at Darna (restaurant. so good.)
Laila’s first Palestinian ice cream (it’s really different from American. Its almost stretchy from Arabic gum and its very freshly flavored. with Auntie Hanan.)
Longhorn fan! In Palestine! What???
some clothing shops we saw in the center of town (the Manara) the other day
(note how ornate the one in the winow is!)
Candy! An entire shop devoted to candy. People tend to specialize here in vending one thing only such as candy, or jewelry, or pillows, or one kind of food (note the fried eggs and pizza slices!)
homemade swings at the park
Laila swinging happily
MOPI around the WORLD!!!
king of Ramallah!
The black tanks on every roof to store water:
Solar Panels on every roof, too: (I still find this strange as in America solar panels are outrageously expensive but here everyone has them)
We saw this mantis today as we explored a hillside near our house (I love mantids). She was blending in perfectly with the thorn bushes:
the hill down to our house (at the bottom, out of view)