Our house is a very very very fine house

Did you just get that song stuck in your head?

One of our lilac trees. Full bloom this morning.

I would like to do a post about homes and houses here. For now, I am relegated to the outside of the homes that foreigners would find most interesting and most unlike their own.

What I can share is that the modern homes I see are all white stone buildings. Either people live in multi-tenant housing (most people it seems live this way) or in stand alone houses that are new and very expensive or old and worth a lot of money (land here is quite expensive!). I prefer, of course, the older homes. Occasionally there are homes I have noticed that almost stand alone but might share a wall with a business or have one upstairs neighbor. Some of these are very old–practically biblical looking. They have rough, unevenly sized stones instead of bricks. Entryway doors are arched and often so small they look hobbit sized. In old town Ramallah I have seen windows that are constructed simply by an absence of stone. No screens, just a hole in the wall. They are actually quite lovely. On the roof people take advantage of the sun by stringing laundry lines and placing solar panels up there and the ubiquitous big black plastic reservoirs of water.
Our building is white stone and newly built (less than a decade maybe?). There are 5 floors and an elevator. There is also a basement level which houses the tanks of very expensive diesel fuel which we use (sparingly) to heat in the winter. These tanks and their diesel are called “solar” here. Also housed in the basement are the tanks of cooking gas. (if you just experienced a little nervous twinge about those tanks in the basement, you are not alone.)
We also have a boiler for hot water in small amounts (like a fast shower) To use it we open this cabinet and switch water flow away from whatever to whatever. The piece of paper is the DIAGRAM the plumber drew for our spoiled and confused American selves.
My family has the ground floor and thus the only private entrance and garden– which makes usvery lucky. We are also the only house on the street with lilac trees…

And so a tour of our house (Sufyan is our little “Where is Waldo”)
Our livingroom has a rounded wall which makes the space feel bigger. There are 3 windows on that wall, and all of them have beautiful views of the canyon beyond.

Of course, we rented a furnished place. This means that a good amount of my personal adjustment to living here has been accepting someone else’s furniture and the taste level of that furniture. Faux suede red couches are not the choice I would have made. Neither are the red stretch leather modern style dining room chairs or the chipboard laminated shelving. But the benefits of having a furnished apartment (besides the chandeliers which really deserve a post of their own) is far greater than in the states: unfurnished here means no toilet. No cupboards. No stove. No fridge. No leftover toaster oven from the last tenant, not even a countertop maybe. You get the picture. So living with someone else’s things is common.

Our kitchen.

The kids’ playroom (doors go to the balcony which has been in so many pictures on this blog).
Notice that all the windows have iron bars. These are permanent. They exist because Ramallah is at elevation compared to surrounding Palestine and we get fantastic breezes here that in the summer beg you to open your windows.
Central Air is non-existant though we do have 2 small window units. So we open the windows and the bars are security. They scare the crap out of me, actually. If I was claustrophobic I would be in trouble.
2 things:
1. how would I get out if I could not find the keys to my 3 outside access doors (each with a separate key!)?
2. my eyes want a break from the bars. I can literally feel my eyeballs wishing that they could see out to the beautiful view of the wadi without the bars breaking up the view.
Light switches look like this and are always on the outside of whatever room you want to turn lights on in.

This is my bedroom window and the almond tree that I love.

This is our street level entry gate. I took this picture looking down from my front door to the street.

Additionally we have a gate that slides open for our car.
Most houses have this kind of entry: on the street one pushes an intercom button on and it buzzes inside the house at this spy-phone. Someone answers and presses a button to let you in.
Here is ours.
Those 8 switches? 4 turn lights on in the living room and the others probably do something but we don’t know what.
This is our small backyard. The swings are hanging on the grape arbor. Grape arbors are also absolutely ubiquitous.

Here is a pic of the heaters we use in Sufyan’s room.
Here is a pic of the intercom phone that rings when someone pushes the buzzer from the back of the building. Oh, just above Waldo’s head.
It took me a while to understand that there are actually 3 annoyingly loud and intrusive buzzers that ring in my house with 3 different possible places a person could be standing and waiting for my response. I dislike the sound of the buzzers immensely. They are like game show buzzers that mean you are about to get catapulted off the stage for being AAAAAANG! WRONG AGAIN! I would like to disconnect them. But this is the system and disconnecting it would mean disconnecting a possible link to the outside world. People literally cannot get to our front door to knock, for example, unless I answer the buzzer.
I want to include this view of the very pretty stairs across the street. We live at the bottom of a big hill and I like the way hills are part of Ramallah life.

4 thoughts on “Our house is a very very very fine house

  1. Very interesting. Now I have a much better feel for your life there, thank you. I can see how the window bars, thought quite lovely, probably do get on your nerves after awhile. Your rooms look very nice indeed, even the red couch. I like the kitchen and all the light that comes in all the rooms. How nice to have your own entry and garden area. From your descriptions it seems you have one of the nicer places in Ramallah.

  2. Oh, this makes me want to write a post for you with photos of our four mysterious light switches, the hall way with three light switches for the one light (the hall is about a yard and a half long), and about the fact that apartments here don't come with kitchens either though they typically have toilets. However, I suspect I'll never get around to that post so I'll just have to show you on Skype.

  3. Thanks for the house tour! So cute to see Sufyan in every photo- it makes the rooms look much cozier with him in them! 🙂 I think you've done a good job making the place a little more "Ravyn-like" with the play tent filled with pillows in the living room and the carpets covering the marble floors. I hope you eventually get accustomed to the bars on the windows- I can see that being really hard to live with after being in such an open and airy house in Austin.

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