Welcome to Palestine
[a post by participant AA]:
Well I’m a little late on getting around to writing this, but welcome to Palestine, right? This trip has been incredible so far, not surprisingly so, but I have had to put a lot of effort into making it into what I want it to be. I suppose I was a bit shocked when I arrived in such a beautiful city, and despite the typical difficulties of living in a new place, I came across very little trouble or hardship. Aside from some more recent encounters with the IDF, I realize that my experience here has been very American. I certainly have had the opportunities to push beyond the boundaries that the locals place on me when they see my skin and hair color and know that using any Arabic with me would be a lost cause, but I really have to stretch to find the things that people don’t want me to know. Even my host family doesn’t like to talk about political issues or any of the difficulty they have had here, because they don’t want to worry me and they want me to be happy and comfortable while I’m here. I appreciate the hospitality, but it means that I find myself in uncomfortable positions when I try to push the envelope and find out more about what life is really like here for my Palestinian family when they're not conscious of their two American guests at every turn.
I encounter people here who are excited to tell me stories about what they have had to deal with on account of the occupation, but there are far less of those individuals than there are of the ones who want to present their country in the positive and optimistic light. I’m not surprised, now that I think about it more, though. When someone comes to visit your home, you want them to enjoy themselves and think highly of it, because it is a source of pride for you; why would you show them the less pleasant parts? So maybe I’m trying to say that what I expected to get living in Palestine for two months (a firsthand experience of what it’s like to live here) may not be completely accurate. On the other hand, I’m being exposed to a culture of welcoming and loving people, who care enough to make sure that I enjoy myself and am as comfortable as possible, and I can’t complain about that.
But that all seems somewhat negative, and I definitely wouldn’t want to portray my experience in that kind of light. While there are definitely aspects of culture here that can drive me insane (complete lack of planning on absolutely everything, for one), I am having an amazing time. I generally love the laidback atmosphere, the food, the cheerfulness of all the local people I meet, and the awesomeness of all the other internationals I’ve become friends with. I’m impressed with life histories of essentially every international I’ve met here, and they all give me quite a bit of hope for my own future. I’ve learned quite a bit (through speakers and just talking to others) about how much a person can truly accomplish if he or she really has the desire to do so. People here have shown me what an amazing thing passion can be and what unbelievable people it can create.
Honestly, though, I have been so busy here so far that I have hardly had time to process a lot of the information I’ve encountered. In few months, after I’ve been home for a while and have had time to stop and think, I’ll be able to write pages on what my experiences have meant to me, but for now I can only write pages on what my experiences are (not that that’s a bad thing). So I’ll end this here and try not to ramble on, when I’m not entirely sure what point I’m trying to make anyways. But if I had to say one thing that I want people to take away, it is that Palestine is an incredible place filled with vibrant culture and passion, which no one should miss the opportunity to experience if they get the chance, because while I can’t place my finger on what exactly I’ve learned so far, I know it’s really going to change me when I get home.