Trip Start Jan 03, 2011
Trip End Mar 26, 2011

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Friday, January 21, 2011

These past few days have been our first days out in the field, researching and gathering interviews from the people of the village of Batir. It’s been quite an experience...meaning it’s entirely different than what I was expecting. We’ve met with village council members that tell us the water is polluted because of the ineffective sewage disposal system. Then we saw one of those council members the next day and he told us the same water was just fine and not polluted at all. Then we’ve met with school teachers who told us the spring water is bad, but the piped water that comes in from the Israeli company is fine. Then we’ve heard stories of students getting sick from the bad pipe water, but the teachers told us that was only because there was a dead bird or something in the tank that day. Then we’ve heard that the piped water is more polluted than the spring water because the piped water is still coming from Palestinian wells, which are polluted (because all the water aquifers are located under the West Bank, but Israeli controls them and then sells the water to the Palestinians and Israeli settlers) Then we’ve gotten into totally random conversations with people. One artist we met was kind of a weirdo, and he went on a major tangent talking about how the Palestinians have brought all their suffering upon themselves and that they deserve all the suffering they’re experiencing. THAT was interesting simply because I have never heard that opinion coming from a Palestinian! Our translator was about to implode with rage as we were leaving, I felt kind of bad for him. He had been trying to argue with this guy, but he’s a little bit shy so he wouldn’t stand up for himself. Oh well, one thing I’ve been really trying to remember while we are doing these interviews is that we’re not there to argue with these people, we’re simply there to record their stories. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying to present them with a different viewpoint and make them think about what they’re actually saying, but this can be really difficult when you’re going through a translator…

We’ve also heard some incredibly heart wrenching stories. One woman we met with yesterday was telling us that during the first Intifada, her cousin was going to get water from the spring (which I guess wasn’t polluted at that time) and he was shot by an Israeli sniper. But no one knew how to help him because I guess there’s only one doctor in the whole place, and it sounds like he’s not the best nor the brightest. So she knelt by his side as he died right in front of her. Also, apparently they use some kind of crazy bullet that doesn’t just make a hole as it goes in, but once it makes contact it explodes into a million pieces. So another man was telling us that he saw a guy get shot in the leg with one of these kinds of bullets, which normally wouldn’t be a fatal injury, but since it exploded on impact he ended up dying in the street from loss of blood. Now I’m sure these types of incidents are not unique to Palestine, this type of thing probably happens in other wars around the world. But it’s hard to internalize something like this happening to innocent civilians, someone who is just going to get water or walking down the street.

I think what has surprised me most on this trip so far has been the incredible hospitality of the Palestinian people. I have never felt more genuinely welcomed in my life than I have here. We enter Palestinian homes on a daily basis as complete strangers, but they treat us with the utmost kindness. They are so happy to see us in Palestine because they know most Westerners are afraid to come. We walk around at night, sometimes just girls, and I have never felt afraid once. I think I feel safer here than I would walking around downtown St. Louis at night. Even the taxi drivers are awesome. Two days ago, we got a cab coming home from volunteering and it was an older man who said he teaches high school in the morning and drives a cab in the afternoon. He started telling us all about his travels when he was young and his family members in the US. He was such a sweet man, and he’s only one of many that we have met so far. The first thing people tell us when they meet us is “You are very welcome in Palestine!” They always serve us tea or Arabic coffee (I prefer the first, the coffee here is CRAZY strong. One day I had no choice but to drink wasn’t a positive experience) and most people will invite us to stay and eat lunch or dinner with them. These are people who have almost nothing to feed their families with, and they are offering to feed a huge group of students! It’s incredible. Palestinians are such a warm and friendly group of people, and it’s really unfortunate that they get such a bad rap in the Western media.

One more tangent, last night we got to learn how to cook falafel and hummous at a famous Palestinian restaurant in the old city of Bethlehem!! It was SO AWESOME and I definitely want to try and make it when I get back. They gave us the recipe, but it’s all in bulk, so unless I want to buy a 12 pound bag of chick peas I think I’ll have some math problems to do to scale it down a bit. :) But holy CROW it was SO GOOD. I think I ate my weight in falafel, hummous, foul (pronounced “fool,” another spread similar to hummous but thicker with whole peas and beans in it), and freshly made pitas. Sweet heaven above it was delicious….most of the group walked home, but I was so full I opted to hitch a ride with our guide who offered to drive some of us home. It’s about a 30-40 minute walk and I felt like a walrus trying to waddle around, so I figured a ride was a good idea. It wasn’t pretty but MAN was it tasty… :) Plus it was just really fun to get a cooking class from a Palestinian who was the third generation to run the restaurant. This guy and his brother were running the place, and they were pretty cool guys. I diced some tomatoes and zucchini for the Arabic Salad, and I’m not the fastest when it comes to chopping stuff up so they were very patient with me :) Either way, it was a phenomenal way to end the day and it was fun to spend some time with the group that wasn’t class, volunteering, or hanging out at the house. We were just having a ton of fun with all these Palestinian cooks and it was a total blast!

Also I updated my Picasa Photo Album, so here's the link to that again

That’s all for now, over and out from Palestine :)
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