Back Home to Bethlehem

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

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  , West Bank,
Sunday, February 6, 2011

Today we came back to Bethlehem (YAY!) and we are all overjoyed. Hebron this week was really tough in more ways than one. The tension is really high between Jewish settlers and Palestinians there, plus it has been a very cold and dreary week here weather-wise. Plus, Hebron is general just isn’t that nice. It’s much dirtier than Bethlehem and everything just seems very dark and drab. So needless to say we actually cheered when we pulled in the driveway of our guest house this afternoon :)

Since we’ve now been in country for a month (today is our one month anniversary, your congratulations are appreciated:)) and there are some people who are starting to feel the burn if you will. Being abroad can be tough, for some obvious and not so obvious reasons. For us, we’re only a little over a ⅓ of the way through our trip, so we still have a while. None of us are nagging to go home, but sometimes you just want to be somewhere familiar with familiar people! Fortunately, the culture here isn’t totally opposite from US, surprising as that may be. There are definitely huge Western influences over here, sprinkled in with Jewish and Palestinian culture. However, in the spirit of getting it all out on the table, I have created a list of things I miss most from home. But, being the grateful person that I am, I have also created a list of things that I have really appreciated and will miss when we do indeed have to leave. This may seem a bit premature at this point, but just go with it…

Top 5 things I miss from home in no particular order:

1. Breakfast. Breakfast food here is slim pickings. Pita, jam, yogurt, hummus, and sometimes vegetables and meat. That’s about it. But the yogurt here has no flavoring or sugar, which is great health-wise, but not tasty at all in my opinion. So I usually just have pita and jam, or some peanut butter I bought. But that doesn’t last very long, and I’m starting to get a little tired of it. A few days ago, we had a little guilty pleasure moment where we started thinking about breakfast back home. Eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits & gravy, pancakes, waffles, finally it was getting to be too much and I just couldn’t take the torture of it all anymore so I changed the subject of conversation….

2. Fresh Air and Trees. It’s hard to take a deep breath here. Cigarettes, sewage, trash, exhaust. We haven’t spent a lot of time outside the cities yet, but I can’t wait to get a big lung-full of some clean air! Also, I don’t know if anyone knows this, but it’s sort of like a desert here. Shocking, I know. Not like Sand dunes and camels desert, but like Arizona desert. I really miss TREES!

3. Bathrooms. The bathroom situation here is a funky one, although not all that unusual for countries outside the US. They don’t flush toilet paper here, so once you’re done with it you put it in the trash. This was how it worked when I spent a week in Costa Rica a couple years ago as well. It’s weird at first, but you get used to it. Also, tubs/shower curtains. At our house in Bethlehem, there are none of these. The shower has a handheld wand-thing and the faucet is attached right next to the sink and the toilet. So essentially, the whole bathroom is the shower. So when someone takes a shower, (if there’s enough pressure to create spray everywhere) then the whole bathroom is wet. Hot water is a big deal too. In Hebron at our hotel there WAS hot water which was so nice! But there was zero middle ground. It was either scalding hot or freezing cold. I opted for scalding hot, but it still wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

4. Friends and Family. I think reasons for this are obvious. :)

5. Clothes. I have 3 pairs of pants, 4 t-shirts, 2 long-sleeved shirts, and 1 fleece. Actually I think this might be fairly generous for some of the other people on our trip. Some might only have 2 pairs of pants and 3 shirts, I’m not sure. Either way, when I get home I will not be wearing these clothes again for a VERY long time...that’s if they’re still in one piece when I get home. Turns out things wear out faster when you wear them almost everyday…also I was not prepared for how cool it is here. I was expecting desert and heat. False. In Hebron it was in the 40s and 50s and in Bethlehem it’s only a little bit warmer. So I definitely didn’t bring enough warm clothes, but fortunately I’ve been getting by pretty well!! Even if I did bring more, I don’t know if they would have fit in my backpack!!

Top 5 Things I will miss when we have to leave:

1. Fruit! They have amazing fresh fruit here. I think I have already talked about the pomegranates, but seriously they’re are AWESOME. I bought 2 pomegranates the other day for 5 shekels. That’s 2 for a total of $1.30 or something, compared to the states where one would cost like $5….ridiculous. 

2. Friends. We have gotten pretty close with a couple people here that have been our guides and coordinators for the trip. Elias, Marwan, and the family that owns the guest house in Bethlehem in particular have just been amazing thus far and we love them so much! I will be really sad to say goodbye to them at the end of our time together. 

3. Culture. Everyone here is so darn friendly! “You are very welcome!” is what we are bombarded with wherever we go, and people are always offering tea and coffee. Whether we’re in a Jewish or Palestinian area, people are just so happy to see us.

4. Falafel and hummus. I’ve narrowed it down to these two because I’ve realized that they are my absolute favorites here. The rest of their food is a mixture of roasted chicken and rice or potatoes. Not all that exciting, although it’s always delicious. But the falafel and hummus on the other hand is phenomenal. I just hope I can find a good restaurant for this stuff when I get home!

5. Religion. Being the religion geek that I am, I mean it was my major after all, I’m really going to miss all the religion going on here. I mean, it’s not actually in your face that much I suppose, but I enjoy hearing the Muslim call to prayer during the day, seeing Jewish men with their skull caps and prayer shawls, as well as church bells and icons of Jesus and crosses all over our neighborhood in Bethlehem. I feel like religion is much more subdued in the US, and definitely a topic of contention in some ways. But I just love seeing people express their religions, it fascinates me. I can’t WAIT for Jerusalem this week!!! SO EXCITED!!

So those are my lists.

Speaking of Jerusalem, I think people will definitely get their second wind once we get there on Thursday. Hebron was a tough spot, there’s no doubt about it. But I think that was supposed to be the hardest place we will be going to, so it should be all happy and smiles from here on out :) 


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