scared thrilled scared thrill scared thrilled

I find most things in life both scary and thrilling. I suppose I should hope it's always this way, but sometimes it feels like an awful lot of work.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

a wordy update

This is an email I sent to the fam the other day. It's now a couple of days old, and still quite long, but if any of you are bored it might make a moment or two of interesting reading. Allons-y!

I passed my first night safely in Israel. My apartment was not
ready yesterday (I've been a bit uncomfortable with how that's been
handled, but I've been told "relax, this is the arab way".), so I
ended up staying at a youth hostel on the edge of the old city, just outside the Damascus Gate in the Muslim quarter. Hokey Dina it was hot as blazes in that little
room. But I was able to sleep a bit. I spent the evening with three
nice french persons, Jean Baptiste, who is an intern here for one more
month, and his two visiting friends. We walked around the old city
(amazing) and had a fine dinner which, of course, included hummus and
pita. Oh, and they have this terrific Palestinian beer called Tay-beh
Bira. Tasty!

I haven't really been given the LD on what I'll be doing here, beyond
the broad concepts of working with the Strategic Affairs Unit and
trying to figure out how to market the "walk the green line" event
(check out I should get a full briefing from
Dr. Baskin on Thursday. This is quite an interesting office.
I've never worked in an office before, so I don't really know how it
compares. The staff seem like nice folk. Very brilliant and huge hearts for the
Palestinian people. David, who sits next to me, spent a good part of
yesterday trying to secure permits for Palestinians living in the West
Bank to come participate in a conference that's happening this week.
It was hard to hear him telling some of them that there was no way.
Frustrations all around.

You wouldn't believe how good the coffee is here. mmm.

My new place is much much better than the hostel! Still no ac, but it's set on the
edge of a hill (like the whole city of Bethlehem) and the breezes flow
through nicely. You should see my palace! the patio itself is almost the size of my old apartment.
Nice tile floors everywhere and a gorgeous kitchen. The patio is nearly the size of my old apartment at the Oxford, and overlooks a busy street with a view down the hill
and of the countryside beyond. Beautiful! I'll try posting some pics to the blog
tomorrow. My landlady is a peach. I went walking about tonight, met
some nice people, had a delicious dinner (at the "friend" price -12
sheckels or $3 USD. easily the best falafel I've ever had in my
life) and wandered till I thought I was lost. The city is
unbelievable. Thousands of years old. Tiny tiny streets with dark
little passageways that lead you to other streets. In my wandering I
suddenly heard the sounds of bagpipes. I followed them for a while and
stumbled through a doorway into a big courtyard where there was a
group of people all standing around with marching band instruments:
bagpipes, drums, horns. Weird to see those unfamiliar-looking
Palestinian faces and hear such a familiar sound! While the music
itself was great, the clash with the visual created some funny dischord for
me. This is a super interesting place. Israelis aren't really allowed
to go here, and there are no foreigners, so I kind of stick out. But
most people I've met speek pretty good english, excepting the elderly
who are so sweet it doesn't matter what language you speak. Everyone
is very hospitable, inviting you in for coffee (super strong,
Palestinian style with cardamum) and chatting you up. I promised those
I met today that I would come see them again in their shops and
restaurants, and I intend to cement that tomorrow. I've been writing
down their names as I go so I don't forget. I'm not sure if that's
something you do, Dad, but I'd be suprised if it wasn't. Tomorrow
Laurice, my landlady is going to show me the market and whatnot.
I have entertained the idea of trying to move into Jerusalem at some
point, and have arranged with Laurice to pay month-to-month here.
There's much to see here though before I move. I'd like to get a real
feel for the place. It's quite close to the offices: about a 5 minute
taxi ride to the checkpoint. Then they let you out and you cross, then
it's walking distance to ipcri. I haven't done this yet. tomorrow will
be my first try. It's very strange to move so freely from israel to
the west bank, when that very trip is illegal for the people who live
here. Israelis are forbidden by the Israeli government to go to the
West Bank (though few of them have want or need to go) and
Palestinians aren't allowed to cross without permits which are very
difficult to obtain, though all of them want and have need to go. It's
really messed up. But if you're Canadian... it should be no problem...
we'll see tomorrow!

Ok, that's the end of the email. It's now a bit later, I survived my first checkpoint crossing, met up with a friend in Jerusalem and had delicious Ethiopian food and now I'm back at the office. Voila.


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