Dora the Explorer

Since I was cut from the reedbed,

I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves

understands what I say.

Anyone pulled back from a source

longs to go back.

– Rumi

So I’ve been in Ramallah for almost 3 full days now. It seems like DC was such a long time ago! Ramallah is a ridiculous, crowded, hot, busy busy city. I don’t have any pictures to put up of the actual city center, al-manara, but that’s because I so very clearly stand out anyway that I don’t want to be “that” person standing in the middle of the sidewalk trying to take pictures. Especially since there are very few tourist-type people here. So I’ll try to describe it!

It’s crowded. There are people everywhere. And it’s a small city, so think DC-style rush hour on the metro, but 24-7 and on the sidewalks. You can’t move without brushing up against someone. The sidewalks are narrow anyway, and then add in the street vendors who set up their carts and sit with their boxes of fruit right on the edge of the sidewalk anyway, and there’s almost no room to move. There’s no system for crossing the street – well that would require a stop light and I’ve actually only seen two stoplights in my entire walking in the city (which has covered a lot of ground!). So everyone just dodges cars, cabs, vans, fruit carts, piles of trash, other people, wherever they want to cross the street. Unlike other big cities I’ve gone to, cars don’t really stop or slow down for people crossing in front of them. And you don’t wait for there to be a break in cars, you just step out (as confidently as you can) and pray that a car will slow down enough for you to dash through! Drivers do the same with their cars, when they want to make a turn. I walked down to the Old City yesterday, which was much quieter and much less crowded and that was a nice change of pace. It’s a little overwhelming to be always in the crowded city center!

It’s smelly. There’s no real system of trash pick up (it having been carried out by the British under their mandate in Palestine until 1948, then with the wars, and the occupation, public administration just never really developed). I was a little worried, as I walked around on Sunday and Monday and seeing the large piles of trash on the street corners continue to grow and grow. And in this heat… it smells. Tuesday afternoon, I was walking back to my place, and I saw a huge caterpillar bulldozer picking up the huge piles of trash on the street and dumping it into a dump truck. Effective, I guess? Except it only picked up the huge piles of trash – it’s not like it could pick up the tinier piles of trash clumped up against the curb down the rest of the street (never have I been more appreciative of DC’s street sweepers!!). Then Monday night as I was walking home from dinner, I saw a group of guys setting fire to one of the dumpsters along the main street to burn the trash inside it. That burned for almost two days straight.

It’s noisy. Especially since it’s summer, families and people are up and out and about almost all night long – lots of weddings and celebrations. So there’s often music playing until late in the night. Combine that with the regular hustle and bustle of people walking around, and the call to prayer happening every couple of hours – I really have had a hard time falling asleep at night! Besides the fact that it’s a bazillion degrees outside and no AC and everyone who knows me knows that I can’t sleep without it being freezing… So I’m hoping I can get into a better sleeping pattern soon!

Water is also really limited in the Palestinian Territories, so every house/apartment has a set number of water tanks on their roof, and that’s it for the water you’re allotted. I’ve taken a picture of the water tanks on top of the house next to mine:

Water tanks

Building next door - the black cylinders are water tanks

And something else that’s been funny these past couple of days: for a lot of English words, there is an Arabic word. For some “Western” products, instead of finding a new or similar word in Arabic to use, the companies just transliterate from English to Arabic. Which for the most part is fine, but really funny to stand in the store aisle, trying to figure out what this means, thinking it’s the Arabic for diet sprite:

Diet Sprite

Diet Sprite

But in actuality, it’s just transliterated so it reads “dai-et sbrait.” When you sound it out, it sounds like a warped version of “diet sprite.” So you can find me in the store aisle, sounding out the Arabicized version of English products. When I was walking back from dinner on Monday night with a friend from DC, she pointed out this hair salon, the English printed as “New Hair Salon” and the Arabic underneath it. I tried reading the Arabic – which, I’d like to point out, Arabic has words for “new” and “hair” and “salon” but they had just transliterated “ne-you hay-er saloon.” Very entertaining to try and say it aloud when it’s so obviously not Arabic!


2 responses to “Dora the Explorer

  1. Those water tanks are TINY!! Do you feel like you get the water you need?

    How would Starburst or Skittles sound in Arabic?

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