Life

“I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further — for time is the longest distance between two places.” The Glass Menagerie

Today, my dad’s birthday, the wedding of a friend of mine in Charlottesville, has me thinking about the fact that it’s been a week since I’ve arrived in Ramallah. It seems forever ago.

Last night we went out to one of the many outdoor restaurant-cafe-bars here in Ramallah. It’s ridiculous, these places are like little oases in the middle of the big crowded city! There are comfortable tables and chairs, or lounging couches, the girls are dressed much more “Western-style” – tighter jeans, tank tops. Everyone is smoking, either nargila (water pipe) or cigarettes [well, men smoke cigarettes all day long all over the place here!], and drinking, usually Taybeh beer (brewed in a town just a few kilometres north of Ramallah – tastes just like Miller Lite, really…), and eating, and chatting. As much as there are usually a few tables of internationals, there are just as many, if not more, Palestinians there too. And as much as I’ve complained about the heat, when the sun goes down and you’re sitting outside in a little garden of a restaurant, the breeze starts blowing… it’s one of the best feelings in the world. The place we went to last night also has an outdoor pool, which was really just amazing to me to see.

It’s really bizarre (and fun!) to find these restaurants around town. During the day, mainly I think because the younger/more progressive women are all at work, I find women walking around in very traditional dress. Even the guys, though, all wear jeans also, so at least everyone suffers together through the heat. Then at night, it’s a completely different world. But you still don’t see these women walking around in these outfits. For me, having to walk around everywhere, I find it sometimes difficult to walk down the street. I’m never worried about my safety, I’m never worried that something will happen to me (besides getting hit by a car, but that’s a worry anywhere in the world!), but it’s disconcerting to see only groups of young guys hanging around on street corners and staring you down the entire time you’re walking. Maybe in a few weeks, after I’ve had some Arabic classes and had the lay of the land down, I’ll be able to handle it more, but it’s definitely disconcerting. A couple of us were talking about this last week, speculating how these Palestinian women must get to these restaurants at night dressed like they are, since we never see this walking around ourselves, and we came to the conclusion that they all must drive to these locations and park as close as possible. Last night, the place we went to is further away and really only easily accessible by car, and the place was packed, so I think that’s how it happens. Once you’re inside, everything is fine, relaxed, there’s no judgment about how you’re dressed (except perhaps to me, as I’m dressed in the pretty casual, easy to pack/travel/be conservative in clothes that I brought with me…).

Last night was also the last weekend night before Ramadan starts on Wednesday, (which should be interesting to see how it is here in Ramallah!). Ramadan is the month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset (including no drinking water!) and then have these huge breaking-fast dinners at sunset called iftar. Things pretty much shut down in the city for the entire month – this is when most internationals take their vacations, most shops/offices/etc have much more limited hours during the day, because they know their employees won’t be functioning at their optimal without any food or drink. So it should be interesting! I’ve heard Cairo is crazy during Ramadan, but I haven’t talked yet to anyone who’s been in Ramallah for it before. Seeing how the nightlife is already, I can only imagine that it’ll be pretty fun when the sun sets!

And happy birthday to my dad!!

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