“All is in a man’s hands and he lets it all slip from cowardice, that’s an axiom. It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear the most.” Crime and Punishment
I definitely feel more comfortable sightseeing than I do just attempting to go grocery shopping. Grocery shopping requires, to me, looking up the Arabic words that I want to remember (and because I don’t have a guidebook for Arabic, I only have my huge Arabic-English dictionary, this requires me google-translating from English to Arabic, then because I don’t really trust it, using the root from google translate and finding it in the dictionary and attempting to remember how to conjugate what I want to say). Then, it’s the standing in the aisle sounding things out and trying to figure out what to buy, and ultimately… trying to speak Arabic to the cashier, who inevitably will not understand me because I do not know the informal, colloquial. I don’t understand it, and I definitely don’t know how to speak it. So I’m standing there with my arms full of groceries, saying in the fusha, the formal, the equivalent of Shakespearean English, “o good sir, would thou please indicate the price of these goods?” The bewildered look of the cashier would be funny if it were not directed at me.
Last night, we went to Jerusalem, the City Center this time, which is outside the gates of the Old City and is much more modern/new. The sidewalks/streets are still cobblestone, but it’s beautiful and everyone is out walking, eating outside at restaurants, talking, drinking. We went to get out of Ramallah and get a good meal and this ice cream that my roommate had been talking about for an entire day. We also had this chardonnay from the Golan Heights Winery – very tasty! And Goldstar, an Israeli beer, which is a little darker than the Taybeh, the Palestinian beer. It was really nice to walk around and not be ogled at for looking so out of place, and just relax a bit. I really liked this part of Jerusalem – lots of shops and it’s easy to walk around. Apparently, there’s been this streetcar-type public transportation that has been in the works for like 7 years now (which reminded me of the H St. NE streetcar debacle in DC), which looks like it would be a nice way of getting around – it seems like a lot of the track work is already laid, right in the middle of the main street.
Today I got an email saying that if Ramadan starts on Wednesday (tomorrow) then time in Palestine goes back one hour. If Ramadan will start on Thursday, then the time goes back one hour on Thursday. It’s still iffy when exactly Ramadan will start, as the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, as opposed to the solar Gregorian calendar that Westerners use, and Ramadan begins when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. So sometime in the next two days, I’ll only be 6 hours ahead of DC!
Tonight, we’re headed to Hebron, which should be very interesting. It’s the West Bank’s most conservative city and also has the most people. There’s also a huge ultraorthodox Jewish population and subsequently a very large presence of Israeli military guards.
And then tomorrow, orientation for school! Only if today I can find the bus station to get up there…