Adaptation

“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.” Vanity Fair

Today, the world was frowning at me – or, I at it? Something that has been an adjustment for me here in Ramallah is the concept of time. There really is no such thing. When I first arrived and was attempting to set up a bank account, I was at the bank 5 days in a row, the first two just to figure out what documents were required [after waiting about 45 minutes each day], and the rest trying to reconcile good ol’ Bank of America with the Arab Bank. Because money that is transferred to Palestinian bank accounts has to go through multiple governmental checks (US, some European country – I think BoA goes through Switzerland -, Israel, and then finally the Palestinian Authority), this takes a while. Little did I know. Plus, because I’m not getting paid directly to my Arab Bank account, they would not give me an ATM card, so I have to sit and wait interminable hours just to check how much money is in my account or to withdraw money. Last week, I was at the bank at least 2 hours each day for three days straight. I’ve received two confirmations from my BoA that my transferred money has gone through to the Arab Bank. When I checked last week (again, concept of time…) they somewhat chuckled at my American impatience and said “not yet, give it some time, check next week.” So, today, my last day before classes start, I leave somewhat early in the morning (it is Ramadan, so nothing is really open before 9:30 or 10) to do a bunch of errands. I get to the bank first, thinking, great, I’ll get this taken care of first. I grab my ticket as I enter, and look down at my number – 326. I look up to see what numbers are being served – 89. You have got to be kidding me. So yes, three hours later, I go up to the window teller to check my balance and hopefully withdraw some money. But of course, the money that I transferred is not there yet! So after all of that, the money is still not there, I couldn’t withdraw any from that account (well, I could have, but I’m supposed to keep a minimum balance that I’m already below), and it’s already almost closing time for the bank because of Ramadan hours. So I can’t even go upstairs and check with the accounts managers.

Frustrating?! To say the least. But, there’s always tomorrow, if I can get out of class on time and catch the service back to Ramallah. I was able to do almost all of the other errands on my to-do list (yes, I still like to carve my time up into to-do list time slots, even though I’m learning to more go with the flow…), so I feel relatively accomplished. Though, looking back on what I wrote, and knowing how today actually went, it’s a miracle that, here, I feel accomplished for doing tasks that I’m used to taking maybe 45 minutes. So perhaps I’m adapting to this time thing better than I’m giving myself credit!

I did spend some time looking through my Arabic readers for tomorrow’s classes and was pleasantly surprised at how much of the formal fusha I could understand in the first text. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow!

Here also are links to two reports on demolitions of Palestinian housing in the West Bank: one new report by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and one by B’Tselem, the Israeli information center for human rights in the Occupied Territories. Two well-known, as neutral as you can get, organizations with interesting reports, if you’re interested!

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