Time has flown by here in Ramallah as there is lots to see and do and plenty of work to get started on; yet it is hard to believe that we have only been here for one week as we have done so much in a short amount of time, and it has been easy to settle in.
‘Shukran’: our most commonly used Arabic word
|Even our coffee smiles at us|
It seems that the word we need to know the most here is ‘shukran’, which translates to thank you, as what immediately became apparent upon arrival is that the people living here are extremely welcoming and try their hardest to help us when needed. We spent our first day in Ramallah exploring the markets, which were initially overwhelming due to the hectic atmosphere, but locals repeatedly shouted “Welcome!”, so straight away we had a sense of the friendly community. The buzzing spirit in the markets emphasises the way that despite living under the occupation, the people here admirably keep up morale and maintain normality in their daily life. Had it not been for the instant contrast from the smooth, wide roads of Israel to the narrow and rocky roads of Palestine after crossing the check point, the negative impact of the occupation would not be apparent at first sight in Ramallah. Despite the West Bank not being as built up as Israel in many ways, it is a shared opinion amongst us that the scenery here is beautiful and we never tire of taking pictures. Trying local food has also been a highlight, having not tried falafel before coming here, I could now probably eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily! With many more places to visit, it will be difficult to resist overspending in order to make the most out of this opportunity.
Our team is lucky enough to be here throughout Ramadan, so we get to experience the restaurant shutters coming up at night, and people going into town to break their fast. There are also lights decorating the city so the atmosphere is similar to Christmas in the UK. The extremely friendly and welcoming community is epitomised at Iftar, as local volunteers stand by the side of the road and hand out water to cars driving past, ready to be drunk when the call to prayer resonates in the evening. Some of the team have begun vlogs of their different experiences of Ramadan, and it’s safe to say that the UK volunteers attempting to fast are struggling!
Ramadan means less energy, but not less work…
As already mentioned, during the first month here our team at Sharek has the opportunity to experience Ramadan in Ramallah. The lack of energy means working hours are shorter, and the summer holidays means that skill sessions cannot be run so we are focusing on continuing the Voice of the Youth project during our time here. Despite our initial feeling that perhaps there may not be that much to do, there is still plenty of project work to be getting on with and an enthusiastic attitude amongst us. We are continuing the People of Palestine project from the last cohort and are in the process of planning a summer camp for children aged 9-12. This is to give families a break from their children as not all children fast, and will enable the children to improve their English through games and other interactive activities. Each of us also have other projects – both the in-country volunteers and some UK volunteers are fasting and some are vlogging their different experiences of Ramadan so watch out for those.
We also have trips to look forward to such as to Al-Qud’s university in Abu Dis, the only university to be surrounded by the wall, so we can continue to hear and spread the message about the negative impact of the occupation on young people. Meeting and working with in-country volunteers makes this experience even better, as we can learn more about different lifestyles and opinions on the occupation. We are all enthusiastic about getting started, and hope that the remaining 9 weeks don’t go by as fast as this first one!
|A sunset in Ramallah|