Thursday, January 7, 2010

We arrived in Ramallah on Tuesday, January 5th, the eve of the two day intensive International Solidarity Movement (ISM) training. The distance between Jerusalem to Ramallah is short, about 20 kilometers, but it took far longer. The first delay was the sudden break down of the bus on highway. The bus came to a screeching halt and the smell of burned rubber filled the air. Shortly after, the situation was made worse by another bus not seeing our broken bus in time to come to a complete stop and rear ending the already sad-panda number 18 Ramallah bus causing lights to smash but not much damage.
We piled onto another number 18 and encountered the next delay: checkpoints. The Palestine and Israeli boarders are rapidly solidifying as much of the Apartheid has already gone up. There is a major checkpoint between Jerusalem and Palestine which caused a traffic bottleneck but luckily for us, not much of a problem. I think most of the problems occur when going in the opposite direction.
The ISM Ramallah apartment is a bright, spacious place that is furnished by lawn chairs and computers. There is a modest kitchen, clean bathroom, and two bedrooms; one for boys and the other for girls. There is no “purpling” allowed at ISM. Purpling is when blue (boy) and girl (pink) mix. It us usually a negative camp term. Boy/girl interactions are highly frowned upon (not permitted is more like it) in Palestinian culture. Because ISM is a Palestinian-led organization, it works hard to ensure that its volunteers are informed and courteous regarding societal norms and cultural expectations.
This kinda sucks.
As I’m sure ya’ll have noticed, Trip and I are all about the PDA. And now, after only a few weeks being back together in the same place, we cannot hold hands, put an arm around the other’s shoulder, or even sit too close. Even if we play the marriage card, we are not exempt from these rules. It is especially unfortunate because we have not been together since September and there is lots of making up (and out: ) to do.
The ISM training was intensive and informative. Throughout the two days, topics covered were: a history of the land dating back from the Ottoman empire, Palestinian culture and social cues, media, principles of ISM and what it means to be an ISM volunteer, legal rights training, sexual harassment and a power and privilege discussion.
At break times, Trip and I scoured the construction site next door to find spare pieces of PVC piping and connecter pieces for my new hula hoop! The one I have been carrying with me has seen better days. It isn’t even a circle anymore. I was so pleased to have a new hoop! Especially because it is made out of garbage! We made the hoop on day one and day two we returned to the hotel where the training was held and to my sad dismay, the hoop was missing! I stashed it on the side of the hotel but it was no longer there. I couldn’t really imagine how a hula hoop would just disappear. So, I decided to do what you always do at hotels when you need something: I asked the front desk.
Me: “Do you have a hula hoop? I left one outside yesterday.”
Them: “What color is it?”
Me: “Black”
Then: “Ah, yes.”
Then he goes into the backroom and produces for me my hula hoop! From our conversation, I was sorta getting the idea that perhaps he had more than one hoop back there! Not only was my hoop safely returned to me, it was better than ever! Someone had secured the connecter piece with packing tape! How cute! I was really touched my their thoughtfulness. I happily took the hoop back to the ISM office in the taxi and immediately after the training decorated it with Palestinian colors: red and green (must find white tape to complete it!).
After the training, Trip and I went to the market to buy produce and red lentils for a group dinner with the other volunteers. The spice guy laughed at us for buying only a tablespoon of cumin and the veggie vendor didn’t even try and charge us for the five carrots. This has been a trend here; if we don’t buy too much of what they are selling, it is given for free. They are very nice. Another example of the kindness of the people on Palestine is when we bought our cell phone earlier tonight. When we told the guy that we were volunteering with ISM, he gave us extra minutes on our phone for free.
Tomorrow, I am either doing one of two things: going to the weekly protests in Bilin against the Apartheid wall which has taken over 50% of their village or going to Tel Aviv to deliver 10,000 shekels to the jail to bail someone out. Yipppeeeee! If we go to Tel Aviv, we will hopefully get a chance to visit Tristian Andersen ( in the hospital where he is still recovering, almost one year later from being hit in the head with a non lethal tear gas canister.
On a site note! The Yes Men, famous for their political hijinks. They just released a new film, Yes Men Fix the World. I emailed them, out of the blue, and asked for a copy of their film. They immediately got back to me and told me that if I find a venue to do a showing then they will send us a copy! As it turns out, they joined the Boycott Divestment Strategy and did not submit their film to the Jewish film fest in Toronto. They seemed really interested in showing it for a pro Palestinian audience. Perhaps this can be an ISM fundraiser.
The coops (I hope!) are going to do a fundraiser for ISM too. It is really cool to have such a wonderful base back home. I got a little too coop-y a few minutes ago in the office and tried to get everyone to cinnamon roll hug but they all wretched back and call me “very American.” Pppffftt. Whatever.
Virtual Cinnamon Roll hugs to you all.

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