Besides knowing how to count from one to ten and a few essential phrases, my conversational Arabic is still very basic. Ramallah, the most "international" city in Palestine, is a terrible place to try and learn Arabic; even when you say "marhaba" or "salaam aleikum" to somebody, they will likely reply in English. I assume they like to impress foreigners. Seeing as I will only be here for another month and have no formal training in Arabic, let alone the Palestinian dialect, it’s difficult to justify delving into the language when I already spend enough time sitting indoors writing this blog and will be back in an English-speaking country in the blink of an eye.
However, I plan on taking lessons in Modern Standard Arabic when I return home, and already I am envisioning spending another summer here, studying the Palestinian dialect at Birzeit University, which two of my roommates are doing currently. The language is well known for being a bitch to learn, for lack of a better word. To me, this is part of its appeal, along with the sheer beauty of it, both in speech and in writing. If I want to both read and write Arabic, it essentially means learning two languages. I could learn only the Modern Standard, also known as Fusha (pronounced FOOS-HAH), but speaking to Palestinians in Fusha is roughly the same as speaking Shakespearean English to an American; it comes off as partially incomprehensible and slightly arrogant. So if I want to actually hold a decent conversation with a Palestinian, I should also learn the local dialect – known as the "colloquial" form.
Given my lack of Arabic skills, I've come to the conclusion that the biggest social benefit of this trip has been meeting and making connections with the large variety of internationals here—the French-German cultural center near the city center is one of my more frequented hang outs—rather than the Palestinian population itself. Of course, I love talking to Palestinians when I can, but my shame of appearing ignorant of the language and culture makes me feel "paralyzed," in the words of another friend of mine. How does one pull off this international journalism thing, anyway?
You may have noticed that there are not many pictures of people, nor are there many names mentioned in my blog. I've done this, for the most part, to protect the people I'm talking about. I'm probably being paranoid, but I'd rather not cause anybody else to be interrogated on their way out of Israel and not be allowed back into the country because I blabbed about something that they said or are involved with. Also, I’m hesitant to take pictures of friends who I haven't known for very long, and I loathe appearing like a tourist. Some of these are not good excuses, and are especially not befitting of an intrepid journalist, but I struggle with it nonetheless.
My work with ICAHD is slowing to a crawl after I completed the East Jerusalem tour flyer. Considering the pain of going to the office in Jerusalem (it takes an average of an hour and 45 minutes to make a 6-mile journey), I only go out there if I have to, which at the moment is rarely.
The Jordan Valley study is proving more difficult than we had imagined. We're realizing that we are going to need our own car to be even moderately successful in doing what we want to do in that sparsely populated desert, and it's unclear if ICAHD has the funds to cover the costs of car rental. I know I don't.
Thus most of my "work" out here so far has been simply soaking up experience and knowledge for both mine and the blog's sake, writing about my time here, hoping to educate about this incredibly interesting- and incredibly misunderstood—part of the world. And if you guessed, perhaps from the volume of writing and its suspiciously good punctuation, that writing this blog takes up a good chunk of my time, you'd be right.
Overall, I am mulling over the notion that this conflict will play a big part in my life from here on, whether I am talking to my fellow Americans about the situation here, or writing articles about the conflict, or once again coming out here to be in the midst of the Palestinian people. Which brings me to say that my views or "biases" on the conflict have only been strengthened by what I've seen so far. The injustice here is obvious, but unfortunately, the solution remains elusive. An end to the Occupation would be a nice start.
For those of you wondering, I am eating well out here. My British roommate is a skilled cook, and just the other night, I sat down to this feast in Ramallah (not pictured, unfortunately, is my lamb's liver sandwich):