Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jerusalem (Monday 27 July)

I've cheated a bit and jumped a few days ahead. I haven't written for about 4 days so I have some catching up to do but there's so much, and we've done so much so I haven't had the emotional energy to write until tonight, so I'm giving you today and I'll catch up with the last few days in a while and re-post everything in order. Today is important so.....

Oh man! What a day. We were feeling a bit like we weren’t in Palestine last night after we checked into the hotel in Bet Jala and found ourselves in the hotel bar with about 100 teenage Catholics from France dancing to Euro Techno. We came back to Palestine and the issues with a bump on our trip to Jerusalem.

The morning was lovely. A spot of shopping in the Christian quarter of the city. A wander around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A walk around the old city, through the Arab Quarter and the Jewish Quarter with the views of the wailing wall. It’s a bit mad that the Jews are apologising to the Temple of Solomon for destroying it yet they feel no remorse about the destruction and misery they are currently causing. I wonder what they will be crying and wailing to as a monument when as a population they finally open their eyes and realise what zionism has done, and when that moment will finally arrive.

One of the striking things is that as you walk around the city the Jews actually don’t make eye contact with you, which goes back to one of the themes I wrote about earlier in the trip. Now instead of hearing it third hand, I can actually tell you that it’s true. I walked past a side street in the centre of Jerusalem today and realised that a young man, probably in his twenties, had purposely held back from walking past me and rather than walking out of the side street with his head held high he looked down and towards the wall on his right as he made a move to round the corner. Where does this come from? I can only speculate. I’d like to think it’s shame, but I didn’t get that feeling. Once realising what had happened I started to look around me a but harder and realised that it wasn’t just him. It was all Jews. It had happened slightly earlier when, as we walked through the gate that seperates the Arab Quarter from the Jewish Quarter (and it’s actually an ugly iron gate with a camera and a padlock which they close at night to keep people out and them in) a couple stood discussing (I imagine) when this group of tourists might pass. It wasn’t until we had cleared the path that they passed, charging ahead like they couldn’t wait to get past. The avoidance and lack of eye contact continued throughout the time we were there. I’m not sure why, but I can speculate. It could be shame and knowing what they do, but having seen it for myself I don’t think it is. I get the feeling that they see non-Jews, and contact with them on any level, as something that might dirty their soul. Perhaps they are encouraged not to have contact with non-Jews. I have heard today that young children, without knowing why, are taught to hit out and shout insults at Palestinians. By the way, the Zionists don’t call Palestinians by their rightful name but call them all Arabs. By doing so it neutralises the problem for them. They claim that there is no such thing as a Palestinian and that they have no history or culture despite families being able to trace their family history back by a thousand years, and each one of those years they have been in the city where they are now in some cases. By calling Palestinians Arabs they make the Palestinian problem the issue of the Arab world and not their own problem. It’s clever semantics used to distract from the problems.

We headed over to Dar El Tiffel Al Arabi for lunch. In 1948, despite an agreement with local Jews that the Arabs of the village of Dar Yasin would not fire on them if the other party didn’t fire first, the Irgun, Stern Gang and Hagana of the zionist organisation raided the village at 2am. They threw grenades through the windows and put bags of explosives at the front doors of houses, killing and injuring families in their homes and without warning. It was the start of the occupation and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Of the 750 villagers of Dar Yasin 1/3 were killed, 1/3 were injured and 1/3 ran away. The Israeli’s gathered up the children they could find and dumped them at Jaffa Gate where the late Hind Al Husseini found a large group of them. A nine year old boy explained what had happened and Hind immediately took them all in. She found two rooms, rented them, installed the children and stayed with them for nearly 2 weeks. After 10 days the Israeli’s bombed Jerusalem and bombed the two rooms. The children survived not one, but two attempts on their lives within 10 days. Hind took them to her home, and Dar El Tiffel was born. Today, what was her house is now one of several buildings on the grounds of the orphanage. There are 40 orphans that board with them permanently and another 40 that come from other orphanages for their schooling each day of the school year. There used to be just under 150 but the Israeli’s have made it impossible from the children that used to come from the West Bank to come any more.

We walked of the school grounds and down to one of the areas that Israeli settlers have recently taken over. A woman, we didn’t meet her because she is in Jordan talking about her experiences, had been forcibly removed from her house just up the road. She was forcibly evicted from her house in East Jerusalem by settlers several years about, and in November of last year, she was evicted again. She has built herself a tent to live in where her friends are sitting every day and staying in over night to ensure that her “home” isn’t destroyed and she is evicted for the third time. The confounding thing is that when the Israeli’s come in, they don’t provide anywhere for these people to go. They are literally and figuratively kicked out onto the streets. They get told that there is an eviction or demolition order on their homes but not when it will happen. They dont’ get time to pack when the eviction or demolition finally comes. They ask for the Israeli government to rehome them before the eviction and the Israeli’s offer to send them to Ramallah, for example, but there are people already in Ramallah and Jerusalem is their home and often the seat of their family for generations. It’s all very well to offer somewhere else, but they are offering the somewhere else when it doesn’t belong to them to offer it and the Palestinians want to stay where they are. It’s their right.

The Israeli’s are not just committing genocide, they are committing spaciacide. They take land in the name of the Israeli state, in the name of Judaism, whatever the cost to human life. The problem is that they don’t see Palestinians has human beings. They see them as less than animals. In the name of our Jewsish neighbours and friends around the world, those that are happy to coexist alongside Muslims and Christians in New York, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Toronto, Montreal and all over the world they are committing heinous and unforgivable crimes against a defenceless people. All the media report are the kids with belts made of bombs that go into town and blow themselves up beside a restaurant because they are not allowed to be armed and all they have is rocks to throw. So the world is left with a one-sided view of the situation and blaming the Palestinians for being violent. It’s not violence, it’s despair, anger, frustration and stupidity. It helps no one for a young Palestinian to do that and I certainly don’t condone it, but I understand why they do.

Whilst at the tent we met a woman, a neighbour of the lady that lives in the tent, who settlers had attempted to remove from her home. In the process this woman of 45 or so had her hands tied behind her back and was dragged from her home. Her husband had a heart attack that night and after a long wait for an ambulance, delayed on purpose she thinks, her husband was taken to an Israeli hospital. She wasn’t allowed to see her husband until the next day and one week later he died of a second heart attack. Her five year old daughter witnessed the entire event. Her neighbour is now an Israeli settler who is utterly convinced that the house is rightfully hers. We saw her and had an exchange with her as she pulled her children away from the door. She really believes that she has a right to be there and that she owns the property. Over the footpath from the house is a playground about 5m2 that is locked and with an iron fence around it. It’s only for Israeli children. My question are, if they really are in the right why does she feel the need to shout people down when questioned over her right to be there?; Why do Israeli’s feel the need to fence their children into a playground?; Why are there security guards with uzi’s patrolling the area and whispering into their walkie talkies?; If they are right, what do they have to fear?; If they are right why do they need to be protected?

The last stop for the day was at a village in the valley, overlooked by the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. In 2002 the Israeli’s issued demolition orders for 88 houses. They issued them in Hebrew so that the Palestinians can’t read them. The demolition is to build a park for the memorial of King David. The irony is that in Islam the Muslims revere David as a Prophet (there are lots of parallels with the Jewish and Islamic faiths – a good read to discover more is Fighting for God by Karen Armstrong if you are interested). They are fighting the demolition through the courts, but the problem is that when the Israeli’s decide to do it, they will do it so really there is no court. The children of the village are afraid to go to school every day because they fear that they will have no home and parents to return to. The reality is that when the demolition comes it will start overnight when the children are also in their home. The reality is that when it happens the media across the globe will not report it. We asked the man presenting to us what he will do, and they plan to stay and resist. The only defence they have, he said, is their bodies. The reality is that when the demolition comes, it is likely that he and the other 1300 people or so in the village will die under the rubble of their houses and the Catterpillar trucks.

It was a sober and somber trip back to the hotel this afternoon. I’ve had to come out tonight to write. I haven’t written for several days (I’ll be catching up soon and still posting in order) because I’m tired but I need to get this off my chest today. It’s been my trigger for overwhelming emotions and an afternoon of grief – for what has happened to these people, and for what unfortunately seems inevitable. How can you be hopeful when there seems to be no hope? They take great strength from visitors like us as it helps to spread the word. We are their media since the media don’t do their own jobs. So here I am, spreading the word to my friends and family and hopefully others too that find this, in the hope that they have the stamina to read this far. I know I’ve been a bit long and boring at times, but there really is so much to say. I apologise for my length, but I don’t apologise for the message I’m trying to get out.

Our guide today is a Palestinian and I asked her how she keeps the strength to go on. She says that she has dark days where she doesn’t know how she is going to get out of bed, but her inspiration is the people she works with – she’s a social worker. She also cries a lot. I can relate to that today.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In to the Promised Land (Wednesday)

We started early this morning, off to Nazareth and Haifa for the day and the first check point experience for this group. It was far from pleasant. Apart from the Israeli’s deciding to take our passports for a long time and make us wait, Nadin took a photo of the terminal on her mobile phone and was noticed doing so. I can understand why she did it. It’s such a weird experience and like nothing you will ever have experienced. The Israeli’s have put in a wall that mostly, but sometimes not (and when not, always in their favour and grabbing more land), adheres to the green line drawn in ’68. After the first and second Intifada the Israeli’s started to build the wall and restrict movement. Now, farmers that live in Jenin and work farmland on the other side of the crossing (which is also Jenin) spend at least 20 minutes crossing. The terminal itself is an eye sore – concrete and metal, cameras, gates and cattle pens (that’s what it feels like). So Nadin took a photo to memorialise the experience and be able to show it to friends. First her phone was confiscated, and then she was taken from the group. She was body searched, twice, and interrogated for 45 minutes as well as being made to wait in what can only be called a gaol cell for the remainder of the experience. She was repeatedly asked the same questions: why did you take a photo? Who asked you to take a photo? What was the photograph for? Where are you staying, who are you with, what are you doing here? They deleted all her photos and copied the numbers in her phone book.She was released after a while, clearly traumatised and stating that it was probably the most terrifying experience of her life.

We headed off to Nazareth where we had a walking tour of the city, saw the bath house where that famous geezer, what’s his name, oh yeah, Jesus, bathed. We went to one of the two churches that claim to be the Church of the Annunciation. Poor Nadin got barked at by a rude old man for not having her shoulders covered and so we left and decided that the other church had the true claim just because the old man was horrible to Nadin....like she needed more of that today. The old market was fascinating with lots of old faces in it. The faces of old Palestinians are so different to the old faces of the west. Where as our faces are full of fine feather lines and crows feet, Palestinian faces are creased with thick lines. Their skin remains smooth and supple, just furrowed with a thousand stories.

[Not complete, but it's on the way]

They hug with their eyes (Tuesday)

The railings of Chez Jenin have been given a new lease of life with a coat of black paint. All the windows of have been cleaned. The kitchen sink has plumbing so the water now drains away rather than falls on the floor. The front stoop of the building is now nearly level. The back yard is nearly clear and much of the building materials have moved inside the house. We’ve achieved such a lot today with the building work and I think Fakhry is quite happy with us. He let us finish early and go and see the Cinema, about four doors down from the guest house. It’s a bit of a wreck. They’ve gutted the building and ripped out all the old, decayed seats. At the moment it’s just a shell with a lot of pigeons, but the plans they have for it are superb. The old projectors from 1958 are still there and working, all they need is the renovation and they are good to go. The plan is to have the cinema operational by November this year and the official opening in April 2010.

Our being here has created such a buzz in the local community that we permanently have a band of young boys with us. I think they are on rotation or something as we seem to lose them throughout the day and gain others. One of the neighbours has been looking in on us throughout the last few days with her baby son and teenage son and waving at us. It was so nice to see the teenage boy join us today and join in the work. I think it’s better than doing nothing for them, and I guess that seeing a bunch of foreigners working to provide them with something has produced some sort of inspiration, whether that be interest, guilt or wanting to join in the fun. Last year we were told that our doing what we did reminded them of a lost culture. I don’t think it’s us doing the reminding this time, but there is certainly something we are doing which is making them want to feel involved.

The important thing is to not feel pity. They don’t want us to. This is their life and to pity it makes a mockery of the rich culture and sense of community they have, their victories, celebrations and day to day life. It doesn’t mean they are not grateful for what people do for them; you can see it in their eyes. Their eyes hug you so that it’s really very difficult to articulate what I think they feel, but it’s somewhere around gratefulness without being grateful. Perhaps it’s appreciation, respect almost. It’s nice to be on the receiving end for sure.

The curiosity has sometimes also been confusion. Women here don’t do hard labour let along walk around in shorts and t-shirts. Jenin is one of the most conservatively Muslim towns in Palestine, so much so that even if a man wears a vest top he gets raised eye-brows from the community. Despite the conservatism there is a very lovely level of affection. Talking to one of the local guys who has spent a lot of time with us, he pulled a hair out of my eye as we were speaking. It was such an intimate gesture that it shocked me a little at first. If a man did that to me when I was in Dubai I’d be a little freaked out by it, but here it was brotherly and with no sexual undertones whatsoever. Here I am, a western woman with liberal values whose culture readily accepts the baring of skin who is surprised by intimacy in a city with people who have a genuine warmth and affection for their brothers and sisters across the world but choose to be conservative about expressing their sexuality. It’s quite a refreshing realisation.

Surprise and treat of the day was a visit from Ismael of the film Heart of Jenin. He looks just as he did on the film, which should be no surprise. It was like having a rock star in the house. When you saw him you knew you knew him but couldn’t think quite where from, and then the double take as you realise where you know that face from.

Dinner turned into an evening of local song and dance followed by more international song and dance back at Chez Jenin. We got a sound system, which was so needed for the bar. Shimsham, Charleston and Swing all ensued to the quaffing of warm Taybeh beer and the laughter went long into the night.

We’ve decided to change our story. Instead of telling the truth and telling the Israeli’s we are going to Jenin to work on a charitable project – which is a great story and one that should be shared to raise awareness, right? – we have concocted a web of intricate lies and drilled all seventeen of the group travelling until we can lie through our teeth without batting an eyelid. Admittedly it’s not the biggest of porkie pies, but I think it raises a lot of questions.

Why should we lie? We got a call from Sahar yesterday to say that the people on the Palestine side had advised we say we are a group of tourists travelling on the Holy Land tour as this would make it easier for us to cross (because Jenin is where one of the biggest refugee camps is, and therefore a lot of resistance and troubles) and possible for the tour company to get a bus to us at the exit of the crossing. Last year I decided to tell the Israeli security the truth. I think it caused me about a 3hr wait but I don’t see why I should lie when I’m travelling to Palestine to try to contribute to fixing things that they are the cause of, and I often complain I don’t get enough time to read. I don’t have an issue with lying to Israeli’s per se, but I don’t think I should have to plus it’s a lot of pressure to lie!! Have you ever tried lying to a figure of authority when we are all told from an early age not to lie and the idea of lying to an official, whether you believe in their right to call themselves an official or not, is really working against what our societies teach us? It’s quite hard work in a stress sort of way, and so when you know you shouldn’t have to, because we would never lie to get to Spain or New Zealand, it does start to ping around all these stress chemicals in your brain.

And then the paranoia sets in. Not only do I have stress but I have paranoid stress. Great. We started substituting Jerusalem for Jenin with a wink and a smile because what if “they” are listening and watching? I wanted to tell Anna in Dubai about the ridiculousness of it all, knowing she would appreciate the dark humour in it given it was her main motivation for not coming – she wasn’t sure she would be able to hold her tongue with an Israeli if she was questioned. The problem was I couldn’t tell her. What if “they” were listening to the call or checking the sms’s as they were sent? Whilst we were waiting the 4.5hrs they delayed us at the crossing it suddenly occurred to me that I could get some writing done, but once I’d fired up my PC I realised that perhaps I shouldn’t document anything in case I got searched later on in the process and they found the truth of all our lies from the writing I had done. All ridiculous, but all feasible. Perhaps at this stage we are living our lives as if through a Hollywood camera lense – The Bourne Palestinian perhaps – but they do say that the truth can be stranger than fiction.

Do the Israeli’s really believe us? Here’s where I get a bit tied up in knots....We are aware that with a story of truth about where we are going and what we plan to do we may cause ourselves significant delays because it feels like your telling them about anything where you are trying to help the Palestinian people makes them delay you. We are made to feel like we are forced to lie to make it easier for our group of 17 people, some of whom have never been to Palestine and are nervous, others who have travelled all night and are very tired and perhaps less fit and able for this sort of stress. If they didn’t punish us for doing what we’re doing then we wouldn’t lie, so you lie and they don’t believe you and so you end up delayed. I wonder how they would feel if they knew that we had lied. When I discover I’ve been lied to I feel cheated, a bit stupid, a dose of humiliation and a pinch of anger. Would they feel the same way? Do they examine and debate why we lie? Sana and I talked about this at length yesterday afternoon and we came to the conclusion, based on words from an Israeli friend of hers, that they don’t. It’s actually much easier for them to not know the truth. The belief of the Israeli’s that they are the true owners of the promised land is so intrinsic that trying to explain to them otherwise is like me trying to tell you that black is white – you know that you know the truth and that black is black and there is nothing I can do to convince you otherwise. But the evidence of the truth of what they are doing in order to obtain what they believe has been promised to them is all around them in the refugee camps, in Gaza, in what is known as the Arab part of Jerusalem and in the wall that is built to separate the Israeli’s from the Arabs. They can quite easily ignore and bury their heads in the sand, hide from all the truths that surround them but is it so easy for them to ignore it when a group of tourists from the UK, Canada and Germany rock up at what you consider your border and tell you that they are going to try to improve the lives of the people whose country you occupy because you’ve been busy destroying them over the last 60 years? In the words of Sana’s friend, if they aren’t told the truth they don’t have to look you in the eye and know it. So perhaps it’s not us lying to the Israeli’s. Perhaps it is them lying to themselves.

To move onto a considerably lighter note – within an hour of being in Palestine we managed to find a roadside falafel seller and gorge ourselves on a falafel sandwich only to arrive at the guest house to find that a local family had cooked us a feast. Nicola’s complaint of “I’m so full” I fear will be a daily occurrence, although she’s promised herself not. We set up Chez Jenin, our very own bar, last night on the balcony of the guest house. It’ll be reincarnated as Chez Ramallah and Chez Bethlehem as we move through the country. Sami and Nic have decided that we won’t be working on the Cinema at all, but ploughing our efforts into making Chez Jenin the happening hotspot we think it should be. Foam and fancy dress parties are already in the planning. Nic and I had promised ourselves a detox since it took us both three days to recover from a hangover from Thursday night, but two bottles of vodka down over the period of last night proves that ambition to be scotched already. We didn’t drink it all ourselves, I should point out, since we were about 20 people on our balcony last night.

It’s great to be our (almost) full group after two days of travel. We met the artists from Scotland who will be working on the garden at the school for the blind, and reunited with Sahar and Ruwan (who worked with us last year). It took me all day to get bored enough to listen to music, so having rediscovered Oasis on my iPod by chance as we were driving through Palestine to Jenin what was the first song I listened to? Hello, Hello, It’s good to be back, good to be back. Serendipity.

In the heart of Jenin (Monday)

It feels great to be here! After effectively two days of travel we are in Palestine. It feels like we are a million miles away from home, and in some ways we are. As the crow flies we are about 3 hours drive from Amman, but it took us 10 hours to get door to door, Amman to Jenin yesterday. It was a good test of patience and our abilities to amuse ourselves as we waited at the crossing.

We’re straight in to work today. As I guiltily try to get this writing down so that I don’t forget anything (I had to write yesterday’s today) my travel family are already working on the guest house and later we will get to work on the Cinema. Our Council of War (CoW) starts shortly to divvy up the work and get cracking. I hope we do them justice – they spent the last three days working their socks off to get the guest house (barely) habitable. We have a crudely rigged, barely effective shower curtain which if it fell would the poor person showering in their birthday suit to the other 12 inhabitants of the guest house. This should be fun!

I’m not sure that the words dusty and sweaty really do justice to the feelings of ick and grime we’re all feeling this afternoon. Despite the water shortages (Israel channels off most of the water for itself to irrigate it’s lush gardens and fill it’s swimming pools), we’re all on two showers a day just to feel close to normal. Luckily (or not) the water is cold so showers are very short. By this afternoon we also have an additional door so no risk of exposure any more.

We walked through the Jenin refugee camp this afternoon to get to the Freedom Theatre. The camp was surrounded and placed under siege in 2002 at the same time as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Because it was surrounded the media wasn’t able to get in and report on what was going on, but what became clear after was that the Israeli army flattened about one third of the buildings in the camp. It marked the start of the second intifada (resistance). At the Freedom Theatre we saw a play devised and performed by the students of the theatre school entitled Fragments of Palestine in which they used language, drama, physical theatre and dance to present several scenarios which they had been a part of or were aware of. Almost all of the scenes depicted death or violence, often violent death. It was a stark reminder of the privilege of growing up in the UK where the closest to witnessing such extreme violence I ever had was a movie or an episode of The Bill, and certainly not death of the keening, cut your heart out of your chest, hair tearing variety. The age of the performers today was the age at which I was at University with the difficult decision of whether to have a double or single vodka lime & soda as my tenth drink of the night at the student union. Walking to the camp we were joined by a boy who told us how the Israeli’s had arrived at his house one night and burnt it down. A while later two of the soldiers involved were discovered dead in a nearby garden. He told the story like recounting a day excursion to Chessington World of Adventures. This level of death and violence is quite normal to them. They want to share it in the hope that it will get out to the world but the shame is that the world so often misunderstands because of the Israeli’s admirable ability to spin a story in their favour. It’s normal to these boys, kids, teenagers, young adults, middle aged and the elderly, but they still want it to stop.

We watched a documentary movie entitled Heart of Jenin this evening. The story is of a family whose middle son, Ahmed Khatib, was shot by an Israeli soldier in the head and chest at the age of 12 and follows the father’s, Ismael Khatib, journey and his decisions. The Israeli army claimed that he was carrying a toy gun which looked like a real one. The toy gun was never found. His family and friends said he was on his way to buy a tie to go with the new suit that he had very proudly bought for Ramadan. After consultation with the camp dignitaries the family took the decision to donate Ahmed’s organs. Ahmed was in Rambam Hospital in Israel and it was considered such an unusual decision that the media immediately got very excited about it and a young Israeli film maker decided to document the story. The film follows three of the six recipients of Ahmed’s donated organs and demonstrates the dignity and peacefulness of people who the Israeli’s like to label as terrorists. A Bedouin boy received one of the kidneys, an Israeli Druze girl the heart and an Orthodox Jewish girl the other kidney. It was the latter that provided the most food for thought as the family are very religious and were clearly not entirely comfortable with the knowledge that the donor was an Arab boy (by the way, the Israeli’s don’t call Palestinians Palestinians as to do so would, in their eyes, legitimise the cause. Instead they refer to Palestinians as Arabs as it makes Palestinians the Arab world’s problem). Ismael went to meet each of the families and the meeting between him and the Jewish family was very strained, but very polite. He also seemed very confused. Here is this Arab man who has done something so generous, confronting him with his worst nightmare. He is receiving into his living room a man who in his mind would kill him given the chance. The reaction the Israeli’s expect is for Ismael to become a suicide bomber or at least have some sort of revenge but instead he decided to save the lives of 5 people, 4 of whom are children and none of whom were Palestinians. His act of kindness was dignified, and a real poke in the eye for the Israeli’s because now they are confronted with the truth....and there it is again, the truth. Ismael and his family, through one (admittedly weighty) decision and their humanist, pragmatic approach to the situation they found themselves in adjusted the Jewish family’s knowledge of the truth so that for the first time they are considering that maybe black isn’t black after all. Perhaps the situation as they know it is a little greyer than they had been lead to believe.

None of us were really expecting the emotions of today. It’s been a tough day. There we were, busy painting and working, singing and dancing and enjoying our time and then BANG, Fragments of Palestine and a very real presentation of the experiences of being a refugee and living in Palestine. OK, back to work, slightly more contemplative and less singing and then WALLOP, Heart of Jenin and a demonstration of the lack of information the Israeli’s receive and the dignity and generosity of a Palestinian family at a time of complete devastation. Chez Jenin didn’t rock like last night. There was nothing to celebrate and lots to think about. We did get our first Taybeh Beer of the trip though – thanks to Eyad, the trooper, who did a beer run to Ramallah. The beer felt well earned.

Online at last

Heeeeyyy!! I'm online so you're going to get several days of writing in one hit. My apologies for the delay, and the volume. There's just so much to say because we're seeing so much. The ride is excellent, life changing actually. Thanks for following, sorry for boring and please do keep reading. If you have any questions please feel free to post.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Phase 1 complete

We're in Amman, fortified with tea (a must at the end of a journey) and falafel (a must at the start of a journey into a place where they make decent falafel). The pilot was a lady driver, Charlotte with the obligatory pilot perma-tan, which means that we didn't crash in the turbulence and the insurance is lower. Slightly concerned when she came out of the cockpit and into the cabin - who was behind the wheel?

Sana's Mama's flat is perfect for eleven people. Beds will be fought over tonight, but I'm happy - I brought a decent pillow and Nic already has pillow envy. Nadin is already sampling the bed fare as she rocked up at the airport with one hour of sleep and the aura of a heavy night of partying.

We're off to play tourist in Amman to the Citadel this afternoon and then out for dinner tonight. Early doors tomorrow as the next five members of our group arrive at 6am tomorrow morning and then we're off to tbe bridge with a 9am start. We join Sahar tomorrow who has been leading the charge, checking out the arrangements in Palestine and visiting friends and family. The last of the group join us via Tel Aviv. We're all quite hopeful that delays will be minimal since everyone else we know has managed to get through in 3 minutes. We're aiming for 2.

Left, right? No, right...right? Yes, right, right? No, right....That’s how the directions went to get to the Roman Amphitheatre. We were so tired that it had got to the point where we were mis-hearing each other. “Yes, Obama is an all rounder”. “Yes, I do like rounders”.

Dinner was fantastic and only mildly tainted by taxi drivers....one who took us to the airport were properly stung earlier in the day. Tip for when travelling to Amman, the taxi metres have 3 decimal places not two. We paid 25.50 for a trip that should have been 2.550. Stupid tourists!