Well, that was interesting. I drafted a post last night but it didn’t save, so here we are starting fresh. I’m pretty much settled in my apartment in Bethlehem, which is in the same complex that Zoughbi Zoughbi (the director of Wi’am) and his family live, which is how I get the wifi that I am using to post this blog.
The trip here was relatively uneventful. A long flight from Chicago to Poland, followed by a 13 hour layover in Warsaw put me on the edge a bit. Hardly a single person on the plane spoke English, and our plane touched down at 10:00 am in Poland, which is 4:00 am in home time. I found some American tourists in the airport, who let me talk with their Polish guide about the best way to get into the city. After taking a nap in the airport (which was scary, but necessary) I took a casual jaunt into downtown Warsaw for some cheap Polish food and pretty good beer.
Warsaw was cool, a nice mix of old-fashioned and modern architecture. Right here is where I would upload a picture, but it’s not working at all for some reason so I must leave you disappointed.
My flight to Tel Aviv was punctuated by some obnoxious loud young people on the plane, who bragged about being able to stay up late (the flight was at 10:55 pm, arriving in Tel Aviv at 3:55 am), promply passed out when the plane took off, then broke into noise again as the plane landed. Apparently Americans are the only people who don’t cheer when planes land because both the Polish and Israeli flights were filled with applause and exuberant yells as soon as we hit solid ground.
In the airport, I was immediately pulled aside by a stern-faced Israeli soldier who interrogated me about my purpose and intentions in visiting Israel. When I told her I was studying conflict resolution in Bethlehem, she gave me a puzzled look and asked me, “why Bethlehem?” Well, I didn’t tell her that I thought her country was perpetrating apartheid, so she didn’t arrest me. Instead I told her about my connections through school and specifically Max Carter to the Wi’am Center, and she asked to see my school ID. She looked at my Quaker card for a good 30 seconds with yet another puzzled look on her face. Way to go, Guilford.
I was interrogated yet again at passport control. Being a single male traveler in this part of the world causes a great deal of suspicion, but I made it through with no problems. I took a taxi to Bethlehem and was picked up by Zoughbi.
We spent the morning cleaning the apartment (which was inhabited previously by the last intern who had to leave because Israel only issued him a 10-day visa) and I spent the afternoon fighting a losing battle against jet lag and sleep deprivation.
My apartment is great and has a lovely balcony overlooking Bethlehem. Again, here is where a picture would be if they were working. It must have something to do with the router here.
Today was my first day working at Wi’am, which was really more of an orientation than a work day. I also got an Arabic cell phone, so if you’re in the area you can message me for my number. Until next time, mar-salaam.