Ok, let’s get something straight: I had little to none previous experience and/or information about Palestine.
The only things I knew were pretty much the conflict between the Israeli and the Palestinian, and the fact that Palestine was a Muslim country.
I had never traveled to a Muslim country before.
I really don’t know what I expected. I kind of assumed – in a batting-my-eyelashes-blond -kind of a way – that there might be some points to take into consideration when it comes to clothing (wasn’t really planning to walk around in my bikini either, but hey). But when I got the instructions from the organisation, I had to gasp in disbelief (to be fair, this just shows how little prepared I was).
“Dress code in Hebron is conservative. You can wear Western clothes but they should cover you, including your arms and legs, fully.”
A quick mental scan through my wardrobe revealed that I own no such clothing whatsoever.
For those of you who don’t know me, I love my dresses and high heels. I only own one pair of trousers (jeans), which I mostly use only if I’m gardening (or if laundry day is way overdue and you’ve reached the point of either jeans or your wedding dress – and let’s be honest, it’s been a tight race between trousers and the latter). The rest of the time, no matter if its freezing or scorching hot, I walk around in my just-above-the-knee-height dresses and skirts.
None of which I apparently could use during my stay in Hebron.
At this point I realised that I’d have to renew my whole wardrobe, and ended up half hyperventilating, half laughing out loud hysterically.
I hate shopping. This may make me an atypical female (praise the stereotypes), but I really, really do hate it. I normally just make these seasonal ninja-like attacks twice a year, armed with a shopping list including possible locations where success would be granted with as little effort as possible. These biannual two to three hour missions always leave me sweating, swearing and in an acute need of a glass of wine.
Thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet though, I managed the garderobe renewal without any panic attacks, and am now safely armed with seven ankle-long dresses, thin cotton cardigans and several scarves.
I guess I don’t have to worry about the sunburns usually so typical to my olm-like complexion. It’s actually kind of a relief not to be having to work on my tan, as all previous attempts have ended up me resembling a lobster about to be eaten anyway.
In addition – and to my mother’s horror I might add – I ordered ID tags (or, as the military amongst us know, the dog tags). Partially, because…well, you never know, but mostly just because I think they look pretty cool.
I’ve made my travel notification to the Finnish embassy, saved the closest Finnish embassy (Ramallah) number on my mobile, booked my flights and paid my accommodation and Arabic lessons fee.
I’ve also practiced walking around in the maxi-length dresses; turns out it’s quite difficult to manage without stepping on the hem and ending up on the floor face flat, which for obvious reasons is something I intend to avoid when on the location.