I can’t believe it has already been a week since my last posting. I somehow naively imagined my life here to be that of a hermit; just sitting in my humble chambers after the days’ duties, typing away in a scent of cardamom-flavoured coffee, smoking a cigarette or two during the creative process.
Being someone who is used to alcohol being an essential part of the equation of fun (“Fun without alcohol is just pretending” – as the literal translation of the Finnish saying goes), I braced myself with the expectation of at least a partial boredom during my stay here.
How wrong could one be.
I’ve received more invitations than I have time – my social calendar is fuller than it ever was back home. I’ve entered this what can almost be called a celebrity-like bubble; the invites keep coming at a steady pace, ranging from invitations for a cup of tea to late lunches at people’s homes, shopping trips and tours around the city, to popping in a cafe after dark when the streets become alive – for something so sweet my dentist would have a stroke, all this and more stealing time away from my studies (much to my Arabic teacher’s nuisance I might add – although she has always remained patient and kind even though her student yet again hasn’t revised properly).
My first invitation was to one of my student’s uncle’s wedding (never mind that I had never met the uncle in my life). I received a piece of paper with the name of the venue in Arabic to give to the taxi driver; in addition I called my student from the taxi to let her give instructions to him as to where to drop me off and at what cost. What could go wrong, right?
Arriving happily at the destination, chatting away with the curious locals outside the wedding place, I receive a phone call from my student asking where I might be; she was waiting for me outside and couldn’t spot me (which is almost impossible; my blond hair makes me an ever-shining beacon not easy to miss).
Of course the taxi driver had dropped me off to the wrong venue.
With the help of almost the entire wedding party, I got ushered to another taxi and off I was again, acomppanied with vigorous waves and smiling faces, this time to the correct location.
A Palestinian wedding isn’t like a wedding in Europe or any Western country for that matter; the men and women celebrate separately, physically in different halls. The only man to enter the womens’ area is the groom together with the bride; they exhange the rings (leaving me wondering if they repeat the ceremony to the men too) and a few dances, after which the groom disappears, leaving both the single and married ladies to have fun.
I wish I had some photos I could post; but I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures; and as soon as I entered the “ladies’ hall” I understood why.
A remarkable number of women were not wearing their hijabs; their hair, now visible, were beautifully done and they were wearing dresses that were surprisingly revealing, accompanied by shiny jewellery and make-up that glittered and glamoured. A female DJ put up some Arabic tunes and surely the whole dance floor filled up with gorgeous ladies.
I’m not much of a dancer even under the relaxing influence of alcohol; and yet I got pulled into the dance circle – sober, horrified and so out of place I felt like a bull in a china shop. Whereas the Hebron women moved their hands in delicate twirls and their hips in alluring swings, I felt I was doing something resembling a combination of the chicken dance and the conga. Luckily the DJ spotted my agony and mercifully changed the tunes to Beyoncé’s “All the single ladies”, which gave me the opportunity to revive even some of my long lost dignity before exiting the stage.
Whilst walking back to the main street with a couple of my students, a taxi driver pulled off in front of us, opened the window and started a rapid monologue in Arabic, enthousiastically waving something in his hand.
To my astonishment, it was the same taxi driver who had dropped me off to the wrong venue a good three hours earlier. To my even greater astonishment, the thing he waved in his hand turned out to be my sunglasses I had forgotten to the taxi without even noticing that they were missing.
They were Gucci I might add.
I guess sometimes being a shining beacon is not such a bad thing after all. Not if it means attracting honest and kind people.