Yet another week has flown by at the speed of a Japanese bullet train.
It has been a week filled with fun; I’ve had a picknick at a park with my students (where I also got the chance to lose badly to one of them in air hockey, and ride the bumper cars for the very first time in my entire life), enjoyed probably the best falafels ever at a restaurant appropriately named “King Falafel”, hung out at the Old City, and had traditional Palestinian couisine (home made of course).
I’ve had interesting conversations about life, values and religions; taken idle walks at the settlers’ side of the city to wonder the paradox of a city full of life versus the there so empty streets and almost a total silence I have not experienced since I visited our summer cottage in Finland; a silence so intense that you have to pinch yourself to ensure the time has not frozen.
I’ve had loads of tea at the earlier mentioned and nowadays so familiar rooftop surrounded by a bunch of children so many I lost count of who was who; all siblings, ages ranging from an infant to late teens; everyone smiling at me shyly. Whilst speaking to their mother with the help of her son to translate, looking at the son carefully picking up one of the youngest just in time before she got the chance to fall on her still unsteady feet, I realised I am going to miss this raggedy bunch of kind, hospitable people, who always are ready to give and share from what little they own.
Glancing to my left the Palestinian side, on my right the barb wires of the Israeli Defence Force to mark their territory – and me there right in the middle of it; the blond Western woman without a hijab, basking in the sun and sipping tea as it were the most normal thing in the whole world.
I’ve chased the ice-cream truck for a 2,5 shekel cone, forgetting that I’m a) a woman, and b) 42 years of age. I’ve laughed as I’ve walked with the ice-cream in the scorching heat, trying to fight it melting before I could finish it, and failing miserably at the attempt, managing to drop some chocolate flavour on my newly washed shirt. The teenage boy escorting me home, his cone already long gone, laughing at me and with me. “You eat too slow! Sun more quick!”
The Ramadan started yesterday. For the locals it means a period of fasting; no liquids or food passing through their lips in the daylight hours. It means emphatising with the poor who have no food or water; it means kindness to those who have less; and it means learning to control your physical needs, to humble yourself and get closer to God.
For me it means respecting the local customs without participating to the fast myself; it means I’ve abandoned my balcony as my regular smoking place, as smoking is also prohibited as it would break the fast. I’m smoking at the inner courtyard instead, where nobody can see me. I also have my breakfast there at a “normal time”, whereas the Muslims have theirs before the sunrise (around 3.30 am).
Tonight I’ll join my first iftar (Arabic for “breakfast”, or the first meal of the day), having been invited to the local hostel at sunset, the moment when the city becomes alive again. Ramadan is a month of fasting; but it’s also a month of giving and celebrating. When the sun sets, the celebrating begins under the festive light decorations that remind me of a miniature version of Las Vegas.
Here too, it seems that at least during Ramadan, the city never sleeps.
Yesterday’s iftar at our guest house with its international residents. Not a bad job from the French guy, making the infamous maqluba (Arabic for “upside down”, what is what the dish is all about). I didn’t however participate to the feast as I had a humongous Domino’s pizza to finish. How very mondaine of me.