I confess: having the women in my computer literacy class create a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on their most prized Arabic recipes was more than just an exercise in PowerPoint acquisition skills. Maqloubeh, Mouloukhieh, M’jedderah—all my favorite Middle Eastern dishes coincidentally begin with the letter “m,” often making it impossible for me to distinguish between each one—are just a few of the Arabic meals that have rendered my stomach joyful these past few months in the Middle East. So, at the start of Tuesday’s computer class I found myself in an auspicious position. I wanted to learn more about the savory Palestinian dishes that I’ve grown to adore. For which traditional occasions are these dishes usually cooked? Which ingredients will I need to acquire when I attempt to cook musakhan for family and friends back home? Etc. What I did not count on, however, was a dozen lunch and dinner invitations by the end of class. As the women shuffled out of class that morning, each one extended a gracious “Ahlan wa Sahlan” to their homes: “I’ll make you the best maloukhieh you have ever tasted!” and “Come over today after class, drink tea at my home, meet the family, and tell me what you think of my m’jedderah.”
This past Saturday marked the first of what I hope will be many more house visits with community members. Hanin, the outstanding translator in my computer and fitness classes, invited both Mathilda and me to her home Saturday evening to meet her husband, two sons, and daughter Nadia. Over meat and cheese-stuffed pastries, sage tea, and Nescafe cake (yes, you read correctly, Nescafe cake…it’s delicious), Hanin shared with us her Palestinian narrative: she told stories of love and loss, frustration and hope; yes, she and her husband relished the chance to bestow upon us some of that unwavering Palestinian humor—Qaddafi’s peculiar fashion sense was the source of a good laugh or two. We also learned how connected Hanin and her husband felt to their homeland: given her mastery of the English language and her experience as a translator, she had been offered the opportunity to immigrate to Canada on more than one occasion; each time she resolutely refused, citing her unwillingness to break from her Palestinian roots.
As we realized that three hours had flown by and that the late hour alone beckoned for our return to the TYO Center, we said goodbye to our new friends, toting some Nescafe cake and other goodies for the road and promising Nadia that we would return again soon for some more cross-cultural “girl talk.”
Here’s to many more encounters with delicious Palestinian cuisine in the coming weeks!
Leila is an intern at TYO Nablus.
Filed under: intern journal, internship program, Reflection Tagged: | community development, intercultural dialogue, international volunteers, interns, internship program, mothers' program, nablus, Palestine, personal narrative, Tomorrow's Youth Organization, women's empowerment