An Unexpected Finale to a Night Out

A few days ago, the American and local staffs and the American interns left the grounds of TYO for a nighttime meal overlooking beautiful hills. While we knew there would be fun-filled, transliterated conversations (especially for the interns like me who don’t speak Arabic) taking place, the bonding that came to be at the end of the evening was a fabulous surprise to everyone.

I found that the evening began typically, with people waiting around the table, conversing about their jobs, complaining about the glacial nature of the wait staff, and taking turns watching Kais, psycho-social therapist Suhad’s adorable son, kick an inner tube around the pool while his older brother swam. After a few hours of eating and socializing, it was time for us all to pile into the brand-spanking new TYO bus and head home.

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I don’t know if it was the general jovial mood that comes after eating a delicious meal in great company, the intoxicating rhythm of Palestinian pop, or the neon blue floor lights of our new bus but, as we headed out of Matah Zaman, the unflinchingly strong Palestinian spirit took over.

We clapped. We cheered. Some of us even sang and danced to the beat of the amazing music. And as we headed through the Israeli-manned checkpoints, we didn’t lower our voices, but raised them.

And what remained in my mind long after the drive was over was that spirit. That resilience, that perseverance, that beauty in the people I have found during my time here in Palestine, that ability to enjoy life despite the daily trials of a military occupation. It is that which I will miss dearly from Nablus.

-Maggie

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Ice Cream at 4:30 am, Sunrise at 5:00

The interns took some time off this weekend and traveled to Haifa for some much anticipated R&R. After taking a not-so-quick detour to Tel Aviv for the absolute best burger I have ever, in my entire life tasted (true story), we turned our rental cars north and headed to Haifa, a costal Israeli town in which both Israelis and Palestinians live. (Historically a predominantly Arab town, Arabs now make up about 33% of the population.) The following day, armed with some sleep and our faithful robo-tourist guide, intern coordinator Robyn Kbera (“Big” in Arabic and she is as tall as they get, folks), we saw the beautiful sites of ancient Akko (aka Acre). Akko has at one point been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, various caliphates, Bedouins, Crusaders, Ottomans, Mameluks, Brits, and Israel. While touring around what is now called the Citadel of Akko, we walked along (maybe among) Ottoman fortifications, built on top of Hospitaller and Crusader fortifications, which were later used as a prison for Jewish Zionists by the British during the British Mandate. Needless to say, for anyone at all interested in history, visiting Akko is a bit like being a kid in a candy store!

After inundating ourselves with history and old rocks, we rewarded ourselves with a seafood extravaganza, right along the shore and a nap back at the homestead. We were all pretty exhausted at that point, but also knew that the real highlight of the weekend was right around the corner- SUSHI! At around 8 p.m., we headed out and proceeded to drive all over downtown Haifa before our cabs could find the elusive sushi restaurant. Following our second seafood meal, a few of us were still not quite ready to call it a night. At around 4 a.m., a decision was made that when in Haifa…see the sunrise. So, following an early morning ice cream break, we saw the sun rise in Bat Galim over the heads of Israeli women and Arab boys out for an early morning swim. Ice cream at 4:30 a.m. and a sunrise at 5:00 a.m. was just about the perfect way to end our first day in Haifa.

Beautiful Akko
Sunrise
On the road
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