Moving to Ramallah

I haven’t written anything of substance since moving to the west bank. And I say “moving” purposefully, because I don’t intend to spend another night, at least not another night sleeping, inside the green line. The Al-Wedah hotel will do for now as a home here, it’s really not too expensive (a bit more than my room in Toronto, but then again it is much cheaper to eat and buy everything else here, so overall the cost of living at this hotel is probably cheaper than living in Toronto. Hmmm interesting…). Yesterday I met Hamza at the children’s centre but we didn’t meet with the kids because only a few of them had come, and he needed to prepare for the “Summer Camp” which is a big deal here – during the holidays the centre puts on activities for the kids, and there are more than 200 kids inside the centre and ten volunteers and because it is not well organized it can be really chaotic. In the afternoon we walked around the camp, down to the wild area beyond the camp looking out over the valley and the settlement. It is really a beautiful place, tragic that it is plagued by war. Hamza actually told me that they call this place the holy land but really it is hell, because everyone is always fighting for who will control this land. In the evening we went into Ramallah, ate ice cream, and then after driving around a bit decided to go to the mountain to have a barbeque. This was really great, the weather was perfect, everything was right and good. And the guys even made an effort to speak English a little more so I could understand what they were talking about. Bashar, who spoke very little English last year, has taken some courses and speaks much better now. It makes me feel really embarrassed that I can’t speak Arabic. I tried to learn on my own, with internet programs and things, but I think I need to actually pay and take courses or I will never learn properly.  Either that or maybe Shatha will exchange guitar lessons for Arabic lessons with me, that would be great as well.

Today I slept in late but got to the centre in time to meet with Kalandia Youth Media. Hamza is always upset with the kids because they don’t take the work seriously and say they want to be in the program but then don’t do anything. So today everyone took a subject and is working alone on it and must finish a draft report for tuesday. I hope they do their work, it is really nice to see the kids again as well as some new faces, and it would be a shame if they continue to not be serious and get kicked out of the program. Talking with Hamza about the kids and how they are today really makes me understand the impact that computers have on places like this. Whereas before people spent time with their friends, now many people spend hours and hours on computers in that nowhere place of “the internet”. Living in a dream world, living in a sense outside of the occupation, at least virtually. I can imagine if the trash on the streets and the lack of mobility was my “real life” existence, I’d want to spend (even) more time on the computer as well. This is perhaps the dark side of the coin of the internet as a tool for social protest, but one that proves Chomsky’s “technology is neutral” addage is completely mistaken. Technology is neutral because it changes the field in which motivation and social motivation take place, it changes what is easy and what is hard, and it changes the dominant forms and speeds and styles of interaction between people. (For instance, if most of your communication is in a form that the Israelis can easily survey, there are certain things that you won’t discuss, or like 2 kids in the camp who jokes about throwing rocks at the checkpoint – you will go to Jail).

Tonight maybe we will go to Ramallah again. I want to look into getting a cheap guitar that I can play while I am here, which afterwards I can donate to the centre. As it cools down, Palestine becomes much more pleasant – the sun during the day (it was 34 today) sits down on your shoulders and does not leave. But as it starts to become cool, this land is really wonderful – the sights, smells, sounds, the people, I really love to be here.

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