Well, I've been in Bethlehem for one full day and I feel like I am still in transit to what my life will be like for the next three months.
It has been great to get to know my host family, and hopefullyI will get the chance to form a strong relationship with them. The one huge obsticale I am still facing is the fact that I don't know any Arabic, so hopefully as I learn it will become easier to communicate with them. My roomate Ilyana, who is from Russia, knows Classical Arabic (which is very different from colloquial Arabic), so she is able to speak with them a bit easier. I'm living in an apartment right across from a hotel, which is convient for when I get lost because I have no idea what my address is! My room and bathroom are really comfortable, though every morning so far I've had to squash a friendly bathroom cockroach. Though it's only ever one and only in the morning, and the ones here aren't nearly the size of what I encountered in China and Thailand!
There are 13 PSE participants for the first month, with our numbers doubling next month and some leaving after that. It will be strange to get to know people really well for a month or two months and then have to say goodbye and get to know a whole new group. At least my roomate Ilyana is here for the full three months as well. Most of the group are American, with my roomate being Russian, one guy from Chile, one girl from Switzerland and then me as the only Canadian (just like YWAM!). It's been really interesting to learn from the other participants what their background is and what has brought them here to Palestine. One of the Americans is actually an ex-soldier who served in Iraq in 2004, became disenchanted with the military and is now determined to work for peace through nonviolence and dialogue. It is going to be very interesting to talk with him about his experience then compared to now. The one thing he's said so far is that people are much friendlier when you are not pointing a gun in their face.
Tonight the 13 of us, along with our group "leaders" John Mark and Rafat who work for Middle East Fellowship and Holy Land Trust, and meeting for dinner and more socializing. Tomorrow we are taking a day trip to Jerusalem, and this will be the first time I will cross the wall the way that Palestinians have to. Most tourists when they come to Bethlehem come on a bus, get off at the Church of the Navity, take pictures, and then get back on their bus and sail right through the checkpoint back to Jerusalem. Most tourists don't spend the night in the West Bank and never get a chance to interact with Palestinians. Palestinians, if they are on a bus or not, must get out and walk through the checkpoint. The security they face is much more indepth and even humiliating, and so this is what I will get to witness first hand tomorrow.
Monday is when the real program starts, and I get to settle into my routine. I will start my volunteer position, which is with Palestine News Network (PNN). I have no idea what I am doing yet, so I will probably try to blog tomorrow night and let you know. I will also start Arabic classes on monday, which I am very excited about! Although my host family is already expecting me to be fluent within a month! Pressure!
I probably haven't explained very well the program I am with or the organizations I am working with. Instead of me doing that here I will give the links for those who are interested in learning more.
Palestine News Network: http://english.pnn.ps/
Palestine Summer Encounter: http://www.palestinesummer.org/
Holy Land Trust: http://www.holylandtrust.org/
Middle East Fellowship: http://www.middleeastfellowship.org/
Hopefully I will post again monday. Until then, Peace.