Post by Jasmin Kirchhübel
Today our journey begins. I am very excited and nervousness is coming up slowly. While I pack the last few things (I’m sure I forgot something, but even that is part of great adventures), I have so many questions in my head: How are the Palestinian people? What will we see? What will we do? Where and how are we going to live? Are the people going to accept us? How will they react to us? Are there aspects which I have to consider in my way of speaking or in my behaviour? And most of all: What are the people eating in Palestine? I am nearly bursting with curiosity!
After a long journey with a short stop in Istanbul, we arrive at Tel Aviv Airport on Saturday morning. We experience some trouble at the passport control: two of us have to wait and go through some interviews before they are allowed to enter Israel after nearly three and four hours of waiting.
We are extremely tired when we arrive at our flats in Ramallah. Some of us got lack of sleep for about 25 hours or more. Only after at least a little bit of sleep I am able to notice everything.
Our flats are quite big, the furniture seems minimalistic, everything is some kind of „low tech“, but the most important things are available and working.
The view from our kitchen is fantastic. And when you look out of the window on the other side, you can observe the hurly-burly on the streets. It is kind of funny how often the people honk their horns. It seems equal if they have a reason to do so or just want to honk as loud as they can. And if one of them starts, the others join in a concert of hooters.
We leave the flat and walk around. All hell is let loose on the streets in Ramallah. There are so many people and cars, walking and driving as if there were no rules for traffic. The shops offer diverse goods and some shop keepers on the street are trying to sell some arabic treats. We buy fresh “lemon mint“ juice and it tastes so good, I never want to drink something else. There is a daily market few streets around the corner.
I experience a total stimulus satiation. It is a varicoloured mixture of all sorts of vegetables and fruits. It smells alternating of sweet fruits, fresh onions, garlic, vegetables, spice and candy. You have a wide range of everything you are able to imagine for unbeatable prices. I am a little bit overwhelmed and not sure where to look first. The people are very nice, friendly and appear to be interested in us because there are not many tourists in this area. Everything seems to be easygoing and untroubled. Life burbles along and no one seems to be thinking about yesterday or tomorrow. I am pretty sure everyone has some weight to carry along, but they do not show. They live here and now and that is the only important thing.
We spend the evening in a local restaurant. The atmosphere is wonderful because of the cosy seats, decoration and arabic music in the background. We order different things, such as hummus, bread, salads and chicken. Everything is placed in the middle of the table and everyone sticks his fork in the bowls or dips his bread in the delicious creams. It feels like holidays and we all are truly enjoying the lightheartedness of the moment. The owner is very kind and we get chocolate cake for free.
At this point I have to admit, that food is unbelievably great in Palestine. We all have fallen in love with the arabic cuisine. Some of us are eating falafel sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But fresh and warm bread dipped in hummus or olive oil with some spice which is called „zaater“ are alternatives for the falafel lovers. Others have to be careful not to get addicted to freshly squeezed lemon mint juice. We are convinced that we never will get enough of the delicious arabic treats.
Tomorrow we will visit the Birzeit University and begin to work on our projects – the reason why we are here. But for now we can relax and enjoy a free day. So we walk through Ramallah, buy shoes and other stuff at the market, try delicious food and get each other to know a little better. It feels like quality time with friends and we are all very excited right now.
After spending two days with getting to know the area around our flat – and of course eating all day long – the holiday time is over and we start our mission. We will visit Birzeit University for the first time. Iyad, who is a kind of supervisor for the participating students of Birzeit University, picks us up at the university gate and takes us on a little tour through the campus. First of all we visit the museum, which is part of the university. The artwork is really nice, it’s based on Palestinian cultural heritage. Afterwards, we watch a movie, which is called “the wanted 18“. It combines stop-motion animation, original drawings and archival footage to tell a story, which deals with the Isreali-Palestinian conflict.
Afterwards, we walk along the campus, take photos and selfies and I am astonished by the lovely landscape and the pretty architecture. Birzeit University definitely is one of the most beautiful places to study I have ever seen. In any case, if they have had Human Computer Interaction as a degree course, I would toy with the idea of finishing my studies in Palestine.
By walking through the university, we notice students staring at us. It actually feels a little bit like being some kind of animal in the zoo. We are obviously an attraction. But they never look at us in a pejorative way. They just seem to be very curious and interested since they do not have guests from European countries that often.
We leave the university in the afternoon and drive back to our flats in Ramallah. Some of us go into the city to buy food, juice and some other stuff. We get to know a shop keeper, who sells water pipes and equipment and surprisingly talks to us in German language. He tells us about his studies of dentistry at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin. I love the way the people welcome us. Nearly all of them are friendly and I never experienced such a hospitable country before.
All in all, there are already so many impressions, which we gained in the last 72 hours. I guess I speak for all of us if I say that Palestine is a beautiful place in its very own way and that we already have a really great time together. For me it feels like being part of a big family and I am curiously looking forward to the next four weeks and the unique adventures, which we are able to experience.
– Jasmin –