– Post by Tamar –
30.09.2018 – Day 04
First thing planned for today is a tour through Al Amari refugee camp in Ramallah. This is also where the computer club is located that was established as YALLAH! project and that is now subject to one of this years’ project groups. Walking to the camp in the group feels just like a relaxed walk in the morning. The sun is way to hot today in my opinion. The streets here on the way are wider than in the center of Ramallah and you don’t just walk across the street in front of a car. We can see Al Amari’s entrance sign or rather entrance arch from far. From here it looks a bit like a little village inside the city, clearly different from the surroundings. In the front of the entrance Razan, Renad and another women are welcoming us. It’s nice to meet them again and to see that Renad had arrived home well. Walking inside I expect people at the street to give us strange looks or something, based on what I had heard about their attitude towards strangers/outsiders walking through the camp. But I don’t notice anything like that from the few people sitting at the sidewalks. We turn into a side street that I recognize from photos. Razan and Ahmad went inside a building to look for someone who wanted to accompany us walking through the camp. We have some time to talk, look at the backyard and a lonely chicken walking around. A bit later our guide, Ashraf comes and after him and Renad negotiated how they go about translating, because he doesn’t speak English, he starts telling some general information about Al Amari. Founded 1948, families settled here first in tents when they fled from different cities, a family from Al Bireh provided them with houses/cement blocks and the camp was named “Al Amari” after this family. We start walking through the streets stopping here and there. He tells us about and shows us several societies inside the camp: youth center, women center with child care, the center for special needs people and tells us about volunteers coming there from different nations. On our way we are stopping in front of the tall iron door of a mosque. Renad is peeks inside asking if we are allowed to enter. The women are. So Renad, Sarah, Jenny K, Jenny Z and me go inside, taking off our shoes and waiting for instructions how we would be allowed to enter the main area. Renad tells us to just come over and gives us something to cover our heads. The three women sitting at a table on the side are welcoming us, asking where we are from. They are very friendly. After looking around for a while, enjoying the soft carpet underneath our feet we thank the women and join the rest of the group again. Now some
children are on their ways, since school is over. At the end of our tour we visit the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) youth center with the computer club room mentioned above. Over a square-shaped yard through a narrow passage and up the stairs, on the first floor there is a long corridor and several rooms to the left. We peek into some of the rooms. Finally we get to *the* computer room. I recognize the room and the red paint on the walls from the photos, but all tables and the computers with them are pushed to a corner and one of the Raspberry Pis is hanging to the side of the table. Marios comes in and has a very irritated look asking what had happened here. We start inspecting the corner and sort out all Raspberry Pis. We could not find any of the SD-Cards. What we see here raises questions about what that means for the computer club project and how it might change things. On our way outside some kids are playing soccer on the yard with Julian, Aydin and Majid. During an attempt to score a goal Jenny Z. gets hit by the ball on the head. To everyones delight she captured that moment filming.
For lunch we decide to go to Abu Hammam. A restaurant with a bit of canteen feeling, good prices and a lot of delicious food to choose from. They bring some water bottles to our table right away. After ordering they bring more and more delicious things to our table: salads, hummus, sauces with tahini, kidra, maqluba, mansaf, shakshouka… definitely not our last visit to Abu Hammad.
After a break at our apartments we visit “leaders”, a startup incubator located in a somewhat more fancy part of Ramallah in a nicely air-conditioned building. They tell us about their work and the hurdles and obstacles that startups in Palestine have to overcome and how they try to work against the high unemployment rate (17% in the west bank, 60% in Gaza).
Afterwards Jenny K, Sarah M, Aydin, Majid, Julian, Ahmad and I decide to visit the nearby place for coffee and cake called “Vanilla” in order to fulfill Sarah M’s cherished dream about their velvet cake. For two month now she is looking forward to taste the, according to Ahmad’s claim, “worlds best velvet cake”. Before even turning into the street Sarah recognizes the “Vanilla” sign and her excited scream scares Jenny K thinking someone got hit by a car. We order iced drinks, milkshakes and Sarah a velvet cake of course. We are all stunned by the taste. We found another place we will definitely come back to during our stay.
In the evening we go out for grocery shopping to prepare for the next day since all stores will be closed due to a strike. Even the 24/7 juice place will be closed tomorrow. Some vegetables we get from Al Hesba, the market. Fruits, herbs and vegetables are piled up and their fresh scent is mixed with the lively sound of goods being praised. We end our day sitting in our headquarters, discussing several aspects of what we had seen today.
01.10.2018 – Day 05
Today was our first almost complete meeting with all german and palestinian participants. We sat all together in our headquarters in a big circle. Over the past days once in a while someone mentioned that our group would feels so small and it always seemed like someone is missing, so it was a nice feeling to have the whole group together. I looked forward to getting started with our actual project work and see where things would be going. We took some time to talk about organizational matters, trips, scheduling group meetings and other things that had to be planned. After the big group meeting we sat together in our project groups to start working. In the Al Amari computer club team we had to reflect on what our next steps should be given what we saw in Al Amari yesterday and scheduled some first interviews and meetings. It is hard to plan our concrete steps we want to undertake but at the same time trying not to make any assumptions and wait for the insights we get through interviews and observations. But it is just the first week There is still a lot of time to turn some plans into action.
In the evening we sat in our headquarters while Majid and Jenny Z. were doing the dishes. Suddenly Jenny screamed something incomprehensible, something about her foot. It sounded bad and I pictures of a bloody toe already came to my mind. Everyone went to see what had happened. What *had* happened was that Majid had used too much detergent and the foam came out of the floor drain where Jenny stepped into it.
02.10.2018 – Day 06
In the morning we drove up to Birzeit to have a tour of the University campus. Yesterday it had been questioned whether we should postpone the trip because of a student strike today. The BZU students were not sure themselves whether their lectures would all take place or what exactly would happen. When we got there it just seemed like a get-together with music so it didn’t keep us from doing our tour. While we waited for Dr. Ijad at the entrance of the engineering faculty Yara, Rawand, Ahmad and Mohammad joined us, later also Moath and Nizar. The campus is quite a spacious area with tall buildings. Since it is located on a hill it provides a superb view over the area. On my first impression it makes a nice place to study. We walked by the campus pharmacy, an observatory, building for women studies, the Palestinian museum, the natural science departments and so on. Dr. Ijad tells us that every student has to go through a course on design thinking, regardless his or her study program. The sun and the heat were a bit too much for what I am used to. A part of the group went to one of the cafeterias to have a falafel sandwich. What we had heard about the campus canteens was rather less enthusiastic. We had just finished our sandwiches when a student came in and made an announcement in Arabic. Because of the strike the buildings were being closed so we had to leave and decided to meet the others in a working room that our team got access to. I had a meeting with my computer club team until we weren’t able to think straight anymore and decided to head back to the apartments. On our way we had a quick stop at Stars and Bucks for some frappuccinos. They were pretty good and totally comparable to those you can get in that store with a similar name. Back at the apartments we took a break and got a visit from Renad, Razan and their two little sisters.
For the evening we had scheduled an interview that was promising to get us some valuable insights into the social structure within the Al Amari camp. It turned out to be a very helpful talk. The interview was conducted in Arabic and a bit of English here and there. Renad translated into English for us simultaneously. Although having a multi-language interview has some downsides it is also very interesting. The translation breaks give some time to think. I sometimes tried to capture the gestures and facial expressions while Arabic was spoken and then transfer them to the translation, which worked more or less well. Back at the apartments we took some time to talk and process all the new information. Not everyone of the group took part in the interview to make the situation less overwhelming. I am still struggling with how to share and process information acquired separately during those occasions in qualitative studies in an effective and efficient way.
Tomorrow morning we want to start to Bethlehem at 8am.