Text by Jacob P. '12 and photos by John Galayda
Wow. This week has been amazing. When we arrived in Ramallah, I was apprehensive, to say the least, about my stay with a host family. But, in all honesty, these past few days have changed the perspective through which I view other cultures. Right off the bat, I launched into the most profound philosophical discussions with the Friends students, which ranged from the beauty of our universe to the political conundrums to the existence of God. I was amazed at how much these students like me, and also fascinated by the cultural differences.
The following morning, our group shared our oral history project with the Ramallah Friends students, and they shared their ideas with us. The energy they brought to the project warmed my heart, and I cannot wait to hear their stories on the oral history website. Later in the day, our group went to the Friends Lower School, which hosts grades K-6. We spent time in their classrooms and taught them how to use the cameras with which they will take pictures of Ramallah. (see photos below)
Although the days I have spent with our group have been amazing, the nights with my host brother have been life-changing. The crowded, bustling city of Ramallah turns into a much calmer city in the night and in the past few days I have grown to love wandering around its streets with my host brother and his friends. What surprised me the most is how nice everyone is to one another. First of all, everyone knows everyone, and second, everyone greets one another with a "marhaba" or "shu akhbaarak."
At first I was hesitant to use my Arabic, because all of the the Ramallah Friends kids are nearly fluent in English and the Fusha (formal Arabic) of the classroom is much different from the dialect of the streets. But, as I became comfortable with my host brother and listened to the conversations with his firneds, I grew more confident and learned the idioms of the local language.
Over the past few days, I have become a part of the "boys." I've learned how to play the most complicated card game of my life, been informed of the inside jokes and ate at the best shawarma place ever. I've grown accustomed to the olive oil and cheese breakfast, the traffic-lightless streets, and the pestering salesmen. I greet my friends with and "Eish wale" (slang Wassup) and am no longer scared of the overly friendly locals who originally intimidated me.
I could go on forever, but I would rather not. What I have told you is only the tip of the iceberg (roughly 2% of the whole structure). I never want to forget my experiences here, nor do I want to forget the lessons that I drew from them even though we are from different cultures and hold different beliefs. We are the same where it matters most: we both want peace, we both want to laugh, we both value passion, and we both enjoy a good felafel.