Tuesday, August 30, 2011

a day in the life...

I figured I would do a post on our day to day "regular" life in Palestine just to give you all a little taste of what it's like to live here.  We've been here about two weeks now and it's not home, but we feel a little more comfortable and at ease.  We pretty much know our way around our neighborhood, but the entire city is pretty big and we still aren't familiar with it.  About 5 minutes in a taxi will get you from our house to downtown Ramallah.  Here's a picture of our building.  Michael works on the third floor and we live on the fourth floor.

 There are pretty plants at the entrance.
 This is the side of the building.  A lot of buildings are gated and fenced.
 Here's our street facing Jerusalem to the south.
 Here's our street going towards the north and downtown.
At the end of the street, you can see the dumpster.

Here it is: the dumpster for every home/building on our street.  We didn't know what to do with our garbage when we first moved here until someone showed this to us.  At first I wondered when the garbage truck would come, but we hadn't seen a garbage truck the entire time we'd been here.  Then, the other night we were sitting on our balcony and we saw a large fire on the next road.  At first, I thought someones car blew up or something, until we realized it was their dumpster - they were burning their trash.  And so it occurred to us that there are no garbage men here.  There is no sanitation system.  People just burn everything when the dumpsters get full.

As you can see, a lot of trash doesn't actually make it into the dumpster.  There's a lot of litter all along the street and especially around the dumpster.  I'm sure it's totally normal here, but we're just not used to it.  In the U.S., garbage dumpsters are usually hidden discretely behind buildings or behind a wall, but here they are kind of an eye sore - out in plain sight.  Just one more thing I'm thankful for at home that I never even realized I should be thankful for - sanitation!

 We've noticed these thorns along the road.
 They're huge + sharp!

 Maybe these were the kind of thorns used to make Christ's crown during the crucifixion?  That'd be really painful to say the least.  I remember once in church I was told that the thorns on His crown we over an inch in length.  I'd never seen a briar or thorn that large - until now.  So here are a few more pictures of the area we live in.

 The Palestinian flag.
This is just a nearby building around our neighborhood.

The odd thing about Ramallah - in our opinion - is the fact that there are really nice buildings, hotels, apartments, and restaurants all around - (of course, there are also some construction sites and homes that need a little attention, but many of the buildings here are very nice and the city is attractive) - yet on the street level, right next to the nice buildings, you will see litter and rubble everywhere.

 Another dumpster.
 The side of the street.
 You see rubble like this everywhere.
 There are a lot of construction sites that are total eye sores.
This is a pile of garbage closer to the downtown area.

It's just frustrating to me because I think the city is beautiful, but I can't lie - its sidewalks and streets are pretty filthy.  And again - it's just so odd to me.  You see all this trash, yet our neighborhood has three nice restaurants, cafes, convenience stores, nice banks, and a park.  By no means is it a "rough" neighborhood.  If there were an organized sanitation system here, it'd be even more beautiful and I'm sorry to see that the people here don't have access to basic services like that.

So the place me most frequently visit here is definitely the grocery store.  I'd say it's maybe a mile walk from our house - maybe even less.  We can walk there in about 15 minutes (with such nice weather, I actually enjoy the walk).  According to our friends, this is a nice grocery store.  And it really isn't bad, just smaller than what I'm used to and the products are either in a different lanugage (usually Hebrew or Arabic) or sometimes they just don't have as wide of a selection as I'm used to.  We are truly spoiled in the states with huge stores and unlimited options of foods, brands, and prices.  I miss Kroger and Publix so very much!  Still, I don't know what we'd do without this store, so I'm thankful that it's within walking distance of our place.

 The entrance : )

 The itsy bitsy produce section.
 That's Hebrew for "butter" and "margarine".
 Most everything is in Hebrew.  Some products are very foreign to us.
 We were surprised to find that they carry Kroger brand haha : )
 And every now and then, we'll see something totally familiar.
We don't have an oven, so I don't buy cake mixes : (

A few other parts of daily life that take getting used to - we don't drink water out of the tap.  Only bottled water.  You don't realize how much you use tap water until you can't use it.  It's not just drinking - boiling pasta, making tea or coffee - I have to remember to use the bottled water.  Boiling it does kill germs, but if there are toxins and metals in the water, boiling it won't make it completely safe.

The apartheid wall takes some getting used to.  Imagine being walled into your city and just to see your family or go do some shopping in the town next to you (a few miles down the road),  you have to wait in line to get through checkpoints.  That's what I have to do to get to Jerusalem.  Someone holding a machine gun decides whether or not I can enter. 

The checkpoint.

For Palestinians, they aren't allowed into Jerusalem at all, but to go to any other cities, they must go through these checkpoints and take indirect routes.  Because of these indirect routes (a lot of major highways only allow Israelis or people with Israeli visas) a Palestinian may have to drive an hour to get to a place that is only 20 minutes away.  I'm not going to get into the politics of this situation, but this is definitely a constant presence that is part of everyday life here.

And as I mentioned, there are a lot of armed guards with machine guns pretty much everywhere you go.  I don't know if I'll ever be used to it, but I know it's a part of everyday life here.  Just from my balcony now, there are two guards standing on the street with machine guns.  A lot of the buildings and businesses around here have armed guards as well.  The building I live in always has an unarmed security guard 24/7.  And then of course, the Israeli military is always armed at every checkpoint.  We're blessed in the U.S. never having to live with so much tension and violence.

This is the road outside my balcony.

These are the guards outside my apartment.

I hope that gives everyone a little glimpse of life here in the Palestinian Territories.  Later, I'll blog about our date night we had and our second trip to the Old City in Jerusalem.  There are many more posts to come!

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