25 July, 2008

Living in Neopolis

Some things to note about living in Neopolis:
Water is very tight. It's a problem in many parts of the region and wider world for sure. Even posh Istanbul endures water cuts from neighborhood to neighborhood at times. Here things are compounded by Israel and the illegal settlements in the WB, where most of the ground water is siphoned off before it can reach Palestinian villages and towns. In Nablus there is a municipal water system for delivery, but all water is rationed. Roofs are topped with large, black plastic water tanks where your rationed water is stored. Despite gravity, water pressure is generally low and the responsibility to conserve water is high. We have a washing machine, but it uses too much water. The summer volunteers found this out the hard way last month and had to endure several days without water for the bathroom. One good thing is that the tap water is safe, clean and tasty, something Istanbulites cannot even brag about.

All foreigners look alike. Almost every day I walk to work through the old city. And every time most of the same people welcome me to Nablus. It's very nice of them, but rather amusing and leaves me feeling a bit like Bill Murray in the film Groundhog's Day. The people I buy my coffee, spices, honey, cheese, olives, etc. from know me well, obviously. It also reminds me of my former-mother in-law in Morocco commenting that I looked exactly like the anchorwoman on BBC who did bear a striking resemblance in that she was carbon-based, human and female.

The kunafe comes two ways - "hard", with the shredded phylo on top, the way it's served in Turkey and Syria and the only way I'd ever seen it made, and "soft" with a simple wheat meal topping. Soft's the way to go. Nichole and I have decided to eat at every kunafe place in the city and write the definitive guide. You know, as a service to the public. If unsure, start eating at Damascus Sweets, just west of the fruit and vegetable market at the clock tower.

You will see a variety of what I term "public art": shaheed (martyr) posters, election posters and graffiti. What strikes me most about the martyr posters is how nonthreatening almost all of them look, even holding ridiculously large weapons, like boys playing war. That and how incredibly young some of them look and were.

There is a mall, not American-sized mind you, but the Israelis are shutting it down August 15 because they claim it funds Hamas or the shop owners fund Hamas or something, depending on which story you here. The closing date is also flexible. I'm meeting friends there for lunch tomorrow.
Supposedly the whole place is having a going-out-of-business sale at the moment, in case you're in town.

Some people believe you should boycott all Israeli goods and a boycott can be a good form of non-violent protest. However, almost everywhere I go, people stock products from Israel, so the consensus on boycotting seems a bit weak.

Ladies, there are no tampons in Nablus. Trust me. Head to Ramallah.

There are goats on the roof of the souq. Seriously. Two of them almost fell on me through a hole in the roof in front of a butcher shop the other day. I heard a commotion above my head and looked up to see the shadows of two goats scrambling around like fallen ice skaters. No word on what else is up there.

Off to the pool with friends.

22 July, 2008

No time for kunafe!

Just finished: The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
Reading: White Noise by Don DeLillo
On Deck: Gardens of Light by Amin Maalouf
Listening to: The Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen

Things are very hectic here at school, with summer camp ending and planning for the coming school year shifting into high gear. With about a month to go until the first day of school we've made the rather momentous decision to scrap the existing textbooks that coincide with the Palestinian curriculum and create our own. While this is exciting and will produce far more challenging materials for our students, it's also a bit crazy-making at the moment. We'll be deciding who will teach what grade at today's curriculum meeting. Each of us will be creating books for English, science and math. The math we'll be teaching is not simple arithmetic but rather what's not covered in the Palestinian curriculum: measurements, word problems, time, money, etc. We'll be selecting themes based on the grammar points included in the Palestinian curriculum and building from those. The overall goal is, obviously, to create a challenging, innovative and well-designed course of study.

In addition to that small task I'm working in the library to catalog the English-language materials. It's slow going, but I enjoy getting to see what I have to work with and reminisce over some of the titles from my childhood. I'm also working on updating the school's web site with stories and photos from summer camp. In short, I'm crazy busy and wildly happy.

Last night we enjoyed a wonderful time at the palatial home of Munib al-Masri, the wealthy Palestinian businessman who is working hard to develop his beloved hometown. He was kind enough to invite all our students to his estate for an evening of games, music and a quick tour of his home. Click on the title of this post to read more about him and see the estate.

The internet's been out at the house, which makes updating challenging with all the work to be done first at school. We may be moving again, splitting into seperate homes for the men and women. I hope to get to Jerusalem for at least a few days while school is closed for the next two weeks, but my original plan to travel north had to be postponed due to the massive textbook project. I finally have a few new photos up on Flickr and am trying to post more when I - ha, ha! - have time. Bear with me, folks!