Tonight the Israeli military fighter jets are doing practice flights over Nablus, it is quite a sight to see and hear, they fly so low and manouver so fast over the city and around again. I have spent the past few days getting accustomed to the city and meeting many wonderful people.
Yesterday two of the Palestinian volunteers we work with here in Nablus, Heba and Ashraf, took a few of us international volunteers through the old city of Nablus, as many of us hadn't seen it yet because most things are shut down during Ramadan and Eid. The old city is wonderful and dates back to the Ottoman period. The streets are very narrow and the buildings are wonderful and full of character, particularly for those of us who are used to architecture in Canada, which lacks a lot of this kind of feel. The street are lined with spice vendors, sheesha pipes for sale (called nargileh here), scarves and of course the off-putting stalls of slaughtered chickens etc. (like Nicaragua, eh Bronwyn?) The old city is also a reminder of how the occupation has impacted the people here in Nablus, a number of historic buildings, including the soap factory have been completely destroyed due to bombings by American Apache helicopters, of course killing many people at the same time. Ashraf also explained to me that many shopkeepers in the old city (including his uncle and grandfather) have had their shops destroyed by Israeli tanks when they enter the city, and many people have lost their businesses and livlihoods. Life under occupation is so far from what many of us can comprehend, I was talking to my friend hassan today as we were walking through the city to get some pomegrante juice (which, by the by, when freshly squeezed from a vendor is to die for!!!), and he was telling me about how one day he dreams to be able to visit Jerusalem, becuase Palestinians are forbidden to enter into Israel without permission, and of course this permission is terribly difficult to obtain for a young Palestinian man. It is really eye opening, and makes me really think about things that I have always taken for granted, such as the ability to just move freely!
On a less political note, some of my other impressions of Nablus are that the people are wonderfully friendly and helpful. I went to one wedding last week, and am going to another this week! There seems to be a non-stop stream of weddings in Nablus. It is somewhat hard to get used to the gender restrictions, for example, the boys who we live with in our flat go out nearly every evening to smoke Nargileh and drink tamarind juice, or tea or whatever, and all of the women aren't allowed into these tea houses, and there are really very few public spaces for women, so this is definitely strange for me that I can't just go'"I'm coming with you guys!" Weird...
Also, my english has totally deteriorated in a very short time! ha ha ha! I am living with such a motely crue, my language has become very strange and intentional, I live with one Icelandic guy, one Lebanese/Scottish guy, two American guys, one belgian girl, two dutch girls, one parisian girl, one quebecois girl, one scottish girl... hmm, and I am constantly hanging around with Arabic-speaking palestinians, so I feel like my speech has become very unnatural.
Another thing about Nablus: The food is delicious and fattening! I swear everything is covered in a layer of either honey or sugar or deep fried and stuffed with cheese.
Love and kisses to all of you!!