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I wanted to share this little tidbit that I found funny this morning. It is excerpted from the email update put out by CPT's team in Hebron

Monday, 13 February 2006

Dianne Roe had a conversation with a soldier at gates 4 and 5 in
the Old City. They continued to talk until another soldier approached. Roe,
expecting the worst, feared that settlers nearby had told the soldier that
they should not talk to CPT. The second soldier then confronted Roe and
asked about a paper. Roe, knowing that soldiers have in the past required
special permits for internationals in places in Hebron, said she was from
CPT and lived in the Old Market. The soldier then repeated his need for
some kind of paper. Roe looked bewildered until the first soldier, whose
English was better, said, "He is asking if you have any toilet paper." Roe
checked her pockets and apologized that she had none. She told them she
would bring some next time.
violachic: (Default)
I have a PASSIA!


Note: This post may only be intelligible to those on my friends list who have been to Palestine.
violachic: (Default)
So I have another story. A true story.

So there we were in Tuwani, and it was the first day of Eid Al-Fitr. Our team had spent some of the day sitting on the hillside doing checkpoint monitoring, but decided to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening doing the celebratory visiting of friends and neighbors that is one of the hallmarks of the day. We were served the delicious biscuit that is made with a filling of dates or almonds and dusted with powdered sugar, and vats upon vats of the sweet, sweet tea in small glasses. We stopped in to see one family as they were preparing supper of Makloube (which means "upside down" in Arabic), and we were invited to join. We stuffed ourselves as much as we could on top of the heavy cookies and gallons of tea still sitting in our stomachs- our taste buds wanted it, but our bodies just couldn't handle it!

We knew that the olive harvest was supposed to start in two days, on the third day of Eid, and knew that we needed to have a key role during that time as accompaniers. After dinner, we were informed that the men of the village were having a meeting about olive harvest that evening, and we were invited to attend. The four of us- Matt, Mike, Jenny and I- did.

Now, in CPT training, we work a lot on group dynamics, facilitating meetings, and the consensus process. We do role plays, we learn how to "actively listen", and we use a lot of flip charts. When you work so hard on it, its easy to forget that not every meeting will go the same way. This one, while entertaining and informative, certainly did not.

Picture a very large room, made entirely of cement floors cinder-block walls, and high ceilings. The only actual furniture in it is a television on a small cart. The other furnishings consisted of about a dozen foam mats, which are used for sleeping and sitting, in lieu of beds and couches. My aim here is to point out exactly how acoustically live that room is. Add to the mix about twenty five men, carrying on about ten conversations at once, and us- the best Arabic speaker in the bunch is only so-so, and the only English speaker in that group was not seated very close to us- trying to catch on.

It was a melee. Sensory Input Overload. Voices resounding, arms waving. From time to time a new person would join the room, and five or six men would take the time to try to bring him up to speed on decisions we had no clue about. There was no consensus, no "active listening", and there were certainly no flip charts. We sat patiently, trying to catch conversation, and asking questions to things that related to our role for that day.

All of a sudden next to me, Jenny fell silent. She was one of our two Arabic speakers, and had been listening hard to keep us two non-speakers informed. She kind of just sat back against the wall, now, and silently observed the room.

And then she said, barely turning to me, and sort of sotto-voce, "Amy, my life is not normal."

Silence again.

And then "I mean, look at my life- look at this! This is not a normal life!"

And truly, she was right.

And I empathized.

My life is not normal. It never will be again. I must learn to accept this. It is exciting, but it can be wearing. Or is the other way around?
violachic: (Default)
[ profile] geezerlee sent me this link, an very nice article about our friends in Iraq.

And, as a piece of interesting trivia, the second picture at the bottom- I took it.

And for anyone who is going to ask, no we have't heard anything. Still waiting. Still Waiting.
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Living in Tuwani for two months has completely ruined me.

Not only am I completely categorically against cold weather, but I actually found myself relieved to be out of The Big City this past weekend.

What's up with that?
violachic: (groooooovy (neopets))
Okay, here's a story. A true story. Not even -based- on a true story. Its real.


As some of you may already know, [ profile] pheret1 and I were raised by wolves. By this I mean that we were pretty sheltered. Our mother was- and still is- an intellectual elitest, and nary a whisper of pop culture came through our door. Think Frances McDormand's character in Almost Famous, only instead of banning Simon and Garfunkle, she put them in my Christmas stocking when I was eight.

I began my musical evolution by late grade school, as I spent time at friends houses, and at our older sibling's houses (half siblings, eighteen and twenty years older than me, respectively). In middle school I began listening to the oldies station pretty regularly, and by eighth grade, I was on to classic rock (Chicagoans, remember what WCKG used to be?). By the time I was being driven around in friends cars, much to Mother's chagrin (she didn't trust teenaged drivers and we technically weren't allowed to ride with them, but there wasn't much she could do on this front except gnash her teeth), I was finally starting to at least catch on that this whole "pop culture" thing existed.

Now, despite the fact that I am actually teachable, I've never been considered even remotely hip. In any area. Hippy or hippie maybe, but not "hip".

Now- and this may momentarily seem unrelated, but bear with me- when a person is done with a stint on team in CPT, there is a process called the "Exit Interview" that everyone has to go through. This consists of a set of questions to that person and to several of their teammates about strengths, concerns, etc. Probably not unlike what you go through in a Real Job, but I wouldn't know because I've never had one. Now, my exit interview process was delayed, because my last week on team was when the shit hit the fan in Iraq, and we'd been dealing with that for weeks and weeks.

The Now Story:

So I finally got feedback on my exit interview stuff this week. My teammates had to tell what they thought my strengths were, if they had any concerns about my work, etc. The comments were overall really positive, but there was one place that made me laugh and be very happy.

In the section that asked "What things did this person contribute most to the team?" Matt answered "Her iPod. Amy has the best collection of rock and punk music of anyone I've ever worked with on team before".


Apparently, I actually do have good taste in music. And maybe- just maybe- someone thinks I'm hip.
violachic: (groooooovy (neopets))
Did I mention I had an enormous layover in Milan on my way to Palestine?

milan )
violachic: (Default)
So some weeks back, when I was sitting on a hillside in the Southern part of the West Bank waiting to monitor the kids' escort to school, it hit me how fucked up everything was. Okay, I mean, not like it was the first time I had this little epiphany. But whatever. It entered my mind.

And as I was thinking this, the phrase "see you on the flip side!" kept running through my head. It seemed somehow indicative of the situation over there. Nothing like you think it is, from a distance. Everything seemed up-ended.

I couldn't figure out why I kept thinking that. It was obviously a catch-phrase of some sort that was floating around in the depths of my subconscious, but from where?

And then I started to have memories of watching TV at a friend's house in grade school (we weren't allowed to watch TV at home- raised by wolves, after all) and seeing some cartoon they used this catch-phrase in.

In this cartoon, I remember that it was live-action to begin with, then they went through this... this... thing... and ended up as cartoons. While they were going through the aforementioned "thing", someone would cry out "See you on the flip side!" Or maybe it was "catch you on the flip side". I'm not sure. But that's all I had to go on. I think I only saw it twice- I don't know if I was watching TV with this particular friend more than once, or if there were two episodes in a row on, or what.

But then it started to torment me. Because I had no idea where I'd gotten this tidbit from, and by golly, I was going to track it down. And nobody I asked seemed to know. I even made a point of asking people my age and older, rather than younger people. It was clear to me that I was probably seven or eight when I saw this, as the friend I remembered watching it with was in my second-grade class.

But nobody knew. Nobody.

I even got a few funny looks. But I'm used to those.

Finally, I had a breakthrough at [ profile] pam and [ profile] spot's Christmas party, when someone actually corroborated my story- at least the part where they remembered something like this existed.

It gave me hope. A little tiny spark of hope.

So I used that phrase to wrap up my last post, and got a couple interesting comments about it. None were accurate- or at least what I was looking for- so I decided to grow a brain.

I googled it.

And this is what I found.


I got it!

This also explains why I periodically have a song called "Video Romeo" run through my head. That, too, has been there for years. I've never before put the two together.

Then it gets kinda weird.

According to trivia, "The show was promoted extensively in Israel, so much that the show's stars actually went on tour there as the Kidd Video band. The American show's only soundtrack album was also an Israeli exclusive release."

Oh yes, that lovely Divine Presence sure does have a sense of humor.

Put that in your hookah* and smoke it.

*...combination hookah and coffee maker, also makes Julienne fries! Will not break, will not br...

It broke.
violachic: (Default)
Not down to the nitty-gritty quite yet. I'm trying to ease y'all in.

more )


Dec. 30th, 2005 02:24 pm
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Just a few pictures from my time overseas. More later. Its a real pain in the ass to upload pictures to Photobucket on dial-up!

Beit CPT* )

cute kids )

miscellaneous village life )

Jerusalem, Old City )

More to come, periodically.

*"Beit" means house. Saying "Beit So-and-so" is like the French way of saying "Chez Paul", or "at so-and-so's house".
violachic: (Default)
I have to admit, I really miss it. A lot.

All the photos in this section are mine. It was also my last day in the village. I hitched a ride to Jerusalem (just barely!) with the Spanish journalists you can see in one of the pictures. It was a very abrupt farewell.
violachic: (Default)
So my last week in the country certainly has proved to be a doozy. If you're somehow unaware (head in the sand, much?) of what's going on, please reference the CPT website.

Other than that, we had a real shit week in Tuwani.

Plus, I hate saying goodbye. Its hard enough for me to make functional relationships, it seems so stupid to have to let them go. I know that when I come back on project the villagers will still be there (insh'allah), but for some reason I'm terrified that the friends I've made in Jerusalem will somehow either not be here when I get back, or completely forget about me.

I never said I was rational.

Just a few more hours.

I'd rather that this experience become a regular thing in my life, rather than just "an experience". We'll have to see what happens.

Now I'm off to lose my last game of pool.

Halas. Goodnight.
violachic: (Default)
I'm still alive.

I'm tired, but happy.

I don't really want to come home, but I will anyway.

The next week will be psycho, as I'll be going between both teams, preparing to fly out, visiting the conservatory, and spending time with my Jerusalem friends before I leave. At least I'm sure I'll sleep on the plane!

Not looking forward to getting through the airport on my way out. Might just have to brace myself for a 3-hour interrogation. "Have you talked to any Arabs?" "Well actually.... maybe one or two..." Could be the most stressful part of the whole trip. Besides the whole saying goodbye to people who have come to mean a lot to me.


Just thought I'd let you all know. I'm still alive.
violachic: (Default)
A happy belated birthday to [ profile] pheret1!

[ profile] polyfrog gets a gold star for being the first person to call me.

I'm currently in our "office" apartment, and I'll be spending the night with our Hebron team. Tomorrow morning I'll continue on to Jerusalem for a few days off, where then I'll meet the Hebron and Tuwani combined teams for a two-day retreat. We'll be back in the village by Thursday night.

Things are good, but a bit tense. [ profile] pheret1 has details if you're interested. No problems- mushkela- yet, really, but a lot of waiting around and hoping there won't be a mushkela.

The CPT/OD house may or may not have acquired a puppy. I probably won't know for sure until I get back there on Thursday.

I'm tired, and have so many mosquito bites I look like I have some kind of disease. Thankfully, malaria is not an issue here. I'm ready for a few days off! I starting tomorrow (I don't think I have time this afternoon) I will have a hot shower every day for five days. What a relief!

More emailing and journal updating over the next few days. I promise.
violachic: (groooooovy (neopets))
Okay, so first off, apologies for not being in better contact, in general. I'm not sure why I was under the illusion I'd have more internet access than this, but.... I don't.

I'm fine, in fact I'm great. I'm loving being here. So far, I've lost almost ten pounds, and have a great tan- at least from the elbows down. Its very gogogo here, but in a different way than I'm used to. Its very focused, and one-task oriented, although the single task has many facets to it. We're way out in the country, away from running water, electricity (we do get about five hours a night, from a diesel generator), or internet connection. Its kind of like an extended camping trip. We do, however, share a single-room house, which can be a bit wearing from time to time when you're trying to step around five or six people. Luckily, its still warm out, and until a couple night ago were sleeping outside. We also have a decent-sized yard, and sometimes take chairs out to edge to be by ourselves.

Right now I'm taking an overnight-off- not exactly a day off, but close- in Yatta, which is the nearest urban-type center to our village, and where we keep a small apartment that serves as an office, a way-station between Tuwani and Hebron or Tuwani and Jerusalem, and a place to take a day or so away from the country.

I've been online for about two hours, and have managed to reply to all the emails already in my inbox, peruse LJ a tad (not easy after being away for a week!), and do a little updating. Right now, my brain is a bit fried, so I'm going to pop a DVD into the computer, and afterwards I will do some more emailing, and a major update to my Big Girl Blog.

In case you're wondering, I'm ecstatically happy.

ADD post

Oct. 8th, 2005 01:59 pm
violachic: (Default)
By this time tomorrow, I will have my very own cell phone! This means that if you are willing to pay the rates, and stay up till the middle of the night, you can call me. I will be calling my sister with the number as soon as its humanitarianly possible, and if you feel you deserve this number, you can get ahold of her to get it.

We all decided it would be easier if I waited till some of the team came to church on Sunday to fetch me, and then went back down to Hebron together. I wasn't feeling great when I landed, plus catching the bus is more complicated than it used to be, so it is almost imperative there is someone there to shepherd me. No sweat. Four days alone in Jerusalem, worshipping in the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, lunch on the team, and company. Who can complain?

No big, profound updates today. I'm too tired.

Okay, American men. I haven't been able to take a break from beating off Italian and mideastern men with a stick. What's wrong with you? Where's that line out my door at home? Eh? Turns out I won't have to pay for another piece of jewelry again in Jerusalem if I just keep smiling nicely at shopkeepers.

Gotta love the shopkeeper who's opening line is "Would you like to come give me a chance to rip you off?"

Umm.... tried to do the Via Dolorosa today, but the map was unclear. We (I made a friend in the hostel, and we are checking things out together today) only got about a third of the stations.

Why is it some of the best pizza I've ever had in my life comes from Israel/Palestine? It wasn't even this good in Milan.

Wow, don't I sound like hoity-toity world traveler type?

Postcards are addressed. If I am lucky I will get stamps and mail them tomorrow. Otherwise they don't go out for another week. Inshallah, you might even get them before I return home.

Tomorrow is my last flush toilet for at least a week. Maybe more, if I can't come into Jerusalem for church next Sunday. Oi.

Souvenir requests will be taken. If they are large and need to be shipped home, send me money. If it is expensive, send me money. I don't have paypal anymore, but I can get to a Western Union office. Heck, send me money anyway. I succumbed to a shopkeeper with beautiful, soulful eyes yesterday. Double oi.

Note to self: From now on when traveling alone in a foreign country, wear ring on third finger of left hand, and don't have any qualms regarding lying about being married.

Nap time.

P.S. Hey, this feels like a vacation. Who knew?
violachic: (Default)
So I'm here. Okay, I'm most of the way here.

[ profile] pheret1, consider this your phone call. I thought about calling you, but we're 8 hours ahead, and...well, check out the time of the post if you're wondering.

I finally made it to Jerusalem, where I checked into the hostel about seven this morning. I did the very thing you're not supposed to do after traveling long distances and changing multiple time zones- I promptly crashed out for about four hours. I'm not all that worried about the jet lag thing, though. Since I don't have much of a circadian rhythm to begin with, couple that with the fact that I'm still beat, and I'm sure I have a nice, healthy 8 hours left in me for tonight.

A few gripes:

1)TSA are a bunch of buggers. When I checked my luggage, I asked them if it was okay for me to leave the locks on the luggage, but unlocked, so they could do their searches, and then lock the bags. They cheerfully said "sure!" When I retrieved my bag this morning at Tel Aviv, the locks were not on the suitcase at all. And my CPT material was gone. So I don't know, actually, if it was TSA, or if the locks got cut off either in Milan or Tel Aviv, but either way I'm pretty upset. If they removed the CPT brochures because if the "political" content, though, I'm confused why they left my "Arabic in Ten Minutes A Day" book. Strange stuff.

2)Alitalia is a crap airline. All their planes I've flown in- a total of six, now- are small, dirty, and unprepared. They constantly run out of things like toilet paper, and never have enough pillows and blankets to go around. I don't like Alitalia. Unfortunatly, they're cheap, which is why CPT keeps using them. I have a very strong hope that next time I come on project I fly Lufthansa. I hear they're practically luxury!

3)Malpensa Airport is a hole. Luckily, the mass transit system in the greater Milan area seems to work quite well, so getting out into the city, and getting back to the airport was quite smooth. But the airport is much like Alitalia itself- dirty, small and unprepared. I didn't use a bathroom all day where the toilet actually flushed properly, or the stall door closed and locked properly. And it wasn't just me, either. There was always a kind of Sisterhood of Bad Bathroom Solidarity, with all of us women going "how do you actually lock this damn thing...?" in six different languages. Eye rolling translates universally.

Okay, thanks. Had to get that off my chest. Feel better, now.

Checking in at O'Hare went easily, and I managed to move slowly enough and entertain myself so I didn't have a lot of thumb-twiddling time before I had to board. I immediately made friends with my seat-mate, a young Polish girl who had spent the summer doing a work-exchange program at Cedar Point amusement park. She was very interested in CPT's work, and since she is studying Political Science, she really is interested in our Iraq program.

Once we landed in Milan, I braced myself for my thirteen-hour layover. I made the decision to go into the city and see some sights, so I grabbed a map, got a few directions, and hopped on the train. My CTA training has served me well, and I was pleased to find how easily I could navigate their subway system, even though the only word I actually recognized was "fermata". I got off at the "Duomo" stop, and wandered around there for awhile. I didn't end up seeing a whole lot, due to a combination of a very heavy carry-on bag, pouring rain, and my own exhaustion, but I got quite a few shots of the cathedral, and wandered over into the Piazza della Scala, and ogled the opera house. I was pleased to find a monument to Leonardo Da Vinci in the square there. I feel as if I'm taking the entire Leonardo Life Tour, albeit slowly. I have very vivid memories of visiting the Clos Luce at Amboise when I was in France eleven and a half years ago, which is where he spent the last few years of his life, and died.

I got about twenty pictures, but I can't post them until I can get my laptop hooked up to an internet line.

I then headed back to the airport, where I snoozed,watched a DVD on my computer, ate dinner, and did some general thumb-twiddling until our 10:45 departure time. I ended up sleeping much of the four-hour flight between Milan and Tel Aviv, which helped my bearings a great deal. We landed in Tel Aviv at 3:30 am, where I was pleased to find that I breezed through passport control without as much as an askance look from security. I claimed my baggage, grabbed something that vaguely resembled breakfast, and went outside in search of a nesher that would bring me to Jerusalem.

I got dropped at the Jaffa Gate a little before seven. It was eerie, being back there finally, being back alone, and standing around all the closed-up shops. The air was still cool, and the sun was just starting to rise in earnest. It was a beautiful moment, and I'll remember it for the rest of my life.

The biggest plus to arriving while the shops were closed was how easy it was to find St. Mark's Road. Where it breaks off from David Street (the main road coming into the city straight from Jaffa Gate) is a staircase that during the day looks like it leads directly into a shop. There are quite a few shops that are set way back into the stone, that require some kind of creative access, such as a short flight of stairs, and this turn is almost impossible to find while the shops are open. Heading down St Mark's Road, I wearily buzzed the door at the Lutheran Hostel, and checked myself in for the next twenty-four hours. Although guests are technically supposed to vacate the dormitories for several hours in the morning for cleaning, I found myself unable to be vertical any longer, changed into my pajamas, and collapsed into sleep. Nobody seemed worried that I hadn't vacated.

After a few hours of sleep and a very nice shower (although I forgot to pack a towel- I had to dry off using a t-shirt- I think I am heading out after this to buy a towel), I sallied forth into the city in search of Mike's Internet Cafe.

Which just about brings us up to date.

The rest of the plan:

- Call the Hebron team, and set up for someone to meet me at the servees in the morning, in time for the team meeting.

- Find something to eat. Easier said than done, in this part of town during Ramadan.

- Wander the city. Check out the Arab market. Enjoy window shopping (too early for souvenir shopping- things will get lost or broken before I can get them home)

- At some point, eat dinner, relax, read (in no particular order).

- Sleep early, so I can rise early.

- Check out by 7 am, catch a servees at the Damascus Gate that will take me to Hebron.

- Join team!

And that puts us a little bit into the future.

Whew! That took so long, just for a logistical update! Hopefully once logistics fall into a semblance of a routine there will be more introspective reports.

In the meantime, Shanah Tova, and Ramadan Kareem!

**Ed. note- a slightly edited edition of this post- edited for diplomacy and basic maturity- will be cross-posted to my Big Girl Blog.**


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