O’Sullivan, Nora

Name: Nora O’Sullivan
Location of Study: Jordan
Program of Study:
Sponsor(s): Susan Scribner Mirza

63 thoughts on “O’Sullivan, Nora

  1. TODAY I embark on my journey to the Middle East. Yes, everyone thinks I’m bold. Yes, I’m nervous. and Yes I am excited. My flight is supposed to be leaving at 9:30 CST and arrive in Jordan at 5:30 its time, but we will see how that goes with the expected thunder, hail, and tornado storms that are supposed to arrive.

    I can tell how nervous my entire family is, I just hope that my nervousness doesn’t show, especially when I arrive at the other end, by myself, and have NO IDEA what to do. On another positive note, Jordan is surrounded by a bunch of other really great countries. For those of you that don’t know where Jordan is, exactly, here ya go!

    It’s safe to say I will be doing very little traveling while I am there, but I am looking forward to traveling around Jordan to see everything there is to see and to traveling to the Holy Land because if I’m there, it’s a hard place to pass up.

  2. I am very lucky because I got to stay with a host family, that I knew through a family friend in Chicago. Though I knew this experience was going to be really special, I couldn’t help but be nervous. As soon as I arrived in Jordan, I did not know where to begin. Two members from the family picked me up at the airport. I was grateful that one of them spoke English rather well, I was very timid to start with Arabic. Soon they tried to get me to speak more, I was slow and I know I sounded funny. I mostly know I sounded funny because they laughed at me quite a bit. I was happy to amuse them. Another reason it is funny for them when I speak is because I basically was speaking a different language than them. Yes, it’s Arabic, but it’s not the colloquial Arabic that Jordanians speak, I speak the formal Arabic, Fus-ha, which is not spoken anywhere except in academic contexts.

    I had no idea how many family members I would be meeting that night, but I soon found out. I knew I was going to be staying with my roommate, Sarah, and the man I know from Chicago’s sister, Khawla, in his house. What I did not realize was that three other siblings of his and their own families also live in a part of this huge house. When I arrived, tired and nervous, I was introduced to ten other family members. Talk about an overwhelming day. Everything happened so fast. They spoke so fast, my head was spinning! Again, I was so happy that the 19 year old boy was beautifully fluent in English because I really needed the buffer that day. No one else is as fluent as he is so it was great to have him. Even though I didn’t know him until my first day, I knew we were going to get along.

    The first day, I didn’t speak a lot of Arabic, it was a lot to handle and there was so much going on. I was not ready to embark on my journey out into the Arabic speaking world, but I didn’t have much of a choice at this point.

  3. TODAY Sarah arrived to the house. I was so nervous because apparently people don’t have addresses here, they just say I live in this neighborhood, by this supermarket, and then go that way. So that would be impossible for us. Thank goodness our host family is being so kind and generous in helping us not get lost in Jordan. My new “sister” as Khawla called herself will come with us no the taxi so we know what to do, then she will show us the bus system. Soon we will have that figured out for our daily trip to school. In Sha Allah (hopefully)

    We woke up this morning, had, of course, a GINORMOUS breakfast of bread (hubz), eggs, berries, olives, zeite bread, a bunch of cheeses and of course tea (shai). There tea is delicious, and I’m sure it has massive amounts of sugar. After breakfast, we got ready to go on a family picnic with our Jordanian family, or so they want us to call them. Everyone was so welcoming and we ate a lot, too much, food. We had lamb, lamb rib, ( I know, I know, I REALLY DID EAT LAMB!) chicken, bread, hummus, tea, coffee, and, of course, hookah.

    Though the food is delicious, I can’t eat that much. I know how important it is to finish a meal here when people offer, so I think I’ll be full for the next three days. The picnic was at a beautiful area in the mountains, we had a great view.

    There were also a good amount of wild dogs in that area, I see wild cats at home all the time, but apparently there are a lot of dogs here. Everyone loved to help us learn Arabic, though a few people speak English pretty well. ESPECIALLY, this is a crazy small world, but I met a guy the literally lives a mile from me at home! He lives right in Oak Forest and was only here to visit some friends. We had a good English chat and he helped translate some of the harder words for us. I know that I literally run by his house whenever I run in that subdivision. Sarah and I also made friends with two little girls that live here, Saleen and Hadeel. They love speaking to us; they are adorable and beautiful. They love that word: beautiful. In Arabic they say helweh or jameel. They followed us around and were surprisingly patient with us when we had no idea what they were trying to say. They do not speak English well, since they are so young, but sometimes they could describe words enough so that we understand them! Saleen also loved my camera; the pictures she took were hysterical.

    Fifteen-year-old Muhammed also enlightened me on having blonde hair here in Jordan, not that he would know from experience but he told me that I’m not going to blend in at all so I better get used to people staring at me and try to not draw any more attention to myself. – Duly noted. We will see how that goes with public transportation.

    After a long day at this beautiful park, Sarah and I made it back to our big room and prayed to alla that they would not give us any more food! Though I am very grateful for them and all that they have done for us so far, we are very lucky to have the best host family possible. There family is also really close, it’s great being around such a tight knit group and just, wow, the love they have for each other is amazing. Muhammad told me that family is where true happiness is, remember, he’s only 15 and he already knows such a valuable lesson.

    The weather here is still great. I am going to cry when I go home to the humidity; I didn’t realize how awesome life is without it. My new friend that lives by me at home told me “women are like weather, very unpredictable.” Especially back where we live haha. And there we go, yet another good lesson.

  4. June 17, we went to school about 7:30. As a class, we went on a trip to Ajloun caste and the city of Jerash. The ride was in a bus, basically across the country and only lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. It was also very scenic!

    Once we got there we took a TON of pictures. We also sang and danced a little bit!


    The castle was so old and it was in such a great area. We could see four countries at the top of it too! I have been getting used to my camera a lot more and that, obviously, encourage me to take more and more pictures. How splendid!

    Near the end of our visit to the castle, these Arabic men also touring the castle asked me if they could take a picture with me. This was in broken English so I said, “Sure, I will take a picture of you.” No… they meant what they said, they wanted me to be in a picture of them. A tourist and a tourist attraction. It was quite amusing. They talked about me being American and they wanted me to make the peace sign in the picture of course. I asked them also if I could get a picture with them, so here’s the random people!

    After we left, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at some place in Jerash. They had really good coleslaw. This was the first time I drank pop over here, it’s always funny to see that stuff.

    When we got back we went back into the mall next door, and I bought internet for my computer (still limited) but helpful. I also purchased a hijab. I think I would feel better about my life if I got used to wearing one of those around instead of my normal hair. So we will see how it goes…

  5. June 19th, I am 100% convince that Nora is an Arabic name. I wish everyone could see the looks I get when I meet people from Jordan who ask me what my name is. This literally happens every single time I tell someone my name. I say, “Nora”, of course, then they always looked shocked and say, is that your real name? I say yes and then they say, “Nora is an Arabic name.” Okay, yes it is but we all know that’s not why I was given that name. I try to explain to everyone that it’s an Irish name and that my Great Grandma was named Nora, but they are convinced that it is as Arabic as a name can get. So, I guess that by some kind of fate it’s cool that I ended up studying Arabic since I’m obviously part Arabic.

    Class is also going to be sooo hard. It is really cool being in class with all these students though. Class size is very very small but there is such a variety of kids in it! There are a lot from the states, but all different parts. There are kids from Europe and a lot of kids from Turkey. It’s great getting to learn all this stuff through experience. It is really cool to have so many turkish students here too, not a lot of them know English so Arabic really is our only common language, so we must speak in Arabic together. Some of the kids are very intelligent and we’re not all at the same exact level, so that’s quite difficult as well. We will see how this all goes, it should be interesting. Our teachers also don’t speak English so that will be a very new but good experience for us. I am unsure how I feel about that but I know in the end it will make me learn more, because it will force me to.

    Already I am getting comfortable speaking arabic with people, especially friends and classmates. It is still intimidating to speak to people inside stores and restaurants, but I know it will get better.

  6. June 20, I realized I forgot to mention the daily prayers. Everyday prayers are over a speaker from the mosques so we can hear them through the neighborhood. It’s interesting because we can always hear something interesting outside. This is one thing that really makes me feel like I am in Jordan, it’s surreal to me. Another thing that I found interesting, which should have been more obvious to me but I did not appreciate it before, was that prayer is so important to many people here. In all the bathrooms that I go in there seems to be a place to wash one’s feet. Before prayer, they must wash their hands and feet in order to be in their best state for prayer. I love learning about such a different lifestyle than my American-Christian background back home. I am sure there are so many things like this here but it is so hard to share them all without have you actually experience them for yourself.

  7. June 21, I also realized I forgot to mention the gas trucks. THEY ARE SO ANNOYING. Here, a lot of stoves need gas to be attached in order to work, not like at home. There is this truck that drives around daily in order to sell gas to people. It is worse than the ice cream trucks. I hear them from 8 or 9 in the morning until night, they are so loud and they just drive and drive around with this annoying tune. It’s nuts.

    Today we had school off. Here they have Friday and Saturdays off.

    While Sarah and I were studying, Muhammad came in and asked us to go to dinner at his house. His dad made this bread with lamb thing and we ate that and pepsi. It was quite good but also spicy. After we ate, we sat around and studied a bit. They helped us with our Arabic homework too! Mind you, one of the girls is nine. It is great having a nine and eleven year old because they don’t know English, but they are unbelievably patient with us, and they like us so much. They also can help us with homework!

    Later we watched Arab Idol. The finale was today. It’s a big deal here! The family dances and sings, it’s a good time to them! We had fun for sure, but we were exhausted. One of the really interesting things about this season, was that Muhammad Assaf won. He is the Palestinian gem, so he is extremely favored. He is good, don’t get me wrong, and I love him as well, but a lot of people believe he won because he is from Palestine and he sings about it so much. There is so much going on in the Arab world, especially with the effect the conflict has on Jordan and its refugee population.

    I love listening to Arabic music, it’s beautiful, but it is so hard to understand. Already, being here has helped me to understand more, but it is still so difficult. I hope to continue listening to music in order to help my speaking, listening, and accent by the end of this trip.

  8. June 29th, Another thing I would like to point out, is water here. Don’t drink from the sink. Need a filter or bottled water. Also, you are not just given water at restaurants, it’s not free, that is because water is so scarce here. Jordan is land locked, except for the river, and water is not anywhere near as easy to get as it is at home. Every week you need to get your water refilled, so you can’t shower long, or wash things a lot, or run water too much. We, as Americans, must be very careful because we are spoiled. A lot of my friends have ran out of water in their apartments throughout the weeks, and we almost did here, but it’s less common here because we are living in a home compared to an apartment. Very different.

    This past weekend, Sarah and I went to a famous restaurant in the city center with some friends from school! We really got a chance to order and speak in Arabic with the waiter. We all stuck with the basic falafel, hummus, salad, water, and tea, because they do not have much at this restaurant, but we did get to talk! We asked him about the restaurant and if he likes working there. We talked about what we were doing in Jordan, and though it was not a fluid conversation we could understand each other very well. I think I have improved a lot since I first set foot in Jordan and I am so happy I finally feel like I am getting somewhere. I feel comfortable grabbing someone’s attention, asking them a question that I need an answer to, and having a short conversation with them. I know that my vocabulary is not where I would like it to be for most conversations and it will be hard no matter what since the Jordanian Arabic is so different that the Arabic I have been learning, but I am learning a lot and I already know I am getting so much out of this experience.

  9. July 6, we woke up at 5:15 to start our day since breakfast was at 6 and we had to be at Petra by 7 so we could beat the heat (and we later found out it was way better because we beat the crazy crowd.) It was hot, even at 7, but breakfast was really good and we all stocked up on water, snacks, and sunblock! I, scandalously, wore cropped leggings and long sleeve shirt because I did not want to bear a 5 and a half hour hike in jeans or long pants. It was fine thought because there were even so many tourists there wearing sun dresses and tank tops. Not bad.

    We started walking. We had heard we would be offered to buy things along the way but I didn’t expect it to be so commercialized and I did not expect people to try and convince us endlessly to ride a donkey or camel. There were also SO many little kids going around selling postcards.
    We started the first leg to the treasury. Along the way there were beautiful sights and scenery. The sky is so blue here.

    We continued to walk and the walk got longer and hotter… This hike was optional, but it was a two-hour walk from the treasury to the monastery. We hear it was worth it so we of course decided to do it. We got to the leg before the stairs when we decided to take a donkey. Thank goodness we did because it was a very strenuous walk, but THE DONKEY WANTED TO KILL ME. It was so scary. Imagine riding on the edge of a cliff on a donkey all the way up a mountain when it continues to go really fast and hit you into rocks. One of the worked decided to help me because my horse was psycho. He proceded to ask about my marital status for the last 500 steps of the ride. Though this was a weird conversation to have, we had it in Arabic, it made things even harder to express. Though I got a lot better at these conversations specifically because they do happy very often for American women in the Middle East. I now feel very comfortable talking about my life, my family, my boyfriend, and how I am going to get married in the states to a Christian man because my family wants me to do that. Though this may not all necessarily be true, it was good to say things like that because gender relations are so different here than back at home in America. Here you need to be very clear when you talk to a male that it is a strict business conversation and that you are not interested in anything else. If you do not make it clear, you must talk about your plans of marriage, or your husband so they know your status. The men here are also really respectful and kind when they talk to a woman. Some do not shake a woman’s hand or come to close to her face out of respect. They really do treat the different sexes differently here, I know there are a lot of things in the states like that too, but here it is more intense. It is interesting for me to be here because at home I am comfortable with no matter who I am talking to, but here you can not show comfortability in certain situations because you do not want anyone, especially the opposite gender, to get any of the wrong ideas. I learned to talk very formally to many people I crossed paths with.

  10. Finally we made it to wadi rum after a very long bus ride with a lot of unwanted singing.

    I, per usual, was not feeling well after the bus ride. Of course we had to get into more cars to get to the campsite. All 80 of us, about 7 in a car, rode out on the back of trucks through the desert about a half hour where we finally reached our campsite.

    Since we ended up getting there later than we thought, we went straight up to the rocks to watch the gorgeous sunset over the desert’s mountains. This was seriously gorgeous.

    It got dark fast, and we went back to our campsite where they started preparing our food. Now this is some kind of special Bedouin food, called “A’rb” It is actually cooked inside the ground in an oven with all the sand over it. It was very interesting to watch but it was also so delicious.

    We then sat around, listened to arabic/english stories, and finished our evening with a night hike. We got a lot of practice speaking with our directors, teachers, and even the bedouins on this beautiful night. We learned a lot of new vocabulary words we will probably never use again and I think I started getting on a more comfortable arabic speaking level.

    Now, though the night hike was really nothing because we’re in a desert an there’s just sand, and it’s night so we can’t see anything, we were able to see the most stars I have ever seen at one time in my life. It was beautiful. I saw so many shooting stars and GET THIS. I was actually able to take pictures of the stars on a camera. HOW INSANE! The amount of stars in this picture though, and the beauty, does not even compare to what we actually saw that night. You could literally see everything.

  11. Today July 10, Ramadan started. I knew things were going to change around here but I thought it would be more just like shops closing, and less food around. However, this morning we figured out that’s not exactly the case. We woke up, normal, ate a big breakfast since we knew we wouldn’t eat for a while, then left to wait for Alli to drive us. We waited ten minutes, and since he wasn’t going to work today, since people work way less during the month of Ramadan, we were worried he over slept. We had the idea to walk to the main street to find a cab. However, we saw no cars and worried we wouldn’t find one. When we got there, and waited a few minutes, Alli called and picked us up to take us to school. Normally it’s about a fifteen minute car ride. Today, It was approximately 8. There was no traffic, which is a shocker here. I bet everyone was sleeping since a lot of people eat “Sahoor” (big breakfast) at four am, then sleep after to take out some of the fasting time from their day. Many people sleep at this time instead of before four am since it can be easier to fast. It was amazing how fast everything went with no cars on the road, the traffic here, as I said before, it is nuts.

    Finally we made it to dinner which was INSANE. It was sooooo good and there was sooo much food. We had rice, salad, chicken, soup, juice, and mixed nuts. For desert we had this super oily sugary sweet break rolled into empanada form but with cheese or nuts inside and it was like a delicious donut.

    We have been getting a lot close to the family since we’ve been here, especially the family with the two little girls. They enjoy having us around and talking to us about everything and anything. Only the boy speaks English well, so it’s really great to talk to the whole family in only Arabic. We get a lot of practice. They love learning about America, they are very interested in American shops and places. We often talk about clothing. This has helped me to learn a lot of new adjectives to describe things, and I also discovered a lot of ways to talk about things I like to do and about my family and life at home. Since we are getting so comfortable with talking to them, it is easier to understand them, even when they use the Jordanian words. I have even been able to pick up on a good amount of the words they use! Even when I do not know exactly what they are saying, body language and context can usually help me figure it out now. I have gotten a lot better at guessing and working my way around words I don’t know.

  12. July 11- Ramadan Kareem everyone, as Ramadan is at it’s beginning stages and slowly changing our way of life. Basically here everyone can’t eat from Dawn until Dusk. It’s about fifteen hours of not eating during the day and many people sleep from 4-12 to cut down that time. It is also kind of a crime to eat or drink publicly, only in private or designated places are eating allowed, and no restaurants are open. So from breakfast until dusk we have a hard time eating, especially if we don’t come home. And today, we didn’t.

    We went to City Mall to see what that was like during Ramadan. It was not too crowded, but there were definitely people around. We really wanted to go eat at Pink Berry and we wanted to ask about when it closes, and flavors. It was the only food place open. Sarah asked if she could try one. Oops. They don’t let people try because it’s Ramadan. How could we forget? We also found out that it closed at 2 AM. That’s a Mall in Jordan during Ramadan for you. We decided to check out the movies.

    We walked around more, went to the super market and ended up sitting back up at the food court. As soon as the sun when down, food courts went nuts! Mcdonalds was packed. The mall picked up instantly and it was so crowded! It was also amazing how popular McDonalds is. This was by far the longest line and people got trays and trays of food. We ended up getting McDonalds after the line went down, let me tell you, I think the McDonalds here is better than the states!

  13. July 14th – I was practicing my speaking today, reading the Quran. And Saleen, the nine year old, came in and saw me practicing. Of course, she says that’s easy, and starts reciting that entire first page by memory… made me feel smart and all since I’m having a hard enough time reading. It is really cool how they learn so much about their religion so early, and are so involved and happy with it. It’s really really cool.

    I have been taking this Tajwid speaking class, where we read the Quran and go over all of the hard sounds, and I know it has significantly helped me improve my accent. I feel a lot stronger when I am reading and I know that my hard letter sounds are stronger and more dominant after taking this class for a few weeks. When I say words I have known forever, it sounds a lot better coming out than before, and my confidence has definitely gone up. Though I am still no where near sounding Arabic, I am a lot better than the American Girl with a Chicago accent I was before. This class is kind of funny though. I sit there with my instructor as he says words and sounds, that would sound funny to anyone who doesn’t know arabic, inches away from my face. He makes faces and hand gestures for every sound he makes and I have to do the same thing back to him! It is a game in it’s own way, but it really is the only way to learn the sounds and to pronounce words strongly.


    First we went to the site where Jesus was baptized. This is cool because it’s only a place you can get to from Jordan! So even the site in Israel isn’t the real site.

    It was also weird because we were so close to Israel it was absurd. We were on one side of the Jordan river and about 10 feet away was the Israeli tourist side. There were guards waiting to shoot anyone who tries to cross. It was so intimidating! Border relations are so weird especially coming from the United States.

    Right after, we went to Wadi Mujib. COOLEST PLACE EVER. Basically, you wear a life vest and climb up a creek that eventually turns into a series of waterfalls. It was so hard, and some points were so scary and dangerous. Up the tall parts of the waterfall we had to use a rope to climb up! This was hard especially because we only went with four girls, al hamdu lillah there were a bunch of Jordanians behind us that could help when we needed it. At the top there was a bigger waterfall and the place was fun to float and follow the current. The weather was perfect, and though we were soaking wet, we were completely comfortable.

    It was definitely hard to leave but after we dried off we headed to Mount Nebo which is the place that Moses was said to die in the Christian and Jewish religion. It was really cool to be at such Holy places and to really take a minute to think about how old the earth is and how much bigger everything really is than us, than our lives, and it makes you realize some very important things about what you should be doing with your life to make it worthwhile to you. It was a very cool experience. Plus, we could sea the beautiful Dead Sea from everywhere we went and it was breathtaking. I am so glad our friend rented a car so we were able to take advantage of all of these experiences.

  15. July 26th, We are in Israel! Today we made a semi-early start to our day in order to make it to the Old-City for a free 9:30 tour. We got there, of course, got convinced by traders to buy scarves which are actually very nice, then started our tour with a great tour guide. We got to see so many big sites in the city, all with great information for a free two hours! We saw David’s Tower, which is not actually David’s Tower, King David never actually set foot here, but many travelers who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, after a long travel, saw this great fortress and thus it was named.

    We then went to the Holy Sepulchre Church, the Christian Quarter (there are four quarters, one Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Armenian.) We saw the place where Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried.

    This is a church shared by four Christian groups. It’s very cool because they all agreed not to change anything on the inside of the church, it could be bad if someone did and there have been many fights about it.

    This ladder has been here for 150 years! Well… Not really. It was changed about 14 years ago (or something) and the reason it is not removed is because of the very strict agreement not to change anything on the inside of the church! A lot of changes must be made in order to not change anything at all. How fascinating.

    Then we headed to a view of the Muslim Quarter. We had a hard time getting in, except for Claire on our last day in Israel, because it is the month of Ramadan and it is strictly for Muslims on everyday except for a few hours on Sunday and Tuesday. This is where the Dome of the Rock founded by Abd Al-Malik is (kind of like our golden dome and ND!) and Al-Aqsa Mosque. This place is PACKED completely during prayer times, especially during Ramadan, especially on Fridays which we got to experience on Friday as well from an amazing view I will talk about later.

    Lastly we headed to the Western Wall that is the most religious place for Jews. This is where they celebrate Bar mitzvahs and say their most important prayers. We must be very cautious in this area as to not offend anyone coming to pray

    The interesting thing is that after making a prayer at this wall, one must back away slowly facing the wall and one must not turn around and walk normally.

    This is the only fragment of the temple to survive Roman destruction. People have been yearning here for more than 2,000 years.

    We spent making great deals and bargaining at the many many many souks inside the old city. Though English is the main language in this area, it was so helpful to know Arabic. The shop owners were all Arabic speakers and it really did help us get better deals when we spoke Arabic with them. They were very impressed and shocked that we could speak with them. It was cool because we also felt smart and worldly. If I learned anything on this trip, it was how to haggle in Arabic. I know a lot more words about getting better deals and how to convince the men that I know enough Arabic to know that they are not giving me a good deal! It is very fun to haggle with the owners, but it can also be stressful.

    We headed back to our hostel to decide what we were going to do the rest of the weekend.

    Later in the night, we did not feel like spending time near our hotel, we went to East Jerusalem where we felt right at home, just like we were back in Jordan. After Iftar, Ramadan life had picked up and all the muslims were out eating, drinking, smoking, and roaming the souks, where we were. It was great to be there because it’s so lively and there is always so much stuff to look at. It is so cool how we can go so close to where we are staying, but that they life can change completely. This is such a diverse town, so the different areas are very important. We headed back home through the old city, which was so cool to be in that late at night!

  16. July 27th, Today we had a real adventure. Warning: I’m going to get political. So we went on a tour of Bethlehem and Ramallah with a tour company called Green Olive Tours, which I highly recommend. This is a very different kind of tour, kind of an underground one if that’s what we want to call it. It takes us to big sites of course, but we get to see a little bit more during our 8-hour tour.

    We had a Palestinian tour guide. His name was Yaman, just like “Ya Man” if we were Jamaican. He was phenomenal. He was so welcoming and so passionate about all he believed in. First we started at his house, his actual house. I ate figs for the first time, and we went to the top of his roof so he could start talking about the settlements. There is so much about this tour that I didn’t know before, I am so grateful I went on it and I think it opened my eyes to so much more going on in the world.

    Now, these settlements are Jewish settlements. Jews come from all over to come live here in the “promised land.” I’m not saying anything against these people, they have their beliefs and can definitely be good people and this is not a discussion about Jewish versus Palestinian, it’s Israeli versus Palestinian. But these people do come to live in this land that in all cases has been taken from Palestinians. We literally saw land being taken from the Palestinian side in order to make room for more settlements. These settlements do not make prophet, they are very cheap for Jewish settlers to live in, and they take 80% of the water of Israel. Many Orthodox Jews in these settlements don’t even work; they study the Torah all day.

    This is hard to see because we saw, first hand, the significant effect of this on the Palestinians. They have expensive fees for water, and travel, and pretty much everything. They have strict travel laws, especially to Jerusalem which many cannot even enter, and many more Palestinians can’t even return home to visit family members. The reason this works, moderately effectively, is because there is this GIANT WALL called the Separation wall, literally separating the West Bank from the rest of Israel. This is so hard to see. This wall has caused to many people to go into Refugee camps, many which have been running for 65 years. 65 years! That is the longest known refugee situation in the world, to my knowledge.

    hey have been there so long that they actually built up homes. So many of these families have been promised to return back to their homes… That is what this key symbolizes- the inability to go back home. Many were forced out and unable to return to their home, the place they were raised, their land. This is the land given to the settlers. They are told they have to leave “Security Reasons” yes, okay, that’s why. No. It’s not. It’s because they have goal of taking all of the land that is “rightfully theirs” because it’s the “promised land” and they’re going to take as much as they can and keep taking and taking and destroying peoples’ lives and families until they get it. The interesting thing about this ideology is that they actually believe the “promised land” extends from Israel, to Jordan, Syria, and Iraq… It’s bullshit. Pardon my Arabic. In case it’s hard to tell, I hate thie occupation.

    This is interesting because this wall is really well hid from tourists of Jerusalem, but it is really so close. Many people are just unaware, and we all know that the US news doesn’t really give us a good view.

    Yaman talked about how much he loves his job, and though it’s hard he really thinks he’s making a difference. He loves giving tours to Israelis so they can see what’s going on. One time, he gave a tour to a very Orthodox Jewish woman from NYC. She came in and was yelling at Yaman for being racist, and terrorist, a horrible person and a liar. What Yaman said, I could imagine, must have sounded something like, “Yes, you are right, all those things are true. Now I’m going to pay for you to take a taxi back because I don’t want to give you a tour if you’re going to act like this the entire time.” He is very respectful and very smart, he would not say anything rude at all, he was simply refusing service. Eventually, the other calmed her down. She made a few comments in the beginning, but he did give the tour. This was very similar to our tour, but it was only in Bethlehem. Here you can see the huge effects the wall and the Israelis have on the life of all the Palestinians. At one of the check-points Yaman, though with many tourists, was extremely harassed by Jewish settlers. Of course, he handled this very well, he has been through it all for many years (Having garbage thrown at him, sewage, eggs, being beaten). By the end of this tour, he had this woman in tears. She was shocked at all she saw, she bought a Palestinian flag and she promised she would do what she could to spread the word in her community. She supported him and she supported the Palestinians because she also so first hand how though people saw there should be peace, there are so many people still fighting against it at the heart of the problem. This was beautiful to hear. I sure hope she did do something about this problem.

    We also go the opportunity to go to a refugee camp ourselves. The man we talked to there was also a refugee, like Yaman, but he was very intellectual. He gave us cold hard facts, and tried to be as unbiased as possible, though he was obviously a Palestinian in a refugee camp. He recommended that we read both sides of the story because obviously they are being treated unfairly, but Palestinians have their problems with their government too and there is so much to learn on this subject because it goes back so many years. We heard so many horror stories about little children being attacked, garbage being thrown into the city, and a little Palestinian girl was brutally harassed just the other day because she was wearing shorts walking home from school. She was about 9 years old and was attacked by Jewish Settler children on her way home. This is heartbreaking.

    We did get to see first hand how the settlers treat the Palestinians… Nothing horrible on our day but it was in no way kind. They did not treat them with respect and they hardly give them the time of day. It’s so sad. Yaman also mentioned a time when a man started a fight with him. A Jewish man literally came up to him and spat. Yaman, did spit back, but of course the Israeli Defense Force only arrested Yaman for this. He’s Palestinian. That’s why, though the other man did the same thing, and he did it first, he was Jewish so no he would not get arrested.

    Eventually we made it around the city to Ramallah. Normally it’s a short half hour drive, but since Palestinians can’t go through the check points, the have to go around which adds on about and hour and a half to the city. Ramallah is the capital city and this is where Arafat’s tomb is. He was a leader of the Palestinian authority he signed the Camp David Accord and he was awarded a Nobel Peace prize. An Israeli Nationalist later murdered him.

    Anyway, we finally finished our tour and headed back via public transportation. We got to experience a checkpoint first hand. It took a long time and it was rather strict for people entering Jerusalem. They asked us questions and let us go. Claire was given a stare or two for her passport, but she was also let in. It’s just so interesting to see that people have to deal with this stuff everyday. EVERY DAY. My world has no idea what this is like; do you? Do you have any idea? Didn’t think so. We are so lucky. It’s horrible what so many of these people have to go through, they struggle everyday and I don’t see this getting easier for them any time soon. Soon enough, they will be out of water completely, the drought in Israel is huge, and the settlers take 80% of the water, there won’t be any left for the West Bank.