Eighteen people stayed at the Guest House on Friday night. For a while I just called them "the French group" because I thought they were like the French group from last Christmas, foreign activists traveling around the West Bank, but I was quite mistaken. They were from all over Europe, and they mostly lived in Beit Sahour (next to Bethlehem) and worked for the Alternative Information Center.
While I'd been fretting over how we're going to fit everyone in with only 11 beds and 3 winter blankets and no heaters, the leaders of the group assured me that Haj Sami had been upfront about our situation, and their standards for accommodations were fortunately very low. They'd been told to expect tents...or something. So I relaxed a bit.
We started off with a meeting with Haj Sami, where everyone whipped out their notebooks and Haj Sami had Nassir, the translator, explain the story of Al Aqaba in English. People asked questions about the military camps and demolition orders, and I was able to answer a few questions, like the army said that Al Aqaba looks like South Lebanon, that's why they used the village for training...I made a mental note to learn more history because some of it still baffles me.
After the meeting, the mood lightened quite a bit, and slowly but surely, eighteen people in one Guest House evolved into something of a party.
Realizing that I'm so grateful for having lugged my guitar to Palestine. We heard Hasta Siempre, Comandante and several Italian revolutionary songs.
Playing Mafioso, which has to be the most fun summer camp game ever. While everyone had their eyes closed and Simone was explaining how the mafia was patrolling the streets of Al Aqaba deciding who to kill, Yassir was translating to the other Palestinians and they were all cracking up, which made Simone's storytelling even funnier. Every morning, the village would awake to find a body in some horrendous fashion, and every day they would gather in the town square to decide which villager was mafia, and who to kill for the crime. After the accusations and the defense, we would vote, put one person to death, then the villagers would go back to sleep, and the mafia would open their eyes and decide who to kill next. In the end, the mafia triumphed by having a 5 to 4 majority in the village. I was mafia. That was fun.
Our resident Dane reading Where the Wild Things Are to everyone...sho y3ani "rumpus?"
Playing Dixit, a much more beautiful version of Apples to Apples where one person says a word or phrase, then everyone puts down the picture card that could match it, and people get points for choosing the original correctly, and so on....I loved it because the cards are stunning.
Then we played some more music and went to bed. We had to put mattresses together and put three people on them, someone slept on the couch, I'm quite positive that everyone was cold in their little summer blankets. Fortunately, some brought sleeping bags.
We woke up at 7:20AM to Abdullah yelling "the mafioso has killed our driver, and stolen our bus, and now we have to go back to Beit Sahour by walking!" I'm usually the grumpiest person in the morning, but I was so happy then. I didn't want them to go.
Then we took a tour of the village and the demolished roads, most everyone signed my guest book, and I promised to visit them all in Beit Sahour the next weekend.
"Ahh, next weekend should be a good Saturday to visit."
"We are having a discussion on Apartheid. Then we drink."
"...it's called the AICafe, but there's no coffee....just beer."
I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.