On Friday night I hosted five people in Al Aqaba. One girl from Switzerland, Marjorie...she was on her third trip to Palestine this year, Couchsurfing through the West Bank. I wish I'd thought to do that last year.
Then there was Ed, a British fellow who was volunteering at Project Hope in Nablus. I'd visited PH with my brother last Christmas, and even though all the volunteers were away for the holidays, it seemed like a great program. Ed was teaching drama classes to the kids, which I'm so enthused about because the kids here need more outlets for their creativity and zaniness.
Then there was Dasha and Felipe, a couple that added themselves to the group the night before. Dasha is a Czech girl studying at Hebrew U in Jerusalem, she's a friend of Souli's so I've met her three times now. Her boyfriend Felipe is Chilean, he's studying electrical engineering in Germany and came to Israel/Palestine to visit and travel with Dasha. They stayed with Souli Thursday night, then came with me on Friday. Dasha made Shakshuka for us for the second time, and I must confess I'm in love with it...just a little.
The fifth guest was Palden, my British friend who also volunteers at a Palestinian school...the Hope Flowers school in Al Khadir, near Bethlehem. He runs their website and does some advising work for the staff at the school, and resides in the volunteer apartment on the top floor, overlooking the schoolyard. He's sixty-one, but he looks and says he feels much younger. Living alone in Palestine and traveling and blogging. Certainly he must be a little crazy. Let's start a club :)
We arrived in Al Aqaba around 4, settled into the Guest House, and Haj Sami had a batch of makloubeh delivered to the kitchen. I set up Haj Sami's digital projector so we could watch Youtube videos on the wall, so we watched some videos about Al Aqaba (I'm thinking of putting together a short promotional video of my own) and the Hope Flowers school, we watched some trailers for documentaries on Palestine (including No Laughing Matter, a film on the Palestinian sense of humor, which I really want to see now!) and the Israeli documentary Defamation in ten-minute segments. I'd seen it before on Netflix, it's fascinating.
Then we played Bullshit, then Spoons.
In the morning we ate oatmeal with Craisins and almonds, and some cake that Palden had brought. I need to keep the place stocked with tea and snacks, and fruits and veggies for each visit. What we could do with a budget, wallahi....
After breakfast we took a walking tour of the village, starting with the roof of the sewing cooperative, then making our way down to the demolished road. A little toddler brought us a round of bread from his mother's tabun, it was almost bigger than him, and so warm and fresh, wow. Felipe and Palden got a picture of him stumbling over to give it to Haj Sami, I really want to see that pic, haha...
All in all, a great visit. The initial plan was to have ten or so Israelis, connected to the Global Village Square project. In the end, they couldn't make it, but thanks to Couchsurfing and Palden, we were still able to do something new in the village. I think Haj Sami and everyone are little confused as to why I'm spending most of my time out of the village now. Every time I go back, I feel so blessed, really. I love Al Aqaba. But I'm also meeting a lot of really interesting people in my travels and in Ramallah. Collecting inspiration, I guess. The website is being made by the Nablus group (I really went back and forth on tackling that on my own or getting someone else to do it) so I'm waiting to have that to work on, but I'm also counting down to the next visa run, and trying to fit things into that time, just in case. I need to do some Couchsurfing in Israel, in case I don't get the chance again. If I get the visa, and establish the fundraising venue online, khalas, I'm ready to go. But I don't really feel stuck. I only feel stuck sometimes being in Ramallah, because it's nice and comfortable, but I'm not nearly as inspired here as I am in other places. I'll muse more on that later. Now it's bedtime. I'm hungry though. I wish we had some shakshuka.