August 18th, 2014

There’s a reason why the flute is called “suffer” in Arabic. I’ve come to dread the moment in every class when, after rhythms and Solfege, I reluctantly reach for our bouquet of recorders and hold them out to the twenty or so eager eight year-olds before me. The thirty seconds of unrestrained shrieking as the kids test out their new toys is non-negotiable. From then on, the pace of their improvement depends on how many there are, where they’re from, and how they’re feeling that day. For example, our relatively small class out in Sebastya village only needed about five minutes of horrible noise-making before they were ready to apply what they’ve learned to an instrument. In comparison, after leaving our basement room at Askar Refugee Camp today, I was seriously questioning my eardrums’ ability to sustain me through old age. As someone who already resented “Hot Crossed Buns”, it really means a lot when I say I’ve gained a deeper level of hatred for it since arriving in Palestine. 

Apart from the recorders (which are ultimately good, if temporally terrible), this whole week has been wrecking the volunteers and residents of Nablus. All our classes have been more hyper than usual. In one, a teenager rudely but harmlessly slapped at a toddler, causing the ring of students around him to stand up and slap him (bystander intervention is strong in Palestine). He then picked out one of the offenders and started pummeling his face, only stopping when the rest of the class moved to break it up and kick them out. That same day, our friend at Project Hope had a birthday party, and invited two translators, who happened to be native Palestinians. Since it’s forbidden for volunteers to have locals in their flats, the group got into big trouble with our organization. This in turn pushed one of the flatmates over the edge and caused her to move out. She was already stressed out over other things, including a settler who tried to break a glass door over her head, to the applause of nearby IDF soldiers. The IDF have been very active in general; earlier this week, they bulldozed a house with the resident still inside, killing him. They’ve also been to Balata camp twice recently to arrest “suspects” (nobody knows what they’re suspected of doing). Tessa and our neighbors are working up to twelve hours a day now, and nobody in our flat has slept more than five hours any night in a week. Underlying all this is the fact that it’s been at least 35 °C everyday, with no end to the heat in sight.

Still, I’m feeling optimistic about the progress our students are making. The same class that had the fight now can write music on their own, which is huge, considering they started learning their notes a week and a half ago. And we’re gradually planning out performances with our oud teacher, our kids, and each other. Every night, we relax with either Nidal, Habib, and Akeel, our neighbors, or the English volunteers. Last night, we saw all three groups. In the morning, my flatmates and I groggily agreed that we’re not sleeping much, but if we were, we’d be missing out. 

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