It’s a day like any other, probably Sunday or Tuesday, because I have a class in Balata camp this afternoon. I wake up in the morning with the alarm of my local phone, that is at least 10 years old. After having shared a cardamom coffee with my roommates, I go up the few steps that separate me from Project Hope’s office. « Sabah il-khir ! » Every morning, I charge myself with plenty of good vibes, just by saying hello to my collegues in the office.
I have two different hours with kindergartens, at 11. I meet with Haitem, the local volunteer that is coming with me ; he is going to help me translate what I say to the children. We chat and walk together. Today, I planned activities that consist in making monsters while repeating body parts, numbers and colors. Everytime, they empty me from all my energy while filling me up with joy.
After a few hours of quiet in my apartment, I leave for Balata. I take the other direction, this time, and start walking towards the center of the city. On the way, the man who sells vegetables at the corner of the street gives me a smile and greets me. I really like him, he teaches me vegetable names in Arabic. Once I get to the mall, I shake Jihad’s hand, another local volunteer who will translate my French class this time. We go down to the basement to take a shared taxi. They wait until they’re full to leave. They are the only means of transportation here. The trip costs 2.5 shekels.
My arrival in the camp is always an exciting moment : each time, I am surprised by the difference of atmosphere between here and the city, which is only a few minutes from here. The place is constantly crowded : 50’000 people share 2 square kilometres. People stare at me, the children all try to say hello to me in a foreign language. Some volunteers say they’ve had rocks thrown at them, but nothing like that ever happened to me. I feel safe.
The place appeared to me as a labyrinth, the first time. We walk through the small streets, I’m following Jihad who guides me, even though the surroundings are now familiar to me. On the way, I collect some children that go out at the moment they see me : « Bonjour ! ». I love them. In class, things can seem difficult : the first time, the kids would just come in and out as they wished, no one ever has a notebook or a pen. However, I make them move and play, and I now have my faithful little group, that listens to me carefully. There’s a lot of sharing.
The way back is also always interesting : I focus more on details around me, mentally free from my class preparations. The trash, on the floor, the shops at the side of the street, the people’s faces. One time, I even saw a stable that had a single cow in it, randomly, between two doors in the street. The posters celebrating martyrs or imprisoned soldiers became so common to me that I don’t really pay attention to them anymore, except for trying to read what they’re saying, with my newly learnt Arabic alphabet, with which I’m still struggling. Jihad teaches me expressions, and we exchange in French about our cultural differences. Sometimes, we share a coffee after our return to Nablus so that we can practise our respective languages : he’s studying French at the university.
Before going home, I go and say hi to my friend Numan, who is breakdance training in a center close to where I live. I am always inspired by these young people who are so dedicated to their passion. Sometimes, it makes me a bit sad, because it reminds me of all the rest, their situation. Later, after studying a bit and hanging out some time with the other volunteers, I will spend the evening with Numan and his friends in Balata, the village this time. We exchange about many interesting subjects, in spite of the language barrier, that my friend reconciles. We share about religion, politics, art, society and more. Often, I’m invited to share a meal with his family, experiencing Palestinian hospitality as daily. The view from his balcony is beautiful, with the valley lightened by another city. The muslim prayers start, I realise I almost don’t hear them anymore.
It’s a day like any other. Oh yeah, it’s true, I am in Palestine.