Thursday, August 13, 2015

PFU: Coming to a Close

When I first mentioned to my mother, just over a year ago, that I had a vague idea about spending my summer in the Palestinian Territories, she brushed it aside thinking that it was merely another of my ‘airy fairy ideas’. Fast forward a year to me packing my suitcase; to say that she was not keen on the idea is an understatement. Notions of euro-centricity, coupled with highly orientalist media reporting that portrays the Palestinian Territories as a barbaric, uncivilised place full of terrorists resulted in one teary mother convinced that I was going to be spending my summer in a war zone. 

The time that I have spent in the Palestinian Territories has, however, consistently proven that such notions are merely fictitious. For the most part, the people I have encountered have been friendly and welcoming, keen to provide insights into the culture and history of their home. Palestine is, however, of course a complicated place, even referring to where I have been living for the past 3 months as Palestine has been contentious at times. However, occupation, which is now synonymous with Palestine, doesn’t define it. That is not to dismiss its reality and impact as it permeates every aspect of life; from the high cost of living due to the dual taxes that Palestinian businesses encounter to the unfortunate reality of friends not being able to attend day trips due to travel restrictions. It is just to state that contrary to widespread news reporting, Palestine is so much more than simply checkpoints, roadblocks and intifada

Last week, myself and some of the other volunteers stumbled across a business 'expo' at the Movenpick Hotel in Ramallah. Over 50 companies, cooperatives and communities came together to show case their products, brands and businesses. It was great to talk to people from across the Palestinian Territories and provided a refreshing change to the occupation discourse, which dominates conversation here. It further cemented that, to me, my favourite part of my placement has been when I have been engaging with Palestinians, whether at the marker or during my first week when myself and the in-country volunteers compared episodes of X Factor and Arab Idol as part of a ‘cultural exchange’. 

Thus it is rather bitter sweet to be writing this blog post, knowing that it will be one of the last from this cohort of ICS volunteers but at the same time I'm feeling a sense of excitement to be going home and seeing what lies ahead, especially considering the skills that ICS has enabled me to develop. It is hard to summarise my placement in only a few words but, if I had to, I would say insightful, productive, at times challenging and frustrating but overall a highly recommended experience. 

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