Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hamdi, the gay Palestinian donkey

I went out again tonight (seriously, they tell you Ramadan is boring, but in reality, it means the day is boring, and then nobody goes to bed before the morning), to watch a youth dance troupe – they’re actually sort of an elite political dance group, and the kids are in training to be part of the professional troupe when they turn 18. I was a little skeptical when this event was described to me, but they were very, very good. Good enough that I could read the story of each dance, even without understanding the words or political significance of the music. As an added bonus, Senor Morelo, the Venezuelan government representative, was also in attendance for the evening.

After the performance, I went with Mohammed and his brother to their apartment with a few friends, and got into a very long, involved discussion of world politics while drinking cheap red wine. Some things are, apparently, universal. However, the discussion then switched to livestock. In particular llamas, and their use by the Israeli army, which everyone found funny. But if you talk about pack animals, you can’t avoid Hamdi, who is Ahmad’s cousin’s donkey.

Now, the family bought this donkey, a good, strong, weight-carrying male donkey, to avoid any problems with donkey mating and other nonsense. To their chagrin, Hamdi showed a strong propensity to mount any nearby male donkeys. "So much for avoiding the nonsense," they thought.

In a flash of brilliance, one of the kids decided to rename Hamdi, and now he's happily continuing his alternative donkey lifestyle with the new moniker Tootsie.

Put it in my (Mossad) file

Hey all - sorry for the delay - slow, slow internet connection! Meanwhile, on with the story...

Oh, more fun at Ben Gurion Airport. I hope my father and both grandfathers don’t mind that they’re now on file with the Israeli authorities... I was, frankly, a little insulted that they didn’t want to know who my mother and grandmothers were. In the course of my interrogation, I wound up having to explain the US government proposal process, which is complex enough that I run a 2-day training on it. Then try articulating that complexity to people who don’t really speak English, and it takes a good 45 minutes. I, apparently, am lucky, though, as one of our other staff was in there for 6 hours. Eugh.

We took the longest “shortcut” back to Ramallah from the airport – it’s a back way past some settlements, which means you don’t have to go through a checkpoint. Keep the settlers happy, I suppose. It strikes me as quite ironic that, after being detained in the airport and driving half an hour out of the way to avoid the Wall, you can cross the border without so much as winking at any security. That’s what I call consistency.

Ramallah is the same as always, but more tense, and with more traffic lights (I’ve counted five so far, up from one last time). It’s Ramadan right now, which means that the work day is shortened, and there aren’t a whole lot of restaurants and things open. We went out last night, to a place called Stones, which wasn’t our usual haunt last time, but I liked it. Good mint lemonade, lots of multilingual conversation (you’d be surprised how often I wind up speaking French), and the sweet shisha smell.

Tonight is a dance performance, followed by more going out, and although I’m working tomorrow even though it’s “Saturday,” I’m sticking around the apartment, and I’ll be able to shake off my jet lag.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Here I Go Again

It's looking more official - I'll be heading back to Ramallah for about a month o/a September 26th. Stay tuned for a return to blogging. In the meantime, I've started a new blog, to keep me occupied with world events. Take a look!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Next up: A return to the Middle East?

I may be heading back to everyone's favorite region soon, so here's a heads-up that posting may start. I've only been traveling domestically lately, so this will be the first trip abroad in about 6 months. Stay tuned...