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Archive for February, 2008

The snow report

So what i wasn’t expecting from palestine was snow.  it contradicts every image i had of the middle east.  local people kept telling me that it would snow – with the kind of glee that one often gets from imparting information that is at once unbelievable and verifiable.  it wasn’t that i didn’t believe them, i was sure they were telling the truth.  it was just so far from my ability to conceptualise that i, like so many others, thought it would never happen to me.  how wrong i was.

last tuesday i was in ramallah, when a friend warned that we should go out and stock up on food because the forcast was for snow (coming from the north pole apparently) and that everything would shut-down for the next three days.  naturally, as is my wont, i dismissed him as a fear-monger.  for starters, i didn’t really believe it would snow.  weather forcasts being unreliable as they are, combined with my (inappropriate) belief in my own ability to ward off snow, rendered me exceedingly skeptical.  also, it seemed to me that if it did snow, being the middle east and really not far from the coast, that there wouldn’t be much – surely not more than a bit of slush on the road.  as such, the suggestion that everything would come to a screeching halt for 3 days seemed slightly outrageous.  although it did appeal to my sense of drama – a sense i suspect is shared by many palestinians.   

so depsite my reservations, as the weather clouded over, i decided that it would be worth it, just in case, to head out on a shopping mission.  as i said, i have a strong sense of drama and am also somewhat superstitious, so i figured i had nothing to lose.  i persuaded others to join me, at which moment it started to hail.  not the kind of hail that you see in sydney, in which it’s just dangerous to go running about, but small and steady, and painful in a gust of wind.  this is it, i thought.  this is what passes for snow around here.  but we braved the elements and stocked up on some basics that would be enough for a couple of days.

the hail came and went, and as night descended without a single flake, i figured it would be worth having the food just to avoid the felafel pit for a few days (the felafel pit being the rut of only eating felafel sandwiches that occurs when you can’t be bothered buying food to cook and fresh felafel sandwiches only cost between 60 cents – $1).  then my friend opened the door to go out for cigarettes at 12:30am and announced that it was, indeed, snowing.

about 6 inches of fresh, puffy snow had fallen, so, excited, we grabbed some warm clothes and ran out to play – unfortunately for me without thinking to take a hat and raincoat.  in the hour that we spent exploring the mostly-empty city, replete with snow-covered palm trees, i managed to collect enough snow in my hair to make multiple snowballs.  which would have come in very handy had the PA (Palestinian Authority) police accepted our snowball challenge.  alas, the commander declared they had work to do (at which point one of the guys in the back looked really disappointed), despite the fact that, clearly, there was no work to be done – everyone was inside asleep, except for the crazy internationals who were wandering around with snowdrifts in their hair.

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it kept snowing throughout the following two days, dropping a couple of feet at least.   and whilst not everything shut down, the city largely ground to a halt.  the issue, however, was not so much that of the lack of availability of food (although, to be fair, most food shops were shut) but the danger of venturing outside.  the lack of convincing drainage meant that stepping off the kerb could plunge you up to the knee in icy water – not an enticing proposition when the electricity kept cutting out.  but more fearsome were the gangs of small boys who had taken up positions on roofs surrounding our office, emitting war-cries that led to a barrage of snowballs whenever they would spy an international.  on the first morning they attacked a couple of new volunteers so visciously that they were forced to retreat back into the office, cowering with hands covering their heads.

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so we essentially stayed in bed for two days, our lives stymied perhaps moreso than the locals’.  not leaving the office/apartment, however, it was difficult to know.

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