Intern Journal: A Ladies' Picnic

A wonderful part of being an intern at TYO – the thing that made me apply for the internship in the first place – are the opportunities for actually spending time with Palestinians.  Before Nablus, I was living in Amman, Jordan for fifteen months on a fellowship to study Arabic and research women’s rights.  Fifteen months in Jordan!  You’d think I’d be fluent in Arabic, right?  Well, in the end, a lot of my life in Jordan was spent with expats.  In fact, I think I ended up learning more about what life is like for expats in Jordan than what life is like for Jordanians! My experience at TYO so far has been different.  Of course, this is not a complete immersion experience.  I mean, I live with Americans and end up speaking English a lot of the time.  But, I find that if I take a little bit of initiative, it is not hard to make friends with and spend most of my time with Palestinians.

Take this past weekend, for example.  Sameeha, the lovely computer teacher at TYO who is also one of my English students, invited me and the other interns to her cousin’s wedding on Thursday night.  None of us know her cousin or the man her cousin is marrying, but as they say in Arabic, “A’dee,” no problem, we could all come to the wedding.  So after putting on our best (women here go ALL OUT for weddings), we made our way to the festivities.  For most of the night, men and women did not celebrate the union of the new couple together.  Even though both the groom and bride were at the women’s party, the men invitees were in a separate room until the last hour, when they came to pay their respects to the newly weds.  At that point, many of women who had been unveiled (some even wearing sleeveless dresses!), scurried to cover themselves before the men saw them.   After the men left, the dancing and eating continued until the respectable hour of 10 PM, when we all went home.

On Saturday, Kara and I had the opportunity to attend a ladies picnic with one of TYO’s wonderful translators, Aya, and many of her friends and relatives.  This picnic was truly a delight.  While the golden sun set in the valley below, we gathered amidst giggles and smiles on Aya’s family’s land in the neighborhood of New Nablus, which is perched on the mountains above the city.  Fried chicken juices dripped down our faces as we struggled to eat all the other riches that were on the table: homemade fattoush, nuts, toasted seeds, potatoes, pita bread, soft drinks, and Kara’s chickpea and pepper salad.  After stuffing ourselves, we drank sage infused sweet tea and smoked shisha, taping hilarious conversations of ourselves struggling to interview each other in Arabic and English.  Then came the Arabic coffee, the homemade carrot and lemon cakes, more seeds and more nuts, and then finally a picture taking session.  By the end of the evening, Kara and I had been invited to two more weddings, another picnic identical to the one we had just had, and even a possible sleepover!  It is clear that these women love spending time together, and I feel lucky that Kara and I have so seamlessly become one of the crew.


Mary is an intern at TYO Nablus and a participant in the Kalimatna Initiative.