Every morning is different for me in Gaza. I am not sure whether I will be awoken by Israeli F16’s, aerial drones or my host Eliyaan knocking on my door until I get up. Either way having the privilege of waking up in Gaza is something that I will never forget for my entire life. After waking up I am usually blessed with a traditional Palestinian breakfast consisting of hummus, falafel, bread, chilli, olives, eggs and potato and a nice cup of tea. I then walk for about 800 metres from Sahaba Street to the main road in Jalaah where I catch a taxi to Jundy , the centre of Gaza City. My Arabic isn’t perfect but it goes something like this: Jundy wahad (One person to Jundy), etneen Shekeel (Two Shekeels). Sometimes I stand up to fifteen minuets but never longer. If I say etneen shekel first then often I don’t have to wait at all. Driving in Gaza is an experience in itself.
I then make my way to Abbas from Jundy where the BYNA Youth NGO is located. There are two men who work there, Sami and Saadi. Sami doesn’t speak much English. He laughs a lot and runs to the PC and uses Google Translate if he wishes to speak to me. It’s really funny. Saadi on the other hand is doing some sort of internship at BYNA. He has level 3 or 4 in English and I can communicate with him to a certain degree. He makes the coffee every morning. Then there is Maysa. Almost like my mother at BYNA. Always making sure I am well looked after and happy at the NGO. Maysa is a role model for all women. She lost her husband in Operation Cast Lead in 2008 when Israel launched the most inhumane aerial, land and sea invasion over the Gaza Strip which left over 1400 Palestinians dead and thousands injured. She is a widow with children. Despite this, she is still able to study , work and assist other Palestinians at BYNA. Maysa will also help host a summer camp for 700 children this summer for the children of widows. The event is set to be held in June and I will be volunteering if all goes according to plan. I am pretty sure that the summer camp could be one of my highlights on my trip in Gaza.
After BYNA I then usually make my way back to central Gaza where I head to the Centre for Political and Development Studies (CPDS). This is the place where I first did my lecture on the youth’s role in South Africa in resistance to Apartheid. http://www.alresalah.ps/en/index.php?act=post&id=604
The CPDS is really where I enjoying working the most. I feel my skills in marketing and reporting are used adequately. There are also many people who come and give lectures in their fields of specialization. Recently we had Harry Fear who is a short documentary film maker. I wrote an article on his lecture that he gave at CPDS.
The CPDS also is kind enough to host Arabic lessons for us every second day. A few other foreigners and I attend these classes for two hours where we learn basic vocabulary, numbers and dialogue in Arabic. Both Yousef and Mukaram are our respective teachers. It must be said that Arabic is not the easiest language to learn however with practice makes perfect. For example: He does not wear a shirt. In Arabic would be: Hoowah mish laabiss aamies/bloozer. Usually at CPDS or just afterwards I will grab some lunch at one of Gaza’s many fabulous and appetizing restaurants. My suggestions for anyone planning to visit Gaza would be to have lunch or something to drink at El Diera, Delice, Marna House, Laterna or Al Badia. All of them are great value for money and if you are not into fancy coffee shops or restaurants then a shwarmah or falafel sandwich from one of the many street vendors will work just as good to satisfy your appetite.
When I get home from the CPDS I am usually off to gym in the late afternoon. The gym is about a good ten minute walk from Sahaba Street where I reside. It is not an ancient gym as I thought. Lots of the equipment is quite modern and I was surprised that people in Gaza gym as well like in Western society. I am just trying to keep a balance. After gym I grab some dinner or supper and shower before I call it a night. If the electricity is on however I find myself doing reports or sharing the latest news articles on Facebook. Sometimes members of the Oxygen youth group, who I am involved with at BYNA, come and visit me in Sahaba Street where we enjoy a shi-sha and catch up on the latest talk and developments talking place within Gaza and Palestine. This is just a short summery of my day in Gaza and I hope that you can use your imagination to the best of your ability in order to picture what I do on a typical day in Gaza. It is not easy living in Gaza but then again life itself is not easy. It all boils down to what you make out of it and the amount of gratitude you have in your heart for what God has blessed you with. Being in Gaza and being humbled down to the ordinary people’s level has influenced my life in many ways. The determination of the Gaza’n people can not be expressed in words. It is something that each and every person should witness for themselves. I draw a lot of my motivation and confidence from the people of Gaza. They have faced occupation, wars, and economic sanctions for centuries yet they still stand resilient.
Welcome to Gaza! Ahlan Wa Saalan Fi Gaza!