Monday, November 14, 2005

Bridging the Gap, Part II

My trip to Kuwait was uneventful (thankfully). I spent my last night in Beirut drinking at a bar until about 3:30 am. My flight to Kuwait was at 8 am, which meant I had to be at the airport by 6 am – translation: I got about an hour of sleep and showed up in Kuwait reeking of cigarettes and probably alcohol just in time for the first day of Eid. There is nothing quite as awkward as showing up a family gathering when everyone else in the room is wearing brand new designer clothes and you come rolling in, unshowered, wearing the same clothes you’ve been wearing for the last two days.

To be honest I had several motives for going to Kuwait. First, I was hopeful that if I showed up in Kuwait my father would take pity on me and loan me a laptop. Secondly, I knew that another visit to the family in Kuwait was mandatory before I head back to the US, so I figured it would be easier if I could get it out of the way now, rather than later (meaning I would rather spend New Years in Bethlehem than in Kuwait, where alcohol is illegal), and I wanted to spend some time in a place where I didn’t have to hand wash my clothes (Birzeit) and there weren’t any cockroaches running my room (Beirut).

So, I had a nice couple days in Kuwait and then began the trek back to Palestine, via Amman. MA met me at the airport Monday morning and took me out for breakfast in the city before dropping me off at the place where the services leave for the Allenby Bridge. Now the bridge apparently closes at 2 pm on Mondays, so I grabbed a seat in what was probably the last service headed to the bridge that day. Myself and two Palestinian boys are sitting in service waiting for a fourth rider when the driver hops in and asks the boys if they speak English (he asks in Arabic, of course). When the boys say yes, he tells them to tell me – his actual words were “the foreigner” -- that the price to the bridge is double the regular price, and then we can all leave now instead of waiting for a fourth rider. You can imagine his expression when I asked him in Arabic why he expected me to pay a higher price for the same service . . . both boys started laughing at the driver who looked as if he had the shock of his life. I guess my Arabic has improved . . .

The bridge was a nightmare, as usual. I sat there for 4 hours and was the very last person to get permission to enter Israel. Even the cleaning people had come and gone while I was waiting. The soldiers weren’t particularly rude except for the guy who, when they finally decided to give me a two month visa, started yelling at the girl stamping my passport to only give me a week’s visa. Bastard. I arrived at the bridge before 2 pm and didn’t make it back to Ramallah until 7 pm. Ironically, even all the Palestinians got into the country before I did . . . I guess I shouldn’t complain too much since they didn’t dump my backpack or strip search me this time.

When I arrived at my apartment in Birzeit I was happy to see that my landlord had put bars up on all of our windows. Hopefully this will dissuade any future thieves. Insha’allah.


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