Monday, June 23, 2008

SIM card

Samar had suggested several times that I should buy a local SIM card for my mobile phone so that I could call people directly and people could call me. Around midday I got a text message from Samar on my Danish mobile phone where she said that she’d drop by in about ten minutes so that we could go and buy a SIM card. That’s fine, I said, but I’d rather she came in twenty minutes because I’d been writing my blog and still had to have a shower. When I was clean and ready, I left the apartment to meet Samar on the way. She was coming in her car. My apartment was in a neighbourhood called Al Tireh, just slightly outside of Ramallah. The weather was very hot so I settled for a slow tempo. After fifteen minutes I’d almost reached Ramallah and came to a large crossroads but I was now a bit unsure whether Samar had taken this route. I called her and it became clear that we had misunderstood each other. We agreed to meet in an hour at a café called Café Pronto. I thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to try and find my own way around. I’d been told that I should walk straight until I reached a gas station where I should turn right in order to get to the café. After ten minutes walk from the suburban area where I was living and into a slight more densely built urban area, I found the gas station and turned as I’d been told. There were many small shops and workshops in the streets on the edge of the city centre: bakeries, electrical goods, shops with spare parts for cars, etc. There were also a lot of people in the streets. The shop owners often sat outside their shops on chairs reading the newspaper.

There were two improvised memorials around the gas station for what I assumed were martyrs killed by the occupation forces. Firstly, there was a memorial with pictures of a very young man, almost a boy, who must have been killed at this very location. There was a stone slab with Arabic writing as well as several flags and Palestine-checked clothing, red and black, blowing in the wind. This memorial took up part of the road by extending half a meter outwards from the curb. Further down there was a similar memorial. This time there was a grown man on the pictures. Apart from the stone slab with flags and so on, an electric sign had been erected that had a picture of the militant on when still alive lying in a landscape aiming a large machine gun. I’d noticed the sign before but couldn’t entirely understand what it was about until now. It almost looked like an advertisement sign for a restaurant but now I could see that it was a memorial for a martyr.

On the streets you often meet small, short-haired boys under ten years old selling chewing gum. This time was no exception and a little boy was trying his luck, walking with me part of the way and trying to sell me gum for 2 shekels. After a little while, I got him down to 1 shekel. Finally though, I thought what the heck and gave him 2 shekels and took a packet. His face lit up and he took the money and ran back to where he’d come from. On the way back he shouted to his friends about his luck and immediately 4 or 5 chewing gum sellers came after me. I said, ‘Next time’, but they answered, ‘No next time!’. I ended the whole thing by stating very clearly ‘No way’. The Palestinian boys, however, were good businessmen and had clearly started their training early about how to earn money through selling. I noticed that Samar often has long conversations with the young vendors and her tone is not always friendly, however this doesn’t always stop the little ones.

I soon reached an area that I couldn’t recognise at all and started to consider asking someone for directions, but then I saw the bouncy castle next to the City Hall and this brought me back on track — and to Café Pronto. This was a bit of a victory for me as I was now feeling independent from Samar’s very friendly help and protection.

Samar arrived shortly afterwards and we drove to a quite comprehensive shopping centre. We quickly agreed that the existence of a shopping centre must be one of the preconditions for taking a future Palestinian state seriously. So, one of these now existed, of course, and it looked like any other shopping centre in the world. Here we bought a SIM card at Jawwal, the Palestinian telephone company. I could have bought Orange, which is the Israeli-based company but although Samar says that she is not very politically-minded, I’ve noticed that she always makes sure to buy Palestinian products. That’s why she took me to Jawwal. Then we went shopping in the large supermarket that is also a part of the centre. There were a lot of good fresh products on the shelves and it reached the standards of European supermarkets. However the produce was in an entirely different league with fresh wild tomatoes, squash, aubergine, salad, and so on. By chance we met Khaled, who I’d met the other night, in the supermarket. It was starting to dawn on me that Ramallah is not very big although it’s still difficult for me to find my way around.

If you want to get hold of me you can reach me on my new Jawwal number: 00972598016846. Speak to you soon.

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