Time is flying by and we are jumping into week 9 of our placement at Birzeit University in Palestine.
We have had our last sessions in Advancement and are now making preparations for our leaving party for which we are all excited, however sad to see everyone off. These last couple of weeks have been interesting for the team; we have accomplished a lot in the last sessions, with a high turnout in numbers and some of the most interesting discussions so far. It is a real shame to have to leave it all behind and for all of us to have to return to our daily lives.
The Advancement team have been keeping themselves busy outside of the office as well as inside. Last week we visited Wadi Qelt to do some fantastic hiking through a valley edged out in the mountains of the Jordan Valley. Even in the intense heat of the midday sun the hike was well worth it, the valley offered canvases of shade and the scenery was some of the best that we have seen in Palestine. It was a good experience since we all got to see yet another face of this place. A mixture of nature and wildlife provided us with a well-needed break from the often-exhausting nature of the occupation. The combination of the serious situations and the more light-hearted ones gave us a trip to remember with a touch of comedy - a fellow volunteer whose name won’t be mentioned fell in a river of untreated sewage whilst trying to help another volunteer; and so the hero became our laughing stock.
Some of the team travelled to the British Consulate in Jerusalem to listen to speakers from DFID (Department for International Development) and the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office). Unfortunately some of the in-country volunteers were not granted the necessary permits to travel to Jerusalem and as such they were not present for the day. The discussion was none the less interesting – focussing largely on the British government’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the necessary conditions for which the British government would recognise a Palestinian state. Seeing the inside of the Consulate was an interesting experience, and painted a clearer picture of what life is like working for the Foreign Office and furthermore the UK volunteers were given a lot of useful advice regarding how to follow such a career.
There is no easy way to sum up the experience that we have all shared on our placement at Birzeit University. We have had a great time working together and although there were some hardships along the way we have always managed to pull together as a team and see them through. It will be a sad day for all of us to have to leave behind the friendships that we have made as we go our separate ways, and for the UK volunteers who have only recently started to get a grasp on Arabic and having to leave behind their favourite spots. It has been an excellent and educational last couple of months and whilst we are all sad that it is coming to an end, we are now focussing on making the most of what time we have left together in Palestine and enjoying ourselves for the remainder of the placement.
By Billy & Hasan