Sunday, 8 February 2015

Arriving at the next stop on the journey

My Uncle says that I have the amazing skill of being able to make a place look like home within a very while of arriving somewhere. What he really means is that I have the impressive skill of making a place look ‘lived in’ (for which read what you like, but I am sticking with lived in!) within a very short space of time. So it is that, within a short while of arriving at the hospital in Beit Jala, I’ve found the switches that open/shut the security shutters for the windows, the fridge into which I am putting some water as, although I’m very glad of the radiators that are belting out heat – I have yet to work out how to turn them off and am gasping for a cold drink, and have unpacked my bags and now have a desk that looks like it is being worked at (which means there are papers and pens on it which really should be in a drawer!) This last thing is the one my Uncle refers to – items casually ‘placed’ around so that I know this space is mine (for a while, at least).

The hospital is set on the outskirts of the Municipality of Beit Jala and has a commanding view of the surrounding countryside – as well as the illegal (Israeli) settlements and the Separation Wall which actually runs right through the area with a bizarre loop affair on a hillside. I am not certain what this is meant to protect given that it would be absolutely impossible to build something inside the area the loop takes in and, even if were, there would be absolutely nothing to stop anyone lobbing any form of device over the Wall as the homes of the inhabitants are just above the height of the wall… It’s very weird.

The hospital offers care for those of all creeds and none who are in need of medical care or assistance. The stone that stands in the area at the front of the hospital says it all: Every patient is first and foremost a human being. I knew when planning how to use my Extended Study Leave that offering time here as a volunteer would be an essential part of what I spent the time. I have come here not knowing what I shall be asked to do beyond knowing that I will be in the Children’s Department. I’m happy to make beds, wash floors, play with the children… I really don’t mind. Offering the time is a way of saying that what they are doing here is important. One task I have to fulfil is the giving of three small hand-made bears to three children. One of the ladies of my church made them, following on from a Pilgrimage she made to the Holy Land quite some years ago and discovered that one member of the group had been carrying around small toys that he went out each evening to give to children out on the streets who looked as though they needed something to brighten their day. If I had had one on me, I would have given it to the little girl I saw with her brothers on Friday, but alas, I did not.

Getting here on the 231 bus from Damascus Gate Bus Station was absolutely fine. We didn't go through the Checkpoint, which I was surprised about, but apparently we are on the Palestinian side, so it is okay. Given that we had just come out of Jerusalem I am not certain how that works, but never mind! The bus driver dropped me off and indicated that the hospital was ‘just around the corner’. In fact, it was a ten minute (and 30 shekel) taxi ride away up and down some very steep hills. Thankfully the Taxi driver had heard of it, unlike the UNHCR chap who I asked through the prison-like metal bars surrounding the confines of his building. Given the work the hospital does, here, you would have thought he would know about it. Ah well.

And so, I am hoping for a better night’s – heat from the radiator notwithstanding. It is making a hissing noise that is actually quite soporific!

And here, courtesy of Google translate (so who knows what it really says?!?) is a goodnight greeting to you all.

حتى ما بعد المقبل، والناس - الحفاظ على ما يرام والحفاظ على آمن.

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