Reflection Three: Life in Refugee Camps as an American Volunteer written by volunteer Mark Rafferty
It's rather remarkable how at home I felt in Jalazone Camp. By appearances, it was the most foreign place I could imagine, but as I settled into life in the camp and got to know the people there, I found that in many ways it was just like a small town anywhere else: close knit, friendly, full of gossip, and warmly hospitible to newcomers.
Every time I stepped out the door of the house onto the dusty, unpaved road that leads down the mountain to the Karama Center, a new learning experience awaited me. The people that I met on the streets of Jalazone were curious about where the strange looking foreigner was from, and just about every block I walked, kids and adults alike would stop me and ask me where I was from. At times, we'd share a quick exchange in Arabic and move on, but when there was free time, I loved sitting with young people on street corners and getting to know them. I didn't speak their language terribly well, but somehow, it was always the children who communicated best with me. They'd ask me about life in America, and I'd tell them in broken Arabic about my town, my family, and my culture. We'd sing songs together, and I would try making jokes in Arabic, which usually failed miserably. At times, we'd talk about religion and the relationship between Religion and Islam; maybe our conversations went so well because their basic understanding of the topics matched perfectly with my basic vocabulary. I also took the time to get to know the adults of the community, which was easy enough given that the men sitting on the sidewalk drinking tea were almost always issuing invitations to sit and talk. In the coffee shops and in the internet cafes, I learned about the political currents in the camp and the people's aspirations for the future, and I got a fuller picture of what it means to be a Palestinian refugee.