This morning, I was running late to meet Dr. B for our pre-travel grocery shopping date. We were meeting in Beit Sahour to buy groceries for our early departure to Jordan tomorrow. Because I was running late, I was hauling ass through town and getting a lot of attention for doing so. While I could of taken a taxi to the blue and white, 1950's ramshakle bus that takes me down to Beit Sahour for 35 cents, I decided to save the 50 cents on a taxi ride and get my day started with a 5km stroll. My biggest obstacles are crazy drivers, broken sidewalks, and men and teenage boys who sometimes refuse to move out of the way with their unnecessary gawking. Other than this, the walk is mostly downhill, which is usually breezy and nice. Of course, walking also means getting harassed by every single taxi cab driver that is looking for a fare, but this is not because I'm Western. The drivers harass everyone here.
So, there I was bopping along to some ridiculous 1980's technofunk on my Ipod, when I rounded the final corner, looked ahead and realized that my bus was pulling away without me.
Here's the thing: I'm not a person who runs after buses. I'm just not. I consider myself way too cool for this. I also do not like the be the bus-chaser who attracts attention to herself, then fails to hail the bus in the first place. I hate to then be the failed bus-chaser who has to stand on the street and wait for another bus anyway. At the same time, I also hate being the bus-chaser who does manage to hail the bus but holds up the rest of the bus passengers when doing so. As a bus passenger, I find this irritating when successful bus-chasers do this. I do not like to be an irritating type of person. So, in all, it's fair to say that bus-chasing is just not "me".
But since the bus only comes on the half-hour (and sometimes not at all), I was forced to make the quick decision this morning that bus-chasing is, in fact, within my repertoire of things to do at 10 o'clock in the morning in Palestine. Trust me, bus-chasing is a great way to start the day.
The bus usually stops half-way up the hill that leads to Manger Square in the center of Bethlehem. It was struggling to inch it's way into on-coming traffic, which bought me a little bit of time. I started walking a bit more quickly, then realized that there was no way for me to make it if I didn't burst into a sprint. Dammit!- I thought. I can't believe I'm doing this!
As I ran up the hill, the men who sit outside of the falafel shop that I pass every day started chanting in unison, "Go, go, go! Go, go, go!"
A few women that I passed stopped and stood speechless. Even children stopped walking and watched me dodge around them in my scramble. Along with the men, the children chanted, "Go, go, go!" They actually squealed for joy and clapped their hands as I passed. Because of this, I nearly had to stop and breakdown from the laughter. It really was beyond hilarious. But because failing to chase a bus is worse than bus-chasing itself, I was determined not to miss my mark.
Of course, just when I was just about to make it, the bus lumbered forward like a fat old man up the hill. Memories of wind-sprints from high school track practice I dreaded more than anything suddenly flashed through my mind. Since I was already running at this point, I had no choice but to kick it into turbo and run that much faster. As I did this, it occurred to me that even though I've been walking everywhere for the past two months, I am in no shape for sprinting. Of course, none of this was helped that I had managed to gather the attention of every single person the busy street. The only time people actually run here is if they are being chased by soldiers, so yes, this was beyond remarkable.
Miraculously, at the top of the hill, I managed to overcome the bus, dart between a few parked cars, and emerge on the side of the street with my arm out for pick-up. The driver opened his door and let me come on board, only the bus was completely full and there was nowhere to sit. Even the aisle was crammed full with passengers. The two women in the front row looked at me like I had 6 heads growing out of my shoulders, and none of the men seemed willing to give up their seat. Since the men usually stand on the stairs by the door, I decided to stand there, too. The driver gave me a look like I was completely nuts, which I returned with a look that said, "Listen, dude, it's pretty obvious that I can run faster than your little bus to Cartagena here. I don't care about your silly gender laws. I can ridewherever I like."
The good news is that I made it to Beit Sahour in plenty of time to meet Dr. B, and also discover that our favorite community grocery store was closed.
But, because there are eyes and ears everywhere in Palestine, it didn't take long for word to travel back to my friends in Azza Camp that the Non-Arab Girl has superhuman powers. I returned home late this afternoon to a round of applause from some of the adults on the street.
"You are famous in Bethlehem today!," one of them said when I walked up to say hello. Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about. "We heard that you ran through town today like a ghost!" The funny thing is that the story of my sprint up the hill far surpassed the event itself. Actually, the story was much, much better.
Apparently, because of my "ghost-like" sprinting abilities, I was told tonight that "all" of the men who have been asking about me around the camp now say that they don't want to marry me because I am too strong and stubborn for their liking. I believe that this is only because Arab women are not really encouraged to sweat. Instead, they must be placid, serene, unaffected and doll-like in public. My friends say that a girl who runs in the street like I did today is considered to be something that cannot be tamed, kind of like a "mustang horse", they say.
Of course, I laughed whole-heartedly at this, and wondered if "bus-chasing" shouldn't be my middle name.