Since work and adventures got the better of me, I ended up with no time or energy to post on my blog. Let me take a big step back and start my adventure from the beginning.
My first dig was at Balu’a, an Iron Age city in the ancient kingdom of Moab (think Biblical times, the land where Ruth was from). We lived in a house in a nearby village, As-Smakieh. This small village looked like just about any other village in the region, except that it is exclusively Christian. There is not a mosque in sight nor a call-to-prayer to be heard. There were two rivaling churches, however, that faced each other and would have competitions over who could play church bells louder over their PDA systems. The first thing a newcomer is asked when they come to the village is “do you go to the latin church or the greek church?” This does not actually mean catholic versus orthodox. It is actually roman catholic versus greek catholic.
Because it is a christian village, no one walks around wearing hijabs and everyone wears t-shirts. They are still very conservative and traditional, but it is a contrast to the conservative bedouin villages in the south. There is distinctive gender segregation, not by any law but simply by social customs. Guys and girls simply do not hang out together. Even in the church service, women sit on one side of the church and the men on the other. During hymns, the women held hands and so did the men, but they did NOT hold each others’ hands. This made it awkward when I accidentally sat on the men’s side. Even communion had separate lines for the men and the women! Even during the “peace” the men would hug and kiss each other, and so would the women, but for me I had to sit still and not touch anyone, including my male friend sitting next to me. Oops! 🙂
I had an interesting time getting used to the culture. Because this is a small village, we were very exciting. Because there was a handful of single women with us, we were VERY exciting! It didn’t take long at all for every middle-school boy in the village to know my name. They would play ball in the street right outside our house.
I learned pretty quickly that in conservative societies, it is not good for a girl to walk around alone, even in daylight. The boys would surround me and ask me tons of questions. The most important questions included “Are you married? Why not? I have a cousin your age who is unmarried too!” It actually got pretty scary when that particular cousin drove by and they drug me over to his car and tried to shove me in it. The 25-year old man emphatically pointed at his ring finger, silently asking if I was married or not. One night, the boys all went crazy trying to drag me into his car. A neighbor girl saw me and ran over to rescue me, dragging me into her house. Her father and grandfather ran out to yell at the boys. They sat me down and yelled at me “Sit! Eat!” I sat quietly and ate.