Well I've now been tutoring M for just over three weeks, and I've become very fond of him and his family. His mother is a social worker who works with women, speaks good English and is very kind. They have four children, the eldest is studying to become an Electrician, the next, a girl, is studying to become an Accountant, and then there is my student, still at school, and finally the 15-year old, also still at school.
I was invited to spend the day with them today, as they are very grateful for my visits: I go to their home three times a week, and we sit on the sofa in the front room and go over what he has learnt at school, but perhaps in a different context and certainly with more individual attention. His mother told me today that she is amazed by the improvement in his English, and that his Aunt had noticed it too. I think it was a matter of confidence, and certainly regular practice helps, with someone who doesn't speak a word of Arabic.
They picked me up in their old car, battered twice by my student, who was trying to teach himself to drive without any lessons (!), and we went to their flat. There we sat and chatted, putting my student's English into a more normal context, and then we sat down to a lovely meal. I've found it's quite normal here to have people join the meal almost unexpectedly, but everyone just moves up, another plate is produced, and we all eat a bit less. Makes me laugh when I think of the fuss and bother we go to for dinner parties back home!
After the meal we had the traditional strong black coffee, this time with cardomon, although it's sometimes cooked with cinnamon or just natural. I've bought myself a small coffee-pot, such as they use here to cook coffee in, and I hope I can get it past 'security' at Tel Aviv. Then we jumped in the car again, and I was driven to the house they've been building outside of Nablus, where the parents hope to move to soon. They've been building it for seven years, and it's nearly finished, and has a wonderful setting. 'Place in the Sun' eat your heart out: the views from on top of this hill looking back towards the city were stunning, the hillside being peppered with olive trees.
Around the house they had also planted several trees: orange, clementine, lemon, vine, apricot, peach, and 'jaffa', which is not an orange, but a fruit I have never tasted before: it was the texture of an apple but with an amazingly indescribable taste. I was offered lemons straight from the tree, for my sore throat, and had one squeezed into my tea. The only pity was the lack of rain: whilst Western Europe suffers in minus temperatures and under a blanket of snow, here the problem is lack of water.
It hasn't rained, to speak of, in six months, and many of the trees had either died or were feeble. The mother said to me, rather ominously, that if we run out of water there will be war. Already a quick look at the UN aerial map of the Wall tells you that Israel has commandeered many of the lakes and rivers, cutting into Palestinian land and around the water courses, in contravention of International Law. Add to this a severe drought and frustrated people, and you have a powder keg of dangerous proportions.
We didn't dwell on this, however, and the emphasis was on a relaxed day out with the family: they laugh and kid around a lot, especially the younger boy, who has taken it upon himself to teach me Arabic. He pointed to everything, telling me the word in Arabic, which I dutifully repeated. We went up onto the roof, which was flat, as they tend to be in these parts, and took in the view as the sun was setting. Then we sat in the twilight and drank our tea,afterwards slowly packing up and coming home. I like the generosity and simple humanity of this family, and I wish them well.