What do a right angle and Nablus today (October, mind you) have in common? Ninety degrees. Hahahaha! I made that up myself. Side-splitting and topical.
Ninety, for those of you who unfamiliar with Fahrenheit, is a lot of degrees. So many, actually, that we had to send our students home early today after we discovered that there was no running water at the girls' school. Forty-five minutes of dabke dancing may not have constituted the most punishing sport class ever, but today it was sufficient to leave us all thirsty and sweating under the Palestinian sun. The laziness which I assume is endemic in all gym classes worldwide was doubly evident today. Some girls sat on the sidelines, only clambering to their feet heavily and reluctantly when one of the teachers told them they faced a choice between dancing and the dreaded push-ups; others, running laps as a warm-up, traced a neat spiral into the center of the basketball court, each lap shorter than the previous one.
Nobody has ever accused me of being a good dancer, but even I find dabke pretty easy. Malaa and Jivan, two of Ellen's girls from Balata Camp, brought in their dance instructors to lead the class after a fun but disorganized lesson yesterday in which they taught us a few basic steps themselves. At the girls' urging, Sara demonstrated a traditional Lebanese dance, much like belly-dancing.
"It used to be a harem dance," she told us later.
"And now it's a HARAM dance," Ellen said. (Rimshot)
Haram, forbidden, is a word you hear often in Palestine. In one of my first lessons, in an apparently misguided attempt to psych the class up for a song competition we'll be holding in a few weeks, I bellowed "WHO LIKES SINGING?!"
"NO!" they hollered back. That kinda threw me off guard. I mean, I'm both a major language nerd and an abysmal singer (my singing is illegal in thirty-five countries), and even I would probably prefer that to past participles.
"How about you?" I asked one of the bolder students. "Are you sure? Singing is fun, right?"
She shook her head. "Singing is haram!"
I'm pretty sure this is not strictly true.
Even so, after deciding to veto their song choice (some sickly-sweet croony thing from Eurovision), I'm having a hard time finding something legitimately non-haram to replace it with. I really like the mental image of fourteen teenage girls in headscarves singing Big Rock Candy Mountains, for instance, but some of the references (you know, "where little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks") might be borderline. As a general guideline, I'm trying to think of what the average American parent is fine with their kids seeing on TV. The slightest mention of sex, crisis level five. Blood and gore: A-okay.
Am I rambling? It's too hot to write. I can almost feel my thoughts frying like ethereal little eggs inside my head. Send help.