Tile Barn Outdoor Centre, The New Forest.
by Emily Danby ( Saida's buddy)
I arrived at the hostel to hear the fire alarm going off and I met the whole group of excited and very friendly young women walking up the drive way. After settling in quickly, I went to help in the kitchen but everything seemed to be very calmly taken care of. The smell of sage filled the kitchen and I followed my nose to the large trays of fresh herbs brought all the way from Palestine to make authentic Palestinian tea.
There was immediately a wonderfully cheerful and calm atmosphere amongst the women - helped by the fact that nearly everyone was wearing pyjamas - and as we shared dinner introductions came easily. I learnt about the girls' families and their studies. The Palestinians seemed to eat very modest portions of food and weren't too impressed by tesco's slieced bread, although extra sandwiches were still going down quickly.
After dinner, two of the British group made a campfire and we sat around taking it in turns to share songs. There seemed to be a lot of Palestinian songs that all the women knew - and some of them were very funny when they explained the meaning. Meanwhile, us Brits resorted quickly to Disney numbers to find something we all knew. Singing was followed by a hilarious bi-lingual game of Chinese Whispers, where one person chose a word in English or Arabic and we passed it around until it turned into nonsense or sometimes a whole other word in a whole other language. After a bit of dancing to Beyonce, we all made our way inside.
As the evening went on, it seemed like the British and Palestinian groups had become slightly divided, which they weren't at the beginning. I think this was natural, because the British "buddies" hadn't really had much chance to get to know each other and the Palestinians were all tired from travelling and probably not feeling much like speaking their second language. I don't think divisions will be a big problem for the rest of the week though because we have discussed the danger and I think everyone taking part in the week is so keen to get to know others from the other culture that they won't let it happen.
Anyway, a good game of snakes and ladders ("sallam wa hay") brought us together again before bed time.
All in all, day one was a wonderful beginning to the week, which made me realise that this project is as much about making good friends with women we have a lot in common with as it is about finding out about Palestine, its problems and how we can provide support.
Emily Danby (Saida's buddy)