First Week after Arrival to PalestineÖ The arriving in Hebron, Palestine at the Excellence Center is definitely an adjustment. There is the time change factor, the cultural difference factor and the factor of being far from home. Every volunteer goes through this process of settling in to life in Palestine. Today we have spoken with our current international volunteers and they have given us their advice on how to approach and get comfortable your first week in Palestine with us at the Excellence Center.
Regarding your first moment of entry into the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv (the suggested way to enter Israel and then make your way from Palestine) our volunteers tell us you must stay relaxed, be flexible and be prepared for anything. Sandra is from the United States and she is participating in our “Intern and Learn Arabic” program and she tells us, “if you get trouble at the airport because you are going to Palestine, just remember you are doing nothing illegal, you have nothing to hide so just go along with their questions and answer everything as honestly and calmly as you can.” Sandra says to mentally prepare for the fact that you may be stopped and questioned and adds, “don’t freak out if they pull you off to the side, this is normal, it is only just time consuming.”
The time change can certainly be an issue during your first week, especially if you are coming from as far away as the United States (which is seven hours behind us in time zones.) Our volunteers say to take it easy during your first few days/week here and make sure to take care of yourself. Says Alexa from the United States who is participating in our, “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program, “coming all the way from America was definitely hard in dealing with the time change, but the Excellence Center is very understanding as they receive many volunteers experiencing the same thing. I was beyond exhausted when I arrived so they suggested I delay the start of my first day, this was so helpful! Just ask for what you need, the center is there to help you.”
It may take a week or so to really get in the swing of things regarding your schedule. “it is important to allow some time to get settled with a regular schedule, it is not just you getting adjusted to your rhythm at the center but they are also getting used to integrating you into their process,” says Dean from Australia who is participating in our, “Teach English and Learn Arabic” program. Also it is noted by Lina who is in our “Intern and Learn Arabic” program, “you will quickly learn there is what is called ‘Palestinian time,’ things tend to have a grace period of at least ten minutes, if not more so just remain flexible.”
Dean says, “no matter what, the best advice I can offer to any new volunteer is close to what has already been said: flexibility, understanding and patience.” Alexa says, “anything you may need, any question, any extra help, any information—both the Excellence Center and your host family are great resources. Use them!” Alexa is correct, anything we can do to help your first week go as smoothly as possible, we are here for you. Sometimes all you need is just to speak with another volunteer who has recently gone through exactly what you are experiencing.