I could write for a long time about this episode and what it means to me, but I’ll try to keep it brief. On March 30, 2017, I travelled with my friend Aislinn, who was also taking Arabic classes at Ali Baba, to Bethlehem, Palestine in order to run in the “Freedom of Movement” Marathon. Neither of us had ever been there, and it seemed like a great opportunity to visit. We took a taxi from Amman to the border, waited in a long line to be admitted, and then hired a van with some other runners we met at the border to get to Bethlehem. Funnily enough, when Aislinn and I arrived in Bethlehem, there was no room at the inn (where we had reserved a room). We were so late in arriving after the long delay at the border that they assumed we weren’t coming. But instead of pointing us to a stable to sleep, they gave us a room at a different hotel. The next morning, we put on our running shoes and headed to the plaza at the Bethlehem Peace Center to start the race. I wasn’t running the full marathon, just the half, but it was gonna be a challenge for me because I wasn’t exactly in shape at the time. I hadn’t even brought running shoes to Jordan (Amman’s a super hilly place), but I managed to score a pair of Brooks at a flea market a couple weeks before the race. I ended up losing those shoes on a train in Germany a few years later, but that’s another story.
I don’t remember what my time was for the half marathon, but I remember the race flying by because there was so much to see. I took some pictures along the way, which I’ll include as a gallery at the end of this post. After finishing, and chowing down on some fresh dates, I had the opportunity to “interview” a fellow runner named Mamoun, whom Aislinn had met while running.
0:23 – I’m pretty pumped, as you can see. There was an amazing energy to the whole place.
0:39 – He had just taught me a different way to say “Nice to meet you,” but I had immediately forgotten it.
0:43 – I’m mispronouncing his name. I’m saying محمون / Mahmoun, when really his name is مأمون / Mamoun. In Arabic, there’s even a brief pause in the vocalization of the first syllable, Ma’moun.
0:53 – I wanted to say, “We met half an hour ago,” but I botched the verb. I said نقلت / naqaltu, starting the word with an “n” sound as if I were conjugating for the present tense, and forgetting the “b” sound that should have come after the “q” sound”.. What I should have said was قابلنا / qaabilnaa.
1:37 – It really kills me how obstinate I am with guests when I notice them addressing the camera directly, but then I go ahead and break my own rule and address the camera myself. How do you say “double standard” in Arabic?
1:42 – I can’t even pronounce English words right! “Marathon”, not “Maraton.”
1:56 – Here I confuse the words عام / aam (public) and عالمي / aalimee (international)
3:08 – Here’s a great vocabulary word, صعود / saaoud, meaning “ascent”
3:43 – Totally not understanding what he said. I was trying to talk about how ridiculous it was to end a marathon with an uphill stretch, and I asked in an incredulous way, “what are the people thinking (to put the finish line here)?” And Mamoun answers with a description of people’s motivation for running the marathon. I’m glad he answered that way though, because it’s super interesting and important.
3:51 – Having not understood what Mamoun said about running to demonstrate that it’s their land, I continued trying to figure out why the finish line was positioned where it was.
4:04 – أحسنت / ahsant is a great word to know when you’re cheering people on.
4:12 – I’m not entirely sure I translated what he said here correctly, but if he did say “what is my work?”, then that implies he actually worked for the marathon. I think he may have helped organize it? I’m not sure though.
4:30 – محتل / mahtal is an important word to know when visiting Palestine.
5:42 – I sure hope so Mamoun, I sure hope so.
5:55 – That sure seems like a word I should have learned by then.