Greetings from the beautiful and sunny town of St Andrews! We had an unseasonably pleasant week of weather to help us kick off the Candlemas semester. With classes up and running, life in town is starting to pick up again after a long two-week break following exams. Those two weeks were quite busy for me personally as I went on a trip to the West Bank of the occupied Palestinian Territories, performed in a local murder mystery production and made quick weekend’s visit to Stockholm, Sweden.
Immediately following exams, I returned to the West Bank for the first time since my last visit in 2009. I had a nice time catching up with friends and visiting some of my old haunts, including the world’s greatest falafel shop, that still exist from the semester I spent at Birzeit University. Like my holiday in Istanbul, I probably ate on average four to five meals a day, but the extra pounds from the trip were worth it as I am convinced that there are certain foods that are only good in the Middle East region.
The most notable change to Ramallah in the last two years appears to be the amount of construction, renovation and growth experienced by the city. This development stems from the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s efforts to build the capacity of the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian cities in preparation for the UN statehood bid that occurred last fall. Certainly, one could see improvements to the infrastructure while looking around Ramallah. Curiously, however, was that this same level of development did not appear to extend much outside the city limits. In two visits to Bethlehem, I did not notice any significant growth or development from my last visit. Friends confirmed similar trends for other major Palestinian cities such as Nablus, Jenin and Hebron. I have some theories as to why, but that content is a bit lengthy and can be found on my blog. All in all, it was nice to be able to visit friends, eat exceptionally great food and gain some new perspectives on the situation in the West Bank and Israel.
In other news, I performed in the production of Murder at Morrison’s at the Byre Theatre upon my return from the West Bank. We almost completely sold out our two-night run and raised £3,000 pounds for the theatre’s foundation. In the course of production, I learned a good deal of new information about St. Andrews — as the play was full of inside jokes for the town’s residents — and met a number of great people from the local acting groups. While it is doubtful that I will be reprising the role of Artie Kraft on stage anytime soon, the whole experience was a blast.
Over the next couple weeks, I will be hitting the Rotary circuit and visiting three clubs within the district to speak about my experiences as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. More on that next month!
Golf season is just weeks away, so hopefully I will be able to report on a significant drop in my handicap as well. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments. Thank you again for all of your support!
District 6670 Ambassadorial Scholar at the University of St Andrews in Scotland