Monday, June 7, 2010

40 Hours for THIS?

Grainy image of graduates

Being the potential felons we and the rest of the students are, we must serve 120 community service hours in order to graduate, 80 of which are school related, and 40 outside the university domain. News of how to get these hours are mostly found on Birzeit's academic portal, Ritaj. As is custom with 80 percent of the students, they usually leave all 120 hours until after they graduate, meaning their diplomas will be under a closely guarded underground vault until they stop being so lazy and complete their hours. We honestly thought we'd be the same, because really, community service does not sound fun at all. Yet we proudly announce that so far, we each have 20 hours under our belts. There are opportunities of getting a huge number of hours just doing one thing, and though these are rare, we still like to capitalize on them. One such opportunity is volunteering for the graduation. There are some issues concerning this particular volunteering. We both hold opposite views on the issue that non-hijabis are favored over hijabis. Depending on our beliefs, it's either some silly rumor that has been circulated widely, or a legitimate case based on personal experiences and testimonies garnered from a number of girls. Anyhoo, we both applied for the volunteering and only one of us got accepted. The graduation is spread out over two days: the first day for the Science, IT, Engineering, and Law majors; the second day for the Business and Arts majors. Here's what happened:

Uniforms consisted of a white shirt and black pants. How hard is it to shop in Ramallah for a simple white shirt? Well I had to tackle at least 7 stores before I found one. The volunteers are split into two major groups. There are the ushers, who must stay outside the whole time, and the outfitters, whose fingers and hands are kept busy by dressing the graduates and faculty members in their robes and pinning the hats on their heads. Ushers were divided up into small groups located around many stations. I was in the group that had to help the graduates line up in the small basketball court before they were to enter the track field. The graduation starts at 5, yet all volunteers were required to arrive at 1. These four hours in between proved to be a colossal waste of time, since I realized that my help wasn't needed, and that there was simply nothing for me to do. That was how the first day was anyway. There was no way I was allowed into any building for shade and respite. My supervisor arrives late on purpose. I went to the basketball court at 4 to "line up the graduates" and found that the supervisor, armed with a loudspeaker, had them all lined up within ten minutes. I had such such immense fun standing like a log not doing anything, smiling inanely. Before I was at another station, which was against the rules, welcoming families by pointing them in the right direction. Those hard lined middle aged women had some serious problems, gawking at us long after they had passed. Children are forbidden from the graduation, yet whole armies of them were marching on. Little girls were dressed in white dresses complete with veils. For some families, graduations are like weddings, but not in the literal sense. I guess these families misread the memo or something. Little boys were dressed in suits and ties. It was pretty amusing, to say the least. Another amusing thing was how the wind would sweep all those summer dresses and skirts up so that an abundance of fleshy/skinny/cellulite thighs were on display. A woman heavily pregnant with twins refused to enter through the normal gate. Her royal highness wanted to enter through the VIP entrance because she was scared her twins would pop out. These women I would like to shake by the hair, because they have no reason coming to graduations when they're in that kind of situation. Palestine's high birth rate was exhibited as well. I counted way too many women who held their two year old son's hand, carried their one year old daughter, and walking solidly pregnant with their third child.The graduation itself was a snoozefest, with long-winded speeches droning on and on. I got home just before the people and vehicle traffic started. After hours standing on my feet under the sun, my face resembled that of a baboon's backside. Speaking of which, why is Rafiki's butt blue?
I woke up the second day at 12:45. I purposely took my time eating breakfast, and when I finally left the house, there were no empty BZU-bound taxis. I finally took a normal taxi and the idiot driver ripped me off, but my head wasn't with me so I didn't bother harassing him. The day proceeded in much as the same way as the first day. Boredom. Listless. Useless. Hot. Annoyance. Families were pouring in since 2 pm, those weirdos. A good time to come would be between 3:45 and 4. The gates close at 4:30, so all the late arriving families are held back. Held back by whom...yes, poor unsuspecting me. Along with 50 other volunteers but this wasn't my job. Forming a human wall, we kept back a pulsating angry mob. I had women yelling at me, women telling me their life stories, women pointing to their babies as a means of exploitation so that they could get in. The truth was, there were no empty seats. So even if this mob got in, which by the way they could do so but only after the graduates walked in, they would still be standing. A woman was telling me how her feet hurt in her heels, and that she normally didn't wear heels, but today she gave up her comfortable sneakers for heels, and that these heels cause her so much pain, and because of the pain, she had to take an injection to her feet. Another woman was saying that she had to sit down because of her 2 month old baby, to which I muttered under my breath, Well you shouldn't have brought him with you then. A man suddenly erupted and wreaked havoc when he threw up his hands and screamed MY DAUGHTERS ARE GRADUATING LET ME IN YOU FOOLS! I was also violated, because a little boy kept pushing his head up my bottom. Another woman forcibly knocked my head to the side and kept it there while she aimed her camera at the graduates. I accidentally on purpose stepped back hard on her toes. Keeping the mob at bay wasn't that easy. They kept trying to surge forward, and it felt like the I had the whole human race breathing and sweating on my back. As soon as the faculty members finished walking in, a stampede followed, and I was passed around from one body to another until finally, miraculously, my survival instincts kicked in and I got away. Conclusion? 40 hours are definitely not worth this hassle. No food, no shade, not even the nerdy feeling of having accomplished something worthwhile and helpful. Eh, you live and you learn.

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