Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

When the power is off the little angels play

Riham El Naji | 03-10-2015

Original illustration by Rania Abd Albari 

During the hot months of summer and early fall in Gaza, electricity is the usual topic people discuss.

Waking up at 6 a.m., when the electricity is usually on, people start their daily activities as quickly as possible. Right now, we only have about three hours to finish everything we need to accomplish for the day (it used to be six to eight hours, but has recently gotten dramaticaly worse). In a Gazan family, the father then escapes to do some work or meet his friends, while the mother has the strange ability to sleep in even the hottest of weather; she may sleep three to four hours in a temperature of 40 degrees C. (104°F.) or even more. And of course, that’s without air conditioning. Mothers have supernatural powers even while sleeping!

And the “little innocent children”? They decide to have adventures, not outdoors but indoors. In our family, for example, my brother Muhammed, 11, and my youngest sister Shahd (8), with the help of my cousin Nour (10), play their favorite indoor game: annoying people on the telephone.

Muhammed begins, with a big devilish smile on face. His mind is full of plans, beginning with preparing his “army” (Nour and Shahd). First step: Shahd takes a peek at my mother to make sure she's totally asleep.

Next step: Nour fetches a pen and paper for Muhammed.

The third step is the beginning of the adventure. The three little angels gather around the telephone and Muhammed dials the first number: 1-3-3. "Is this the electricity company?" he asks. "Yes, how can I help you?" replies the information officer. "What time will we have electricity in our area?" "At 10 p.m.," comes the answer. Taking turns, the three kids start cursing the officer.

The next maneuver is to dial the number of Paltel, the telephone company: 1-4-4. Now, Nour speaks. "Hello, would you please search for my uncle's telephone number? " she says. "What's his name? Where does he live?" replies the information officer. "His name is uncle and he lives here. What's his number, please?" "What is his name?” "It's uncle, uncle, uncle. His name is uncle. And we need his telephone number!" cries Nour. And again, in turn, the sweet, harmless kids start cursing the officer.

The following step is to dial a telephone number that belongs to one of their relatives. Muhammed dials the number and when someone replies, he gives the phone to Shahd. "Hello, is it my grandfather's house?" asks the little girl innocently, repeating what her brother whispers to her. A woman answers, saying, "Yes, it is. Oh, I mean no. No. Yes. No, it is not. Who are you?" "I am his grandchild. And I want to talk to my grandfather's daughter. Are you my grandfather's daughter?" answers the Shahd. "Yes, I am. No, no. No, I'm not. I mean yes. Yes, yes. No, no. Who are you?" replies the woman in a flustered, confused voice. "I need my grandfather's daughter," says Shahd. At this time, our mother wakes up and yells at my brothers and sisters while they're talking on the telephone.

The woman on the phone is my mother’s sister, so a new conversation starts. Saying she will take just a few minutes to finish the call, our mother takes more than two hours talking to her sister, gossiping about the women in a wedding party previous night. After their "short" dialogue, they both agree they regret going to the party because it was very boring.

After that, Nour goes home and Muhammed plays with his friends while Shahd hosts a tea party with her friends Nisreen and Alia.

It's now 9:55 p.m. and everyone in the house is waiting for the electricity to turn on once again. Five minutes later, the power still has turned on. Ten minutes later, the power is off. The whole family is waiting. The minutes tick by and the “royal guest” still has not arrived. The family loses hope.

Suddenly, the electricity turns on. Happiness reins in the house. However, a few seconds later, the electricity shuts off again. Everyone complain. They force themselves to sleep.

And just as they drift off, the guest arrives once more: the lights blaze, the air conditioning roars on, the kids are crying and jumping, and the house is alive again.

Mentor: Alice Rothchild
Posted October 3, 2015

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