Last night, after spending some time downtown, my housemate Andy and I headed to the service (pronounced “servees”) station, aka the place to catch a shared taxi.
It was late for Nablus (around 8:20pm), and there weren’t many people there. A crowd of men and some young boys were gathered in a cluster around one of the taxis, shooting the breeze. Andy asked them which taxi we would be riding in, and they gestured to it. Immediately, I got into the cab (and no, I did not buckle my seat belt), while Andy enjoyed some friendly conversation with the men.
Sitting in the backseat as we waited for another customer so we could depart, I began seething awkwardly inwardly (this is a new phenomenon for me since coming to Palestine). Why was it ok for men to consort so freely, but as a woman, if I dared to join their circle, I might cause discomfort to both myself and to them? I decided then and there that I would write this post, and I that needed the photo for it.
I stuck my head out the window, waiving my phone. “Can I take a photo?” I called in a friendly voice, smiling. They answered in the affirmative, happily assuming the position as I snapped a few photos.
What happened next surprised me.
One of the men invited me to join the photo. After some deliberation, it was decided that Andy would take the picture. I tried to stand on the end of the line of men, but they invited me into the center. We smiled.
My assumptions were crushed, and I was glad.