Making Friends

As a way to end the summer session, Samin and I combined our classes together to discuss the friendships we’ve made at TYO. We began by playing a video story of the popular and beloved book, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. As the video played, we stopped periodically for translation from our translators Yazid and Refiq. Samin and I were amazed at how much the children enjoyed the story!

Afterward, we led a discussion about the story and its meaning. One student said, “the boy kept using the tree until it was naked”. Another said that a friendship shouldn’t be like that. Instead, it should be about equal giving and taking from both sides. Samin and I were so impressed by how engaged the children were throughout the story and what conclusions they were able to draw from it.

We asked if anyone had made a new friend this session and they all raised their hands “Ah! Ah!”. They had made friends from other neighborhoods and refugee camps. To remember the new friends we made, all of our students made friendship bracelets to exchange with one another. And the next day at the pool, we spotted all of our students still wearing their friendship bracelets, showing us with pride.

As our last days are coming to an end, I had a chance to think about all of the friends I have made during my time here as an intern. Women like Jenan, Lina, Hanin, and Raja, students like Layal, Safa, Qais, and Maha, and volunteers like Doha, Zaki, and Yazid and Tamam. I’ve also made friends at Hajjawi, Cinema City, and the juice shop, some of our favorite places in Nablus. The greatest gift I received during my time here is the opportunity to call these Palestinians my friends.

-Tala

Tala is a summer intern at TYO Nablus. 

The Hour of Separation

It seems only yesterday I arrived to Nablus, yet the last three months have given me a lifetimes worth of fulfillment. Today being the final day of our summer session classes was very sentimental, as I said my goodbyes to students, aerobics moms, volunteers and translators.  An infinite amount of hugs from my students and moms would still not have been enough, and the countless number of gifts I received will be keepsakes that I will hold on to forever.

There is not much left to say besides that the people of Nablus have been incredibly welcoming, and their kindness and warmth will never been forgotten. My experience here has far surpassed what I had ever imagined, and for that I am eternally grateful to TYO and all those associated with it. Farewell my beloved, Palestine. I’ll be seeing you again soon, inshallah.

And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation. -Kahlil Gibran

- Samin
Samin is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

I Hope That You Will Come Back!

That phrase is what I heard most from people today. This was my last week of teaching at TYO and it was a happy, sad, emotional, amazing week with my kids and women. I will never forget them and our time together. It’s fair to say that they taught me more than I taught them. I’m finding it difficult to express in words what they’ve done for me, so check out the photos that tell our story below.

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- Megan is a summer program intern at TYO

What’s Right About Being Wrong

It was a good week for my Creative Thinking class. Once an idealistic brainchild led by two terrified first-time TYO teachers, the pilot class is really starting to come into its own.

Heading into the class eight weeks ago, one of my major goals was to convince our kids that sometimes, it’s totally fine to be wrong. Getting the right answer isn’t always the point; it’s the process of reasoning  that refines our logic and molds us into lean, mean critical thinking machines. Being wrong about things is what makes us human – it’s the proverbial hand on the stove top or super hot pepper that your brother dared you to eat. It might not be your proudest moment, but being wrong is what makes us grow.

To that end, I assigned a class project for which being right was victorious and being wrong was hilarious. The kids were each given a water balloon and told that in half an hour, we were dropping it off the roof. Their assignment was to create a protective barrier to prevent the balloon from breaking from the collision.

After a solid three minutes of staring at their balloons and fighting every ounce of kid instinct telling them to forget the project throw it directly at their teacher, they got to work. What resulted was nothing short of a miracle. There were no squabbles over materials, no moments of frustration, no asking for the answers – just good old fashioned hard work. They squinted their eyes and pursed their lips as they taped pieces of cushion and foam and newspaper around their fragile balloons. A half hour later, it was show time.

Only four kids out of two classes successfully protected their balloons from utter destruction, but it didn’t seem to matter. They laughed as volunteer Imad counted down from three before he released each kid’s creation. They laughed even harder when the balloons exploded all over me and my translator, Jamila. They smiled and shrugged when I held up the popped balloons with a grin, and four of them jumped up and down and hi-fived their friends while raising an dry, intact bundle triumphantly over their heads.

When we got back to the room, we asked if they’d had fun. The answer was a resounding “Ah! Ah! Ah!” (kid translation: yes, we did.) The activity wasn’t about being right – it was about learning that sometimes failure is okay. Especially if it soaks your teacher with a water balloon.

The Man Behind the Wheel

The view of Munir we see most often...

“Marhabaaaaa! Keifik?” Every time we climb into Munir’s spotlessly clean taxi we are welcomed by this cheery greeting as he, always the gentleman, holds the door open for us. “My favorite part of driving is talking to the interns,” he said. “Americans are always happy, and they always like to talk.” This may not be news to anyone who has experienced Americans abroad, but neither is Munir’s genuine interest in our lives surprising to me, as this open friendliness has become indicative of most of my interactions with Palestinians.

Munir has been driving interns all over Nablus (and the West Bank) for four years now, ever since TYO first opened in 2007. With each trip, he has taught us valuable lessons to use and build upon before our next journey with him. I learned quickly to listen carefully as, without fail, Munir always remembers to quiz you the next time you get into his car. “Hatha al-Diwar. Hatha hajiz. (This is the central circle. This is a checkpoint).” On my first grocery shopping trip, Munir decided to teach me the names of all the stores and the ever-necessary word “fatoora” or “receipt.” Inevitably, on our very next ride to the store, I had my first vocab test, which I passed only after every word of “badee narooh ile mahal fouwaka (I want to go to the fruit store)” was drilled into my head. Ever since, whenever I call him up, he makes sure to correct my pronunciation and verb agreement, my unofficial Arabic tutor checking up on me. This has produced great results, as my halting Egyptian Aameya has slowly morphed into a more confident Palestinian form of colloquial Arabic.

So if it’s our bi-weekly trips to Salfit to teach English (an hour round trip), a weekend trip down to Hebron, or a simple trip to the grocery store, Munir is there for the interns, ushering us through every leg of our discovery of Palestine. If one passenger even looks slightly concerned, whether we’re eyeing a passing army vehicle or we’re simply stuck in traffic, his immediate “Noooo problem!” always calms us down.

What lies ahead for our humble guide? “I will go wherever TYO goes. Anywhere they need me.” So, future TYO interns, you can look forward for years to come to many long and interesting rides with the ever-charming Munir. Yaslamu li kiteer rihlat momtaza, ya Munir!

An Evening with Lina and Friends

Walking up what felt like 100 flights of stairs, Samin and I finally reached Lina’s house in our neighborhood of Khallet al-Amood. Lina is a mother who is in both my nutrition class and Samin’s aerobics class, and after weeks of asking us to come to her house, we finally had the time to visit with her in her home. I can speak for both myself and Samin when I say it was one of our favorite experiences in Nablus thus far.

Lina outdid herself with delicious tabbouleh salad, cakes, and fruits piled higher than I have ever seen! Slowly, one by one, familiar faces began to enter the room. Other neighborhood women from our classes began entering Lina’s living room to join us in conversation and good food. The women talked about their families, their children, their frustrations, and their lives during the first and second intifadas.

For me, the most interesting part of the entire night was speaking to Lina in Arabic and her responding in English. Throughout the evening we would switch between the two languages so that each of us had a chance to practice speaking and understanding.

Quickly into the night, Lina’s youngest son Hassan and Jenan’s son Saleem joined us. Both boys, are arguably the most adorable 6 and 4 year olds ever. They spent the entire night running in and out of the house, eating cakes and making and flying paper airplanes across Lina’s living room. Samin and I could have stayed there all night playing with the two boys. When it started getting late, Samin and I politely excused ourselves and thanked Lina and her family for their hospitality. We promised we’d be back to visit before we leave Nablus.

As our time here comes to an end, I have had the chance to reflect on my experiences here. I have fallen in love with the city of Nablus, that was undeniable, but until last night, I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why I loved it so much. And as cliché as I know it sounds, I have fallen in love with the people of Nablus. Just yesterday when I walked down to the juice stand with my fellow interns, I heard my name being called out and as soon as I turned around, I saw one of my students, little Alaa, waving her hands furiously from 100 feet away. It’s Alaa’s enthusiasm and joy and Lina’s wisdom and hospitality that are a constant reminder of why I love Nablus so much.

-Tala

Tala is a summer intern at TYO Nablus

Between Two Ferns with Mutasim Qawariq

Mutasim can usually be found leading the soccer leagues on the TYO soccer field, mingling amongst interns, volunteers and staff like the Mr. Popularity that he is, or in my classroom doing his best to engage the children in English lessons. Amidst his busy schedule, I finally found a moment to sit down with Mutasim for an interview regarding his indispensable work with TYO:

Me: Can you tell me a little about yourself –age, education, work, hobbies/passion, etc?
Mutasim: My name is Mutasim. I am 23 years old, and studying English Literature at An Najah University. I like football, and spending time on the computer.

Me: How long have you worked at TYO?
Mutasim: I have been here for about 5 months, working as a volunteer and translator. In the Spring 2011 session I worked as Colin Powers’ (former intern) translator for homework help. This session, I helped translate for Colin during Soccer League, and with you in your summer camp English class.

Me: What brought you here?
Mutasim: There are not many job opportunities here for post graduates. I worked in a summer camp called “Holy Book” when I was 19, and really enjoyed it. I found that I like volunteer work and working with children very much.

Me: What is keeping you here?
Mutasim: I have lots of friends at TYO. I like to stay involved here because we are serving a lot of children in good ways. We can offer them more than just playing in the streets; instead they can spend time having fun in different ways in which they learn how to deal with other children and adults nicely. Also, can I say, I come because I like to improve my English [laughs].

Me: What is your schedule at TYO?
Mutasim: I work from Sunday through Thursday, from about 11:00 am to 6:00 on Sunday and Monday, and 11:00 am to 5pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Me: Wow, busy schedule. That’s great!

Me: Do you have a big family/are you use to a lot of interaction with children?
Mutasim: There are nine siblings including me, and I am the 7th in line. I live at home with my parents, but all of my other brothers and sisters are all over West Bank studying or working. I also have two brothers living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who I will visit, inshallah. I don’t have any very young siblings, but I do have nephews and nieces that I see sometimes. It’s a new idea for me to work with kids, but I enjoy it a lot because of their innocence.

Me: How do you envision your life being without having TYO around?
Mutasim: I would be wasting time. Here I feel I am doing something.

Me: What influence has TYO had on you personally?
Mutasim: Yeah, patience!

Me: How do you feel the work you have been doing here has affected the children you work with?
Mutasim: Sometimes I feel I can do a lot of things to help the children, but sometimes it’s frustrating to deal with naughtier children. This makes me want to stay even more because I want to continue practicing patience and helping children overcome their problems. I feel like I am doing something so good, and feel happy when the children like me and call me by my name, instead of Amo (Arabic for uncle meaning Mister) or something like that. They feel close to me.

Me: What is your favorite part of TYO?
Mutasim: Field days are good because it seems the work of TYO is expanding already through different parts of Nablus. And I also enjoy cleaning the parks because it makes me feel responsible. I feel I am doing something good for my country.

Me: What is your hope for TYO in the future?
Mutasim: I hope to see TYO extend to other cities like Ramallah, Jenin, and so on because I want to offer these great programs for children throughout Palestine. I also hope that they will continue adding other helpful programs for adults as well, inshallah.

Me: How long will you stay with TYO?
Mutasim: Until they become sick of me [laughs].

I hope that one day Mutasim’s hope for TYO’s extensive expansion becomes a reality, inshallah. It would be a privilege for us to have his continued support and involvement in TYO. I look forward to being witness to the mutual exchange of growth that one will provide to the other.

- Samin
Samin is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

‘Shooting back from Palestine’ exhibition in TYO Nablus

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, Nablus is proud to host ‘Shooting back from Palestine’, an exhibition of youth photography.

In association with the Paltel Group Foundation and the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA), the opening ceremony will be held this Sunday (24th July 2011), 12pm, at the TYO Center (Zafer al-Masri Foundation Building),  Khallet Al-Amood, Nablus.

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization has its own youth arts and photography program, Triple Exposure  and is delighted to host such a like minded project and inspire our own young photographers and artists.

Please join us this Sunday to view this amazing collection of photos from all over Palestine.

The exhibit will run for two days.

Let’s Ask Ahmed!


My translator Ahmed has been an invaluable resource in my Arts and Crafts classes and sports days at TYO. He has also become a good friend and someone I truly respect. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate at TYO! Below is an interview I did with Ahmed so that I could share more about him with the world beyond Nablus!

Me: Ahmad can you tell me about your studies at An Najah University?

Ahmed: Right now I am studying English literature. I love English and am interested in learning more. Right now I’m studying Shakespeare. We also study American lit and semantics etc. in my program. I will graduate next semester.

Me: Why did you want to study English?

Ahmed: I was going to be an engineer but didn’t have the grades for it. I also considered working in IT, but then I switched to English Literature.

Me: How long have you been fluent in English?

Ahmed: I was always speaking with foreigners who taught English at my schools as a child and then expanded on my knowledge in university.

Me: Why did you apply to be a translator for TYO?

Ahmed: I took a Western Civilization course and there was a quote I remember hearing in class that said “public service always leads to salvation” so I changed my course in life to do that. I really like working with children as well. For example when you tell the children there will be a swimming day you can even smell the happiness in the room!

Me: What do you like most about volunteering here?

Ahmed: Meeting new people from other countries and other Palestinians. I enjoy being exposed to new cultures and getting along with foreigners.

Me: Could you tell me about one of your favourite moments in Arts and Crafts class this session?

Ahmed: When the kids poured water on you (me) on water day. It was very funny!

Me: How do you feel about the summer program at TYO coming to a close?

Ahmed: I feel sad because I like it very much and the interns are leaving. I don’t want it to end.

Me: Would you like to continue working with TYO in the future?

Ahmed: If there are opportunities, I really like working here. After vacation, I’d like to return in the fall.

Me: What is your dream job?

Ahmed: Professor of English Literature.

Me: In Palestine?

Ahmed: Of course!

Me: What advice would you give to future translators and volunteers with TYO?

Ahmed: Be flexible with the children and be flexible with the teacher. Work on understanding things through context and not just the words. Pay attention to what’s going on between the teacher and students so that you can convey the student’s feelings to the teacher.

Me: Thank you Ahmed for taking the time to share a little bit about yourself and your experience here at TYO. It’s been a privilege to work with you and I hope that we have a chance to do it again someday in the future!

Ahmed: It’s my privilege to work with you.

- Megan is a TYO summer program intern

The End of an Era

Today, our beloved Intern Coordinator, Chelsey, is sadly leaving us for the world beyond Nablus. Chelsey, who has nurtured us from intern infancy over the last eight weeks, who has introduced us to the wonderful people of Nablus, who has gracefully handled our hundreds of daily questions, has helped guide seven different rounds of interns through their first experiences of life in the West Bank, all with a huge smile on her face.

For the interns, we will take away wonderful memories of Old City walks, long talks on the balcony, and bonding over our love for iced coffee, to name just a few. For the many staff members she has worked with over her three years here, she has been a trusted colleague and a friend.

Whether it’s seeing her snapping away behind a camera – barely containing her obvious love for the children – or hearing her infectious laugh echoing through the hallways, we will miss her presence around the center. Chelsey, we wish you luck on your next adventure!

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