Last week, Leila and I took our Fitness class on our second walking club through Nablus. In general, it would be fair to say that Nabulsi women do not walk merely for the sake of walking. Walking is for when you have to get somewhere and can’t take a taxi.
While our first walking club two weeks ago was ended by an unfortunate downpour, this week the heat of middle eastern spring was just shy of becoming too warm. We wandered to a nearby park, took a rest under the welcome shade of tree, then took a longer route back to TYO chatting all the way.
March 21st is Mother’s Day in Palestine, and women dropped off one by one from our walk, some saying their mother lived nearby and they had to go see them. I took a moment to text my mum back in England to wish her Happy Pali Mother’s Day.
One of the fun aspects of walking club is that I can talk to the women one on one or in small groups – translation usually needed! One participant, Jinan, told me that she likes to walk at least 30 minutes a day. She could speak a little English because she studied Finance at An Najah University, she told me. And, six of her textbooks were in English. She’s married, with three kids: ‘khallas‘ she said, – it’s enough. I agreed that three sounded like a good number, having grown up with two siblings myself.
After a steep climb arriving back at the TYO centre, Leila and I set off with one of our students – Hanan, to have lunch at her house. It was such a treat. Delicious stuffed vine leaves and stuffed courgettes, salads, luminous pickles, bread, tea, kanafeh, and fruit, piled high. Plate after plate of amazing food that had no doubt taken hours to prepare. I was full after three platefuls, but managed five, as with typical Arab hospitality Hanan generously refilled my dish with sometimes ten stuffed vine leaves at a time despite attempts at polite protestation. We were even given kanafeh (local cheese topped with semolina and sugar syrup) to take home, on top of the three we’d just eaten.
We met some of Hanan’s children, neighbours, and saw beautiful photos from her wedding day. At this time, I realised that she had been married fifteen years, had five kids, but was only six years older than myself. After a thousand shukrans (thanks), we rushed home in a happy quasi food coma to give our afternoon classes.
If I were a calorie counter, I’d say we had consumed about three times as many calories as we’d burned on Monday. But we certainly enjoyed it. Looking forward to teaching this week’s kickboxing and yoga class to burn off all this sugar!
Mathilda is an intern at TYO Nablus.
As an intern at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, I have the wonderful opportunity to directly experience TYO’s multi-generational approach to community-building by leading an aerobics class for women of various ages and a dance class for pre-adolescent girls. While working to help the women in my aerobics class improve their level of physical fitness and knowledge of wellness issues, I have discovered that several of the workouts popular in the United States are also enthusiastically received by Palestinian women, including Tae Bo and yoga. As for my dance class, I focus the first half of each lesson on ballet. In just six class sessions, the girls have learned first through fifth position, port de bras, plié, relevé, tendu, and rond de jambe. I spend the second half of class teaching hip hop, in which several of my students have demonstrated a real talent. So far, the girls have learned how to chain together nearly 15 steps to create a hip hop dance routine.
Outside of class, I seized several opportunities to become better acquainted with my translators and volunteers this weekend. My aerobics class translator, Hanin, had previously extended an invitation to me to visit her home, and I gladly accepted her kind offer on Thursday evening, when I joined her family for dinner. She and her husband picked me up from TYO and drove me to their house, where I met her children and a few relatives. Hanin had prepared a delicious dinner of foul, pita bread, kibbeh, fried tomatoes, a tahini-based dish, eggplant, and fettoosh, which we topped off with home-made ice cream cake. Hanin and I then moved out to the balcony to chat over coffee and fresh fruit. We sat in the stillness of the evening, breathing in the chilliness of the night air and enjoying each other’s company. Hanin’s daughter Nana and son Munir, both of whom are close to me in age, soon joined us, and we gradually began to open up to each other. Perhaps inspired by my revelation that it was the first time I had tasted fresh guava, and despite my protest since she had already lavished enough generosity upon me, Hanin stuffed an ice-cream container full of fresh fruit for me to take home. Finally, her family and I packed into their car for a driving tour of Rafidia, a fun going-out district full of boutiques, restaurants, and ice cream shops where many of Nablus’s Christian residents live.
I found myself coming back to Rafidia the next evening with Adrienne, Ashwini, and Samee to meet our Kalimatna Initiative partners Hasan and Haya, accompanied by her sister Hala, for “fruit cocktails” (milkshakes made with fruit juice, ice cream, and nuts and topped mixed fruits on top) at Fekhfekhina, a fruit juice and ice cream shop. I ran into our third Kalimatna Initiative partner, Khamis, on Saturday in the municipal park outside the Suwarna Exhibition featuring photographs taken by Nabulsi children participating in TYO’s Triple Exposure program. There were also several other TYO volunteers helping out at the exhibit, including my dance class volunteers Ruba and Jumana.
After seeing the Suwarna exhibit, I walked with Ruba and Jumana to Rafidia to meet with more of our class volunteers—Somoud, Iman, and my translator, Farah—for snacks at a restaurant with a great view overlooking the mountains and hills of the city. I was glad to have the chance to spend an afternoon with my volunteers outside of the classroom to learn about what subjects they were studying at the university, how many brothers and sisters they had, and their past volunteer experiences at TYO. In turn, they took the opportunity to learn about my interest in Arab and Palestinian culture, my passion for working with children and youth, my impressions of Nablus, and a bit about my life in the United States.
Julie is an intern at TYO and a participant in the Kalimatna Initiative.
Filed under: intern journal, internship program | Tagged: early childhood education, fall 2010, fitness, fruit cocktails, homestay, intercultural dialogue, intern program, internship, kalimatna, mental health, nablus, Palestine, photo exhibit, TYO, volunteer program, wellness, west bank, women's programming, youth development, youth programming | Leave a Comment »
I have been teaching at TYO for two weeks now and I’ve been in Nablus for three. It already feels a bit like home. Prior to classes, I had a weeklong orientation, which gave me a chance to meet local and international staff members and several translators and volunteers. I also tried to orient myself a bit to Nablus and to learn a few words in Arabic. Not bad for one week! This fall, I am teaching a fitness class for mothers and an art class for kids. Ultimately, I am trying to create an environment where all my students can have fun, feel good, and express themselves.
Sports have always been a huge part of my life, and I am excited to share what I’ve learned with the moms of Nablus.
Originally, Bieta, my fellow intern, and I were scheduled to teach two different fitness classes at the same time. Compelled by a number of factors, we decided to combine our classes. Now, the mothers have 45 minutes of cardio/aerobics with me followed by 45 minutes of dance with Bieta. This not only allows all the mothers to benefit from both of our classes, but also lets us take each other’s classes as well. It is really rewarding to teach the women a new move, and then watch them execute it successfully. They are also slowly teaching me some Arabic, which is great for me and probably quite entertaining for them.
At times, my art class feels like a fitness class—these kids have a lot of energy! With the help of my wonderful volunteers and translators, we have already done some excellent projects. I find myself trying to channel every great teacher I can remember from my own school days. With every project, my goal is to strike the perfect balance between structure and freedom. I want the kids to express themselves but not feel overwhelmed by the blank page in front of them. Originally I had hoped to make Halloween masks in my Sunday class, but I wasn’t able to locate the supplies I needed in time. At the last minute, I saw TripleX Coordinator Kelsey decorating her classroom door with paper flowers painted by her kids. She suggested I try it with my kids as well. I cut out a large circle and petals for each flower. During class, I let the kids paint the pieces one at a time. Given their high energy, I figured they’d make a few flowers and be ready to do something else. To my surprise, they loved the project so much that I had to ask the volunteers to cut out more flowers and other shapes so they could continue for the rest of class! I was really happy with this project’s balance. The kids were given a template, but they were able to paint any design they wanted on the petals.
When the kids return on Thursday, they will see how all their hard work came together. I hung their beautiful flowers and birds on the classroom’s walls. Then, they will make the promised Halloween masks, and they might even get some Halloween candy.
Filed under: intern journal, internship program, Reflection | Tagged: art projects, dance classes, early childhood education, fitness, internship, mother's classes, nablus, patience, TYO | Leave a Comment »