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. 

Triple Exposure murals complete in Askar boys’ school

Triple Exposure mural teacher Rimah and her volunteers went to visit the boys’ school in Askar UNRWA refugee camp, Nablus. Over two visits she worked with fifteen boys, ages 10-11 on two murals in the hallways of the school. Whilst representing the themes of nature and school, these murals have a more kaleidoscopic feel to them, with unexpected colours inside the branches and leaves of the tree, really bringing an extra splash of colour to the walls of Askar.

Like many schools in the West Bank, the school doesn’t have an art teacher or art department, and these were the first murals ever in the school. Even the teachers were interested in how the different colours were mixed and applied. The director of the school liked the mural so much he has asked Rimah to come back and do one more any time.

After they had finished the murals, the boys wanted to go home and show their parents they had been working with paint, and thoroughly enjoyed drawing moustaches on each other. The boys showed so much talent and dedication, seeing the project through to completion with admirable focus. If they had an art teacher or more opportunities to practice, the kids could really work on their art skills and creative thinking, on top of making these vibrant and lasting contributions to their community.

To date, Triple Exposure has complete fifteen murals around Nablus. For more details, please see the Triple Exposure blog.

Painting complete in Nablus Basic School

The Triple Exposure mural class were busy painting during June and have brightened up a hallway in UNRWA Nablus Basic School. The students worked together in class to come up with ideas of how to protect the environment, and images that they could create to represent these. They personified the environment as the sun and the water droplet, and showed that if we leave taps running we are wasting a precious resource, and if we pollute the skies we ultimately damage ourselves. The earth represents the one planet we all share.

After painting their designs onto hardwood, the art work was then installed in the school. On Thursday, mural teacher Rimah took the students to view their painting, and both the students and the school were delighted with the finished piece.

The mural class and their painting

Triple Exposure Mural complete in El Ein boys’ school

Last week, Rimah and the volunteers, in conjunction with a group of eight students, completed a new mural in a classroom at the UNRWA boys’ school in El Ein refugee camp in Nablus. The eight boys, all around 14 years old, had a prior interest in art, and this shone through in their natural affinity for painting. They were full of ideas not only for the mural but also about their futures, and football – asking Rimah if she was a Real Madrid or Barcelona fan – two of the most popular teams here.

Many of them had been to TYO when they were younger, attending the photography and painting classes. Some still find the time to put pen to paper and draw or paint for fun. However El Ein School does not have an art teacher, so this was a great chance not only for the boys to be creative but also to brighten up the classroom for everyone.

We would like to thank El Ein School for such a well organised, well chosen group of boys. They were so talented and professional, and the already established friendships made for some brilliant teamwork!



Intern Journal: Percussive Plastic Plates…TYO style

I’ve just sent my music students bounding home with their newly fashioned “music shakers”…I fully expect to incur the wrath of their parents sometime in the next two days.  Call them what you will—maracas, plastic plate tambourines, or handheld shakers—whatever the nomenclature, Monday’s class activity yielded twelve beautifully decorated agents of NOISE.  Plastic plates (strangely, paper plates are quite the rarity here in Nablus), popcorn kernels, a stapler, scissors, and some colorful construction paper and streamers are all it took to generate an entire symphonic section of percussive instruments.  As we constructed and festooned our instruments we jammed out to an eclectic, world music mix, which featured everything from Fairouz and Nancy Ajram to the Beatles and the Gypsy Kings.  Although Nancy Ajram was the crowd favorite—the girls knew every single word of “Ana Yalli Bahebbak” by heart— “Octopus’s Garden” inspired some enthusiastic head nods in time to the beat as well as a brief explanation of the timelessness of the British sixties pop sensation.

Amazingly, there was only one maracas fiasco this afternoon: two improperly fastened plates, one overzealous shake, and the resulting shower of corn kernels sent us all into hysterics and laughter to the point of tears.   During the last ten minutes of class, and post-kernel cleanup, students used their latest creations to play the two bar rhythm written on the whiteboard.  Yes, that’s right, my students can now read and clap to (or shake a tambourine to) rhythm.  We’ve covered all the basics: quarter, half, and whole notes and rests; treble and bass clefs, measures and 4/4 time.  Needless to say I’m so proud of the youth’s music literacy progress over these past few weeks, but they are especially deserving of praise today given that there was a hiatus from class all of last week.

Hoping my students will afford their parents a few moments of peace,

Leila

Leila is an intern at TYO Nablus.

Intern Journal: The Vivaldi-Bonanza Congruence

Have you ever listened to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons?  If so, you can attest to the mastery with which the composer captures the essence of each season: the “Spring” concerto evokes images of budding flowers and babbling brooks, while the third movement of “Summer” resembles the violent yet ephemeral summer storm.  But what if you were to listen to an excerpt from Vivaldi’s Baroque masterpiece with no prior knowledge of its “seasonal” context; how then might you describe the music?

On the second day of music class, we did an activity that used music to engage the more creative, imaginative spirits of my students.  I selected four audio excerpts of instrumental music to play for the kids: parts from Vivaldi’s “Spring” and “Summer” movements were chosen, as well as from Yanni’s “Nightingale” and the Western classic “Bonanza.”  While the students listened to each song, they drew on a sheet of paper (which was divided into four sections) what they felt the tune represented.  The children then had the opportunity to present their drawings to their peers.  The breadth and depth of interpretations was remarkable: while one boy likened the volatile brass emanations in Vivaldi’s summer movement to a battle ground, another declared that the forceful music mirrored the omnipotence of Allah.

“Nightingale,” by Greek composer, Yanni, hints at a far-Eastern inspiration and truly embodies the poetic “lament” of the songbird.  Without any knowledge of the title of this song, one boy colored a flock of birds flying into the sunset, while the girl sitting just beside him suggested that if music could narrate the dusk over the Nabulsi hills, it would sound like “Nightingale.”

The fourth and final song was by far the trickiest for students to connect with: “Bonanza” is a Western classic, and although it personally brings back memories of driving through the American West (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming), those not well-versed in “cowboy” culture would not respond with images of cowboys, horses, and lassos. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the children’s original responses, which included drawings of weddings, dances, and rolling hills.

The point of this class exercise was to illustrate to my students that music impacts every individual on the most personal of levels; and as such, it is one of the most powerful tools of self-expression.  Learning to play music is not just about building a foundation in music theory or being able to find the right notes on the piano. The true musician is one who can harness his emotions, memories, and fantasies, and channel them into his performance.

- Leila

Leila is an intern at TYO Nablus.

Intern Journal: An Afternoon in Ramallah

Our first week of classes was not only chaos free but without a doubt enjoyable and full of energy. I can only speak for myself, but the kids in my photography class were attentive, and eager to get their hands on the cameras as soon as feasibly possible. They’re looking forward to running wild on next week’s class trip to the Old City.

Outside the classroom, the interns took Friday to visit Ramallah, a nearby city in the West Bank, approximately 14.63 km from Jerusalem – or Al Quds as it is known in Arabic. As a newbie to the Middle East, it was my first time out of Nablus, which provided a refreshing break from living and working exclusively in the same building all week – especially as last weekend was spent indoors brainstorming and organising for the week ahead. However from here on out, the weekends shall be a chance to explore this fascinating region or at the very least areas nearby.

The landscape is breathtaking. As our vehicle sped along the twists and turns, I got more of a sense of the hilly nature of the land. I had arrived under the cover of darkness from the airport two weeks back, but on this drive the sunlight bathed the horizon in gold, barely a cloud in the sky.

Friday is Islam’s holy day, and in the West Bank – along with much of the Middle East – most establishments are closed. People have the day off from work to pray, eat, and spend time with their families. This meant that we saw a version of Ramallah that was only representative of the quietest seventh of the week. A couple of cafes and shops were open here and there, but seeing the quiet sunlit streets lined with shut shops, reminded me of sleepy little French towns on Sundays.

After a quick visit to Yasser Arafat’s memorial we meandered into town and sampled the delicious local shawarma. Then, we walked and walked, the length and breadth of the town, eventually culminating in an ever-decreasing spiral to end up back where we started on Main Street.  It was a pleasure to see the beautiful architecture, a maze of weathered limestone houses, gardens and new half-finished constructions. A man walking his daughter back home in a stroller asked us if we were lost, telling us not much happens on Fridays. Another boy ran out from an al fresco family lunch to insist we all try some of their sfiha (small Levantine breads topped with minced meat and spices) then kindly inviting us to join their table. But not wanting to intrude and already touched by such open generosity from a stranger, we thanked him and were on our way.

As usual, the few people we encountered made us feel incredibly welcome. Ramallah is home to more ‘internationals’ than Nablus so no doubt people have more chance to practice their English there. Nevertheless, we were impressed with the level of English across the board in Ramallah. When someone can speak English in addition to their mother tongue, they immediately widen their potential for human interaction, increase their audience and gain access to a plethora of information on everything imaginable — if they can get online too. I feel that if someone has a story to tell, then maybe it should be heard.

Through our English classes here at TYO (both for children and the wider community) people can access and communicate with a world outside of the Middle East. Each new Arabic phrase we are taught and every step we take here as guests in Palestinian society is the flip side of the same inter-cultural dialogue, which we hope will benefit all of us. Once again I can only speak for myself, but every day I learn something new.

- Mathilda

Mathilda is an intern at TYO Nablus.

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