Intern Journal: Week in Review

The weekend weather was intense. We baked during our six hour desert hike through the arid canyons and ridges of Wadi Qelt. We snaked along the elevation of an old aqueduct to our final destination: the 5th century Greek Orthodox monastery of St. George.

Following our incredible Saturday hike, last Sunday felt like the busiest one yet: our usual morning meetings, a trip to Balata refugee camp, our first Arabic lesson and teaching community English.

Balata is the largest refugee camp in the West Bank, and one of the most densely populated areas on earth. The narrow labyrinth of alleyways between the concrete block houses, some barely the width of one person, brought to life the living conditions experienced by the camp’s thirty thousand plus residents. At TYO, we aim to provide a safe space for childhood play and informal education – a separate place where kids from the camps and other neighbourhoods can mix and simply be kids.


On Monday in my photography class, I printed out 22 different portraits and had the kids discuss them in groups. Next, in front of a semi-circle of their classmates, they had to present their chosen photo and talk about what made the photo interesting.  Even the shy managed to summon forth comments on colour or perspective after a few coaxing questions. In reward for their efforts, out came the DSLRs they’d been promised the week before.

The last ten minutes of the class was a maelstrom of flashes and camera swaps. Out of the chaos and running around emerged the students’ portraits of each other, the variety of backgrounds and poses that were laudable in the context of a single classroom. As the minutes counted down until the end of class, the local boys’ poses got bigger and bolder and more collaborative. It’s clear to see they enjoy being in front of the camera just as much as being behind it.

See our photo of the week at the Triple Exposure blog!

- Mathilda

Mathilda is an intern at TYO Nablus.

Goodbye for now

Check out the latest post from the Triple Exposure website below!

These are the students from my advanced photography class, who have brightened my day on a weekly basis since June of last year. They started as beginning photo students – we traveled around Nablus and the West Bank together, learning how to use the camera to capture the beauty of the land and their own special places within it. Over the summer months, they showed me their homes, play times, and images of loved ones lost through the photos they took with their cameras. In the fall we moved into film in the advanced photography class. They made two films: one about a journalist confronting resistance from Israeli soldiers when attempting to cover events in Bethlehem, the other about a poor family in Nablus supported by the labor of the young son. On the lighter side, together we had fun making mini-documentaries about cooking. :) I will miss seeing them in class, hearing them express their thoughts, seeing their laughs, receiving their inquisitive phone calls, having them barge into my office as soon as school was over.

I’m teaching a new group of students this spring, but I hope the beautiful kids below will be back at TYO in the summer for a photography camp! Goodbye for now, guys…

– Doris, Project Coordinator

“Triple Exposure” is an initiative of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization to promote art education for youth, community access to public art, and a better worldwide understanding of Palestine.

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: Ana Adam!

Yesterday marked the beginning of our formal Arabic lessons here in Nablus with Dr. Fawaz, a professor at the nearby An-Najah University.

Dr. Fawaz has graciously invited us to his beautiful home for our first few lessons.  Seated in his comfortable living room, Mathilda, Colin and I introduced ourselves in English before we began.

Wasting little time, Dr. Fawaz jumped right into the lesson, pointing to himself and declaring, “Ana Fawaz.”  With encouraging eyes, we were each ushered into repeating the phrase, replacing “Dr. Fawaz” with our own names.

After ensuring that we had mastered, or at least come close to, the correct pronunciation for introducing ourselves, Dr. Fawaz moved onto introducing others.  With careful movement of his eyes and hands, he was able to convey to us how to say, “He is ___”, “She is ___”, “You are ___,” and “We are ___.”

Again, all of these phrases we were encouraged to repeat ad nauseam.  The once unfamiliar sounds quickly taking the form of a novel nursery rhyme.

From introductions, we moved on to identifying objects in the room: table, window, door, book, pen, chair, paper and tea.  Once Dr. Fawaz had presented these words, he turned the floor over to us students, encouraging us to engage each other in elementary conversation.

Half an hour into the lesson we had each acquired the ability to string together a half dozen complete sentences, and remarkably, Dr. Fawaz had used less English than I normally hear in my fifth grade English class!

For the remaining time, Dr. Fawaz offered to us the word “wa” or “and” in Arabic.  With this simple conjunction, our ability to construct complex sentences instantly emerged as we could link two distinct thoughts together.

Sure, our grammar may not be perfect.  Or, to be honest, it’s essentially non-existent at this point.  But, as Dr. Fawaz continued to stress, grammar is secondary to language.  To learn to speak, one must first master the words, the sounds, the language itself.  Only once this has been acquired can we then turn our attention to the correct structure of sentences and paragraphs.  Focusing on grammar first would be like trying to build a house with all mortar and no bricks.  It’s just not going to work.

I bounded out of Dr. Fawaz’s house giddy with excitement, feeling like a child to whom a whole new world had been opened.  I hopped in Munir’s taxi and instantly felt inclined to introduce myself, despite our friendship of over three weeks.  I found similar joy in identifying the car’s windows and doors by name.

Childish?  Yes.  But, isn’t all language acquisition?

We do not try to teach toddlers “i-before-e” nor do parents get upset when their youngster points to a robin and proudly declares “bird red.”  We don’t worry because the structure, the tenses, the spelling, the form will inevitably come in due time.  For now, only the language itself is important.

Dr. Fawaz has taught Arabic and French at the university level in America.  He currently teaches English to university students in Palestine.  Additionally, he teaches methods and pedagogy, teaching others how to teach language.  It is beyond generous of him to take time out of his day to teach a gang of kids from the other side of the Greenwich Meridian how to say, “My name is ___.”

But, then again, I think I might just understand.

When one of the participants in my English class for TYO Staff came in sick, she and I went over the word for cough and other symptoms of a cold.  As the rest of the class filtered in, she announced, “Adam gave me words,” proudly showing off her new vocabulary.  All I did was identify her symptoms in English.  However, the delight shown on her face from being “given” new words reminded me in part why I am here and what I have to offer those hoping to learn a new language.

In the same way, I would imagine that the joy on our faces will not be lost on Dr. Fawaz when we arrive for our next class and introduce ourselves for the umpteenth time, proud to do it in Arabic.

“Ana Adam!”

- Adam

Adam is an intern at TYO Nablus.

PS: TYO is looking for Summer 2011  interns–check out the application today!

New Photo of the Week on the Triple Exposure blog!

Check out the photo of the week posted by TYO intern Mathilda on the Triple Exposure blog:

(Just a sneak preview! Click here to see the full photo.)

“Triple Exposure” is an initiative of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization to promote art education for youth, community access to public art, and a better worldwide understanding of Palestine.

Photo of the Day: Literacy Training

On Saturday, February 19, 2011 Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, completed the final workshop in the training series for the new TYO-MEPI literacy collaboration.  For more information on this collaboration, read: TYO launches a new literacy project in partnership with MEPI.

Photo of the Day: St. George College Group Visits TYO Center

On Friday, February 18, 2011 Tomorrow’s Youth Organization hosted a delegation from St. George’s College in Jerusalem. The group of 25 visitors came to TYO as part of their 14-day exploration of the Holy Land and their encounter with its various persons within it. While at the TYO Center, the group met with TYO’s Spring 2011 Interns, participants from the FWEN project and the Center Director who provided an overview of TYO’s programming and activities. The group also enjoyed a hearty Palestinian meal prepared by FWEN participant Nehaya.

Intern Journal: Dawn’s Embrace

I’ve always been something of a morning person. A quiet time for reflection, reading, caffeine, meditation for those of such admirable initiative, checking last night’s box scores, and all the luxuries of that misty, yawning interim period before the day and all its trappings come completely into focus.

Early morning is more than the chill of living in a mind-fog, though. I believe the greatest gift of all so generously provided by our first hours of quasi-consciousness is the brief window for musing, hoping, planning, and creating the path that we might walk in the fresh set of hours to come, hours that are undefined and so limitless in promise, an expansive frontier with which our imaginations can roam unchecked until at least 7:30 when our realities and obligations might begin to clamor (usually in the kitchen). Even if the day never turns out as cool as it might have looked in our brain, these waking dreams are well worth it for me.

Here in Nablus, the early hours have shown themselves to be even more pleasant, even more invigorating. The call to prayer from the muezzin, the laid back white light calmly creeping over the hills a bit earlier each day, and the parades of four year-old children on their way to the TYO core program make manifest what Adam so aptly called “The Joy!” No alarm clock needed; no weighty gravity pushing you to stay in bed.

The Core kids rock for a number of reasons. Firstly, as it turns out, these children are super, super small, and that’s a funny and entertaining concept to me in itself. They have their own embryo of a social order, their own protocols for interaction, both of which are ingrained with intentional and unintentional humor. Beyond any Darwinian impulse to continue our line, I think the chance alone to watch toddler excitement, occasional toddler fear, and the transformation of both these emotions into smiles and laughter and singing is reason enough to one day have children. If you don’t involuntarily have a smile on your face in watching this kind of procession (I always get a special kick out of the tenuous sense of balance that little kids have when they walk and run, always teetering on the edge of tipping over before managing to find their equilibrium), you’re straight ice.

So these young girls and boys jump-start the early hours without fail, rain, sleet, or snow. By afternoon, older students begin rolling in. Amongst my responsibilities here at TYO is to lead and direct the Big Brothers’ Club, comprised of a selection of twelve to fourteen year-olds from the local neighborhood and the four refugee camps that dot the city’s landscape. Along with an incredible crew of translators and volunteers from the local university, I am working to engender self-confidence, self-control, and a capacity to trust and work in teams amongst this crew of young teenagers. For the most part, we are using the vehicle of team basketball and team soccer to help nurture such values as well as to create an environment where the students can feel safe, can feel a genuine union and connection to one another, and can feel the pride that comes with membership on a sports team.

The first three sessions have given me great encouragement. We’ve done lots of trust and hype-building exercises, introduced them to a good few dribbling and passing drills, and finished each and every session with the most raucous team huddles we can. Despite having only just departed our journey together, I have already seen leaders and a collective strength emerge, auspicious signs to say the least. On Monday, all players and coaches signed written contracts binding them to our team ethos of respect, brotherhood, risk-taking, and fun times, and we will be deciding on our official team name by week’s end.  Check back next week for photos and progress.

Until then, stay fly.

- Colin

Colin 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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