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.