Goodbye for now

The activity in my arts and crafts class was simple; to write and/or draw a picture about your favorite memory from these past two and half months. As I saw my students writing about the time we made paper lamps for Ramadan, new friends, water balloons, and pool day, I couldn’t help but reflect on how important this experience has been to me and how I just can’t seem to shake the perpetual pit I’ve had in my stomach about leaving so soon.

Nearly three months ago I said goodbye to my family and boarded a plane with a certain amount of excitement and trepidation for a new and often misunderstood place, a new adventure. Although I had never been to the Middle East, I immediately feel in love with the resilient and vibrant spirit of the Nabulsi people. From the first week onwards, life has moved at an extraordinarily fast pace with little time to process.

But in this short time I have seen my students take leaps and bounds in developing their confidence and personality. One student, Aya, came into class the first two weeks and sat down with her head on the table. She was silent, upset, and refused to participate in many of the activities. Eight weeks later, I am bound to find Aya attached at the hips of a new group of girlfriends from a different neighborhood, coming to class early to practice her numbers in English with me, and standing in front of her peers to present her art projects with a shy but steady smile. What is even more encouraging is that Aya’s story does not stand by itself but is representative of TYO’s impact on the children who participate in its programs. Throughout these 8 weeks, I have heard similar stories repeated time and time again from my other interns; it’s one song I will never get sick of listening to.

My students and the intern program has challenged me to grown in new ways both personally and professionally. The lessons learned, stories I have had the privilege to hear, and experiences I have shared with my fellow interns will stay with me wherever I go.

Until I’m back in Nablus…ma’a salama.


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. 

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

Intern Journal: A Day Off in Nablus

The interns have made an amazing discovery, one that in my opinion rivals the adventures of the great explorers of the fifteenth and sixteen centuries. We have found it, our holy grail….ice coffee in Nablus.

To say that we interns have a bit of an addiction is an understatement. The first thing we did upon landing in Ben Gurion airport was to find the nearest coffee shop and sip slowly on the delightful elixir before driving into the West Bank. After a busy week of lesson planning, meetings, and reports, we look forward to having a day or two to unwind before the madness starts again. On Saturday afternoon, Amy, Tala, Samin, Megan, and I ventured into the Old City and soon found ourselves in the relaxed yet bizarre atmosphere that is the Cinema City cafe which provides us with all of the comforts of home right here in Nablus.

Checkered with flaming red and black designs, Cinema City is the perfect place to sample blended frappe beverages, coffees, and desserts aptly named after film’s leading ladies including “The Angelina, The Megan, and The Zeta-Jones.” Or Tala’s favorite treat, “Magic Corn” which is basically just sweetened corn. When our waiter brought over the tray of blended coffees, some of us had difficulty restraining our joy, others had problems breathing.

Sitting at our table under the “Thanks for Coming Y’all” sign, I momentarily forgot where we were. Was I actually in the States at my local mall? Had I somehow sleep-walked my way across the green line? Nope, I was still in Nablus – al-humdulillah! – but in a place meant to provide an escape for its customers from the realities of life happening outside its walls. A place where women go out with their friends for ice coffee and you can still catch Scream 4 playing in all its ridiculous goriness.

– Cate

Cate is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

Just Add Water

At the end of June, the staff, interns, volunteers, and kids of TYO held what we’ve lovingly referred to as “Water Day.” The kids played about thirty minutes of soccer before volunteers began to emerge from the shadows of the Center, carrying mysterious baskets, bags, and buckets overflowing with the water balloons we’d spent hours preparing. I could practically hear the “Rocky” theme song as I watched, preparing for an epic afternoon. Nothing breaths life into a childhood memory quite like a water balloon or two.

Intern Cate and I got our kids settled in a large circle for a game of “Drip, Drip, Drop” – like Duck, Duck, Goose only instead of yelling “Goose!” the kid dumps a full cup of water on his/her target’s head (also, we decided to throw water balloons in lieu of tagging.) Cate and I jovially agreed to play, and mere moments after settling onto the concrete I had a water cascading down my forehead as I sputtered a laugh and tried to maintain control of my cotton-candy pink balloon.

The kids had a blast, and we learned a few interesting tidbits as well. Little Izz, for example, is only slightly slower than the speed of sound. The kids, who we worried might stick with their friends, turned out to be equal-opportunity soakers. Kids soaked teachers, teachers soaked volunteers, water balloons both missed and connected with their targets as everybody tried to figure out the best way to launch a balloon with a mixture of velocity and precision.

It was a ton of fun. Toward the end of the day, as we started to settle the kids and get them ready for the bus, I leaned down to pick up a small balloon that hadn’t popped. Before I could get back up, a tidal wave connected, Rose Bowl style, with the back of my neck. I turned to see our adorable Lin frozen in place with a now-empty bucket, grinning. As I stared at her in mock shock and teasing anger, I was hit with that profound realization that you’re in the middle of a memory that will last for years beyond its expiration.

So although I was still picking water balloon pieces out of my hair hours later, Water Day was a hit. My favorite moments here at TYO are those that transcend age and culture – the moments that emphasize our commonalities rather than our differences. And everyone, as it turns out, enjoys a good water balloon fight.

-Amy

Amy is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

Friends in high places

Once upon a time there were seven TYO summer interns living on a hill in Nablus, Palestine…….

I have had a chance to get to know more and more about my fellow interns due to living on-site together. Nearly two months since we started working and living together, I thought I’d share what I have learned about their personalities thus far.

Tala is the kind of person you need around after a long day. She is a human jukebox who can burst into song for no reason and with no provocation. I can’t tell you how many times she has started singing a song that I haven’t heard in more than a decade, or even know at all. Tala herself is like a song that I can’t get out of my head. In a good way.

Alex is obviously very passionate about politics and the Middle East. She is one of my go to people when we are out and someone is speaking to me in Arabic and I’m confused. I can definitely count on her to help me out. I’m sure that Alex will continue to do great work in the Middle East and I look forward to hearing about her future adventures.

Cate is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met but she is no push over! She is incredibly honest and sincere in all of her words and actions. I love seeing Cate with her Arts and Crafts Class students because it’s obvious that they love her so much and that they make her happy to be teaching them. Nothing cheers me up more than one of Cate’s stories about the cute things her students did that day.

Samin is just hilarious. I love love love her sense of humour and often fall into laughing fits that ends with coughing and crying, I can’t eat around her, but it’s so worth it. Samin also tells it like it is and I really appreciate her honesty. She also talks in a baby voice when looking at photos of her nieces and nephews on her computer. It’s priceless.

Amy is my rock on tough days. She just listens when I need her too and doesn’t brush off my concerns even when they are a little bit silly. Amy is a fan of the “funny cat video” genre of film that can be found on YouTube. I get a kick out of seeing her giggle at her computer because I know that’s what she is watching.

I have been lucky to spend the last two months living and working with this group of extraordinary, hilarious and talented people. I will be sad to say goodbye to everyone when our internship ends but we are already talking about having our 10-year TYO Intern Reunion in the new city if Rawabi!

– Megan

Megan is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

Call for Applications: Fall 2011 Internship!

We are recruiting highly qualified and motivated interns interested in community development, early childhood and youth programming, and conflict resolution to work at our flagship center in Nablus (West Bank, Palestine) for our fall programs (late September – late December 2011). Interns will create fall programs for children, youth and adults from refugee camps and other marginalized areas of the Nablus community. Each intern will develop and implement their own creative curriculum(s) through the fall, documenting development growth/gains in their class and in their participants, as well as informally acting as a liaison between TYO and the local community.

Read more about the position and the application – it’s due by August 15, 2011.

Good Luck!