Intern Journal: Climb Every Mountain, Ford Every Stream

The ability of fellow passengers to doze off during the hour service ride between Nablus and Ramallah still confounds me.  Granted, I’m no seasoned commuter, but with about a dozen rides to boast, I still find that I can barely tear my eyes away from the impressive rolling hills long enough to change the track on my iPod.   There is something truly spellbinding about the way those coveted hills glisten, illuminated by the late afternoon sun’s ebbing rays as they subside beyond the ridge.  Yes, when there are no shrieking babies involved, the ride is a serene one, lending itself to introspection and joyful reflection.

Whether the following adventure is to be attributed to these weekly drives or to the breathtaking, expansive view of the Nabulsi hills we daily enjoy from the TYO center is still unclear, but last week we interns were inspired to go “frolic through the hills.”  The weather on Saturday was splendid: a sunny spring day with clear blue skies, perfect for a spontaneous stroll through the wadi.  The valley’s bending stream was to be our sole guide.  It apparently leads all the way to the Wadi Badan village, which was our notional destination as we stepped out of the cab at the edge of the highway and began our descent down to the babbling brook…we never made it to Wadi Badan.

Less than ten minutes into our hike, as we neared the bottom of the ravine and paused to take in the pristine view, there was a rustle 100 meters ahead, and a wild boar bolted out of the brush, racing along our projected path (i.e. the water) to Wadi Badan.  More so to avoid having to constantly cross the stream than to avoid a second encounter with Pumba’s cousin (or so we told ourselves), we decided to continue toward Wadi Badan at higher ground.  About an hour and a number of clumsy hands-first falls into thistle bushes later, we realized that the ascent to reach the mountain’s summit was interminable, and we spent the latter half of the next two hours delicately retracing our steps back to the water. After our four hours of “frolicking”, we found ourselves back on the highway, about a one-minute drive down the road from where we had begun our excursion.

Did we have our Sound of Music moments?—We most definitely did.  Sure, they were interspersed with periods of screeches as we fled away from clusters of spiders and centipedes and with enough run-ins with hostile plants to keep me occupied with splinter removal for the next two days; but each time we stopped to catch our breath or to examine the latest scrape or bruise, there was the inevitable: “Just look at this view!”


Leila is an intern at TYO Nablus.


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 is an intern at TYO Nablus.

The lighter side of growing up in Palestine

One of my favorite things about working with Triple Exposure since September of 2009 has been getting to watch the kids grow up. Our photography and mural art classes are aimed at kids around 11 years old and up; it is usually that age group that is most open to discussing their identities, beginning to learn a craft, and expressing their creativity and emotions through their art.

This means that I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the universal experience of turning into a teenager: Palestinian edition. As Project Coordinator, I teach a photography class each session and get to know these groups of kids closely, but I’m also responsible for tracking the participation and progress of the kids in the three other photography and mural art classes. So there’s never a shortage of formerly shy and unassuming girls and boys who will one day come to class or walk into my office with a new saunter in their step, a new and stylish hairdo, jeans now tucked low or worn tight, newly matching handbags and shoes… the list goes ever on. My barely-contained giggles never cease.

Let me provide a few examples.

Meet Mohammed Tibi:

and Mumin Salhi:

The above photos are from the photography class I taught in the fall of 2009.

Here are Mohammed (bottom right, in the green shirt)

and Mumin (on the left below) a year later at the “Suwarna” Children’s Photography Exhibition in Nablus. Notice the hair and “I’m a man” stances?

Cool as ice! But always sweet, and always supremely lovable.

Mohammed at the "Suwarna" Children's Photography Exhibition

– 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: Maloukhieh and M’jedderah and Maqloubeh—Oh my!

I confess: having the women in my computer literacy class create a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on their most prized Arabic recipes was more than just an exercise in PowerPoint acquisition skills.   Maqloubeh, Mouloukhieh, M’jedderah—all my favorite Middle Eastern dishes coincidentally begin with the letter “m,” often making it impossible for me to distinguish between each one—are just a few of the Arabic meals that have rendered my stomach joyful these past few months in the Middle East.  So, at the start of Tuesday’s computer class I found myself in an auspicious position.  I wanted to learn more about the savory Palestinian dishes that I’ve grown to adore.  For which traditional occasions are these dishes usually cooked? Which ingredients will I need to acquire when I attempt to cook musakhan for family and friends back home? Etc.   What I did not count on, however, was a dozen lunch and dinner invitations by the end of class.  As the women shuffled out of class that morning, each one extended a gracious “Ahlan wa Sahlan” to their homes: “I’ll make you the best maloukhieh you have ever tasted!” and “Come over today after class, drink tea at my home, meet the family, and tell me what you think of my m’jedderah.”

This past Saturday marked the first of what I hope will be many more house visits with community members.  Hanin, the outstanding translator in my computer and fitness classes, invited both Mathilda and me to her home Saturday evening to meet her husband, two sons, and daughter Nadia.  Over meat and cheese-stuffed pastries, sage tea, and Nescafe cake (yes, you read correctly, Nescafe cake…it’s delicious), Hanin shared with us her Palestinian narrative:  she told stories of love and loss, frustration and hope; yes, she and her husband relished the chance to bestow upon us some of that unwavering Palestinian humor—Qaddafi’s peculiar fashion sense was the source of a good laugh or two.   We also learned how connected Hanin and her husband felt to their homeland: given her mastery of the English language and her experience as a translator, she had been offered the opportunity to immigrate to Canada on more than one occasion; each time she resolutely refused, citing her unwillingness to break from her Palestinian roots.

As we realized that three hours had flown by and that the late hour alone beckoned for our return to the TYO Center, we said goodbye to our new friends, toting some Nescafe cake and other goodies for the road and promising Nadia that we would return again soon for some more cross-cultural “girl talk.”

Here’s to many more encounters with delicious Palestinian cuisine in the coming weeks!

– Leila

Leila 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.

Guest photographer visits photography class

Visit the post by TYO Intern Adrienne on the Triple Exposure website:

Hassan and photo student Ameer discuss the beauty of photographs taken at sunset

As an American intern teaching the Beginning Photography class at TYO this semester, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the 20 boys and girls in my class and having the chance to expose them to the joys of digital photography. It’s been a great experience because the kids, ordinarily loud and crazy, become instantly focused when handed a camera to work with.

In order to show them that photography can become a life-long hobby or even a useful job skill, we invited a professional photographer from the local community to come and speak to our class. Hassan Qamhia (, a professor at An-Najah University in Nablus and a budding professional photographer, visited us on Monday, November 29, and entertained the students with a slideshow of his beautiful photos taken around Nablus.

He also gave the kids some hands-on photography lessons. Everyone present greatly enjoyed Hassan’s presentation and gave him a resounding “Shukran” (thank you) at the end of class!

The photo class thanks Hassan for his visit!

— Adrienne

Adrienne (pictured second from right above) is an intern with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. Originally from Ithaca, New York, she teaches the basic photography class with Triple Exposure.

“Triple Exposure” is a TYO initiative that aims to develop identity, awareness, and vocational skills among children and adolescents through teaching photographic expression and the production of public art.