Sunday, September 23, 2012

Worlds Apart

Orientation is over, and I've had my first week of truly working at TYO. It was a crazy week that left me rather exhausted by the end, but it was generally a really positive kind of crazy. If you've been following TYO, you may see the intern blog posts on their site. Some of my experiences are already documented there (we are required to blog once a week so you can keep an eye out at for news of me).

The work week here begins on Sunday, which is mostly meetings but includes a professional competency course that we interns give at An-Najah University here in Nablus. Since I am working an unpaid internship rather than a job with an income, I'm not sure how qualified I am to talk about professional competency. And in fact, this class was my greatest challenge of the week. I had about 30 students registered on my list; nine people showed up (and 5 of those nine were not on my list). Of that group, one had good English and a couple more could mostly follow what I said, but the majority were totally lost. It's supposed to be only advanced English speakers since I have no Arabic to fall back on if someone gets confused. Hopefully today will be better.

My classes here at the center are a far more positive experience. We started off on Monday greeting the morning core program students (the core program is taught by Palestinians. In the morning they have 4-5 year olds and in the afternoon they have 6-8 year olds. The intern program is for older kids).

Two of the cuties that we got to briefly hang with.

This little girl grabbed my hand and didn't want to let go. I don't even know her name, but she still touched my heart.

Later that morning, I had my first beginner's English class for the Women's Group. The Women's Group is for moms in the community, especially the moms of the kids that come to TYO. I'm REALLY enjoying teaching basic English to these women. Since I know no Arabic, I have to get my English points across by using over-the-top gestures and expressions and generally acting like an idiot. It's a LOT of fun.

On the mornings I'm not teaching English, I'm co-teaching women's aerobics. This is another funny experience. Lila, the intern teaching with me, and I have a translator for this one so we can coherently tell women to not stick their butts in the air when they do push-ups, but I still get to act a bit silly and dance around to Enrique Iglesias. I get a work out too so along with my healthy eating habits here, I'm probably going to come home in much better shape than when I left. One of the most interesting parts of aerobics is that we close the curtains and doors so that eh women can take of their outer layers and wear work out gear. They all come in with their heads, arms, and legs covered but shed all that so they're in tanks and leggings to work out. I especially find the women who have their hair styled interesting since no one sees that.

The afternoon is for my kids' classes. They are a lot of fun though exhausting, but then that's the case of kids the world over. I work with a fantastic translator named Ruba (she's so awesome, I can't even explain. I hope that she makes it to the States someday; she's actually hoping to get a Fulbright to get her Masters in the US).

This is one of my girls. Her name is Nahida. I had them draw a school bus (back-to-school theme, plus we read a Magic School Bus book) and put their names on it to decorate the classroom.

For the second class, we made our own puzzles. These boys are drawing the picture that they will turn into puzzle pieces.

A piece of the puzzle.

And now they're working to put their picture back together.

Once the week was over, Megan, Tommy, and I went off to Tel Aviv for Friday and Saturday. Lila had to stay behind because someone needed to be here to let in the BBC (I'll talk about that some other time as it isn't over yet) and Humaira, Tala, and Samin were also out of town for the weekend.

Tel Aviv is a little over an hour away from Nablus, but it is completely different. Nablus is a conservative city, even for Palestine: Tel Aviv is where Israel goes to party. When we arrived on Friday, we spent day wandering around the Carmel market before taking a brief beach break on our way to Jaffa, the old city next to Tel Aviv (Jaffa is mentioned more than once in the Bible. It's where Tabitha was raised from the dead and St. Peter dreamed of being allowed to eat pork--I'm paraphrasing).

Here we are in Jaffa with Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean in the background.

That evening we hung out at our hostel and met a lot of cool people. We were staying in a four bed room, and our room mate was from France (making me realize how incredibly terrible my French has become. It was awful, but I tried). We also met a British couple and several Israelis from Nazareth (though they were originally from Russia, I guess).

Saturday we slept in and then spent the whole day on the beach. Tommy and Megan impressed the chair and umbrella rental guy by speaking Arabic (he was from Sudan). Two of the food/drink servers on the beach we were at also came and hung out with us whenever they had a moment. They were also Russians that came to Israel. They seemed impressed by our work with the Palestinians. Also, Tommy took a picture with a Bavarian.

Tommy with the Bavarian lady. He's pretending to be holding a beer.

All in all, it was a good weekend getaway. Now I'm back in Nablus, and the difference between the two places could not be starker. I'm pretty happy to be home though even if the BBC has taken over temporarily.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Working hard

Orientation has been quite busy especially once we had to write our curricula for the session. Interestingly, we were supposed to have a couple of tours of areas in Nablus (the Old City and the largest of the refugee camps: Balata). Those tours got cancelled due to strikes and protests going on here in the West Bank so we had "free time". I'm not sure HOW I would have gotten everything done without that "free time". As it was, there was some staying up late and getting up early to get everything done.

Today, I went hiking with Tala and the other interns at Wadi Qelt, one of Earth's lowest points. Jesus apparently walked there when he was going to Jericho. There's some other Biblical stuff that I can't remember too. The Romans built an aqueduct to direct water through the area that is still in use today. There's also a Greek Orthodox monastery at one end that's been there for over a thousand years. Very historical. The hike itself was STUNNING. None of the pictures I took come close to capturing how beautiful it was. I've always been a fan of desert beauty, and this was rock formation at their most beautiful. So now, I'll give you some pictures!

My favorite thing about living at TYO: the huge amount of produce we get to consume. So many yummy fruits and veggies. As a grad student shopping for just me, I never got a lot of produce because it would go bad before I could eat it. Not a problem here.

Wadi Qelt! So beautiful.

Another view. Really, every angle of this hike was stunning.

The Roman aqueduct.

Another beautiful view. The cave dwellings are used by Bedouins. We saw some of them herding goats during the hike.

More beautiful desert.

This was taken inside St. George's monastery at the end of the hike. If I hadn't been so tired, I would have liked to look around more. They were also renovating so it wasn't the best time to see the place.

Tomorrow TYO has a library day for kids and then Sunday I starting teaching! Yikes!

Monday, September 10, 2012


I've been here a few days so I guess I should talk about experiences so far. We've started the orientation process so we're learning about our classes, issues that might come up, scheduling stuff, etc. Not really all that exciting to blog about really. I've now gotten to meet most of the staff here. The international staff, of course, lives here at the center so I see them all the time. We got to meet most of the local staff yesterday at lunch.

The other interns seem to be very cool people. I almost feel sorry for Tommy as he's the only guy living with a bunch of women, but he seems fine with it (except that there have been several chick flicks watched, which interests him not at all).

Nablus is interesting so far. We haven't been out very much. We've gone grocery shopping and we've also visited a juice shop near the center (AMAZING place, he makes the juice fresh while you wait) and a yummy falafel place (SO cheap as a falafel there is 2.5 shekels which is approximately 63 cents) as well as a place to buy cell phones and sim cards. The center itself is a pretty nice place to live and makes commuting very easy (Time for a meeting? Just go down a floor or two). I also have my own bathroom connected to my bedroom, and there's a huge balcony patio with a great view of the city. On that note, pictures!

Part of the view from the balcony.

Another bit of view.

And more.

A mosque we can easily see from the balcony (you can see it in the first picture.)

My Palestinian cell phone. Look how tiny it is! Absolutely basic functionality. Reminds me of a slightly smaller version of the cell phone I had in middle school.

So now you have some visual context for where I am :) We've got some trips into Nablus coming up so I might blog about those (that will probably be rather serious as we will be visiting a refugee camp and the poorest section of the city). Until later!

Friday, September 7, 2012

And here I am.

I am safely arrived in Nablus. The flight was about what I expected, not much fun. I swear my arrival gate and departure gate in the Newark airport were as far apart as they could possibly without having a train to make things go faster. The best part of the ten hour flight was that I had a large selection of movies to watch including Brave and The Avengers :D The woman sitting next to me said that The Avengers was a bad movie, silly lady.

Arriving in Tel Aviv was interesting. I got detained at immigration though I think it was mostly cuz the guy at passport control didn't want to deal with me. He only asked me a few questions before sending me off. The woman who questioned me after that didn't speak very good English so I'm not sure what she was supposed to get out of that interview. Oh well. I got through that and met up with the other interns and the intern coordinator picked us up and I'm now here at the center in Nablus. I didn't sleep very well last night or rather I slept great from 6am to 10:30am when I got up and dozed every once in a while the rest of the night. Stupid jet lag.

Today is just a lazy day. Tomorrow begins the whirlwind of orientation.