Monday, October 31, 2011

So the bro snap here is actually a form of getting the teacher's attention

I know its been a few days, but I have started teaching, lesson planning, and material making, so I have been quite busy. I got off to a rocky start teaching, which I suppose should be expected since I have never taught before.

I love all my kids. Both the private school and refugee center kids! The private school kids have some listening and behavioral issues, but I've come up with a motivational incentive system which seems to be working. I'm learning what does and does not work with keeping that class in line. The biggest thing to tackle now is getting them motivated to actually learn. Like even if i can keep them quiet, things don't sink in for some of them. SO I need to make lots of visual aids (goodbye free time?)
The kids at the refugee center are so eager to learn for the most part, which is great! They don't know a whole lot, and I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what they do and do not know. The lower class can be a little unorderly. They're younger so its understandable but apparently part of my job is kicking students out (just for the day) that won't behave. I don't want to have to do it, but I think I'm going to have to. My second class is nearly perfect. A couple girls have problems not speaking in Arabic, BUT its not too much of an issue.
And I've really bonded with them.
The other thing that is annoying is the bro snap. Here what they do is stand up and do the bro snap to get you to call on them. Im pretty sure they don't know that in America thats what it is. What I mean is that I think its a parallel cultural phenomenon. Its irritating on its own, but even more so because it reminds me of the bro snap. I dont respond to it haha.
A few of them kept trying to walk home with me. I teach in one refugee camp and live in another. I like to walk back home...its about 25-40 min depending on if Im carrying a backpack or a backpack and 10 large hardcover books in my hands. I don't want them walking back alone so its a consistent "ok now go back home girls I will see you tomorrow" "no miss casey please we come with you" "no you can't it is not allowed" etc etc etc...eventually we part ways have 10 hugs (between just a few girls) and a few i love yous. Actually its really only happened he past 2 days since i started taking over...but I have a feeling it will continue. I don't mind really...whats an extra 5 min to my walk?

We went to deliver food to one family's house...I think the poorest in my class. Theres a mom, ten kids, one on the way and a TINY house that I didnt have time to go into this time but apparently will. One of the other teachers said she gets lice everytime she goes. The kids are so dirty and roam the streets. The mom doesn't keep track of them and apparently cannot tell you which of her kids were in school or not...not the best mother apparently. The two girls from the family in my class are really hard to control. But its important for them to be allowed to come.

My housemates and I get along super well which is great! We will probably travel together over the upcoming holiday. It will be nice to both get out and see new things, but also spend some time catching up with classroom preparations.

I know I'm missing things, but I think I covered the biggest chunk of things. I'm really starting to get used to getting around here and all the jazz. I love this city. So much.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Breaking the Sound Barrier

The title of this entry was inspired by tonight's air show. A certain entity decided to create "sound bombs" by doing fly overs and purposefully breaking the sound barrier. Sound bombs kind of sound like bombs, or at least like a plane is about to crash into your house. Its quite obnoxious and unnecessary.

There have been several things I have learnt recently that have added to my frustrations with this entity. I already mentioned the burning of the olive groves, which happens frequently apparently. In fact, one of the other teachers witnessed and has photos of such an event.

There are other things too...I'm trying to remember. It really is a lot worse than people realize. And whats more, it affects their daily mentality. For example, I learned Palestinians rarely take the same route everyday as a survival as not to be tracked/hunted. Not that its necessarily an everyday threat for everyone, but apparently that has normalized into their culture from the past I assume, when Nablus was a heated "battleground." I'll have to look more into that and see if it holds true. I wouldn't doubt it though. Looking at graffiti and other forms of statements, you get a feel for what living out daily life is like for the people here. I wish I could remember everything, but it is late here, and I don't sleep very well yet...still getting my body's clock in tune.

I live in a relatively nice part of a refugee camp, which is essentially buildings built where tents were originally. BUT I have now seen the less nice parts, and probably have yet to see the worst. One of my afternoon girls when I teach at the refugee camp (a different one than the one I live in) is essentially a street girl. She has a "home" and "parent" but pretty much roams free and does as she pleases--something you can kind of gather by her appearance. She is sooo cute and eager to learn though, as are all the kids at the refugee camp.
My favorite is a little boy named Mohamed. He is probably about 7 or 8 but really small for his age. He has the biggest missing teeth smile and he uses it a lot! The best is when he agrees with something or wants something and says "yesss yess yess yess" and nods his head definitively. Even when he is being snarky and says the wrong answer to be silly...I have a hard time keeping a straight face. Its tough to teach though. I started today. Taking over one of the classes (with no materials today). They speak in Arabic which is a HUGE no no by our policy, and I have to tell them not to and give them "Xs"...4 and you go home for the day....I definitely ignored a lot today, but I do need to be tougher.

I started teaching half of the 2 hour class for my 5,6,7 grade kids too at the private school. So how it works for English is that grades 5,6,7 are grouped together and then separated by levels of comprehension and ability. I am with the lowest of this group. There are first graders that do better than them. And they have HUGE discipline issues when it comes to not talking in class and not throwing things at each other, even when I am watching them! These are relatively affluent kids as Pioneers is the best private school in town.
However, I definitely love them already. There are a few that, even though their disobedient, are sooooo sweet too. They need stability, and someone who will be there for them. Their first teacher quit, then they had an interim teacher, then a third teacher who got fired, then the same interim teacher and now me. So they have been tossed about a bunch. And apparently in Palestine the smart kids are the cool kids, and the not so smart kids are the not so cool they have that to deal with too. My goal is to find a way to motivate them to learn and behave. Easier said than done I'm sure, and Im afraid we got off on the wrong start. Today was literally a mess. I got out of the class looking like I just came out of boot camp.

I should go to bed. At least I got a few things down though. Tata for now!
I almost forgot to mention!!! Lats night my neighbors showed me two family wedding videos!! It was sooo interesting and fun to watch! So much fun and dancing!!
Additionally, I was in a shared cab with two adults and three kids (all in the back of a regular sized cab). Anyways I decided to smile at the 10 month old boy and the dad as soon as that plops him on my lap....which caught me off guard but was totally enjoyable as the chubby cheeked- big brown eyed boy was INCREDIBLY cute!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scratch that.. Land flowing with olives

Its Saturday night Time has completely flown by. The past 36 or so hours have been crazy and amazing. 

Friday travelling went really well. The hostel manager loaned me his bell boy to help me drag my luggage out of the crowded old city. That was a huge blessing and cut the time by like 75%. One the way to the bus station Israeli cops stopped us for like 5 min to check his ID...even though they asked me if he was with me. The bus to Ramallah was fairly short. I met an American on the bus who helped me find the shared cabs to take me to Nablus. Yet again, another huge blessing. When I got to Nablus, I called a guy who the hostel owner had told me to call. He walked over and caught a cab for me...I didnt really need the help, but I didn't want to refuse the good will. I got to the private school and met a few of the teachers I will be teaching with. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. Most of the teachers are relatively young, recent or near recent grads from America (one from Ireland and Australia and a couple from the UK). 

They dropped me off at my new apartment which I currently share with one American girl named Lindsey, but I think another new teacher might be moving in soon. The apartment is actually in a refugee "camp," beneath the house of a doctor who runs a partner organization. Refugee camps here aren't what you might picture. They're more like little sections of town on the outskirts. I'm really glad I'll be living there because I'll be closer to the classes I teach in the afternoons, and also you get to kind of live with a family, even though we don't interact with them on an everyday basis.

I was alone on the apartment for a while settling in. Then a neighbor boy invited me over for tea. His family was all sitting around sorting through olives they had just picked. Baskets filled with olives!! I joined them in sorting and we chatted until Lindsey got home. Then she joined us and they served us dinner. They are sooo friendly and inviting. One of the boys is almost 21, one is 17 or 18 and the other 2 are younger. It was definitely the perfect welcome evening to a new home in a far away place.

The next day we woke up really early to go olive picking outside a village called Sabastiya. It was me, Lindsey, a couple other teacher ex-pats from various different schools and organizations in Nablus, a masters student from Portugal named Joau (he was super fun to talk to) and a Palestinian named Khair who was really knowledgeable on a bunch of different things.
 Its valuable to have foreigners because 1) we lighten the load and its A LOT LOT LOT of work and 2) our presence keeps Israeli settlers from harassing them. In fact, we were supposed to go to another grove of olive trees to help a different family but apparently the Israelis had blocked off the road and wouldn't let ANYONE without a permit in. We saw the area from a mount top later, and you can see where the settlement and military base were in relation to the villagers's trees. They showed us a HUGE area that USED to be filled with olive trees but were literally BURNED DOWN by the settlers. So the families would have to do all the work themselves, which mean even the elderly members would have to toil in the hot sun and dust whacking the trees with sticks and picking up traps full of olives (our method of extraction and collection). I will refrain from inserting my analysis of all this....I'm just laying out the facts....if you would like my analysis shoot me a message, but I will try to keep this blog non-political but definitely present what happens. Also, for the record, I am neither anti-Israeli nor anti-Palestinian. Just putting it out there.

Anyway, we had fun climbing into the trees and whacking the olives off the branches (or at least I did!). I got to talk with some of the brothers who I think owned the olives or at least were related to the owners...or something. The oldest Mahmoud is a science teacher in Nablus, and the younger Ahmed...18 I think he a student in university. He didn't speak English so I got to really stretch my Arabic (I've been using it a lot for small things, but we actually managed to have a full conversation).We also worked together picking up the tarps and climbing trees so we had to practically communicate in Arabic too. I really enjoyed that. We got SUPERBLY dirty and dusty, so much so I could not run my hand through my was so matted with dust. But I enjoyed getting down and dirty, and sharing water bottles with all 10 or so of us working on the trees. Great way to bond.

Afterwards they showed us some old Roman ruins at the top of the mount where we also got an incredible view! Pictures soon to come :) They also showed us an old church where the only Christian family left in the village worships...pretty cool.

After that we drove back to Nablus and watched the Japanese women's team play the Palestinian women's team, (in shorts which was unbelievable..although most skin was still covered). The women sat on one side of the stadium and the men on the other. We got swarmed by little girls asking us questions and taking pictures with us. I think the other girls who have been here longer were a little tired of it, but it didnt bother me, AND I got a little Palestinian flag out of the deal. After the game we chilled for a little and I met some more expats including a guy from Latvia. 

Then Lindsey and I came home and relaxed for a little while, since we have to leave in the morning for school.
We really are hitting it off right away which is ANOTHER huge blessing. I really thank God for all His provision in this. There are some moments (especially on the bus to Ramallah and ride to Nablus) where I suddenly realize I just MOVED to Palestine...and for a second I think I'm crazy...but then I just get really excited about being here and think about how much I love it already. The land is beautiful, people are so friendly, and it just feels right being here. I am definitely intimidated about teaching. I will shadow for a few days and then by the end of the week start taking over classes. I'm definitely super intimidated. But if God wants me here, then I know He'll give me what I need to do a good job. 

There's a lot of little things to think about that are kind of overwhelming...things I need to to in order to settle in, and then things I need to do once I settle in. But, I'm stoked for whats to come. Bring it on

Friday, October 21, 2011

A land flowing with hummus

SO lets see. I have to write this out because I'm super lost as to what day I am in. I left Wednesday morning for JFK. My NYC cab driver was Moroccan (we're now friends on facebook of course). That was a pretty cool little exchange. Then I flew to Moscow..altogether not a bad flight-I slept surprisingly well (yay for late nights before traveling!) and my Chinese rowmate was super friendly. Then I again fell asleep in the Moscow airport waiting for my connecting flight to Tel Aviv during which I also slept (this coming from the girl who "can't sleep on planes trains and automobiles"). Again, the airport experience at Tel Aviv also went surprisingly quickly and smoothly. I did get taken aside and questioned since I wasn't sure how long I would be staying, and planned to volunteer in the West Bank, but the woman was nice and just told me to go to the ministry of the interior near Nablus and get my visa changed. AND best of all I got ALL my luggage!!!

I took a shared cab from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem...which was long as the cab driver got lost dropping a couple of people off at specific places. I was dropped off at the Damascus gate (or near it rather) and then set off for the hostel I found online. Walking the narrow, incredibly crowded, cobblestone streets of Jerusalem's old city with about 140 pounds distributed between two rolling duffles and a backpack was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I finally arrived at what I thought was the hostel...but turned out to be a different one. Thank was about 50 meters closer, had free wifi and a complimentary breakfast and was only a few dollars more than the other which had neither of these things. The hotel owner was very nice too. He had lived in America for years and we chatted for a few minutes. I went to my room, got on the internet and took pictures on the roof. Then, I set out to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is apparently the site of Calvary/ Golgotha where Jesus was crucified. It was hard to imagine since it has been since turned into a church in the middle of the Old City, but it was still very cool to see. Then I walked around and was stopped by a very friendly shopkeeper. We started chatting and when I told him why I was here he told me to sit down and came back with a delicious hummus filled pita and lemonade. I stayed and talked for about an hour and then he closed down the shop. He gave me his number in case I ever got into trouble.

Back at the hostel I took an ice cold shower and took some more night photos on the roof. The air was cool and fresh. I absolutely love it here. During the day the sun is warm, but the air is dry and soft. There is practically zero humidity and a cool breeze sweeps by every so often. 

This morning I woke up to more hummus, pita and fresh veges (a perfect breakfast I might say). Then I walked to Mt. Zion and got to sit in the room said to be the Last Supper and Pentecost room. It has since become both a church and a mosque at different points I believe. I managed to get the room to myself right before it was attacked by two tour groups, and then again once they left. As I was just studying Acts a few weeks ago, it was very meaningful to put an image with a name. I imagined the room thousands of years ago, a pretty unique experience (I'm not usually very moved by historical sites even if I deeply appreciate them).

There were a few other sites I hit up in the area (David's tomb and Mary's crypt), and after again being offered a friendly elder's number in case I ever need anything, I  returned to my hostel, where I am now. In a few minutes I will depart to the bus station. Thank God the owner offered one of his helpers to help me with alllllll my stuff to the bus station, as its QUITE a hike (yesterday was mostly down hill). I don't usually like accepting such help, BUT my body is not in the mood for complete destruction, and since I still have a bus and shared cab ride before I get to Nablus...I'll take all the help I can get...