I traveled to TYO with both interest and an open mind, frankly not knowing what my next three months would entail. Upon my arrival and continuing throughout the fellowship, I was received with warm, welcoming, and compassionate Palestinian hospitality.
As I reflect on this experience, I recognize three elements that made my experience especially meaningful: knafeh, mujadarra, and olives. These three foods were the means in which I learned about what Palestine means to the community in which I have lived.
It was over eating knafeh everyday after work that I met locals and heard individual stories, perspectives, and lived realities.
It was through making mujadarra that I understood the importance of family, and the notions of community and a collective identity in Palestine.
It was through enjoying a variety of green olives that I learned the richness and the history of this Palestinian land.
And so, though I often joke about how much I enjoy knafeh, mujadarra, and olives, it really is because they hold a deep rooted significance for me and provided me with awareness and new understandings on life.
I hope to carry this awareness and my new understandings with me as I travel from Palestine, remembering always the elements of this society that provided me with fulfillment and growth.
I thank TYO immensely for the space it provided me to be present in this community, to be exposed to this culture, and to learn about the lives of many Palestinians.
– Catalina, Fall 2016 EFL Fellow
The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.