Intern Journal: Adjusting My Expectations

It's a cardinal rule that I have when I travel that I do not have too many expectations. If you are flexible with what you will find, then you will not be disappointed. Your preconceptions about whatever new place you are going to are probably not founded on much more than  your stereotypes or your guidebooks or your friends' experiences, and it serves you best just to go with an open mind. Of course I've tried to approach many things in Nablus and at TYO in a similar way and for the most part I believe I've done a fairly good job and had a wonderful experience because of it, just letting myself soak up and be impressed by what is happening and not being concerned with how it differed from my expectations.

But I may have faltered a bit.

I had a vision of teaching dance to the mothers here at TYO that would expose them to as many forms of dance as I have an elementary grasp of: ballet, tap, jazz, salsa, meringue and (my personal favorite) hip hop.  When I arrived here last October I was intent on actualizing that vision.  It was then that I hit my first hurdle: the mothers weren't particularly interested in dancing at all.  They were interested in losing weight.  And, their concept of exercise did not include any form of dancing.

That was okay though because I was then on a mission.  I would teach them dance, help them lose weight (or at least get a good workout ) and then they would know that dance is good exercise.  So I began to choreograph little workouts set to music that combined simple dance moves with simple aerobics workouts and it was a success!  My class seemed happy, and when I kicked off the spring session, I had some returning students.

A few weeks ago, I began teaching the moms the salsa steps, which I could tell they really enjoyed learning and practicing.  I ran into an issue, which was that whenever I would concentrate on a set of partners to help them get the steps down, the other ladies would begin to pack up and go!  I could never quite get them all to stay so my salsa classes were eventually dropped.

To replace them and to ensure that my ladies were getting a good workout, I introduced a weight set using full water bottles as weights.  The women have taken to it really well and have appreciated shaking up the routine that way.  Another success!

Then, this week, what might have become the death-knell of my vision of a dance-geared exercise class, was that my ladies requested that there be no music.  Of course, I don't know how long I could have gotten away with playing my favorite music instead of their favorite music anyways.

I realized, however, that the point of my coming to Nablus was not to cater to what I wanted to do to improve people's lives here (albeit in a very small way).  In teaching the exercise class that I now teach, I provide women with a chance to get out of their houses and enjoy themselves for a few hours a week.  They chat with their friends, they bring their adorable children, they have a good time.  They are also able to treat their bodies well and to learn about good nutrition.  At the end of the day, providing any helpful service that I can is the essential part of my being here, not the specific form that service may take.

– Bieta

Bieta is an intern at TYO Nablus and a participant in the Kalimatna Initiative.