Highlights of the Week

As an intern at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, I have the wonderful opportunity to directly experience TYO’s multi-generational approach to community-building by leading an aerobics class for women of various ages and a dance class for pre-adolescent girls.  While working to help the women in my aerobics class improve their level of physical fitness and knowledge of wellness issues, I have discovered that several of the workouts popular in the United States are also enthusiastically received by Palestinian women, including Tae Bo and yoga.  As for my dance class, I focus the first half of each lesson on ballet.  In just six class sessions, the girls have learned first through fifth position, port de bras, plié, relevé, tendu, and rond de jambe. I spend the second half of class teaching hip hop, in which several of my students have demonstrated a real talent.  So far, the girls have learned how to chain together nearly 15 steps to create a hip hop dance routine. Outside of class, I seized several opportunities to become better acquainted with my translators and volunteers this weekend.  My aerobics class translator, Hanin, had previously extended an invitation to me to visit her home, and I gladly accepted her kind offer on Thursday evening, when I joined her family for dinner.  She and her husband picked me up from TYO and drove me to their house, where I met her children and a few relatives.  Hanin had prepared a delicious dinner of foul, pita bread, kibbeh, fried tomatoes, a tahini-based dish, eggplant, and fettoosh, which we topped off with home-made ice cream cake.  Hanin and I then moved out to the balcony to chat over coffee and fresh fruit.  We sat in the stillness of the evening, breathing in the chilliness of the night air and enjoying each other’s company.  Hanin’s daughter Nana and son Munir, both of whom are close to me in age, soon joined us, and we gradually began to open up to each other.  Perhaps inspired by my revelation that it was the first time I had tasted fresh guava, and despite my protest since she had already lavished enough generosity upon me, Hanin stuffed an ice-cream container full of fresh fruit for me to take home.  Finally, her family and I packed into their car for a driving tour of Rafidia, a fun going-out district full of boutiques, restaurants, and ice cream shops where many of Nablus’s Christian residents live.

I found myself coming back to Rafidia the next evening with Adrienne, Ashwini, and Samee to meet our Kalimatna Initiative partners Hasan and Haya, accompanied by her sister Hala, for “fruit cocktails” (milkshakes made with fruit juice, ice cream, and nuts and topped mixed fruits on top) at Fekhfekhina, a fruit juice and ice cream shop.  I ran into our third Kalimatna Initiative partner, Khamis, on Saturday in the municipal park outside the Suwarna Exhibition featuring photographs taken by Nabulsi children participating in TYO’s Triple Exposure program.  There were also several other TYO volunteers helping out at the exhibit, including my dance class volunteers Ruba and Jumana.

After seeing the Suwarna exhibit, I walked with Ruba and Jumana to Rafidia to meet with more of our class volunteers—Somoud, Iman, and my translator, Farah—for snacks at a restaurant with a great view overlooking the mountains and hills of the city.  I was glad to have the chance to spend an afternoon with my volunteers outside of the classroom to learn about what subjects they were studying at the university, how many brothers and sisters they had, and their past volunteer experiences at TYO.  In turn, they took the opportunity to learn about my interest in Arab and Palestinian culture, my passion for working with children and youth, my impressions of Nablus, and a bit about my life in the United States.

- Julie

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