Intern Journal: Taking it all in

After a thankfully thorough week of orientation and training, we have completed our first two days of classes. As the days go by, I'm increasingly getting a feel for the rhythm of my week, the TYO centre, and a taste of life in Nablus. The working week begins on Sundays, and our days are punctuated by the now familiar call to prayer echoing out across the valley which holds this ancient city.

I taught my first class with fellow intern Leila – fitness for the mums. The women are so friendly and inquisitive, seeming to enjoy Leila's lively kickboxing introduction and counting down the beat in flawless Arabic, but were soon distracted by the dramatic and deafening hailstorm outside that seemed to come out of nowhere. I hope to have them all doing Sun Salutations by the end of the course...

After lunch, the kids for the afternoon classes began to arrive in dribs and drabs from their respective areas, allowing me the chance to personally meet each child that was entering my basic photography class for Triple Exposure.

After a little warming up I explained (with the invaluable assistance of my local translator, Waleed),   to the students how to use the basic functions of the DSLR cameras, and had them take each others' portraits, before setting about on the scavenger hunt game in teams. The team to find and photograph the most objects off the list given at the start, wins. They ran around the TYO centre with their volunteers in tow, taking turns to capture the random objects listed – some harder than others! The kids really enjoyed the competition, and two latecomers said they wanted more time to take photos, but I suggested they make sure to come to the rest of the classes and try harder to be on time!

Working at TYO is like juggling. With all these balls in the air and only two hands to catch with, you've got to be ready to switch things up if things don't quite go to plan. Intern Coordinator Chelsey had been sure  to forewarn us that flexibility is key here. With bad weather hampering attendance for my first basic photography class – I ended up with as many local volunteers as children, when they should have been outnumbered by at least three to one! But my volunteers were patient, helpful and very happy to get involved.

This first week for me has been about taking it all in. It's my first time in the Middle East. On the one hand I'm absorbing like a sponge all the new information, people and environment, whilst simultaneously trying to be creative, productive and give classes. It's a stimulating process but also quite tiring. Needless to say, after bouncing so many ideas around and off each other, we're all getting early nights to be organised and full of energy for our kids the next day.

- Mathilda

Mathilda is an intern at TYO Nablus.