Our Final Week in Nablus
An underrated city with so much to offer, Nablus has left me with more than a few amazing memories and everyday, I found something new to appreciate. Not only was I lucky enough to have a beautiful city to wake up to, but the people were some of the most friendly and positive I have ever met. One of my fondest memories is when Mary, Megan and I were invited to lunch by one of the ladies in our fitness class. Never in my life have I consumed so much delicious food, nor such a massive quantity, and continue to be fed fruits, tea and cake while laughing so hard and having an amazing time. Nabulsi hospitality and humor are definitely some of the many things I have already come to miss.
Besides being a crash course in professionalism, time management, and real world experience, my internship at TYO provided me with smiling groups of children from my Homework Help class and the women in my Fitness and Business English classes whose faces never failed to brighten my day. The three months I spent in Nablus gave me not only a new appreciation for the area and its history, but really helped me understand the lives of everyday people and how programs such as those at TYO are, in fact, what they need the most. I was able to give personal attention to each child in Homework Help and create a fun and energetic atmosphere in Fitness class. In assisting the women entrepreneurs in Business English, I felt that I was helping make their ideas become realities which not only made me feel like I was making a difference in the lives of others, but that I was learning each and everyday from each one of them.
Overall, I can say that my experiences as an intern at TYO have been some of the most life changing and nothing less than spectacular.
The past three months have been hectic and exhilarating, stressful and rewarding, and absolutely wonderful. When first deciding to do this internship, I was nervous about coming. I’ve never been to the Middle East before. I don’t speak Arabic. I’ve only ever assisted in a classroom before. I’ve never been in charge. Coming here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve made connections with so many people here and felt like I’ve done something truly worthwhile.
One of my favorite memories from my time here is about a boy named Rami. During the homework portion of class, Rami came up to me and told me that he had finished his homework already because he came half an hour early to go to the Homework Help class offered at TYO. I had seen him come early, and I also knew that he was often self-conscious about working on his school work in front of the other students because he’s often behind. So spur of the moment, I decided to let him teach the teacher and brought him over to the white board to teach me some words in Arabic. I thought this was just a one-time thing to pass twenty minutes during class, but the next class, he came early and immediately asked for a white board marker. He then proceeded to quiz me on the words he had taught me. The pride he showed in teaching me made me feel that those twenty minutes were some of the best I spent here.
Saying goodbye to TYO is hard, but I was very proud to have been a part of the work here.
I still can’t believe that three months have passed. I feel like I just pulled in and unpacked my suitcase and I’m already starting to say my goodbyes and pack back up to go home. It has been amazing to have the chance to be here, to get to know the staff and the kids as well as the women and university students we’ve worked so closely with for the last 9 weeks. I can only hope that I’ve made as much of an impact on the people I’ve met here as they’ve made on me.
Some kids and some classes were incredibly easy, while others had more behavioral challenges and could make classes frustrating for me, my volunteers, and for the other students. On the last day of classes though, two of the students with whom I struggled the most each came up and took the time to thank me for the time I spent with them and to tell me what an impact my class made on their lives. Knowing that despite the challenges we had faced, these kids were positively affected. Seeing I had made a difference with them, put all of the frustration I had felt into perspective. I’ve been able to do something that I’m proud of here, and I have been able to make a noticeable difference in some of my kids’ lives.
Every part of working here has been exciting, exhausting, frustrating and rewarding and I wouldn’t trade any of it.
“Tom, where is Jerry?” An all too familiar question that I was asked by all of my students, and the joke never got old. I learned to embrace it. Another name I took on was the Arabic equivalent for “garlic,” because apparently “Thom” means garlic in Arabic. How flattering. And although I was never called "Human Jungle Gym," it was well-understood that it was one of my roles here at TYO, as two girls Tasneem and Wala' can attest to.
Some of the kids, especially Asma, liked to call me “majnoon,” or crazy, and to some extent this was true. What I loved most about working here was that I could leave my maturity at the door, pretend to be a kid, and be a little crazy. I liked to call it “getting weird”, they liked to call it “majnoon,” but whatever it was, I think it helped my students to feel comfortable working with the “ajnebe” (foreigner) and letting loose in sports class.
To each of my students, I was something different. To some I was just another foreigner, to some a friend, to some a teacher, to some a role model, and to others just someone to have fun with. And regardless of how they viewed me, I always tried to make it clear to all of my students that I was here for them. Being able to work with underprivileged children in a region I focused my studies on is exactly what I was looking for, and I’m going to miss it here at TYO. I’m going to miss Isra’s smile that stretches from ear to ear, or Bara’a’s precious dimples, or Sheker’s never-ending energy. The list goes on and on.
Of course I’m excited to be with my family again, but the students and moments I’ve shared with them will stay with me forever. Hearing the students talk during the Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony about how the interns impacted their experience here - especially when Asma talked about her time in my sports class - was a touching moment that really showed me how much the students cared. I’m thrilled to have been a part of the TYO team this session, but it is even more important to me knowing that an organization like TYO is here to look after the kids that I developed friendships with and who will always be in my thoughts.