HEADING HOME WITH MORE THAN JUST A SUITCASE
As I take a moment to figure out where the past ten weeks have gone, I’m also trying to figure out how it’s only been ten weeks since pulling in at TYO back in January. Although it’s that familiar feeling that I blinked and time flew by, so much has happened here in Nablus that I can’t believe it was all squeezed into a mere ten weeks. The seasons have changed and those cold rainy days that welcomed me to Nablus have been replaced by sunny spring afternoons. I’ve seen vibrant personalities surface on the 5th floor while teaching fitness and nutrition. Relationships have been built and countless laughs have been shared. And I’ve even found time to become picky about my falafel toppings outside An-Najah National University.
The time may have come for me to leave Nablus, but I’m certainly not leaving empty-handed. Of course I’ll arrive at the airport with my bags in hand but more delicately I’ll hold onto the faces and words of gratitude that have permanently planted themselves in my memories. I can never forget the first day walking into fitness class and looking out at a crowd of women wobble and sway back and forth trying to balance on one foot. And somehow, beyond my wildest dreams, we were able to achieve a coordinated cardio routine only six weeks later. But the memory that will define these women in my mind comes from the last week when they each shared what they gained from our fitness class. Sure some shared that they lost 5 kilos or that they felt more flexible but more importantly they all shared that they’ve found a new reason to celebrate life since coming to TYO and especially spending time in fitness class. I could never leave behind the sound of nearly 100 women laughing and cheering while chasing after each other during a game of capture the flag or doing a 3-legged race. I will never forget the sound of a packed room counting aloud together while holding a plank, or the collective sigh of relief and satisfaction when we reached our goal. Of course I’m happy they’ve learned to improve their personal health and wellness but that’s minor compared to the feeling of pure happiness and self-appreciation that they all felt during our time together.
Every class may have thanked me for helping them enhance their knowledge of business English, physical health, nutrition, or professional competency but thanks has to be echoed back to each of them. Thank you to every woman in fitness class who showed me what happiness looks like everyday, thank you to every WISE businesswoman who showed me how special it is to be a woman in Palestine today, and thank you to my university students who I know are eager to work hard and improve their country. Leaving a place like TYO behind is difficult, but I know I’m leaving with much more than I got off the plane with back in January!
Emily is a Spring 2013 intern at TYO in Nablus