Posts in Internship Program
Oh, the Knafeh!

I have lived in this region before, but moved back to America for about two years.  In that time, I hadn’t returned, but coming to TYO I felt like I was returning to a second home.  Though I have visited Nablus and lived in the region before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Two years is just long enough for everything and nothing to change at the same time.

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A Home Away From Home, But With More Hummus

So, where to start? Nablus, here I am. It’s almost as if I have been dropped here from the sky like the human icon from Google Maps is, straight from Western Europe but naturally without the dragging aspect. At first glance, Nablus is almost like a scene from a movie, a Hollywood blockbuster where white ajnabi (foreigners) visit a distant land in the East, shrouded in mystery which is heightened by a rich culture and unique attire.

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Traveling Through Palestine

As I finish my time at TYO, I am reminded of the fun times I had with my thoughtful students and the locals I encountered throughout my travels. During my time in Palestine, I had the opportunity to travel throughout the country and meet people from all Palestine. Not only was my time here impacted by the local staff and students, but also by people I met throughout my travels.

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Farewell to Gerizim and Ebal

In his novel, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” Milan Kundera writes, “The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful.” As I say farewell to Nablus and to Palestine, I think of the many people I met who charmed and touched me. They are too many to be named. Thus, when I say farewell to Nablus and to Palestine, I think of Gerizim and Ebal, for they represent each of those people and each of those moments.

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From the Warmth of Palestine Back to the New England Cold

As I get ready to return to bitter, frozen New England (in both senses of both words), I, like all of the fellows, am reflecting on my time here in Nablus.  Waking up to the sight of Dunkin’ Donuts and snow up to my waist will be an unfortunate change from the view of the Nabulsi mountains from my very window.  While I will obviously miss the beautiful vistas of Palestine, and the amazing knafah, it is my students that I will miss the most.

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I Respect Myself: A Safe Space for Self-Empowerment

respect -(ri-spekt)- the esteem for a sense of the worth or excellence of a person

Almost 15 years ago, I worked at  a youth theater arts summer camp. I joined the staff as an assistant teacher just for the summer not knowing about the existing programs and routines. One of the things that I noticed was that they had this unique ritual everyday of saying a password. The password could be anything of the students and staff’s combined choosing. However, there was one strict requirement.

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How Far We Have Come!

Eight weeks of STEP! II EFL program passed us by so quickly! The first day of classes began with students quietly introducing themselves and trying their best to figure out what the teacher was saying in English so quickly. As the weeks passed, everyone became increasingly comfortable and with that the students began to develop in their confidence. Throughout the first five weeks of class, we played volleyball as a group daily during class breaks and through this a level of comfort developed within the group and this translated well in the classroom.

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Fostering a Brave Space

At the door of TYO, students can either leave their external feelings or share their sentiments and be welcomed into the community. As an educational and psycho-social organization, the staff at TYO inherently cares for the holistic care of every student.

In order to ensure the comprehensive care of every student, the staff and volunteers uphold that TYO is neither a religious nor a political space, but rather the space for empowerment and self-fulfillment. At times, however, this is easier said than done.

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Fairuz in the Morning, Frank Sinatra in the Evening

Music is a powerful and positive force that connects people of different ages, backgrounds, and cultures. Recent Nobel Prize laureate Bob Dylan, Adele, Ravi Shankar, Edith Piaf, Tom Jobim, and Sakamoto, among so many others, have enchanted audiences around the world regardless of their ethnicity, race, and native language. “Music is the universal language of mankind,” once said American poet Henry Longfellow.

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It’s Kanafah not Knefeh, bas tfaDal [But Help Yourself]

When my students ask, “What Palestinian foods have you eaten?” they always laugh at my response.  “No,” they tell me emphatically, “It’s kanafah, not knefeh.”  I pronounce the famous Nabulsi dessert in the Lebanese way, not the Palestinian.  And though there are obvious, clear differences between the cultures of the two countries, and even the culture of Palestinians living in Lebanon and Palestine, I cannot ignore the similarities of teaching in both.

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Being Uniquely Me and the Curiosity of New Friends

I arrived in Nablus having lived in an Arabic-speaking country and having lived in a more conservative environment before. Whenever I am placed in the aforementioned environments, there is a tendency to want to conform. However, the most the liberating of options is to just be me and welcome all questions about my differences and individuality as a opportunity for an unique kind of cultural exchange.

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From China to Palestine: An Unexpected Journey

Life called me to TYO as I finished up my experience working with Peace Corps in China. I was drawn to the fellowship position as it combined both of my passions: education and experiencing the cultures of the world. As the taxi brought me into Nablus for my first time the wind was blowing into the car and the call to prayer began as it was 5:00 in the morning. All I can remember is an overwhelming feeling that once again life had brought me to the exact place I needed to be.

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Living Through Life's Questions

As poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke says, “Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

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What Do an Island and the Letter 'T' Have in Common?

People often say that jokes are the most difficult thing to translate.  While this can sometimes be  true, joking can actually transcend language barriers.  It’s also a good way to trick people into learning a language.  Comedy is a great way to learn a language, or really anything for that matter.  

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Shared Excitement and a Hunger to Learn

Language education on the global scale becomes of greater importance everyday. With expanding communities through social media, sometimes language is the only barrier that separates human beings and ideas. Upon my arrival to Nablus, I felt a sincere interest and urgency in learning the local Arabic dialect from the most simple of phrases regarding food or directions to more complex vocabulary surrounding the history and culture of the Nabulsi people. Entering Nablus and jointing the TYO team as an EFL fellow, I was especially interested to know and understand the language of my incoming students.

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The Power of Teaching: A Gift That Gives Years Later

As a child growing up in New York City enrolled in the public school system, I changed schools at every level of education (i.e. Elementary, Middle and High school). This meant I sat in the classrooms of upwards of 50 different teachers. Some of these teachers I liked, while some less so. Then there were some who changed my life. The most prominent being my high school Global History teacher, Mr. Moscow.

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