Winning More Than Just First Place

This session at TYO marked my first-time teaching 5th and 6th graders English, and with it the introduction to a huge group of students who seemed to have boundless enthusiasm and limitless amounts of energy. In the spirit of TYO, I looked for ways to redirect and focus this energy, rather than trying to suppress it and control it, and ended up introducing my favorite personal teaching style into the classroom: Competition.

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The Art of Making Mistakes

"There is no such thing as a mistake in art.” Even now, years later, I can still remember my elementary school art teacher encouraging me to embrace mistakes. She showed me how a misplaced line or extra paint splotch could become a new design. There is always a way to transform an accident into an opportunity. As a child pre-occupied with perfection, art gave me space to develop at my own pace. I enjoyed learning without worrying about making mistakes.

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What Lies Beyond My Comfort Zone

In three short weeks, the teachers, staff, and students at TYO have helped me to discover a new confidence that I did not know I had. That confidence has come to me through playing music. Whether singing for staff, learning to play the ukulele for children, drinking tea and playing music with the guard, or simply strumming a guitar on the balcony overlooking the valley, music has unlocked both the culture of Nablus and my own sense of identity and purpose.

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The Heart of Palestine

Before arriving in Palestine, I had read and heard many stories of the warmth of the people, and the beauty of its landscapes. I expected that I would be met with the friendly faces of the people working at TYO, and that I would enjoy taking in my new surroundings. I thought that these expectations put me in good stead for my 3 months here. Yet, after just two weeks of the internship, I am still often overwhelmed by the reality of my experiences in Nablus.

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Who Says Grey Isn't a Warm Color?

Before I had even formally arrived at the TYO building, I was introduced to the hospitality of Nablus. I arrived in the early hours of the morning when few reasonable people are awake, yet I was greeted by one of the school’s security guards when I drove through the gate. As I unloaded by bags and was led upstairs to my new home, it was explained to me that the guard had voluntarily stayed after his shift in order to welcome and greet the new intern for the session. This unbelievable thoughtful and kind gesture soon proved to be the rule, and not the exception for Nablus. 

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Giggles and Splashes

Growing up in Southern Illinois, swimming was a central part of summer activities. Each spring was spent in anticipation of the time when days would become warm enough to jump into water and play with friends. In this region of the United States, the high number of lakes, rivers, and ponds also make swimming skills necessary for safety. My parents made it their mission to ensure I participated in swim lessons from a young age.

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Singing and Dancing My Way Through Nablus

On my third day at TYO I spotted a guitar in the corner of an office. I could feel my heart beating faster with excitement as I asked if I could use the instrument and was delighted with the positive response. It was a small acoustic guitar that was perpetually out of tune, but simply having it brought me too much joy to care about the slightly off sound.

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From the TV Screen Straight to the Heart

Over the past two years, the term refugee has moved from humanitarian development circles into living rooms around the world as international crisis and crisis force men, women, and children to flee their homes for safety. From the flicker of the television screen and cultural, linguistic, political, and religious divides, it can be difficult to process the lives of those living as refugees. 

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Nablus: A Hidden Paradise

One of my favorite new Arabic words that I’ve learned in Nablus is bejannan. A local staff member at TYO translated this word to me as a descriptor for something so overwhelmingly beautiful that it incites madness in onlookers. When I think of Nablus, I think, “Bejannan.” There is so much beauty in this city— in its people, in its landscape, in the rich culture of Palestinians—and TYO will always hold a special place in my heart for giving me the opportunity to be here.

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Goodbye Nablus, at Least for Now

Being assigned to write a blog regarding my experiences here in Palestine is something which I find to be deceiving in its façade of simplicity. How to encapsulate three busy and complex months’ worth of adventures and thoughts so abstract from my daily life at home in a way that conveys the true process and learning that I have had is difficult. Reflecting on being an intern at TYO is like rapidly flicking through a photo album without a pause for thought

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Lonely No More: An Interview With Minna

Minna is 3rd grade student from the neighborhood of Khallet al Amood. She heard about TYO from her friends at school. The students were enrolled in the Core program and told Minna about the activities they do and how fun they have at TYO. After hearing about the opportunity to play with other kids her age, Minna decided to register for the Core Child Program. This is Minna’s first session at TYO.

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From Head to Heart: A Journey into Nablus

In her acclaimed Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability, Brene Brown, explains that the human experiences of courage, authenticity, empathy, and connection are deeply interconnected to vulnerability and shame. In short, courage and authenticity are born from the willingness to lay our guards down and step into our vulnerabilities, essentially opening our hearts and expressing how we feel, instead of numbing ourselves from the dark, messy aspects of our lives that make us feel shame. Unfortunately, when we shut ourselves away from the “bad,” we also miss out on the “good” and the best experiences that life has to offer, such as love and joy.

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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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