Thursday, September 16, 2010

Visiting Placements

Monday, September 13, 2010

Today I visited two volunteer sites! The first was called Aros El Bachar, which is an Arab women’s empowerment organization. This amazing woman decided that the Arab women of Yafo needed a place to go to learn English, computer skills, and other skills that will help them get jobs. They also offer legal consultations and help the women be aware of their rights. To help them make money, they have a doll-making collective, and they make the most awesome dolls ever. Hopefully soon there will be a website just for the dolls and I will link it when it is up. They need help mostly with teaching English. It would be different from our other English teaching opportunities (there are many) because it’s much more unstructured, so there is a lot more leeway and room for creativity, as well as responsibility and lesson planning.

The second site was the Arab-Jewish community center in Yafo. The center is on incredibly nice grounds, which was kind of weird for us, but we were warned not to forget that it is still an incredibly needy population that goes there. The center was very cool – they mostly need help doing English in the “American Corner” which is partially funded by the US Embassy. That really freaked some of the people from the program out – they were unhappy about doing something so “American.” I was talking to one person, I don’t remember whom, and she was saying: “I never went to Israeli corner anywhere…this kind of American propaganda scares me.” I told her that I had thought that all Jewish summer camps are affiliated with Israel, as are many synagogues and Jewish communities, not to mention college Hillels, and wasn’t that like “Israel Corner?” I think I feel that if the American Embassy is going to be spending money to help poor Yafo kids learn English – why not? They could be doing a lot worse things with my tax dollars. Like killing and oppressing Palestinian children. Spending money in a coexistence community center is not a problem for me, at least at this point.

At the community center there is also a youth leadership program where they train teenagers to be leaders in their own communities. She mentioned that they talk about things like racism, which obviously caught my attention. I’m not sure if I’d be able to work there because of the language barrier, but it is definitely something I want to look into more.

After the site visits, we had Ulpan. I went to the lower class and told the teacher I wanted to be in her class and I had already done the homework. She was like, “Okay, cool.” No sweat. And this class is SO. MUCH. BETTER. They are doing things that I already did in my class at AJU, but I know we’ll finish that tomorrow or the next day, and then it’ll be perfect. But it’s a fun, funny, relaxed, but still very fast paced class. She speaks to us only in Hebrew but is always careful to make sure she is understood. It’s pretty thrilling to understand 3.5 hours of pure Hebrew, even if much of it is communicated through pantomime, or through one person getting it and telling the rest of us in English. It’s fun. And SO MUCH BETTER. I’ve started calling it “Baby Hebrew” (a name which has spread like wildfire) and I love my baby Hebrew!

The WEIRD thing about today is that Justin, the dude from LA I had facebooked before we came, left the program! I knew he was upset because his apartment was gross and filled with cockroaches, but I didn’t think he was going to quit the program. Apparently he is crashing with a friend in Tel Aviv and is hoping to get a job. Since I didn’t hear from him the reasons he left so I won’t speculate here on this public forum. But anyway, I’m sorry to see him go. He was pretty hilarious to have around.

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