Stepping Out

Yet there is another road in the road, and on and on.
So where are the questions taking me?
I am from here, I am from there, yet am neither here nor there.
I will have to throw many roses before I reach a rose in Galilee.
-Mahmoud Darwish

I think I am ready to go.

I’ve finished packing my small duffle bag and backpack, and I feel like I have everything a young man could need for two months in an unfamiliar world: jeans, tee shirts, camera, Arabic textbook, sunscreen, and copious amounts of deodorant. I should remember to pack my passport before I leave. I haven’t spent much time packing for this trip, because I’m expecting to live simply, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been preparing. I’ve been spending the last few months reading history, talking to people with travel experience, keeping current with the news, and making sure that I’ll be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead. I have the slightest premonition, though, that even with my textbook education, Palestine has some surprises in store.

I’ll be living and working in Jalazone refugee camp, in the West Bank, as an intern with Inspire Dreams, a small NGO that “provides academic, athletic, and arts-based education programs to Palestinian refugee youth”. I’ll be one of four volunteers picked to help the organization with its everyday operations. I’ll be helping to set up a summer camp, teaching classes, and running an educational workshop of my own design. I’m really excited to get to know the young people of the camp, which I hope won’t be too difficult across the language barrier.

(I’ve been studying Arabic for two years now at college, but the problem is that in a university course, students study Modern Standard Arabic, a highly structured version of the language that is used only used in very formal settings, like a BBC news report or a president’s speech in the Arab world. For common speech, every region of the Middle East has its own dialect, which can differ significantly from the Modern Standard. Thus, it’s going to be hard for me to understand. And when I try to speak Arabic, I’m expecting that my speech will be similar to that of a non English speaker trying to speak in Shakespearean prose.)

In my free time, I’m planning to travel throughout the West Bank and Israel. I’ll be keeping to a tight budget and a tight time schedule (which I can manage with cheap hostels and skimping on sleep), but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to see a lot of the land.

I’ll be sure to post photos up here of what I discover, and I’ll relate interesting stories I uncover. I’ll also use these posts to voice my thoughts about what I see. I realize that while I’m expecting to have fun, I’m not on a fun vacation. I’ll be walking on land where people having been shedding their fellow humans’ blood for decades. I realize that despite what my youthful idealism would have me believe, peace is not just around the corner. I’m sure that this land will be one that is fraught with contradictions and confusions, and as I sort them out, I’ll share them here.

Always feel free to leave feedback or criticism, and (for those of you who know me), stay in touch and tell me about your lives too!

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This entry was posted in Inspire Dreams 2011 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Stepping Out

  1. Maya says:

    I just subscribed! I can’t wait to read all about your adventures. I’m currently writing from my parent’s house up in the Swiss mountains, the one you visited, but starting June 20, I’ll be spending 8 weeks working at a summer camp in West Virginia. We’ll both be with children, we’ll both be doing music, but that sounds like those are the only things our experiences will have in common! I wish you safe travels and safe everything else, and I’m sure everyone around you will see the goodness in your heart and will feel instantly comforted. You’re amazing, and they will definitely see that!! I miss you!

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