Thursday, October 28, 2010


Like I’ve said before, some days working with these kids give us a glimmer of hope, then other days… well other days I guess all you can do is hunker down, push through and be content that at least you got a good story out of it.

Yesterday, we were at our more challenging school, dealing with our most challenging section of students.  The days we spend with them, we see the students in two shifts. We get half of the class first while the other half stays in the classroom with their teacher doing whatever it is they would normally do, then halfway through the period we switch.

The first half went… about as well as we expected.  They generally come into the room, running and screaming and eating sugar.  After 15-20 minutes, they finally calm down enough to where we can play.  So we play a quick game, all through which they freak out and we have to keep stopping to refocus, then time is up.  Pretty standard.

They leave, then other half comes in.  whoa.  They come tearing into the room, screaming at each other, throwing things, bouncing off the walls.  Not really that out of the ordinary, but definitely with much more intensity than usual.  At any rate, two of the boys immediately begin punching and kicking…

Side note here:  One of most frequently asked questions I get from sixth grade boys here: “you know double double e?”  At first I didn’t get this, I was really confused, but through some pantomiming and demonstrations, I understood “you know WWE?”  Which, if you’re not familiar, is pro “wrestling”.  That’s right, Thanks to the wonderful folks behind professional “wrestling” sixth grade boys here are learning that the most effective ways of solving their problems are by masquerading around in cape and communicating through pile drivers and facebusters.  It’s hard to convince sixth grade boys that this is in fact NOT the most effective method.

Back to the story:  They started punching and kicking.  We’ve been doing this long enough that they know full well that when they are in our class, there is absolutely no violence allowed, whether it’s in a joking manner or not.   So then, when they choose to participate in violent activities, then of course they choose to spend some time in the corner.  So we sent those two boys to separate corners and one of them outright said “no”  Just like that.  So after some broken conversation in translated arabic in the corner, I noticed that other kids in the room were becoming increasingly loud and I turned around to see all of the kids engaging in violent activities. 

So we got them all together in the middle of the room and sitting in a circle, but that didn’t deter them from pointing fingers and screaming all sorts of blame and insults.  So we sat there waiting patiently for them to quiet down and relax so we could talk like civilized people.  A full ten minutes later, they finally quieted down and we began to review our expectations for their behavior.

Right at that moment, a girl from the first half stuck her head in the door and told the group that their teacher wanted them to take another test the next day.


They lost it.  Immediately every kid got up and started stomping around the room, kicking the walls, slamming doors, hitting windows, throwing chairs, screaming at the top of their lungs, some screaming to the point of tears.  Boys got up and turned to their WWE inspired coping mechanisms.  Each sixth grader had devolved to two year olds throwing intense tantrums!!

They demanded that we let them go and tell their teacher that they refuse to comply.  Naturally, we declined their request and told them that until they could sit down and tell us like civilized people what the problem is, then they have no business going anywhere.  So for the next 15 minutes, we watched them throw fits, making complete fools of themselves, until eventually their voices were hoarse and they were running out of steam.  Finally we got them all into a circle and we asked them why they were angry.  We asked them how they reacted when they received some bad news.  Then asked them how they should have reacted… they didn’t have an answer.  Unbelievable.  Is this all they know?  So we went back, touching on the things we’ve learned so far about listening and respect and their roles in solving problems.  How quickly they forget.  Eventually we let two kids go a little early to talk to their teacher and we wrapped up with the rest. 

As we sent the rest of the kids out the door, the two we had sent returned, livid.  They ran into the room and pointing at us and screaming at the top of their lungs that it was our fault they have to take the test again because we didn’t let them go early enough to try talk their way out of it.  Upon hearing this news, the rest of the group, who had managed to pull it together a little, blew up again. 

Our time ended with the entire group storming and flailing themselves out of the room in blind fury… it was an ugly sight. 

I feel like one of the things that really irks me about the culture is the inability to accept responsibility.  EVERYTHING becomes an argument trying to place blame or responsibility elsewhere.

I don’t mean to sound gripy, but such are our adventures here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Adventures in Arabic Translation


Dowel Balek = Calm Down, but literally translated, “stretch your mood”

Monday, October 25, 2010

TRUST me, you’ll SEE….


Two months here now.  One successful visa run… for me at least.  We’ll see how Char’s goes.  Things are changing.

I’m starting to see change in the kids we’re working with.  Although it’s slow, and often times painful, change is happening.

One of the schools we work with is particularly difficult.  I don’t know what makes the kids in this school so different from others, but these kids are mean.  Mean with their words and mean with their fists.  They are so violent.  All of our sessions with these kids have been trying to get them to understand that when they are with us, violence (whether physical or verbal) is not tolerated.  We make sure they understand that it is their choice and if they choose to behave in such a disrespectful manner, then they chose to accept the consequence.  More often than not, they end up choosing to accept the consequences.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I caught a small glimmer of hope.  They come along every so often and when they do, they warm my heart and encourage me to keep going.  We were doing a trust walk with the kids.  We have them pair up and one person in each pair is blindfolded.  The seeing partner then has to guide their blinded partner through a series of obstacles or down a path, but they cannot touch their blind partner.  It must be done verbally. 

Now this was our second week attempting a trust walk with this group.  During the first attempt the week before, we learned that when sixth graders a blindfolded, it must release some kind of chemical that causes them scream and thrash and punch and kick and to break loose all manners of hell.  Having learned that lesson, we were quick to review our expectations of their behavior and their choice to participate before we let them put on the blindfolds.

It went much better the second time around.  Kids successfully led their partners through doorways and around chairs with only minor injuries.  Then we switched so each partner got to experience each role.

Afterwards, we sat down to debrief and discuss our experience.  We talked about listening and how hard it can be when there’s people screaming all around us, and how we can remedy that problem.  We talked about how listening can build trust.  More often than not when we begin to talk about how to apply what we’ve learned in this activity to our own lives, the younger kids say something to the effect of “we can help blind people without touching them.”  Very true, says I.  While that is an obvious, correct, and for most kids, un-relatable answer, in this case it held some water.

You see, in their sixth grade, they actually have a blind classmate.  So instead of these kids pumping out answers like “help blind people,” what we got was “It must be hard to be blind and always having to trust other people to tell you where to go.”  And “Achmed (the blind kid) has it tough, we should be nicer to him.”  Of course at this point, my colleague and I are beaming with pride, not only because they get it, but because now they have taken the conversation on themselves.

They go on to tell us that the other kids in Achmed’s class are not very nice to him.  They purposely guide him into walls and trip him on stairs, and how Achmed will always take the blame as if it’s his fault.  The more they explained to us how unfairly Achmed was being treated, the more infuriated they became at the injustice of it all.  Back and forth they were sharing of how hard and scary it had been for them to trust their partner not to crash them and how hard it would be to have to do that every day, all day.  Then one kid had an idea.  “We can take way better care of Achmed than his classmates can, can you get him transferred to our class?”


Well, turns out we couldn’t get Achmed transferred, but they promised to look out for him when they could and they said they’d talk to the other kids.

Just to see this group of kids realize someone else’s hardship and consider someone else above themselves… that was HUGE.  And we haven’t seen that selflessness since then, but it’s one small step in the right direction.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Experiencing life as a Tourist

Drew and I finally got to experience the tourist life for one afternoon. We woke up on an early Sunday morning, which for us is unusual because we take advantage of our days to sleep in, both of us waking and waiting for the smell of coffee to fill our bedroom, then remembered, Oh we are not in America. We then pulled out the Jerusalem map and made a sketch of what our day would entail, first a long walk to the checkpoint, then security check, hop on a bus to take us to Jaffa Gate, then walk down Jaffa street to find the nearest coffee shop, a continued walk to the travel agency where Drew’s adventures would begin, then to the shuk (farmers market), then back to the Old City, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, back up all these stairs and steep alley ways, back on the bus to the checkpoint, through security, another long walk home, and finished with us passing out on the couch. With that we got ready and headed out to the world of the unknown. The walk to the checkpoint was…….long, and the only way was up, up and up. Our adventures through the city was filled with lots of people and lots of people kissing things, it’s always interesting to see how people respond differently when seeing artifacts that relate back to Christ. Some times it’s extremely hard to soak it all in because of the constant shoving and hurrying to take a picture, i was wishing the room was silent and peaceful, like the kind of respect people show in museums, only so that i could hear myself think and sit and soak up what was before me. It was enjoyable being surrounded by the constant smell of incense and the lighting of candles, the most beautiful thing was at times you could hear people whispering sweet prayers to their Lord, such devotion, desperation and passion.

After seeing all of these things and walking through small stone alleyways we both looked at one another and agreed it was time to go. As we headed away from the church we passed a cat with her dirty kittens, a man selling a bottle of water for way too much, a man trying to push his corn stand up this steep alley, people smoking and shouting, the colors of fabric replacing the skies, olive wood carvings of unseen camels….., shirts that makes us shake our heads, tourists taking their picture next to everything and nothing, people chasing after you to sell you an item way over priced, and the smell of warm pita bread making our stomachs roar. Such a fun day just being able to get away and experience the life of a tourist.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stepping Stones


Doing some stretches with the kids!!!


Teaching Naji how to jump


Seeing how many of us can fit inside the Hula-hoop


Teaching Osama how to Hula-hoop


Group photo with some of the kids



Friday, October 15, 2010


We are starting to get into a pretty steady routine here, where the weeks seem to go by faster but the weird smells continue to linger. It’s exciting to recognize locals by name and for them to give us a friendly greeting, if they are lucky they will receive the famous Drew nuzzle, which we all love. We were just talking the other day and were mentioning how busy we have been, we work Monday- Friday and have some event going on every night…makes for a very tired life and lazy mornings but we are loving it and so much enjoying the culture.

The other night, we were at church and FINALLY!! were able to do a load of laundry, which is basically our first time since we’ve been here, most of it has been hand washed in the bathtub, with that feel blessed that we are far enough away that you can’t smell us. After we finished we headed down stairs to the room filled with good food and great people. I mentioned before, but the church that we’ve been attending since we’ve been here is full of foreigners from all over, so that night the speaker talked about communion and how the Lord speaks to us in our own languages,  then he went around the room and had people read John 3:16 in their own language, we had the Germans, the Dutch, the British, the Americans, the Arabs, the Irish, and the Hispanic, it was such a beautiful time. Hearing people that night speak the Lords words in a different language then my own made God that much greater. Drew and I are very blessed by this place and the Irish boys. 

We also attended this place called AIC “Alternative Information Center” where the parents of an American woman who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer, came and spoke. It was a very interesting and informative night, the parents talked about what really happened to their daughter and how after 7 years since she was killed things have not been settled or dealt with. I think what really stood out was after the traumatic experience of losing a daughter/sister, this family has used it to educate themselves on the conflict here and has done whatever they could to seek justice. Its interesting to see how people respond to death differently; sometimes it brings people to a depressed state and other times it motivates people to do great things and they draw the bigger lessons out of it. The parents and sister of Rachel, the woman who was killed, are brave and courageous, and i only hope that if that ever happens with me that i too will be courageous and brave.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

‘S Goin On!

It’s been a while since we chronicled our happenings here in Palestine…

There’s another volunteer apartment below ours and it was in pretty bad shape.  Seeing as we had a new volunteer coming in, it needed some love.  So Char and our “boss” spent the afternoon cleaning it and patching it up a bit.  A few hours into it, we (myself and coworker Saleem) get a phone call asking for rescue.  Apparently Char had been cleaning out the shower and as she dumped some water down the drain, she noticed some movement… and out popped a claw!  Followed by another claw! A scorpion coming out of the drain!  Scary business.  After a minute to recover, she saw more movement… another scorpion crawling out of the drain!!  So we arrive on the scene with the two very sizeable scorpions in the bottom of the shower and poke around at them… they’re pretty cool.  After rescuing them into a plastic container, we decide to drop a little more water down the drain to make sure… and third scorpion came out!  And he was BIG.  After poking him a little bit, we scooped him up too and now they live with Saleem.  That’s right, lots of scorpions here.  The picture below is the big guy that came out of the drain.  His sting is deadly to an infant or elderly person.  To a rather healthy adult, his sting only merits a trip to the hospital. 

P9280261However, this particular variety is the not the only kind of scorpion around here.  There is smaller scorpion, with stronger venom, who actually is deadly to just about anyone.  What do you call such an animal?  That’s right, the Deathstalker!  How sick is that?  Coincidentally, that was also my nickname in high school.  Check him out:  I know the good folks at wiki says he won’t kill, but who you gonna believe?


Because of the Israeli occupation here, Palestine is very limited to the resources they have.  So most of what they do have, is imported, and very heavily controlled by Israel.  In light of that, there is only one true Palestinian beer.  Others are imported and are somewhat equivalent to budweiser or coors.  But the one truly Palestinian beer is called Taybeh, named after the small town in which it is brewed.  As Palestine’s only brewery, it is their civic duty to host what would be Palestine’s answer to Oktoberfest.  Aptly named Taybeh-fest, we decided to check it out.  We got on a bus with 18 other Palestinians and foreigners and headed north to the sleepy little town of Taybeh where for this one weekend, the population of the town increases seven-fold as people (half locals, half foreigners) flood the tiny courtyards of the youth center.  This place was PACKED.  We were sufficiently burned out on people by the first hour.  But among the big hits were: the donut stand (they don’t have much donuts around here), of course any booth selling beer, the local apiarist who had a sample of his product, and of course “G-Town! The Palestinian Hip-Hop Makers!”.  We unfortunately did not get too many pics, bad on us, but we did manage a sampling of one of the acts.  Presumably some sort of comedy troupe, that was actually quite horrible… and in arabic… maybe it was funny but we just didn’t understand.  At any rate, we got some laughs at their expense:

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We spent several hours exploring Bethlehem on foot today.  Great strategy to learn more of the land and discover some gems:

  PA090307“So no one told you life was gonna be this way…”


PA090308“The shepherd’s mind their flocks by night… “



Sunset over Bethlehem…


Thanks for following friends.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Make a Joyful noise

I walked into the House Of Hope and was drawn to the sounds coming from the back room, as I got closer I realized it was young and old spirits singing along with one another, “I want Jesus in my heart, oh yes, I want Jesus in my heart.” So I propped myself up on a table outside the room and allowed their voices to lead my heart to a restful place. There is just something about children singing to God that is so sweet and pure, I could listen to them for hours and come away so full. When the singing stopped it only meant one thing, my program was about to start…….

Today at stepping stones was another interesting experience. The moment the kids see you walk into the room they forget about whatever they are engaged in or whoever they are hitting, and run as fast as they can to give you kisses and hugs, or maybe even to hit you! Today’s developmental theme was learning to kick an object, so before we do anything we always start out with a few stretches and then let Abdo take over and lead because more then always he has us on the ground laughing. Then I led them in a bunch of kicking activities, which made it evident that they are improving from the first time I met with them, seeing and experiencing that charges me to keep going. Best part is we just started chasing each other for 5-10 minutes and then fell on the floor to rest. I'm starting to look forward to Mondays with these kids…..Wednesdays are a little rough

Friday, October 1, 2010

Before and Afters

Compost toilet

Before……                                                                                  AFTER!!!!!!!!

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Before………                                          AFTER!!!!!!!

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Stage and grass area

Before……..                                               AFTER!!!!!

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High Ropes Course

Before…….                                             AFTER!!! (this is why we are permanently orange)

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Living Room

Before……..                                                      AFTER!!!!!

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We’ve been working really hard in the heat and things are finally starting to turn out nicely

And I still find days to doubt?

As a lot of you know my dad has been sick for quite some time and coming on this adventure meant the possibility of losing him and not getting the chance to say goodbye. With that, i got recent news from my mom that my dad was decreasing fast, a whole lot faster then we had imagined. First it was that he was going to be put on shots that are like chemo for the liver and only people with semi healthy bodies are suppose to go on it, which if you knew my dad you would know he is far from that so there was a lot of risk in it for him. Then, I hear that the shots were decreasing him even faster then before….in and out of the hospitals because his blood platelets were dangerously low that he had to get multiple transfusions. Anyways you can imagine what’s going on in my head, “I’m not ready, this is too fast, I need to be there….” the need to be there was the problem because Drew and I are volunteering here, which means we are not getting paid, which means that those wonderful people who have blessed us financially are paying to feed us and house us not send me back to the states. So drew and I and a wonderful group of people have been praying for a miracle. I mentioned to the CEO of Paidia what the situation was and in days he sent out a support letter and within days the whole plane ticket is paid for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God is so faithful and so mighty and I still find days to doubt? If you and I reflect back into our lives we can be quick to shout GOD IS FAITHFUL!!!! GOD PROVIDES !!!! this whole trip has been very humbling. Thank you all for your continued support and prayers, be confident in knowing that the Lord is working in our hearts and changing us through every experience. “It’s when you are uncomfortable that growth happens” In that take risks, go somewhere new, listen to his voice, be changed, restored and renewed. We love you all