Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 26th

I can’t decide if it’s a good idea to play a song for my adult English class every day. It’s an exposure to American pop culture that my students wouldn’t get otherwise, and there’s something about music that teaches language so well. So far I’ve tried

Newsies-Seize the Day
James Taylor-Shed a Little Light
Rent-Seasons of Love

I also realized how effective it is to just hang out and converse. I have five guys that come to class consistently, and their English is pretty good. They just don’t have a lot of chances to talk. So tonight, I went with three of my students to a festival in Tubas. I think Haj Sami was a little alarmed that I just wanted to go out on the town with these young men, even though he knew them. I saw him giving Orwa a pep talk. On the way over, Orwa and Ameen were conversing with me in English and using the time words we talked about. “Before two days, I mean, two days ago…” I found out that one of my students had spent three years in prison for throwing stones in the first Intifada. From age 18-21. Can you imagine those three years of your life, being locked up?
We parked in the city and I saw that the empty lot they’d used for the demonstration was filled with chairs. Boys were standing on chairs in front waving Palestinian flags, Fateh flags, and DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) flags. They don’t like Abbas, but they do support his statehood bid. I heard them chanting,

Yalla, yalla Filisteen! (Go, go, Palestine!)
Miya-arba-wa-tisreen! (One hundred ninety four!)

We sat down behind them and bought coffee from one of the wandering vendors. But we couldn’t see anything, so they got me up on the roof of one of the buildings, while they stayed on the ground. This roof was for women. Not really an official thing, just so the women and children would be comfortable without menfolk hovering about. I stayed on my own side, watching the dancers from Syria and Lebanon, and taking some videos. One of the women came up and gave me coffee. A few minutes later, she came back and gave me orange juice. After 20 minutes or so, a few women and girls were on my side, checking out the view. The girls were giggling, and I knew they weren’t totally comfortable standing next to me. After a few minutes, one of them asked “what’s your name?” and we started talking. Her name was Lawan, her friends couldn’t speak English but English was her favorite language and she got straight A’s. They were all in 8th grade in the school in Fara (sp?), a nearby village. I was trying to speak Arabic so everyone could understand, but Lawan wanted to speak English. She was taller than the rest, and the only one wearing a hijab. She asked me if I had Facebook, and I wrote down my name for her before I went back downstairs to find the guys. It occurred to me that my former students in New Orleans were now in 8th grade. Rachael was really into Eastern culture, whether Indian or Arabic, and I’d taught her to read and write Arabic on our end-of-school trip. I think her and Lawan would really get along. The thought made me really happy.
I saw two foreigners on the street. Thought about asking them what they were doing there, but I didn’t. I also saw a boy wearing a “No Day But Today” shirt. haha! Ameen bought me a falafel, after I said I wanted to buy a falafel. Then he told me the empty lot where the festival was used to be a police building, before the Israeli army demolished it five years ago (using the vocab, of course) during the second Intifada. And now everyone gathers there.
They drove me back to Al Aqaba. Our driver, one of my older students, who’s usually really quiet and tells Haj Sami that I need to speak slower, really liked Seasons of Love and had been talking about what he measures his life in all evening.
How would I measure my year? Cups of coffee seems like an easy one, but here you could have anywhere between one and ten little cups in a day, so it’s not very consistent. Service taxi rides? English classes? Awkward moments. Calls to prayer….I think I’ll have a parody ready by the time I leave.