Follow The Fennel

March 20th till April 3rd – Taybeh second time

These two weeks had been a quiet time. Quiet in terms of “not much action”. With five kids or teenagers around, one can expect noise. The holidays had started and plenty of kids proudly showed me their certificates. Most of them had mostly 100% or close in all of their subjects. As Israeli Arabs they will have a hard time to have a successful career. So there is probably lots of pressure to excel.
They learn Hebrew and English from elementary school on. But that does not say, they were as eager to learn English as I wished them to be. In fact, sometimes it was quite a fight. Last time, I tried to include English into daily life with communication and vocabulary games. I stayed plenty of time in the kitchen, waiting for them to come to me with their English books to practice. This strategy had two flaws: First, I was not often able to get a hold on them. Second, waiting for kids to come to learn? Well, it happened, sometimes. I pursued another strategy this time. I asked two of them for one hour English with their schoolbooks daily. But still, it seemed to be a fight to me. I also somehow managed to get a cold and had some other personal issues to work out. Stressed and pissed as I was, I talked to a friend who is an experienced mathematics online instructor. He told me, the kids do not know how important English is, so I have to motivate them. With that, the penny dropped: First, I did not realize the kids do not know about the importance of English. Second, my inner mindset was not appropriate. So I made sure to smile, laugh a lot, and to show enthusiasm myself. I increased my attention to encourage and to compliment them, using the psychological method of positive reinforcement. And behold, I did no longer need to hunt down my students for the daily English session. One even told me that she usually hates English, but loves it with me. That made me really happy.
I also learned that it is challenging for me to keep up this inner attitude of spreading motivation. But I guess I should not expect myself to be able to spread high motivation every single day, or should I?

One of the kids took me with her to visit a friend in the West Bank. We stayed over night and went there in early morning. It was a small village. I talked to both of the parents and especially the mother impressed me. Besides of her job she owned a shoe shop, was responsible for a women’s cooperative in her village, and was active with the parents’ association. She actually is an English teacher but due to the low salary she changed to a NGO-related office job. Her husband, originally from Jordan, could not leave the house for years. He would have been deported back to Jordan. Now he works for Nestle.
We went to a family visit, to a wedding, to KFC and back home in late evening. The kids were fancy about going to KFC. I politely declined any food from this chicken mass-slaughterer and mass rubbish-producer. The wedding was loud and funny and this time I danced.
On the next day the kids went to a sweets picnic in the hills and took me with them. First we plundered a fruit tree. Internet told me later the very tasty fruits were loquats. After that we went to the sweets shop. The girls got ice cream, sweets and instant noodle soups. I got almonds. Then we finally hiked on the hills. There were many beautiful plants right next to the dirt road. I even found a plant that I only knew from an old children’s book and had never seen in Germany: an Arum. Astonished by the beauty around me, I took plenty of photos. When we had picnic the girls started to throw their rubbish into the landscape. I decided to stop being the neutral observer and collected the rubbish, explaining it is not beautiful and dangerous to animals. The girls agreed and we put everything into a plastic bag. Just one girl challenged me by explicitly throwing stuff. To make things worse, she asked me if I have a religion. I could have said something like “Earth is holy to me and not treating nature with respect, e.g. by leaving rubbish, is blasphemy to me”. But I guess this would have only caused trouble. In the end I just ignored her behaviour, choosing not to pick up her challenge.
My mood dropped even more when the kids discovered an almond tree and ripped of whole twigs instead of just taking the unripe almonds. Unripe almonds are eaten in this area, not really a must try. Of course they also picked some of the beautiful flowers and even accidentally smashed one beetle to take it out of the photo. Being confronted with that intense lack of respect for live, I got quite pissed and remembered very well why I never want to have kids. I will never understand why humans tend to cut the branch they are sitting on. Once again I shared my frustration with a friend who managed to calm me down. Still, the whole thing got kind of ironic when Palestinians complained to me about an Israeli dumping ground, mostly, but only mostly, nicely covered with soil and grass. It is indeed not nice to just bury your rubbish in the country you occupy. But regarding all the rubbish flying around everywhere in West Bank and regarding how careless everyone produces rubbish, this landfill appears to me to be something minor. Actually it makes a good example for the Palestinian habit of blaming everything on occupation. Occupation certainly is a terrible thing, but using it as a cheap excuse makes it only worse. Once again I shared my frustration with a friend who managed to calm me down.

Still, I love the West Bank and I am sorry my plans of staying there for 3 months did not work out. But what to do when there are no volunteering options I can afford?

In Summary, it was a pleasure to be with the family and I am grateful for this experience of culture. I hope we stay in contact. After two weeks I said goodbye to the family and went back to Tel Aviv. Do you remember my bad luck with hitchhiking to Tel Aviv last time? As a precaution I decided to be married while I am hitchhiking. Well, this time it would not have been necessary, I only got good rides.

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