14 November 2011

D-25 The inauguration

Unfortunately, due to some personal issues, I had to stop the experience one week before the end. We therefore organised a little event on the 10th of November instead of the 18th with a meeting in 2 centers: Qattana and Deisha.

In the morning, the inauguration was planned to be in Qattana at 11h at the girls school.
All the little girls were there, accompanied by their parents.
Diya made a speech about the project, the children, and thanked me for being there. I received a few nice presents, and among them the Coran translated in French !
For my part, I also explained more about Peace and Sport and read the letter written by Kirsan Ilioumjinov
to represent the FIDE.

I gave a simul against 20 girls, with the strongest girls among them (4 palestinian champions in junior categories!), so it was not that easy for me, who has played only a few games these past years !
In the end, I won all my games and drew one with Wala, a teenager that had accommodated me into her house upon my arrival in Qattana.

Once the simul finished, I offered 3 medals to the best workers of the week: 2 for the best beginners Gazel and Waraf and 1 for the most motivated of the strongest level, Yara. She really impressed me all week long with her fastness to solve the tactic exercises.

In the afternoon, we headed to Bethlehem to meet with the children I had worked with during my first week in Palestine, at the Deisha Refugee Camp.
I was so glad to see them again and they were really happy to see me too. They all hugged me and took my contact details.

They had prepared a little speech for me said my Maysan in Arabic, and translated in English by Ahmed while offering me a nice palestinian handmade scarf.

I also spoke about Peace and Sport, and once again read the letter representing the FIDE.
Once the speeches over, we arranged a blitz game between Diya and I: these 5 minutes games are always very impressive for beginners.

 All the kids wanted to play with me afterwards, and I was pleased to see they kept on improving, with their bi weekly training with Rabea.

D-24 Meetings with 2 NGO

On Wednesday, I met Colin, the director of Jerusalem Suburbs Community, in charge of 2 centres in Jerusalem: Kfar Akeb and Dahiat El Sallam.

He explained me more about the way he works, the funds, and all the projects accomplished already.
 Both centres offer a wide range of activities for children as well as for adults: football, volley, petit tennis, chess, judo and all type of sports, as well as language lessons: English and Hebrew or art workshop.
He is working with the ministry of transports to arrange a better connection for these areas to the city centre.
Last year, he managed to open an hospital as the only things they had before were some nurseries.

Later in the day, I met the director of another NGO called Care Palestine. I had already met Dr Ghassan two weeks ago, as he is our main collaborator with the 3 centres I have been in: Shiraa in Bethlehem, Al-Mahawer in Hebron and Qattana Sports Club in Qattana.
I gave him a full report about my experience in the centres, and he told me about his future projects for chess in Palestine.
He would like to set up a full training for educators of the National Education for them to then be able to teach their students at school.

D-21, 22, 23 days off

The holidays has come for the Arabic population and for me too by the way :)

We took this opportunity to visit Jericho, the lowest city on earth, but also the oldest inhabited. From Jericho, we went to the Dead See and experienced the floating experience as well as the mud one !

We then took the time to visit Jerusalem, a beautiful city even if you can feel the tension with many areas going from an Israeli neighbourhood to a Palestinian one.
They also have different buses and it is absolutely out of question for a Palestinian to enter an Israeli bus and vice-versa.

06 November 2011

D-20 Nablus

Yesterday, a day tour to Nablus was organised by the chess federation for my husband (who arrived on Friday) and I.

We went there accompanied by Diya, and met the secretary of the Federation Jiyad.

Once again, they showed how generous they are: it is really amazing! It was impossible for us to pay anything and we had to fight hard even to be able to pay for our souvenirs gifts! It almost made us uncomfortable as we are the one coming from Europe; however, for them, it was something really natural and there
was nothing to discuss. When we were trying to pay,
the sellers were systematically refusing our money because they got the orders from Jiyad in Arabic not to. They were explaining "You visit us in Palestine, of course you don't pay! Melissa is like our sister, and now Tim you are in the family too". hahaha

Nablus has a lot to offer to tourists: there are some archaeological ruins from 2000 before JC, and the old city is very charming: little streets and souk.

We got so much food (forced by the Palestinians) it became ridiculous ! But it was delicious ;)

Nablus and Ramallah were both full of people as everybody was coming to the city to get prepared with new dresses and a lot of sweets. Indeed, they are all on holidays for 4 days, from today on. Therefore, the youth centers will be closed and I won't be able to teach this week in Jerusalem. I will take this opportunity to travel around Palestine with my husband.

D- 18 and 19 Last days in Qattana

Thursday arrived, with the last training in Qattana.

The beginners have reached a basic level and the strongest girls have been working really hard during this week.

Diya and I are hoping we could arrange an exchange with a club outside of Palestine, for them to travel and compete with girls from another country. It will certainly help them improving: competition, new opponents, new training.

As we have an inauguration on the 10th of November, I saved the medals for this special occasion. We took anyway a few pictures, here is one with the advanced level (and Narmine, the little brother who wanted to appear here).

As usual Diya was kind enough to take the time and make me tour as much as possible his little village, and I really appreciate him for that.

We went to a kinder garden so I could meet the director and her daughter (another chess player, but with exams this week!) and visit the place: it is not really modern as they are lacking financial help, but kids are having a lot of fun :)

Diya also showed me the water "hole" as he called it: anyone from the village can go and take some water when missing in his family. It is mountain water. Every two minutes, a new person is coming with some barrel to fill.

On Friday, I could visit another holy land: the place where Jesus has been seen 2 days after his death. I got quite annoyed when the guide started to be religiously pushy with "God" and told me I should think more about it, as one day, I will be in front of God for the judgement and it will be too late.

03 November 2011

D-17 Day off

Yesterday, we could not have any training as the children had some exams at school.

Therefore, I spent the day in Ramallah with my family, as well as 3 sisters and the mother of my host: with such a group, the trip was quite chaotic :) . We took a shared cab to get there, which surprised me because we had 2 cars. Actually, they explained me the cars were in a too poor estate to get to the city, and had not been checked since a long time.... Hmm, in the village, we are using them all the time though and the road is quite bad ! In the taxi, I wanted to put my seat belt, and it was stuck : the driver yelled at me ... Translation: "Why are you annoying me with your seat belt, you don't need it !!"... OK.

Ramallah is nice and messy as you would expect. The family was getting crazy, stopping in each and every shop. At some point, I bought some stuff too, but refused to take a plastic bag. The cashier said "Pff, another one of these occidentals going green". LOL

I had never seen so many long coats in the same shop before ...

In the evening, I was invited for dinner to another family's house. I found there 2 of my students. The family is composed of the parents, and 7 children: 6 girls and a boy.
My host explained me they felt like they really needed to try until they got a boy (the last one!) as the girls are getting married and going with a new family, meanwhile men will keep the family land, the name etc...

Their house is located near by the wall... They showed me their neighbour's house, a destroyed one, between theirs and the wall. It has been burnt down because judged as too close to the wall by the Israelis.
We spent the night playing chess, eating (too much as usual here) and speaking about the recent UNESCO decision. The father was very upset with the reply from the Israelis: more settlements, less money.
He just said "We will just continue on living peacefully. I have the hope our children will be smarter and everything will settle down at some point".

D-16 Training in Qattana

We got an important visit today: Khaled, the president of the Palestinian Chess Federation stopped by to say hi, and see how things were going.

I keep on training the 6-7 girls with a stronger level.

They are good in some areas of the game, but their openings are quite terrible, so I am trying to focus on that, as well as tactic exercises.

There is a very talented girl, named Yara. She is 12 years old, and is actually the Palestinian Champion Under 12. She is very good in tactics and finds all the solutions before the others (like the Palestinian Champion Under 16!), I am quite impressed with her. She'll definitely get her medal at the end of the week :)