31 October 2011

D-15 Qattana's school and training

Today, in the morning, I was invited to give a little speech about chess, its benefits, my experience and the reason of my presence here.
I spoke about the game in general: the history and basics, how it was considered as a sport (brain gymnastic!), how computers could beat humans now, how women could defeat men... I explained also how the game was applying to life in many ways: decision making, planning, working rewards, as well as how it could increase their memory, creativity, way of thinking...

The speech was given to girls around 14 years old. The director of the school, who was very pleased with this meeting, was translating for me from English to Arabic.
It lasted about 45 minutes and the girls were really attentive. At the end, they asked me a few questions, like if I was enjoying their country, who taught me how to play chess, how many championships I have played, if I knew Enrique Iglesias (lol) etc ...

It was interesting for all of us and the girls looked happy: as usual here, I made a strong impression as a European girl. In the corridors, I had always dozen of girls around me just staring at me and smiling :)

In the afternoon, we had our chess session, and as per Diya's wishes, I keep on training the strongest girls. They have a national championship coming soon, at the end of November, to be played by team, and are really looking forward to it.
The hope of winning gives them a lot of motivation!

D-15 Qattana's Village

As usual in Palestine, here in Qattana, people are very welcoming, warm-hearted, generous...

Every meal is a celebration, with so much food as you can see on the picture (coming soon).

Unfortunately, these people really don't have an easy life. Qattana is surrounded by the "Discrimination wall": the wall and settlements are part of the view from anywhere in the village.

As we were touring around the village, Diya asked me:
- Do you see this boy?
Yes, I was seeing a little boy on 2 crutches at the bus stop, with a lot of difficulties to stand up.
Diya then explained me this kid was shot by settlers while he was at school ! It happened a few months ago...
The boys school is located very close to a settlement, and along the years, about 30 children of the village have been injured at school, 2 have died, and some are in prison.

The settlers' proximity is a source of anxiety and concern in their daily life. Some fireshots (in the air) and gas bombs are reported daily in Qattana.

30 October 2011

D-14 School and training in Qattana

Today, in the morning, Diya (the chess trainer in Qattana) offered me to come to a school with him.
Public schools are not mixed here... We went to a school where are studying 740 girls from 6 to 14 years old.
I have been introduced to the school director, a very nice woman, who took me for a tour around the school. It is very modern and colourful. They have so many ideas and projects going on, for a better future.
Among them, there is the chess project of course: Diya started to teach 2 years ago there. The class is optional and lasts 5 hours (very long class!) every Saturday.
The girls have been awarded many times already as I was explaining in a previous post.
She also showed me the art room, with many hand made jewelleries, decorations etc only created by the girls. The objective is to increase as much as possible their creativity for a better self-thinking.

The issue they have at the moment is a shortness in the staff and space. There are about 40 girls in each class, which is not really convenient. The director explained me the school has been built thanks to a german donation, and has been extended 4 years ago.

I have been asked to give a little talk to a class tomorrow, to speak about chess and its assets in general, my experience, and the Peace and Sport project.

In the afternoon, back to the youth centre. Here is a picture of Diya and his girls :)

Diya really wanted me take in charge the strongest girls while he was dealing with the beginners.
They all have a good sense of the game, but are lacking some basic knowledge: we worked on tactics exercises, writing their games and commenting them afterwards etc ...

Thinking sisters on the left !

I noticed they were very motivated and focused: after 2h30 of full training, they were still asking for more and more exercises!

D-13 My dream is...

Yesterday morning, Mohammed, my new translator and I went to Ramallah and walked around the city centre.

Mohammed is an English teacher, he's fluent even though he has never been to an English speaking country. Actually, as many Palestinians I have met here, the only time he's been out of the country was in Jordan, as they can go there by bus.
At some point, during our conversation, Mohammed told me:
- I have been dreaming to go to the beach for 10 years now.
- Where about? I asked naively (already thinking about some heavenly islands!)
- To Haifa (Israel). It is so beautiful there and so close to us, but we have no access to it.
He also told me he could go to the Dead Sea but it is divided into Israeli and Arabic, and according to him, the Palestinian side is very dirty.

In the evening, during the dinner with my new family, they were telling me a bit more about themselves. They have 5 children, and all the brothers / sisters / cousins / parents live in houses around. During the evening, I could actually meet many of them as they all go from one house to another all the time :)
The mom insisted for me to come and see the view from the balcony.
- This right here is Israel (very close by, with the "Discrimination wall" in the middle), and over there, you can see Jerusalem. Jerusalem is such a beautiful city, I would love to go there, but I have no access.
The dad added that his dream was to go to the Mosque in Jerusalem.

I also met the grand father: he is 62 years old and even though for us it is not a big age, in Palestine they already consider him as an old man.
He is still working like crazy: he wakes up everyday at 2h30 to leave his house a 3 o' clock. He is working at 7 am but he has 3 buses to take and a couple of check-points to go through...
At the end of his working day, around 5 pm, he has to do the return trip and gets home around 8pm.
He explained to me that his job is no located that far away, and before, he could reach it in an 1h, but now he has to get round the wall and it takes ages.
- If only we could be living all together with no occupation and controls everywhere... We would be happy to coexist, we are not asking to be independent.

I have already heard this so many times during my trip...

D-13 First chess training in Qattana

Today was my first meeting with the children in Qattana.

The goal of having mostly girls in the class has been fully achieved here, as there are approximately 20 girls and 2 boys :)

Most children are beginners, but there are actually 6 girls who are already much stronger. 4 of them are Palestinian champions under 12 years old, 14 years old, 16 years old and 18 years old ! They also won the Palestinian Junior Championship by team.
I was definitely not expecting such a level in this little village and was really impressed !

I must say that Diya has done an amazing work here. He's their trainer, and also a FIDE arbiter. He is very fond of the game and learnt on his own with some books.
He is happy though that I am here as he would like his girls to improve, and meet someone with more experience in competitions.

So, we are dividing the class in two groups in Qattana. While the beginners are learning the basic rules, we will work on tactic exercises and some openings for the stronger ones: luckily I brought some books for better level in case such cases happen.

29 October 2011

D-12 Ramallah and Qattana

Friday, I arrived in Ramallah early to meet Dr Ghassan and his coordinator Johanna in the head office of the association "Care Palestine".
It was a very interesting meeting where I related my two first weeks, giving them a full report.
Care Palestine is working on many other projects apart from chess, always educational orientated.

After our lunch, they took me to Qattana village where I will be staying for a week. On the way, we stopped and took a hitchhiker. We soon realised that he was going to the exact same place as us and that he was knowing the person we would meet there.
He then said "My nephew Diya is the manager of Qattana Youth centre and he is waiting for the chess champion to come" ! Jajaja... Small world :)
We left him at his house and he insisted for us to meet his grand daughters who will be coming to the chess training.

After having visited the centre, I was introduced to my family for the night. Yes, for the night only, as in Qattana, everyone was willing to welcome me, so I will be changing house everyday ! (very nice of them, but probably a bit exhausting for me!).
I spent the evening with the mom, two daughters (one speaking English) and one cousin (speaking English as well). They absolutely wanted me to try the traditional dress ...

We spoke about our different ways of lives. For them, life in Palestine in much easier than in Europe cause they don't have self satisfaction issues , consummation issues etc... They say that we drink too much alcohol and they don't like the fact that we can have several loves in our lives: according to them, true love is the one they have as they stay with the same person forever...

27 October 2011

D-12 Last day in Hebron

I think we managed this week to teach the new ones the basics, and to develop the skills of the advanced ones. We rehearsed a bit what have been done through the week and it was well assimilated.

I am glad to say, the girls won the team game today ! And they were also the best in resolving the exercises.

As it was the last day, we had a mini ceremony and I gave one medal to the best girl and one to the best boy. They were so proud of themselves! They promised to keep on working on their skills :) The centre also offered me a huge teddy bear; that's a nice attention ... I don't know how I am going to travel with it though :)
The two best kids wanted to play a last game against each other... The girl won ;)

In the below picure, you can see the two best children with Ahmede, their future trainer (who is also the guy who loves to be beaten by me!) 

Here is a pic with some of the girls... :)

Tomorrow, I will take a bus to Ramallah for some more adventures within a new centre !

D-11 On the way to Al-Mahawer

The house is located just a couple of hundred meters away from the youth centre Al-Mahawer, but it seems like a big journey full of adventures anyway!

I don't think I have mentioned already that the whole building is occupied by Samir's family, mainly his brothers and their wives. All the doors are always open and one goes from one to another apartment without knocking.

On the floor below us, I stop by and said Hi to my Internet friend :) I am going to her place quite often to check my emails as she is the only one with internet. She is 20 years old and has already 3 children of 2 years old, 1 year old and 2 weeks !
The oldest one of 2 years old seems really aggressive, I already saw him hitting his brother and sister but also his mom.

On the ground floor lives another woman of the family. She hides herself to smoke... Even though her husband smokes a lot, he forbids her to do the same...

Then, I leave the building and at the entrance, I find myself brought into a kid's fight. Sudheim just received a ball in the head, thrown on purpose by his cousin, the aggressive 2 years old. As a reply, Sudheim just spits in his cousin's face. I feel quite disgusted.

Then, I keep on in the street... There are something like 30 kids all over the place...

Soon after I start walking I have something like 10 of them around me :) The main phrases come back "Hello!", "Welcome!", "What's your name?", "How are you?", "I love you!"..

Before going to the centre, I stop at a little grocery shop to buy some water... All the kids come in with me ... I see a barely walking child, around 18 months old buying cigarettes ! Probably, his dad sent him, but still !!!

When going out of the shop, I notice a car going down the road very fast as usual ... All the kids are going towards the pavement, except a little girl who goes straight to the car... Oh my god, the car brakes like crazy and uuuffff that was close ...

So many emotions in just 5 minutes !!! Now it is time to teach ...

D-11 The training goes on at Al-Mahawer

The training is definitely not as easy in Al-Mahawer, as we have some new children coming everyday !

So, we have some children quite advanced and some who are just starting...
Luckily, the future trainer, Ahmede that I am also teaching is playing already a little bit, and can help me with the newbies :)

It keeps annoying me but all the team games have been won by the boys !

25 October 2011

D-10 Hebron city centre

Today, after the class, Manar took me to the old city and the city centre of Hebron.

To get to the old city, we had to go through 2 check points, and Manar was not really comfortable with it. The "chance" he has in this complicated situation is his European looking face combined with a perfect English (plus a true European girl by his side!). So he just plays the tourist as they don't ask for the passport...
When getting face to face with setlers, all the palestinians look at their feet though.

The old city is beautiful and full of shops... At every corner, a man was shouting to me "Welcome to Palestine!"

It was really nice to see another part of the city! The city centre is messy and dusty as I like it :)

Another thing is that people are driving like Crazy! There are no red lights, cars are going very very fast and with nobody wearing a belt of course. People are walking in the middle of the streets (Manar was doing the same and I was not feeling really safe!).

On the way back, I bought some vegetables and cooked a french quiche ... Hmm, it was so nice to eat something from back home :) Don't get me wrong, I like a lot the food here, but I am a bit sick of falafel and hommus for breakfast !

D-9 and 10 in Al-Mahawer

On the first day, I did not get the chance to speak too much with the manager of the centre, so he absolutely wanted us to meet and talk yesterday in his office. He expressed a lot his gratitude for my presence in his centre, and repeated many times that I was here at home, and could ask whatever I wanted. Arabic people are always very welcoming.

In this centre, we have some more teenagers; in fact, the class is open to children from 12 to 15 but in Shira, they were all around 12-13. The teenagers are not as easy to teach, but we are doing our best, my translator Manar and I :)

When they play individually, the boys can be quite aggressive between each other, so I try to make some team work as much as possible. As a team, they get along better.

As the level is a bit more advanced, we are doing exercises with check-mates in 2 moves, and learning also how to win some common finals of games: they come to the board and play one move each which forced them to think all together.

There are some talented girls in the team: they understand everything new faster that the others, and have a good global image of the board, whereas the others are mostly stuck looking at only one side.
However, yesterday and today, in the team game, the boys won ! (again and again!).

They got also their project t-shirt. I think it is really important for them to be included in this project and to wear them. In the street, I met two moms with my students, and they were thanking me for coming here and teaching them, as during this time they are not in the streets and they do something constructive.

24 October 2011

D-9 The life in Hebron...

My new family does not live exactly in the centre of Hebron but a bit further, which makes the place not as safe.
Every night, I spend a couple of hours with Samir's wife (Samir is the manager of Al-Mahawer youth centre), helping her in her daily job. She prepares about 250 snacks for a few schools everyday. It is actually a job opportunity given by Al-Mahawer for the women to work as well: they are giving them the choice between several formations (cooking, sewing, creating jewelleries etc). On the picture, you can see some sweets we prepared together.


We take advantage of this time together to chat. She explained me Hebron is a closed minded city compared to Bethlehem for instance. She does not want to wear her headscarf, but if she doesn't do so, she'd be insulted in the streets.
She told me that quite often, once or twice a month, some Israeli come to the neighbourhood... She showed me a couple of videos of them actually throwing rocks at their buildings, and yelling "We are all going to kill you, you Arabic people"... They can come at any time of the day, and during this time, nobody moves ! I met her nephew, who received a bullet in his leg, for no reason, while he was inside his building, at the entrance. He now has some difficulties to walk.

Here is a picture taken in front of the building...

She showed me another video of her son, Soudehm (5 years old and so cute) seeing some Palestinian soldiers through the window. He is yelling "I am a man, I am not afraid of these soldiers, I will fight for my family!" :) Then, he is going to the door, and a soldier happened to be entering a the same time. Soudhem instantly starts crying "please don't shoot me, please don't shoot me!".
It is very strange to see a little boy of only 5 years old with this type of reaction.

23 October 2011

D-8 Starting at Al-Mahawer in Hebron

This afternoon, we started our chess activities in the youth centre Al-Mahawer, when the children got back from school. Yes, a Sunday :) Their free days are actually Friday and Saturday.

I got a new translator who speaks very good English, and we brought all the chess boards, so we were ready. My translator plays a little bit already, and told me that in Arabic, the queen is not called the queen but something like the assistant of the King !!! It tells a lot about their society !

After a quick check-up, I was quite impressed by their level already as I realised almost all the kids were already knowing the position of the starting game, the figures' names and their way of moving. 
So this week will definitely not be similar as last week, as we will be going forward into some more complicated exercises and situations.

One of the animator at the centre was saying he was really good and absolutely wanted to play against me to beat me. It was very funny as I won very easily 6 or 7 times and all the kids (mostly girls) were around the table laughing... Our main target is the feminine population, so it was really a good example for them to see me winning against a man... They were impressed and it motivated them !

D-7 My new family in Hebron

Yesterday afternoon, I have been relocated to Hebron, where I will be giving my second week of chess training in another centre.
When arriving in the neighbourhood of my new family, I felt quite "impressed" by the situation: there are no proper streets, the place is full of junks, and kids are playing in the middle of it.
I felt better when entering the building as the flat was clean and the family is really nice.
They have 3 kids of 14, 12 and 5 years old, and I like them a lot already: they look very happy and full of energy.

The mom and dad are actually cousins (first degree cousins!)... and got married when she was 15 and he was 27... Once again, a cultural shock ...
The mom speaks a bit english and we had some interesting conversation. I explained her that a marriage between cousins is legal in my country but very rare and she was having a hard time understanding why.
Her oldest son is quite sick though, he has some real sight issues.

D-7 Emmanuel Monastery

Yesterday was my first day off this week so I decided to go visit my husband Timothee's cousin, Laure in her monastery. She has been living there for 10 years already and is really happy.
The monastery is located just in front of the wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, near by a check-point.
Laure, in her 10 years spent there, has learnt a lot and lived some very difficult situations; however, she would not like to be anywhere else, as she feels her and her sister's support is really important for the population.
The monastery is a very peaceful place, simple but beautiful, and as soon as you enter, you feel very welcomed.

21 October 2011

D-6 The engagement party !

This late afternoon, the whole family was invited to an engagement party.
I was walking by Hussein when we arrived in front of the house and he told me "Ok, see you later, I am going with the men now". I was shocked and asked "Do you mean that men and women are having a separate celebration even for an engagement party?". He replied "Of course, this is our habit" as he likes to say :)
It was very difficult for me to understand: even if I knew they were often divided, I assumed they would share this moment all together, as a symbol of the union of a man with a woman.
I was thinking that maybe they prefer to wait to be married for the mixed party, but Hussein told me that it depends on the family: they could actually also be divided for the wedding.
So I went to the women's party... It was really nice, the bride-to-be was wearing a long black dress with many sparkling buttons, and everyone was all dressed up. I was surprised by the big amount of make-up used, even on the little girls, as well as the fancy dresses and hair cuts that we would define as "very kitsch" ;)
The bride-to-be was sitting on some kind of "throne" and all the women were dancing for her ! This time, there was some music on ... :)

I was glad to see the groom arriving at some point, for some dancing, but also for a little ceremony where he offered a necklace to his fiance.
They both looked really happy !

I met 2 of my little students there, with their very cute brother, as you can on the picture.

After the party, I asked Hussein how was the men's party like, and he told me they were just chatting and having coffee... So I was happy I was with the girls :) I noticed the future bride was not around for a moment, and thought maybe she also met her fiance at the other party, but Hussein explained me that only the man can go party with the women... ;)

D-6 Last day in Shiraa

Today was the last day at the Shiraa Association... Times flies !

As usual the children were happy to be here and participated actively in all the activities and exercises.

Once again, the boys beat the girls in the team match.

We then paired them by level for some real games, except 6 of them that I thought had still not assimilated every figure's movement. I don't want to make them play without knowing this absolutely perfectly, because then, the games would not make any sense.

Ahmed was here today again, so we were co-animating the class, which is much better when you have level differences. He will be the one keeping on with the class when I am gone, 4 hours per week. The idea is to create a chess club and a team which will then compete in tournaments.

Ahmed was explaining me he learnt how to play chess by himself when he was a teenager. He once saw two people playing and he caught the chess virus.There was not any centre like Shiraa in the past, and no tournament either to develop his skills. It was also (and still is) very difficult to get out of the country and compete with the rest of the world. Competition is important for the improvement though.
It reminded me how lucky I was to be travelling France and Europe for chess competitions at a very young age.
At the end of the class, I thanked all the children for their great participation and positive attitude.

I gave one chess medal to the best two boys and one for the best girl, they were really proud !

All the children gave me a kiss and told me I will be missed, that was soooo cute !

20 October 2011

D-5 Checkmate at Shiraa

Back to Shiraa and its beautiful kids always eager to learn some more.

We repeated the whole thing all over again: each kid was coming to the board and giving all the information about one figure to the others: how many points it's worth, how it moves, how it eats, if it can go back / jump etc ...
There are always some kids saying it is too easy, and when arriving at the board, they get it wrong :)

Girl Power !
Check and checkmate in one move exercises were on the board today, and I was really impressed by one girl ! She found all the answers before the rest of the class, and the more she had it right, the more she wanted to keep on.
In the previous days, she was not specially above the others, so work definitely pays off !

Time to play
We got the chessboards out for the children to play some real games! Unfortunately, there are not enough tables, so we put them all directly on the floor... I thought it was not very practical to play but I have been told they are used to do activities on the floor :)
I could pair them by level, which was really interesting for them; I could stay more helping the one in difficulties whereas the others were happily playing. You always get some situation when they call you for some help, and you arrive and see both kings in check, or a king missing ;) They all speak a little bit of English, and Rabea (Hussein's son) is always helping me anyway.

As you can see on the picture, he has 2 bishops on the same diagonal ... However, almost all the girls lost against the boys, grrrrr :) Even the best girl ! I noticed she was very competitive though, as a boy ... it is definitely a big asset to play !

D-5 More celebration for the released prisoners

Today, Hussein took me to the University of Bethlehem where he was invited to represent his brother in a celebration organised by the Student Union.

There were many Palestinian flags in the uni, as well as peace posters.
The room was full, there were about 200 people, all very enthusiastic !
Two students introduced themselves and the ones following: associations for the prisoners, ministry... It was quite long and in Arabic so of course I was getting a bit bored... I felt better when Hussein told me he was falling asleep as well :)
The atmosphere was really nice though, people were happy, and there was some very loud traditional music on.
When the speeches finished, a group of singers arrived, and everyone one was singing with them... from the youngest to the oldest :)

Then, they called the 6 prisoners (3 women and 3 men) who were released and allowed to come back home to Bethlehem... and they gave them a special Hero Price. Among them, was the Russian girl Eliana, who just spent 6 years in prison... her daughter and mother were there as well. They also gave the name of the ones who were released but could not return to their home: Hussein went to pick the price for his brother.
Hussein explained me not everyone in the room has the chance to have a member of his family released: there was an old lady who is still waiting for her son, after 28 years in jail. As Hussein's brother, her son received a 100 years detention pain (it was definitely a surprise for Hussein's family to learn he was going to be free then!). All the returned prisoners were giving her a kiss on the head.

19 October 2011

D-4 Our 3rd chess session at Shiraa

Today, as yesterday, we started by rehearsing what we have been learning through the 2 first sessions.
We can see now a growing gap between some children and the others: some are very fast learners who want to go forward, whereas some others still have difficulties to assimilate the figures' different ways of moving. I think from tomorrow on, I will need to divide the class with appropriate activities for each group.
We learnt how to make "Check" and how it could lead to a "Checkmate" with exercises... The good thing is that they are all actively participating, and fighting to be the one to come and show the move on the big board!

Now they are all wearing their Peace & Sport t-shirt which make them feel like part of a project and they love it.

Team Game
To be honest, the boys are much stronger when it is time to play as a team. They won again the game against the girls very easily: they finished their game with a queen, a rook, a bishop, and almost all their pawns whereas the girl had nothing left !
It's hard to explain where this difference is coming from; it has nothing to do with their intelligence. I see the boys as more competitive, and motivated... They only speak between each other about the game and how to win, whereas most of the girls are chit-chatting ;)

"Courage, effort, creativity, respect for the rules, the opponent and the environment, the acceptance of defeat, discipline, plus the continual quest for progress are all values that Chess can put at the service of vulnerable youth to help them build a better future." I really try my best to make them all participate, respect the other team and shake hands even when loosing, as well as maintaining the rules like "a figure touched has to be played"even if it's a rule they definitely don't like!

D-4 Celebration for the released prisoners

About 300 Palestinian prisoners have been released yesterday in exchange of an Israeli soldier.
Among them, was one of Hussein's brother who just spent 10 full years in prison, from 24 to 34 years old.
Only 3 members of the family (his mother, and two sisters) had the permission to visit him, so Hussein has not seen his brother for 10 years... and actually he is not going to see him any time soon either, as he is not allowed to leave Gaza. Unfortunately, for Hussein and his family, it is almost impossible to reach Gaza...

In order to celebrate this amazing news, a traditional celebration has been organised in his honour, in his family's house.
As I was explaining in a previous post, men are having their party outside, whereas women are having their own inside. I was obviously at the women's party :)
It started very early, around 5h30 PM. About 40 women were sitting in the living room, until one of them started to play the tambour. Several women then stood up and started to dance and sing. They don't put any CD, they are their own music... and a pretty amazing one!

Of course, there is no alcohol circulating, only sweets and juices. They kept dancing for hours ! Every time someone was leaving, someone else was arriving... I think about 150 women from the whole camp showed up that night, the room was always full. Among the guests, I noticed one my little students, she ran to kiss me and introduced me to her mom: it was so cute.
At some point, the phone rang, and one of them sitting by the phone heard it. One of Hussein's sister replied and started to cry immediately: it was their "free" brother!
I looked through the window, and the men's party looked quite similar with everyone dancing. They had some music on though... I asked Eliana the house's keys, she explained me her dad had them and she could not go to his party to ask him "Noooo, there are many men !"... She asked a little girl to help us, for whom it was not an issue :)
I felt so lucky to be in this room, the only non-Palestinian person ! The communication was not easy though, as no one spoke English, but I tried to enjoy my situation to the most.

18 October 2011

D-3 Chess Training at Shiraa

The second chess session at Shiraa Association has come!

We received a special guest today, the Palestine West Bank Chess Champion, Ahmed, so we co-animated the class.
Firstly, we went through their notes taken yesterday, and the children got it all correct :)
Then, we continue on new pieces' movements on the board, with some corresponding excercices. We tried as much as possible to make the kids participate.
So everytime a answer needs to be done, the kid are coming to the chess board to show it. They are very proud of themselves when they find the correct answer.
In order for them to work as a team, we made them play one game on the big chess training board, boys against girls ! For every move to be played, one member of the team was coming to the board. They were quite competitive, and instead of playing on their own each move, they were thinking about it all together.
The boys won the game ...

D-3 Cultural differences

Today, I have been invited to Hussein's sisters' place for some conversation.
My first surprise was that they are living in the flat just above :) My second surprise was that they were actually between 40 and 60 years old, which is something I was not imagining for 3 sisters living together.
They actually still live at their father's house because they are not married. They explained me a woman can only leave her parents' house when she finds the man she'll be spending her life with. The 52 years old one confessed she has not lost hope yet and is confident she'll find an husband soon. The 40 years old asked me to take her in my luggage back to Spain as she thinks it will be easier to find there. She asked me "Do they like fat women there?" ;)
One of Hussein's son was translating for me. He added "Men can leave their parents' house whenever they want; I know it is not fair. But I would not like my sister to live with a man if they are not married, so she will stay with us until she gets married as well".
They asked me about my situation and were happy I was married... They could not understand though, what I was doing here so far away from my husband.
It was definitely a cultural shock!
As usual since I arrived, we shared some traditional food; I love their convivial way to eat all together, all in the same plate, with no forks or knives.

D-3 Bethlehem

I visited the church of Nativity, and it was quite interesting to see even though I am not much of a Catholic... they were so many tourists! Mainly Spanish and Russians.
Hussein told me they are all coming to see the church within the day but are not actually making the tourism industry work, as they never stay overnight in Palestine. There is no airport in Palestine, so they are all coming from Tel Aviv, where many touristic packages are being sold, with accommodation within Israel obviously.
Since my arrival, I have already replied at least 10 times to the question "what is your religion?", this is really a main subject here, as well as politics.

17 October 2011

D-2 Meeting the children for the chess training

The chess training takes place at the Shiraa Association, which goal is to contribute to building up a modern civil society, and maintaining sustainable development. Their activities are mainly for kids and women and our chess project is towards both.
After school, around 3PM, the kids arrived at Shiraa so we could start our training. They were 25 and they were looking really interested in the game/sport.
The centre had bought all the necessary material (chess boards, chess clocks and a training chess board), for us to work in a good way. Rabea was my translator from English to Arabic, and we started with the basics, as it was for most of them, the first time they were hearing about this game.
The kids look like fast-learner, and always replied positively to my practise questions. They had a good understanding, and wrote a lot of notes for them to be able to repeat at home.
I also improved, as I now know the Arabic names for all the pieces :)