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.