Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kiryat Malachi Scholastic Assistance Program: Wrapping up Summer School

A reminder:

I'm Eliana: Dartmouth College Tucker Fellow, Kiryat Malachi Scholastic Assistance Program English teacher, and over-the-top ENP fan. (For real. I really ought to stop rereading their brochures and Five-Year Report in my free time.)

And moving on:

So far as treats in Israel go, I'm more than satisfied. Even if we were to completely dismiss the relationships I've built or the experiences I've had, I could still get a kick out of just the stuff. I love the rows of gummy bears (/worms/hearts/berries/etc.) that they sell outside the Central Bus Station. And it's absolutely killing me that I have to wait till Rosh Hashana to wear my new dress. And I'm getting good use out of the spool of blue thread I bought partly because I needed it and mostly because the storekeeper complimented my Hebrew.

But those gummies are lucky if they live to see morning. And I suppose there's always the slight chance that I'll grow out of that dress somewhere between ages 19 and 120. And with a couple hours spent crocheting on buses everyday, my remaining thread is hanging by a thread.

Here's what I can keep:

English assignments. Loads of them, scraps of paper written on by Ethiopian-Israeli girls spending every day of their summer wanting to learn more. The girls who'd struggle over concepts like present progressive until they were confident that they understood, and who still had the persistence left over to memorize both the English and Cameroonian Fang lyrics to Shakira's "Waka Waka." I see their accomplishments in the morning that they granted permission for me to speak English to them alongside Hebrew, as well as in each of their self-edited and re-edited class writing exercises. Which I won't lose.

From our Let's-Talk-About-Why-We're-Here assignment:

"Education is very important to me. I can connect with people in a proper way. So we will be better people, and so we can find what is special in people. The world will be better."

From our Future-Tense assignment:

"I hope that in the future it will be good. That I can succeed in all that I do, fly to a lot of places (like Argentine, the U.S., Ethiopia, and more), and meet people from outside Israel. And simply to enjoy life and think more about the present."

From our Heck-Yeah-you-Should-Ask-Your-Parents-How-they-Got-Here assignment:

"My parents grew up in Ethiopia and they helped the family grow animals: cows, roosters, dogs, horses, and more. Their parents introduced them at a young age and so they knew each other, and they made aliyah to Israel and lived in Haifa. In a house like a caravan, next to the sea and there they had my sister. And they moved to live in Kiryat Malachi and I was born there and the family continued there."

From our I'll-Tell-you-to-Write-About-Your-Interests-but-You'll-All-Cheat-and-Just-List-Famous-People assignment:

"I like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Eminem, Justin Timberlake…"

From our Subjunctive If-Then assignment:

"If Amir from the pizza store were my boyfriend, then I would eat pizza everyday.
"If Uri from school were my boyfriend, then I would ride his motorcycle."

From the Rosh Hashanah cards they gave me after class today:

"I wish you happy holiday new and I wish you really good luck on the future and happy and I want to say that you help me a lot and without I would not be good and you was my friend."

After about six weeks, tomorrow's our last day.

Here's what I know now:

1. If you don't push, you'll lose your seat on the hour-long bus to Kiryat Malachi. And then you'll probably fall on someone's face when the driver makes a sharp turn. Conclusion: Push. Pay. Sit.

2. Brush your hair in the morning. They will play with it, and tangles hurt.

3. The word for "refrigerator" in Hebrew is not "cold closet." But close enough.

4. If you dance to the Cupid Shuffle and the Cha-Cha Slide everyday for six weeks, these girls will never confuse their "right"s, "left"s, or "cha-cha-real-smooth"s.

5. Hold onto the scrap assignments that the girls write out in class. They're infinitely more special than gummy worms.

Kiryat Malachi Cupid Shuffle

Exit Interviews (Hebrew upper, English lower)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer English Lessons: Kiryat Malachi

I’m Eliana and I absolutely love ENP! I’m from Nashville, Tennessee, I go to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and for two months this summer I’m lucky enough to be a Tucker Fellow volunteering with the Ethiopian National Project. I teach English in Kiryat Malachi (a small town about an hour from Jerusalem), and I get a kick out of it.

The girls I teach are 12 and 13 years old, and they’re participants in ENP’s Scholastic Assistance Program. That means that they’re eight of the 3,556 students throughout Israel who have ENP’s direct support in their academic lives. When they get distracted they can count on having an ENP worker on their back; when they want to go the extra mile they can end up with summer school and other supplementary programs. So here I am, with the summer school.

Work is a bit of an adventure, just about always. Even on the (comparatively) normal days I get back from Kiryat Malachi in the afternoon and just want to fall asleep on the sidewalk outside the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. (No, Mom. I don’t actually do that.)

Three weeks ago, I got the tiniest bit lost on the way to work. (Not because there’s anything wrong with my navigation skills of course).

There are three bus stops in Kiryat Malachi. I’m supposed to get off at the third and walk ten minutes to school. But the day before I had gotten off one stop too early, so it just made sense that when given the next opportunity I’d accidentally get off one stop too late. The bus left Kiryat Malachi, drove for quite a while, and then finally let me off waaaay down the highway.

Those weren’t my best two hours and forty-five minutes. I knew that the buses back to Kiryat Malachi were on the other side of the highway. I had a sneaking suspicion that highways are not meant to be crossed. I also figured that walking in the two-foot wide gap between speeding cars and the cement wall of the bridge was a bad idea. So I climbed down the bridge and landed in….

….a briar patch.

Daintily, of course.

(Because Dainty is my middle name, and because my dress and flip flops had been complaining for months that they never get to see enough wilderness action.)

It was unpleasant. There were a few miles between me and my students waiting impatiently in Kiryat Malachi. And I would’ve gotten there a whole lot sooner if I hadn’t gotten cut each time I took a step forward. (I think it may’ve been official Poor Judgment Day – once I had climbed down the bridge there really wasn’t any hope of extracting myself from the millions of evil thorns tearing me apart. Nor was there any end to my complete disgust with that darn Brer Rabbit, born and bred in the briar patch.)

But I persevered, as ENP volunteer English teachers must! (And really as most anyone must, if ever hoping to eat ice cream again or take a shower again or not get poked by thorns again.) By 1:15PM I made it to my 10:30AM class. And despite all my “seriously-guys,-go-home,-no,-really—I’m-IN-A-BRIAR-PATCH” phone calls, all eight girls were sitting around waiting for me. I taught them family/life-cycle vocabulary, they immediately employed it in near-identical “Dear Chris Brown (/Zac Efron/Justin Bieber/Yoni-of-the-Kiryat-Malachi-Pizza-Shop) Be my husband I will love you and our children” letters, we all left for home, I ate a popsicle, and the world got a whole lot better than it’d been back in the briar patch. 

I do things well, too. Really. I’ve gone to Kiryat Malachi every weekday since then, without much more bodily harm. (Not counting general battery from assorted instances of tripping over myself and not counting a bee sting, because I’m relieved to finally know I’m not deathly allergic like that poor kid in A Taste of Blackberries).

The girls have to walk a pretty long while in the heat to learn grammar in the heat and I still don’t quite understand how they’d choose to do that every day of the summer. I originally figured they’d just feel guilty if they didn’t come when I was bussing myself out every day from Jerusalem. But they killed that hypothesis when Reut got upset over my strict let’s-take-shabbat-off policy and when Lior insisted that the one day I had to cancel class I could’ve dropped off my really sick boyfriend at a clinic in Kiryat Malachi instead of staying in Jerusalem.

I couldn’t’ve asked for a better job, briars and all. The girls want to be there, and that’s only one of the reasons why I’ve got all the respect in the world for them. These girls actually asked for ENP to find them a summer English teacher, and ENP did. They correct (and giggle over) my Hebrew conjugations, they reveal more than I ever thought to ask about Justin Bieber’s love life, and they surprise me every day with their determination to conquer the quirky parts of English. I absolutely cannot wait to see what these girls teach me next.
English Class Ice Cream Trip (Shachar's 13th Birthday)