Ted and Jane Settle, volunteers from New Jersey, spent from November through January living at Mar Elias, and they blogged about their excellent adventures.
“One day in December we taught two senior English classes, helping students prepare for their important national English exams. Part of the exam requires students to engage in conversation, answering questions based on an essay they wrote earlier in the exam. To simulate this experience we used cards from “The Ungame” to elicit stories. Then we asked follow-up questions. Three students’ responses stood out:
- One girl was asked to tell about something beautiful she had seen this week, and she said she could not. We asked about her bus ride to school every day, but this she said was just a bus ride.
- Another student was asked about a special gift he had received, and he lit up as he described a shirt his father had given him with the name of his favorite soccer team on it. Of course we asked which soccer team this was—Spain’s team—and we talked back and forth about soccer.
- A third student talked about his special gift; spending Christmas in Bethlehem with his family. (Understand that this is a Palestinian Israeli family going into the West Bank where Bethlehem is located, having to endure humiliation at the check point to get in and back out.)
- The girl who had not been able to think of anything beautiful asked if she could tell about a meaningful gift instead. She described how, when she was 10, her mother gave her a special book of stories written in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. The book also gave her places on the pages on which she could draw.
Of all the students we have met, this last student’s English is the best. She speaks without an accent. In talking with her after class, we learned that she is also teaching herself Korean. Her choice of Korean is based on her listening to popular music from Korea. She helps us see again the range of interests and scholastic excellence typical of Mar Elias students.
During the morning break after class, the students invited us to share in a celebration for St. Barbara’s day. We were happy to join them and enjoyed a bowl of this holy day’s special food: boiled wheat mixed with fruits, nuts, and candies. A student’s mother had prepared a very large pot of the dish and it was the best we had tasted yet.”
~ Ted and Jane Settle, Volunteers from November 2011 through January 2012, Mar Elias Educational Institutions