The Excellence Centre was delighted to host Mayuki Nishimura, a Japanese undergraduate student majoring in International Relations and Middle East politics. Mayuki has studied at both the Ritsumeikan University in Japan and the University of London. When she is not studying and volunteering she likes to dance, watch films and sing in the shower. (Don’t we all!). She came to Palestine to Volunteer and Learn Arabic at the Excellence Center for a month this summer 2016
While in Palestine Mayuki stayed with the Murad family who were much more to her than just her hosts. She said:
“They are one of the sweetest and the most open minded people I have ever met and I truly enjoyed my time being around them. I really loved having conversations with my host sister who speaks fluent English, hanging out with the boys and teaching the little ones Japanese! My family were so generous for taking good care of me without complaining about anything”.
It was not all work though at the Excellence Centre. The Centre arranged for sightseeing including the refugee camp, a Bedouin village and a street under Israeli siege. Mayuki also had opportunities to visit local parties and weddings, as well as her host family’s relatives’ homes which she says was an amazing experience.
Although Mayuki’s stay in Palestine was only for a month she came away with so many wonderful memories, but the best memory was being with her students at the Excellence Centre and seeing them improve.
“It was a genuine pleasure to teach the children’s class as they were so quick in learning and picking up new expressions and songs I taught them to build up their grammar in English. Every time I entered the classroom, I could see from their shining eyes how these little students were eager and motivated to learn English. Teaching in the English club was also a lot of fun. I myself learned a lot about Palestinian and local Hebron society from the student’s opinions. Once we had a very inspiring discussion on jobs and careers, future dreams and gender norms and gender inequality. Some student even raised the point that gender is a social construct and both guys and girls actively engaged in the discussion. I also had a lot of fun learning Arabic with my teacher Afnan, who I also got to teach the children’s class with”.
For anyone thinking that life is unbearable in Palestine, Mayuki’s experience was quite the opposite. She said that although it was not always easy for a female person to hang out in the city, the whole experience was one of the happiest times of her life. Despite the depressing circumstances of Israeli occupation, life in Hebron was always so rich and everyday had so much to offer. In her own words Mayuki says:
“The people here know how to enjoy life and make the most of it. Throughout my stay here, a lot of moments reminded me of the poem by Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “we have on this land everything what makes life worth living”. I loved the hospitality and friendliness of the people so much. It was such a peaceful and fulfilling feeling when I was helping my host family preparing Mulukhiya to cook, baking cookies for the family dinner of Iftar, or chilling with my Palestinian friends and my fellow volunteers at coffee shops smoking shisha after work. The only regret I have is that I didn’t spend a longer period of time here. It was such a pleasure to have spent a month in Hebron and I’d like to thank the people of Excellence Centre, my co-volunteers, my students, host family and everybody I met here”.