Monica is a Venezuelan-American English teacher with a degree in Anthropology. She has spent most of her time since graduation traveling, exploring, and adventuring in different places to learn as much as possible about this amazing planet and its people. Her passion for culture, language, and connecting with people brought her to Palestine.
Which programs did you participate in at the Excellence Center and why did you want to participate in them?
I participated in the Teach English Study Arabic program at Excellence Center. I chose this program because it offered the opportunity to live with a host family and teach local students while experiencing the culture in a meaningful way. I also wanted to further develop my teaching skills and learn Arabic. I also wanted to be able to interact with the young people, to hear from them and learn their perspectives on the world. And indeed I learned a lot about the culture from them and their interesting ideas and opinions about the world and the Occupation.
Describe a typical day in Hebron, Palestine?
A typical day in Hebron for me involves going to the center in the morning and having breakfast with everyone. After breakfast, I plan lessons for the day. Usually I have around 2 or 3 classes a day. Sometime between classes, I go down to the nearest felafel shop for a sandwhich and dooughnuts next door. After classes and all my work is done for the day, I start walking home. Most days I run into friends I’ve met at local shops who’ve introduced me to their family and friends. We go for coffee or after work at nearby cafes or to have dinner with their families.
What level of cultural immersion did you receive?
During my time in Hebron I expeienced a high level of cultural immersion. Living with the family provided opportunities to learn how to cook traditional dishes, attend weddings, family cookouts in the countryside, birthday parties where I was dressed up in traditional dress, among many others. Given that it is such a friendly place I was able to make friends with locals who also invited me to many dinners with their families or to meet their relatives at their businesses. I spent many evenings having tea or coffee in their businesses speaking about all kinds of things, but especially our cultures and the current situation. I also experienced other fun activities such as riding all terrain vehicles in the country side, attending football games, or having barbecues.
What did you see while in Palestine? Which sites would you recommend to visit?
In Palestine I visited many interesting and beautiful places such as Bethlehem, Marsaba, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Jericho and smaller villages on the outskirts of the cities. My favorite places though are the small villages such as Nabi Saleh near Ramallah and Fasayil in the Jordan Valley.
I spent a few days there planting trees and learning of how the Occupation affects the Bedouin population there. I met most of the children while walking through the village and played games with them for a bit before being brought back to their home for tea. I would recommend to anyone to visit the smaller non touristy places, to speak and connect with the people, and see how their lives are affected differently than those in the cities.