"Today," Sean says, and pauses for emphasis, "will be a complete shitshow." (Sorry for the swearing in what's meant to be a family-friendly blog... but although I don't pretend to be an expert of capturing anyone's essence in print, I really wouldn't even be making a fair attempt if I censored Sean's speech).
Sean, in many ways, was not wrong. Today was the first day of class for us intrepid TFPers, and things were already falling apart in a major way. We met at the office around 11:15 to go over last minute details and prepare ourselves for the latest organizational issue. "So the Ministry assured us that we have the school," Jon told us, referring to the fancy facility next door to the boy's building where Sara, Ellen, and I were meant to take our classes. "They told us that everything's all squared away and we should be good to go today. But... Palestine. Cross your fingers."
Five minutes later, his cell phone rings. It's Kowthar, and the school has no idea who we are, and an eqally nonexistent intention of letting us use their rooms. Plan B, we're told, is bringing the girls into the boys' building until they can finagle a new location. "The parents are NOT going to be happy about this." Nope, probably not at all.
We arrived at school half an hour early to tape our rosters on the doors. Soon, kids started making their way in in threes and fours, and what ensued was... well, not chaos really, but it soon became abundantly clear that nobody had the faintest idea where they were meant to be. Twenty minutes and roughly eight hundred questions later, I found myself facing a class which included only two of the eight students on my list, but an additional eleven who hadn't, for whatever reason, been willing or able to register in advance.
I'd learned in Korea that laying down the law from the get-go makes everything infinitely easier in the long run, so the first order of business was DISCIPLINARY ACTION.
"Okay, punishments. What do you think is a fair punishment if you're out of line?" I ask them.
"Push-ups!" Ala' yells out. She's a tall girl with a black hijab, one of the oldest in my class at sixteen. Her English is noticeably better than her friends' and lightyears ahead of the younger students'. She's friendly and sweet and confident. She also won't shut up, and as I write her suggestion on the blackboard, I suspect that she will be doing a lot of push-ups in the coming months.
"Jumping jacks!" someone else shouts, with strange enthusiasm. "Laps!"
Clearly, my class is going to be a well-oiled fighting machine by the time we play Sara and Ellen's girls for honor and glory in the soccer championship at the end of term.
"Right, good," I say. "And what kinds of things will I make you do push-ups for?"
They run down the list: talking over me, being rude, not doing their work, speaking in Arabic, complaining. I think that, left to my own devices, I would have omitted the last one, but I guess they're used to a tight ship. Well, I like this even better, really. Sierra the Pitiless, future generations will call me.
Their English skills are all over the place. Ala' and her friends know everything. They shout out answers and shush the other girls when they speak in Arabic, often getting so excited that they need to get out of their chairs to make a point. We are having fun, but we're disorganized and loud. The fan is going at top speed and Israeli jets roar overhead several times during the lesson; combined with chattering and the scraping of chairs, we may as well be standing in a helicopter. I shush them over and over again. "QUIET!" I bellow. They subside, except for Nada.
"Nada!" I point to the blackboard where I've written "push-ups" in big letters. "Do you really want to keep talking?"
"But Sierra! You're so nice and good and smart." She grins at me, but stops chatting to the girl next to her. Masterfully done, Nada. I am manipulated. No push-ups this time.
With sport cut from the schedule on account of the location fiasco, class lasts only an hour an a half. It seems like ten minutes. I'm pretty certain they didn't learn a thing- I think they all could have done the present perfect exercise I had ready for them in their sleep- but we all, and I'm definitely no exception, walk out the door at four-thirty with more confidence than we'd had at the start. "See you tomorrow!" I call after them, already dreading some of these girls being switched out of my class to Ellen's lower level.
In much more depressing news, I found this map with the BBC story about settlers torching a mosque in Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem.