My first time out of Gaza in 13 years! It was a tough decision for me to leave my family behind and travel to nearby Egypt to attend a one month highly intensive course. But thanks to the help of my precious parents and husband, I was encouraged to take that step. I needed to get out to get a glimpse of the outside world. So many thoughts rushed into my head as I headed out of the Rafah Border to Egypt in a six hour drive. I remembered the feeling I had 13 years ago when I had flied to Egypt from the Palestinian International Airport, which was destroyed a year later with the break out of the Second Intifada. But this time the feeling was surprisingly different. Is that how people change with age, or was it something else that made me almost passive as the car entered the big metroplis of Cairo. The only proud feeling I had was that I was now entering a new Egypt afte the 2011 Revolution. An Egypt free from dictators and due to vote for a new president just two days after I had arrived. Why didn’t my heart pound with excitement as I had expected? Why did the large city atmosphere not have an impact on someone who has been living under Siege, war and power cuts? I then rebuked myself for making such premature expectations and decided that tomorrow would definitely be different.
On Sunday May the 27th, I woke up early and headed to Al-Agouza to attend my CELTA training course at the British Council. I hadn’t slept the previous night as my mind was restless with immense anxiety. As the course began, I began to find pleasure in meeting people of different nationalities and backgrounds. My colleagues and course tutors were from different countries; Egypt, America, UK and Lebanon. The students we taught were from different parts of Africa; Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eriteria. They were such wonderful people who I found so much that brought me together with them as a Palestinian. I learned to work with and collaborate with this great mix of cultures that I felt really enriched with new experience in dealing with human nature everyday. My days at the BC were long, starting from 9:00 and ending 6:30 and sometimes at 7:00. To me, the best part of the highly energy draining course was the wonderful people I met. We all encouraged and helped each other to get through its challenges and we did make it till the end! There were moments when I thought I’d collapse, but although my physical strenght was not so strong, I had an enormous amount of mental and pyschological power to get me through. It’s fair to say that my tutors’ moral support really helped me keep that smile on my face and boosted my energy level. My wonderful team which included Hisham, Adnan, Salma and Anne was like a caring family which helped me to feel ease and comfort. My other colleagues Becca, Amir, Hannah, Phyllis and Sherif were very nice and helpful each in their own way. To be honest, I learned something new from almost every one including my wonderful students technically called : our TP (Teaching Practice) group. I knew my time at BC and in Cairo was quite limited and I meant to make my stay there as memorable in the eyes and hearts of the people there, even the employees at the Beanos Cafe who served me with my daily dark, black and sugarless American coffee cup. And when I felt that I was breaking down or getting homesick, it was two cups a day.
One day, towards the end of the training course, I felt the end drawing near like a sword in my heart. As much as I and everybody else were eager to finish, a sudden saddness took over me and my emotions were mixed. I asked myself: Am I relieved or grieved to come to the end and be closer to meeting my family. I went through all the laughs I had with my colleagues, some of which were highly uncontrollable for me. There was one time when our tutor, Catherine gave us an input session on teaching a foreign language and the model for us was Hungarian. There was an expression in Hungarian which meant how are you: ‘Hogy vagy’ and I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the lesson because to me it sounded like hot fudge. That and many other little things which gave us many laughs were beginning to all come to an end. I thought about the peaceful sky of Cairo I had been living under for a month and the dark and dangerous sky of Gaza and soon began to make comparisons in my mind.
A final word on the CELTA course. Although I did take this course for my professional development in the field of teaching English, I can never underestimate the amount of experience I gained from dealing with different wonderful people. To me, my personal human development on all levels was enhanced alongside the purely professional level. I felt that I cared about the people I worked with and that I wanted to make a good impression on my tutors and fellow colleagues of a practicing Muslim mother from Gaza who is optimistic, motivated and willing to face challenges. I realized that we all had so much in common, our difficulties, our hopes, our fears, our expectations. As humans, the things we were united on were far more than those we were divided on. There was a solid common ground which can help us build good relationships to help make a difference in our worlds no matter where we go. My colleagues are probably staring at their screens now and think that I may be too extreme on my positive pondering. To those wonderful people I say: I know we had some very hard times at the course as well, but I can’t make them ruin the beautiful and memorable ones which I will carry with me throughout my life.