More than two months ago, I had the extraordinary opportunity to go to Lebanon for nearly three-and-a-half weeks. When I left, I had no idea what to expect, having never been out of the country. Heading to the Middle East, I knew I was taking the high dive before the short one. The reactions of people before I left was usually one of shock, followed by either a routine pat on the back “I could never do what you’re doing” or a dismal prophecy of how terrorists would blow up my apartment, kidnap my little brother, hold my crappy computer for ransom, and any other horrible outcome in-between. I knew it was what I needed to do. Spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, it felt like the right time to take this chance, to do what I had always said I wanted to do, travel, and travel right.
By travelling right, I mean working. There was very little cross-continental galivanting, no late-night-partying, no dangerous escapades with random foreign strangers who would eventually steal my credit card, and definitely no pictures of myself on Instagram hanging out by the Mediterranean (I think it’s for the best if I keep all my clothes on). I came to work and to teach. I’ll leave the Instagram selfies for the Protestant white girls in Jamaica. So, with no real communication back home besides the occasional phone-call back home, I committed myself fully to living into an often stressful, distressing, confusing, and all around fantastic experience. I only really knew three things that were definite before leaving, a) I was teaching English to Syrian Refugees 2) I was working in the middle of an actual refugee camp and c) I was technically working for a private school exclusively serving Syrians, which, when all the other aid agencies leave, sticks around to do the hard work. The rest was a total unknown until I got there.
Before the trip began, I emailed the head teacher with my teaching preferences (as requested by the school) and put down high-level learners as I wasn’t particularly excited about handling Kindergartener. It’s not that I didn’t love kids, I do, but I had never considered myself good with kids. Often I thought I was not only awkward in dealing with them but fundamentally disconcerting to them. With my thin rail of a body, my long head, bony cheeks, and my unintentionally supervillainesque smile I hardly thought I was made, neither physically or mentally, for handling toddlers. Imagine my surprise when class started on Monday with me looking over a class of 16 low-level students where almost all of them still had all of their baby teeth in. With no previous experience (besides some tutoring in college), no teaching certificate to back me up, and no other qualifications besides a fresh off the press English Degree, I had to transform myself into a great Kindergarten teacher in three weeks. This was not even considering these were Syrian kids, many of whom had not known life before having to live in tents. So yeah, I was in for quite a ride. And that ride changed my life forever.
I’ve got a few stories to tell. Over the next few days, I will be posting some writings on the trip that I’ve been working on over the past while. I need to learn to share more, and this is where it starts.