five Al-Wāḥa things I miss...
Published: September 23, 2018
It has been a month since the Al-Wāḥa summer season ended, and I still find myself thinking of the people I met there, staff and villagers alike, of everything we did and didn’t get to do, and of all the things about the Arabic language and Arab culture that we learned and have yet to learn together. I decided that a month is the perfect time to reminisce on the blog about Al-Wāḥa, because it’s distant enough to miss, but close enough to have our memories fresh at hand. So, without further dawdling, here are five Al-Wāḥa things I miss:
1. The community. Every time I leave a place, what I miss the most about it is its people. Any place where people gather together for a positive, common mission is a special place. For me, Al-Wāḥa is much more than that. Sometimes as an Arab-American, I feel like the Arab part of my identity, the language and culture, doesn’t quite matter as much as English and the “mainstream” American culture. It sometimes feels like no one knows and no one cares to know, and it’s especially painful when crises that are happening in the Middle East barely have a place on American news channels. Al-Wāḥa is a strong reminder that this is not the case. Although Arabic is not a language commonly taught in schools, like French or Spanish, for the past two years, for a month, over 80 villagers, eager to learn Arabic and immerse themselves in Arab culture, come to our Village. That so many people care and want to learn is deeply meaningful to me, and deeply reassuring.
2. That it’s a genuinely creative space. I am currently reading a book about adolescents and digital literacy. The book presents multiple testimonials of secondary school students who say that it’s not that they don’t want to do work, but that they want to do work that matters. Others complain that when they go to teachers with new ideas, they are often turned down or told that there is not enough time. I have noticed that at Al-Wāḥa, staff are encouraged to take their ideas and go for it. Villagers, especially credit villagers, are also given a lot of flexibility in terms of what they want to make happen at the village. One occasion in which both of those scenarios met was when one of our counselors wanted to hold a carnival as an evening program and enlisted the help of his credit students in making that happen. Those credit students were able to give something back to their community in terms of a mega-fun evening program, collaborated with their friends to make the evening happen, and learned a ton of new Arabic words while doing it.
Our dance competition evening program also allowed villagers to get creative in a new way!
3. The location. Al-Wāḥa’s site is beautiful. Watching the sunset at the beach is one of my favorite parts of being at Al-Wāḥa. Being able to see the stars so clearly at night is a special privilege. All the greenery, despite containing ticks, poison ivy, and the occasional wild animal, is restful on the eyes. And the walk up the hill from Al-Quds, our dining hall, to the nadi, our gym, does wonders for your quads and calf muscles.
4. The food. We have had an amazing kitchen staff for the past two years that I have been at Al-Wāḥa. They’re eager to learn about Arab cuisine, which means that they do an incredible job of bringing to us dishes from all over the Middle East and North Africa. Some of us don’t live in places where Arab cuisine is readily available; others live in big enough cities but still have to go out and hunt for good authentic Middle-Eastern food and can’t afford to do so more than once in a while. Where else are you able to have delicious mana’eesh from the Levantine for breakfast, yummy Egyptian koshari for lunch, and mouth-watering Iraqi okra and beef stew for dinner?!
5. The learning. Al-Wāḥa is a place where people who speak any level of the Arabic language have something new to learn. I grew up speaking the Egyptian dialect of Arabic at home. At Al-Wāḥa, through songs and by talking to my peers, I got to learn words in the Moroccan dialect, in the Palestinian dialect, and in Modern Standard Arabic. I got to meet Arabs who were Christians and Muslims. I learned about the Israeli-Arab conflict from those who had experienced it firsthand. I learned some French when Lac du Bois came to visit. I even learned about the power of being determined to learn from one staff member who studied Arabic, came back to the U.S. after a year in Morocco and spoke the Moroccan dialect fluently!
This list doesn’t do justice to all the amazing memories and friendships I made this summer and the last at Al-Wāḥa. The only way to really understand the love I have for Al-Wāḥa would be for you, dear reader, to meet me there next summer. For those of you who are reading this blog to find out if you should come here or not, I, without hesitation, highly encourage you to. For those of you back reading the blog to reminisce with me about all that we’ve accomplished and lived together this summer, I miss you, and hope to see you back next year!
Al-Wāḥa Photographer/Blogger/Marketing Assistant
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