by Nate Scholz
I took the opportunity, less than a week before leaving for Lebanon, to interview Naomi and Gideon about their expectations. We’ll be there for 10 days visiting Lebanese friends, touring historical sites, and eating foods that are generally not available in America.
Our highlighted activity will be engaging with Lebanese and Syrian refugee students in the village of Bourj Rahal in South Lebanon. We’ll be directing a self-expressive art and poetry project, representing Voices of The Children, headquartered in Mount Vernon, Washington, and partnering with long-term friend in Lebanon who works with a UNHCR partner organization, called SHEILD.
Nate: “So, what are you hoping to learn on this trip?”
Gideon: “Probably how to interact with people from Lebanon and other places overseas.”
Nate: “Okay, so, getting some ability to talk with people from other cultures. Good!”
Naomi: “I would like to learn some valuable leadership skills, and also learn more about the place where I was born.”
Nate: “How do you hope the students in Lebanon will be impacted by our project?”
Gideon: “Well, hopefully, they’ll have some sort of epiphany while doing this, or at least feel better about what has happened to them.”
Nate: “Good, so encouragement through social engagement with people.”
Naomi: “I hope it can help them heal and think about themselves in a different light.”
Nate: “Do you think that is how our art project has been impacting the students we’ve already been working with here in the States?”
Gideon: “Definitely the ones in Youth Dynamics.”
Naomi: “What makes you think so, Gideon?”
Gideon: “Because they had decent responses to it.”
Naomi: “I haven’t really talked it over in depth with any of the people we’ve already done it with, so we don’t really know how it has impacted them. It may have had an impact, or it may have just been a fun art project. We don’t know.”
Nate: “That’s a good point.”
Naomi: “So, maybe in the future, if we ever do this again, we should have a follow up phase where we come back and discuss it.”
Nate: “…and we could still do that, I think. I was thinking about how we had this interesting problem come up, where people were using more than two colors, and we needed to deny them. We wanted them to do something that was self-expressive, but then we had limits. We put restrictions on how they expressed themselves. That might be a good topic to bring up. How do you have freedom to show who you are, and yet have some disciplined boundaries about how you do that. That’s kind of how life works in society, too.
So do you think people have at least been having fun, so far?”
Naomi: “Yeah! I think people enjoyed it.”
Nate: “What are you most excited about as we look forward into next week and are preparing to go?”
Gideon: “Definitely NOT the plane ride. Maybe just doing the art project with the kids.
Nate: “Yeah, so it looks like there will be 15 to 25 students that we’re going to get to work with, so that’s good. And its going to be held in a room at a restaurant that’s owned by a family member of our hosts. It should be fun!”
Naomi: “I’m looking forward to eating the food. Oh, man, the food. It’s so good! I can’t wait.”
Nate: “Well, I have to say I’m really excited about sharing all the cool places that I’ve loved in Lebanon, and the people that we got to know, and show off my children to them… how much you’ve grown. They haven’t seen you in person since you were toddlers, so that’s going to be pretty fun to brag about you and all the stuff that you’re doing.”
Naomi: “I hope you don’t brag too much.”
Nate: “What are you most nervous about? …Gideon, you said the plane ride?”
Gideon: “No. That’s not the nerve-wracking part. It’s just the uncomfortable part. I want to say that it will probably be the language barrier – just not knowing what anyone is saying.”
Nate: “Yeah. That’s kind of what I’m nervous about too… being able to communicate for all of us with my rusty Arabic that I haven’t really used at all over the last ten years.”
Naomi: “I think another thing I’m nervous about is meeting all these people who I don’t remember at all, and they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, Naomi! Naomi! We remember you.’ ...trying to talk to me. I won’t remember them, I won’t understand them, and we’re at the’re house for hours. I won’t know what to do with myself. I feel like that could be very uncomfortable.”
Nate: “Do you guys have any questions that you want to ask me?”
Gideon: “I don’t have any.”
Naomi: “How is this trip going to be similar or different from the trips that you’ve taken in the past to Lebanon?”
Nate: “The first time I went to Lebanon was in 1998. I went alone, so I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, so my memories are helping me to relate with how you guys must be feeling.
When I went to move there it was very different, because I was thinking about changing my whole way of life for a long time. This is more like, I’ve been there. I’m fairly comfortable with the place. I’m returning for a visit, so it feels kind of comfortable in a lot of ways. For me, it’s less of a trip to Lebanon, and more like a fun exploration and bonding experience with my kids, where we can go off and do something exciting together that we’ve never done together before.”
Naomi Scholz is an artful American teenager who is passionate about multi-cultural people. She identifies herself as a xenophile. She also loves to write, so she will share her travel experience here with you.