1st session, Middle East & South Asian regions SOP

Trip Start Jun 13, 2012
Trip End Jun 14, 2013

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Seeds of Peace International camp

Flag of United States  , Maine
Monday, June 25, 2012

Seeds of Peace first session:
First of all, I think you deserve an intro as to what SOP camp is all about.
Seeds of Peace camp has been running since 1993, founded by John Wallach, and Bobbie Gochack.

The main content that differs this camp to any other in the world, is  the fact that these kids through a dialogue session everyday for an hour and a half.
These kids come from the middle east region: Israel, Palestine, Jordan, & Egypt and the South Asian region: Afghanistan, Pakistan, & India. Together with an American delegation they are put together by conflict regions and throughout the whole day stay together whilst they have endless amounts of activities. Activities that range from Canoeing to the Art, Rock Climbing to Ultimate Frisbee ETC.
The goal of this camp is to learn about the other side, your so called "Enemy". We are fighting Ignorance here at camp. And as everyone could tell you here, the kids come with their own
narrative and "Truth", and via dialogue and different activities return home not only after questioning their "Truth", but more importantly after doing so with a friend from the other side, and recognizing the physical existence of the "others".

Our schedule in brief:
There is a large bell in the middle of the field. This bell is what keeps the camp intact time wise.
At every end of an activity a camp director, Will Smith or Leslie Lewin, will ring the bell. At that moment, all of camp, approximately 300 people will be walking across the beautiful green grass to their next activity or to Line-Up.
"Line-Up"- before every meal, all kids assemble at Line-UP, sitting by bunk on their bench as they get informed as to what special events will happen, which guests are on camp, and
bring forward birthday people who choose which people will go first to he dining room.
The bell in the morning is most important. First bell will be heard at 7:00, second at 7:15 and last one at 7:25. After the 3rd bell, all kids will make their way to Line-Up, usually tired and
wearing PJs.
One last thing: After breakfast there is a bunk clean up which is graded by a senior staff member, and after clean up, all kids split up once more into their special activity groups which they chose for the week. I will explain in depth about my personal special
activity later on.

Alright, enough with this general knowledge, lets get down to my personal experience!

25/6 DAY ONE!!!

Sticking to SOP tradition, when a bus drives through camp bringing the kids from the airport to camp, EVERYONE gathers around line up. Using all sorts of instruments we all began a massive jam, getting us into this incredible vibe of excitement. This was a very strong feeling,
something I haven't felt before. 60 counselors singing as loud as they can and the funny thing is that non of the kids arrived yet. As the busses entered camp it got even louder, and the kids that descended from the bus ran through our human tunnel, assembled in a big circle and sang "Pam, pam, pam, Seeds of Peace. Pam, pam, pam, Seeds of Peace"- This chant ladies and gentleman went on for 2 hours all together. So tiring!

Jake, Aaron & myself (Co-Counselors) took the kids around the camp and showed them around. (A description of Aaron and Jake can be observed in my previous post- "Orientation Week")
It was very important for us to lay down the rules straight away so that kids know that we are in charge and that they can't just muck around. At night we had our first bunk night. At first, Jake, Aaron and myself laid down the rules of the bunk, talked to the kids about how our bunk is our home, that this is where we should all feel most comfortable with each other and feel free to do our own thing without being judged and knowing that there is mutual respect between all inhabitants of the "Beach House". Everyone introduced themselves whilst eating their homemade cookies.

Due to the fact that I decided I wanted to be incognito during this session and not reveal my identity in order to be neutrally available to all kids no matter what side of the checkpoint they live in, I told the kids very little as to who I am and explained to them that I will tell
my story when I feel comfortable, and that I ask of them to respect my wish.

Woke up the boys with "Sex machine" by James brown. Now you might think that its inappropriate, but don't worry, we made it very appropriate - "Get up, and Go to Line up"
At breakfast the camp was split up once more, this time into table groups. I was table 16, right near the salad bar. The kids were introduced to the traditional camp dining room chants and songs.
The highlight of the day was without a doubt opening my big mail delivery containing 6 Australian Footballs, delivered especially for Lieth & myself in order to introduce camp to the best sport in the world - AFL! We were both ecstatic, and no one could take the smile of
my face for hours:)

"Flag Raising ceremony" - At this event all campers gather at the camps gate surrounded with all the delegation flags. The press is invited, and every delegation is represented by the Second Year campers who address camp and read their speeches. After every speech, that nations flag is raised as the kids sing their national anthem.

I didn't sing during "Hatikva" in order not to draw any unwanted attention. When the Palestinians shouted their anthem I felt their need to shout and feel free. This experience was pretty amazing and powerful.

Staff night had begun, I played the drums during "I gotta a feeling" & "Waving flag". The kids were all dancing and singing. it was AWESOME so I was told. (The performers couldn't see anything due to the strong light on stage).

At breakfast I announced Australian Footy as an option for special activity, explained it very
vaguely but put a large emphasis on the fact that it has everything in it.
I received the list of kids that chose AFL. A very surprising list that included 18 kids that chose footy over 17 other options including water skiing and rock climbing.
Our first training session started with a spontaneous game of "G'Day Mate" which involves
all participant saying "G'Day Mate" to everyone and to say the other persons name.
It was hard for me to rap myself around this event of 18 kids from different counties all learning by choice Aussie Rules. DREAM COME TRUE.

At night we had our night off. Drove to "Quaker Ridge" and overlooked one of the most incredible views I have seen. Sunset, beautiful smooth clouds, a vast landscape of mountain in
the distance, and the combination of the blue shades of the sky and the lakes together with the orangy-yellow colors around the sky and on the horizon. was absolutely blissful. Felt very grateful being there ATM moment with my new friends from camp.

Nothing too exciting...

In order to get the kids psyched up for Lip-Sink night, Liav, Matt, Ron and I performed "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge at line up, dressed up with every possible waterfront gear.
I was in charge of Cricket, and I had 2 dialogue groups of 10 girls: One from the Middle East and the other from South Asia.

I have played Cricket as a child, and I didn't particularly like it. But even though I had no motivation to play or teach this boring sport, I was extra enthusiastic and tried to explain the rules I have long forgotten.
Luckily, I had 4 Indian and Pakistani girls who knew what to do. we had a crowd watching us play, and it was quite funny seeing the asians take over, and the Israeli/Palestinian helpless.

Like everyday we had footy right after bunk clean up.
I decided it's time that the kids see a clip or two of footy in order to understand the size of the field, and how the game is actually played. After orientation of the game, and the clips, Emma & Marcus Goldbas (siblings & children of the camp's nurse and doctor), Na'ama
(Brazilian) Marina & Moose (Egyptian) and Will (American) set off for our relaxing day.
Starting off at the Goldbas's house, Nurse Lynn bought us hamburgers and chips. We bought a lot of alcohol, and had a BBQ at their house. Then we headed off to the beach, A hot sunny day,
Atlantic Ocean, beers, what else could I ask for? Got back to the house on time to watch the final of the Euro between Spain and Italy.

We ordered Pizza, drank some Rum and Coke, and to finish off our day at the house we had the most delicious marinated fillet steaks I have every had! 10/10!
Drove back to Quakers Ridge for an additional beautiful sunset. We all agreed that we need an additional day off to recover form this current one.

Had the best training session yet. The kids picked up the idea of kicking the ball and even played our first friendly footy match ever played at SOP.

Now, in Maine during this season one can encounter 4 seasons in 1 day. And today it was raining in the morning so the pitch was all muddy and wet. Perfect for a good old footy match.
At night, the area of the Delegation leaders was full of people that gathered round the
bonfire and sang songs. At camp there are many very talented people, and musically it is a true pleasure listening to some of these guys.

Two hours of Sailing, a nice run in the fields, another night off this time we drove to Elliot's camp house on the lake. Had some beers, played music at the bonfire, and walked down to the lake to see the incredible reflection of the full moon on the quite lake.

After having a new counselors meeting with Matthew, one of our senior counselors, and discussing what we think needs to be changed and improved (Had a lot to say together with my good friend Asif), I accompanied Eric and the campers for Water Skiing for the first time.
Didn't actually get to ski, but it was a great feeling zooming on the boat in our beautiful tranquil Pleasant Lake.

In Maine, like I said, storms come and go when they feel like it. So in the afternoon a storm got to camp. Goodbye to field games, hello field house.
We had about 30-40 kids to entertain, so we played a huge game of Dodge ball. It was great having all the campers play against us 6 counselors, me being the only male.

End of part 1,
To be continued...

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Robyn on

Onya Yonatan! Thanks for sharing! Sending love! -

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