A curious caravanserai of notoriety and nonsense, poetry and prophecy.

Shatila Refugee Camp Visit

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile! Doing an intensive language program (class from 8:30am-3:30pm and then 3-4 hours of homework every night) definitely can be overwhelming energy-wise and I’ve also just had very little spare time!  Furthermore, because it’s Ramadan, I’ve been going out pretty frequently for rather extended iftar (the fasting breaking meal, around 7:50pm most nights) dinners with Muslim friends (such as my suitemates, Rula and Arzan, or my professors, Ustaadhas Katrin and Hiba).

In any case, class ends early on Fridays, and yesterday a bunch of people from my AUB summer Arabic program spent the (very hot!) afternoon in Shatila Camp, a primarily Palestinian (although also has a few thousand Lebanese and about 9,000 Syrians at the moment) refugee camp in South Beirut, hanging out with about 100-150 of the kids there, organizing very sweaty/dusty games of Duck-Duck-Goose, Red Light/Green Light etc.  Shockingly (to me), I was actually successful at explaining to the kids how to play Red Light/Green Light in Arabic (!!!) and was so proud of myself!  Although we needed assistance from the Lebanese organizer (of the NGO we were helping out at) to explain the rules of Duck-Duck-Goose, I definitely made myself understood (“Kubra ad-da’era!!!” i.e. “Make the circle bigger”), which felt immensely validating.

Afterwards when we were all tired, the organizers gave us story books to read with the kids…although of course ideally it was the kid reading aloud rather than us…even for the most advanced Arabic speakers among our group, the kids found mountains to criticize in our Arabic reading aloud/pronounciation skills.  Nonetheless, I think it was a really fun way to spend the afternoon for everyone involved.  No one was under any delusions that we were dramatically improving anything or saving the world or contributing in a sustainable, prolonged way, but my impression was that the few hours of happiness we shared with the young kids were beneficial and impactful for all involved.

Here’s a graphic of where we were:


2 Responses to “Shatila Refugee Camp Visit”

  1. Peter J Travers

    Shatila is a remarkably sad place. Not only have the people been in limbo for 65 years, but they are also uniquely vulnerable to the horrors of war, notably the infamous massacres of 1982. When the leaders cannot make progress towards peace, these are the ones who pay the price. I am proud that you could get down there and help a bit. Do not deprecate the immense blessing of a “few hours of happiness” for the kids; it can change lives for the better.


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