Friday, June 30, 2006

Drag: The Secret to Middle East Peace

So I have found the secret to peace in the Middle East: cross-dressing.

We had a lipsynch contest tonight at camp [Seeds of Peace], and each bunk had to perform a skit.

Each bunk received a cd with three songs on it to choose from. There was a mix-up with the cds, and my bunk accidentally got a cd for the girl campers.

On the CD, there were three songs to from which to choose: something by Celine Dion, Brittney Spears and Madonna's Material Girl.

My bunk chose to imitate the Material Girl, and promptly hunted down clothes to dress in drag for the skit.

For our skit, an Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli all got together in make-up, wigs and dresses-- to shimmy and shake across the stage in drag, to the roars of the Middle East crowd.

Who would ever believe that making peace was as simple as getting enemies to dress up in drag and dance together.

 Maybe RuPaul should be the next Middle East negotiator.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bang Bang Clap-Babang Babang shhh!!!!

My first night off and I am so happy. There is only so much of these rascals I can take. If only I could beat them, things would be so much easier. Night off- baruch hashem, allahu akbar. No more banging on tables. No more teenagers. Ahh, so nice.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Roofball of Peace

I am amazed at how fast my bunk has come together. My kids have adopted Bunk 14 nationalism over there own previous varieties. It is truly compelling to witness my bunk's Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs cheering for their own bunkmates over their own respective compatriots. They cheer and yell and go nuts for their bunk, it is so wonderful to see. We have been playing roofball nonstop, and it is the most awesome thing to see Arabs and Jews slapping five with each other as they toss a mini basketball off our bunk roof. Meanwhile, a world away their people are fighting. It is so bizare, yet it completely proves my theory correct that Arabs and Jews are so similar that they would really enjoy each other if they ever got a chance to stop and meet one another. This place is wonderful because it actually gives them a chance to do that.

Flag raising

We had the opening flag-raising ceremony today. All the kids together, singing their respective national anthems. Indians and Pakistanis. Israelis and Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians all standing at attention and listening to everyone elses national anthem. It was a pretty impressive sight.

Just one minor setback. All of the delegations said a few brief words before their respective flag was raised and anthem sung. No one was getting political, but rather speaking on the SOP experience. However, the last group was the Palestinians delegation. The Palestinian speaker for the delegation started getting way too political. She was talking about the Palestinian "dream" of returning to their homes and their lands. Some Israeli girls I was near were getting upset because they felt it was inappropriate for her to be political at a non-political event. They wanted to confront her after and tell her it was not appropriate. I calmed them down by telling them that the facilitation sessions existed for exactly this reason, to discuss issues like this.

There was media present too. Maine Public Radio, a local tv station and a Portland paper. I had offered to help with the media, but was essentially told that was not my job (not in a rude manner). I miss doing media stuff. Oh, if I could have been running the media for an event like that. Oh well, not my job. I will be having more fun in any case. Here is the link to the Maine Public Radio interview:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Drinking the Koolaid

So I have been here one day and I am absolutely amazed at the way kids get it like adults sure don't. It's unbelievable. My bunk is getting along so well. Egyptians, Palestinians and Israelis are slapping fives together, andscreaming "Bunk 14 represent!" Playing roofball, basketball and volleyball bring these kids together like nothing their governments or peace treaties can. I am quickly becoming a believer.

The amazing thing is that these war-torn kids are getting along fine, meanwhile I am fighting with my co-counselor. No ethnic or religious conflict, just that he's an anal-rentitive and I'm really not. Oy, it could be a long summer. Wouldn't that be funny if the Arabs and Jews can get along, but there is strife between my co-counselor and me. In any case, he is sooo lame, but I am stuck with him. I guess I will have to deal.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Gearing up for one last ride

It's the night before camp begins, and camp is earily quiet. It's the calm before the storm. We have been in endless meetings discussing how to handle this particular species- teenagerus obnoxiousicus. Perhaps I am utterly short-sighted in my lack of worry, but it seems that we are preparing for raging cossacks or barbarian hordes. Maybe I will change my tune by the end, but at the end of the day, they are still just chock full o'hormone kids. The rules here are pretty nuts. No flip-flops, because the kids could trip and get hurt. These are kids coming from Gaza, who have grown up in the Intifada, and we are worrying about their footwear!! Also, no relationships between the kids. That sucks. I really wanted to spend my summer trying to fix up Israelis boys and Palestinian girls, or even better Pakistani boys and Israeli girls. But alas, no planting real seeds of peace. I don't know how I will survive a summer in possibly the most conservative place this side of Bible Camp. I thought this was supposed to be some hippy-lefty, let's all hug and get along camp, but instead it's some weird combo of Islamic and Jewish playground where everyone's modesty rules apply.

More importantly, it is the Camp Director Tim Wilson's last summer. Tim is an amazing character, a real original. He was camp director when my father was a punk teen, and still here when i was a punk teen. He is last of the old school around these parts. He was telling a story today about when Dr. Ralph Bunche used to hang out in his parents kitchen. I have grown up around him, and I respect him greatly. Camp won't be the same without him.

There is one more character here, Dr. Stanley Walzer. Stanley, as everyone knows him, is possibly the funniest, goofiest people I have ever known. He hasn't changed a bit since I was a camper here. Those two will help me keep my sanity amid the myriad number of rules. I'm not sure yet if this will be more than a one summer stint. I will find out soon enough. Thus far, I may be too much of a free spirit for such an orderly place. I was not expecting that. They keep saying "It's not about you, it's about the kids." I agree, but if they don't let the kids be kids, then what good is summer camp. I don't feel like I am arguing for anything more than letting them enjoy their summer in a place that isn't Attica. They also say around these parts to "trust the process." I trust the process, and have no qualms with that aspect, it's the rules I don't trust. Maybe this place is bringing out some residual teenage angst and defiance. We'll see soon enough.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Public and Private Spheres in Morocco

A few weeks ago, I was having breakfast with Rich Harwood. He is a very interesting individual. He started his own think-tank "The Harwood Institute" ( to focus on the public's relationship with community and with civic society. We had a very interesting discussion over breakfast. During our discussion, I mentioned the issue of public vs. private space in Morocco. Rich thought it was an interesting subject and recommended that I blog about it. So here it is.

Morocco has an amazing dichotomy between public and private space. Public space and private space are closely intertwined in a very confusing fashion. In Morocco, people are very reticent to be alone. Personal space is a very western concept. When I would be alone, or wander through the city alone, they would always ask if I wanted company. In their eyes, to be alone is associated with depression. It was a completely foreign concept that I would choose to be alone, and that not only was a comfortable being alone, but would choose to be.

Living in Rabat, my host family stayed in an apartment. No one had their own room but my host parents. Everyone else shared the other two rooms and kitchen. Although these other rooms were all technically public spaces, everyone went about carving their own private space out of the public domain. Without being judgemental or chauvanistic, the women owned the kitchen. That was their domain, as was the lving room when the men were not around. The kids took turns dominating certain areas and spaces through territorial diversions like schoolwork or practicing music. I found that public and private space very much overlapped.

The overlap of public and private spaces was even more profound in the public domain. The male domain in Morocco is primarily the coffeeshop. Yet at such a public place like a coffeeshop, people go about carving their own private space in this public area. Tables become islands as people sip their coffee in solitude or with friends. Meanwhile, there is a major paradox in the markets as women dressed in the hija and other modest dress buy their bras and underwear in full display in the market. There is nothing more strange than seeing a fully modestly dressed Moroccan woman bargaining for a bra in the middle of the market.

One more area that combines public and private is the hammam. The hammam, the public bathhouse, is perhaps the most interesting example of public and private overlapping. In this public building, people carry this most private of activities. Yet people manage to carve out private spheres within this public space by using the water buckets to create their own territory. People create their own private wash areas in the public bath houses. Again people take private into public, but create their own privacy within this public environment.


It was strange, I had been feeling melancholy for the last day or so. Something didn't feel exactly right. I didn't feel like myself. I had been rather solitary and didn't feel like being social. I was avoiding people, and spending time in the bunk alone. The weather had been kind of gray, and I was all-around mopey. Then today, we were in a staff meeting about dealing with the kids. The issue of homesickness came up, and as they were describing the symptoms, I realized they were describing me. Aloof and shying away from group activities. Melancholy and standoffish. So now that my misery had been diagnosed, what was I homesick for? I didn't feel homesick for Maryland. I love being at home at my parents place, but I spend so much time away from there, that I wouldn't homesick for it. I realized that I was homesick for Camp Powhatan. I was homesick for a place that no longer exists. Upon my realization, I laughed and started feeling better. It's interesting how realization can often suffice for therapy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Beginnings and Ends

After a long trek up to camp, that involved a few missed turns and a pathetic display of memory on my part for not being able to find my alma mater, I finally arrived back at Seeds of Peace. I was filled with exuberance when I arrived. Actually I stopped first to drop off my sister Ellen's stuff at her camp. I was going to surprise her in the dining hall, but almost managed to smack a complete stranger with lettuce. Ha, that would have been classic.

Anyways, I arrived and started unpacking in what I thought was my bunk. It had my name on it, so I figured it was mine. However, just I as I had finished unpacking, I found out they were temporary lodgings. Two points-me.

In any case, I wandered around a little and met my fellow counselors. The longer I was here, the more surreal the whole thing became. Here I was in this place I know so well, yet it was so different. It was like I appeared in an alternative universe. Everything is physically the same, yet no one I knew is here. All the people who shaped my summers are long gone, and I am the only one left. Last of the Powhatanites (I guess I could be Daniel Day-Lewis). I am oldschool at this place, yet I am a neophyte in this new world. It is so surreal. I am having a bit of a difficult time adjusting.

Yet on so many levels, this represents closure for me. Tim the Camp Director helped point this out for me, as we talked on his porch. He was head counselor when my father was a punk kid, and he was head counselor when I was a punk kid. He pointed out that I never had closure for Powhatan. The one year I didn't go to camp was its last. If I had known that, I would have never missed out. However, the year that I missed, I went to Israel. That trip had so many later implications on my life, and how I got back here. It's all so strange how things work out in the end. Now, a decade after I left, I am finally afforded some of the closure I have yearned for.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The great trek north

I begin my migration today to Maine, for SOP for the summer. I am rather excited. They say Maine is the "Deep South of the far North," and I would have to agree. I am old school at SOP, one of the last of the powhatanites. It should be rather different, but I am psyched for it. For all my blog readers, I will try to keep a blog going while I am there. A record of my teaching Israelis and Palestinians how to play tomato baseball, and the experience of trying to get them to live together. The entries will be sporadic, because I don't think I will have much internet access. So please be patient with the entries, I will try to keep it updated. Now, off to the next adventure!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Camp O'Conflict

As much as I love being home, I am so wxcited to go to camp! It has been a decade since I was a camper at Camp Powhatan nee Seeds of Peace. I get to hang out all summer! I am going to swim, play soccer and baseball. This is going to be soooo much better than an office job. Haha to all you suckers stuck inside this summer, my only chore is making sure a bunch of kids who hate each other don't kill each other. Much cooler. For those of you who don't know about Seeds of Peace, you can read about it at Screw real work, I'm going back to camp. Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!