Yesterday was an especially wonderful day with the Bedouin Teachers. Each Tuesday, I take an Arab bus across the border into the West bank city of al-Azarya. I get off where I see the slab rocks piled, I walk past the vegetable shop, up the hill, and toward a multi-level building that has tires piled out front.
This is the school.
I walk inside, and I can hear children yelling, doors slamming, teachers teaching. I wait in the office area, which doubles as the nursery for the teachers' infants and toddlers. I usually arrive around noon, but it is only about 1 by the time that the teachers have ushered out their student, fed their babies, and are ready to start any sort of a lesson.
These women are Bedouins, born as refugees. Their fathers and grandfathers were herders, and their families were nomadic until the 1948 war, when everything changed for them.
They call this war Al Nakba - the Disaster.
Israelis call it the war of Independence.
Either way, since this war their families have no longer been nomads, they have been refugees.
Most of the teachers cannot enter Jerusalem - they have a Green Pass. Some of them have family there they will never meet.
The teachers all wear a hijab, a head covering, and some of them wear a face covering as well, where only their eyes are visible. They keep this on as long as the older children and men are in and out of the building, but when my 'class' starts, they pull up their face coverings.
The first time this happened, my eyes teared up, and I was honored.
These women's lives amaze me.
Every time we start class, they sit attentively, pen and paper on their desk, looking to me to teach them English, to offer teaching advice, to tell them what it is like in America.
I am becoming a better teacher. The first day I stumbled and bumbled. The second day, I realized they thought I knew what I was doing. The third day, I became a teacher.
Each time, they open up a bit more, ask more questions - though they have never been afraid to ask 'racy' ones. The first day of class, when I asked if they had any questions (thinking they would ask me something about the grammar lesson I had just given), the first one was:
"Was there really a pregnant man in America?"
The second one: "Where did his parts come from?"
And the third: "Why are there gays in America?"
Do you see why I was stumbling and bumbling?
The second day of class they wanted to know about my engagement ring, (I just wear a silver band here), how I could travel alone as a woman, and if I really had a laptop computer and a driving license.
Tuesday, they wanted to know why I was wearing so little clothing (I had on jeans, a t-shirt and a sweater), if I wore a bikini when I went swimming and did the men stare, and why Americans thought they were all terrorists.
They wanted to tell me more about being a woman in Palestine, so they asked that their writing assignment for that week be about that - and we will discuss it more next week.
They made sure, though, before even starting, that I knew that they covered their hair and faces by choice, and that it was a good thing. I smiled and asked them to teach me how to wrap my hair in a scarf next week, and this was a very exciting prospect that led to a lot of laughter.
Working with these teachers is becoming my very favorite part of the week.