By: Carolina Vergara Lamarre
Bourj el Barajneh

Amidst the chaos that are my classes, full of energetic students who already told me they love ‘Miss Carolina’ as of the first period of class, and the discouraging and depressing reality of the camp, I try and find a balance between overwhelming feelings of happiness at the hospitality and generosity of the families who have welcomed me into their homes, and my feelings of guilt and sadness.

It is already the 11th of July. I have only been in Lebanon a week and a half and have only just started teaching; however I have already noticed how fast time passes while here in the camps.

When I am not teaching, most of my free time is spent enjoying invitations to tea, coffee, dinner and engagement parties. Lesson planning therefore usually occurs late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I already know how difficult it will be to leave all the wonderful people I have met and have yet to meet.

Amidst the heat, the grime and the mazes that are Bourj al Barajneh and Shatila, I have found such a wonderful energy, strength and warmth among the Palestinians living here in the camps. Sitting on the roof top drinking coffee or tea before bed while eating delicious fruit with my host family, has become a nightly ritual for me. As we chat, I look out at the lights on the mountains and the other houses in the camp and try to come to terms with the fact that I have been welcomed into the homes and the lives of a people and a community who have never enjoyed the same experience themselves for close to 60 years. This summer will prove to be one of the most challenging experiences I have faced as of yet.

While I attempt to make learning English “fun” to classes of 35 students, sweat plastering my clothes to my back and legs, I reevaluate my own priorities in life. I’m not sure how much English I will be able to teach my students over the summer. As long as they laugh and smile while with me, I will be happy. I know this summer will change me permanently. The friendships and lessons I learn while living here will stay with me forever.

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