By: Amal El Masri
Bourj el-Barajneh

“Teacher! Teacher!” Hiba pulls at my shirt while Mohammad clutches at my elbow while Omar pinches my cheek while Sahar, Rayan and Ahmad hug me from behind. “We want to plaayyyyy!” They demand in unison. Its fourteen minutes into class and already my nine-year olds have mutinied. “Get into two rows!” I yell, trying to organize a game of the ever-popular Simon Says. It’s two weeks into teaching and I have gained a whole new appreciation if not reverence for the other teachers at the Woman’s Humanitarian Organization. These kids are bright. They’re bright and they’re loud and they’re burning up with energy that the narrow alleys and the small houses of the camp do not allow them to expend. There are no parks or streets or open spaces to speak of in Bourj el-Barajneh, just a crunch of concrete. Alaa, an 11-year old in my journalism class, writes that “the alleys are full of garbage and smell bad.” “When we play outside the neighbors yell at us and when we play in the house our parents yell at us,” Mahmoud, another student in my journalism class, tells me. So the kids come to class quite nearly bouncing of the walls and I am now remembering in my old age (18 years) what it feels like to want to sing and dance and shout and play at 10 am in the morning. I may have been shell-shocked the first few days, but now the laughter and the hugs at the end of class make me realize that I couldn’t ask for a better start to my day.

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