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An Interns Perspective

Wednesday 31 July 2013, by Glenn Chon

Smells of curry and coriander as I walk through the market near Damascus Gate, quite similar to the huge market in Istanbul, Turkey I visited on a random trip to meet up with my brother and his friend, just more menorahs for sale. I sit here, taking a breather in front of a fan that mists water, a common appliance around the Middle East. I’m definitely lost. Took some back routes, followed some intoxicating baked smells that led me to a café, and now I’m sitting here drinking an espresso and an iced coffee.

Before coming here, I recall being a bit nervous but reminded myself of a reply I gave to a fellow traveler about their preflight jitters:

I always get that feeling before going on trips. I’ve come to love it. It’s the feeling of insecurity that I’ve grown to love so much about traveling. It’s only scary if you focus on the fear, think about the awesomeness, the interesting friends you’ll make, the new cultures you’ll experience, the new foods you’ll try, the lessons you’ll learn and my personal favorite, the different perspectives you’ll pick up. That feeling you have? It’s the feeling I miss the most when I’m not traveling. It’s the feeling of a new challenge.

However, before I had arrived, all I could think about were my concerns for this internship at Neve Shalom Wahat al Salam. My greatest fear was that they wouldn’t really have any use for me as an intern. Sticking me with a bunch of grunt work for six months would have been a nightmare. Having been a psychology lab assistant, I already know what it’s like. I like to think I’m a creative guy but trust me when I tell you, there’s no way you can make data entry fun. Hats off to you if you can figure that one out.

Ideally, I aimed to gain some practical hands on experience before going back for a graduate degree (one I hope will be generously funded by whatever organization I choose to align myself with in the future... I’ll keep hoping on that one).

I’ve been fortunate enough to have made a lot of good friends here. Most of the families seem to like me and I try to help out where I can. I’ve even started basic Arabic lessons with one of the girls from the village in exchange for basic Korean lessons. It’s definitely challenging but fun at the same time. My friends here seem to be the only ones keeping me sane, we go out to the movies every once in a while, go get shwarma, have some lamb bbq’s, get together and eat shakshuka, go swimming, night trips to the beach for some hookah and wave watching. When I’m not working, it feels like I’m living the life. I have no regrets about having come here, these kids are great. Most of them are a little younger than me but there are a couple of them who are my age.

Regarding the conflict, the most beneficial messages are the personal stories each person has to offer from both sides. The SFP does its binational meetings of individuals who are willing to participate and by the end of the meetings, participants tend to start thinking together with their counterparts to brainstorm ideas on how to tackle these daunting problems in their professional fields as well as their day to day lives. The meetings uncover issues beyond religious issues and resources and it’s a step in the right direction.

As an organization, we have a long way to go in terms of communication and efficiency but I couldn’t have picked a better organization to learn from. It’s a constant work in progress and right now, it’s a great place to learn through trial and error. Fantastic experience for when I start up my own nonprofit.

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