July 18th, 2005
Today we had our official Opening Day. Let me start with
saying that it went well and we got what we wanted. And it was not the
sort of day that provided me with any interesting stories to tell compared
with my previous newsletters. So this is going to be a sort of straightforward
report of the day. Just bear with me please.
The early morning was filled with running around completing
all these things that still had to be done, for example, we made sure
that enough olive trees were available at the spot where the ceremonial
tree planting would take place and one of the new banners was put up
for everyone to see, etc.
Then the group of youngsters showed up and filled the
place with their presence. Suddenly there was movement and sound everywhere.
For me, that was the moment that marked the beginning of the project.
But more was still to come!
Then at about a quarter to ten we were standing in front
of the school waiting for the officials to arrive and quite a few of
them showed up. So the governor was there and even the Ambassador of
South Africa was there. Being officials, it automatically meant that
we had a long line of cars standing in front of the gate and bored drivers
standing in the corridor of the school building. And to make all of
this even more real there was this bodyguard.
After a drink we had the official speeches. Ibrahim welcomed
everyone and gave an overview of the schools situation, Ursel talked
about the relationship between the School and the Earthstewards and
about the Peace Trees Project. She ended by expressing what issues were
unresolved (basically who is going to be responsible for the trees after
we have planted them). And then it was the governor's turn. He gave
his speech twice: once in Arabic and then English. The first one lasted
longer but I was told it was more or less similar to the English version.
He outlined a lot of things but the main three elements I considered
After the speeches we went outside and the governor planted
the first tree. From then on the scenery became surreal. The journalist
and cameramen from the local television station that we invited used
the opportunity to interview the governor. That happened amidst all
other activities. And by doing so, all attention and focus was on them.
And at the same time more trees were planted (some even dug more holes
so in total about 15 trees were planted).
After the interview the governor just disappeared which,
in a way, brought things back to normal.
The afternoon turned out to be the stage of my old hero
of EarthStewards: Martin Kammann. He facilitated the first afternoon
of the compassionate listening workshop with 50 people in the room.
Fifty people of a diverse age group (14-60 year old,) and diverse when
it came to gender, cultural background, religion and their ability to
understand and speak English. To just give you an example of what occurred
I'll tell you about something I experienced.
During an exercise we had to pair up with somebody from
a different background and age group. This resulted in me sitting with
a Palestinian girl who seemed to be in her early teens. The exercise
involved taking turns to speak; someone was A and someone was B. One
spoke about a topic while the other listened. One of the topics was
'what we found challenging about being there'. My young partner, judging
by the expression on her face, followed every word I said in English
but when it was her turn she couldn't manage to get a word out as her
English was very much limited. But again, I felt we had a great start
with the Compassionate Listening workshop. And based on the discussion
that followed in the evening about how to better the workshop to suit
everybody's needs. I think we will have a great time even though our
group will be larger tomorrow.