MEET: the end of teaching

The last week of MEET came and almost went with the instructors, especially in year 2, feeling a little overwhelmed. Despite some brief breaks for Greek dancing and other shenanigans, we were a bit worn down.

Ted teaches Greek dancing

The projects weren’t going as well as they could have been; we were constantly being interrupted by visitors; and it didn’t feel like we’d really taught the students what we’d set out to do at the beginning of the summer. A circle of students had formed during lab one day, channeling “ghosts from the underworld” and all chanting “Java sucks, Java sucks, Java sucks…”

Java brings students together

I’d been up past 1 am for two consecutive nights trying to debug my students’ code to no avail. Something worked at one point, and Ted managed to capture the “it compiles!” moment. Probably the happiest I was all week.

It compiles!

Even the year 3 instructors were having trouble focusing during the end-of-the-day meetings: their goofing off escalated into a full-scale card-throwing war that enveloped several year 2 instructors in their skirmish.

Card Fight I

Card Fight II

I know you’re thinking, “This place has really gone to the dogs!” And you’re right. It was a balagan, without the positive connotations. Then, one afternoon, one of our board members came by and started telling us what the visitors had been saying. Who’d been visiting MEET? You know, the usual suspects: The ambassadors from Norway, Japan, and Germany; Ethan Bronner of the New York Times; Warren Spielberg of the New School; Ben Reis; Dan Ariely… and that was just the beginning. Anat began telling us how impressed the visitors were with what MEET had created: “normal” interactions for our students in both the lab and outside on the field during snacks. Even Media Line did a nice piece on MEET, available here, as well as a video. After a particularly taxing few weeks, it was nice to hear some external encouragement and validation for the work we’d been doing.

The program ended on Thursday with the students’ final presentations and class council elections. After a few delays, we all made it down to lunch and an inflatable water slide. Some of the year 1 girls decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to ponytail Justin’s hair.

Justin's new hairstyle

“More about the water slide,” you demand! My students thought about trying to dunk me, but I pre-empted them by changing into a year 2 t-shirt and shorts and going down head first. Eyal decided that since he was so soaked that it would be a great opportunity to provide some very damp hugs to Veronica, who appeared very dry and happy with her current state.

Wet hug, part I

Veronica, as expected, wasn’t not terribly enthusiastic about this idea.

Wet hug, part II

Eyal persisted. Veronica was about to relent when…

Wet hug, part III

… two more friends of Eyal, also sopping wet, decided that Veronica needed more than one soaking wet hug. Needless to say, Veronica was non-plussed. But then she went and hopped in the slide, all smiles.

After cleaning up epic amounts of trash, the instructors piled into vans and headed into Jerusalem for MEAT BURGER. It is what it sounds like. And not kosher, so if you want cheese and bacon on your burger, you’re set.

Meat Burger

The next evening, after writing evaluations of my students, updating the wiki, and filling out more surveys, I went into Jerusalem to meet my (distant) cousin for dinner. I passed through the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and encountered a gathering of protesters. I wasn’t entirely clear what they wanted, but the signs in English said, “Jerusalem will not be Hebron”, and “Co-existence in Sheikh Jarrah”. They also had a pirate flag.

Jerusalem will not be Hebron (complete with pirate flag)

Further down Route 60, I walked past the Museum on the Seam (the 1949 Armistice Line) with its sign that reads, “OLIVE TREES WILL BE OUR BORDERS”.

Olive Trees Will Be Our Borders

All I knew before meeting my cousin was that his name is Mario Baras, and that he immigrated here at age 16 from Brazil after his family fled there from Europe before the Holocaust. He and his son Yoav picked me up and we drove almost down to Tel Aviv, where they live on a moshav (a community of ~100 families, several of whom farm the land). We stopped to get gas, and I saw a Haredi man filling up his motorcycle’s tank. On the back seat there was a specialized holder for his black hat!

Hat holder for haredim

Mario’s moshav is very quiet and is in a lovely area south of the road to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. I ate figs directly off the tree Yoav planted when he was tiny, as well as passion fruits from the neighbor’s tree. Sababa! We then headed into Rehovot for dinner, and the pasta bar had GLUTEN-FREE PASTA. Granted, it tasted sort of like cardboard, but it was still EDIBLE PASTA.

Gluten-free pasta

It’s been incredibly hot here: ~100˚F/38˚C, with more humidity than usual. I’ve been brave and have been wandering the Old City and East Jerusalem in search of postcards, ceramic pomegranates, scarves, and other souvenirs, but I sort of feel like I’ve been swimming when I return back inside.

Tonight is the year 3 students’ graduation, and then we’re leaving early in the morning to hike Masada at sunrise. We’re also supposed to head to Eilat tomorrow for a few days of R&R on the Red Sea, and the weather seems to get hotter and hotter every time I look at the forecast.

Picture 4.png

On top of that, some folks have decided that this morning was an excellent time to fire rockets at Eilat, which missed and injured some folks in the neighboring city of Aqaba, Jordan. I hope this doesn’t cause MEET to cancel our retreat down there. It’s only acceptable in my mind to lob rockets at inanimate things like the moon, Mars, asteroids, Neptune, Trojan asteroids, etc. And by “lob at” I mean “carefully design a mission to”. We clear on that? Thanks.

EDIT: okay, we’re now not going to Eilat. Nothing can abate the strength of my displeasure.