Weeks begin here on Sunday, and rather than starting off this one with lectures and labs, the year 2 students piled into a bus and we drove down to Caesarea, a former port city conceived of and built by King Herod on the Mediterranean Sea. Caesarea, named for the obvious ruler in Rome, has changed hands a number of times in the last 2,000+ years since its founding. Ruled by the Romans, Christians, Muslims, Crusaders, refugees from Bosnia and the Caucasus in the 19th century, and finally the Caesarea Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Foundation, Caesarea remains standing watch over a relentlessly blue sea by a coal plant between Tel Aviv and Haifa as it has for thousands of years.

Mediterranean Sea

Coal plant

Mustafa divided us into three groups and I set out with nine students to build a scale out of ropes and pulleys. We then created a catapult out of crooked sticks and rope, solved pattern puzzles as a team, crossed 50′ of sand using boards on top of blocks, poured water from a jug to a bucket 30′ away using bamboo slats to carry the water, and even got to dabble in archery for a few minutes.

Balancing act

Returning to the van

What an astounding place to have such easy access to: Roman ruins of a stadium and racetrack; artisans’ shops; great SCUBA diving; and lots of lush grass. Did the year 2 students come down here often on their own? One remarked that he couldn’t visit the sea unless he was with MEET due to where he lived and the permit process. Couldn’t we have a bit more unstructured time with our toes in the sand, watching the waves and skipping stones?

A brief moment of normalcy

We split on Monday into project groups to build the different components of our instant messenger client. My group is developing a plugin that lets you play games against different buddies, regardless if they’re on Google Talk, Yahoo, or Facebook chat. We didn’t start building until today, but I’m really excited to see how the students will run with the project and make it their own.

One pair in lab has all but implemented the graphics for their own version of Pong (complete with paddles and a moving ball); the hard part for them is understanding the underlying “physics” of how to make sure the ball doesn’t go through the paddle. We’ll see how it goes playing collaboratively over the network!

Earlier this week I was playing a theater game with a number of year 1 students, the one where you point at another person in the circle and say either “zip”, “zap”, or “zop”. The next person in the circle then decides whether to continue zipping or zapping around the circle, or opts to point at another player and choses one of several actions. My favorites from high school include “viking” (the selected person uses their fingers to form viking horns and the two people standing next to the viking begin paddling and chanting “Viking! Viking! Viking!”); “impersonation” (the selectee has to act like a celebrity, a mutual acquaintance, or even an animal); and “baroogah!” (everyone jumps up and shouts “baroogah!”).

The students had some other variations: “Charlie’s Angels” (three folks do the Angel pose); “astronaut” (selectee pretends to be walking in a spacesuit; folks on either side make alien ears and go “beepbeepbeepmeepbeep”); and “toast” (people on either side pretend to be a toaster oven; person in the middle hops up and calls out “bing!”). My favorite one, which almost had me falling over while laughing, had a distinctive Middle East flair: “schwarma”.

Around here, schwarma is meat of either the lamb or turkey variety roasting on a big spit rotating vertically in an oven. At the schwarma shop, the fellow behind the counter uses an electric shaving device to cut off little bits of the meat into a pan, transfers the shavings to your pita, laffa, or plate. The game version? The student in the middle rotates while the folks on either side make sizzling noises and hold their hands up, pretending to be the heating elements of the roasting oven. A fourth person begins making shaving noises and pretends to trim pieces of schwarma off of the rotating “meat”.

One of the Y1 students was having a bit of a rough day, so Michaela asked her if the student would feel better and work in lab if the student got to draw a mustache on Michaela’s face. Believe it or not, it worked.

Michaela is gangsta

Dvir and Rene were horsing around a little too rowdily before lecture the other morning, so I had the taller of the two carry the smaller up the stairs to our lecture hall. At the very least, we were all entertained.

Piggy back rides

We had Sports Day yesterday, with lots of soccer (that’s what American Football is called here), Ultimate, basketball, volleyball, paddleball, and a mysterious game involving acting like a ninja. I lost on the first round every time, but the Y2 students managed to hold their own against the other instructors and Y3s. For lack of photos of the game, here’s one of Tiny Cat from two weeks ago. See his white-tipped tail?

Tiny Cat returns!

Tonight marks the beginning of the weekend, as well as the parent event. We leave tomorrow at 7 am for the north to see the Golan as well as Nazareth. Afterward, we’re going kayaking on the Jordan! Next week we’re having some visitors from the Japanese and German embassies (the former sponsors MEET; the latter is considering doing the same), and our students will start having enough time to make great progress on their projects. We’re really looking forward to the results.

This week’s questions:

  1. What are you most looking forward to this weekend?
  2. Did you have any opportunities to “play” this week?
  3. What was something you did with unexpected results?

Thanks for reading!