Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Enter the silence of the river

Enter the silence
 Enter the silence
 And disappear in it,
 Peer into, and have no
 Need for all my I’ss and me’ss,
 Just let go of mind and body,
relaxed with ease,
to the natural rhythms of thoughts please,
appeased by their flows,
letting go of any need to control
the universe and me is the same wave,
one is deep within and the other filled with distraction
every thought is an abstraction,
but beyond thought is transformation
sending us to transcendence,
heart beating in us,
blood streams and rivers seem to wine together,
the sound of silence sent from the universe Down river,
till you and I disappear, and all there is… is the river
.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Strategies for Integrating Immigrant Children into the European School System

Strategies for Integrating Immigrant Children into the European School System
With the immense influx of immigrants to Europe, European society has
become increasingly multicultural. How do these various cultural
elements affect the education system in each Western European nation?
Immigrants move to Europe for a greater economic opportunity, seeking
asylum or to escape political and social unrest in their countries.

But how do the children of immigrants, either first or second
generation, adjust to the education system, in order to contribute the
society once they become adults? How are families integrated in the
educational experience of their children, when they do not speak the
dominant language of the European Nation? Finally, how can European
and non-European children be taught the values of tolerance and
compassion towards cultural diversity, rather than develop and believe
more radical non-acceptance attitudes?

It is important to create a strong bond between the families of
immigrant children and schools. In order to do this, hiring assistants
who speak the same language of children, enables families to be more
involved. Also, creating more multi-lingual websites and resources for
immigrant parents, enables them to be more informed about their
child’s educational process. The reality is that children of
immigrants are often living bi-cultural and bi-linguistic lives: their
lives at home and their lives at school. The question becomes, how can
the daily movement between home and school be a gradual and positive
transition? The systematic incorporation of Resource Person, who
serves as a cultural and linguistic mediator for the reception and
orientation of pupils and children may be one option.

Both the children of immigrant families as well as the children of
European families must be taught how to understand, tolerate, and have
compassion for each other’s cultural differences. Rather than
diversity being seen as a hindrance and weakness, children can be
taught that linguistic and cultural diversity is a strength. But in a
reality in which social and political extremism is increasingly
present in Europe and Globally, both amongst those born in Europe and
those who immigrate to Europe, children must be inculcated and
educated in a more empathetic educational system. An educational
system that teaches both local European history and languages, as well
as the non-European languages and perspectives of history.

With an increasingly globalized world in which people are increasingly
mobile, children must be taught how to think for themselves, rather
than blindly believe what they are taught by their parents. They must
learn how to speak more languages, as well as deal with the
uncomfortable realities of discrimination and racism at a young age.

By teaching children how to speak about and celebrate cultural
difference, all children benefit from forming a more tolerant society.
All children must be taught about each other’s cultures, so that they
can more comfortably interact with someone who is different than them
religiously, culturally and linguistically. By better integrating
immigrant children into the European education system, both European
and non-European children begin to gain a deeper understanding of
other.

In order to help children adjust to the European education system,
they can also teach them their native language. Some nations in
Europe, offer course work in schools to those immigrant children who
live in densely populated immigrant communities, the opportunity to
learn in their Heritage Language. This is based in the fact that if
children learn how to write, read and spell in their native language,
than they are more capable to learn the local European language as
well, because they are more educated. By teaching children their
heritage language, this gradually helps bridge the gap between their
linguistic and cultural reality at home and the reality of living in a
foreign society. In such communities that have great cultural
diversity, the European children can also be taught these non-European
languages as well.

However, children must all be taught the local European language, in
order to be more integrated in European society in the future.
Otherwise, they run the risk of developing the complex of being an
“outsider” in the society in which they live. This is a sensitive
issue, because the European education system must celebrate the
diversity of their students as well as teach the local language and
culture. Otherwise, many nations may run the risk of loosing their
European identity, in the process of integrating many immigrants into
their society and becoming over culturally sensitive.

To conclude, if the children of immigrant children are to be successfully integrated
in the European Education system, they must feel that they are able to
maintain their personal cultural and linguistic identity, as well as
become part of the European society where they are living.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Gift of ADD

The Gift of ADD

I went from being in a Special Education program with children with Autism and severe behavioral issues, to being on the honors list in high school, and graduating from college. I was expelled out of high school for a month for an impulsive decision, but utilized this time to develop and hyper focus on my urban gardening and poetry skills. I was encouraged to not take a second language in school, because it may be “too much” for me, even though I’m now conversationally affluent in Armenian, French and Spanish. I am very energetic and prefer to be moving rather than sitting, so I’ve done teaching jobs that involved working with children. These examples reflect how I used the traits of ADD/ ADHD as skills, in order to build up my self-esteem.

At Clark University, I created a major about teaching Focusing, Mindfulness and Self-Regulation skills to students through utilizing Tai Chi, stretching and breathing techniques. Mindfulness has had an immensely positive impact on my concentration, impulsivity and emotional stability. I began to realize that my ADD/ADHD ailments, once debilitating, were directly soothed by my mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is learning to sit with your experiences, accept them and work constructively with them rather than fight with them. It’s about training your mind to be present in the moment, rather than being swept away by fantasies or impulsive behaviors.

I’ve taught Tai Chi at a Charter elementary school in the Bronx, and yoga to elementary students in Manhattan and to middle school students in Massachusetts. I’ve written an article on Education and Stress Reduction skills that were published in a book in Vietnam and an article on ADHD and alternatives to medication that was published in Tikkun Magazine.

How many times do we consider Attention Deficit or Hyperactivity Disorder as a gift verses a curse? Traits of hyperactivity, an inability to sit for extended periods of time, lack of concentration on traditional academic tasks and a wandering mind, are the most common descriptions. Yet the true question is: in what kinds of environments can people transform these traits into gifts that allow them to excel in learning, working and building their self-esteem.

ADD/ADHD has enabled me to develop a creative perspective in regards to school, work and life. I’m willing to experience my creative energy because my creativity heals myself and others. This may be scattered mental energy or hyperactive energy at other times. But learning how to use sports, writing, singing, mindfulness, supportive friends or healthy eating habits as alternatives to substances to “chill out,” has enabled me to celebrate and accept my ADD/ADHD traits. It’s about how I use this label to work for me, rather than against me.

Today, I’m teaching English in an elementary school in Martinique, and perfecting my French. It’s my gift of ADD/ADHD, that has enabled me to take the risks in doing things differently than others, and that has made all the difference.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pre-departure Poems

I've gotten a job to teach english in Martinique, a small French Islanad in the Carribean. I will start a new blog on this... and add a few pictures and poems to this site as well. Got stuck on lay over in Porto Rico for 24 hours. Not a big problem, though!

You are located at:
Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza
999 Ashford
San Juan, PR, 00907

Poem blood and Breeze
Rolling down da highway
My way or your way,
Display derail sails to
Da cheaper gas station in
Jersey Burst freely to da source of creative heavens
Where bread is leaven and
Christ is reborn through
Da thrown of Blood and Breeze.
Poem Pre-departure
Stepping into the unknown of da wind blowing,
It blows da bows of a sale boat forwards
As the purring Liat Turbines of a 744 Barbados
Plane heads towards a a sunny island destiny
With equatorial monsoon, a sleeping Pele Volcano
Below da moon, pristine light blue ocean
Swarms of fishes reborn, warm 10 am sand rubs in
between my pale toes, borne motions zoul dancing mellow
palm trees coconut sating “sak am fete?”
to friends foods of Potatoes, Fish, shrimp, and yucca
dressed in Caribbean curries saying “Nap Boule!”

I sit on an orange and yellow hammock starring into da abyss of
The ocean, my soul, and mind and find many expectations,
But for what? For better or worse, may appear now or later,
last or first, every verse Of a seagull long wings busts
as it divers head first for fish thirst immersed in Caribbean
Antillian French Creole, perched on warmly rattling tongues
to ears to souls appear, the water warm but cooler than the moist air,
almost difficult to breathe in, all burning under callused toes
on hot plate sand, without a seagulls care, I bear to dear to say,
today is just another day along the shores of Riviere Sale.

Poem
Moods swerve hydroplaning
on Grand Central Parkway
From LaGuardia to JFK,
Breath hard on chest rain
drizzling through window
Breeze wind shield wipers
waving to passing
Cars on 495 East to Long Island,
bullets of rain spraying the air everywhere

Poem Lift off
Waiting patience sentence by tense sentence
Immense relentless rain droplets drop on this
Plane, drop by drop thunder rumbles atop
da clouds so loud and proud to show off its power to
our tiny plane as it drives from left to right, held up
in a huge taxi of planes waiting to leave tonight,
runway smoothly slicked pavements hydroplane
tires before turbines fires desires flight attendants
legs crossed tells me “you need a wife or at least
a girl friend to remind you to put on your belt and
put your back on the overhead bins!”

Rainbow mirror reflects on clearer streaming though cloud
beaming down, Rumble rubble motor bubble joom boom
Exhaust hear it fear it feel it exhilarate to top notch
speed till da nose spins up the sounds of a broken blender is
coming out from under the wings a bit of turbulence as
the whiteness of the cloud moisture reverberates as we go
higher the pitch turns higher and lighter the sun beam stronger
as we go longer up above the cloud storms that make seeing
clearer, you hear me, easier, the shadows of the clouds dancing
in the Caribbean, African, European, Indigenous spirit on the bathroom
door, soars onto the rainbow sun window floating downwards to the floor,
rumble and roar and purring to still the loud but not stabbing eardrums
with tacks sound in the recycles air we share with each in the plane.

We make it over the clear eyed ocean Atlantic,
no need to panic above the glaring sun pointing southwards
Towards warm sunny beaches of San Juan, Porto Rico,
Where the mountain lizards Speak Spanglish, “Como esta brodder,”
And the security guards sing “Waaayhpah” to each other and travelers,
Guidos are playing in el Campo fried empanads con pollo Sizzling drizzling
and Guapa sun sand tanned mamacitas y mujeres with belly showing
Con grande chicharonnes with bikinis showing more than hiding anything
Strolling, the sun beaming, warm, nurturing, with sazon,
Carribean flavor, spiced with Adobo, McDonalds and Chillis.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Egypt in 20 hours


Egypt in 20 hours













We arrive without a clue of where and whether we are even allowed to ¬stay and sleep in the airport in Cairo. On arrival we are shuffled over to a counter and are told for two 15 dollar visas we can stay in a 5 star hotel that was owned by a rich Arabian prince from Qatar before the Egyptian Revolution in January. This includes three authentic Egpytian dishes with Fool Nabed, Fava bean soup, Meats, Grape leaves and the rest can be left to your stomach’s steaming imagination. For whoever is a traveller, this may be a good glitch to replace staying in airports for extended times during international travel, some airlines may cover a stay in hotel if there is sufficient time between two flights.

I think to myself, so much for my two peanut butter and apples sandwich plan for sleeping on the hard plastic chairs in the airport, off to the 5 star hotel. But before leaving the airport, I have my first taste of Egyptian Bakish, which as delicious as it may sound like warm baklava dripping of your lips, its actually an informal tipping and bribing system. The guard dressed in a white freshly ironed military suit looks at my dad, and whispers something in Arabic while hiding his fingers rubbing together behind the passport, "Baksheesh?" My dad smiles and pretends not to understand and grabs his passport out of his hand.

We arrive and settle into the hotel and eat plentiful buffet with fresh beef, rice, fish, chicken, fresh hummus, Egyptian Feta, Olives and fried Egyptian veggies. My father and I than go to the concierge, and my father asks “if it is possible to organize a personal tour of Cairo for tomorrow, before we leave for our plane in the afternoon?”

Hady, who works at the front desks, says “mumkin,” maybe. He speaks to Youssef and then goes with my dad to meet another man, and finally he speaks to the fourth man, Gamal who will be our driver. Whatever tip Gamal will make will surely be split between the three men before him. After deliberation and friendly hushed bargaining, the price is set 60$ for a five hour tour of the city. Before going to bed, I hear some traditional music playing, and there ends up being a Christian Coptic wedding occurring at the hotel that night. There was a beautiful white skinned woman in practically sea through thong wearing red dresses gallivanting around. In a fairly traditional Egyptian majority Islamic culture, it was hard not to glance over at the wedding. They then played debka dance music as the bride and groom dance in the middle of a circle, while camera flashing.

The next morning, we quickly eat our breakfast of fresh foul from the foul bar, with ample choices of Tahini, Zatar, Paprika, baby limes, oil and the Foul Fava beans, an Egyptian staple which is in a warm metal container, still boiling from the stove. We nibble some and than run into Gamal’s black Mitsubishi, with lightly tinted windows, which we later find out had a governmental license plate. The car is owned by the Hotel, which used to be called Iberohotel, but is now called La Paradise, since after the “thowra,” revolution, the ownership changed to hands the Egyptian people.

My dad explains to me the government is doing their best to take care of tourists, probably because they want us to feel safe here, and encourage others to do tourism in Egypt, since tourism is a major source of economic
development in the country. We visit the Citadel which was built by Salah al-between 1176 and 1183 CE, to protect the country from Crusader invaders, the world-renown pyramids, the first Egyptian Mosque, where my father lived in Zamalak, and a perfume shop. I wanted to visit the Khan el Khalil markets, but because it was midday by the time we arrived there, we would have been stuck in traffic for at least an hour both ways if we tried to enter the deadlocked Egyptian downtown streets.

As I stood beneath the Sphinx, by the towers of Giza, it was a moment of joy to return to the birth place of my father, with him, and re-experience the country where he grew up. Our driver Gamal explained that the area leading towards the Giza pyramids, just 20 years before was all farm lands. As we drove through the highway, the stark contrast between the city and the rural areas right underneath the highway made me think am I in a city or countryside. Gamal says; “this area, which is a farm right at the edge of the desert, the farmers live in that shack right by where they work, so they can take a break when the sun is hot. At night, animals like desert foxes even come out when they smell the food from their little camps, and try an steal what they can, before getting rocks throw at them.

We drove by a cemetery, and saw a satellite sticking out of what looked like a mausoleum. Gamal said “Free housing.” I ask, “do people actually live there right next to the dead bodies?” He says “yes, they do some sort of ‘security’ of it. Not bad, free housing. In Egypt, if you own a house from your family, it’s not as difficult than if you don’t own anything, and have to work from scratch in order to earn enough for you family to eat.

We arrive at one of the medium sized pyramids, and are immediately accosted by the camel renter. They don’t budge and after many “No Shakruns,” Gamal mumbles something to them in a serious face and they disappear for a bit. As my dad snaps his camera at a faster and faster rate, we notice a man in black glasses who is looking over us. We see him again at the larger pyramids, still staring at us. When we look in his direction he sometimes pretends to look around and sometimes straight stares at us. My first taste of undercover Egyptian security, Gamal later explains they want tourists to feel safe here so they have increased the security for this reason. I want to take advantage of this catering to tourist, so I ask an angry military colonel doing lookout if I can’t have a photo with him, he angrily replies “la Emshy,” No walk.

As we walk towards the smaller pyramids, a man with a light blue scarf over his head stands up and shakes the hand of Gamal. He says “hi,” shakes my hands and starts talking quickly. Before I know it, a white head scarf is wrapped around my head, and a half guy my age is lifting me up into a camel. My father is saying, “No pictures forget it,” and he is walking away. I’m a bit amazed at how I ended up on the camel. So I ask to get down a few times.

Eventually Gamal says something they get me off. “Bakshis,” the blue scarf man and the camel driver start repeating like parquets. I say, once second, I need to speak to my father. I’m trying to reason with them how much do I need to pay for the picture with money that I just cashed two hours before and can barely count. I say out loud in English “if 6 Egyptian pounds is 1 dollar,” as I am pulling out 20 ponds, than how much is fair? Gamal passes the man with a blue scar 6 pound. But without asking for “20?” I finally
understand what they word “Mashy” means, walk as well as let’s go, it’s never enough what you’ll give someone as a tip anyway.

We walk into a temple where there are faded hieroglyphics on the wall. Underneath there is a tunnel and ladder where at the bottom there is an opened esophagus. I placed my hands on it, and the cold stone was gently pulsing a warm powerful energy into my palms. Gamal and my father weaseled and wedged their way down and
towards the back where I stood. Gamal says “This cover is so heavy, how was it possible that they could have lifted this up down here on top.” My dad says “They were masters of harnessing energy!” As we walk out two kids are running down, and one slips after banging his head on a low wall, but he bounces up like nothing hit him.

Before leaving the pyramid area, Gamal, took us around his neighborhood by Giza pyramids. We pass through unpaved roads, where camels chewed on grass, ladies sell veggies by the road, pita bread was freshly baked and
chicken were freshly fried by KFC. God Bless America. I surely need my Kentucky Fried Chicken Fix right now after seeing the pyramids. What American would come all the way to Egypt and eat American Fried Cholesterol heart attack food by the foothill of the ancient Phaoronic pyramids? I am afraid to know who that may be…

As we left the Cairo, we went towards Heliopolis, which was the way that we were going towards the pyramids. The traffic became worse and worse, until we were barely moving at all. Its 230 and we need to be back by 250 for our bus. We pass by a main road going to Heliopolis and airport. We were 15 blocks from the Citadel in the
area of town where leather is process, before it is sent to be made into jackets. A man with the hides of animals, which looks like goat or cow skins on the back of his motto drove down on the elevated sidewalk. Gamal says “Egyptian people can create a road anywhere.” A mini truck zooms by my head on pot holes on
the wide side walk as well, I wonder to myself “how did he get up there? We drive right along the Roman aqueducts which were built before Islam arrived here.
We stop off at a perfume sale shop for 15 minutes before going to the hotel. Egypt is also well known for their unique aromas of perfumes. The man had me and my dad sit down, and they served us both hot tea. My dad encouraged me to do the bargaining for the price. For 60 $ they would give me one bottle of perfume, with exotic names like Nubian desert and Sahara pleasures, but I knew that this was much too much. But the man wouldn’t seem to budge on his price. Than my dad butt his head in and started speaking in Arabic out loud about how these prices were much too much. The man began to say, “Speak softly in Arabic,” so that the other tourists around us wouldn’t hear about how the prices were in fact negotiable. My dad said that we’d pay 30$ for a smaller amount but we wanted three types. Eventually the salesman said yes, but that they would only fill up the bottle 1/3 of the way. Another worker came to fill up the bottles, and showed us in a hidden way that he would fill up to the rim. We passed him a couple pounds of Bakshish, and went back into Gamal’s care.

We return back at 3, and bus wasn’t leaving for another hour, and our flight was a 5. We grabbed a quick goat stew rice meal with a fruit salad, jump into the shuttle, and got onto the plane from Cairo to Beirut. I look at all of the heads, as I sit in the second to last row, 40 C by the window. Only Black colored hair on people’s heads stair back at me, and in some strange way, I find my trip to the Middle East in some way a sort of exodus back to an ancestral homeland. I’ve always felt close to, but never knew how to explain in words before today.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rammalah and trying to get to Amman

So much has occurred yet so little whe3n I don't think to much about it! I've been at the convent for around two months now. Only recently getting a bit more back into speaking Arabic with friends by spending more time outside of the convent. A whole group of American Armenians came, it was nice to see them and connect. I also am coming along with the oral history project of interviewing community members about their reflections of what its like to live at the convent, and how the spirit of the place is alive to them in their memories and imaginations.

As my visa was up I had to journey to Jordan, ion order to renew a visa .I was quite amazed and frustrated at how difficult I found doing this was. Mostly because I went one day it was closed after Saturday, since much of the city close s down on Sabath.
.Than on Sunday I went and was told I need to go to Rammallah to get a visa from the Jordanian Consulate which wasn't cheap.

Than I went back and there were no more buses I came back exhausted to the monastery and just chilled and set there dumb founded about how sometimes when you try something so hard, but its doesn't work, its partially because God and the universe doesn't want it to happen yet. That doesn't mean give up, but it does mean relax a bit around the nervous compulsive energy that keeps pushing you to reach from a goal that in the moment is not working no matter what you do.

Coming back after getting the visa, took like almost two hours, as for some reason I was held with Palestinians, and we were one by one let across the metro style metal cylinder door, which would only let in three people in at a time. A unique experience for sure. I was curious about how it would be to live like this everyday, how much it would have a tax on once stress waiting at this Ramallah border. It was certainly not as long of a wait as the Bethlehem Border.

So I than got a call from my friend Arsen, to go to a birthday of his cousin, in all places, but Ramallah. Mind you this was in a time period less than 24 hours, that I went to Ramallah three times. It's very different to go to Ramallah by car verses by bus for sure.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vardavar- Armenian Holiday at the Armenian Vank in Jerusalem

Vardavar is one of the most ancient Armenian holidays. It was celebrated by the pagan Armenians and, therefore, the holiday's customs of pagan times including spilling water on each other, making the pigeons fly etc., are still maintained. By tradition, Armenian month Navasard begins on the day when Noah finds his refuge on the Mount Ararat during the Flood and then comes down from the top. Noah orders his sons to pour water over each other for the memory of the Flood. Vardavar holiday is also related to the Flood and the Noah's decent from the Ark.







Vartevar, in Jerusalem, water splashing from left to right everywhere you walked in the cobble stone courtyard, you can see water being thrown on people from all angles. Water bottle splashing from left to right. Kids running screaming. Boys running with garbage bags in their hands, standing on roof tops, dumping gallons upon liters upon gallons on those sitting below. The win blowing slightly, the sun slamming the face, till it wants to burn on fire, the air moist with particles of water blowing through the air.


Footsteps, a big jump,
Slam the water slaps someone in
The face like a slapping flapping
Fish swung against the cheeks,
Rooted in a pagan holiday from
Thousands of years back, Vartevar
Commemorates the days of
A holy feast today in the Christian
Tradition, as Armenians from around the
World slam water on each other during this
Blessed holiday, cleaning of the soul of impurities.
As we run around with water bottles in our hands,
And slam each other with bottle after bottle
After bottle, all I can do is laugh, smile,
And continue the water fight of Vartevar.