The old lady who constantly cleans up behind everybody at the school, with her hunch back and patterned hijab, long dress and black cardigan, always holding her straw broom with a broken handle shooing the kids back into class. She has oddly straight teeth, a wrinkled face and the kindest eyes. She told me yesterday (without a single word) that she has lost her husband and her 5 children. She pointed to the ring on her finger then pointed to the sky, then she held her hand at the height of a child, held up 5 fingers and once again pointed to the sky and then touched her heart while sadness filled her eyes. She makes the most wonderful turkish coffee in the back room by the bathrooms at the school and brings it into the office for all of us to enjoy. She kisses me on the cheek and comes up behind me and gives me a fright when I am sitting on the concrete ledge outside taking a break. She smiles at me and we laugh. We have no real language to use but somehow I understand her.
When we get to school at 7:30 am and get out of the car I feel famous, children yelling MISS ANA, MISS ANA, MISS ANA, MISS ANA, and this continues throughout the day. I hear "Hi, Miss Ana" and see a matching sweet yet mischievous smile along with it about 10,000 times a day. When I walk into my first class and they stand up at their desk and cheer. It is priceless.
The artwork the students draw, the ones that say I love you, or have my name and their name inside of a heart together. The more heart breaking ones that happened on the day we learned the words House and Family in English, receiving drawings of huge guns pointed at small houses, blood dripping from bullets...
The morning we got to school to find out the Lebanese Army had raided the camp at 4 a.m., dressed in full uniform and carrying assault rifles, by the time I got into my class of 9-14 year olds they were all acting it out for me, trying to tell me what had happened the night before. You could tell the feeling at the camp was different, you could tell everyone was a bit on edge. No child should wake up in fear with guns being pointed at them. No child, no woman, and no man.
The roses I receive when I walk into class, the way the children love it when I put them behind my ears and laugh as if they have never seen anything like it.
Mahmoud, my 10 year old boyfriend, he waits for me everywhere I go, when I walk away from the camp to go get lunch he follows along behind me for as far as he can go, he tries his hardest to protect me and get the other kids to listen to what I am saying, the way he just sits beside me when I am on break and says nothing, just sits, and smiles... and, oh, the presents he gives me . . . so far he has given me a necklace with a huge bling bling pendant on it, two coloring books with stickers in the back, a pair of earrings, and most recently a bottle of pink nail polish. He insists I take them. (I have no idea where he is getting them)
The way the kids bum rush me for star stickers to add to the Star Students board I made for class, getting one is never enough, they need two, no wait now they need three because they also want one to put on their forehead. But once again there is no language, only gestures and intense looks of pleading, disappointment and anger when I will not concede and give them another sticker.
The way they all need to go to the bathroom constantly and at ALL the same time, non-stop throughout all of class (seriously, it is a bit ridiculous) and how they cross their legs and make it look like they will die if I do not let them go, then the minute I open the door to let one go they all manage to escape and run all over the place like little crazies.
Walking through Chatila for the first time and realizing it is impossible to take a humans pride away from them. Although the women have so little, they dress themselves "to the 9's" (as my great-grandmother would say) and put on whatever bit of make-up they have. They walk with pride in their steps and hope in their hearts. This, this was a moment I will never forget and taught me more than I ever thought I could learn from a single walk.
When I arm wrestled the boys and did not let a single one win.
When me and Zoe sang the Cups Song for them and they just sat there in amazement and now ask me to sing for them everyday.
Beat-boxing with this one little boy while simultaneously rapping "You Are My Sunshine"
How the women keep the camp as clean as they can, they are outside every morning pouring water on the concrete and washing it away, although they must know, I know, it will be just as horribly dirty by sunset.
The colorful, soft, gorgeous rugs that are partially destroyed but nevertheless hang from the building, bringing it life and hope and beauty.
Hiding in the hallway when there are gun shots and waiting there for about 10 consecutive minutes that are void of any shots.
The hot water working only for a shower or two. ( and I live with 10 people)
The electricity going out whenever it wants to and the internet working in the same manner.
The mysterious dust covered Mercedes in the basement lot.
Fayad, my co-teacher, who I thought didn't like me until I brought balloons to class and made up a math game to play with the kids, after that day he looked at me and for the first time actually spoke to me and just said "Good Idea", now when I walk into class and he is there he looks at me and says "these kids really love you" - I love them.