Tuesday, January 23, 2007

School Worries

Last few weeks our family has been hit by the flu. At least I think it was the flu, I'm never sure what's the difference between the common cold and "The Flu". Dan started it with a week of fever and feeling run down, complaining of stomach pain mostly, but also coughing nicely. In the middle of that, I had my episode of ongoing fever, headaches, sore throat, pain all over for five days. The day that Dan was feeling better, Ron came down with it, and is still not 100% well. My husband had it easiest (good thing he's not reading this, for a man any cold is an acute case of tuberculosis).

So, finally, looks like the four of us are all relatively fine, with the occasional coughing orchestra shaking the house, nothing worse. Now we're back to our main project these days, finding the right school for Ron. Ron turns five in exactly five days, so we are actually looking for a pre-school for next year, but prefer to find one that is attached to a school, where he can graduate smoothly from pre-school and into school.

One of the options currently on the agenda is the local Arab-Jewish school. I have posted about this unique project before, but we actually went visiting there on Sunday (a work day here). We spent a while in the pre-school to see what it's like. The Jewish caregivers (GANENET) were both away sick (this flu is a proper epidemic this year), but we met the two Arab ones, and they were absolutely lovely. We arranged the visit with one of them prior to coming, and our general impression with her is extremely positive. A young woman, soft spoken and she seems to be very loving and caring towards the children, which is all we're looking for, essentially.

Watching the children together was odd. Imagine a group of twenty-something children, aged four to six, about half of which are Arabs and half Jewish. The Jewish children don't speak Arabic and the Arab children don't speak Hebrew. So now you get the adults trying to manage them all in both languages. When we were there, they were having a music lesson. A Jewish lady, we later found out was a volunteer and not part of the staff, who didn't know Arabic, was trying to get them to play along to music and play some musical games together. She would explain the instructions in Hebrew, then wait for the Arab caregivers to translate it into Arabic. Whenever she needed to say something to an Arab kid, she needed help. Now, I'm not actually sure about the regular staff, I do hope they are all bi-lingual, at least to some extent. I have to say that the Arabic, the way it was used with these kids, was fairly simple, and even we managed to follow most of what was being said there. It was still interesting to watch and definitely a good example of the unique challenge this system faces. It was moving too, in a sense. Watching these people try so hard to bring down the barriers and provide young children with the kind of experience of "the other side", that we ourselves never experienced. Something so simple, yet so challenging, and who knows, maybe it would work too?

Anyway, we still have a long way to do here, checking on a few other schools. We'll be going back to the Arab-Jewish school as well, for a more detailed talk with the staff and learning more about this project. My main concern at this point is the distance. It's only 15 minutes or so from our home, by car, but the school ride obviously takes longer, having to pick up children across town. I am not sure Ron isn't too young to travel on his own in the school ride for over an hour everyday. I guess we'll see though. I'll try and post more as we explore other options and more about the Arab-Jewish school too.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Closing Down Metalks

A bit of a sad day for me, but it had to be done. I closed down Metalks.com today. My strange vision of creating a place for people of the Middle East to talk to each other online didn't really work out I guess.

I take the blame here. Didn't have enough time to properly nurture that particular project. Frankly, I hadn't thought it would be so time consuming, and definitely not for the reasons it was. I figured I knew a lot about forums management, but forums take some toughness, some rules and discipline, as well as a lot of TLC. I found myself walking on eggshells as forum owner and admin, not sure where to draw the lines. We found ourselves wasting hours on trying to manage threads on weird subjects such as the protocols of the Elders of Zion and such nonesense, instead of trying to nurture the forum and bring in more people from the Middle East into the discussion. In retrospect, perhaps a more stern approach, simply forbidding some topics from being discussed at that stage, would have been more productive.

There was also a problem with not enough people from the Middle East participating. And those that were seemed to be mostly from Israel. I could easily "summon" in more Israelis. Israelis are chatty by nature, and I knew all I had to do was post on some political boards in Israel to get new participants. I held back, as I wanted a more balanced mix to the boards. I spent a while emailing Arab/Muslim/Middle East bloggers with little results. Yes, we did have some absolutely wonderful "recruits" that way, but overall, 90% of Arab bloggers either didn't reply, replied rudely, or just said thanks but never showed up on the board.

On the positive note, I have met and made friends with some wonderful people. Some of them I met as commenters here on this blog first, then got to know them better at Metalks. I have learned a lot about the people on "the other side". Thank you Amir, Jean, Khaled, Jad, and all of the other wonderful people who helped me learn so much about people living in what is officially "enemy countries". I still hope to meet someday, here or in neutral territory :)

And a big thanks to all of the moderators (the above included ;)! You guys (and gals) were wonderful to work with - thank you so much!

And who knows, Metalks may open again. I am keeping the domain, keeping the forum installs, just closing the gates, having cleaned up the dust (i.e. spam threads). If anyone wants to help with this project, give input or feedback, just comment here or email me.