Ryan Michael Chin (Singapore) (UWC AC ’11-’13)
‘Is that Walter?’ I thought to myself as I waited awkwardly at the departure gate. Luckily for me it was. And that was how I began my journey on the Arava Valley of Peace UWC Short Course. Basically the course was one situated in Israel and was aimed at bringing 6 Palestinians, 6 Israelis and 8 International Students together to learn about Peace Resolution and Sustainable Green Technologies in the desert. We travelled from the desert Kibbutz to the modern and upcoming Tel Aviv, from the Historical Old city of Jerusalem to the touristy destination of Eilat.
Experiencing the desert and the beauty of the Middle East was a very eye-opening experience. It really opened up my eyes to what I had never seen. Activities like painting in the Desert as the sun set and early morning hikes to see the sun rise over Jordan brought such beauty to my eyes that I had never known before. Safe to say, I had found my love in the Middle East.
The course was split into two main segments: Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Green Technologies.
Staying in the desert, we as a group learnt so much about sustainable green technologies. There were so many ingenious solutions and ideas that were being tested and put into practice, from a massive solar field to an algae farm the Kibbutz had it all. Not only did we learn about green technologies, we also learnt about the way of the Kibbutz. The Kibbutz oddly reminded me of Atlantic College, but instead of students, working class citizens with their families. Another oddity of the Kibbutz was the fact that there were so many Americans! I honestly in no mind expected there to be so many there. However, each and every one of the members of the Kibbutz were lovely and hospitable towards us.
We had a short break in the tourist hotspot of Eilat, where we went night-time snorkelling (a terrifyingly beautiful experience), hiking and funnily enough, shopping. We also spent loads of time on the beach and man was it hot. It hit 42 degrees Celsius! It was a nice and very much-needed break from the desert.
We spent time in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem learning about Peace Resolution. Where the theories were slightly mundane, the application was very interesting. We had some really interesting discussions and naturally the elephant in the room did come up. We did discuss about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it was interesting to see how emotionally charged the discussion was. There were tears, raised voices and conflicting facts, but that’s how it is I guess. The funny thing was, when it came down to it, I feel like none of the participants wanted to be part of the conflict There was so much humanity in normal day interactions that it totally outshone the feelings toward the conflict which the participants had grown up in. We did do other things too, we visited the Old City in all its historical beauty, discovered the metropolitan city of Tel Aviv and had pizza as the sunset over the Old City.
Throughout this whole course I learnt a lot. About nature, green technologies, real life situations, history and culture in the Middle East. But above all I learnt about people. I felt that the course was like a UWC experience of 2 years crammed into two and a half weeks; crazy, beautiful, scary, wonderful and above all, something that I will never forget.
Oh and did I mention that we all got mini yearbooks where we wrote notes to one another the night before we left for home?