Sunday 17 June 2007

Adyah Camp 1st meeting

14 June 2007

The meeting was very interesting! I could not take any photographs of the first meeting because the women were not dressed properly for the public.

I called Gilda when I was through the checkpoint, letting her know that I was there. She told me that she would be downstairs at the womens center in Adyah Camp.

When I arrived, I went downstairs but the door was locked, so I went upstairs to see if she was there. There was a women, who lead me back downstairs and knocked on the door.

Gilda opened the door, with her face peeking out and hiding her body and there was loud Arab music playing inside. She said, “Ahlan wa salan” meaning, welcome. She moved her arm in a gesture for me to enter.

When I entered, there were about 9-10 women laying on work out mats, dressed in work out clothes, exercising. Gilda was teaching the women exercises. The women started to giggle as I entered and I noticed that they were a bit shy with a stranger in the room, seeing them outside of their hijib’s or jibob’s.

Note: This shows me a vast difference in culture: In our Western culture we would explain to the other person what to expect. In the Arab culture, it is normal to be able to walk into any situation unprepared. The word “soon” could mean anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour” and if they don’t come, it doesn’t mean anything. In the western culture, “soon” is like in the next 5-10 minutes and if you can’t come, you call.

Gilda continued with her class, while I sat on the floor in the back next to a baby about 7 months.

After awhile, Gilda finished with the exercise part and the women put away the matts giggling and feeling tired from the exercises. They moved around the room to work out on the equipment taking deep breaths and rolling their eyes. After about 10 minutes, Gilda started to introduce me to the women, and tell them about my project.

Then asked me to explain, and she would interpret. I explained the project, forgetting all of my Arabic and a bit nervous. I still was not cultivated in the Arab culture and what I had already seen was new to me…which was the traditional women dressed in work out clothes. However I did notice that the women wore short sleeved tops and work out pants that went to their knees while the shirts covered their stomach and never showed that part of their flesh.

She understood that I wanted at least 5 women, and 5 women volunteered. I had noticed in her translations, that she did not translate exactly what I had said, but she said what she felt was right. She added never to take photos without them in the hijab, or jibob and to keep respect, of others and themselves. They asked what they could take photos of and I tried to explain that they could take photos of what ever they wanted, and tried to encourage them not to take photos of what they thought that I wanted.

They began to work out more, and Gilda turned up the Arab music and started dancing. At first, the women were shy, watching her dance and a few joined in. Most were giggling at her dancing. But the dancing is good for the hips, I noticed.

I know that these women have been dancing the belly dance since they could walk and they ALL WERE GOOD AT IT!

At which time, I started to pray that they would not ask me to dance with them, like the women that I had met years earlier in Egypt.

I figured that if I were nervous to dance with them, then why would they not be nervous also? However, since youth, at birthday parties, or weddings whoever the celebration is for becomes the center of attention and are supposed to dance by themselves for at least 30 minutes, while everyone (only women) stands around and claps. This is the a of honor, and they are NOT nervous about doing so, it is a special moment and a privilege. It is then that they flaunt their stuff, and show to the others how good they are.

These women did not seem as “free” as the Egyptian women; they still danced a bit with intimidation and most likely it was because of my presence.

Gilda was clearly presented herself as the leader and the encourager of the women. Slowly, the women began to dance; smile and open up in their dance.

I was proud of them that they could do something that I could not. The exercise meeting was coming to an end, and I told Gilda that I wanted to hand out camera’s to those that wanted to participate. She asked those who were going to participate to come over, and I pulled out the camera.

The camera I use is a disposable camera and I chose the color of blue for the women. Gilda asked if they were zoom. I said no. She responded with a look of disappointment but shrove her shoulders with acceptance.

I could see that she assumed that they knew and understood how to use this simple camera.
I wanted to stay somewhat in my workshop plan if at all possible and explain the use of the camera. To provide examples of the photographs that I had taken to show them the difference in light, and darkness, distance and closeness.

Gilda walked away while I had to explain everything in English while using hand symbols, waving my hands here and there in a new form of sign language. It was quite amusing and they were very polite. I noticed that they would nod their heads in agreement like they understood, but later I would realize that they did not understand and someone else who did would come along and explain what it was I was actually saying.

I finally got them to understand that I wanted them to look through the lens in order for them to understand that what they are looking through is not exactly what they are going to be taking because on this camera, the actual lens is a bit lower in the camera eye.

Then as the non participants were starting to get dressed, I pulled out the photographs, so they could see the difference in photographing outside, or inside and how the flash really did not work well. I tried to encourage them to have good light inside of the homes. I am hoping that they understood that.

After the women were dressed, I realized that I could not recognize a one of them. They all looked very different in their traditional clothing.

The last thing that I said to Gilda was that I have a lot to learn! She smiled and agreed.
The workshop did NOT go at all the way I had planned. My advisor told me as soon as I arrived, to let myself be WIDE OPEN and boy was she right!

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