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Last day at work: Happiness in Palestine.

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Closing of training and English classes led by Maggie Nazer at Hebron YDRC, Palestine

Closing of training and English classes led by Maggie Nazer at Hebron YDRC, Palestine

Today was my last day working at the Hebron Youth Development Center as an intern. The amazing performance and exhibition which the participants in my leadership training “Art for Social Change” organized were exceptional. It was exceptional what they managed to do just in two short days of preparation left on their own. It was so fulfilling to actually see that my words and actions inspire others! My amazing co-trainer Asala Salhab said: “They told me yesterday: “Maggie said we are leaders so we should organize the performance alone and that we can do anything” and indeed after hours spent in the theater space yesterday, today they came at 9 in the morning on a Ramadan day only to rehearse and perfect the showcase of their work.

It’s unbelievable to me how close I have grown to my English students and how dearly I love them: all of them at once and each of them in a unique way. I spent the last 3 hours in a coffee shop having one of the best times in my life (seriously!), discussing passionately all possible topics imaginable (which I didn’t imagine to be possible when I first met them) despite the many cultural norms which otherwise do not allow a girl to be smoking nargille in the company of guys.

I want to tell you all again that I love you so and you have given me more than I have ever expected! Never have my ideas and efforts for social change and youth empowerment been more well accepted and celebrated.

Last but not least, you have brought me back to Life (no exaggeration!) after a very difficult year in which I many times lost hope in the power of my voice to influence any actual change and in which I was almost about to lose my trust in others…

You have given me hope, you have given me love, you have given me an enriched sense for identity (“We Palestinians teach Life, Sir!”), you have given me your unconditional support and trust.

And I’m way too happy and inspired to even be sad that I am leaving! (Although, I guess it will hit me once I’m no longer on this sacred land.)

Carry the magic we created together with you at all times and spread it generously!

P.S. Don’t forget: WE ARE CONNECTED NOW!

Special THANKS to Center for Careers and Internships at Middlebury College and my hosting organization Hebron YDRC.

Pure Joy

Pure Joy

 


In The Heights

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Still in recovery mode from a long race over Memorial Day weekend, I opted for a very short run on the much traveled “Red Kelly Trail”, the trail which circles the Middlebury College Championship Golf course, also known as “Augusta National‘s Little Brother”.  Well, we aren’t exactly having Georgia weather of late, but you get the picture.  I have talked about the sights on this trail on numerous occasions, most recently on a longer run incorporating the Red Kelly Trail about two years ago.  Not a lot has changed since then, except for the fact that the section of the trail across the west ridge (or alongside the 10th fairway for those who know the course) has been rerouted away from the course and onto its own separate trail, where runners are more protected from errant tee shots.  If even a small fraction of the golfers are as miserable with their drivers as I have been, this re-route will probably save lives!

So, I departed the Middlebury College athletic facilities on South Main St. and got onto the Kelly Trail directly behind the all-weather “Kohn” Athletic Field.  Yes, everything on the campus is indeed named after someone!  After completing most of the trail in the clockwise direction, as I neared the end of the trail, I crossed South Main St. (aka Rt 30) and did the short descent on the Class of 97 Trail.  After about a half mile or so on this pleasant little stretch of single track trail, I came to the point where it emerged from the forest into the more open fields below.  Rather than continue on at this point, I elected to return, originally planning to retrace my steps back to Rt. 30.  However, a few minutes into my return, I noticed an unmarked herd path heading uphill to my left, unceremoniously marked by the presence of a large tractor tire seemingly abandoned in the woods.  Ascending this trail, it became apparent almost immediately where I was – the backyard of the mansion known as “The Heights” or  “The Thaddeus Chapman House”.  Many years ago, a member of the family which owns this property showed me around the interior of this large old home, and while it has not been regularly inhabited due to the high cost of heating it in the winter, it’s interior has been well maintained as a sort of museum to life in the late 1800′s.  Searching for more information about this grand old house, I contacted my colleague, architechtural historian, Prof. Glenn Andres.  From him, I learned that the house was built in 1870 by the owner of the Starr Mill, one Caleb Ticknor.  The house was acquired by Chapman in 1875, who subsequently had it renovated in 1887 by architect Clinton Smith (the reknowned architect of the better known Shard Villa) into its current elaborate (that is as close as I can come to the real architectural terms like “Queen Anne” and “Italianate”) form

Despite my one previous foray onto this palatial property, I had never actually explored the grounds.  Not seeing any “No Trespassing” signs from my point of entry, I decided to explore the grounds a bit on foot.  One of the first sights I noted was the bermed amphitheater built into the back  yard.  Oral tradition holds (that is my fancy way of saying Glenn heard it, but can’t confirm)  that these terraces were once the basis of elaborate gardens, while other oral traditions (a few generations of Middlebury College students) confirm that these terraces hold a long tradition as a college student trysting site in warmer weather.

Heights Amphitheater

Heights Amphitheater

Further up the hill from this, on the East Side of the main house, is a small childrens’ play house. Peering in through the window, I could discern child-size furniture indicating its use in its heyday.

Play House

Play House

 

Finally, leaving the property through the front driveway gave a nice vantage point to enjoy a good look at the main house.

 

The Heights

The Heights

The driveway brought me back to Rt 30, pretty much just across the street from the College field house, making this a short (slightly less than 3 miles!) but interesting run. Since the last section of this run is on private property, should you choose to explore The Heights, please be respectful of this well-maintained gem. Although it is usually not inhabited, this registered historic site is in no way a derelict property!   If any reader has anything more recent to add to my bare bones story of this property, I would love to hear it!

Google Earth projection of the run

Google Earth projection of the run

Books that Inspire! For Palestine campaign at Middlebury College

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Books for Palestine

Thanks to the Center for Careers and Internships (CCI) at Middlebury College, this summer I will intern in Hebron Youth Development Resource Center (YDRC) in the West Bank, Palestine. This is the first of a series of initiatives I am planning to implement hoping to contribute for the empowerment of young people in Palestine.

Books are the easiest way for new ideas to be brought in, contemplated, adapted, transformed and disseminated! The right to books and ensuring the availability of books should be of uttermost importance.

The collection of new (published in the last 10 years!) books in good condition and covering various topics related to youth will be collected and brought to Palestine to be exhibited and made available to young people at the youth social hub in Hebron YDRC. The campaign has already be generously supported by CTLR. Further enrichment of the value of the campaign will be sending positive encouragements or inspirational messages along with the books to create an opportunity for human connection.

The current campaign emphasizes on quality over quantity: the books meeting the requirements set will be brought in Palestine within my luggage for no additional cost (I will not take much luggage on this trip since I’m going home to Bulgaria afterwards) and will not cause any further ecological harm (other than being made of paper, i.e. trees).

Feel free to message me for more information whether or not you want to donate a book! E-mail Maggie Nazer at mnazer@middlebury.edu

 


Destination Recreation: Christmas Tree Farms

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Destination Recreation: Christmas Tree Farms.

Here I am on the Vermont WCAX TV Channel Check out the vid and don’t mind my hair! MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – WCAX

Whether it’s already cut and waiting or still hiding in the field, a tree farm can hold that perfect centerpiece for your holiday living room.

And at Werner Tree Farm in Middlebury, they say picking out your own tree at a farm is a traditional Vermont Christmas experience.

“I think in Vermont people are more willing to go out take a walk and cut their own tree down and get their hands a little bit dirty,” says manager Amanda Werner.

Most people make it a family outing, she says, getting outdoors and spending time together.

“Part of that is being able to come out and walk around the grounds and look at the trees. A lot of people, even the ones that end up getting a pre-cut tree, like to walk through the fields,” she says.

One visitor to the farm is Maggie Nazer, an exchange student at Middlebury College. She says in Bulgaria they bought their trees from vendors on the street. This is her first time to a tree farm, and she has friends to help her.

The group is learning a few things in the field, such as why it’s important to know the height of your ceiling before you get to the farm.

“A standard ceiling is about eight feet tall which means you might have to make it a little bit shorter. If you do, I’d suggest doing it from the bottom so you keep the shape of the tree intact,” Werner advises.

A few minutes later, they spot the one. Nazer gets to cut it down.

“Wow it smells so good,” she says.

Once the tree is brought out of the field they put netting around it and then tie it down to the car. This tree is headed to the Middlebury campus, where students will make ornaments for it.

“It’s amazing. It’s so much fun. I think it’s great just having this ritual and really be able to feel the Christmas spirit,” says Nazer.

She’s one of many getting her tree here. The farm says they sold 1,200 last year and expect to do even more this year as demand increases.


Affairs to remember

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Maggie NazerChurch, early on a Thanksgiving morning. I close my eyes to pray but the picture that flashes before my eyes is His being on top of me, kissing me. I’m not talking about Jesus, of course, and it’s not my imagination. “If love is a sin, I’m a sinner,” I comfort myself (with the lines of a song I had never heard) proudly as I whisper, “Amen.” I am thankful to remember last night precisely: our voices, the silence, the tension between our bodies, reading a book in bed together. No hangover, no doubt that it happened, no regret whatsoever.

Hooking up is so big in college that people have come so far as to call it a “culture.” Students are so busy, stressed and dedicated to succeed in the big world that hook-ups come in handy, within the strict time-frame of Saturday nights and with the helpful assistance of lots and lots of alcohol. Yet, what does it do for us? What are the needs we try to satisfy as we dress up, go partying, get drunk and take someone to bed? Is it about intimacy, or being with someone, or even simply receiving pleasure? And do we ever get what we want?

“Waking up on a Sunday morning is heavy-duty,” my friend tells me as we sit to have brunch together later that day. Coming to terms with last night’s outcomes must be, indeed, hard to swallow (no matter of our degree of mastery). With the ecstasy of being young, drunk and alive after yet another week of Middlebury academics, comes the natural need to perform in yet another discipline – sex. Yet, how do we prove we are the high-achievers we know ourselves to be?

We drink. We drink to relax ourselves, to get ourselves excited and excused… Drunkenness is the socially accepted apology for the lack of erection, for the abandonment of restrictions and the temporary display of amnesia when you meet your late-night companion(s) in the dining hall the following morning. Drinking is the confidence booster we need to silence our fear that we aren’t good enough, or interesting enough, or sexy enough, so that we go on stealing sex from each other uninterrupted by reality. We steal what we can steal, afraid we won’t be given anything otherwise.  It’s all good until you realize you can do better than that.

The sober seduction is the ultimate turn-on. There is power in vulnerability and beauty in the creation of proximity, be it even for a night. The more present I am, the more aroused. Only presence in the given moment provides passion with existence, because it exists solely here and now, and only then forever. Reduced to its mechanics, sex offers no pleasure. Eroticism is conceived by the consent and fullest participation of everyone involved in the sexual act. In the exchange of value we call “sex,” why do we rob each other of any meaning?

As I looked at the glowing stars stuck on the ceiling of my college dorm, lying sleepless in his arms, I asked myself why the need to forget. “Life is short”- everyone around me claims as a justification of everything we do in attempt to bring ourselves what we want, which most often results in the exact opposite of it. Yet if life is short why not live it to remember it? Should the affairs we remember be only the academic ones and do we have anything to feel good about once we put our clothes back on?

We all know that sex is no more a mere instrument to reproduction. But while we are among the luckiest people ever lived on the Earth to be able to create togetherness through sex without too much fear of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (if we are smart about it, of course!), we run away from truly being with each other afraid of its implications… As we confront our guilty consciousness after another naughty Saturday has passed, we have to accept that the most obvious consequences of our wasted hook-ups are the missed opportunities… If not for “true love”, than at least for human connection and warmth. And as we dare to open up and be with each other unmasked, naked and sober, we might find that someone would want to stay around not only for the night, but may be even after…

The article was first published in my very own “Love and sexuality” column in “The Middlebury Campus” newspaper- Vol. 112, NO. 11 from December 5, 2013; www.middleburycampus.com


Tantra Workshop in J-term! @Middlebury College

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Tantra Workshop in J-term! @Middlebury College

“Tantra is the science of transforming ordinary lovers into soul mates. And that is the grandeur of Tantra. It can transform the whole earth; it can transform each couple into soul mates.” Osho, Philosophia Perennis, Vol. 1, Talk #8

Tantra is the practice of consciously creating connectedness. It is an ancient technique that comes to remind us that our bodies and what we do with them is sacred. Through sexuality we grow spiritually and get closer to not only our partners, but ourselves, and God. Tantra helps us heal and empower our relationships through expanding our consciousness and our ability to be present, open up and share.
Tantra is an ancient practice dating back to the fifth century, and as a meditation practice it has influenced Hindu, Sikh, Bön, Buddhist, and Jain traditions. It spread with Buddhism to East and Southeast Asia, and contains enormous cultural significance in central Asia. The tantra workshop aims to bring together open-minded students who are interested in learning about the practice of tantra and discuss sexuality and the act of love making from different perspectives, both from a philosophical and physical standpoint.
In addition to discussing tantric techniques and values, we will engage in some exercises and activities to awaken our senses and spread loving kindness through meditation, visualization, breathing. The workshop will not include nudity nor sexuality; rather, participants should be ready to appreciate the philosophical and cultural significance of tantra through an introduction to basic, non-sexual practices. Participants should be willing to go out of their comfort zones, and contribute for the creation of a positive and safe environment for conversation.