Wednesday, May 7, 2014

!مع السلامة -- Good bye, Al-Bustan!

            It's hard to believe that today is my last day of the semester at Al-Bustan. A number of snow days at school, the adjustment of being back at university in America, and a job I really enjoyed all made the time go by way too fast—it’s shocking to me that my blog posts reflecting on my time in Amman and the food were written 3 months ago! But it seems like now, as I leave for the summer, is a good time to reflect on the past four months.
My favorite piece of tatreez--I wish I knew how to do this!
            I came to Al-Bustan after seeing a posting on the Student Employment Office website while I was abroad. It was perfect: a work-study job that was also relevant to my interests, and with an organization that I had heard about before, from performing with the Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble during my sophomore year. The first days of the semester found me getting my feet wet at Al-Bustan: learning my way around the office computer drive, which seems to hold more files than Google, and beginning to recognize the names of the many people that the organization works with when implementing its programs. I prepared song sheets and recorded attendance for PAME’s nearly 30-person choir and heard from Lisa, our Education Coordinator at that time, about the many in-school programs that we ran. I even saw samples of the artwork she helped with, like the tatreez, or Arabic needlepoint, that she made with a class at Northeast High School.
With the first concert of the fall on the horizon, I helped Morgan, our Marketing and Development Director, with advertising, and was even lucky enough to meet the Narcicyst while he was here. I helped Al-Bustan roll out this year’s annual summer camp, mailing out information about it and recording registrations as they came in. I also learned from Hazami, the Executive Director, about the many long grant processes we go through to get funding for these programs. By the time Fathy Salama came for his residence just two weeks ago, I was entirely overwhelmed by my classes, but did get to attend his engagement at the Penn Museum--although unfortunately this time, I didn’t get to meet the artist!
Mixing henna for a Al-Bustan project
Overall, it was a busy but productive semester for both me and for Al-Bustan.
The biggest thing I learned from my time at Al-Bustan was the incredible effort that goes into all the programs that this organization puts on. For being just a few employees--granted, with an awesome coalition of volunteers—the number of things that Al-Bustan is involved with is truly impressive. From educational programs in school to the seasonal concert series to an online music education tool (Try it here! It’s fun!) that combines the two, the staff does so much to promote the mission of Al-Bustan, and they provide a warm and welcoming environment to anyone interested in learning about or participating in Arab arts, culture, and language. I encourage all of our readers to attend our events, check out our Facebook and Twitter, and even volunteer if you have the time, so you can more fully understand the important work that Al-Bustan is doing within the Philadelphia community and become more engaged with such a dynamic organization. I’ve truly enjoyed my time here and hope to be writing to you all again in the fall!