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Youthquake!

I saw this headline on Timemagazine.com and thought how appropriate it is for me since I’m finishing up a week at THIMUN, which is a 5-day Model United Nations conference at The Hague, also where the U.N’s International Court of Justice holds court (literally a 4 minute walk from where I sit right now).

According to THIMUN’s website more than 3,200 students from 200 schools around the world take part in this training ground for our future world leaders (and God help us may it hold true that some of these kids take the reigns because we need them).  I posted what an amazing experience this was last year, and it still is because the kids truly do cut their teeth on resolutions, debates, collaboration, etc. — real-world skills that will serve them well with whatever they decide to do with their lives.

I tear up during the opening ceremony when the parade of nations takes place because for a few minutes I’m filled with hope and love for humanity’s potential — especially when guest speakers remind us we’re in a city that prides itself on peace.  Peace, people.  Unity. A reminder that we still have a chance to not royally fuck everything up.  Our babies might just save us after all.

But, I’m also here at an unsettling time.  There’s great divide not just within my country but too many to mention; there’s too much scorched or parched earth; and there’s too many forms of life dying at what seems an unnatural rate.  The earth is also shaking and spewing lava and lethal microbes at us maybe because she’s pissed, or maybe because she’s just as fickle and petty as we are.

When I’m not going in and out of committees to see what my kids are doing, I sit and chat with other teachers from around the world (no longer a novelty for me, but still very cool).  It’s dangerous when teachers have time to sip coffee while it’s warm and not have to rush for this or that.  We reflect.  We philosophize.  We share the observations we don’t normally have time to think about yet alone articulate.

A common thread among our discussions this year is that we (mankind) are changing.  It’s visible in us and our young.  There’s more arrogance, more tuning out, more reactive versus proactive, more feed me now Seymour! Even here where open mindedness and compromise is at the root of all we do, too many times we ally to win our side for the sake of winning versus what might be in the best interest of most (although perhaps that’s always been the case).

This trip takes up a lot of my time, and it causes me a whole lot of stress.  There are all the arrangements and meetings that need to be made before we go, and then while we’re here I, and the other adults with me, are responsible for the safety and well being of someone else’s teenagers while being in a bustling city with thousands of other teens — all excited to be a part of this, and all wanting to have a little parent-free fun. I’m on guard from the minute I wake until the minute I finally pass out, and I’m always fully aware that I am a role model, so I need to practice what I preach alllllllllll day long (it’s hard being a model citizen when you’re normally such a sinner after-hours).

There’s teen angst, bravado, drama, anxiety, etc. etc. etc.  LOL there’s adult drama too.  And, I cannot tell you how many times I ask myself why in the hell am I doing this? Especially when a kid decides to test things and make me feel small for doing my job (although most of the time that’s not the case).  Shit happens while we’re here, and I have to help them (and me) deal with it.  It’s exhausting and not rewarding in the sense of recognition or money.  But, it does so feed and warm my soul when a kid gets it (maybe just for half a second) that holy shit my voice IS power.  Of course that’s after hours of not getting called upon, but that too is valuable — most of the time we are not heard, or not given the chance, or perhaps on this particular thing it’s better off silent, but we have to keep trying, right?

I doubt I’ll do this again next year because a week away is taxing on the job front for me as well as personally.  It’s just a lot, but I will make sure that this thing continues. It will be a success no matter who is managing it.  And, it does have to keep going.

You see there’s this virus going around that we’re all terrified of catching.  We adults are on alert.  The Hague is on alert with medical staff on standby should we need them.  I told my friends that if I ended up on lockdown at this conference with all of these kids my head would explode.

Then we got here and realized we were sharing our hotel hallway with a school from Shanghai.  I thought “oh shit, are you kidding me?”  I don’t know what my kids thought, but their actions were all positive — from inviting our neighbors to take part in our hallway games to socializing when we run into each other at dinner outings.  They don’t care where anyone is from or what they might represent (at least for now; pray the world doesn’t taint them tomorrow).

And that is after all what this is all about.  If we adults don’t keep ensuring that our kids are exposed to at least mock humanity (with real world actions on their part) then what good are we?  So go all you little debaters out there, keep doing your thing, but remember this is your training to spread some good when you shed your childhood and take on your adulthood.  Your species depends on it.

p.s. and don’t worry about my whine about my lost free time; my husband has a good bottle of red breathing for me when I get home Friday night.  Humdullah my sinning will commence.

p.s.s. If you’re interested in seeing more about the actual conference you can read about it by clicking here.

What a difference a day makes

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A view from our lobby window.  I absolutely LOVE The Hague.  Next time Joe and I go, we’ll stay at the beach.

I had a meltdown yesterday outside a clinic during a snow/rain storm, which really wasn’t a smart idea — who cries in the freezing rain?!  This morning I woke to a sunny morning: walked the dog, then snuggled up with my favorite blankie and a cup of coffee on my favorite chair, and just inhaled the peace and quiet.  I am once again happy to be alive and where I am in the world, but yesterday morning not so much.

Last week was one wave after another of highs and lows.  Two teachers and I took 27 students to The Hague for its annual Model United Nations conference.  It is an amazing experience for students; a complete drain on their teachers (but worth it when you see how much good it has to give our young).  Basically each kid there has a role to play, and they do it for an entire week.  Most of our kids were mock UN delegates for Peru or Armenia, two of them were also ambassadors for each country.  We also had a chair and a press photographer. Our kids, who are already part of an international school setting (with primarily European and North American countries), got to work with kids from all over the globe including South Korea, Egypt, Oman, Zimbabwe, etc. etc.  One of our kids was ecstatic he got to co-write a resolution with a Netherlands princess, the future queen — how cool is that?  But, just as enlightening, was the ability to work with kids from countries where the threat of violence, starvation, humanity’s uglies are all too real (and in today’s uncertain times I guess that includes us all, but you know what I mean).

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Go babies go!  Ambassadors from the countries and organizations they represented during the week.

I cannot tell you how much it fed my soul to see teenagers on crowded trams and busses or at corner cafes lobbying/debating/co-writing resolutions with other teens, some of whom they just met that day.  Like in the real world, their jobs did not end at 5 p.m.  These kids were coming up with solutions to real-world issues — if only they could take the reigns away from some of their adult counterparts, we might not be in the sticky wickets we are in today (let me have my pollyanna moment).

During closing ceremony speeches one boy stated that he got to work with a young man from a rival country.  He pointed to his committee teammate and said, “if war breaks out, I will not fight my brother.”  Moments prior I saw the breaking news flash on my phone about nuclear treaty breaks.

How is it that I live in a world where teenagers are the more mature ones?  And, I know it’s easier for them because they’re not in control of the real world.  It is just words and practice, but why can our politicians/leaders/whatevers not see each other as brothers and sisters and find a better way to resolve conflict?  I get it; life beats us up with real-world crap, but come on folks we can do this better.  We can model what we preach to our kids.

So, why the waves you ask?  Well, they are human teenagers and with that comes their drama (okay so maybe not so much different than adults), so we had a few mini crises to facilitate — none of which included drugs, alcohol or sex (thank God!).   And, then sadly we had a big tragedy that affected us all.  There was a death back  ‘home.’  We teachers had to quickly become stand ins for their parents and grief counsellors until we could bring them home (all the while working with parents, counsellors and admins via technology).  Families were told it was okay to come get their kids, but our students decided to finish off the week, so we all powered through, but it wasn’t easy.   We also had two sick kids and one sick teacher (me).

My breakdown at the clinic happened because I just needed some antibiotics but because I never made the time to register at the health clinic on base they cannot help me until Monday when they can put me into the system.  It’s totally my fault for not going there sooner.  I’ve been here a year and a half — hello? bitch, get your affairs in order.  I also could have gone to a local clinic (and friends offered to drive me), but I was so beat and the roads were tricky that I just didn’t have it in me.  Caving in to my inner drama queen:  I’d rather cry and be miserable, which is okay because Nurse Badger is keeping an eye on me — and honestly my thing is such a minor problem.

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And, yes, my Christmas tree is still up.  I’ll finally take the time to put it all away next weekend.  

It’s all good, I’ll get it taken care of tomorrow.  I’m still a very lucky woman because I do not get ill often, and when I do it’s nothing major.  I also had two friends come over last night to enjoy Indian take out and much-needed talk and laughter.  Life is good, even when it has its bad moments.  And, Good God, our young will one day take over and hopefully put us on a better path.

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Tomorrow these will be their seats for reals!
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