Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another week at SEEDS OF PEACE...

Friday July 25Th

Today is my day off, I started my day by going to the gym (because I promised a friend I will be going with him) it was a small quite space attached to a private residence, I did ride on an aerobic machine whiles watching TV. It was raining so much that we went straight to breakfast without the regular morning line up. I spent the rest of the morning making phone calls and paying bills on phone. After lunch I went to the main hall for the Muslim Friday service, the prayer was led by a delegation leader from Palestine, whose sermon was perfect for an occasion like this, He challenged the campers to be tolerance of other faith traditions whiles they are learning much about theirs and the rest of the campers were quite in their bunks in respect of the Muslim prayer, same was done for the Jewish and will be done on Sunday for the christian service.
I went out to Freeport , Maine, an out let shopping center, with my fellow facilitators (its our day off) we shop( window shop) and had dinner and just walk around. On our way back we drove through Portland and finally got to camp a little before 10 pm. I stayed awake catching up with my emails and phone calls and went to bed a little after 12 midnight. Thinking of what the next day will be like...

Saturday July 26Th

At six in the morning (Saturday) I took a shower and was saying my morning prayers when the first bell rang , after prayers I waited for the third bell at 7 :25 am before I walk down the road to join the whole camp at line up. Seeds of Peace campers are creative and they show it off at line up after all the ritual line up announcements the counselors are asked if they have any 'special' announcement , this is an opportunity for members of a bunk to challenge campers from another bunk to any thing from songs, pull ups, sit ups and many other things and you can actually mentioned a particular bunk by name and say okay 'last night bunk XZY did 3000 sit ups and we are challenging bunk ABC to beat that record) I think that is my favorite part of the 'special' morning announcements.
Dialogue was intense for some of the Maine Seeds and some of the other campers ,we are getting to the end of the first week and they are transitioning from getting to know each other and creating trust to talking about some of the issues that are affect them as innocent young people in a troubled world. After the evening dialogue I was to chose between going to a local fair, 'Casco-days' which celebrates the founding of the Town of Casco, Maine or go out with a group of friends. I went out with the friends to hung out at a local spot, it was nice to see people socializing in a non-working setting, it felt like a big' human theater' in which I was both an actor and an audience Watching and being watched by others.

Sunday July 26Th

My alarm went off at 5:30 am, I opened my eyes and struggled to get off my bed took a shower said my morning prayers and get ready for line up. When you are here time and day comes to a freeze and you lose track of what day of the week it is. Our dialogue sessions were normal . We introduced a reading ritual where each Maine Seeds will share a quote from , poetry, song or anything that means something to them or that they think have relations or meaning to what We will be talking about each day. I will be sharing those Quotes with you, any time I update the blog at the end I will add a quote that have been read by a Maine Seed. below is one, please enjoy it.

"It is better to light candles
than to curse the darkness.
It is better to plant seeds
than to accuse the earth.
The world needs all of our power
and love and energy,
and each of us has something that we can give.
The trick is to find it and use it,
to find it and give it away.
So there will always be more.
We can be lights for each other,
and through each other's illumination
we will see the way.
Each of us is a seed,
a silent promise,
and it is always spring."
~Merle Shain ~

Monday July 27th

Today is NBA day and there is excitement all over the place, We were already aware that the NBA players are coming to day so the excitement started building up from last night and at line up you can imagine the roar from the campers and staff alike when Wil Smith announced that the players are here.Music was blurring out from stereo in front of the line up and every one was dancing in anticipation of the stars.The local media was there as usual with their big cameras and we are enjoying every bit of it. Then will started introducing them in a creative, way as members of the 2009 Seeds of Peace's all star basket ball team..... and the whole camp roar in welcoming the team..
Because of all that is going around we decided to do the dialogue differently and the seeds did their best to be in the hut with us. Dinner was cook out at the pines. ( the camp's dinning hall is divided into two parts one for the counselors and campers the other for the facilitators and Delegation leaders ).. the cook out is at the Facilitator side of the dinning hall and its call the pines.After dinner I hitched hike with an old friend who was a seed and came to visit the camp . When I got to Portland everything looked different and I wonder if I was away for only a week

below is our second quote please enjoy reading and sharing it.

“You have your way.

I have my way.
As for the right way,
the correct way, and the only way,
it does not exist.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche~

Thursday, July 23, 2009

SEEDS OF PEACE CAMP 09 working with 'Maine Seeds' ( First week)

Sunday July 19
I got to camp and joined the other staff members in the usual orientation exercise led by co-camp director . There was a presentation on the Maine Seeds program by Tim Wilson. He Pointed out what is happening in Portland and across Maine,which is affecting our young peoples perception of life. The need for Seeds of Peace is so clear in Maine now, than ever before. The night was quite and peaceful after that and I slept through.

Monday July 20:

I went to line up and saw a couple of faces that I had known from the previous year. Every body looked happy as people were showing love by hugging each other. After breakfast I joined others at the infirmary to do a health check. I was given a clean bill of health. Next was the group challenge. This activity really helped me to understand how a climbing exercise can build trust, support, and leadership skills. Of course I had to climb too.
The first group of campers started arriving from Maine; suddenly the whole camp was turned into a party scene. Seeds of Peace have a tradition of welcoming campers that reminds me of my high school days. Staffers play drums, sing, and dance in front of the camp director's house while waiting for the buses to arrive. There is a continued communication between the fleet of buses and camp so we know when they will arrive. The music and drumming is hyped, as they get closer. They are welcomed first by the singing, dancing, smiling faces, and bear hugs. Then Bobbie (co-founder Seeds of Peace) also gives a personal welcome to all. After all the hellos campers are fed and meet with their facilitators and counselors. After the second bus and dinner, I went and played soccer for about an hour , and waited till the last bus arrived. That night I went to bed thinking and wondering why we as humans can’t just co-exist. ( a counselor performing whiles awaiting the arrival of the next bus)

Tuesday July 21:

My Co-facilitator and myself had our first meeting today in preparation for the first sessions of dialogues that are planned for Wednesday. Every one is busy and getting things done in preparation for Wednesday's Flag raising ceremony.. A ritual as old as Seeds of Peace itself.
There was a big all camp Facilitator camper orientation where head of all the Facilitators introduce us (facilitators)to the campers and we in turn spent the next our with them in the ' our home grounds' or the rooms that we will be holding our dialogue sessions.
I met all the Maine Seeds for the first time and i think they are awesome and ready to engage and explore how to make difference and changes in their lives, their Schools, their Communities, cities, State , Country and the world... they are ready to go. On my way to my cabin I can hear the Seeds of Peace band rehearsing for tomorrow's flag raising ceremony

Wednesday July 22

After morning line up and breakfast we all went back to our cabins and bunks to prepare for the flag raising ceremony, which is the ritual to official signal the beginning of the camp session.
Every one at camp line up at the entrance of the camp grounds with beautiful green trees and the pleasant lake as back ground, the press set their cameras and microphones whiles the campers and staff were lined up shoulder to shoulder for support , love and encouragement. The camp director introduced six young people who were previous campers to share their experiences with the current campers from their various Countries and Maine: namely Egypt, Israel ,Jordan , Palestine United States (yes there are Seeds from all over US) and Maine. Each of them led their group to sing their national anthems whiles their flags are being pull. The ceremony was beautiful and very patriotic. finally after a many inspirational speeches the flag of Seeds of Peace was raised and we all matched shoulder to shoulder back into the camp grounds singing the seeds of peace song to begin another memorable journey in search of peace.

We had our first dialogue session from mid- morning until the bell was rang for line up and lunch.After lunch I rested for an hour before joining my fellow facilitators to rehearse for staff talent show night. It was a night when the staff entertains the campers with music, art, sports skits, facilitation skits etc I think there are talents from all walk of life here.
Our second dialogue was after dinner and the campers were as determined as the ones in the morning. we had a good session and went to the talent show. the whole camp was present and the campers were all excited to see us staff on stage. I went to bed waiting for the bell to ring again for another day full of work , fun and thankful to be part of this.

⧏A staff member costumed as 'Troll' .. I told you,Seeds of Peace got Talent..

Thursday July 23
Today is much mellowed, every one is getting into the serious mood and getting things done. We had successful dialogue in the morning and I just came out of our second dialogue session tomorrow is my day off, meaning there is no dialogue until Saturday and I can leave camp tonight and be back by Sat morning. The campers will do all sorts of special activities including swimming , softball, basketball, art and canoeing etc.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I was surrounded by teary faces all clad in green shirts with an olive branch and three ‘alien’ like figures printed in front of the green shirts... across from park (field) was the last bus carrying some of the most beautiful people I have ever encountered in my life...... as I started walking back to my bunker I was hit with the reality that in just a few hours I will be getting ready to go back home to my every day life , where instead of listening and sharing ideas on how we can contribute to change our world, I will be bombarded by images on my TV and articles in newspapers that describe the 'other side' of all conflicts as the ones who don’t want to have peace and are the evil ones'. Who are going to kill their neighbors at the drop of a coin.. etc.
In the winter of 2007 I met a man whose looks, olive or tanned skin ,(thinly features) and gently manners reminds me of my late grandfather...... He is the father of a very good friend of mine . My friend introduced me to him and I took his number... not knowing that I just took my first step toward being part of a program whose goals and mission have eluded mankind for generations, I call it 'a peaceful co-existence'. I am talking about the Seeds Of Peace International camp in Ottisfield Maine. Located by the banks of the beautiful and calm pleasant lake it is every Peace lover or activist’s dream of a camp grounds. I was offered a position as a staff with the Delegation leader program at the camp. At first my job looks easy all I was supposed to do was be part of a team to facilitate 'Adult groups from (India and Pakistan) and Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. We are supposed to facilitate these group through conversations about how the conflict in their various part of the world have affected their lives and what in their opinion can help bring peace. And trust me I was working with two ladies who have numerous experience and achievements facilitating conversations like this across the United States and beyond...
My first taste of what lies ahead came when the first bus arrived after the music and drumming to welcome the campers had died down and we started helping the group to their various bunks , here is a sample of conversation I had with a gentle man as I showed him into his bunker, lets say his name is Mr R..
R: thank you very much my friend, but why do I have two beds?
Pious: You are welcome, you have a roommate
R : what is his name and where is he from?
Pious: His name is Mr Q and he is from the country on the eastern side of your country.
R: W-H-A-T? no ,I am not going to sleep next to 'him' can you change the arrangement?
Pious : I am sorry , there is no more empty bunkers , I will bring it to the notice of the person in charge of this tomorrow morning..
R : Please do that 'I cant stay in the same room with him or any of ‘those’ people' for three weeks..
( Similar conversation too place between my co workers and some of the delegation leaders we help into their bunkers)
From the flag raising ceremony through all the different dialogues sessions and exercises we had I saw a group of people who came with determination to defend their country's stand on the conflict and to show how patriotic they are or how far they can go to defend their country's stand on issues, change into best friends, who are planning how they will plan cross boarder sleep over activities and build network of peace seeking friends not only from their regions but across the world once they get back home.
From the first through the last day (before the buses started departing ) I was surrounded by smiling faces and positive energy from people of all ages and from many different countries who I have known for less than a month. The delegation Leaders group will remain in my memory for a long time to come, how can I forget Avi's energy, or Ajay’s beautiful smile and Honesty. How can one forget Saroj's peaceful saintly approach to everything in life and Salim's creative mind and strong Baritone voice that always yells ‘Open the door the Seeds Of Peace are coming' any time we are returning to camp from one of our educational field trips. One will always remember Sahab’s appetizing Jordanian dish and pleasant personality. I will always remember Rehabs intellectual conversations and Zaki’s beautiful voice anytime he sings in Hebrew. Harb's volleyball skills was amazing so was Maha and Orly's balanced point of views during dialogue and Rehab’s Scholarly approach to conversations.
I love listening to Hussain's opinion on everything, I learnt a lot from this gentleman. So was Arafat's believe in non -violence means of tackling the conflict..between him and his neighbors.
My Roll call will not be perfect without Farzana from Pakistan who will make sure that she serves everyone present a cup of tea anytime she is having one herself, neither will I forget about Carmit , Yahaya, and Muhammad each of who gave the process their all. Maysoon and Avi's love for the campers they led is worth mentioning so is Ajays beautiful pictures that captured every aspect of the camp life. the delegation leader 'staff roll' a lot of amazing people like Fatma, the camp co-ordinater whose energy is beyond my imagination , Inessa the the office manager/ accountant and Daniel whose leadership style is one of a kind. The camps smooth running lies on the shoulders of two of the most wonderful people I have ever seen... Will and Leslie the two camp co-directors and of course Bobby and Tim Wilson the two pillars of the camp will always be in my heart and so will Sam’s (Leslie’s son) beautiful smile..
Generally everyone I met at the camp have giving me a reason to believe in Peace again.... please for more information visit www.Seedsof

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dance work shop a la Bates Dance Festival

Well its been an hour since the dancer(Michael Kouakou) from Bates Dance festival (courtesy of the Festival and the Maine office of Multicultural Affairs) got here and all I can say is he and the teenage girls (lotino Acholi dance group) and their mentor are having a blast. Even yours true had the chance to try his feet on some of the moves. The guy is such a wonderful choreographer and a teacher. I wish I am around during the festival to go see some of his performances. These lucky five will also get an invitation to go see the festival
Now that I am done with this its time to go back and finish packing . I cant wait to go to the seeds of peace camp. I will be leaving tomorrow and will be blogging to share my experience at the camp at least twice or thrice a week .. Until then enjoy the dancing moves from the Parkside Neighborhood Center and please don't forget to go to the festival website for all the schedule peace

Dance workshop.......

I am in the middle of a multi- tasking, trying to do many things at the same time. I have to finish packing my bag for camp and I am also hosting a dancer from the Bates Dance festival to have a workshop at the Park side neighborhood center for teenagers and I just learn that one of my partners will not be able to bring 4 of the 8 youth we are expecting because some of them are working, one is traveling and the rest don't want to d it by themselves. I don't know how the dancer will feel, about this he is going to be here in about 30 minutes, its too late to get more kids.
I will post how the dance workshop goes with some pictures.. the problem with Portland is there are a lot of young people who are looking for something to do on one hand, and then there is a lot of things taking place on another hand and all these young people don't have an idea what to do or where to go..... we need some sort of youth clearing house where kids can check and see what is going on in their various communities.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What is the big deal about Obama's visit to Ghana

When I woke up in the morning I was wondering what the President's visit will change in the dynamic of everything that is going on, in the African Continent. I was thinking if he was going to be honest with the Politicians and tell them to clean their acts and serve their people. He did that and even went further. If you look back in the recent past almost every American President from Bill Clinton through Bush ii ,have visited the continent and have helped with some sort of financial support, but what do we see? one corrupt government after another all over the continent. Sitting Politicians are trying hard to be more corrupt than their predecessor. I am glad that Obama said it as it should be and thank God he is not white, he would have been called a racist.
"We must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long," he said. "That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans." Barack Obama to Ghanaian Parliament and ( The African Continent)
I hope that whatever Obama said will not evaporate after he left the motherland. Thank you Mr President

Friday, July 10, 2009

Femi Kuti rocks Portland Maine..

Yesterday We were blessed with a beautiful day and a marvelous performance by the prince of Afro jazz beat British born Nigerian Musician Femi Kuti (Son of Late Fela Kuti). Unlike the sunshine this blessing was not free with a cover of $20, we danced to the rhythms of one of Africa's finest musicians for almost three hours and the crowd as usual was very diverse. It seems like we need more of this kind of shows in Portland, Kudos to Port City Music Hall. Check their website for their upcoming live performances,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Blended Community

I have decided to write and share my thoughts/opinions on things that I am passionate about. I would like to generate conversation around these ideas, so feel free to comment. I am enthusiastic about many things both in my own community and beyond. My plan is to share my thoughts often with my readers in hopes of keeping discussions going surrounding the Portland communities. Being that I have had no formal training in journalism I welcome feedback from you my treasured readers.

Today is Sat July 4 2009; I have just come back home from watching the city's fireworks. I plan to post the videos from my cell phone once I figure out how to down load and upload them. I live in Portland, which by far offers the state of Maine its most diverse communities. Anyone can tell that just by the differences in the people that showed up to celebrate this event.

The firework show was so amazing often all I heard from the crowd was yeaahhh and wow. As I looked around I realized how beautiful the crowd was. It was a blend of Arabs, Blacks, Asians, Whites, and every culture and race in between. On my way home I passed an open window with a group of young men drinking and singing America the beautiful with hoarse voices. It made me feel happy to be a part of something so much bigger then myself.