Posts Tagged ‘middle east’

Photo Friday: Beirut, Lebanon
Friday, April 1st, 2011

Religion in Lebanon

In all of the countries I’ve traveled to, Lebanon produced the most contrasts and confusion. Whether you are there to enjoy the beaches of the Mediterranean, the cosmopolitan nightlife and shopping of Beirut, or the beautiful hiking on the Lebanon Hiking Trail – you can’t avoid the religious contrasts that are woven so deeply into this country.

Unlike the rest of the Middle East, all religions are represented, lending way to many scenes like this one where churches and Mosques are placed right next to each other. Even after a month in Lebanon, I still just scratched the surface of history, culture, and understanding.

You can follow more of Sherry’s adventures in the Middle East through her Volunteer Chronicles.

Photo Friday: Birthday Guest
Friday, March 25th, 2011

Birthday Guest

In Beirut everything is done with flare – even birthdays. While I was volunteering there I was showered with attention from the Lebanese and their ‘guest culture’.

However, nothing prepared me for the attention I received on my birthday. My host family threw me a party and invited family and friends; people who I had just briefly met in the short time I had been staying in Lebanon via GeoVisions. Not only did they provide fireworks, but each of them gave me presents. It was as if I had known them all for 12 years, not 12 days.

You can follow more of Sherry’s adventures in the Middle East through her Volunteer Chronicles.

Be Our Guest
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The first night in Lebanon I mentioned to my host mother, Mira, that I needed to find a place the next day to buy some shampoo and toothpaste. “Ok, no problem.” She said.

Host Family in LebanonThe next morning I woke up, opened my door and went down the hallway to the kitchen to find Mira. She wasn’t in the kitchen; instead she was at the front door where a man was delivering groceries to her. After greeting her with “good morning,” she handed me a bottle of shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste, saying “these are for you.”

I was a little stunned, as I hadn’t asked her to buy me these products – I just mentioned that I needed to buy them. But she wouldn’t take any money and insisted I take them. This was my first experience of what it was like to be a guest in Lebanon.

Guest culture is a very important piece of Lebanese culture and it took some getting used to as an American. Over the next month I learned that this also took on a traditional form of ‘volunteering’. Lebanese regularly help their relatives, friends, and neighbors without expectation of direct compensation, financial or otherwise. This provides them with a mutual aid network in which they do not necessarily reciprocate help to the person who helped them. Rather, the expectation is to reciprocate by helping others within their network.


Volunteering Reality: Lebanon
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I arrived in Lebanon in order to try out another one of GeoVisions cultural volunteering programs – Conversation Partner. Having spent the last month in Jordan doing the Conversation Corps program, I was excited to try out something new – something that felt a little more like volunteering. Conversation Partner programs vary depending on the country you are in – but the general idea is:

Conversation Partners speak conversational English to tourist police officers, hotel staff, local business professionals, teachers, tour guides and more. You do not need to have teaching experience to be a Conversation Partner. You just need to meet with your group each day (between 15 and 20 hours each week) and converse in English with them. It’s fun and rewarding. You might live with a family, or in a dorm or a hotel. Still, we provide most meals and a safe and comfortable place to stay.


In Lebanon I lived with a family and helped them occasionally with English as they were always curious about certain English idioms and vocabulary; try explaining the term “Soap Opera”! I also enjoyed helping them with their pronunciation and their American accent. However, tutoring the family wasn’t the purpose of my trip, it was to tutor students. I had been told that as part of the Conversation Partner program in Lebanon I would be sharing my language and cultural knowledge up to 20 hours per week Monday to Friday with the students getting ready to travel to the US on a summer work and travel program.

This sounded great in theory…


Volunteering Isn’t Just Teaching English
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

schneller school Jordan

Students at the Schneller School in Amman Jordan

Are you fed up with the fact that most volunteer experiences are for teaching English? Do you have a fear about past participles, adverbs of frequency and conditional phrases? I think most native speakers of English are a bit intimidated to actually teach English and I don’t blame them – we don’t know grammar rules, we just speak!

When I started to look into volunteering opportunities as part of my career break travels I found it frustrating that most of the opportunities seemed to be in the English language area. Yet as a career breaker and a former IT business manager with an MBA – I kept thinking that I could be utilized in a better way than to simply teach English. I hunted for organizations that would actually look at my business experience and work experience and try to put it to use. But alas, there aren’t really many of these types of opportunities and the ones which are available are harder to find.

One of the things that attracted me to GeoVisions was not only the Conversation Corps cultural exchange programs, but also the fact that in some of their destinations they were going beyond teaching English and trying to find other ways to use volunteer’s skills in their Volunteer Abroad Options:

  • Medical/Health work – Cambodia, South Africa, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Argentina
  • Land Conservation – Australia, Costa Rica, New Zealand
  • Wildlife Work – Mozambique, South Africa, Costa Rica
  • Humantarian Work – Brazil, Thailand, Costa Rica, South America (teaching computers, working with orphans and kids)

And in the Middle East, they are just starting to provide a great array of opportunities which have nothing to do with English teaching. I’ve been lucky enough to go visit some of them in Jordan and Lebanon as they start to get off the ground.

One of my recent visits was to the Schneller School in East Amman. The school is essentially a boarding school for orphans, refugee children, or kids with extremely difficult family situations. There are currently about 300 students living on the campus including 15 girls; the addition of girls are relatively new to the program.

The vision and value of the school is clear as you walk throughout the grounds. It’s about bringing people together in peaceful co-existence and respect. They accomplish this by intermixing the kids and religions showing them that differences aren’t a bad thing.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go