Off to the Middle East!

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 2.54.41 PMDue to a generous grant from the Williston professional development program, I will be traveling to the Middle East for 17 days to visit math departments, coach Ultimate, and fold origami. I leave on 3/5 and return on 3/22.

While in Israel and the West Bank I will be visiting Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Tamra, Ra’anana, and several other cities.

Needless to say, I am incredibly excited.

While traveling I will be posting updates to my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Sarah

I tell people all the time that to know truly know a place — to know a people, a culture, a community — you need to be there, physically present in that place.

In early 2012 I was pulled in to Ultimate Peace. I had known about the organization for years, but I crested over a certain tipping point to a summer’s worth of commitment due to conversations with old friends. I remember standing in a frozen parking lot, running practice for my HS team and making the full realization that I was going to see Ultimate Peace Camp in action. I was excited.

Without having been able to by physically present at Camp, my belief in the organization hadn’t been fully formed. But it was on it’s way due to everything I had heard from old friends, and from one video I had seen in particular:

That woman. Speaking at the beginning of the video. What she was saying was so important, so well spoken. What she said pulled me towards full belief in Ultimate Peace. But I wasn’t there yet.

SarahVM-3

I made it out to camp and started to meet my new family. I met Tomer and Karym, two people for whom I would do anything. Abe, and the rest of the local UP coaches for whom UP is a year-round, continual devotion. All people who immediately earned my complete respect. The kids. The kids who are the reason we do what we do, and who make it so. dang. worth it.

That first summer I shared a room with Abe. And then Sarah joined us.

I saw Sarah work with her teams. Watched her team win one of the week’s tournaments with a diving layout. Watched Sarah drive so, so many positive UP events and experiences. To me though, on a personal level, my most valuable Sarah experiences were our dorm room conversations. In our spare moments, in the glow of total UP exhaustion, we would talk about life, the world, and everything. We talked about why we did what we did, and why it was the perfect thing to do.

I was there. Because of Sarah, I believed in Ultimate Peace. I knew Ultimate Peace.

For that, and everything else Sarah gave me, I will forever be grateful.

Thank you Sarah.

In these moments, I find myself focusing on how someone is never, every truly gone. That is especially true about Sarah, someone who had such a large, everlasting impact on so, so many people.

Here’s a word cloud generated from all the text left on her Facebook wall since her passing:

Sarah-World-Cloud-1-1024
The full resolution file for that image can be downloaded right here.

Here is the above photo of Sarah filled in as a photo mosaic based on 3,400 photos taken at Ultimate Peace Camp 2013:

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The full resolution file for that image can be downloaded right here.

Last, here is a video of the creation of the above photo mosaic, with audio from the UP video in which I first saw Sarah:

Thank You Sarah

Quick update

Camp ended with a flourish yesterday. The tournament concluded with my girls team, Maroon 5, taking the title! We had a wonderful closing ceremony, the kids all left, and then the staff went to the beach. This morning I left Manof with Bob and Linda and we drove down here to Bethlehem where I am currently staying for the next couple days while I visit some local families here in Bethelehem as well as in Beit Sahour, Jericho, and Ramallah. My internet access is rather limited so the next full media update won’t come for at least 4-5 days. That being said, I did manage to get the photos online from the last day of camp, along with the Summer Camp 2013 Talent Show video.

Flickr Photo Album – 7/8/13
Summer Camp 2013 Talent Show Video

It’s so wonderful to be back here in the West Bank. I can’t wait to catch up with everyone I’m going to meet visit over the next few days!

True talent

Our third game of the day came to a close with the other team, the Sky Diamonds, scoring the last goal, to close the gap to 6-4. My girls were pumped to win all three of their pool play games and make it to the finals. As both teams grouped up in the middle of the field, one of the girls on the other team ran up to her coach saying “One more point! I want one more point!”. Her coach, who captained the same college team as I did, replied, “Nope, sorry, the game is over”. She tried again with the same plea, wanting ever so much to keep playing. Same reply from Jeff. She aquiesed and 30 seconds later we were in the spirit circle.

These kids are all about spirit and playing hard. What a perfect combination.

Flickr Photo Album – 7/7/13
YouTube Video – 7/7/13

After morning coffee, Get UP! printing, and meeting the girls in the quad, we were all at breakfast for the normal round of cheers and table stomping. Shortly after, we were all in the auditorium for morning announcements. The boys then bussed up for Tamra and the six girls teams headed out to the fields for their first tournament games.

Coffee… aka, UP fuel

Out on the field, my girls ran through their standard warmup and then ended up winning 5-4 over a strong white team. They then followed it up with a convincing 5-2 win over Evergreen. In the third game of the day we went up against another undefeated team, Royal Blue (Sky Diamonds), and in a game filled with long throws and agressive defense, we pulled of a 6-4 win to end 3-0 on the day. As the only undefeated team we made it to the finals… against the team we played last. So, tomorrow morning, we play Sky Diamonds for the title.

Maroon 5 after going 3-0!

After 30 minutes of free time, we went off to lunch and then followed that up with 3 hours of afternoon activity time which was split between on-campus games and pool time. I ended up working on media and coaching materials, but the girls had a blast at the pool. By shortly before 5pm we were all back at the big tree, grouping up for evening practices. 4 of the girls teams and all of the boys teams ended up figuring out some smaller fields to play some last round consolation games on. My Maroon gals and I ended up in front of the dining hall for a really fun practice. We worked on tough marking drills and talked strategy for tomorrow. We also had a great time working through a catching drill which involved the girls catching tough throws, and then having them all throw discs as hard as they could at me… which was followed up by having some of the coaches and male players huck the disc at me from 15 yards… and I caught almost all of them! Hooray for still being able to do a useful thing on the Ultimate field…. catch! :)

A pre-practice moment

Practice ended a bit early to allow for kids to practice for the talent show! I headed back to the Mohodoun to gather up the gear I’d need for my act. I then went over to the auditorium to get it all set up, and quickly to snag dinner at the adjacent dining hall. Shortly after dinner, everyone was setting up for their acts and by 8 the show began. What a show it was! There was magic, singing, dancing, beat boxing, crane folding, and LOTS of other acts.

By 10:10 the show was done and all the kids were sent off to sleep. The staff grouped up around and in the Mohodoun and got to work on camper evals. They ended up cranking them out rather quickly and then everyone enjoyed some much needed and appreciated social time. We do have about a day together after camp ends tomorrow, but that’s not nearly enough time. We want more. So, we’ll be back next summer.

Tomorrow we have the tournament final games and then we say goodbye. Afterwards it’s beach time for the staff.

It’s so hard to imagine Camp UP 2013 is about to end.

Progression

One of the challenges to camp is that it’s too short. Even with the extra day that’s been added since last year, it just doesn’t seem like 5 days is enough time to truly be able to build a team, to be able to see a true growth in skill. At least that’s what it seems like until you experience a few days at Camp Ultimate Peace. These kids just keep bringing it. They run hard, ask for more instruction, cheer like crazy, and focus on simply, being awesome. I think the key to it all is that the kids are completely free to be whomever they truly are, with adults who are goofy and crazy and weird, all along with a hundred other kids who are just like them in their desire to have fun. Because they never have to worry about only presenting a part of themselves, the kids are able to put their complete selves into working on whatever they’d like on and off the field. Devoting your full self to UP is something we ask of all UP staff members, and it’s all the more easy to accomplish because the kids are so dang good at it.

Simultaneous, full devotion from 185 people is a powerful force. With that force all around us, anything is possible in 5 days.

Flickr Photo Album – 7/6/13
YouTube Video – 7/6/13

Morning in Mohodoun was much like the late night — Sarah was working on the evening activity for tonight and coffee was being served. With the printer continuing its streak of being cooperative, I managed to print off the necessary copies of the day’s issue of Get UP! and get out to our team’s meeting point by 7:55. Shortly after, all the girls had made it out to the rally point, although we are still working on being completely on time. Ah, the internal time clock teenagers! It was clear from the walk over that everyone was excited for the day, but still a bit tired.

Goooood mornign Gabe!

Breakfast was the standard round of total full-force spirit cheers and cornflakes. It’s quite impressive that such amazing behavior is now “normal” at Camp UP. That in itself is impressive. My girls were getting to be fully awake by the time we moved into the auditorium for morning announcements. The highlight of the morning was naming all the spirit award winners for each team. Yesterday, Mona won our team’s award. Today it was Lior’s turn to be recognized.

Summer Camp 2013 spirit award winners of the day!

The morning announcements meeting finished with 1/3 of the teams heading out onto the green in front of the dining hall to start their time at the CIT activity stations, while the other two-third of the teams heading out to the fields for practice. Our shift wasn’t until last, so we had 2-hours of practice to kick off the morning. On the way over to the field, check out what we saw!

Mr. Chameleon!

Out on the field team Maroon 5 warmed up, threw, played some Wah!, Ninja, and Look Up Look Down, and ran through some drills before ending with a short scrimmage against the blue team. At this point we knew some of a basic stack and were able to put out new knowledge into play. The girls managed to cut to the right side, complete a bunch of passes, and play hard D. Both teams ended up scoring a few goals and having a GREAT time! We wrapped with a line of high-fives and then we moved back to the other side of campus to start out shift at the CIT activity stations!

Oley!

The girls had a fantastic time at the five stations. They started with an intro to the activity from Pirate King Jez who explained they would be trying to recover his treasure.

Pirate Jez!

They started with throwing discs at balloons to knock them off of string or pop them. Next, they had to fish baskets or treasure out of a pond which contained a live (human) crocodile. At the third station they had to fish candy our of bowls filled with flower and hunt for more coins in a dark room. Next, they “navigated” a river course and then finished up with a mad dash through a course filled with very funny people trying to get them to laugh out the water they were carrying in the mouths. Massive kudos to the CITs for creating such great stations, and especially CIT Yonathan for being such an active  boisterous activity leader!

CIT induced camper bonding at its absolute best

With the great music permeating the air, we moved across the dining hall quad and inside to eat lunch. With the whole camp pumped up from the CIT activities, lunch was even more loud than yesterday. Afterwards, made it back into the auditorium with a slight detour made by the last 1/3 of the teams who worked their way through the CIT stations, so that they could get their final prizes. 15 minutes later with everyone in the auditorium, David made a very-well received announcement that everyone was going to stay in the auditorium to watch Despicable Me. 10 minutes into the movie half the kids were laughing along with the movie, and the other half were asleep. Not all of the staff were needed to cover the auditorium, so many got some rest.

Movie time!

After the movie and a round of outside free time activities, the kids grouped up in the quad to head out to practices. We converged in the far left corner of the field and after our standard warm up routine, I worked the girls through a stack position drill. They now seem to have a pretty good idea of where to setup in the stack! We moved through different cutting patterns and the girls showed great improvement on where to be and how to complete tough catches. We finished up practice with an extended button-hook cutting drill that I added a continuation pass to. The girls really got it down by the end. With the sun heading towards the horizon and warm breeze cooling us down, we ended practice with a very strong Ebo Lay Lay cheer. Go Maroon 5!

Everyone then had about 30 minutes of free time before dinner which most of the campers spent getting cleaned up. Out on the quad, people socialized and enjoyed each other’s company while waiting for everyone on each team to show up before walking over to the dining hall.

Zolo and Mais

Dinner was packed with its usual crazy level of spirited cheering. My girls got up and started their own cheer, which uses a Maroon 5 song for the chorus — Instead of “Moves like Jagger”, they say “Throws like Brodie”. It’s pretty dang adorable :) After dinner the whole camp packed back into the auditorium for announcements. The first year CITs were recognized for their work putting together and running the morning activity, and then everyone was sent out to participate in the evening activity.

First year CIT awesomeness!

As the evening activity ran its course and was capped off with an amazing dance circle and signing of the camp song, I worked on media here in the Mohodoun. While listening to my work playlist, the staff came pouring back in and as has been the case every night here at Manof, I was treated to a happy vista of smiling faces. Tired faces, but enormously happy. As David said in our staff meeting, it was a tough day — lots of emotion, intensity, competition, and spirit — but it was so enormously enjoyable. I just got back to my media station after running the nights’ head coaches meeting and I’m pumped for tomorrow. The heads group is just plain ridiculously awesome. Yah, I know I overuse that word, but it’s been entirely applicable every time I’ve put it into play these two past weeks, especially so about the head coaches that have worked here at Camp Ultimate Peace this summer. They bring so much to the table and I’m going to sorely miss our freeform nightly conversations.

Alex just came by to say tomorrow’s issue of Get UP! has been completed, which means tonight might be the earliest we have wrapped up the media coverage. Sleep before midnight? It’ll sure help for all the activity is lined up for us tomorrow: the tournament and the talent show!

One last full day of camp awaits!

Daily greatness

I know I’m at an Ultimate camp, and the Ultimate games should be my favorite point in the day, but, they aren’t. I am thrilled to see my girls play. They play hard, show daily improvement, and have so much fun. But, the most intense moments of happiness I feel at Ultimate Peace are during the meals — or my aptly put, the crush of Spirit that are UP meals. I’ve been in several environments where far past the critical mass of a group has fully bought in to an organization’s mission. The spirit of my school of 11-years, St. Johnsbury Academy, absolutely terrifies every other school in the state. We shake the house during home sports games. We have regular pep rallies. Our homecoming football game regularly draws 5,000+ people in a town of 7,000. The jump in Spirited expression from a “normal” school to St. Johnsbury is the same distance as it is from St. Johnsbury Academy to Camp Ultimate Peace.

I think the meals are my favorite place because they remind me, in such a clear way, of Ultimate Peace’s end goal — to live in a world where everyone is human and no one is “the other”. Where everyone believes in mutual respect. Where everyone believes in integrity. Where everyone believes in non-violence. Where everyone believes in fun. Where everyone believes in friendship.

Not only believes, but lives.

Flickr Photo Album – 7/5/13
YouTube Video – 7/5/13

Coffee in hand almost as soon as I came into the Mohodoun, I sat down to catch up on some email from the outside world. I was pulled back into UP as the staff started coming in. I watched Lisa Kanner plan our her day and other talk about everything that had happened the day before. Soon enough, it was time to move outside to the quad to meet up with all of our teams for the walk over to the dining hall. With only a few stragglers to find, we made it over to the dining hall only slightly late. We are trying to really hammer being on time, but alas, like all universal constants, some teenagers in every group are always going to be late.

Friends walking to breakfast

While enjoying my morning cocoa about 3 minutes into breakfast, the table cheering began in earnest. “We got spirit, yes we do. We got spirit how about you!” It was 8:15. AM. Rock on. There are few places where it’s impossible to be in anything other than a good mood. Meals at UP are one of those places.

In the auditorium we ran through a few announcements before everyone was sent out for the first morning practice sessions. Before we left, David made sure to run us through our first stretching session of the day.

Hold!

A short time later Maroon 5 was out on the Manof field, warming up after a bit of paired throwing. We then did some more focused throwing before moving into several versions of GoTo. The girls are picking up on their fundamental skills quite quickly. Footwork is getting better, pivoting is looking sharp, and their catching is already improving. With frequent water breaks worked into the morning, we transitioned to some Hot Box before we ran several rounds of “Triangle of Death” with Lior doing the pleasure of throwing. She was a beast and made it through three rounds with 9 cutters. Go Lior!

Oh, and we definitely had to work in some Wah! and Ninja :)

Ninja evasion!

After finishing our drills, we took the line for a short scrimmage against the Green team, aka, team “Shrak”. I gave my girls two goals for the game — spread out and throw to the open person. We hadn’t talked about stack, a specific choice on my part. I want the girls to just play in their first game. They did just that! They had 7 consecutive receptions at one point. We definitely have lots to work on, but the potential is definitely there and they are already quite good at many fundamentals like cutting to space, and going strong to the disc. After the game we had a spirit score and took some fun group photos.

Maroon 5 Shraks!

The kids then had a bit of free time before gathering up for another spirit shaking lunch. After filling up on various dining hall fare, we grouped up in the auditorium for some announcements before the kids were set off for free time — half of the kids went off to the pool, and then the grouped switched half way through. I retreated to Barak to get some work done and to sneak a quick nap. By 4:45 we were gathering up on the quad to head over to practice when I snagged my glamour shot of the day.

:)

As an added bonus, Yarden joined our coaching team. He’ll be at camp until tomorrow night, so we’ll have him with us for at least another two practices. A short walk later, we were at our practice space on the far edge of campus on a grassy area outside the gym. During practice we worked on our throws, had a strong warm up session, introduced vertical stack, did a couple catching drills, and also put Lao Baci bracelets on each other. The kids also brought things up a notch by launching into their own “Maroon!” “5!” cheers, which was a wonderful thing to hear. We ended practice with Ebo Lay Lay and then walked back to the main part of campus. Out on the quad, we gathered up for dinner, an naturally some goofiness ensued.

Get UP!

Dinner was loud, fun, and full of yummy Shabbat food. I’m a fan of the rice and potatoes, topped off with some hummus and harif. After passing the spirit cheer back and forth several times between adjacent tables, we all gathered up in the auditorium for evening announcements, the naming of yesterday’s spirit award winners, and then to kick off the start of the evening activity. Teams were paired up and sent out into the night to complete a set of tasks designed by the evening activity team. All seems to be going well.

Later tonight we’ll have our all-staff meeting and then I’ll check in with all the head coaches. Alex will finish up tomorrow’s issue of Get UP! and I’ll polish off all of the media postings for the day. Some late-night coffee may be brewed, the CITs will eventually get to sleep, and soon after, hopefully all of the campers. Everyone is so excited to be here that even with all the physical activity, sleep can be hard to find.

Sleep eventually find us all, and not too long after it does, yet another beautiful day of Camp UP begins.