This week’s blog is written by International Fellow Jessica Walton. Jessica joined PeacePlayers-Cyprus just over a month ago. This past weekend she traveled to Israel for this first time and also got a chance to visit a PeacePlayers-Middle East twinning.
I’ve been a Fellow for about six weeks or so now, slowly but surely I’m adjusting to the new lifestyle here in Cyprus, learning the ropes and acclimating to the PPI-CY office. I definitely miss my family and friends back home in Albany, NY, but I also am really enjoying myself in Cyprus. One of the many privileges of being an International Fellow and living abroad is taking advantage of the opportunity to travel during my free time.
Last week I decided to take advantage of my three day weekend and visit Israel for the first time. It was the perfect destination, as it’s just an hour flight from Cyprus. The icing on the cake was that I was able to stay with Heni Bizawi, Project Manager for PeacePlayers-ME and my host for the weekend!
Heni was an awesome host. She showed me around Tel-Aviv, Bethlehem, took me to the Dead Sea and took me to a PPI-ME twinning. During the twinning I had the opportunity to see the similarities and differences between our program and theirs, meet some of the kids participating and was introduced to some PPI-ME staff.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was introduced to PPI-ME Fellow, LaToya Fisher and visiting PPI-NI alum, Tony McGaharan. Both have ties to my home state, New York. LaToya was born in Binghamton and Tony had attended school in the Albany area. Each of us exchanged stories, shared PPI experiences and I couldn’t help but think about how crazy it was to cross paths with these “New Yorkers” so far from home. After the twinning, PPI-ME’s Aysha Faqih was kind enough to invite us all to her home for an incredible meal with her family.
Prior to leaving for Cyprus, I spent a couple of days on-boarding for the Fellowship in the PPI Washington, DC office. I learned about the curriculum, different sites and met the people behind the organization; everyone explained to me how PeacePlayers was like a family. Many of the staff in the DC office previously worked as Fellows, the organization was created by two brothers, and they definitely seemed to be a close knit group. Still, part of me wondered if it was just one of those “lines” people drop to new employees.
After this weekend, I can confidently say without a doubt, PeacePlayers International is one big family. Thanks to Heni, my first trip to Israel was a huge success. She took me in and treated me like one of the PPI-ME family members. Thanks to LaToya and Tony, I felt like I wasn’t quite so far from home. I’ve since returned to Cyprus and feel like the weekend in Israel was just what I needed. Of course I still miss my family and friends, but I’m settling into my new home here in Cyprus and I’m starting to feel like I’m really a part of this PeacePlayers family.