Sunday, June 26, 2011

Madaba, Mt. Nebo, the Baptismal Site and the Dead Sea

The Church of St. George
Yeah, you read it correctly... I went to all of those places in the same day and it was pretty darn spectacular I must admit!  I suppose I should tell you about my adventures so here we go!

Mosaic factory...
  We started off our journey in Madaba which is about an hour south of Amman and a historically Christian city and famous for it's amazing mosaics and frescoes.  We visited the church of St. George in downtown Madaba, which is an ancient Greek Orthodox Church.  It has been rebuilt many times and on the floor is a huge mosaic map built hundreds of years ago that details the sites of the Holy Land.  It has been partially destroyed multiple times by earthquakes, but is magnificent none-the-less.  After the visit to the church of St. George we went to a local mosaic 'factory' where disabled individuals from the community were given work creating beautiful mosaics by hand and selling them to Tourists like ourselves.  Unfortunately they were huge, heavy, and really expensive but beautiful and also amazing to see created.  The great thing is that anything large enough that you buy they can ship for free to anywhere in the world which means you can buy huge, heavy and beautiful furniture if you so desire.  Just make sure you love it because it's gonna be pricey!  I bought an awesome gift for one of my brothers that although it isn't exactly what he told me he wanted, the workmanship and story behind it more than make up for that.  It'll be a great ornament peace.

  Next on the stop was Mt. Nebo, the sight where Moses saw the Holy Land and passed his mantel to Joshua.  Although it wasn't an amazingly spectacular PLACE it was amazing to be in such a place and to see the Holy Land.  To know that Moses traveled for so long and to be halted at the gates of the promised land must have been horrible, and seeing the lushness of the Jordan valley below me I could definitely understand how wonderful it would have been to see that place after 40 years wandering in the desert.  Definitely a sight for sore eyes.  It was a beautiful view and only created a longing to see and experience more of what I saw before me.
What Moses saw from Mt. Nebo

The baptismal sight and me in all of my
 glorious American touristness
  The next stop was the proposed Baptismal Site of Jesus Christ.  Apparently in the past few years it has been upgraded immensely and definitely westernized.  A lot of the tour you get to see from the beauty of an air-conditioned bus while listening to an "Audio-Tour" (My wonderful friend that everyone else in the group hates immensely).  Anyway, the tour takes about 2 hours because they show you a bunch of things that no body cares about and then push you a long from the places you actually want to see.  I thought it most interesting, that the way they justified this is the baptismal sight is that there were so many old churches built here and new churches springing up.  Also the fact that the pope came in 2007 and dedicated the land from Elijah's hill (supposedly the place where Elijah was lifted into heaven on a chariot of fire).  One of the reasons they do this is because there is another purported baptismal sight close to the sea of Galilee on the Israeli side of the Jordan.  This means it's a competition to get more tourists and also to just have bragging rights.  My whole thing is that there is really no way we can know where Christ was baptized or where pretty much any of the events of his life happened exactly.  It's nice to think and speculate, but it isn't the place that mattered but the action that occurred there which is important.  Anyway, it was a beautiful tour and by far the best part was the Jordan River.

The Jordan River
  My experience at the Jordan River was quite interesting.  On the Jordanian side of the river there was a beautiful and rustic wooden structure that led down the river in two tiers.  It ended with a simple wooden stairway leading you down to the green water of the Jordan and the beautiful mud and reeds of the bank.  Now, only 10ft away was Palestine or Israel depending on who you talk to.  Since Palestine refers to the whole ancient region and I'm not sure if that was actually the state of Israel or occupied Palestine I will simply call it Palestine for simplicity.  Well, the Palestine side of the river was developed and open.  They had concrete and rock buildings, a rock sitting area in the water, and fenced off areas for individuals to walk into the water but not cross into Jordan.  In addition to the fence, there were two Israeli Guards with M-16s and one Jordanian with a British Submachine Gun.

Here is where I go on a bit of a brain adventure, if you'd like to see what about please read my post entitled "Natives, who the Heck are they?".

  Overall, the baptismal site was awesomeness squared and everyone who visits Jordan should go there and enjoy themselves while there.  Like I said, it's been westernized (including the price of 12 JD) but is very nice.

Just Chilling in the sea!
  Our final stop was the amazing Dead Sea (باحر متت) and the joys of "Amman Beach".  Now, pretty much everyone knows that the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, has so much salt that almost nothing can live in it and it's really easy to float in but there is SOOOO much more than that.  Actually, I guess there isn't really much more than that but that makes it amazingly fun.  The only bad part about the Dead Sea is that if the water gets in your eyes or mouth you hurt like hell and have to shut your eyes tight until you can wash them out.  This may or may not have happened to me twice.  Also, the sand is so hot that if you don't have sandals you will literally (or hyper-literally Jeremy) burn your feet by walking on it.  Again, I know from experience since I have blisters on the bottoms of my feet now... not fun.  All of these bad things aside, the Dead Sea is so much fun.  You can float in whatever position you can imagine.  On your stomach, on you back, on you side, curled in a ball, sitting indian-style, with all your arms and legs in the air and everything in-between.  It's like nowhere else on earth and is extremely relaxing because the water is warm (at this time of year it still feels good but apparently later on in the summer it feels like a salty warm bath) and it is oh so refreshing.  Another wonderfully relaxing aspect is that there are no waves, and nothing living to step on or bite you.  Additionally, there are no boats or loud people playing in the water because the salt destroys engines and the kids would all get salt water in their eyes and start screaming.  Basically imagine laying on water in one of those floaty things, expect you are never going to fall off.  You are cool because of the water, it's silent, and you can lay there as long as you want without using a single muscle on your body.  Yes, it is that fantastic.  I think what I need to open now is a "Sweet Sea" where instead of salt you have sugar.  Maybe it would provide all the same properties but fewer of the problems.  Of course, you would probably get tons of interesting organisms living and growing in it so maybe that wouldn't be the best idea.

Add caption
  Anyway, the place was sort of like a resort and as such had showers and a normal pool as well.  Basically the program was to get in the dead sea for awhile and relax, shower and clean yourself and then jump into the pool where you could play and swim and be cool, then jump back into the Dead Sea and repeat until tired.  In there you can also cover yourself in Dead Sea mud (apparently very good for the skin), eat, drink, read and generally be merry until your heart explodes or you have to go home.  It was amazingly fun and relaxing and honestly one of my more favorite excursions while here in Jordan.  I would like to go back sometime and experience the relaxing loveliness of the Dead Sea.

Random huge stone at Mt. Nebo

This was an actual sign on the way into the
 Mt. Nebo site
A serpent wrapped around a cross... epic

Yeah, I was that close!

This is how women swim while still in Hijjab
That's a lot of Mud!

I promise, I'm actually floating here!

Salt deposits on the Dead Sea

Natives, who the Heck are they?

Now, the water was beautiful and enjoyable, and as such the Israelis on the other side were enjoying the water as well and yelled across this somewhat tense border and asked where we were from.  Someone from our group said England and then ask the question of them to which they said, "We're natives, we're from Tel Aviv."  Well, this was a very interesting comment to hear yelled across the Jordanian border.  Mainly because it is entirely possible this woman could have said that to Palestinians or the children of Palestinians born and raised in Palestine but forced out with the creation of Israel.  Again, I will not comment on this subject politically, but it raises an interesting question of what is a native?  Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the land of Palestine as their homeland.  The Israelis born and raised there say they are natives and the Palestinians call it their land.  How do we decide?  How do we decide a native?  In America, who are the foreigners and who are the Americans?  Does it matter about citizenship?  The entrenched population often look down on those we think of as foreigners or new-comers but also upon the Native Americans who we replaced as owners of the land.  In the history of America every wave of migration disliked the one previous to it.  The English didn't like the Germans, the Germans and English the Irish, all of them against the Italians, Spanish, Greek and other Southern and Eastern Europeans.  When other continents starting arriving the bigotry became more complex with the advent of sizable diasporas from Japan, China, Korea, South East Asia, Oceania, Africa, Central Asia and India, and much of South and Central America as well as the Middle East and Northern Africa.  We all know this, and we all see it, but who gets to decide who is a 'native' and who is a foreigner?  I don't know if subconsciously I believe simply getting citizenship or a green card makes one an American but yet I support it and love it.  I don't know how to answer this question, and the problem is that it is an important question to answer the world over.  So many wars and conflicts are fought over boundaries, land, and history.  So many hatreds are perpetrated and inflamed over issues generations before.  How do we stop it?  Who do we side with, do we even need a side?  As the world gets smaller, it becomes more divided and yet united as well.  Social contracts and understandings that have stood for thousands of years are being reshaped in less than a generation and new problems that societies have never faced are appearing everywhere.  It probably sounds like I am being pessimistic, but I am simply talking and exploring the scary recesses of my brain.  I also feel that as I write I am able to think through and understand things that were not concrete before. I wish I had an answer, or even a purpose for this other than simply to be thought provoking but that is what it is.  Perhaps, we if we are aware of these things, each one of us can work a little harder to heal the social ills, listen a little more, and work a little harder to seek out solutions and peace between cultures.  At the very least, maybe this post got you to think for a little bit about the meaning of being a 'native'.

Umm Qais, Another Adventure!

So, this week was pretty darn awesome. After doing next to nothing for the first two days (we did meet the children we will be teaching English to starting Sunday) we were told to absolutely not come back until Sunday because neither the marqez or the mudireea had any work for us. Well, we asked them a few times and then decided that if they were going to give us three days off of work we were going to use them in an epic fashion and go on an adventure. The biggest thing that I look for in an adventure is uniqueness, so as I was searching for someplace to have some fun I looked for a place I have never heard of. Hence, why we went to a random town in Northern Jordan called 'Umm Qais'.

When I looked up Umm Qais I was told that it was a beautiful "Decapolis City" overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights, and even Lebanon in the distance. Also, it is a favorite destination of Palestinians living in Jordan who go to see some of their homeland where they lived and their family still live, but they are unable to visit. So, that is Umm Qais and that is what I will be describing to you today because it was epically amazing and I feel like telling you, even though I haven't posted anything about Petra, Wadi Rum, or Aqaba yet which is also sad.

To get to Umm Qais was actually not very difficult, we took three buses to get there from Amman and one of them was an hour long drive in an air conditioned touring bus (like we have in the United States) and only cost about $3.00. All together, for both of, we spent about $14 to get from our house to the city and back. When we got the ruins we were both pretty hungry and so we went right up to the local restaurant which was overlooking the valley in front of us and was shaded and breezy. I had delicious chicken and Austin had hummus as we sat and thought about the many historical things that happened within our view. It was especially cool to think about the religious significance of that area and to look at the hill where Christ is supposed to have cast the devils out of the people and into the swine who then ran off the hill into the Sea of Galilee (or Lake Tiberius as it is called in Jordan).

The city was really fun to explore. It is not typical looking ruined city because instead of brown sandstone or white granite being the building blocks, they used black basalt which brings an interesting new color to the mix. There was a beautiful museum that was extremely detailed and comprehensive where we got to see a number of mosaics that were being protected as well as a sarcophagus that we both laid in (a little weird to lay down where you know someone who was dead was and then they decomposed into it). Probably the coolest thing was an ancient 10in thick door made of solid rock that you could still open and close because it was perfectly balanced on a giant stone hinge. It was awesome. Also, the sight still has a lot of excavation yet to be done and so as you walk around you see many old arches and passageways just sitting around. You think they are nothing until you explore them a little bit and are then quite amazed at the things that are under your feet all the time in this beautiful country.

As we were walking to the edge of the cliff we saw this little house made of rock balancing precariously on the edge. I thought it would be cool to go have a look and also to see what the view is like from the promontory. Well, as we approached, two amazingly relieved Jordanian Soldiers appeared outside of the little hut and proceeded to greet us enthusiastically and then proceed to tell us what everything in the distance was including the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberius), the Jordanian/Israeli Border, and the Syrian Border. It was amazing to see the Golan Heights especially and then to release why Israeli needed to take them and the strategic position it places Syria in if they receive them again with the creation of a Palestinian State. The other interesting thing I noticed was the technological divide between Israel and Jordan. The forward observation post for Jordan was very rustic, the soldiers had a single set of binoculars and were simply asked to look for signs of movement or advance. I'm sure that on the Israeli side they employ high technology such as radar and other devices, as well as many more soldiers to watch the border. It was very interesting and again, seeing how close they are to one another, it makes me grateful their is peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors. The other cool thing, was that the defenses from the 1967 6 Day war were still in place on the hill. There were extensive concrete and rock trenches, supply trenches and pill-boxes. It was amazing to be standing to something that was so important in such a modern time and to see the front-lines firsthand.

The last thing we did was head back to the city up to the ruins of the Byzantine Basilica which had a number of intact and ruined pillars. Of course, we were up for a challenge and so we were decided to scramble up a number of the pillars and take cool pictures on top of them and around them which I will include here. It was a lot of fun, and helped us be entertained for another hour or so.

Over all, Umm Qais was extremely awesome. I'm grateful that I was able to find a less-visited tourist destination and to finally see the area surrounding the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberius) and the Golan Heights. It helps understand the strategic advantage of this area and the reasons behind some of Israel's policies and procedures. Also, sitting in Umm Qais I wondered if Palestinians actually came there and looked at their homeland that they were unable to visit and the families they wouldn't know. I thought about what it would be like to be in Canada, away from my family, and refused entry into my homeland, the United States of America. I will not comment on the political situation here, but it simply made it more real for me and helped me have empathy instead of simply sympathy. I think this is one of the greatest things I have gained here in Jordan, a better understanding of the Arab people, especially Palestinians and a better understanding of some of the situations in the Middle East according to other people's eyes.

Look, I know Karate!
That's a weird center pillar!

This is the flat Chameleon I found while walking down the road,
pretty cool eh?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Progress on the Internship!

Well, this week we have made remarkable progress in our internship.  We had hoped to be teaching English this week as well as beginning the survey but have received the assurances and created a schedule whereby these will both begin next week.  So every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday Austin and I will go to the marqez in Iraq Al-Ameer where we will teaching two separate courses on English, one for beginners and one for more advanced or older students (I have also decided that I will go to the handicraft village pretty much every day after work in Iraq Al-Ameer to weave and make ceramics).  Austin will be teaching the boys and I will get to teach the girls.  Hopefully it won't be too hard but I have never proven too able to teach or hold the attention of children for very long so we will see how well we can do.  It will definitely be an adventure.

  On Mondays and Wednesdays we will report to the Mudireea in Wadi Il-Seer where we will begin work on a comprehensive survey in the Iraq Al-Ameer area.  The survey will have a demographic aspect and also focus on needs, and solutions for the community and what programs the Ministry of Social Development can implement in order to help the people of Iraq Al-Ameer.  It should be a pretty fun survey, although I believe it will take quite awhile to get the answers we need from individuals in the community mainly because I'm sure that every family we talk to will take a minimum of an hour since we will be drinking tea and offered lunch at every home.  It should be fun and will hopefully improve my arabic comprehension and conversation skills.  Over all I am excited for the progress we are making and excited, if a little nervous, for what this internship will entail next week.  Below I have included some pictures to add a little flare and show you a little of what we have done at the center.  I hope you enjoy!

This is the room where I will be teaching English to between 10 and 20 girls age 5-15:



These are the kids that we met on Monday.
It should be pretty interesting!

Inter-Gender Relations

So that might have been a weird title but believe me, it is a good one for today's blogpost.  So, ever since I have been in Jordan I have wanted to talk to the women and find out about them, their lives, and how they feel just like I have been with the men.  Well, obviously that is quite hard since men and women aren't allowed to eat together, women are very closed and won't speak to you on the street, and I think the only woman I have regular contact with right now is Fatimah at the center.  This weekend all of that changed.

The sign for the Iraq Al-Ameer
(It means cave of the prince)
handicraft village
  Saturday, I decided I wanted an adventure and headed of the "Iraq Al-Ameer Handicraft Village" a women's cooperative near to my work where they hand-craft shawls, paper, soap, and ceramics and are also close to two different archaeological sites.  I had visited it before with a person from our work and found out that I could take classes in traditional Jordanian weaving, pottery, soap making, and ceramics all of which sounded extremely interesting.  Well, since I got there late in the day I was informed that they were already closed but was shown around and introduced to every single woman in the center.  It was very interesting for me, because like I mentioned earlier, I have wanted to talk with Arab women my entire time here.  Mainly I have only seen them in passing and have never had any meaningful interaction with them except for our boss, as work.  I was surprised to find that instead of closed off women who did not wish to talk, I found women who were very accommodating and interesting in what a random American who speaks very bad Arabic was doing out in the middle of no where talking about learning how to weave.  After getting a tour of the ceramics and weaving areas, I informed them I would be back the following day (Sunday) after work to begin classes in weaving.  I was then asked to sit down with the director of the center who was very nice and found out that her cousin who was sitting beside her, Naeem, spoke extremely good English and was preparing to go back to school to earn a masters degree in Geography.  She asked that I help her practice English when I am at the center and I told her that I can help her in anyway possible.  It was very nice, and I then went and sat near the caves and pondered/read a book for a few hours.

Me attempting to create a beautiful hand-made Jordanian Shawl
  Since my first encounter at the Handicraft Village I have returned twice with Austin after work.  The women have opened up to us immensely and apparently find us quite attractive (which was a completely unexpected occurrence).  In fact, the first day we visited they even fed us lunch which made it the first time I have ever eaten a meal with an Arab woman in this country.  They are extremely nice and accomadating, and are allowing us to work on Shawls that they are doing to fulfill an order in the United States.  Can you imagine the label on those shawls, the people think they are getting ones made my little Bedouin ladies from Iraq Al-Ameer and instead the label reads "Hand woven by extremely tired American Interns for the Ministry of Social Development."  Oh well, what they won't know won't hurt them right?  Basically, I am having a wonderful time learning how to weave and find it to be a very tiring and labor intensive process.  Not only do I understand them and theirs lives better, but I also understand why the industrial revolution rocked so much.

My Arabic name is Mohanned which means Sheath,
Apparently it is because I look like this fellow
who is an extremely famous Turkish Television Star.
  Perhaps the coolest contrast to see is the difference between these same women when we are talking to them in private, and when we enter the public sphere and get on the bus.  In private they are vibrant, fun and talkative.  They make jokes, laugh hard and can be seen to enjoy life immensely.  In contrast, when we board the buses these same women are solemn, closed and completely quite.  They do not say hello and do not register our proximity.  It is not my place to judge whether or not this is appropriate or good.  This is simply my observation, instead, I simply find it interesting and enlightening.  Some would say this means that the woman are belittled and demeaned but I do not know.  I think I need more information and understanding in order to form an opinion on this point.  To close, our boss informed us today that the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said that knowledge should be gained first by observation, then by listening and last of all with questions.  This is much the opposite of how we look at it in the west and we must remember this as we seek to learn about the Middle East and it's people.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A World-Wide Audience!

So, it's official, I have a world wide audience!

For everyone who reads my blog, thank you!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy sharing it.  I would love to hear responses or comments about what I have written and what you liked or have thought about this blog.  The main purpose of this blog, for me, is not only to document my travels but help us learn about other people.  I feel like that is one of the most important things that I can do, help others learn about what I have been so ignorant about for so long.

  That being said, if you have any comments or questions please post them!  I would love to answer your questions and seek out answers that I don't know myself.  This blog isn't for me, I'm here and experiencing it all firsthand, it's for all of you readers.  Again, thanks for visiting my blog and making me feel like people might actually enjoy reading about my adventures in Jordan!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Syrian Sunset

   Well, I'm a little behind in multiple different ways but this past weekend I saw Syria!  Can you believe that?  I saw frikin Syria which I think is so darn cool.  Also, judging from what I saw... all of the Media is lying.  Seriously, the only explosion I saw was fireworks and there was no sign of gun fire or tanks.   Seriously, our media must be lying because my first hand extensive knowledge says they are wrong ( haha, I hope everyone knows that I am joking).

  Maybe I should explain why I was chilling close to the Syrian border, especially since people are probably freaking out right now.  Well, the director of our program, Ralph Brown, was in country and was able to get all of us students invited to a huge dinner in Northern Jordan with a very powerful family he knows quite well.  So, after church on Friday we all pile into some vans and made the long trip up to what seemed like the Middle of nowhere.  It was amazingly gorgeous and surprisingly green from all of the agriculture.  Of  course the family we were eating with had to show us all of their property and expensive possessions so we go to see a lot of camels and I even got to ride one, bare back!

Once again, I feel like the best way to describe the day is through a number of pictures so here you go!

This is dozer, the huge bull camel I got to ride bareback.
I was the first person in the group so he wasn't angry
 yet but it was actually surprising enjoyable

Dozer's disgusting mouth after he became angry a little later.
Camels are huge and have disgusting mouths.

This is the sign on the outside of the camel pen.
  Apparently a camel can kill  you quite easily.
Maybe that's what that disgusting smell was...

That is Syria in the background.  Pretty cool photo in my opinion.

This is "Sophia" the pregnant white camel in a different pen that
absolutely love to be scratched under the cheeks.
Is she smiling at my kiss?

Just a cool picture in my opinion

The Syrian Sunset...

So yeah, this was the most eventful thing I did last weekend and it was a heck-of-a-lot of fun!  Also, if you ever want to ride a camel bareback, just let me know and I can give you some pointers!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Great Divorce (No, not by C.S. Lewis)

In Jordan I have the wonderful opportunity to speak with many different people and social classes. Mainly I talk to Men between the ages of 20 and 50 who have good English and love Americans but I've gotten to speak with many different people. One of the things that I love to do is talk to them about their views on politics, the Middle East and other things like that. I love the responses and they are very eye opening to see how general they are across the body of people I speak with. I will describe one of them here for you to see and think about yourself.

First of all, pretty much every Jordanian I talk to says they love Americans. They tell me they are the best and kindest people in the world but they hate our government. A few days ago I was talking to a man named Kholdun who made sure to tell me EVERY time he mentioned America or its politics, that he loved Americans, the only thing he hated was our government. I was deeply impressed that every time he would bring this up in a conversation, and if fact every time most people bring it up in a conversation, they make that differentiation. Something that takes an extra 10 seconds every time to say but in fact makes a huge difference. He said the same thing about the Israelis he knows and all the governments of Europe. This is where the title comes in, because Americans do not divorce these things in our minds.

How many of us, when we first think of Islam, Arab, or Middle East, immediately think of terrorism or religious fanatics? How much of our country assumes that every person in the Middle East hates the west, always has hated the west, and will continue to hate the west? Why do we think of the Middle East as a place that has been violent for 2000 years and that the people here simply can not obtain peace because they are not peaceful people? Why is it that we, as the most powerful nation in the world, do not differentiate like my simple Jordanian friends? We as Americans have become insulated by power and refuse to see the world as it really is. Even when we travel, instead of truly seeing the culture we expect America to come with us. We insulate ourselves and trust other people to tell us what is going on when we can find out for ourselves and it is damaging us greatly.

Mother Teresa said, "When we judge we leave no room for love." We as Americans need to get out of our bubble and understand the world around us otherwise we will continue to make dumb mistakes and never truly engage the people of other nations who love us and the ideals of America so very much. I hope that my experiences here in Jordan are helping me to see the loving people here, and that in some small way all those who read this back in the states will see the Jordanians for how they really are. Loving, wonderful people with huge hearts.

Note: After receiving some wonderful feed back on this blogpost I have to make one addition.  I love America and Americans.  There are many things that make our nation great and many wonderful ideals and thought processes that seem inherent in our upbringing.  I, however, do not like ignorance and feel that if we are ignorant on a subject we do not have the right to have a vocal opinion.  In order for us to truly be the leaders we should, we all should educate ourselves on important subjects and seek to hear both sides of the story and form our own conclusions.  The whole point of the blog post, is for you and me to ask ourselves how much we truly know about the Middle East.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My Internship

Well, since the reason I am here in Jordan is to perform an Internship with the Ministry of Social Development, I figured I should probably write a little about what I am doing and how the work has progressed.  Although we really only worked one day this week, I believe this has been the most productive week thus far.  I believe I have already written about our meeting with Rasha on Tuesday where we learned about the survey we were doing, it's purpose, and the additional analysis and proposals we needed to create in order to fulfill our task.  Later in the week we found out that she wants the whole thing translated by today and the analysis done by tomorrow, I gently told her that that was unreasonable but that we would have it to her as soon as possible.  Hopefully we'll (meaning me) will be able to get the translation moving along nicely so we can get this thing pumped out.
  On Wednesday we went to our first and only day of work actually at the Marqez this week and it was quite productive.  When we arrived we found that the director of the Marqez, Ali, was on vacation and the Assistant to the Secretary General was auditing the center once again.  Apparently many people at the Ministry are aware that the renovation process is taking a very long time and are trying to find the problem and fix it so that the Marqez can get to helping the people of Iraq Al-Ameer.  We got to talk to him for awhile and he set up an appointment with the Regional Manager for the next day so that we could talk to her about the center, what we can do to help, and possible solutions or programs to help the community.  That night I prepared a small report to present to her the following day, detailing what we saw as the issues in the Marqez and programs or ideas that could be implemented to help solve the issues.
  Thursday was by far my favorite day and we were able to get a lot done.  Our meeting with the Regional Manager and her Assistant went amazingly well.  They told us that we needed to find out more about the people in the area, what they needed, and how the center could help.  So, they decided that the four of us, with some people from the Marqez, would create and distribute a survey to the area to best gather the information and then Austin and I will perform an analysis on the data and we will begin implement programs to help the people in the ways they need the most.  We also discussed classes and workshops we could perform and some of our ideas of ways to help the center.  They told us that half our day was going to be spent working in the Marqez with the community while the other half would be spent on the survey. It as a great meeting and extremely productive.
  As you can see, my internship is really starting to heat up and I am extremely excited to begin all this work but sad that my leisure time is being cut back.  Oh well, I came out here to work and learn right?  That's what I'm gonna do!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Great News!

  So this actually isn't directly related to my time in Jordan but I am very excited about the news. This weekend I got the following email:

Good afternoon,
This is just a quick and very informal note to let you know your hard work has paid off - you have been awarded a Study Abroad Grant from Phi Kappa Phi, congratulations!
Please notify us as soon as possible of your acceptance of the offer of this grant (an acceptance form is attached for your use).  Please return by June 16.
If you did not send an official letter of acceptance into your study abroad program with your application, you will need to send that letter to Headquarters as soon as possible - checks will not be distributed without an official acceptance letter on file.
Stay tuned for more emails/requests/forms/directions – you name it – to complete this process…but until then – yeah you!

Maria C. Davis
National Marketing Development Manager
The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
Phone // 800.804.9880 x35
Fax      // 225.388.4900

 This means that I have received a thousand dollar grant from a National Honor Society for my time here in Jordan and comes at a great time as I try to crunch numbers and figure out how I am going to afford this trip.  In not too long I will be featured on the following site which I think is dang cool.  Anyway, this was simply amazing news that I just received and I am very happy so I thought I would share.  I'm also really  surprised that I got the award, there were over 440 applicants from around the country and only 25 grants!  Yay for good letters of recommendation and help on my essays.

Maybe I should write about my internship...

Well, I decided that before I posted about the amazing weekend I had and all of the cool experiences that will probably fill four separate blog entries, maybe I should write a little bit about what I am actually doing here in Amman for my internship.  I admit, the problem with me writing about my internship is two-fold.  First of all, so far we really haven't been able to do that much in our internship for a variety of reasons, secondly to put it simply I am not here for my internship.   The reason I am in Jordan is to learn about the people and their struggles, to see the stories that we can't read about in America and to understand them better has I get a better grip on the Arabic Language, the internship is simply a way to do that cheaply and with some much needed help.
  So, my internship.  My internship is to work for the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development (MoSD).  I am currently stationed in Iraq Al-Ameer with one other intern at a community center that was closed down a number of months ago for renovations.  It is our job to help the center prepare to open, to operate effectively, and to find ways to improve the options available to the community through the center.  In addition, the other intern and myself have been given separate assignments from our director to analyze and report on surveys taken around Jordan and what the MoSD can do to help them.  It is quite fun and rewarding, I always love solving problems and analyzing information.
     As far as our work in Iraq Al-Ameer is going, we have not done much.  Our work day usually consists of about two hours of light manual labor, and hour of talking with the staff at the center, and then us returning home half-way through the day.  Because I am not here for the internship, it isn't completely bad, but it is sometimes very frustrating to realize how much we are paying everyday to travel and how little we are getting done.  Also, it is unfortunate to see the resources so needed by the rural community we are working in not available because work is not being done efficiently.
   Since describing what we do is sort of boring and would take a long time, I will simply show you in pictures:
This is one of many rooms that was completely covered
in furniture, we have since sorted and cleaned everything
in this room and others as well

A particularly bad and dusty room, it's amazing how much stuff
we located in this mess!

Repainting doors and windows

Cleaning the bathroom, especially splatter from paint
and plaster

Removal of old nasty carpet

Refilling water tanks, which promptly leaked
and are now empty

The location and destruction of dangerous
wildlife within the center
(Isn't it awesome this was inside the center?  We asked our "Grandma" Bedouin lady
 that is always helping us about the scorpions and what would happen if one
of them stung us. With a huge smile on her face she told that we would die and then
 went back to work.  Pretty sweet eh?  We are now freaked out anytime something
 slithers across the ground, including wind blown trash.)

Removing bushes and trees with broken tools mended with tied on phone-cords
that bush in the background used to be huge...
So, although we aren't doing much I am enjoying it and we also get to have more time for interesting cultural experiences, which you hopefully know by now is exactly what I search for.  Like right now, I'm actually on my laptop sitting close to the "Martyr's Memorial" which is the army museum for Jordan that I got to see part of today and will see the rest of later.

  Don't worry, I'll right about this weekend soon