a lot.

Since the last time I have written we have been busy as all hell.

Last Thursday our group organized a trip  to the Jordanian Badia to do service work at a school by building a playground, removing dangerous rock, laying down sand, planting over 30 trees and a garden, painting a mural and playing with and reading to the sweetest children I have ever met.  This project was funded by the Hashemite Foundation of Jordan for Badia Development.  The Badia of Jordan is a very poor area both economically and in resources.  It comprises about 75% of Jordan in its sandy, dusty steppe land.  Water is precious and rare and because of the climate, the region has remained relatively underdeveloped (As an anthropologist however, I have to acknowledge that development is not necessarily the only and best solution.  However when it concerns the education of children, I believe that forward is the only way to move.)  The Jordanian government has founded a organization that provides funding and man power to development projects across the region.  Team leaders from our program reached out to this school and this organization in order to provide minor improvements to the school and therefore to the community.

This was my first time doing international service work and, I won’t lie, it was a bit intimidating to enter a different culture and language and want to help.  However, spending around 5 hours working in the hot sun may have been the most positive experience of my life to date.  I was on the gardening team because as much as I wanted to teach and read with children, that was where the manpower was needed.  I surprised myself with my ability to wield a pickax and break up hardened rock.  I tore up my hand breaking up the sun-hardened clay.  I sang songs with the sweetest little girls Sara, Rowan and Rowzan while teaching them how to properly plant a tree.  I tried to teach the children to pick up all of the litter around the school yard.  Other students on the trip taught the children English letters, painted their faces, painted a mural the stretched along the entire playground and built a swing set, slide, seesaw and carousel for the children.  We all struggled with our Arabic throughout the whole day, but I surprised myself with my communication skills and how much conversation I was able to actually have with the kids helping me.  Between their 100 words or so of English and my 200 words or so of Arabic the language barrier was a lot less limiting than I had expected.  It made me really proud of how much I have learned and really excited to continue to learn Arabic, especially the dialect like I am studying here in Jordan.  My formal Arabic skills were sometimes just as useless as my English.  I can’t wait to come back to the region to do more service work and practice my language skills in context and in conversation.

The more I do service work, the more I want to do service work.  I am super excited to see what sort of co-op positions are available through Northeastern that take you abroad to do volunteer work.

The other option for this day was to go to the UNHCR office here in Amman and get a debriefing about how refugees are registered and resettled.  While I am sad that I didn’t get the opportunity to see these offices and learn about the practice and a possible career for me, I am really glad that I could have done direct and concrete service and provided for the community.

Yesterday was my birthday and I was luck enough to spend it here in Jordan with some really amazing people!  We went on a group trip to Jerash and Ajloun, some really famous ruins here in Jordan.  Jerash is an unknown wonder with a huge expanse of Greek/Roman  ruins, two amphitheaters, plenty of temples and bathhouses.  There is still more to be discovered, especially the residential parts of this ancient city.  What I really loved about it, in comparison to places like the Acropolis in Athens, is that the ruins are highly exposed and open to the public and we were able to climb all over them and walk along the same paths that the original residents did.  Ajloun is an old crusaders castle perched high on a hill close to Jerash.  The castle isn’t very big but it is well preserved, as are many ruins here because of the dry climate and sand, and we were able to climb through everything.  We even hopped over the barriers and explored in closed off areas, up high steps and through tight windows.  It was awesome to be exploring the entire castle that felt dark and cool and ancient (because it is).

After we got back I celebrated my birthday with some of my favorite people on this trip at a really cool bar called Jar’d, a hidden gem in Amman where gourmet drinks are served in giant mason jars, dance music is pumped through the speakers and all the waiters speak immaculate English.  This was actually our second night there, we went the night before too!

My time in Amman is coming to an end, with only four days left in the city.  I plan on studying heavily for my final and avoiding spending much money.  Things here are super expensive and meals and transportation adds up fast! Sorry to those back home I promised souvenirs, don’t expect very much!

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