We’re now in the second half of our program here and school is picking up or sure! We’ve started learning the future tense, clothing and occupations so I find myself memorizing many new words in the hopes of retaining a few!
I’ve managed to find some time for some fun however! Recently a group of us went to the Roman Amphitheater downtown to watch Syrian refugee children from the Za’atri camp put on Shakespeare! We found out about halfway through the abbreviated play that it was Hamlet! At the end the children marched around the theater chanting “To be or not to be”, their voices echoing off the ancient stones. It was very impactful to hear them questioning their identity and presence. It reminds one that these refugees are here, the next generation of Syria is here, in Jordan torn from their homes. The irony was not lost on the audience and the performance took on a meaning much deeper than their adorable costumes and inability to act. Watching this performance was quite moving and an experience I had not expected out of my time in Jordan. I had previously read about the project to involve Syrian children in the production of a Shakespeare play in the Za’atri camp. It began as a way to entertain and involve the children that were unable to attend school and had nothing to do all day. Read about it in a Dear Syria article: http://dearsyria.wix.com/dearsyria#!Shakespeare-in-the-Camp/c173w/9280A7F2-BCA7-4581-B5F2-CD8922300E15
After the performance I got two famous and delicious Jordanian foods, al-Quds falafel on Rainbow street and knaffeh downtown. al-Quds is a small hole in the wall falafel shop where a filling sandwich will run you about 40 cents. Knaffeh is a traditional Jordanian sweet. For all those that know me, they understand just how deep my love for cheese is. Well, I finally found a cheesy dessert that rivals Mike’s Pastry’s canoli. Knaffeh is a warm gooey cheese covered in a sugary syrup and crumb topping and then baked until soft and melted. It might actually be my favorite thing in the world right now and I am absolutely heartbroken that there is no way to bring it home!
Because of the heat and the food here, I spend a lot of down time trying to avoid dehydration and sickness. I am trying desperately to avoid joining the 4 people on my trip that are in the hospital. However, on Saturday I rallied for a trip to Wadi Mujib, one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done. Short and sweet, you hike though a canyon until you reach a waterfall and then turn around and hike back. However, the weird thing about Wadi Mujib is that the gorge is carved out by a fresh water stream, small but present. The hike consists mostly of wading up river and pulling oneself up rapids and rock piles. The most challenging part came when you had to pull yourself up by a rope and climb up a large boulder as water came rushing down and the current tried to pull you away. However, the way back down was unlike anything else. Where it was deep enough, most of the path, you could lay flat and float downstream looking up at the swirling, ancient red rock and the sunlight peeking through. I found myself marveling at how strange it was that this fresh water existed right next to the Dead Sea (literally across the street) and in the middle of a desert!
Classes resumed on Sunday, which is the start of the week in Arab, Muslim countries. Today we also had a visit to the Jordanian crisis management center which is a recently developed project by the Jordanian government for managing crisis and emergencies at the national level. It is also the location where important officials such as the Prime Minister and King are held during crises. It was interesting that they let us tour part of the facilities because something that top secret in the US would never be shown to foreign tourists. I am constantly amazed at how open people are here to foreigners compared to the US. In America, things are often withheld from foreigners because they are different, cannot speak the native language and are often mistrusted. Here however, as an American I am usually stared at, yes, but also welcomed to Jordan and offered their utmost hospitality. We were able to tour the center’s facilities and see their crisis management rooms. I felt as if I was walking through a James Bond set!
Being in Jordan is very tiresome even though it doesn’t involve much walking. However, I am constantly learning something new, struggling with the language and discovering what I really want to do with my life. Being in the Middle East for the first time is not exactly how I pictured it and I am beginning to second guess my decision to focus in the Middle East. I still really enjoy learning Arabic however, and will definitely continue to take classes and practice the language. I hope to come back to the Middle East and visit a different country and experience the difference in culture and the treatment of women. One thing that has definitely clarified by being here is that I want to do aid work for a while. It is strange for me to be living in a host house with electricity and running water in such a resource poor area where refugees are living without medical supplies and food only a half hour away. I struggle to enjoy the unlimited access I have to the city when I have now seen first hand how other people live in such drastically different ways that me. At least I will take away from this trip a lot of internal growth and knowledge which is really the whole point of travelling, is it not?
With much love