Friday, August 3, 2012

International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee is working at the Jordan/Syria border! They're partnering with the UNHCR and IMC at the Za'atari refugee camp (which we did *not* get security clearance to work at, unfortunately) and are helping with emergency aid. Additionally they're working in two other border cities to help the thousands of "urban" refugees assimilate. 

It's exciting to see what they're doing around the world. From emergency response in Kyrgyzstan, resettlement programs in the US, to protecting women against violence in Uganda...I love how tangible, practical, and real they are. Honestly, I'd be so content working with them for the rest of my life. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just breathe

There's something so inexplicably peaceful about surfing. It's in the sense of being so absolutely finite, so very, very small. The feeling of tons of water rushing over your body when you duck under a wave. It's in the taste of salt. Its when the sea drips from your hair onto your shoulders as you wait for the next wave.  

And there's this magical moment, once you've struggled past the breakers, when you get out to the open, flat ocean. The water slaps the bottom of your board and you can wiggle your toes in the seaweed floating by. One of my favorite things in the world to do is get out there, past the waves, out into the calm ocean, and just lay on the board. Stretched out on the board, eyes closed, rocking with the gentle swells....nothing else in the world matters. You just breathe and smell the sea. You just are. 

More than anything right now, I want to be back in SD and just float out there on the ocean. And just breathe. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Final therapy

"If your paper is robust, solid, comprehensive and concise; if your presentation is strong and well put-together; if you understand the concepts and can defend your analysis'll probably get 30/35 on your final."

That's a B. Awesome. 

Spent a good couple hours at a new cafe tonight working on our final project/papers....and when we wanted to just melt, we took pictures.

Good therapy. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The King and the People

I don't normally like to post twice in a day, but this is a really interesting debate about Jordan's political system. The speakers debate the monarchy, freedom, and Al-Jazeera's newest focus: reform vs. revolution. It's intriguing to watch, especially having been here among the people themselves. The monarchy here is well established and seem to be rather endeared to the Jordanian people. Pictures of the royal family are hung in every restaurant, posted on the sides of buildings, the King's picture is often seen taped inside taxi windows and countless cars tout crown stickers on the back. At the same time, while most are not anti-monarchical, Jordanians want deep reform. They want the monarchy to institute reforms, and if King Abdullah were to implement more democratic policies, the monarchy could possibly secure itself a future. And yet, public demand is weak; while there have been demonstrations for the past 18 months, they've been relatively sporadic and public involvement is lacking.

It's intriguing to watch this and listen to these highly-educated, high-profile people discuss these issues. With that in mind, I love being able to go out on the street and talk to the taxi drivers, the doctors in the clinics, the restaurant workers, and our neighbors in our apartment. In the five weeks living here in Amman, the capital city, I haven't felt or seen the "ethnic tension" so widely described by the media. In fact, the people are most concerned and upset about tighter water rationing than anything else. 1000 syrian "guests" arrived in Amman two days ago, and we continue to accept more every day. The kingdom is allocating services to them - electricity, water, medical care - and the Jordanian citizens are feeling neglected. If there's any tension, it's over these basic services....or at least, that's what we've observed.

The situation is complex and multi-facited. There are many perspectives, many demands, many voices wanting to be heard from a multitude of ethnicities, demographics, and religions. I'm not a journalist and I'm not here to investigate, but having lived among and worked with both Palestinians and Jordanians these past few weeks, I haven't felt tension to the extent the news is claiming. I don't discredit or doubt the words of the people at the table. I want to explore what they say more and research the subtleties of the situation. Yet I believe, as in many situations, you cannot apply blanket statements - especially to Jordan; a patchwork country of so many different kinds of people.

This may be naive and simply because I've been fairly protected here, but again and again, the Jordanians present themselves as hopeful. The people I talk to speak of freedom, of possibilities, of trying to work make a better life for themselves and their families. They're optimistic. It's an interesting dichotomy: listening to the educated elites who describe political/ethnic tension and the need for reform, and the every-day, mostly poor, people who love to smile and want to survive.

I find the difference between what you hear and what you see fascinating. I think it's all true. I want to know more. I don't want to leave. 

Day in the Life

Ben snores quietly on the couch. Teni sits compiling data into frequency tables. There are cords and massive water bottles everywhere. Upstairs, the people have been taking shifts sleeping and reading, waking each other up every hour or so throughout the night to keep the rotations going. We made curry for dinner and are about to order McDonalds for dessert. Lana Del Rey plays on a laptop...we've had her stuck in our heads for 3 days; we're sick of the song, but love it too much to stop singing it. Someone brings out the nutella. Someone else starts rattling off health statistics about GDPs and medical budgets. It's organized chaos. It's exciting. 

Friday, July 27, 2012


By day the city is empty, quiet, and hot. The busy, crowded streets are suddenly devoid of cars and nearly all the stores and restaurants are closed. If they can, people sleep late or stay inside. Taxi drivers going are grouchy because they can't smoke. You have to hide your water bottle inside your purse so no-one sees.

But by night, Amman is transformed into a bustling, exciting, food-filled place. I'm almost sure if you translated "رمضان" (the word for Ramadan) into English, it'd be spelled "feast".

The fourth pillar of Islam, Ramadan is a sacred month of fasting based on the lunar calendar. From July 19th until August 18th, all participants are required to fast from sunrise to sunset; no food, water, or smoking. You start your day with suhoor, a pre-dawn breakfast of usually dates, water, breads and nuts. Once the sun rises, the entire city fasts until around 7:30pm when iftar finally comes and you can break the fast. All the restaurants are closed and many shops wait until night to open. Because water is forbidden, people stay in their homes to conserve energy. And since smoking is also off-limits, everyone is on-edge, from the taxi drivers to our doctors in the clinics. Patience levels are low. But after iftar, everything changes. People can eat and drink, shops are open, there are fireworks everywhere, twinkly lights hang from windows and doorframes, and people are whistling. It's eating, drinking, smoking, singing in the streets, and happiness till dawn.

Most of us aren't fasting, but we joined our friends from SIT, one of the directors from the Ministry of Health, the chief of UNRWA's field health program, our professor, and all their families at a fancy restaurant for iftar. It was delicious and there was so much food. It's bad, nearly every night of Ramadan, we all are in serious food-coma.

Which, speaking of food-babies, I'm gonna go waddle to bed. Ramadan kareem!
!رمضان كريم

Thursday, July 26, 2012