This multi-part series will document my time spent in Jordan while a participant on a Fulbright-Hays Groups Project Abroad (GPA) program. I was selected along with 11 fellow teachers from North Texas to spend 4-weeks traveling in and around Amman, Jordan where we will study the country, politics, religion, education and culture. With this information we will develop curriculum to share with teachers and students once we return to the United States.
I won't be able to update this blog with my professional images while I am traveling due to technology limitations; therefore, my phone images will have to suffice. After I return in August I will post my favorite images from the trip in a separate blog post.
Jordan reminds me of the United States in the 1950s, smoking is ubiquitous and even though they have anti smoking laws, nothing is really done to stop it. Jordan is actively focused on improving themselves both economically and geopolitically, yet they remain for the most part a very conservative culture, which slows down their improvement processes. Here are my four latest takeaways of the past week.
- Women in Jordan an exceptionally well-educated. Over 87% of all women attain post-secondary degrees; however, this only translates into 13-14% of women working in the workforce. What an under utilized resource!
- Jordan is incredibly safe. Pretty much every building we enter has security guards, metal detectors, scanners, etc. I’ve seen more police and military forces out on the street than I’ve ever seen in the United States. The idea that Jordan is more dangerous than the United States is an erroneous one--obviously radical extremism can happen anywhere at anytime, but Jordan does all it can to prevent it.
- USAID. Your taxpayer dollars are hard at work in Jordan. I had never heard of USAID before traveling to Jordan. Apparently this government agency, started in November of 1961, was designed to “work to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.” Jordan has the largest USAID program in the world. Virtually every organization, NGO and non-profit we’ve met with stated that they got their start from USAID monies. My big question is what measures are in place to help transition from the dependency of the money to self-sustainability?
- Water is very scarce. I have become far more water sensitive. Jordan is the 4th poorest water country in the world and you quickly see how the lack of this precious resource impacts daily life. Toilets don’t often flush reliably, and people in Amman only get water delivered to their houses once a week (not bottled water service, but all the water they use). I hope to take back some of my sensitivity so that I don’t waste so much water when I return. I know this won’t directly help the people of Jordan, but it will make me feel better that I am being a better steward of the environment.
Now for some of the sightseeing we took part in this past weekend. On Friday (the first day of the weekend), we drove to Jerash to visit the ancient Roman ruins. The ruins are some of the best preserved in the world. The site covered a few kilometers, and it has been one of my favorite places we’ve visited thus far.
Later in the afternoon we traveled to the town of Ajloun and visited the ruins of a castle constructed during the crusades by one of the generals of the famous Muslim leader Saladin. It was constructed around 1184-1185. From its location, the fortress dominated a wide stretch of the northern Jordan Valley, and protected the communication routes between southern Jordan and Syria.
Saturday evening a small group of us decided to return to the Roman ruins at Jerash to see the Moroccan Pop Star Saad Lamjarred perform. We had a fantastic time. It was incredibly cool to sit in a Roman amphitheater more than 2000 years old and see a modern concert.
Saad reminded me of a tamer Arab version of Ricky Martin. Even though I couldn’t understand any part of the lyrics I still enjoyed jamming out to the music.
The most troublesome part of the evening was the triple layer of security that we had to pass through. Each round required a full pat down and an examination of EVERY item in our purses. Men and women were separated into two different lines, and it took forever to finally get through the third round of their security detail. Although it was annoying, I am grateful that they took their safety seriously. Below are some images from the concert and a link to a YouTube video of Saad’s so you can enjoy his musical stylings.