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.
We’ve been incredibly lucky to meet some phenomenal individuals who are tirelessly working to improve the lives of people throughout Jordan. There are three people who stand out:
Dr. Salma Nims from the Jordanian National Commission for Women. She was a force of nature--intelligent, well-spoken and passionate about fighting for the rights of women in Jordan. I was so impressed with her that after she spoke with our group, a couple of us asked her if she had considered running for the Parliament. She informed us that she had lost a campaign a few years ago, but that loss led to her appointment on the Commission which is allowing her to help lobby for some fundamental changes for women.
Samar Dudin from Ruwwad. Ruwward, established in 2005, is an organization designed to work with disenfranchised communities by providing education and scholarship funds. The goals for the scholarship students are to make them economically independent, foster creativity, increase their open-mindedness and improve their humanity. The students in return (for their scholarships) volunteer 4 hours a week teaching classes and giving back to their communities. Within minutes of meeting Samar I was humbled by her empathy and passion for trying to improve the lives of the children and youth in the neighborhood. She is one of the true unspoken hero's of our global society--doing all she can to make the world a better place, one child at a time.
His Excellency the Mayor of Amman - Akel Biltaji. It came to a complete surprise to our group that we were allowed to meet with His Excellency. He was charming and very candid as he told us about his city and the challenges he is trying to address. When asked what is the one thing he wants us to make sure to go back and teach our students he said “The answer to EVERY issue at the local, national, and global level is education, education, education.” Also, there are always two sides to every story and it’s important that we teach our students about the Jordanian (Arab) perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The highlights of this past week also include dinner at the house of one of our Jordanian group leaders. Her house overlooks a lovely valley and it was a beautiful evening with some amazing food.
We also traveled up to one of the northernmost tips in the country to Umm Quais to see more Roman ruins. The area overlooks the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) and the Golan Heights. We were also only a couple of kilometers from the border with Syria.
Today, we had our first day off and it was lovely to be able to sleep in and not feel rushed. A small group of ladies and I decided to go to the Moroccan Hammam in the morning. The only other experience I’ve had with Hammams came while I was in traveling in Turkey 9 years ago and that experience was more than a little traumatic and included a partially nude Iraqi man and me covered in bruises when it was finished. I would be happy to share the story in person if you want to ask...it is a very amusing tale. This hammam was not nearly as traumatic, but given that I’ve never gone topless before with a group of people I was at times very uncomfortable--however the upside is my skin feels amazing. The rest of the day was spent souvenir shopping (the first I’ve done all trip) and relaxing.
We have a week left in Jordan before I head to Israel and I’m excited to see what I will learn over the final few days. Until then, I will enjoy the sounds of the wedding drummers and bagpipes from outside my hotel window.