My ideal fruit and vegetable store

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Fruit and vegetable store, Amman

My ideal fruit and vegetable store is around the corner in five minutes walk from my flat. There are always big choice of fresh fruits and vegetables and stuff is very nice and friendly. I go there often and arrive home with many bags full with delicious goods. The only problem with ideal things are that they do not exist in the real life. What is the problem with my ideal fruit and vegetable store?- packaging. Even though I am trying to use as little plastic bags as possible- put the same price vegetables in one bag, put the big items in my canvas bag- it is not enough. Plastic bag collection in our house is getting bigger and bigger. I am trying to fight it by crocheting some useful stuff like shopping bags and jewelry boxes. But that is not enough.

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Shopping bag from plastic bags, crochet
 
I do not want to contribute to Great Pacific Garbage Patch )http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75NG4Tqdjqo)- enormous amounts of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean which decompose in smaller pieces and cause problems to ecosystem. Not to forget all the other impacts like land pollution which is super ugly, environmental impacts and recourse consumption while producing the bags, impact from transportation. Why should we care about all that if it is not in our backyards? Because we all share one planet and resources are limited and it all influence our health.
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Amman, Jordan
 
As for now waste free grocery stores are just rarity like this one in Berlin http://www.gizmag.com/original-unverpackt-germany-waste-free-supermarket/32376/ and only few people have mission and strength to live so that they would create zero waste http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXTS5UVtb5s. I have to act too. I decided I will not take plastic bags anymore. So when I go to buy fruits and vegetables I use plastic bags from my massive collection at home. Yes I am far from zero waste but have to start somewhere. I do not want to waste resources for something that will be used just for 5 minutes to carry goods home and then thrown away. That is enough. Yes it might seem weird in this plastic bag consumption society but I do not want to continue like this.

I believe that problems have to be solved in causes not in effects. In my ideal world all shops are waste free. And it is not the decision of enthusiastic consumer it is the right decision of all society and governments. Lets save our resources today so we can continue using them tomorrow.

 
By Agnese

What is the weather today?

Before I came to Jordan, I really didn’t like to think about the weather forecast. To me, the weather happens and that’s it.

I’m aware that the weather can change the mood. Thanks to the sun we can get vitamin D (the body get 80% to 90% of it from the sun) and it leads generally to a good mood.

Some points of view claim that rain has effects on people. For example, getting excited or on the contrary, other people ensure that the rain make them more sleepy.

Of course, according to the place we are living, the effects are different. For example if you live in a place where it’s snowing by meters every year, you will less enjoy it than if you were living in a place where there is snow only once or twice a year.

Or if you live in a place where the water is missing, you will probably enjoy more when it’s raining than the people that have the rain in their place every 2 or 3 days.

What about Jordan?

In Jordan, even if I still never take care of it, I have to face different kind of weathers.

I won’t make a degree presentation because I come from a humid place and Jordan is mostly a dry one, so the degrees are not felt the same way, and there is no comparison to do.

Some places in Jordan are situated in altitude. For example, Amman is almost 800 meters over the ocean level. I’ll experience summer in Jordan, but until now, I would say that the altitude allows us to enjoy a pleasurable wind.

Even if the Middle East is a dry and hot place, during winter time for example, there is snow is in Amman and in other places in Jordan.

However, there is also another altitude in Jordan that is quite extreme, and that is the Dead Sea of course! 423 meters under the Ocean level, it is actually the lowest point of the earth. As you can imagine, it is very hot and we can “swim” there (almost) anytime of the year, except during summer, because it will become a mega oven.

During March month, an event happened in Jordan : the rain.

Indeed, this is an event here that is not very common.

Let’s now have a look on the average precipitations in Jordan. The average Precipitation is the long-term average in depth (over space and time) of annual precipitation in the country. Precipitation is defined as any kind of water that falls from clouds as a liquid or a solid.

The average precipitation in depth (mm per year) in Jordan during the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 is 111. Let’s compare with the origin countries of the volunteers of West & East Center from the lowest to the highest :

- in Poland ;     600

- in Latvia ;       641

- in Lithuania ; 656

- in Denmark ; 703

- in Italy   ;       832

- in Belgium ;   847

- in Portugal ;   854

- in France ;     867

and in Jordan ; 111 !

You can imagine now why I told you why the rain here was an event. And try to imagine the number if there was no snow during the winter.

Jordan is actually one of the countries of the world with the lowest average precipitations.

Since last September, because the sun is really loyal, my skin had some colors. As I had skin troubles in my childhood, I put sunscreen in the morning before going to work. And step-by-step, the summer is arriving, and I think we will have a sunny experience!

By Jason

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References

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-929-VITAMIN%20D.aspx?activeIngredientId=929&activeIngredientName=VITAMIN%20D

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/AG.LND.PRCP.MM

Yalla teacher! Gosia’s perspective

Entering through the blue gate of the Jerash Camp Development Office, I suddenly step into a tranquil space contrasted with the hustle and bustle of the camp outside. All noises seem isolated now, the crowds of school children pouring down the camp road are left somewhere in the background, outside the white fence. As I head across the shaded courtyard, suddenly from behind the metal bars of the upper staircase I hear familiar voices: “Gosha Gosha! Teacher!”. A group of girls runs down to greet me and before I even manage to enter the staircase we are there hugging. saying “hello” and exchanging “kiffik”s [how are you’s]. Holding hands, we climb up, head down the shaded corridor and together turn right to step into the room where, with every of my visits to the camp, I take on the role of “teacher Gosia”.

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Since I came to join the project in January, I have been leading English lessons three times per week. Having joined Paulina in the first months, I then was left to do English on my own. I must admit that I did not know what to expect. Never have I taught English to kids. But all I knew is that I love being among children and entering their reality. And that I want to discover and become part of the world of girls in camp. Three – almost four – months later, I can say that it undoubtedly reorganized my way of approaching subjects, of seeing them, through the eyes of young girls that I had a chance to be with almost every day.

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Our entrance seems to interrupt the chattering that has been on inside the room, where the rest of the girls have been awaiting the lesson, sitting at one of the three tables. After greeting each of the girls, I walk the room to see the two CDO workers who have since been of an irreplaceable support for us in our activities in the office. And as every day, after an exchange of “kullu tamam” and “hamdulillah”s [everything is good] confirming that all is well, I leave my things on one of the chairs, take out my English materials and start the lesson.

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And here, let me explain the rules. Rule number one, seemingly the basics of basics: spontaneity. As chaotic as it sounds, the number of girls attending class differs depending on the minute of the lesson. Some girls join half way the lesson, some go in and out, asking to go to “hammam” [toilet], “souq” [market] or “beit” [home]. And let me add that it is extremely hard to predict the number of girls coming to class – that can be from around 10 to up to 30 girls at once. Added to this, groups change according to monthly shifts in school – the activities we do follow the morning shift at school which finishes at around 12:00. Then come the second and third rule: flexibility and assertiveness. These after-school activities are an additional occasion for the girls to spend time together, outside the crowded camp school where a single class can count up to 60 pupils. This meaning that girls receive more than the usual attention from the teacher and can sometimes be “unusually” active.

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Alphabet, simple nouns and adjectives, building basic sentences – these are the stages we start off with every group, teaching new vocabulary through memory games, bingo or quizzes solved together on the board. Or making use of objects around us in the classroom, playing shop scenes or naming clothes and jewellery we wear, a subject they lately like the most :)

But from all the above, what I consider most important is passing on the passion for English as a new language, a language still so unknown to the majority of the girls. And building a friendly relation between us, which has been developing since the first moment we met.

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13-year old Arwa has since the beginning become one of my closest friends – very sensitive, extremely eager to learn, and extremely eager to help as well, she usually plays the role of my translator. Her good friend and classmate from school, Elaf– calm and self-confident, accurately answering questions and herself, trying to ask whenever something seems unclear. Then come the sisters – 10-year-old Dania and 7-year-old Reetaj. A crazy mix when together with her sister, but much more calm on her own, talented Dania always tries to be the first! Many times, her brother Mohammed joins us and sitting secretly outside in the corridor, solves quizzes or other hand-outs prepared for the girls. 12-year-old Aya and her younger sister Braa are much different: quite silent and at a side, they seem to be inseparable, sitting together, sometimes at once on one chair. Spontaneous Hiba runs around the classroom and quite often pulls my sleeve to make me remember she wants to be the first to write on the whiteboard. 9-year-old Ameleen is the tricksy girl and from time to time faints crying to mislead me, quite with successJ Then, 11-year-old Rula and Sileen, the two girls who dare to ask practically any question and often stir the situation in the classroom. Rawan, not too keen to speak, but always listening with full attention despite the chaos which arouses in the classroom. And Islam, somehow in between – loud and active, but still able to stop the chatter when necessary.

The repetitive screams of “ yalla teacher” [come on], “taali teacher” [come here] or “finish teacher” [come and check], are words I would never have thought would be directed to me. It seems we are building a dictionary of communicating with each other every day, using English during the lesson and Arabic after class, as we head together towards the bus that I take back home. And on every road back from camp, I keep my inner smile, happy to come back to meet the girls the following day.

By Gosia

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Taking the bus from one city to another in Jordan…

In the bus station or close to the bus stops, it is not really a problem to find the bus that you need to get in. Indeed, when the driver is waiting under the bus shelter with the name of the destination (written in Arabic only) or when the driver is stopping on his way, the guy who is collecting the money is screaming the name of the city or the name of the place he is going to; so no mistake is possible.

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When you get in the bus, I’m speaking about the small buses with approximately 16 to 20 seats, mainly the shuttles between cities, you can find fancy decorations. Of course, all the buses have curtains, I guess mostly because of the sun. Also, you have the possibility to enjoy your trip with the big opened window on your side and appreciate (or not) the wind coming to your face. Often, the radio is switched on, either to listen to the Quran or Arabic music.

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When sitting in the bus, you have to respect a rule: Usually men cannot sit next women. Sometimes, you have to remove people who are already peacefully sat just to apply this rule. Regarding the smoking rule, from time to time, some drivers don’t say anything to people who are lighting a cigarette in the bus which can be really bothering the ones who do not smoke, especially when it is in early morning and when you are still not really awake. When the bus is getting full, the guy who is collecting money is starting his job. And for example, when the price is 95 cents and you give 1 dinar, sometimes you are not given back the change. When you have to go out, don’t forget to keep a coin in your hand to hit the window in order to make noise and thus warm the driver that you want to go out. Then you are able to open the door by yourself and get out. After spending a while living in Amman and going to work in Jerash by bus, all the drivers know you and are always happy to see you.

Here is an example from my personal experience. Close to the Jerash ruins, you can find buses and cars (services or taxis) to go back to Amman and when the drivers see you. Obviously, they perceive you as tourists (even if some of us have been in Jordan for a long time). Car drivers are trying to negotiate prices to get you back to Amman. The bus is still empty and it will take you hours to wait for it full … One day, as the bus was really empty, my colleague and I decided to walk, hoping that we could catch one bus on the way, coming from Ajloun and going to Amman for instance. Suddenly, after a few steps, one bus from Jerash stopped us and told us to come in. Only one tourist was in the bus so we went in. On the way, the driver received one phone call and he was arguing and screaming through the phone. We just guessed that it was because of us. He didn’t want to leave us walking so he made his decision independently from the other drivers, left only with one tourist and here we are… We were not feeling so comfortable. At some point, he stopped for gas and he asked me where I was going. After a while driving, he stopped on the side of the road and I had to go to the other small bus while a family from the other one was coming to mine. When I got to the other bus I was alone with the driver telling me to sit on the seat next to him. As I always wanted to sit in front, I accepted. We didn’t speak a lot as he was speaking in Arabic and me in English and he was nice and not pushy at all like some other men. He finally dropped me exactly where I wanted to.

By Anne-Laure

 

Is there a peaceful place in Amman?

Even if you come from a big city such as Rome, Amman chaotic way of life cannot leave you indifferent.

Acoustic pollution surround you all day long. You don’t have to put the alarm clock, for sure building constructions will wake you up at eight in the morning. That refrain in your ears doesn’t mean that you are getting crazy or having acoustic visions. Calm down it isn’t only in your head, it is real, is the gas dealer.

But the main question is: when you drive your car what is the need of honking each moment? If you ask to people in Amman there is always a reason to honk: for taxi and van drivers is to get new costumers, for private drivers is to say hi, to attire attention, to hit on girls, to express happiness, to express anger; in other words if you are driving in Amman there is always a reason to honk.

If you live in Amman there is no choice, you have to get used to it. You can adopt the strategy that fits better with you. When I decide to take a walk I wear my headset choosing my own soundtrack!

But if you decide to take a walk in Amman acoustic pollution is not the only problem you have to face. Sidewalk are in fact a relativity places to walk on, they can disappear from behind your feet or can suddenly change their nature in sand paths or rocks paths.

When almost hopeless about finding a resting place to take a walk I finally discovered Jabal el Weibdeh. One of the oldest neighborhood of Amman, located on an hill with a great view is the perfect place to retire from chaos and cars.

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Enjoying great views in a green environment.

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Even if really close to the traffic of the downtown el Weibdeh is the perfect place to spend your time enjoying silence, nature and art. Thanks to the presence of many contemporary art galleries, of the National Gallery of Fine Arts together with the national museum park, and many places to chill such as cafes and restaurants, Jabal el Weibdeh is the very heart of Amman creative and artistic life.

By Gioia

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On the Nabateans tracks… Petra or one of the World Wonder.

Petra was known as the capital of the Nabatean Empire and it was a kind of intersection between Asia and the Mediterranean Sea. Nabateans constitute the people who were living in Arabia and what is called Southern Levant (it alludes to the region bordering the Mediterranean, which is now composed by Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories and the southern part of Lebanon).

Thus, according to a guide for French people I met in my hostel: “the Nabateans were developing trade” in this area; spices were coming from India, silk from China, frankincense… He told me that it is easy to notice different styles in Petra because of the diversity of people passing by such as tourists, traders, caravans… Petra got first the influence of Nabateans, then it became a part of the Roman Empire and finally it received the influence of Byzantines.

At the end, the city was given up because of some geographic and natural problems: an earthquake destroyed the city and also because the trade was disappearing little by little as the routes changed. Yet, in 1812, a Swiss rediscovered the city what made Petra famous again from the tourists’ point of view.

Marcin, a Polish tourist I spoke with about Petra, told me: “it is very nice; that is why I came back” and “the architecture is amazing for 2000 years, whereas in Poland we can’t build a road which would last more than twenty years”. Diane coming from New York City in the United States simply said: “I love it” and after a moment she added “Actually, this my third time here” and her friend Lawrence from Washington D.C. completed: “She brought me back here to see it again”. For me, Petra is just magnificent for the various different colors of its natural rock and also because of the way it was sculpted years ago. Indeed, the red rock basically made by sandstone changes of color depending on the luminosity it gets… What remains very impressive to me is the path through the Siq, the treasury, the monastery, the view from the high sacrifice place, the lion, the green space close to the garden temple, and of course the STAIRS!

By Anne-Laure

The Monastery

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The top of the Monastery

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Valentine’s Day

Everyone knows Valentine’s Day because of these huge and horrible red hearts in the stores, streets, malls… Two days before the 14th of February all European cities are decorated, the official colors are pink and red, colors of love they say.

As for me, volunteer in Jordan, Arab country with 92% of Muslims, where Islam is declared the state religion, I was thinking that maybe I could escape this day. My questions are: Who really knows the origins of “The Love Day”? And does Jordan celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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If we read a little a bit, we can find that in Europe a long time ago there lived Emperor Claude II. He didn’t like Christians so he forbade weddings and men didn’t have a choice but to go to army.

Really sad about it, priest Valentine, decided to hide and to marry couples that came to his church. Unfortunately for him, Claude II found out about it. He asked to meet Valentine and as he didn’t agree with him he ordered to kill him. This way Valentine died on 14th of February, and to recall his story people celebrate this day. This is the religious reason for this celebration.

Now can we see what’s happening in the world?

In Europe or USA, on this fancy day we have the commercial part of Valentine’s Day, almost all cities look like “Love Land & Company” (pink hearts, red hearts, teddy bears saying “I love you”, chocolate hearts, flowers…). It’s the occasion for couples to organize a romantic dinner, to have just one day for themselves, to have the perfect moment to go to Spa together or I don’t know where…

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In Jordan, Valentine’s Day is also celebrated and I couldn’t escape it. All the malls are decorated for the occasion, even the marketing of water bottles and hand sanitizers is adapted to this day!  The city center doesn’t change too much, just some roses, teddy bears and hearts being sold…I asked some of my Jordanian friends what they do for Valentine’s Day. One told me that he doesn’t need a special day to remember his girlfriend. And the second one told me that it’s the occasion to have a party!

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So Valentine’s Day in Jordan isn’t as important as in Europe. Jordanians celebrate it just because of its commercial part, and it’s just an occasion to have more fun!

By Dina

Bedouins in Jordan

Even though Jordan is quite a small country with a population of 6.5 million people, it’s demographics are diverse and remarkable. First of all the Jordanian population is very young: more than a half is under 24 years, which is quite  a regular thing in the Middle East, where young people are dominating the society. The other notable fact: in 20 years Jordan’s population grew 91%, which means 3 million people more.

It is known that Jordan’s demographics were always heavily influenced by situation in the neighbouring countries. Half of the Jordanian population has Palestinian origin, and in the last years also thousands of Syrians flew to Jordan. Although, native Jordanians are mostly village-dwellers and Bedouins originating from the Arabian Peninsula.

Bedouins, in Arabic called Bedu (desert dwellers), are a very interesting ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes, or clans. Even though now most of the Bedouins are living in urban areas, lots of them are still living a nomadic life. Even if it’s wondering in the streets of big cities.

Bedouin life is generally pastoral, herding camels, sheep, goats and cattle. They normally migrate seasonally, depending on grazing conditions. In winter, when there is some rain, they migrate deeper into the desert. In the hot, dry summer time, they camp around secure water sources.

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Bedouins define themselves as members of tribes and families. They have a clear and strict social status system. Women are in charge of the household, while men are providing for the family. Polygamy is quite frequent, but the man has to provide to each of his wives equally. Families are very big in Bedouin society, so everybody is related, or if not – they still have a very close relationship. Bedouins have a strict code of honour, which defines the behaviour of all members of society.

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Bedouins define themselves as members of tribes and families. They have a clear and strict social status system. Women are in charge of the household, while men are providing for the family. Polygamy is quite frequent, but the man has to provide to each of his wives equally. Families are very big in Bedouin society, so everybody is related, or if not – they still have a very close relationship. Bedouins have a strict code of honour, which defines the behaviour of all members of society.

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Bedouin culture is significant by the generosity and openness for every visitor. Even though Bedouins scare away some tourists with their ‘old time pirate’ style, it is worth exploring this culture, because it would be very hard to find anything similar. Maybe that’s why in a Bedouin village next to Petra you might meet quite a few Western women, married to a charming Bedouin.

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To conclude – the best approach of understanding Bedouin culture and the people is just simply being open for opportunities and always, always say yes for a cup of tea.

By Giedre

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Mukhayyam Ghazza

It’s almost 10:00 AM as we arrive at Mujamma Shamal in north Amman. As we walk our way towards the station, screams of bus drivers reach us: “Jerash, Jerash!”. It seems drivers recognize us already well enough. Ahead of us is an hour-ish drive, another day of activities planned in our EVS schedule. Bustling Amman left behind, we drive though a picturesque, quite idyllic landscape of green hills, here and there scattered with little settlements. In a short while, road signs direct us to Jerash, gradually introducing its particular districts: “Jerash entrance” , “South Jerash”… 35 minutes later we’re in the centre of the city, which is not yet the end of our trip. The bus pulls up for a while next to the key tourist attraction – “Archaeological site of Jerash”, a stop for most foreigners every now and then travelling on our bus. We nod our heads to the driver: today as well we do not get off here.

We move on and turn left at the first traffic lights. Already here, new road signs appear, directing us to what is our daily destination. The bus climbs up winding roads, distancing us from the city of Jerash. Around 10 minutes later, we enter a paved road lined up with characteristic grey coloured blocks of houses. The horizon fills up with car repair shops, gradually grocery stores, a bakery, butcher shop and hens peeking out of cages stuffed in a neighbouring stall. We seem to be entering a small town, reminiscent of a city yet so much different from neighbouring urban Jerash. “Hatha Mukhayyam Ghazza” [this is Gaza camp] the bus driver informs us. Dust rises up from the dirt road that leads us to the over 45 years old camp.

Photo 1. Arriving at Gaza Camp

Mukhayyam Ghazza [Gaza camp], officially called Jerash camp, was established in 1968, a year after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It was planned to be an “emergency” shelter for 11,500 up to as many as 14,000 (according to Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC) refugees fleeing the Gaza Strip. In 2002 the camp’s population was estimated at around 15,000, that is: 2,800 families living in 2,100 houses. Today, it is thought to host “more than 24,000 registered refugees” (as stated by UNRWA), or more precisely 28,000 people, the latter seeming to be the most popular estimation. But some even say that 50,000 refugees live here. As one compendium says (Voices from the Camps: A People’s History of Palestinian Refugees in Jordan), it was originally established around 7 km from the city of Jerash on an area of 531,4 dunums (131,3 acres). Today it is said to occupy an area of around 750,000 square metres (UNRWA estimation) up to 1 square kilometre. But in fact it is hard to define its boundaries. It is also difficult to imagine that from the original 1,500 tents that stood here in 1968, it soon evolved into 2000 “prefabricated shelters” built with emergency donations (1968-1971) which in turn over following decades refugees themselves developed into more solid structures. All these houses, once constructed as temporary shelters for Gaza refugees, today are their permanent home.

Photo 2. The main  square

It’s 11:00 AM as our bus arrives at what seems to be the bus terminal: a busy crossroads, dominated by a tall creamy colour mosque and quite worn-out gas station. Standing here is a board sign informing about the “Jerash camp project” – new underground sewage network, Swiss-funded project launched in mid 2013 which is to replace the open channel sewage system the camp has had for the past 45 years. We turn right and head to the Community Development Office. The office, opened in 2007, is only part of a series of recent camp developments, including, as UNRWA states: ”1 community-based rehabilitation centre, 4 schools in two double-shift buildings, 1 health centre, 1 women’s programme centre, 1 food distribution centre”. We find ourselves on a relatively well-looking, straight road, lined up with grocery shops and smaller service points. But as we climb up the delicately sloped path, now busy with children heading to their second shift at school (it’s almost noon), through the line of shops show hidden alleyways leading to the depths of the camp.

Photo 3. Street next to CDO

And this is where a maze of dirt alleys begins. From a pedestrian’s perspective, it seems that the camp spreads out on what once used to be an orthogonal network of little streets. We step into a paysage of low brick houses covered with sheet metal roofs, at first glance all seeming to melt into a solid beige structure. As we walk along, we find ourselves entering a dense network of houses and realize that each has its own number – 1984 1985, 1986…. Below our feet, a labyrinth of sewage canals, some concrete and some naturally carved out in the paths’ surface. From behind one of the brick walls emerges a colourful balcony with clothes drying. A mix of sounds reaches us: sounds of cooking, something being repaired, a baby’s cry. Our nostrils experience a blend of scents: recently made coffee and fresh vegetables accompanied by the unpleasant smell of sewage beneath our feet.

Photo 4. Camp labirynth

From a shaded path we step into an alley over flooded with sunlight. A group of children crosses our path, running around with carton boxes and plastic bags, whatever at hand suitable to play with. This is in fact their playground. It seems every alley here lives its own life. The silent dusty labyrinth gradually leads us to a wider path where shops loom out: stationery, drugstore, second hand shop… It’s possible to sense a hustle and bustle somewhere close. The next minute, a small vegetable souq emerges out of the centre of the quarter. We find ourselves in the commercial “heart” of the camp. And we discover that only seemingly is this a homogenous quarter as it appears to be from the outside.

Crossing the road where the bus “terminal” is situated brings us to the second “wing” of the camp. This sector seems to live at its own, somewhat more tranquil tempo. A few alleys later, we once again stand inside a scheme of similarly looking house blocks. The landscape is broken up with mosque minarets rising here and there. And ahead, another seemingly endless path, leading through to the farthest edges of the camp.

Every visit brings another piece into the puzzle-like image of the camp. It seems there is no single picture that can capture the diversity of life that can be seen here. And of the camp’s yet-undiscovered area, so familiar to its inhabitants.

The history of the Gaza camp and memories of those living in the camp are now being registered and will be published within the documentary campaign – “Remember Us” project, some of them are already online (link: http://vimeo.com/tag:jerash).

By Gosia & Kata