Hitch-hiking in Jordan

The idea of visiting the village of Dana, located close to the Dead Sea, came spontaneously on a Thursday’s afternoon. The village is next to Dana Biosphere Reserve, which is the largest nature reserve in Jordan with diverse environment. Noted for it’s 15th century houses, the Dana Village is located in southwest of Jordan, near the city of Tafilah.
The journey started with taking a bus to city of Karak from Amman’s southern bus station in the morning in Friday. Karak is special with the 12th century castle of Karak, an old fortress overlooking the nearby hills. The way from Karak to Dana initially didn’t turn out to be easy one. As it was Friday, the busses were not running, and looking as a foreigner, one catches a lot of attention from the locals, who offer to take you to Dana for a unreasonably high price. Locals with vans offering to take you to Dana are pretty desperate. The way was continued by taking a van, which serves as a bus, to a city, which is on the way to Tafilah. In there the locals turned out to be very hospitable, inviting for a tea and chat and saying there would be a bus coming soon to Tafilah. As it is already late afternoon, and chances of a bus coming are very tiny, the locals were king enough to help looking for a car leaving in the direction of Tafilah. It doesn’t take long and soon we found ourselves in a car with three old man who, after about 15 km stopped at a police checkpoint and left us there. The policemen were kind and stopped cars coming on our way, to make sure someone would take us to Tafilah. Their effort soon brought a ride with a jordanian man, travelling with his children, who was having an vacation in Jordan, as he is working in Doha, Qatar. The man was kind and helpful, bringing us even to Dana village.

20150704_130311(1)
Arrival in Dana was met by a beautiful sunset over the impressive mountains of Dana Biosphere Reserve. Through the difficulties faced by getting there, the journey let us meet a lot of wonderful people, who were willing to help on our way and reaching the destination in the time to watch the beautiful sunset over hills gives happy feeling.

20150703_194144(1)By Dins

Ramadan – the month of purification

This short article shows my personal experience in special time of my life. I know, I didn’t explain so many things but treat it as a motivation to search informations by yourself.

2:45 a.m.
I set alarm clock for 3:15 wanting to have half hour before my first fasting day starts but I woke up before. It happens every time I’m stressed or excited about something. I’m the only one Muslim at home, my ‘last meal’ alone. It’s quiet.

3:30 a.m.
I’m done with food and drinking don’t remember when was the last time I drunk so much. Now just waiting for adhan – time for prayer and sleep.

11 a.m.
So this special time started? How do I feel? Not hungry but extremaly thirsty. Fortunatelly feeling disappear after half hour. I start to work on office stuff. It’s not bad.

2 p.m.
My flatmates start to cook. Even through closed door I can feel smell of the food, it starts to get harder. No problem. I started to realise the purpose of what I am doing. How lucky I am, that after seven hours I will sit in front of table full of food while so many people don’t have this possibility. I start to speak with my mum, telling her how big experience is it for me and how happy it makes me. She asks what is this arabic music playing in background. ‘It’s a Quran, mum’. My changing religion isn’t easy for her. I hear disappointment in her voice, she feels guilty that I made different choice but trying to act like she’s happy for me.

5 p.m.
Calls and messages asking, how I manage in my first day of Ramadan. From Muslims and non-Muslims. That’s very nice gesture. What’s the answer, how am I? Well, for sure hungry. But in excellent spiritual mood. One of the purposes of this blessed month is to learn empathy for less fortunate. I very fast realised, how lucky I am knowing that I’ll eat and drink in few hours but so many people about who we spoke on Global Education workshops doesn’t have this opportunity.

7:15 p.m.
I can’t wait longer. I’m going to other volunteers house where I’ll have my first iftar. They are cooking, asking about Islam and making my waiting easier though smell of dishes.

‘Allahu akbar’ I hear the sound from the mosque. Finally, the time comes. The girls stress out because our meal is not ready. But it doesn’t matter, I can drink water and that’s the most important. Another minutes will not make big difference.

My experiece from next days shows that sharing meal with Muslims and non- Muslims differs. The second group is just hungry while first have spent 16 hours waiting for this moment.

Sadly, so many Muslims use this time to just be lazy, sleep for the whole day and stay awake at night. It’s not an effort to wake up at 4 pm and wait just for 3 hours. We should use this time to read Quran and pray. Moreover it’s a chance to try be better version of youself – avoid sinful behaviour and practices, bring together with your friends and family and make more charity actions than during the rest of the year. For those who are doing their best there is promised prize in heaven. All good deeds we’ve done are multiplied by 70 and moreover gates to hell are closed.

By Kamila.

Ramadan – the month of purification

This short article shows my personal experience in special time of my life. I know, I didn’t explain so many things but treat it as a motivation to search informations by yourself.

2:45 a.m.
I set alarm clock for 3:15 wanting to have half hour before my first fasting day starts but I woke up before. It happens every time I’m stressed or excited about something. I’m the only one Muslim at home, my ‘last meal’ alone. It’s quiet.

3:30 a.m.
I’m done with food and drinking don’t remember when was the last time I drunk so much. Now just waiting for adhan – time for prayer and sleep.

11 a.m.
So this special time started? How do I feel? Not hungry but extremaly thirsty. Fortunatelly feeling disappear after half hour. I start to work on office stuff. It’s not bad.

2 p.m.
My flatmates start to cook. Even through closed door I can feel smell of the food, it starts to get harder. No problem. I started to realise the purpose of what I am doing. How lucky I am, that after seven hours I will sit in front of table full of food while so many people don’t have this possibility. I start to speak with my mum, telling her how big experience is it for me and how happy it makes me. She asks what is this arabic music playing in background. ‘It’s a Quran, mum’. My changing religion isn’t easy for her. I hear disappointment in her voice, she feels guilty that I made different choice but trying to act like she’s happy for me.

5 p.m.
Calls and messages asking, how I manage in my first day of Ramadan. From Muslims and non-Muslims. That’s very nice gesture. What’s the answer, how am I? Well, for sure hungry. But in excellent spiritual mood. One of the purposes of this blessed month is to learn empathy for less fortunate. I very fast realised, how lucky I am knowing that I’ll eat and drink in few hours but so many people about who we spoke on Global Education workshops doesn’t have this opportunity.

7:15 p.m.
I can’t wait longer. I’m going to other volunteers house where I’ll have my first iftar. They are cooking, asking about Islam and making my waiting easier though smell of dishes.

‘Allahu akbar’ I hear the sound from the mosque. Finally, the time comes. The girls stress out because our meal is not ready. But it doesn’t matter, I can drink water and that’s the most important. Another minutes will not make big difference.

My experiece from next days shows that sharing meal with Muslims and non- Muslims differs. The second group is just hungry while first have spent 16 hours waiting for this moment.

Sadly, so many Muslims use this time to just be lazy, sleep for the whole day and stay awake at night. It’s not an effort to wake up at 4 pm and wait just for 3 hours. We should use this time to read Quran and pray. Moreover it’s a chance to try be better version of youself – avoid sinful behaviour and practices, bring together with your friends and family and make more charity actions than during the rest of the year. For those who are doing their best there is promised prize in heaven. All good deeds we’ve done are multiplied by 70 and moreover gates to hell are closed.

By Kamila.

I Circle of discussions around women in the MENA region

As four young women deeply interested and connected to women’s rights, our personal initiative during our EVS here in Amman is a circle of discussions around women in the MENA region, where we hope to connect local community and foreigners in the discussion about women in this region. We aim to create four moments of discussion: Women and Youth; Women, Education and Work; Women and Law; and Woman and Arts.

Our first discussion, around Women and Youth in the MENA Region, took place on the 26th of May at Naqsh Cultural Center in Weibdeh. This session focused on the challenges and aspirations of young women in this region. The speakers, Shorouq Zahra and Sarah Abaza, both students from the University of Jordan, were invited to talk about some of the issues they face in their daily lives and how they would like to see these issues addressed in the future.

Among the challenges they referred to, Shorouq and Sarah shared the same opinion on certain differences between men and women in society that are built-in since an early age. These differences are manifested in various forms, one of which being the freedom each child possesses: for example the restrictions girls face with an early curfew and that men don’t. Other restrictions are exemplified by the males’ possibility for to travel by themselves and study abroad and as opposed to the difficulty for a women to do so, however, exceptions are made if she belongs to relatively wealthier family. Both Shorouq and Sarah indicated that such differences in treatment are much sustained by the family members, but even more from the mothers.
In addition, they pointed out the continuous harassment by men towards women, and the fact that such behaviors are very much justified by the women’s conduct and garment.

Another challenge that they shared was ceasing to wear the Hijab and the difficult acceptance from not only the family but also from the community. From their experience, what is aimed for in a family is for a woman to choose to wear it or not from an early age and to stick with her decision. Therefore, to cease to wear it seems to bring a sense of disappointment to the family and the community, and in their case, especially for the mothers.

Some of the challenges that Shorouq and Sarah pointed out were related to the difference in education between boys and girls since an early age, the harassment towards women, the importance of Human Rights and Feminism, the restrictions that girls and women face compared to their male family members.

The concept of “honor” was also mentioned as a challenge, as it presumes the honor in Arab families to reside in the female members and therefore if their conduct and social activity is not following the normative cultural concept of women’s behavior it is regarded as non “honorable”. They defended that the concept of honor should be relocated from such to something that is of her responsibility and accountability. This discussion also brought up the Jordanian laws that fail to act in repairing crimes done against women, as the case of rape, a crime that is almost unpunishable as the rapist can marry the victim for 5 years and become absolved from his crimes according to article 308 of Jordanian law. Other laws, as Article 340 and 98 that diminish women’s security and justice regarding crimes performed against them due to the concept of honor.

After the speakers presented the challenges they see and feel in their lives, they presented several aspirations for the future. Both Shorooq and Sarah pointed out the need for more discussion about women’s rights, as our own, and also the need for stronger activism regarding these issues. They also referred to the importance of bringing women and men together to the discussion and a more participative role from the last.

The speakers pointed out that they can see changes already in society regarding women’s issues, but that they aspire to see more changes and that the law and education might change to fulfill the aim of women equality.

After the speakers presented their perspective of challenges and aspirations in their life, the public had the opportunity to ask questions or make comments about the discussion.

There were some interesting comments from the public as well, as need for feminism to be present in politics.
There was also a discussion about the situation of women’s rights and empowerment in other countries of the MENA region, for example the case of Palestinian women who according to some were very involved in the fight for justice in Palestine working alongside men in NGOs, seeming therefore more advanced in terms of women’s rights, but others evoked the example of Palestinian woman who still get beaten up by the police when reporting being raped. The example of Lebanese women also came forward, where according to some seem to have more social freedom and to others have their freedom accompanied by their sexualization.

In conclusion, it was a constructive discussion where both the local and international community in Jordan came together to gain more insight about what it is to be a young women in the MENA region. It was a proud moment for all four of us to see so many people attending the discussions, with the presence as well of our volunteer colleagues and WE center.

By Ana Guimaraes

Highway to Airport

The airport of Amman is approximately 35 Km far from the capital itself. It is a long way for which I have extremely mixed feelings!

On the one hand it was a road that represented the start in my new life in Jordan. I can still remember how I had to wait at the airport for my coordinator to pick me up. She was late but I met a german guy who had to take the same way to Amman so when my coordinator came we gave him a lift to the city center included a long search for his hostel in the streets of downtown. This was the beginning of my year in Jordan. But the highway to airport had a bigger role than the representation of a start. It took part in the process of building up my reluctance towards airports. Thinking to take the road only twice – when I come and when I leave – was apparently wrong. After my arrival I took this road several times. The next reason to take this way was so say goodbye to a good friend what wanted to leave to Sudan for good. This time was not like the first experience with this road, when I was looking forward to new exciting impressions and experience. This time the road seemed to be 1000km long instead of 35km and I was stuck there in the car with my thoughts and knowing that one of my best friends left with a tiny chance to see him again. The other occasion was to pick up a new volunteer which was of course something positve.

But sadly the positiv journeys to the airport were a lot less then the negativ ones. Again it was time to take this road and to say goodbye to a Dänish volunteer who was a very good friend of mine. And again I passed by the IKEA building and again we crossed the checkpoint to enter the airport area. The last time I was stuck in the car kowing to say farewell soon was when the Estonian volunteers left, but soon it will be my turn to go this way back to my country. I am looking forward to this day but also with a lot of mixed feelings. Happy to see my family and my friends again but also on the other hand leaving great people behind me.

Insha’Allah I will meet all of them soon again!

By Andres

All the Small Things

There is a prevailing trend in the non-profit sector; an insidious illness emerging from the peroration which often envelopes the area. Increasingly, actors are seeking to force an ill-fitting, rigid formula onto the liquid consistency of human emotions. Success is measured in cold, hard facts; how many adults gained job opportunities as a result of this project? How many children entered higher education? How many volunteers gained a second language? How many women did we successfully emancipate? How many re-tweets of our hashtag?

The approach is driven by undeniably logical factors. Charities are attempting to attract large donors whose manner of assessment is the only one they know; tangible results in return for an investment which they can subsequently sell to their conscious-impoverished clientèle. But this trend is a wind blowing above the ripples on the water, ripples which become swells and eventually waves. But how can one revel in the waves, if one doesn’t notice the ripples from which they are born?

It is these small movements which I am to write about; the unnoticed behaviour of the reserved. I am to tell you that success is not found in numbers, but in the most tender and reserved human behaviour. I am to tell you this because I believe myself to have been lucky enough to be privy to those moments, durable by their existence in my memory, transient by that by that very fact. The European Voluntary Scheme has gifted such experiences to me, but is setting to take them away from others. I write in protest of that trend and to espouse a different approach.

I cannot tell you how many women I have taught whom have subsequently felt emancipated, nor how many of the youth I have taught felt better inclined towards employment. I cannot even tell you how many new words they gained. What I can tell you about is the feeling one gets when a pupil who could not conceive an English greeting, suddenly constructs a sentence from words you had forgot you’d taught her. Or a sense of value when one woman approaches you after class and tells you that she is a housewife, bound by the rules of her conservative partner and by the rigours of motherhood to a multitude of children. She tells you that she is freed in the six hours a week you teach her; allowed to travel, learn, socialise and develop in independence. She tells you that she was married very young, deprived of a thorough education not only by her circumstances, but by a system that failed her. She tells you that you are her only chance to have an education that is hers.

Only a week ago, I was sat outside my class, waiting for it to begin. I had often expressed my want to become fluent in Arabic, eying their street Arabic to English dictionaries jealousy. I thought these green glances had gone unnoticed, and perhaps they had for all bar one little girl. She came to me and presented a beautiful, hard-backed dictionary. Costly, for anyone of her background, but especially for a young girl of no income. She said, “For you. Now you can go home and show people that Muslims are different to DAESH [ISIS]. Thank you for everything”.

You can assess your numbers, analysis your data, process your questionnaires, but you cannot capture those moments. Nor should you want to; their value lies in their transience and fragility. You should instead seek solace in a volunteer’s word, a volunteer who is graced with those fleeting interactions and with the residue of their impact. Take heed, before you lose those moments in the pages of your books.

By Katie.

Taxi in Amman

The distances in Amman are huge. From my house to bus station is around 8 kilometers. To the office is even a bit more. But the public transport in Amman is not the best. Therefore we have to use quite a lot of taxis. The good side of this is the cheap price – the fee of entrance is 0.25 JD and every kilometer is about 0.23 JD. During the night, ofcourse, it’s more expensive. In most cases the taxi drivers drink coffee and smoke. The golden rule for drivers is to open a window, show their hand and then it is allowed to do any manouver which he wants.

The other side of taxi rides are interesting and not so interesting drivers. Here I’ve collected some examples, which I have directly been involved or have heard from other volunteers.

* After Charlie Hebdo attacks taxi driver asked one volunteer, where she is from. She answered, that she’s from Denmark. Taxi driver continued by asking:”Why do You draw pictures of our prophet?” She replied:”Why do You kill people?”. Taxi driver was confused and said, that he doesn’t kill people. She calmly replied:”I don’t draw cartoones”. Wow :)

* Usually taxi drivers asks where are we from and then proceeds to welcome us around 5 times. If we share taxi with someone who is from Germany, following might happen: “Almania? Oh yes, Hitler good, yes, very good, yes-yes!”

* Once a taxi driver asked if we want coffee. We politely refuseed, to which he proceeded to make a stop, buy me a coffe, my wife a Nescafe (for women Nescafe, for men coffee ofcourse!) and after that he proceeded to offer us cigarettes. Welcome to Jordan!

* Another time we were in huge traffic jam and were just talking with a driver. He turned out to be palestinian and after hearing that we work with palestinian refugees didn’t want any money from us. Our conciousness didn’t let accept this gift, but it was nice!

* One volunteer couldn’t get the change back (1 JD), so she decided to sit in a taxi till the taximeter filled up the extra one JD. That took a while :)

* All the taxi drivers think You’re from America. That is their question always – America?. Also, none of the taxi drivers know where is Estonia. They usually think it is Espana. Not suprising, to be honest.

* Once we had a nice 10 minute talk with taxi drivers about pronunciation of letter H in arabic. They have two different H letters, that sound for me the same. So, the conversation looked like this:”Say H”. “H”. “Okay, now say H” “H” “No, you said H, not H”. This went on for 10 minutes. Still don’t understand the difference.

by Nikolai

Arabic music

Over the past years I realised that for most Europeans I spoke to Arabic music is limited only to those dramatic Arabic songs full of oriental tunes and “habibi’s”. I personally don’t really like those melodramitc songs too much, so with this blogpost I want to give an impression on the variety of Arab music.

As this blog deals with experiences made in Jordan I will focus on Jordanian bands and thus excluding bands from other Arab countries (though, to give a short list I’d recommend to check out the following: Mashrou3 Leila – alternative rock, Babylone – especially the song “Zina” and N3rdistan – Electro/ HipHop).

El-MakinaMy favourite Jordanian band so far is Jadal (Arabic: جدل, English: controversy, debate), one of the first Arabic rock bands in the Middle East. They are especially known for their great live performances. In the beginning of April I had the chance to see them performing in a simply amazing Open Air concert in Amman. So far one, if not THE, highlight of my time in Jordan. Not only that Jadal is an exceptionally good live band, also the atmosphere was very special: men and women were dancing together and some women were sitting on men’s shoulders, some people were even kissing – things you’d normally don’t see here in public. And all this taking place in one of the few parks of Amman during a warm spring night. If you’ll ever get the chance to go to a Jadal concert: take it! Here is a picture of the concert:

musicHere are two of my favourite songs by them so you can get an impression of their music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkeLYw18xPk (Ana bakhaf min el commitment = I’m afraid of the commitment)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCMi9Lkc4HU (Niyyalak = lucky you)

You can also check their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Jadalband?fref=ts

1546153_714781031923313_4768063772958763705_nAnother well-known Jordanian band is Autostrad, according to their Facebook-Page they do ‘Arabic Street Mediterranean Indie music’ with latin, reggae, funk and rock elements. Among us volunteers their song “Ya salam” (Arabic:  يا سلا)  (here you can listen to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MpNlJSA6Fs) is very popular, not least because of the chorus that reflects the volunteers life’s perfectly: “ya salam, kulshi tamam, mafi masari, da’iman tafran” which means something like: “Ohhh what a pleasure, everything is fine, no money, always poor”.

Most of Autostrad’s songs deal with the everyday life in Jordan, love, financial challanges and drug abuse.

Here is the link to their youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Autostradproject

And to their Facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/Autostrad.jo

Other Jordanian bands you might want to check out are:

El Morabba3: https://soundcloud.com/search?q=el%20morabba3%20 (personal recommendation: Taht Al-Ard (Engl. Under the ground)

Aziz Maraka (for a mix of Jazz, Arabic and Rock music): https://soundcloud.com/eka3/sets/test-1

And if you are more into classical music you should check out the pianist Zade Dirani: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheZadeChannel

And for more Arabic Rock: Akher Zapher: https://www.youtube.com/user/AkherZapheer

by Lisa

The young adult Amman

Amman is an exceptionally young city to be the centre of a country – for less than a century it has been the capital of Jordan, and while that may not be so unusual, the growth is. Till 1906 it was inhabited by no more than 5,000 people of whom none spoke Arabic (according to Wikipedia), in 1930s its population was 10,000, while now, 8 decades later, it has grown to 4 million (according to the mayor of Amman) which constitute 62% of the whole population of Jordan. Due to migrants and refugees Amman has grown so rapidly that it has not had time to catch up with its own expansion – green areas and public spaces are rare, transport options are very few. When walking around you can see how Amman seems to have erupted over its 19 hills, but you can also see how it is beginning to evolve into something more than just a large residential area.

by Sara