A day in Suf Camp

It is seven-thirty five, I hurry to put on my shoes, grab my bag and sprint down the stairs from the apartment. On the way to the First Circle I quickly peel the banana I managed to grab in the last moment before leaving, then I meet Kristina, Karolina and Anna, who wave excitedly to tell me that I should hurry up, while they already get on a taxi, which will take us to the bus station.

Once we made our way through the traffic jam we walk quickly to the right bus stop and wait; we just missed the earlier bus. Again. And now it is uncertain, if we will be in the classroom on time. But soon an empty vehicle stops and we get on, nevertheless the seats fill slowly and after checking my watch for the fourth time we start to look at each other impatiently. Does it still make sense to go to the camp? Finally the driver decides to start the engine and we head off to Jerash, where we have to change the bus after approximately one hour of listening to music, reading, looking at the notes from the Arabic class or out of the window and sleeping.

When we visited the Suf Camp for the first time I was surprised, that there are no borders, no fences or other markings showing that you just have entered the refugee Camp. It appears to be like a city, garages, shops which sell fruits, vegetables, bread and falafel, schools, a mosque. Everything looks worn down, there’s a lot of trash on the streets, it’s poor, and of course the people don’t look wealthy, too, but they also don’t look miserable. Coming to Suf for the first time I felt pity and was kind of shocked about the living conditions there. Meanwhile we got quite used to the surroundings, we have been there many times, got to know some people living there.

Children and teenagers shout “Welcome to Jordan!” or “What’s your name?” at us when we walk hurriedly to the school complex. It now is around nine-fifty, classes are supposed to start at ten. Actually Karolina and I have to teach two classes, but the four boys from the first class often don’t show up, so we wait in the office of the headmistress, where women and teachers gather, chat and drink tea. We are also always offered a glass of incredibly sweet black tea and sometimes even cake.

Then the first boys smile, wave and look through the door. Time for us to start the lesson. Around five or six of them are attending our class every time, the rest of the mostly ten to thirteen boys changes from lesson to lesson, what makes it really hard to teach with continuity, also their level of English is significantly different. Some of them understand most of what we say, some can’t speak a single word in the foreign language. In class we talk about basic things, family members, parts of the body, present simple. They all want to participate in exercises, a few pay more attention than others, who rather try to draw attention at themselves.

Luckily Karolina can translate some instructions, tasks or contents of the lesson, so teaching becomes way easier. Even if it perhaps isn’t right what I say, I try to communicate in Arabic, too, but I am lost, as soon as the students want to explain something to me. All I can do in such a case is to stare at them blankly and try to find a sense in their words and gestures. Sometimes the sixty minutes are over quite fast, sometimes time goes by slowly. And after we gave them a homework (which is done by maybe two or three of them) we take our bags and walk to the bus, driving to Jerash, then another one which takes us to “Bab Amman”, still in Jerash, where we finally get on the last bus on our way. The driver there jumps around panicky, shouting, yelling, that we should hurry up. Of course we think he’s about to leave any second, but when we enter the bus, it’s still empty. So we have some time, I take a book from my bag and put it back there, because I am concentrating not to throw up, while the driver now tries out a different strategy. He is driving mini-distances, driving, stopping, driving, stopping. After five meters he realizes, that he already is in the middle of the street, so he engages the reverse gear, goes back to his old position and the cycle starts again. Eventually the bus is full, jallah! With deadly speed he goes over speedbumps, only slightly slowing down, towards Amman. At around two-thirty we sit in a taxi to the First Circle. Every time going to Suf is in some points different and we learned really quickly to deal with it. Here you cannot really rely on schedules or plans, but this is also what it makes interesting and exciting, even if it’s annoying sometimes.

By Lukas

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