Archive for July, 2010


Wadi Rum

   Posted by: Jill White    in Uncategorized

A few quick pics from our weekend in Wadi Rum. I just got these from Katie.

Jill on Danan, her racing camel

Jill and Sarah

Waiting for the sunset, perched over the Bedouin camp



This is the Holy Land

   Posted by: Jill White    in Jordan, Uncategorized

I think I’m too tired for a true post, but today we visited several pilgrimage sites. As many of those reading are currently in my religion class, I was thinking a great deal about you (students), and about you Mom and Dad, as I walked over the ground that Jesus, Moses, and John the Baptist once walked.

We first went to the site where John is believed to have baptized Jesus. There are many different churches there; some are currently being built, some date to the Byzantine era (5th century), and there is a post that originally marked the spot.
When you come to the site on the Jordan river where people currently believe is close to where that original baptism may have taken place, it is very strange. Or it seemed so to me. Israel is not more than 15 feet away across the Jordan, and has its own steps down to the Jordan, in a very similar set-up. The entire area, as I forgot to mention, is not a typical tourist site under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Tourism, but a military site, under the jurisdiction of the army. Is this what Jesus’ message was all about? Is this what his baptism was for?

Jesus' Baptism site, with Israel across the river Jordan

I don’t profess to speak for Jesus, but this situation seems unutterably sad to me.

Jill at the Jordan River

I hope that everyone in the United States will notice that the Jewish state and the Muslim state on both sides of these borders takes excellent care of this entirely Christian holy place.

We went from there to Mount Nebo, where Moses (PBUH) was led, so the Hebrew, Christian and Muslim holy books say, to see the Promised Land, and to die. God brought him this far, but no farther. He was not allowed to enter into Caannan. The view from there is incredible, just as it says in Deuteronomy; you can see Jericho, Jerusalem, all the land of Moab (Madaba), the Dead Sea, the River Jordan, and more.

The view from Mt. Nebo


Learning About NGOs

   Posted by: Jill White    in Jordan, Uncategorized

I have had a number of very informative (and fun) interactions over the last week and a half that have taught me a great deal about what kinds of organizations are active in Jordan (especially those that serve children and youth), what they are doing, and how they fit into the bigger picture.
I am still working on putting together that larger picture, because a lot of services that are provided by the state or by private industry in the United States are provided by NGOs in Jordan. And there are some grey areas, Commissions, for example, that were begun by royal decree but are not funded by the state.

Heading into East Amman

If you have been reading some of the other blogs, you have read about The Jordan River Foundation. We visited their Queen Rania Family and Children Center last week. That is a good example of a royal initiative that is now supported by grants and donations. They have really great programming for children and families which is geared toward child abuse prevention. The Jordan River Foundation has two main foci: one is community empowerment (this includes income-generating initiatives among other things), and child protection. They have a shelter for children that houses 32. We did not tour that, but we heard about it, and it sounds wonderful.

East Amman

We also visited Questscope and met with their director, Curtis Rhodes, who is a UW Madison alum. He has a very inspiring life story. Once a university professor, he was Dean at the American University in Beirut during the civil war, and realized he needed to be more useful to society. He began Questscope, which specifically targets street children. They have a whole range of programs, most of which are about providing education and empowering young people who live on the streets.

This week I went to dinner at the home of a friend I met (long story), who introduced me to her friend who is a Child Protection worker for Save the Children. They work exclusively with Iraqi children. Their mandate is giant in scope, including health care, education, housing, civic engagement, self-expression, reduction of discrimination, gender equality, and much more. I am meeting with her in her offices later this week, and she will arrange for me to go to the field.

Then today I went to Ruwwad, which is in Jebal Nadith. This is a very impoverished part of east Amman. It is really an “unofficial” Palestinian refugee camp. Ruwwad is doing so many incredible things – all about youth empowerment and civic engagement – that it is hard to know where to begin. I have an appointment to return on Tuesday, when the director has offered to take me and those I bring with me to her house and cook us lunch!

This is the hospitality of Jordan. Oops, it is Arabic study hour – more soon.


University Students

   Posted by: Jill White    in Uncategorized

Note all the different styles of dress, especially that men are also robed and wear various styles of head coverings.

I hope y’all are reading my colleagues’ blogs, too; they are much more entertaining!  Sarah is a first grade teacher, plus she has a great sense of humor and a wonderful internet connection.  Katie takes marvelous photos and has fantastic insights into traffic rules (among other things).  You’ll just have to read Jeremy’s blog for yourself.  You can find links on the side of this page.  They will fill in some of the gaps for you and offer alternative perspectives.

Our Arabic class


Amazing Weekend

   Posted by: Jill White    in Jordan, Uncategorized

I wish I could post more often, but I wouldn’t trade better tech for the experiences we’ve been having. This weekend we visited a Crusader castle (Karak) that was built in 1133 and then upgraded by the Mamluks in 1243 or so when they took it over.
We then went on to Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And rightly so. Wow, words just cannot describe it. I invite you all to look at my Picasa web albums, as I am having trouble uploading my pictures here. You can find them at:
I will have much to say about the situation of children working there at Petra; I have thought of little else since I was there.
But we were treated to such exquisite delights: a double scoop of espresso and blackberry ice cream, then travel to our wonderful hotel, like an ancient village, where we had a Turkish bath and massage. Pure heaven after the rigors of hiking to the Monastery at Petra. A buffet dinner and sleep.
In the morning a swim, a drive to Wadi Rum where we rode camels for an hour and I had a lesson about camel racing from our guide. My camel was a retired racer named Danan!
We transferred to jeeps, had lunch near Lawrence of Arabia’s house, made other scenic stops, and then arrived at the Bedouin camp where we spent the night under the stars. The following day we drove to Aqaba where we had a glimpse of the Red Sea, then went to the Dead Sea where we bathed and floated and were literally stuffed with food – a gift from King Abdullah himself. Thank you!
More to come . . .


Happy to be Connected!

   Posted by: Jill White    in Jordan

Living in a hotel has many blessings, al hamdu lil’ Allah!  It is wonderful to have breakfast made every morning whenever one wanders down for it, and to have smiling faces to greet one.  Especially when those smiling faces are kind and progressively expect better and better Arabic from one.  It is Mumtastic! (a contraction of mumtaz! which means Super! and fantastic created by our Arabic instructor) to have a nice clean room every day when one gets home from running around in the sun (we have been experiencing a heat wave that even the native Jordanians find excessive).  However, there are a couple of drawbacks.  One is doing laundry every night in the bathroom sink.  The other is not having a reliable internet connection.  I am thrilled to have your questions to have questions to answer, and sorry I was unable to answer them.

Mark, I can’t speak for the relationship between your contact and his father, but I can tell you that Jordan has no mandatory military service.  The Jordanian armed services are fully voluntary.  Here is a link if you would like to read more about it:

Jane, your questions require more complex answers.  Today I took a lot of pictures on the campus of the University of Jordan to give you some idea of the immense diversity of women’s clothing.  I will try to post them tomorrow.  In some ways clothing styles go with age, but not in the ways you might expect.  A lot of young women are choosing to wear the hijab and even to veil when their mothers did not and do not.  On the other hand, among working class women you might find more older women who are dressed more conservatively.  Clothing and veiling/wearing a hijab are not necessarily signs of conservatism.  Not at all.  As we have been told several times now, “People in the West have this subject all wrong.”  Here are just a few reasons a woman might wear a headscarf:

She wants to be hip and cool; due to the importation of trends and styles from the Gulf (which is where the wealthy people are, who vacation in Jordan)

She is making a statement about her identity as an Arab.  Note this has nothing to do with Islam/religion.

She is poor and has few clothing; a headscarf is a very inexpensive way to “dress up” her look/if she wears a burka, she doesn’t have to invest in clothing, keep up with styles, etc.

She wants to move freely through society without being harassed by men who look at women in a sexual way.

or she may indeed be making a religious choice. 

These are just a handful of ideas.  She may be declaring that she is grown up now, and wants to be seen as a woman.  She may just want to fit in with her friends.  She may be attracted (as I am) by the many beautiful textiles and want to wear them. 

Women of all ages wear all different kinds of clothing, from the very conservative to the not at all conservative.  Women of different social classes wear a great variety of coverings and un-coverings.  There just is no simple analysis here.  It is interesting, isn’t it?  I will try to get those pictures up tomorrow to illustrate.


   Posted by: Jill White    in Jordan

We have had five very full days in Amman, but it feels like two weeks!  A few items some readers might be interested in: 

My University of Jordan ID

The “call to prayer” appears to be up to each individual mosque as to scheduling.  In the morning, I hear one around 3:45 or so, and one at 4:30.  We have been different places during the day, so I can’t be more specific for the rest of them, but in the evening we have heard them at 8pm, and then a cluster around 10 pm.  There is a cluster around the noon hour, and around 3-4 pm.  But again, they are not at the same exact time, or even within an hour of one another.  That was unexpected (for me). 

Women’s veiling, wearing of the hijab (headscarf), and clothing in general is an on-going investigation.  As I may have mentioned, we have seen great diversity in all three.  You may have noticed in pictures that there are women in full burkas (completely robed, veiled, and wearing gloves).  If not, I’ll make sure I get some photos.  There are also women in tight jeans, short-sleeved shirts and no head-covering whatsoever.  The vast majority of women wear a hijab, with a large diversity of clothing: from long sleeves to short.  We will keep looking and, hopefully, asking, once we begin to make friendships.  My hunch is that we are seeing something new here; the hijab no longer means what it once did either in the Western media OR here in the Muslim world.  It will be interesting to learn more about.   

Children are everywhere, doing very interesting things.  Girls tend to be accompanied by a parent or older sibling, and I have mostly seen them on their way to somewhere.  But there are boys hanging out in many public spaces.  There are boys working in the stores with (one imagines) their families; there are boys sitting and watching backgammon games, boys playing electronic games on their phones, boys “window” shopping at stalls in the market, boys running errands.  There are boys engaged in all kinds of economic activities.  

Boys playing a game


The food is our dinner from two nights ago; tonight Jolanda, Heidi and I were on our own as we forewent the big football gathering.  Instead we found this sweet little place where no one spoke English and were brave enough to order ourselves nargile! Or hubbly-bubbly, as its also called.  Don’t worry friends. this is only tobacco, although you can get it in all kinds of flavors.  I’ll have more to say about the social benefits of this kind of smoking, but I’m about beat, so here are a few pics that are fairly self-explanatory.  Off to bed!  Tomorrow is Arabic class (for which we studied more than 3 hours today in addition to two big outings) and a meeting with the Fullbright folks. 

Took this before the meat arrived


Full Days

   Posted by: Jill White    in Jordan, Uncategorized


Amman Bac. Int. School

We have had so much to do every day, it is hard to decide in these precious free moments whether to write fieldnotes, study Arabic, launder a few clothes in the bathroom sink, or update this blog.  I try to do a little of each.  As I write (12:30 local time) I can hear the noon call to prayer.

Yesterday we visited one of the most elite pre-K through 12 schools in Jordan, the Amman Baccalaureate School.   It has, as you can see, the absolute best athletic facilities in the city – if not the country – probably including universities.  It has the only recycling program.  I’ll fill in details about their educational system if anyone asks.  It is very interesting.  All students learn all subjects in English and Arabic from kindergarten up.  They add French in 4th grade.  The Asst. Principal noted though, that being trilingual is no longer enough to be competitive in the global marketplace, which is what I tell my students all the time, so listen up!

In the afternoon we went to the American Embassy.  No pictures allowed, for obvious reasons.  We received our security breifing from a very nice guy who happens to be from . . . drum roll . . . Wisconsin!  He had a lot of great information about careers in diplomacy for any of you who might be interested.  I talked to him a little bit afterwards to get more information about how to direct students who would like to know if such a career might suit them.  He said that even though Jordan is listed as a danger posting, in fact people with small children request it because it is such a lovely and safe place to raise children. 

On the way home we had our bus driver stop at the store so we could buy water in large quantities.  Our hotel is midway up a long hill, and we are drinking great amounts of water to stay hydrated in the blazing heat.  Walking up the hill with heavy loads is no fun (even for camels, I imagine).  I also bought some laundry detergent as I was running low on long-sleeved shirts.  You really can only wear them once if you want to keep your friends : )

Michael, Pat, Jeremy and Heidi in the lobby of our hotel waiting for the group

We had a wonderful dinner, served communal style in a place we could walk to.  I’m running out of time, so will just post some pictures from previous days’ excursions and explain later if I can. 


The Fourth of July in Amman

   Posted by: Jill White    in Jordan

Of course, here in Jordan, it was just another day.  It was our second day, and the beginning of the work week for most people.  Us included, as our language lessons began.  However, some in our group managed to end the day with apple pie and ice cream : )

But maybe I should back up and fill in. 

The flights themselves were not too terrible.  We flew from Green Bay to Chicago and had about three hours on the ground there.  That went pretty quickly because while most of the group took the opportunity to get some dinner, I accompanied Katie outside the terminal.  She needed to meet her husband who was bringing a camera lens and I took the chance for one last smoke.  Then it was about 8 hours to London’s Heathrow.  That was the worst leg.  I had hoped to sleep, and ought to have been able, as it was dark and mostly quiet, but also very cramped.  I dozed a little, but never really slept.  None of us did, so by the time we got to London – 11:35 am local time – we were a happy but groggy group.  We had a 5 hour layover there.  Jeremy was tagged for translation duty by the Heathrow security people before we’d even made it through their security check.  He very kindly (and typically for him) assisted an Arabic-speaking woman wend her way through security and check-in.  Then we found our way to the central hub of Terminal Five where we shopped, joked around, ate, and studied Arabic.  Corey and Jay fell asleep watching the soccer game (a first for Corey!)  I went into my first Boots!  That was very exciting.  Only a reader of English detective novels will understand why : )

We were all very pleased when we boarded our Royal Jordanian flight.  Wow!  Very nice in every way.  For example, in addition to screens in every backrest, they were playing a video about Jordan all through boarding.  The flight was not full, so we all had room to stretch out.  The flight attendants were very friendly (several were Chinese, by the way, and spoke Chinese, Arabic, English, and probably several other languages).  The food was much better than on American, too.  That flight was about 5 hours, and we landed in Amman close to midnight, local time. 

Oh!  The entertainment options on Royal Jordanian are super!  In addition to the typical radio, tv and a few movies, there were instructional things that were very useful.  So you could learn about the history of music, the country, the world, language, etc.  On the kids tv shows, there was an animated show about Arabic language that I watched that was very useful in learning not only more about the alphabet but also picking up vocabulary.  I listened to a recitation of the Holy Quran for about an hour in the beginning of the flight, as well. 

When we arrived, Jay changed money while the rest of us got in line for our visas.  Jay gave those of us who needed it the 10 JD (Jordanian Dinars) for the visa so we wouldn’t spend all our time waiting in different lines.  The line moved fairly quickly as such things go.  It was a two-step process; first one pays for the visa, then one goes to the next desk where one’s passport is stamped.  There were very few questions at either desk, though that could change depending on the mood of the people in charge, one supposes. 

We were all lucky, and had no problems whatsoever.  All of our baggage was awaiting us downstairs at baggage claim.  There was a security screening, but no physical handling of items, and then we were through the gates and our driver was awaiting us!  Well, actually, THEY were through the gates.  I had smelled cigarette smoke, and after 24 hours without smoking, followed my nose to the little glass room for smokers.  I spoke to a man from Dubai who was very impressed with my 10 words of Arabic (he didn’t think Americans were interested in learning Arabic).  He told me that English is a great language for business, but Arabic is the language of poetry and of love . . . I seem to remember hearing this line quite often when I was learning Italian : )

I saw that the last two to clear customs had come down to baggage claim, and the others had taken my suitcase through, so I rushed to join them, and then we were off to meet our bus driver and engage Amman!


First Days In Amman

   Posted by: Jill White    in Uncategorized

I am landed safely in Amman, and it is wonderful!  Our days have been packed full of both business and sightseeing (and hardly any sleep), with little time for writing.  I have taken a lot of pictures, but unfortunately the laptop I checked out from media services cannot handle my camera card, so I cannot upload them yet.  I’m working out a way to get them thru my colleagues, but it may take a bit since we are running around so much.

A few things we’ve done:

Toured the University of Jordan first day – had our first lesson at the Language Institute today.

Tried to find a women’s craft fair in a park, but never did (had a good tour of where the Royal Auto Museum, Children’s Museum, Queen Rania School and King Abdullah Mosque are on the attempt). 

Lots of walking around the area of the UJ, getting phones, money changed, coffee with cardamom (my new favorite thing).  Everything takes longer with a group of 13, but all the standing around gives us lots of opportunity to get to know each other and practice Arabic.

Visit to the main suq (market downtown).  Amazing and fun, like big markets in every large city in some ways, but uniquely Amman in other ways.  Like the glimpses of the Roman ampitheatre, the children who are everywhere, helping their parents in the stalls but also, so amazingly to an American eye, are always quick to reach out a hand to help and guide their little brothers or sisters. 

I’ll provide more detail when I have more time, including (hopefully) pictures and an account of my first head scarf and the kind woman who taught me how to wrap it.   I am now going to get ready for dinner at a “hip” place called Wild Jordan which is downtown near the Citadel.   More to come soon . . .