Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


First in our Middle East Discussion Forum

   Posted by: Jill White

‘Islam and Democracy’ talk at 4 pm Monday
Profs. Heidi Sherman and Katia Levintova post this announcement that the first discussion in the “Islam and Democracy” series has been rescheduled to Monday (Feb. 28) from 4 to 5 p.m. in the University Union’s 1965 Room. “Much like the previous forum on the situation in the Middle East, we are hoping for an interesting (and well attended) discussion of one of the most fascinating topics in contemporary politics. Our Egyptian friends will come as well.”
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Sherman recommends those seeking a better understanding of the nuances of this topic prior to the discussion might access one or more of these four short readings:


International Education Week

   Posted by: Jill White

• Filmmaker Sahraa Karimi will share her award-winning film Afghan Women Behind the Wheel, and her perspective on civil rights for Afghan women, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Christie Theatre. A reception for the filmmaker will be held in the University Union, Suite 150. The offices of Student Life, International Education, and Women’s and Gender Studies sponsor the event. Additional film showings: Nov. 16, 4 to 5 p.m. and 9 to 10 p.m

Professors Heidi Sherman (Humanistic Studies) and Jill White (Human Development) will share stories from their recent travels to Jordan and preview their upcoming travel course in a talk titled “Camels, Castles and Community: Why Traveling in the Middle East is NOT Scary.” The presentation will be held from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. in the Office of International Education, Cofrin Library 207.

“Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited” at the St. Norbert art gallery inside the Bush Art Center. This exhibit captures moments of worship and other spiritual moments of 11 different types of marginal religious communities in California (For example, Muslims formerly from Cambodia whose family and friends were victims of genocide in the 1970′s; an ashram mainly for people with HIV; a Buddhist program for prisoners, etc.). This exhibition runs until October 22nd but the gallery is only open on weekdays from 9:00-3:00, so it may be hard for some of you to get a chance to see the exhibit. But if you can make it, it will be well worth your time. The photographer, Rick Nahmias, also has a book based on the exhibit with the same title “Golden States of Grace”, which is probably available at the St. Norbert bookstore.


Wadi Rum

   Posted by: Jill White

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

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

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

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

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 . . .


Full Days

   Posted by: Jill White


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. 


First Days In Amman

   Posted by: Jill White

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 . . .