Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You know it's finals week when...

You wake up in the morning and think, "I don't have time to ______ today, I'll do it tomorrow."

a) shower
b) make the bed
c) change clothes
d) put in contacts
e) eat
f) update my blog in a meaningful way

but I DO have time to check Facebook 100 times when I should be writing a paper on the Arab League.

Here's what I have so far:

"Since the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Arab world has known little economic or political coherence. As what we now know as modern states began to gain independence from Western powers in the post WWII period, the question became: in light of years of colonial interference with trade routes and state borders, would the Middle East region ever be able to integrate, politically and economically? Edward Said referred to “Arab integration” as an “oxymoron”, but attempts at integration have shown that the “impulse to integrate”, born from a desire for unity, is well and alive in the Arab world. Little refers to this impulse as the “historical condition of the Arabs: their...abiding belief that union is a natural condition of their peoples which only required political formulation” despite their “inability to unite politically” (Little 139).

Benefits of integration

There have been attempts at integration in the Arab world, varied efforts—different combinations of political, structural, and economic integration—that have met with equally varied success. The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council are two of these, both making different contributions to the goal of Arab integration.

The Arab League was established in 1945 and originally consisted of seven nations: Syria, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen, and was meant to “strengthen relations between the Arab states upon a basis of respect for the independence and sovereignty of these states” (Hudson 11). The Arab League was structurally sound as a concept: seven autonomous nations that expressed a commitment to regional economic development and forming what Hudson calls a “security-community” to create an atmosphere of mutual trust.

In 1950, member states signed a treaty for defense and economic cooperation, including the creation of a joint defense council and a military commission, and in 1953 two economic agreements were passed: one to facilitate trade, and one governing transit trade. There were customs exemptions on almost all raw materials, and reductions on customs for most industrial products. Further economic cooperation came in 1958 when the Arab League Economic Council formed the Council of Economic Union, which was signed by seven member states. This led to the creation of the Arab Common Market of 1965—but that’s where things stopped going according to plan.

Only four of the seven member states signed on to the Arab Common Market."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spoof post for the Earlham Absurd

The last issue of the Word is always a spoof issue--"The Earlham Absurd". You may remember last semesters, wherein I used the Word as a vehicle to confess to my parents that I got a tattoo.

Anyway, here's my spoof article for this semester--they've been taking my posts and publishing them as articles so it is in appropriate blog format.

"Looking back on my semester abroad, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic—already!—for the adventures we had in the Middle East. As I write my final essays, take my final exams, spend my last JD 50 stipend from Bruce, and prepare to say goodbye to my host family, I am reflecting on the times, good, bad, and especially scary. Consider what it must have been like: we came to a foreign country where we didn’t speak the language only to have the region erupt into war as soon as we arrived.

I’ll be honest: there were a few times there, that Leila, Arielle, Tyler, Rachel, Bill, Kelly, Rhea, Eric, Simon, Rossa, Ikram and I didn’t think we’d make it through the semester. For example, when we were all crowded together in the cramped luggage compartment of one of the Egypt-bound Jordanian rescue planes that was meant to evacuate Jordanians who found themselves in Egypt at the time of the riot—

Looking back, I can admit it: I had doubts that the skills of constructive dialogue we had learned at Earlham would not be enough to convince Hosni Mubarak to step down as President. But we knew it was time to let our lives speak.

When the plane landed, we dispersed into the crowd and snuck into Mubarak’s home, where he was hiding from the riots that were demanding the end of his reign. While Eric and Simon distracted the guards with witty discourse and charming smiles, Rossa and Ikram hung up the signs announcing the vegan potluck Kelly and Rhea had arranged—an event we hoped would provide a safe space for discourse with Mubarak on the issues faced by Egypt’s leader and his people.

After a lunch of falafel, pita, hummus, and vegan chocolate-chip cookies, we made a batch of popcorn, flavored with nutritional yeast, and settled down on the porch to talk. I cracked a PBR and passed it to Mubarak. Then Tyler and Rachel sat down and, channeling every Peace and Global Studies major ever to walk the hallowed halls of the Landrom Bolling Center, presented a PowerPoint presentation that we had had written, in Arabic, for this very purpose.

The argument was eloquent and backed up by several well-cited sources, clear graphs, and font no smaller than 18 point. When Tyler and Rachel had finished, we sat back and listened to Mubarak present his side of the story, followed by a moderated Socratic seminar, in which the thirteen of us debated on topics ranging from free trade to the legitimacy of democracy as a socio-political ideal.

At the end we all embraced, brought nearly to tears by the beauty and power of our conversation. Bill played “How Can I Keep From Singing” on his oud while Leila, Arielle and Hosni overcame their ideological differences to sing together, their voices blending in the beautiful harmonies. I know I’m a crybaby—I cried at Tangled—but I really was overcome with emotion to see all the things we had studied working in practice.

Well, you all know how this story ends. By the time Bruce, several Egyptian and Jordanian secret police agents, and a very distraught delegation from the US Embassy arrived, Mubarak had stepped down as president and Egypt was freed.

So my semester abroad wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always fun. The life of an Earlham student is always overcommitted—it wasn’t great trying to balance schoolwork with social life with actively trying to solve conflicts right and left with getting my articles in to the Word on time! But in the end it was a fantastic experience and to anyone doubting whether or not study abroad is for her/him: I say, do it!"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

final(s) week in Jordan

Sunday, April 24th
Arabic final (fusha).
Final group dinner.

Monday, April 25th
Contemporary Art and Culture final due.
Meet at Bruce's to say goodbye to Tyler and Rhea.

Tuesday, April 26th
Work on final paper for Bruce.

Wednesday, April 27th
Oral final in Political Economy.
Turn in final Political Economy paper.

Thursday, April 28th
Last day at NCDR.
Hang out with my host family. They frequently tell me that they are sad that I'm leaving.

Friday, April 29th
Shop for last minute souvenirs , I guess. Possibly another bag to check because of all the stuff I've accumulated.
Say goodbye to all my favorite coffee shops.
Hang out with my host family. Weep.

Saturday, April 30th, 10:45 a.m
Get on a plane to JFK.

I woud like to take a minute to point out that this is my 16th week in a foreign country. Hey mom, remember when I couldn't last two weeks at Catoctin? You should probably call Linda and tell her about my personal/emotional/spiritual development.

Here's what we had for dinner tonight, courtesy of my host mother and Auntie Fatima:

Warak Enab (stuffed vine leaves)
  • 1 lb. fresh tender vine leaves
  • 2 cups ground or chopped meat, preferably lamb
  • Several meat bones or cubes of meat
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium sized tomato, chopped (optional)
  • 2 medium onions sliced.


  • Soften and blanch vine leaves by dipping a few at a time in boiling, salted water. Set aside. Wash rice and put cup of warm water for 15min , take of the water and mix with ground meat , salt, pepper and oil. Stuff one leaf at a time. Place a teaspoon of stuffing in the center of each. Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the stuffing, then fold from each side to the middle. Roll tightly to form a cylinder about three inches long and somewhat thicker than a cigar (see the picture).
  • Arrange mahshi over layer of bones and sliced tomatoes and onion. When all has been added, press down firmly with palm of the hand. Add water to cover, salt, and cook about an hour, or until leaves are tender and the stuffing is well cooked. Sprinkle with lemon juice, minced garlic and dried mint. Simmer few more minutes.

It's my new favorite food.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

some anecdotal evidence

I am struck in these last few weeks at how much is different. When I wake up, instead of thinking Thursday of my fourth week in Jordan, I think, if I go back to sleep for fifteen minutes will I still have time to catch a cab in time to make it to eighth circle by nine?

Instead of inviting me to breakfast, showing me to my seat, piling and piling my plate with food, Aziza calls for me to come and put the tea on and serve the zeit and zatar. When we’re done, instead of shooing me out of the kitchen, she goes to sit and watch television while I clear the table. My host family knows what foods I like and which I dislike and I know the same for them. They know to get me when Forbidden Love comes on and that on Mondays, which are long days, I will probably be a little moody. I know what kind of chips to bring home to share and when Ziad is in a mood to joke around and when he is not. These are comfortable, familial things that bypass culture: we are not novel to each other any more.

Two particular moments shocked me with how at home I feel here:

The first was when I came home for spring break. It was raining and I was tired and I had a cold and my butt and thighs hurt from riding camels in Wadi Rum and I was hungry. The bus from Petra was taking longer than I felt like it should and I was sick to my stomach from reading on the bus. The bliss of spring break was quickly fading into the reality of school and work and upcoming tests and papers, and I thought: I just want to get back to Amman and go home.

And by home, I realized, I was thinking of the Shweikeh’s living room. I wanted to see my family and eat some maklubeh and get in my cozy bed and go to sleep and wake up and have a nice Friday morning breakfast and watch Arabs Got Talent with Ziad. I was tired of traveling and wanted to get back to what I knew: Amman.

So that was weird.

Second anecdote: I was walking home from class, trying to get a cab by second circle, and it was very hot and I was grumpy because there was bad traffic and taxis were few and far between. And when I finally flagged one down—I had walked to third circle and was outside the Intercontinental hotel, it pulled up ten or so meters ahead of me, and before I could get to it, some tourists in khaki shorts and dopey –looking hats had come out of the Intercon and stolen it!

And I thought goddamn tourists.

I was so mad that those tourists had taken my taxi. SO mad. I had important places to go! I was running late for work!

Then an ever weirder thing happened: as I was passing them on the sidewalk (glaring a little) the man waved me over and said, “Excuse me, do you speak Arabic?”

He couldn’t explain to the driver where he waned to go.

I knew the restaurant—had been there once before—and I knew how to get there. So I told the taxi driver, and he nodded.

I translated. Arabic. For some American tourists in Jordan. Who were lost in my city.

I felt so hardcore that I forgave them for the theft of my taxi.

102 days down, 10 to go.

Monday, April 18, 2011

an Apology and an Update

Apologies for the long silence; we've been gearing up for finals week and have been doing a lot of last minute traveling and souvenir shopping. I wrote up a draft of a great post today and...will post it tomorrow.

Quickly, because it's late and I'm tired and my bed is so, so comfy:

Two weeks ago we went to the Dead Sea for a day in the sun and salty water--we put the mud all over our bodies and when I washed it off my skin was so, so soft. You really do float in the Dead Sea. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't what I got: you really do just bob up! It was hard to keep my feet beneath me, actually.

On our way to the Dead Sea we stopped in Bethany, in the Jordan Valley, home of the Baptismal Site. Like, the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. I wasn't expecting to have any particular spiritual revelations, but it was hard not to be moved at least a little when you see the spring where John the Baptist lived and walk where Jesus walked and have 20 years of religious education and cultural brainwashing oohing and aahing in your head. We walked all the way down to the bank of the Jordan River which was about six feet across and, it looked like, about two feet deep and here was the most interesting moment of the whole trip:

there we were, looking across the Jordan river, all six feet of Israel. Where there is what Simon calls a "rival Baptismal Site" and another group of tourists, accompanied by the IDF, doing exactly what we were doing, except in Israel. They waved to us and we waved to them and it was so, so weird. Israel was right there! I could have jumped it! Except that I would have been shot dead in midair!


Anyway, then we had a week of classes and work and then last weekend we went to the Ajloun Nature Reserve, in the north of Jordan. It didn't look like any picture I'd ever seen of the Middle East; it was all green and lush and there were more flowers than I've ever seen. Honestly: bright red poppies and huge daisies and little winking pink and blue flowers. And there were fig trees and olive trees, too--though, no figs or olives. We spent two nights in these cushy cabins (thaaank you, Earlham College!) and during the day we hiked around, up and down the mountains. At the highest point we could see all the way to the Golan Heights of occupied Syria and the Sea of Galilee. Again with the BUT ISRAEL IS RIGHT THERE sentiment. As we stood, about a quarter-mile from the border on one of our walks, looking down into the valley that was Israel, we could also see, up on the cliff nearby, a little watchtower. A guard was watching make sure we didn't make a run for it, I guess. Rachel looked at him through the zoom on her camera until Bruce told her that probably wasn't a great idea.

More tomorrow, I promise. Things have really picked up here in the last few weeks. I will be home in twelve days.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Anna the consultant: my job at NCDR

this isn't me.

The NCDR office is near eighth circle, so it’s a little bit of a haul from my house. Our office is in a tiny satellite office, set up in a refurbished apartment down the street from the real office. It’s small, but the space is clean and open and friendly and there is always plenty of tea. There are only four of us in here—me and Muna, the head of International Relations, and two of her staff.

NCDR is the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation, a semi-independent agency that’s responsible for coordinating demining operations in Jordan. Here’s the deal with that: there’s a lot of work to be done. The North Border Project, which is clearing landmines from the Jordanian/Syrian border, is home to 93 mine fields that spread over nearly 600,000 square meters of potentially fertile agricultural land. And that’s just the NBP—there are also mines in the Jordan Valley (fun fact: the Baptismal Site (Jesus’, I mean) used to be a minefield) and other Explosive Remnants of War in the North, left over from internal conflicts, external conflicts, military training—all that kind of stuff. Except that they’re laying around in fields where people are trying to shepherd their sheep or grow some food, or where children are trying to play. And what little kid wouldn’t pick up an old hand grenade, if he saw it lying in the dirt where he was playing?

So this is pretty bad stuff, but progress is being made. Help comes from the Norwegian People’s Aid and the US State Department and many other foreign governments. Jordan should have cleared all its land mines by 2012—or at least, that’s the goal. Right now NCDR is in this phase of transition from primarily field-based work (that is, actually clearing mines) to emphasizing its training courses—there’s a yearly training course about removing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) and the quality management side of the process. Last year there were representatives from over twenty countries where this is a problem.

My official title at NCDR is "consultant",which is hilarious. My job is to put together the “quarterly” newsletter, which was last published in April 2009. So I’ve been sorting through two years of press releases and numbers and surveys and numbers, figuring out how to put them together. This is a job I actually like a lot—I like research and talking to people and I like putting together big documents and making them look nice and having a finished projects that lots of people are going to see. The thing about this job, though, is that since there hasn’t been a newsletter since April 2009 no one knows what the newsletter is. They also don’t understand who I am: who’s that short American girl with the backpack and hiking boots and jeans that’s always running around the office? Who let her in? Is she lost? Is she sure?

When I first met with Ahmad, the director of the Operations Department, he said: “So you’re visiting just for today? Doing research?”

“No,” I said, “I’m actually working here for a couple of months helping Muna with the newsletter.”

“Oh,” he said, and then: “Oh! An American newsletter.”

“Actually, no,” I said. I explained: “The NCDR newsletter.”

“Right,” Ahmad said. He looked worried. “The...NCDR newsletter?”

So it’s been an adventure.

Last week I met with Deemah, the head of the UXO/ ERW survey project, and we had a long talk about the economic implications of ERWs and landmines. (This was surprising, since usually we’re talking about the social implications of ERWs and landmines, example, people getting blown up.) Here’s how that breaks down:

At the end of the NBP, not only will 50,000 civilians who were once in danger from land mines be safe, but 34.5 million square miles will be released for agriculture and 33 water wells will be released for agriculture.

A $1 billion free trade zone between Jordan and Syria will be established once the border is cleared.

In Jerash, the second largest tourist attraction in Jordan, the survey found that out of 55 communities, 24 are impacted by ERWs. 42% of the impacted areas are inhabited and close to residential areas, meaning that 23% of the population of Jerash is at risk from ERWs. Because of this wide impact, only 21% of income in effected communities comes from agriculture—despite the fertile nature of the land in Jerash.

In October of 2009, British Petroleum (BP) agreed to invest $237 million in exploring natural gas reserves in Risha, in the northeast of the Kingdom. The project’s aims to triple gas production in Risha, which would make Jordan energy self-sufficient. Unfortunately, operations came to a halt when UXOs, ranging from artillery hells to cluster bombs, were found in the area.

Last time I met with Basem, who's the manager of the Jordan Valley, he said I might be able to come into the field to check out some of this stuff for myself. That would be exciting. This is definitely one of the more interesting jobs I've ever had.

Anyway, I'll be home in 25 days.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

100 injured, 2 dead in Jordan

Jordan made headlines yesterday when protests in Amman turned violent for the first time—or at least, the first eye-catching time. Two people were killed.

We have been having regular, organized, largely peaceful protests on Fridays by the mosque downtown, and yesterday’s demonstration began this same way. I have heard the violence explained in two ways: the first is phrased in a way that is less indicative of malicious violence against anti-government protesters: New York Times quoted a police spokesperson as saying the violence was a “quarrel” that broke out “between a pro-government rally and another demonstration staged in the same location” ’.

The second explanation: an anti-government protester was quoted by the same NYT article saying that “more than a hundred young thugs surrounded us from in front and behind and started attacking us”. When I hear about political attacks by “thugs” in Jordan, the stories are always accompanied by raised eyebrows and a nudge, nudge that implies perhaps the thugs were employed attack. I’m sure the same will be said about these—whether they were pro-government protesters or attackers they were shouting their support for the King. The most terrifying accusation is that the police, though they were asked for help in the midst of violence, did nothing.

The anti-government protests are aimed against the (brand-new) Prime Minister, Marouf Al Bakhit. The complaint is obviously: we asked for change and you gave us a new prime minister and a new cabinet, but nothing has changed that affects us. This is not reform.

The new elections law has not gone through. People are clamoring for a constitutional monarchy that would reduce the total executive power of the king. This past Wednesday there was a meeting on Jabal Al Weibdeh in Amman centered around discourse on what a constitutional monarchy would mean, socially and politically, for the people of Jordan. A really interesting thing is that recently 36 representatives of some of the Bedouin tribes issued a statement calling for these same kinds of reforms. And this brings to mind something that Salem said to me in Wadi Rum, while we were sitting around the fire: I asked him what he thought of what was going on, politically, and he shrugged and said:

“We bedouin are ready. We have our guns.”

Since this is the first sign of violence, I am not yet convinced Jordan will fall into the same kinds of violence that we're seeing in other places. I am convinced that people will keep protesting until they see reforms.