King Hussein Gardens

Image

After a day of being cooped up in the house reading the works of feminist researchers lecturing on how I should represent the

Image

experiences of other women “without misrepresenting, misappropriating, or distorting their realities,” I realized I needed to get out of thehouse.

Image

All day I had contemplated why understanding feminist principles of research is important and how research on women especially in vulnerable states (Palestinian women refugees) requires a consciousness that transcends the basic formula of collegiate research. But, that’s not what this post was about..more on that later.

This is about the beautiful King Hussein Gardens that stretch over acres of rolling Jordanian hills. It sits on the outskirts of Amman and was a pleasant distraction from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

While we were there, we also saw what I presume to be  the King Hussein Mosque…I could be wrong. Unfortunately I was unable to enter due to not having a scarf to cover my head (I usually never make this mistake). We also ran into a group of school girls who commented that my 3 male companions looked like the singers of One Direction…now that might have been a bit of a stretch but these 13 year old girls were in love.

ImageThe day ended at a dive-restaurant, not up to any 

Image

American firecode with people packed in like sardines, cigarette and shisha smoke polluting the air as mainly men downed their 4th or 5th glass of Arak (a local liquor that taste like licorice), in downtown Amman where I ate everything imaginable for a sheer $5. I can’t get enough.

Are you free?

ImageYesterday was a big day for me in terms of solidifying my research. I met up with a volunteer with Hopes for Women who works as the student liaison. She is a former medical student, who in the midst of applying for her residency in the States has been spending the rest of her time with HFW. We clicked right away as I began to explain to her what I wanted to accomplish during the workshop I’m hosting on Saturday. She had an incredible amount of valuable insight on the issues facing HFW (including funding) as well as the obstacles they face in potentially opening up the application process to Syrian women refugees. As you may have remembered, from my previous posts about HFW, they are an organization that works with underrepresented women in society by not only providing University funding but workshops that work on professional and life skills. Just recently the HFW students attended a workshop on Creative Thinking. Now I’ll be completely honest, it sounded kind of bizarre at first but once I checked out the creator, Sally Safadi’s, Facebook page called Neurons Away, I was intrigued and motivated to get the students talking more about their lives and the obstacles they face. The pictures included in the post are part of her book she uses during her workshop. Its refreshing to see a workshop that focuses on how to use your mind and how not to put limits to your dreams and thoughts. Apparently, when asked if they were free the majority of the students answered “No”, plain and simple. They lamented on the fact they can’t do whatever they want and are faced with many constraints not only by their family but society as well. So during the workshop I’m going to have a session, with the other HFW leaders, discussing further:

  • ImageWhat are problems that you have now? Socially? Academically?
  • What kind of things would you want to change about your society/life?
  • Do you think that you have the same opportunities as Jordanian women? Why/Why not?

I am curious to know what each of the students has to say. I wonder if they see attending college as a means for self-support and freedom. I’ve definitely been nervous about the workshop, but now that I’ve met with another HFW volunteer who has steered me in the right direction in terms of discussion questions, I feel a lot more confident. I was worried that because I am new to the some of the students they wouldn’t be a comfortable opening up to me but apparently, they’ll talk to whoever will listen which is reassuring. Hopefully, it will be a fruitful session and I will be able to share the hopes, fears and dreams of a group of students trying to succeed.

Jerash & Ajloun Castle

Image

Image

Yesterday, I embarked on a really fun trip to northern Jordan to see the Jerash ruins and Ajloun castle. Though I’ve been to Jerash before it was fun having a chance to explore with friends. The Jerash ruins are considered to be the “largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy.” I went with 5 friends, 3 are studying Arabic in Jordan (2 from Germany and the other Maltese-British) while the other two guys are tourist visiting from Germany.  It was quite the German overdose and I now know how to say a “squirrel’s tail” which is apparently the hardest word in German. I’m glad I got to do some touristy adventures while I was here. During the summer, I had no motivation in the blazing heat.

ImageImageImageImage

After we were done gallivanting around 3rd Century ruins we ate a delicious Arabic meal down the street. For $20 we got 15 platters of hummus, mutable, babbaghanouj and other mezze dishes. The bread was baked made to order and complemented our meal perfectly. Nothing beats a good-filling-cheap eat.

ImageImageImageImageImage

أربعة أيام حتى الأردن

“Postcolonial feminists do not stay suspended ‘between worlds’s but take us to another place, another subjectivity. They celebrate the richness, resilience, and resonance of overlapping, interactive, mutually creating worlds. This perspective reflects postcolonial studies’ general insights on race and subalternity but these are read explicitly through the analytical lens of gender. Such intersections and integrations show the multivaried, cross-cutting allegiances of contemporary politics where simple binaries such as ‘coloniser’ versus ‘colonised’,‘international’ versus ‘domestic’,‘men’ versus ‘women’, ‘masculinity’ versus ‘femininity’ do not apply.” -Shirin M. Rai  on Postcolonial-Feminist Queries

I am back blogging for the next two weeks or so discussing my continued research in Jordan. I received a grant through CISLA to finish off a two year project on the “Social Sustainability of Palestinian women refugees living in Jordan.” This is very much a working title, and to be quite honest, it doesn’t reflect what I’m studying.  Two weeks from now, it will be completely reframed and overanalyzed.

4 more days until I touch down in Jordan.

‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’

I never realized how complicated English really was until I had to teach it. The intricacies of the language become more and more apparent as students begin to question things that come as second nature to me.

Today, a colleague and I made our way to Marka refugee camp around 20 minutes outside of central Amman. I need to make clear, that what you may envision as a refugee camp is probably a stark contrast from reality. This “camp” has been in place since the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, so families have been living there for a few generations now. Currently, Marka is a bustling small city, absent of typical UN tents and fencing. The same goes for the Wihdat camp, set up after 1948, that I had visited days earlier.

The three students from Marka were asked in advance to prepare a draft CV so when we arrived to meet them, they would be ready for us to go over. I think one the most important aspects of CV writing, that I saw absent from their own CVs, is that highlighting your accomplishments in a way, that would otherwise be seen as boasting, is acceptable. When providing explanations, I told them that I would only speak in English and if they really needed to, an Arabic translation would be provided. However, I became frustrated as I felt they would just wait for the Arabic and ignore the English. Despite the small language hiccup, it was clear by the end of the session progress had been made. Now, they are under a strict deadline to turn in a second draft by tomorrow. I’m sure they’re thrilled about having an assignment right before the weekend!

As I feel this internship creeping to an end, I am trying to accomplish everything I want with them. I’m hoping to organize and lead a workshop with a fellow intern on interview skills. We would provide 2 hours of basic english and basic interviews Dos and Donts, then following, 2 hours of interactive games and activities to build confidence and fluency in English. That is the one common denominator between ALL the women, honing their English skills. And in exchange, I want to sharpen my Arabic abilities.

How We Talk About Women

& Why we need to change the way we talk about THEM.

Please excuse the coarse language, I am merely quoting others.

Today, as I quickly scrolled through my facebook, glancing at pictures, statuses and articles, something shocking caught my eye. A very close male friend of mine, whom I have known for years posted this status:

Image

This notion is nothing new. Mothers and fathers around the world preach daily to their daughters that the respect they give themselves is the respect they will be given. However, it’s the labels that have become so commonplace in our daily vocabulary that trouble me. As the sister to a 7-year old girl, I hope she will never see the day that someone labels her a “slut” or some other vile name, because someone decided that her actions or attire deemed her worthy of that title. At what point does a female become a “slut”, when her cleavage is showing or her shorts aren’t down to their knees? Being the outspoken feminist that I am, I responded to my friend and asked him this very question. His response was that women shouldn’t be surprised if men harass them or they aren’t treated “proper” for what they are wearing. I can safely say, as a non-scantily-clad women, I have been harassed on the streets in jeans and a t-shirt. What then? Should I don the burqa, so as to protect myself from the male gaze. Every person on this earth is responsible for his/her actions. Temptation is not an excuse for poor decisions. A man who uses the excuse “she was asking for it,” “she provoked me” to justify the mistreatment of a women, is deflecting any and all accountability. A man is solely responsible for his own actions, no one can force him to act on his lust or desire, but him. Just as we teach our daughters to respect themselves, sons should be taught to respect others, regardless of how short or tight her dress. The problem isn’t what girls and women are wearing, but how we as a society believe it’s acceptable to dictate who deserves respect. Every corner of the world is patriarchal in nature, and arisen from this is the social construct of how women should act, speak and dress. It’s time that we reevaluate how we objectify women by eliminating the narrow scope distinguishing who among us is worthy of respect.

Workshops

For the past two days I have been sitting in on two workshops (in Arabic I may add), one for social media and the other for CV writing and interview skills. They are being conducted for the women who were accepted into Hopes for Women during last years application cycle. Though they are all at different stages of university, they are learning invaluable skills that will create the foundation of future careers. I overheard one of my colleagues say “Social media is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal, when used properly” and I wholeheartedly agree. When used in a way that surpasses the superficiImageal status updates and selfies in the mirror, we have the entire world at our fingerprints. Not to dismiss the usage of social media purely for entertainment, (I admit, I have my fair share of selfies), I think it’s also important fully grasp how we can maximize the tools we have. In addition, the CV and interview skills workshop gives all these students a competitive leg up in the workplace. Emphasizing proofreading when it comes to CVs, sending a thank you note after an interview. It always surprises me how many people don’t take these critical components seriously, they can make or break the opportunity for a prospective job. However, the students have been earnest during the workshops, and I am so grateful to have family, and a college, who have “trained” me in the DOs and DONTs in my career pursuit.

4th of July!

Image

I spent the first half of my fourth of July moping about not celebrating in the United States, second year in a row, and researching the Syrian diaspora, not exactly uplifting. Towards the late afternoon, a good friend who I had spent last summer with in Palestine invited me out for dinner in al-balad, or downtown Amman. I would say it has the hustle and bustle of New York without the ‘glamor.’ It’s the hub for your average Jordanian and the occasional wide-eyed college student , looking to expand his horizons. What I love the most is it’s off the beaten path for Abdoun* loving socialites who sip on their $10 coffees, relishing in ostentatious privilege.

The not so hidden gem of the balad is the infamous Hashim’s restaurant. Delicious and affordable, also where we happened to be meeting. I was the first to arrive at Hashim’s, so I partook in my favorite past time, people watching. I watched as the waiters rushed in, around, behind, under, every crevice of the restaurant, ushering food to people without skipping a beat. I watched as waiters brought warm bread to tables not on plates, or trays, but in their hands. Promptly plopping the bread down on costumers tables then continuing on their business.

Image

The “kitchens” are only a couple of square feet, completely open to the public. Each station with its own responsibility. I make it a point to never look too closely into open kitchens, what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen. I like to think I was cured of my germaphobia after living in India for three years. So at this point, nothing really phases me. I figured, at this point a few extra unintended ‘ingredients’ probably won’t kill me. Operative word being probably. However, kitchens still frighten me.

As it turns out, we were eating at a barbeque restaurant (meat-meat-meat) down the street, so being a vegetarian I grabbed french fries, a platter of hummus, and a falafel sandwich to go from Hashim’s for around $3 and brought it to the restaurant with me. Now before people wonder where my manners went. I would never, in a million years dream of bringing food from one restaurant to another in the States. However, it’s hard to compare the social etiquette in the States to here. It’s just different. Plus, these were pretty dive-y places. I would be a social outcast caught doing that in Abdoun. In any case, the place we went to was literally in an ally.

Image

 

The tables were wedged between two buildings and a fruit stand. When they waiter saw the hummus I had brought over from Hashim’s, he pointed and said zakee (delicious). I guess it’s not weird to acknowledge the competition. I ended up having a great night, starkly different from what I would have done in the states, but the spirit of the holiday was still there.

*(posh area of Amman)

Saturday

As jetlag continues to plague me, I have sought to establish a routine in order to synchronize myself to the right time zone and further settle into my new home. I officially begin work on the 25th, but in the mean time, my boss has designated to me the task of creating a fact sheet on Syrian refugees. She hopes, in the future, to extend the work of Hopes for Women to the influx of new refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. However, this pursuit poses many difficulties and obstacles making it my responsibility to devise a preliminary scope of the impediments facing Hopes for Women in reaching Syrian women refugees.

In other news, I have finally joined a gym. It happens to be the gym where the all the “beautiful” people of Amman tend to hang out. I’m talking, people who have heavily invested in workout gear, unlike me, happy to run in a school t-shirt and shorts. When first walking into the gym, I was greeted by pulsing techno music and a sea of robust men watching themselves lift weights. To the side there was a large group congregated by the couches drinking overpriced smoothies, with most of the women in full fledged make-up and hair still intact. Though I may not fit into the “scene”, it has pretty incredibly facilities, a smoothie kiosk (a MUST), and centrally located. It also has a wide arrangement of classes like yoga and pilates that I hope to take advantage of. Since I am only here for two months I was given a student-discount and three ‘free’ sessions with a personal trainer. Not a bad deal.

Hopes for Women in Education

After finally dragging myself out of bed around 2pm, I had the opportunity to meet with my boss for the summer. She’s a Jordanian-Canadian who is one of the co-founders of the organization, Hopes for Woman, that I am working with this summer. We met briefly, but she outlined my duties for the summer and I am so excited to be working with her! Before I get into more detail, here’s a quick, brief outline of the Palestinian refugees in Jordan:

  • The 1948 Arab-Israel conflict displaced thousands of refugees, many of whom went to Jordan (as well as Lebanon and Syria)
  • In order to be considered a “refugee” recognized by the United Nations and benefit from their services, they must fall under the definition of “people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.”[1]
  • This current generation of refugees are decedents of those who fall under the aforementioned category
  • Currently, there are close to 2 million Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, while only 300,000 live in designated camps
  • Most Palestinian refugees have been granted Jordanian citizenship with the exception of around 120,000
  • There are 10 official Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan

The funded research project I will be conducting is studying the social sustainability of Palestinian women refugees living in Jordan in comparison to Jordanian women. My project focus will be to compare and contrast Jordanian and Palestinian women’s access to education, employment opportunities and other social services that support and facilitate self-reliance. The organization I am working with deals with this very question. Every year they send out applications to the various camps for women to apply to in order to be in their program. Hopes for Women receives around 200 applicants, and from there 40 are chosen to come in for a group interview and then it is narrowed down to a select few. The woman selected to be in the program are given funding from donors to attend university in Jordan and in addition to financial resources, are provided with a support system with book clubs, tutoring and other activities. Once they graduate, they are prepped for applying to jobs with CV writing classes and interview skills. I will be working on both ends of the program. I will meet with students individually on fine-tuning their CVs as well as helping with new applicants to the program. I am so excited to be a part of this organization. They are providing much needed support and resources to woman who might otherwise not have the means or opportunities to pursue higher-education.

Sorry this post is a bit long! I might not be blogging for the next couple of days seeing as I am focusing on research at the moment but there will be an update soon enough!