Marhaba everyone! Ismi Matteo, a senior at Watkinson, currently on the Jordan trip. It was about 2 years ago that Avery and I proposed a trip to the Middle East, and it’s surreal to be writing this right now looking through the window of our hotel in Amman, and also a little shameful that it has taken me this long to post. For a little background, I’m currently in the Global Studies program at Watkinson, and my favorite subjects in school are math, history, and philosophy. I’ve been taking Arabic for the past few months at the University of Hartford, but as my professor puts it, currently understand at about a 1 on a scale of 1-5.
We got in to Queen Alia airport Saturday afternoon, and I was quick to start having new experiences; Mohammed handed me a banana, and not wanting to be rude, I ate it. This was the first banana I have ever eaten in my entire life. No exaggeration. I’ve also had some excellent hummus, fresh falafel, and chicken so good it lured Avery away from vegetarianism.
Yesterday we had the chance to visit the Collateral Repair Project, an American NGO that helps refugees in Jordan. The people they help have been displaced by conflict, primarily the Iraq War and the Syrian Civil War. We met a man who had been in the Iraqi army (service in Iraq was compulsory) and was later displaced by the war. His wife and children were able to make it to Canada, but due to his military service, he was blacklisted and unable to get a visa under the same program. He now has a 2 year old daughter whom he has never met. At one point he was asked what he studied in university. His response? Interior Design. Somehow such a normal answer made his situation seem even more challenged.
Today was a change of pace. We walked around the University of Jordan and were whisked into different classrooms and treated to musical performances, an interpretive dance show, and a short play. Later on I was able to catch up with my friend Raya whom I met last summer and lives in Amman. She, Avery, and I walked around the campus, even at one point winding up in the food sciences department laboratory after the trip leaders told us to find a ‘milk bar’. I was also subject to some aggressive friendliness, when one student pointed to me and began telling me how he loved the English language, and began complimenting my clothes before friending me on Facebook. Day 3 in Jordan has been interesting to say the least. From here on out, we’re off to a Dabke lesson, and dinner.