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Looking forward

Hello all,

We hope you are all eagerly preparing, packing, and looking forward to our incumbent meeting and travels together. Mohammad and I are excited for your arrival, and looking forward to spending time with you all exploring Jordan, meeting people, and learning from each other and our interlocutors here in Jordan about the region and and the contemporary world that we all live in. We’re looking forward to reading all of the introductions in the coming days.

As you prepare for your travels, here’s a look ahead at what is to come:

You all will soon be boarding a flight, and Mohammad and I are here in Amman already eagerly awaiting your arrival. After arriving in Amman on Sunday, we will meet you at the Queen Alia Airport, located a short drive from Amman, and then head directly to our hotel in the heart of Wasat el-Balad (or downtown Amman). We know that everyone will be tired from travels, but we will use our time in the afternoon/evening to begin our short orientation process. After some time for rest and refreshing ourselves (a quick shower after travel is always important), we will do some further introductions, discuss our itinerary and travels in a bit more detail, and set up group expectations (what kind of a group will we be as we travel? What are our group norms and expectations? How will we delegate roles and responsibilities, maintain punctuality, respect, and overall group comfort?). We will also talk about some basic do’s and don’ts for our time here in Jordan and go over again the red rules and some basic expectations about behavior. We will close with a delicious Jordanian meal nearby, and get our first taste of the wonders of levantine cuisine (this, Mohammad and I, are both very much excited about).

After a refreshing and restorative sleep (inshallah – God willing!), we will awake to a breakfast at the hotel and spend our Monday morning completing some orientation activities. We will further discuss our itinerary and course flow, and begin a discussion about the range of topics that will be the focus of our trip. Amman and Jordan more broadly is enmeshed in broader regional and global political and social issues that many of us have been reading about for years – we will discuss how to think about and frame our questions that we’ve brought with us as we move forward and have discussions with various local community members, NGO/aid workers, and social/cultural producers. After these conversations we will have our first short Arabic lesson, where we will introduce some basic greetings and useful phrases that will help us navigate our interactions while in Jordan.

Our afternoon will introduce us to an important and quite visible issue that has implications for the region as a whole and whose reverberations are felt all over the world – the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. We’ll speak with two representatives of NGO’s working in this field about the how this issue impacts peoples lives and the types of work that are being undertaken by different actors in the region. We’ll conclude our evening with another great meal, and have some downtime in the evening for brief exploration, debriefing, and of course well-needed sleep.

On Tuesday we will continue to explore and learn about Amman, with a particular focus on culture and education. After another morning Arabic lesson, we will head to the University of Jordan where we will meet some arts students who would be valuable in giving us some insight into a the arts department at the university, as well as learn about education and higher education in Jordan/the region on a broader scale. We will break for an important meal at the famous Bab el Yemen, where we will share an assortment of dishes all mopped up with famous Yemeni bread. In the afternoon we will continue to explore the various neighborhoods of Amman, noticing how gentrification is taking place in certain areas, and communities are affected by commercial projects in the city. Our evening will conclude with a visit to the Jadal Cultural Center, where we will learn to dance the Dabkeh, a traditional dance of the region, and conclude with a wonderful home-cooked meal.

Wednesday will be a bit more fluid – after a morning lesson that will help us think about religion and Islam in particular, we will meet with Rainbow Street. Rainbow Street is an organization that works with the LGBQT community in Amman and the region more broadly, and we will discuss the lives of those living outside of traditional gender/sexual norms in the region. We will continue this conversation in the afternoon with some members of the LGBQT community, with an informal discussion exploring what it means to be gay, queer, trans and other non-traditional gender identities in Jordan. We will also continue our focus on culture by visiting an important national(ist) museum, which prompts a discussion on modern nationalism in the region and the question/tension of tradition and heritage in a deeply modern and historic society. In the evening we’ll have time to continue to get our bearings in the city, treating ourselves to some Knafeh in downtown Amman, and getting a better handle on the geography near our hotel – this will come in handy for Thursday.

Thursday will be an exciting opportunity to have a bit of independence and autonomy. The day will be structured around a team-based scavenger hunt, that will take us (split into groups) around the city to discover important sites, challenge us and our communication skills, and prompt us into trying new things and getting out of our comfort zone. We will meet up for Lunch and then later in the afternoon to see how everyone did and compare stories from the day’s exploration. This is our final day in Amman, so this time will provide a good opportunity to eat a final helping of Fattet Hummus, or Knafeh, and get any souvenirs/gifts to take back to the states.

On Friday we will head south, hopefully to what many of us have been looking forward to – nature, ancient ruins, and exploration. We’ll take a bus to Petra and spend the day exploring the traces of the Nabatean communities that lived here thousands of years before us. We’ll trek to through the space and, after a long (and tiring) day, spend the night at a hotel outside of Petra. In the morning we wake up and head to Wadi Rum. We’ll spend the day exploring Wadi Rum, filling our pockets and hair with sand in all likelihood, and wind up at a campsite for dinner, music, and some well needed rest under the stars.

We’ll wake up in the desert and after a homestay briefing head to Tweisi, where we will spend the next few days immersing ourselves in the rhythm of life in this little desert town. Homestays are an important opportunity for us to truly learn through experience. We’ll get to know the day to day lives of the families that we live with, and we’ll spend the days fluidly moving about, meeting community members, learning from them, and reflecting upon our experiences thus far. We’ll likely hear from an elder of the community about the changes they’ve experienced in recent history, meet with a women’s cooperative and learn about gender dynamics and women’s lead initiatives in the region, and eventually we will close out our time with a dinner where we’ll be able to thank our hosts for the hospitality and warmth that they’ve graciously extended towards us.

We’ll spend our final day together at the dead sea, where we will have some well-earned R-and-R, and do a short transference program. We’ll reflect upon our experiences and discuss how our return to our regular lives in the states will be impacted by what we’ve seen and learned. While only here for a short time, we will have encountered novel experiences and made new friends and lasting relationships. In this time we will reflect on how to take this back to our lives at home, and avenues for moving forward and continuing to engage with these interests in the future.

After our closing ceremony and a restful night, we will head to the airport in the morning and head back to the states with full stomachs and much to think about. We’re very excited to share this experience with everyone, and hope that this information is good to think with in the coming week.

Again, thank you all for introducing yourselves on the Yak Board, and starting to mentally prepare yourselves for an exciting, densely packed experience in Jordan. As has been mentioned, our itinerary is always fluid, and we remain open to opportunities that present themselves to us, so

Looking forward to meeting you all in person soon, and safe travels!

Mohammad and Kevin