Twinkle Toes

After a bit of a big night at the January Internations function held at the Grappa Restaurant in Amman a number of teachers and students from the Amman Baccalaureate School headed of to a refugee camp populated by people from Gaza who had been dispossessed of their land. This is not a small group of refugees and number about 35,000 and they live on the outer area of Jerash, which is about 50klms North West of Amman.

Twinkle Toes is an initiative to distribute shoes and clothing – the ABS students support the programme as part of their IB CAS committements.  We set off at 8.45am in two buses, one full of shoes, the other with us!

On arrival the buses entered a narrow lane and pull up outside some typical Jordan houses: square, flat roofed and made of cement and brick. The weather is kind, not cold and the rain has stopped. Children began to appear, smiling and with warm greetings. The bus was quickly unloaded and the shoes set out on the open roof of one of the houses.

The process is simple. Diagrams of shoe sizes one set for the boys and the other for girls are laid out on the cement surface which is still wet from the early morning rain. The plastic bags containing the shoes are placed around the perimeter – we are ready.

At first it is relatively orderly with children and their mothers or fathers queueing up the stairs to the roof. But within no time the crowd expands and there are some difficult moments on the stairway with young children crying and Mum’s getting agitated.  However, with a bit of intervention and crowd control we get most of the children fitted with a pair of shoes, socks and some clothing.

The ABS teachers and students keep cool under the increasing pressure and at about mid-day it is decided to finish up and leave the dispensing of the remainder of the  shoes and clothing to the leaders of the group – possibly this is a better way to arrange things, but desperate people are desperate.

It is difficult to comprehend the plight of this community, they have no rights and rely entirely on this type of provisioning. Apparently, Jordan does not want to grant citizen ship in the belief that come the negotiated peace with Israel over the occupied land, the Gaza refugees would be able to return to their country – this is a pipe dream and simply a very sad situation, a kind of case-22 in the craziest of senses.

Hope you enjoy the slide show!

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

Ma’In Refugee camp

Today I travelled with my wife Cathie and good friend Niki from the Amman Baccalaureate School, along with a number of other staff and students, to the refugee camp at Ma’In just outside Madaba. The experience was at the same time heart warming to witness the way both Cathie, Niki and all the ABS kids knuckled down and helped distribute shoes and socks to the children from the camp – it was no easy task, but also it provided a salient reminder of the problems of this region and the lack of justice in the world.

This group had been here since 1967, they are Bedouin-Palestinian’s from Bethsheba who had been dispossed during the war. They are stateless with no rights as we would understand them. The slide show below shows some of the sights. What can’t be shown is the work of the freelance journalist that accompanied the group and videoed and interviewed people at the camp – clearly a very committed person. The single picture below shows the smile on a young boys face after he had been interviewed, he was asked ‘what things would make you life better?’, he replied ‘a good school, a good clinic and lower food prices’.
A picture of hope, I hope!
The other picture of note is in the slide show and depicts the proud nature of the people, it is of a mum and dad, they were intereviewed and also showed us through their tended house – it was warm, clean and basically just like a normal home. But when you reflect on their plight you wonder if you would behave with the same dignity!

Young man of hope

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

Recent day trip to Karak

 Karak is South of Amman and within easy reach via Madaba.  It is an ancient town of strategic important for the trade routes and also during the Crusades and latter the Ottomans.

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The most spectacular part is the drive down and across the valley via the road across a dam. One the otherside is a hotel atop the hill with fantasitc views, and they served a most delightful array of local dips, olives and breads, I think we spend almost an hour eating, watching the view and talking with the owner.  The place is called Rest House Trajan and the can be contacted on 00962 3 2310295 – it is well worth the visit.

The slide shows some of the pics taken on this day, it was windy and cool but perfect blue skies.

Pella

A trip to Pella from Amman is best done via Jerash, if you go up to Irbid it is bit longer and the signage is easy to miss! Take the turn-off to Jerash, then via Aljon Castle and little further on you reach Pella, if you continue on past the Pella turn-off you will make it to the Jordan valley.

The day was perfect, weather warm, sky blue and the start of a nine day break. I picked my friend Niki up at 9am and by lunch time we had found Pella, and it was reasonably warm so I think we were both relieved that we did not feel it necessary to walk in through the small gate marking the entrance to the site but could head straight to lunch.

The Rest restaurant is managed by the people who run the eatery in Omm Quais and the view is just as impressive, overlooking the Jordan Valley. The view can be seen in the slide show below at the start – along with a picture of a helpful cat, who managed to eat most of Niki’s chicken!

The menu is not as extensive as the one at Omm Qais,you are restricted to chicken and fish, we saw the fish whisked by and ordered chicken, salad and somehow managed to end up with a lime drink as well, all very reasonably priced.

The ruins can be easily seen from the table – no need for clambering over rocks just use the zoom! Anyway, they looked, well just like the other Romans ruins. Australia is very well known here as it is one of the countries whose Universities have been digging and exploring since the early 1970s.

After negotiating the tour bus blocking the exit we headed off to visit Aljon castle. This is an impressive place with vistas across much of North West Jordan, somehow we managed to attract a guide who actually turned out to be very helpful and informative.

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

Just a nice day and I didn’t get lost!

It is now Saturday, and I am so exciting – the hot water works. I got the diesel tank filled and had a visit from the school maintenance person who checked everything and seemed to give the boiler the thumbs up, alas, as is often the case here, not everything was just quite ready to fire. One final check tomorrow, but at least I had a nice HOT shower, and I reckon Nicola will be pleased when she visits next week.

Off to Books@Cafe to meet some people from school.

Just an update on the hot water – its off, problem with the boiler, it will be fixed but it is now the Eid holiday!

Niki my elder daughter has arrived safe and sound and is sleeping in, off to Jerash today.

Omm Qias

Travelled up by car via Irbid. Trip is simple and takes about 1.5 hours. Irbid is a ‘working’ town, plenty of activity, even though it was a Friday. Umm Qias is to the West and is the site of an Roman city destroyed in 747AD by earthquakes, a fate that befall many similar places across the Roman Empire at various times. It is similar in layout to Jerash and also Ephesus. When you arrive it is a little unclear where to go to get into the main entrance, drive a little past the first entrance which is populated by touts and look for the tourist buses. The ticket entrance is up on the right. The site is very easy to walk around and you will be struck by the Basalt columns and sandstone columns – I am told the first indicates volcanic activity, hence fertile soil, and the latter, indicates that the sea once covered the area! Looking out to the west you see the Yarmouk River and the Sea of Galliee, which is called Lake Tiberias these days! It is quite a drop down and the area below is obviously fertile with many farms and green olive groves and the like.

According to the Bible this was were Jesus caste the demons from two men into nearby pigs, thus curing them – what from I don’t know, nor is why he picked on the poor pigs, surely rocks would have been better! From the slides below you get a good idea of the ruins and the land forms, the Sea of Galliee can be seen in the distance in one.

The picture of the dryed thistle head is my favorite – there are over 50 species in Jordan and the baking sun dries their flow heads perfectly.

The drive back to Amman is via the Jordan Valley; the otherwise dry environment is provided water from the Jordan River by irrigation channels – water rights is a geo-political issue, which is a fancy way of saying, like many things, people in the area don’t share limited resources very well, not at all really if they can help it!

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

The Israel occupied Golan Heights can be seen in the distance – these were occupied during the 1967 war and rested from Syria, who want them back. One does not have to ponder long why accendency over the GH’s has been fought over often – as the French guide said to his group, who where hell bent on crowding around my table, which had the best view!!, all 20 of them: ‘domination and strategic…..’, say those words with a French accent.

Amman – Kakak – Dead Sea Tour

Given I got lost the day before, the enthusiasm for another days touring Jordan began to emerge slowly. The slide shows the vast beauty of this country.

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But, by about 10.30am we were ready, equipped with a replacement hire car – the other more modern beast falling foul of the wrong octane level petrol. The new car, a Nissan Sunny, proved a more than adequate replacement, zipping up and down the hills and nimbly negotiating the Amman traffic.

Karak is in the centre of the Western third of Jordan about an 1hours drive South from Amman. It is famous for its castle and it is impressive, this time round we were happy with pictures and did not venture inside.

On route Cathie found two reason to purchase some odd bits and pieces. At the top of one range the is a fantastic view of a dam from a look out, it is also occupied by two enterprising Jordanians, Cathie was most pleased with her purchases of some small rugs. A little further on we stopped at an enterprising establishment termed the ‘Grand Canyon Jordan’, it was run by an enterprising ex-Jordanian Airforce Officer who was very friendly and spoke with a US accent, gained from three visits for training. He had established an eyrie like place to have tea and coffee under tents, engage in some conversation, look at an amazing view, and if nature called use the newly installed WC – with a view that is unsurpassable! We were servered by his daughters – Sally and Sarah who were delightful. We enjoyed sitting and chatting and of course purchasing! As we progressed on up the mountain we past several more tented places and one established restaurant – seemingly popular with the tourists; they did not know what they had missed.

The country between Amman and Karak is typical of this area of Jordan, rolling country areas of exposed earth being readied in some parts for sowing, with the occasion tented living and herds of goats and sheep. In between there are several towns, Madaba probably being the largest. It is close to Amman and is somewhat caotic but fun to drive through.

Before Karak you descend through amazing mountains bare of most vegetation and after Karak you decend further through similar country to the Dead Sea. From there you simply tour back to Amman and enjor the scenary.

I managed to negoatiate the detour to the 7th Circle of the 35 and then find the loop back onto the Jerash road (35) and eventually made it home and returned the car without getting lost or with any damage to the car!

A wonderful day!