Iraq Al-Amir Handicraft Village

Todays little adventure starts at the 8th circle, we turn right and out towards Iraq Al-Amir to visit the handicrafts market, see some caves, an old Roman ruin, a Roman Aqueduct – I am pleased to say that we found all of these.

But, why is it not possible to place some very clear signs – brown ones, there is one! Anyway, if you venture out on the Wadi as-Seer road you will need to turn left onto the Iraq A-Ameer Street, which takes out to the market, if in doubt ask at the police station that you will find at an intersection – it is in the middle of the road, I think in the middle of the Wadi as-Seer township.

The markets are terrific, established by Queen Noor to provide employment for local craft makers, lovely hand made paper pieces, pottery and various other craft pieces.

About 3klms before the markets you will catch a glimps of the Aqueduct – there is a picture in the slide show.

One the hillside overlooking the markets you will find the caves, and about 1kl further down the road you will find a terrific pre- Roman Ruin called Qasr al-Abad.

The area is just outside Amman and you feel it is little changed, small farms are plentiful with pretty surrounding scenery and there are plenty of wild herbs growing: drill, some wild basil and nettles.

Enjoy the slide show.

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

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.

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

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.

Father-Daughter time in Jordan

Nicola arrived safely and we enjoyed a great time travelling around some of Jordan and sampling some of what Amman has to offer.

Her flight from Heathrow was delayed nearly two hours, but she was out so quickly at the Amman airport I nearly missed her. On Tuesday she was woken in the morning by 2 hours of call to prayer to mark the Eid holiday celebration.

We ventured up to Jerash and enjoyed the sites and had lunch which was very nice. It was lovely weather and not too crowded. Jerash is just fantastic and now that I can get in for 1JD with my residency card I will go back often. The North West of Jordan is full of interesting places: Jearsh, Pella, Ajloun, Umm Qais to name a few.

After an early night we left for Petra at 6.30 and made it down by 9.30 – the highway, especially after the turn-off passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain. The weather again was kind and although Niki was not too impressed with the treatment of the horses and one amazing scene with a donkey, she thoughly enjoyed chalking up number 4 on the list of the Worlds Wonder she has seen.

The incident with the donkey deserves mention. The boy rider was trying to get the donkey to move, it would not, so he got off and grabbed a small boulder about 1foot in diameter, jumped back on and banged it onto the donkeys head. Well I let the boy, his two adult minders and who else cared to listen that this was just not on! It occurred to me latter that this was obviously learned behaviour and that probably the animals were not as well treated as we might hope.

Petra was left behind and off we headed to the Movenpick resort on the Dead Sea – we were upgraded to private suits with a private pool and patio area, which you got to via double opening doors. This was a highlight in Nicola’s eyes, and mine I have to say.

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

The trip back to Amman was over the mountain range to Madaba and then onto Amman, this, like all trips down or up the range to or from the Dead Sea provides spectacular vistas of the West Bank and other occupied areas, as well of the geographic landscapes in general.

Thursday night was a trip to books@cafe for dinner and an early night – Niki is getting tied these days and needs her rest.

In the middle of this fun we got the news that my younger daughter was ill with of all things Glandular Fever! Flowers and a teddy bear were dispatched to cheer her up.

The Friday was a quiet rest day, but thanks to my good friend Niki (can be confusing as they have the same first name) who took us to the old town at night, Nicola was able to sample the delights of the famous Hashem eatery and to have a look around the souks and markets – thanks Niki for taking us.

Arising at 5.30am for the trip to the airport, Nicola has flown back to London.

A great experience for both father and daughter – possibly our last holiday together on our own.

By the way, on Friday morning I received the news that I had been awarded my Doctorate from the University of Melbourne – well done me!

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.

A personal day in Amman

 Taking personal time, away from family, friends and cares is recommended – some might say that moving away from home endures that every day is personal time. Well it is not quite like that. Living away from home and on your own is something that takes adjusting too, in fact you are left to your own devices most of the time. If things are not going well in your job, for instance, you have plenty of time to mull things over in your head, which in my case is not the wisest course.

Amman is very quiet on a Friday, yesterday I forgot and turned up to the Mecca Mall at 9.30am only to find nothing open, this necessitated a trip back to my local, the Amman Mall and a visit to Donut King! As pointed out by my close friend Niki, ‘not the best breakfast, Andrew!’.

Today, that is Saturday, I was determined to do better. After pottering around at home (something I am excellent at) and having had a good nights sleep for a change and a good breakfast of 3 mugs of coffee (!!) a peanut butter roll and cheese toast (is that a healthy breakfast, seems OK to me compared to the donuts from the Donut Kind), I was ready for the day.

Had a good chat to Cathie back in Australia for 20minutes or so, something we are good at, and goodness only knows what we all did before Skype. A little lie down again, which was a mistake because I was now so relaxed I nearly convinced myself that I was due a good day in bed, again, if allowed to, something I am good at. I think nothing of propping myself in bed, playing my guitar, listening to the radio, reading the papers, scattering some books around and consuming whatever is to hand – all day, as I say, if allowed.

The thought occurred to me that some shopping and lunch at Mecca Mall was worth a try again. Shopping is actually something I like doing, love spending hours deciding over presents but often am hopeless at shopping for myself – stuff never fits, pants are always too long or tight, shirts look awful and as for shoes forget it. Instead of cheering yourself up, depression sets in and you become convinced that a Hessian bag is the go.

As anyone who knows me can testify, I hate suits, just can’t see the point of donning the black suit to look like everyone else, and as for shoes, give me a pair of sandles or thongs (for your feet) any day – I never actually wore shoes to school until I went into year 7. Fortunately there is a shop called Camel Active (www.camelactive.de) on the lower floor of the Mall, and it is just fantastic, with a range of clothes that fit somewhere between smart casual and what you can go to work in, at least what I think I can wear to work – chics get away with murder in this regard, basically anything goes, even in conservative Amman, but if you are a guy – stick on the black suit, white shirt and tedious tie is about as creative as you are allowed to be.

Thanks to the lads at the store, they are very helpful, can tell by a glance what size you are and basically make you feel relaxed so you can enjoy shopping – take note all the other shops assistants in the world, listen to your customer, if he says ‘piss-off’, piss-off, as you will not get a sale lurking around hiding in a clothes rack and randomly appearing with helpful suggestions like ‘this Mosses coloured robe would look good on you’!

So, I emerged with two pairs of pants, two great shirts (at least I and the lads think so) and a nice Italian Scarf! I also left instructions to find a nice blue jacket and to try and solve my shoe problem ie at least size 12, they only run to 10 – ‘don’t people in Amman have big feet’, I said. And of course the answer occurred to me, ‘Yes, but they have already shopped here’ (ha). Oh well the sandles will have to do for now, and maybe I could polish my one other pair of shoes, maybe Andrew, maybe!

The other couple of items, seeing as the shoes and jacket had to wait, were comfortable fitting trackie pants and a top – by comfortable I mean at least 2 sizes too big, in my case that means ……. I’m not going to say. Alas these are a bit down market for Camel Active!

I managed to find a large fitting pair of articles and am well satisfied, presently I am ensconced in front of the TV, dressed in said large fitting sloth garb and ‘Park has just SCORRRRRRED for MAN-U against Bolton – GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL’.

Before venturing home I wanted coffee, but am sick and tried of answering no to the question ‘do you want Americana?’, ‘what, no I do not want a vat of luke warm black crap’, well I found another gem – Cafe Vergnano (www.cafeeverganao.com) on the lower floor near one of the exits, good knows which one as I get lost every time I go to the Mall – sort of a pattern emerging, like with the hire car. Again, great service, and I had the healthy option – a Marccchino Speciale with ‘Yes please I’ll have cream, thank you so, so much for being concerned for my health’, according to the menu it is: espresso, latte, cioccolate in palvere and creama di cioccolate, which all sounds nice (translated as chocolate, milk and coffee) and healthy – look all you doubters you need the ‘stuff’ in milk and chocolate, I think, maybe not in these quantities, but it was of course delicious!

The taxi was another – I score goooal – one of the grey ones in Amman, driven by a nice and helpful guy called Ahmad, (still need to practice the back of throat pronunciation) who I am now going to use as my driver. Anyway, I decided I needed to visit a music shop as I wanted some new plectrums and a tunning instrument – ‘no problems mate’, and off we went to the Faza Music store in the AlGardens Street. I purchased what I wanted, tried to play an Oud, got some free instruction and am now booked in for lessons, such helpful people. Again, a lesson in how to treat customers- pretty simple really: listen and then meet their needs with a smile and further helpful advice.

For those that don’t know I spend a lot of time in sales and did a heap of sales training, it ain’t rocket science – here without being asked are some simple rules. Smile, be thoughtfully genuine, don’t try and bullshit the bullshitter, and give the customer what they ask for, provide advice, be really interested and for goodness sake don’t say ‘have nice f….ing day!’.

Well there you go, I had one of those rare nice personal days, I am even looking forward to meeting my truculent year 9 class, mind you my current relaxed frame of mind may evaporate quickly – more quickly than my Mt Nebo Cab Sav even – when that happens, but we live in hope – teaching is essentially selling with the exception that you don’t often get the chance to tell the customer to …… off, nor are the customers obliged nor necessarily inclined to see things your way – freewill lives, at least in my classrooms!

But one thing is for sure, in this day and age of technology, isolation and the itty-bitty Internet, the key to education is still love, kindness and concern for the individual to be able to do their best – it just is a very giving job and sometimes it takes a lot of giving before something is taken, but when it is taken it makes ya day.

 Love to all.

(PS: Park scores the winning Gooooooooooooooal!!) 2 : 1 against Wolves.

Andrew