Laurel and Associates, Ltd. – Madison, WI

Deb in Amman

Deb in Amman

On March 20, 2012, Posted by , In Travelogue, By , With Comments Off on Deb in Amman

Yesterday, I looked out the office windows and saw what looked like either fog, smoke or smog. Since it has been a clear fine cool day on the way to the office, it was very surprising.

However, I got my greatest surprise when Mona said that it was a sand storm! They get very bad ones about 4 times a year, and each instance lasts for at least two days. Then they get lots of these smaller sand storms.

Ghassan, who drove Cassie and me home after work, said that the project pays a man to come three times a week to wash their cars (twice on the outside and once on the inside) because of all the grit and sand raised by those storms.

Last night, I did something very brave for me. My hair was too long and scraggly, so I decided to go to the hotel saloon and get my hair cut. This was very brave because I have gone to the same woman to cut my hair for the past 30 years!

This was a fascinating experience. A young woman, who turned out to be a Filipino who came to Amman 5 years ago for work, served as my interpreter. When I gestured that I wanted 1” taken off, I got worried that the hairdresser would think I meant that I wanted my hair to be 1” long! She rescued me- then offered me a drink. I sipped my water while my hair was cut.

She told me that so many Filipinos have come to Amman for work that they have their own grocery stories and restaurants! The tiny woman who takes care of serving the office must be Filipino.

This young woman at the saloon told me that when she came to Amman, she didn’t know any Arabic but she has become fluent now. I asked her how difficult that was- and she said it was very hard.

Cassie, who has been here very often, has a notebook with Arabic words (written phonetically in English, of course) and she practices using them and learning new ones. I am just starting to learn some myself.

I had a somewhat stressful day yesterday in the office. First, I worked with Maha K as well as Maha D to design training on Creating a Social Marketing Product. Maha K is a very strong personality and quite argumentative. It wasn’t so much that she was resistant to the idea of participative learning, but she was very set in how content should be presented (rather than facilitated). I think it took a full hour to get her to agree to the learning objectives. But we persevered and created a half day workshop.

Then Maha D asked a number of questions and, based on my answers, proposed that Maha teach a full day (adding in another half day workshop on the second P: Price)- so that the participant didn’t have to adjust to a different instructor in the afternoon. Maha K was very unhappy with this idea because she has so much work (everyone is overworked because they are very understaffed at the moment). One reason for understaffing is that maternity leave is only 3 months and most women want more than that, so they quit.

In the interest of consistency and standardization of training, Maha D wanted me to work with the consultant, Mohammed, who used to work there but quit to manage his own business- and who currently teaches, under contract, the price, place and promotion pieces of the training program.

So Maha D and I went to meet with Mona, who is the Deputy and who, because of vacancies, is supervising the entire office of 22 people while under the gun from USAID to get projects up and running. We wanted to discuss three things with Mona and get her approval: (1) for me to work on curriculum design with Mohammed, (2) for the same trainer to teach both product and price on one day, and (3) for me to design the participant materials for the five training programs (to the extent that they could offer the necessary materials and I had the time).

Mona is the wonderful woman who picked Cassie and me up on Friday to go shopping, brought me a winter coat and scarf to borrow, invited us to her home for breakfast on Saturday and the trip to Pella. We get along beautifully.

However…when Maha D told Mona that we had eliminated the hour overview on the history and meaning of social marketing- that the situational analysis training was now a full day- Mona went into an attack mode, questioning everything without having seen the lesson plan. After about 10 minutes of this, I told her that I felt uncomfortable defending a lesson plan that she hadn’t seen, so I left and got it for her.

Her “attack” was so unexpected and so uncharacteristic of her previous interactions with me (including a very pleasant conversation that morning about the upcoming train the trainer, during which I learned that she is very cognizant of interactive learning and saw her training library, which included Steven Sugar’s book on training games.

After I handed her the lesson plan, I left again to go get my design notes on the product training program in case I had to “defend” it. However, when I got back, she said it all looked very good and if I thought this was the best way to approach the training, then that is what we should do.

I’ll tell you- I was wrung out by the time we left the office and walked through the dust to Ghassan’s car!

On a very different note, both in Lagos and here in Amman, every door has a key (in it), whether it is a door to a room, to a closet, to a cabinet, whatever.

Oh, after discussing the ideal class size with the Mahas D and K- and after all of the correspondence telling me that there would be 25 people in each of the train the trainer classes, Maha D proudly told me that there were now 30 people in next week’s class and the following class currently had 26 and counting…. Good grief!

We had spent some length of time the day before figuring out how many pages of the training materials were needed for 50 people. I had packed materials (Koosh, prizes, etc.) for 55 people. Sigh.

I’m going to talk with her today, because there is absolutely no way that we can videotape 30 people unless we have three cameras and three facilitators to direct the feedback sessions. Right now, they are planning on one other facilitator to come in and handle half of the group.

With a day of 10 minute facilitations followed by 10 minutes of feedback, usually I top it off at 10 because people just get worn out. Twelve is pushing it. 15 is out of the question. Oh dear.

One more completely unrelated item. You know how in the States people may bring a sandwich, an apple and a cookie or so for their lunch? Well, for the past two days I have watched people eat entire hot meals of chicken, potatoes, salad, something white (yogurt maybe)- their plates piled high with food.

They ordered shish kebob for me two days ago and I had enough to eat for two lunches.

Today I worked all day with a wonderful subject matter expert on social marketing to develop two days of training. I have a real headache now but I learned a great deal.
It’s now time for me to convert these hours of information (literally) into training programs.



P.S. The sand storm has abated, so that means there is very little in the air near my hotel but more by the office. It apparently has something to do with the elevation, but I’m not sure what.

P.P.S.  Nigeria had traffic lights and stop signs (which no one paid attention to) whereas Amman has neither and turning against traffic is a dare devil escapade. According to Mohammed, my driver today, the traffic circles take care of this- but I haven’t noticed that is very effective at all. There isn’t as much honking as in Lagos, but the Jordanians do their share!

P.P.P.S.  I’m not sure why, but not one person at the office mentioned my hair cut. I definitely look very very different with it very short, so it’s not that they haven’ been able to notice the change. How very strange…


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