Amman Travelogue – 2012

Amman March 16 12:10 a.m.

I am at the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman.

You know when I talked about needing to have my luggage “get off with me in Amsterdam?” Well, it did, but I never picked it up. I was so tired and so unused to changing airlines that it never occurred to me to go to baggage to claim it and then check in at Royal Jordan. So, guess what? I have no luggage. If I’m very lucky, it will arrive sometime tomorrow. If I’m partially lucky, it will arrive late on Saturday.

First, I’m going to be very sick of these two outfits I have, which I will have to wash in the sink. Second, all of my training supplies are in those two bags- and the five-day training program starts on Sunday. I feel so stupid, but I will certainly never forget this if there ever is a next time. Good grief!

It is midnight and I will write tomorrow.

Amman, Jordan on March 16

Arrival at the airport was so different from arriving in Nigeria. First, we had to bring our carryon materials (in my case, my bulging purse and small suitcase) to be scanned. I didn’t have to take my laptop out nor was I scanned.

Then I went directly to the place marked to get my visa where there was absolutely no line and one in front of me. When the agent asked for 20 for the visa, I tried to give him US dollars, but he made me go convert my money into dinar (1 dinar = .70 USD). Then I went right back and paid to get my visa. Next, there was a place called Customs, but none of the three men there wanted to look at any documents. So out to luggage, where, as I wrote earlier, I had nothing to pick up.

You know, it occurred to me that in the States, when you travel and change air lines, they just transfer your luggage for you. I think that is why it never crossed my mind to go get my luggage. But, in this case, I had two different tickets, so there would have been no way for KLM to know where my luggage should go.

I checked on line earlier this morning (1 a.m.- almost 12 hours ago! And found that there won’t be another flight from Amsterdam to Amman until Saturday, arriving at 10:30 p.m. as I did. I am hoping Mohammed (who picked me up at the airport and is one of three drivers we will use) will take me there to get my materials.

I washed all my clothing in the sink with hand soap. This morning, everything was very damp. Luckily, the hair dryer is very hot, so I managed to get most of the items to a mildly damp state so I could wear them.

I went down for breakfast. I had thought the buffet at Southern Sun in Lagos was spectacular. This definitely trumped that! Imagine long tables in a huge room- covering an entire three sides. Breads, rolls and sweet rolls; ham! An omelet chef (who made a terrific omelet!), yogurts, cheeses, fresh vegetables, every type of fruit you can imagine, six types of juices, hot foods, granolas and cereals- on and on. Since I was really hungry when I went to bed, I was very hungry when I got there. Oh, and smoked salmon as well as all sorts of cold cut meats. Extraordinary!

Cassie plans to take me to Mecca Mall by taxi to see if we can find me some items of clothing to get me through to Saturday night. She had called Lina, who lives in Jordan, to see if she would be willing to pick us up and take us. Apparently, she took Cassie to a lounge last night (where people smoked cigarettes, cigars and hookahs!) to listen to music. They had a late night. Lina, who is divorced and has one child, lives with her parents. Lina is probably about 37 years old, but her parents were very upset about her going out and coming in late- so it almost sounded as if Lina was “grounded.”

Cassie had to show me how to use the phone they have given me for the duration of my stay. I couldn’t figure out how to unlock it. We practiced having me call her and having her call me, to make sure I knew what to do!

They do smoke here, although there are non-smoking sections. The lobby is enormous, with many seating areas with couches and exquisite pillows, as well as small tables.

The view out of my 7th floor window is extraordinary. As far as the eye can see, there are stone buildings so close together you can’t see any roads or paths. When I started writing this, I could hear a loud call to prayer. My guess is that call will be a keen memory of Amman, just as all of the honking will be for Lagos

Cassie told me that Jordan has 6 million people- and 3 million of them live here in Amman!

As we drove to the hotel, I noticed very unique architecture- quite modernist- including a gargantuan hotel and a bridge. Cassie said that it was safe to walk, just not walker friendly in terms of sidewalks. When and if I go for a stroll (in 28 days, that should be likely!) I’ll take some photos. The stores and buildings here only occasionally have English next to the Arabic- as opposed to Lagos, where English was everywhere.

Pizza is on the menu here at the hotel and I noticed more than one pizza place, so I’m hoping that my pizza example in the train the trainer will be fine.

I probably haven’t mentioned this about my experience at the Lagos airport when I was going to leave. When I first got there, with ALL my luggage, a porter came to assist me. We got in a terribly long line and after waiting for five minutes, he told me that we could arrange to go through more quickly in another location. He went to check then came back and told me it would cost 3500 N. I really don’t know if it was a bribe, if he pocketed any of it- but it certainly worked. The security folks had me open each suitcase and they went through everything by hand. My kites and training toys created a number of questions!

The other thing- at both the Lagos and Amsterdam airports (going to Jordan, not going to Nigeria) they screen your luggage again for you to get into the boarding area, where they pat you down. A strange feeling, to say the least. At the Lagos airport, they pat you down everywhere, front and back. To go to Jordan, the woman (they use women for women and men to pat down men) patted me down on my front and didn’t go below the waist.

And at both the Lagos and Amman hotels, they security check the car’s contents. However, at the Intercontinental Hotel here in Amman, you and whatever you are carrying have to also go through screening to simply get into the lobby.

It’s almost time to meet Cassie to convert money (actually use an ATM to draw out some of the travel advance they wired to my account- because it comes out as dinars) and go shopping. However, it is absolutely pouring outside (and of course my raincoat is in my luggage). Here’s hoping someone has a big umbrella.

Deb in Amman March 17, 12


Where do I begin?

Yesterday, Cassie and later Mona took me to purchase clothing. How many strangers have you helped to shop for underwear? Amazing! I now have a new pair of pants, a shirt, socks and underwear. I feel so classy!

Today, we went to Mona and Richard’s home for a traditional Arab breakfast: fruit salad, breads, humus, pita, some type of cheese and fennel. I had fruit salad and a triangular pastry with spinach inside.

Mona’s husband, Richard, has spent the past three years researching and writing a book on religions. He has a gloriously large fish tank, pristine and filled with fish from the Amazon River that were just beautiful. He and Mona have been married for 40 years (he is American, Mona is half Lebanese and half some other Arab nationality) and they have been working for different aid assistance programs around the world.

Lisa, who is their downstairs neighbor and has twin boy Kai and twin girl Neve (three years old and adorable, but not particularly well behaved or responsive to their mother’s instructions- we actually lost the little girl for a while, very scary!) has also devoted her life to service to other countries. They move to a country for a project that may last 6 months to 5 years, then they uproot and move to another country for another project.

This is a career choice and a lifestyle that I knew absolutely nothing about. By the way, US AID paid to build the restaurant at Pella!

Mona and Richard have a panoramic view that includes Palestine and Israel!!! I took photos from one of their many balconies (they have a very large gracious apartment!).

I met Jasmine, who was born in Palestine and has lived in several Arab countries, moving when there was unrest. She is 33 and later drove Cassie and me to Pella. I was able to ask her all sorts of questions about the way Muslim women dress. Some wear one flowery scarf on their hair. Some wear a black band on their forehead that extends to a tight scarf on their hair. Some wear what appears to be an all-in-one that frames their faces. These women are often wearing western dress: tight jeans, very high heels, etc. Some are entirely covered in a shapeless black burka (sp?) with a long black scarf- and some wear a veil that covers everything but their eyes. 

Jasmine is Muslim and explained that the most devout can only show their hands and their eyes. She was very unhappy about those women who only wear the scarf, because Muslim women are not supposed to show their curves. She herself wears loose clothing and no headscarf. She said that she was thinking about wearing the traditional clothing when she was ready to commit to it, even before marriage. (Apparently young girls don this clothing once they have their first menses). Jasmine says that the only sport she loves is swimming- and she would have to give that up. It sounds as if she will. She currently lives with her entire family and everyone supports the household. Her salary with US AID is much more than the others earn.

I asked her where she would like to live. I don’t remember what the pros were for living in the US, but there were a lot more pros for living in Jordan: near family, with nannies and housekeepers, people to wash the car, etc. 

She asked me if there was anything I expected to see in Amman and I told her that I didn’t have any expectations. However, upon reflection, I expected to see lots and lots of mosques- and I’ve only seen a very few! What predominate are boxy apartment buildings that have shaved limestone (plentiful in Jordan) on top of concrete (produced in masse by Jordan). 

Everywhere you go, you see pictures of King Hussein (who was dearly loved) and his son, the current king Abdullah!!. During our 1.5-hour drive to Pella, we went below sea level where there are lots and lots of greenhouses and saw fruits and vegetables being sold in profusion. It must be an incredibly fertile area. The produce trucks are very ornate and colorful with geometric designs. This was consistent, not just a one-time occurrence. As we traveled, we saw herds of goats, of sheep, a few burros or horses, and a few cows.

Pella is a Roman ruin that is very picturesque, particularly in the spring with wildflowers everywhere. We were on a hill overlooking the ruins. We had a very leisurely lunch: first, various salads and dishes in which eggplant was prominently featured. Then chicken- or tilapia (the entire fish, head, tail, fins and all! Then oranges. I also had fresh squeezed orange juice. Just wonderful!

Since I sat in the front on the way there, I sat in the back so Cassie could chat with Jasmine. The sun was very warm and I dozed all the way back to the hotel.

Jasmine and Cassie talked about excursions I should take on the weekends- to Petra, to the Dead Sea (where Cassie told me she swam last week and learned that you don’t get the water in your eyes because the salt content is so very high!), and to five other places. This is quite an adventure and I’m enjoying it immensely.

The workweek starts tomorrow (Sunday) and the plan is for me to review curriculum they have developed and help with and/or make the necessary revisions. I’m still waiting for my luggage, but since I don’t start the train the trainer until next Sunday- and since I have clean underwear! I’m all right. Hopefully, it will be delivered to my hotel room tonight.

Until tomorrow.

Deb in Amman March 18

Yesterday I forgot to tell you two extraordinary things. First, although Amman is enormous, until two years ago they did not have any street addresses. They indicated where they lived by mentioning where they were situated in relation to the 8 circles (for example, the office is between the 2nd and 3rd circles). Mona lives on the west side of Amman and they still do not have street addresses.

Second, when Cassie and I went to the mall on Friday to shop for my clothing, we had lunch at a restaurant where everyone, men and women, were smoking hubbly bubbly (hookah), which comes in as many flavors as you would find for ice cream- orange, licorice, etc.

Today is Sunday, the first day of the work week. I had a terrific breakfast of plain yogurt, granola, almonds, dried apricots, grapes, strawberries, pistachios (I think I’m in heaven!), peaches, pineapple, etc. I then grabbed two clementines and a pear, as well as a bunch of apricots and shelled pistachios for my room.

Mohammed, my driver, just checked with Royal Jordanian about my luggage. He was told that it would come in to Amman at 5 p.m. and be delivered to my hotel by 7:30 p.m. today. Hurray!! Who knows why it didn’t come in on yesterday’s flight. I kept expecting it to be delivered late last night or early this morning…

I still remember when Detroit misplaced my luggage when I was traveling to New York City to conduct three days of train the trainer- and the luggage didn’t come for three days. When it did arrive, each bag had a tag saying, “Perfect delivery!”

I have been given an office with a terrific view of the clear cool day (40’s, maybe?). I am wearing my new outfit again, as well as a blue pashmina scarf that Mona loaned me- it’s quite cool here in the office!

I realize that I just had breakfast, but I’m already wondering when they eat lunch here. In Nigeria, having breakfast at 6 a.m. and no lunch until 2 or 3 p.m. was more than difficult. My poor brain would shut down without nourishment! When Tricia realized this, she insisted on earlier lunches that ended up being around 1 or 1:30 p.m. My stomach tends to expect food by 11:30 a.m.!

There will be a staff meeting at 9:30, which is in 20 minutes. I’m assuming all of the project staff will be there, so I’ll get to meet everyone. This is a very large office (as compared to the little alcove in Nigeria!) It will be interesting to see how many people are on the project.

My friend Joan, who is extremely well traveled and familiar with the Arab world because of work she did in Saudi Arabia, just wrote to remind me to ask about the call to prayer. Whenever that occurs, the training will have to break. I’ll have to find out when the calls to prayer are and how long they last. I have heard calls from my hotel room, but not really paid attention to when they were- and I have only been in my room in the evening anyway.

Well, I’ve learned that there are five calls to prayer, each of which lasts approximately 10 minutes: 5:30 am, 12 pm, 3:10 pm, 5:45 pm and 7:10 pm. Since there will be 10 minute breaks every 50 minutes, there should be little if any interruption to the training day.

There are 22 staff on site here in Amman. It was fascinating to sit in the staff meeting and try to make sense of the individual staff reports. A few things that jumped out at me: first of all, they are using social media to get the message out about water conservation measures, so there are bloggers on staff! How about that!?

Doing work here involves quite a bit of political diplomacy, inviting various ministries (of water management and I don’t know what else) to kick off meetings, I’m assuming for grant awards and project outings. Some of the staff went to two rural communities where two major springs that provide much of their water will be drying up. The staff wanted to be sure that the communities were aware and had plans for what they will do when the streams dry up.

Apparently, everyone in town attended the second meeting and expected more than simple information. So, the team had to pay for 50 meals! Despite this, some high up muckety muck (I’m not clear whether Jordanian or from Ecodit or USAID) said this was the most successful meeting in his past year. So clearly this project team is doing good work!

There is a tiny Asian woman who came into the meeting to ask if anyone wanted Turkish coffee, which she then carried in on a lace covered tray. I had seen her earlier in the office kitchen, where she saved me when I started to put hot rather than cold water into a glass from a water dispenser.

The focus of this project is for “individuals in NGOs, CBO’s, government ministries municipalities, utilities and other agencies and organizations demonstrate the competence and skills to develop, implement and evaluate a social marketing program addressing water, energy and solid waste issues in households, among large consumers, and among youth.”

To this end, there is technical assistance (Mobadda, Reem, Lina, Maha K., Fadi, and Ghassen), grants and contracts (Yasmin, Shireen, and Riham), training and capacity building (Maha D and me!), Monitoring & Evaluation and Assessments. Mona led the staff meeting and made assignments. She must be the second in command, because the first in command (director or Chief of Party) position is just now being filled. That is why Cassie, who is home office liaison and coordinator, has spent so much time in Amman filling in.

Deb in Amman March 19


I forget to mention an extraordinary thing I observed when we visited Pella. Our male waiter was wearing shoes that had greatly extended pointed toes that turned upward at a 45-degree angle! According to Mona, that is the new fashion!

I spent the day with Maha D. (not to be confused with Maha K.) (re)designing a one-day training program on social marketing. The concept of social marketing is fascinating because the focus in on changing a specific individual behavior that will benefit either water or energy conservation or solid waste management.

Both in Lagos and here in Amman, they have dual flush toilets. One social behavior that a US AID grantee might focus on could be using the least amount of water necessary when flushing. Or turning off lights when not in a room. Or gathering picnic materials rather than littering in a park.

According to Wikipedia
“Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good. Social marketing can be applied to promote merit goods, or to make a society avoid demerit goods and thus to promote society’s well-being as a whole. For example, this may include asking people not to smoke in public areas, asking them to use seat belts, or prompting to make them follow speed limits.
Although “social marketing” is sometimes seen only as using standard commercial marketing practices to achieve non-commercial goals, this is an over-simplification.
The primary aim of social marketing is “social good”, while in “commercial marketing” the aim is primarily “financial”. This does not mean that commercial marketers cannot contribute to achievement of social good.
Increasingly, social marketing is being described as having “two parents”—a “social parent” = social sciences and social policy, and a “marketing parent” = commercial and public sector marketing approaches.
Beginning in the 1950s when Weibe asked “Why can’t you sell brotherhood and rational thinking like you can sell soap?”, it has in the last two decades matured into a much more integrative and inclusive discipline that draws on the full range of social sciences and social policy approaches as well as marketing.
Shaklee Corporation, who pioneered social marketing over 50 years ago, has trademarked the term “Social Marketing.”
Maha D. had a tough time explaining the 4 P’s of marketing and how they pertained to behavior change. The 4 P’s, for those of you who, like myself, know nothing about marketing, are Product, Price, Place and Promotion.
Here are the descriptions of the 4 P’s from Mona:
Product refers to the desired behavior you are asking of the audience, associated benefits of doing the desired behavior and any tangible objects or services that support or facilitate the desired behavior.
Price refers to the cost and barriers the target audience faces when changing to the promoted behavior. Non-monetary costs, such as physical, emotional, time and/or psychological cost should also be considered. The benefits of changing to the new behavior must be greater than the cost in order for the target audience to adopt it.
Place refers to where the target audience will perform the desired behavior or where the product or service is made available to the target audience. Place is often associated with the problem if it is geographic.
Promotion refers to persuasive communications designed and delivered to inspire your target audience to action.
I’ll be working with Maha D. and Maha K. to design this training, which I anticipate titling Creating a Social Marketing Campaign. It will have to include modules on change management (a topic with which I am comfortable and have content) as well as the 4 P’s.
It is really interesting how simple things create unanticipated difficulties. For example, in my detailed instructions for the 5 day train the trainer program, I indicated my preference that the materials be in 3-ring binders rather than individually stapled. Well, they don’t have 3-ring binders in Jordan (only 2 and 4 ring) and the staff was very stressed over how they would accommodate my need. I felt terrible when I understood the problem.
I also indicated a preference for each document to be printed in a different color, to make them easier for participants to locate. A fellow came in with a variety of colored paper, but not enough colors to comply with my request. He joked (at least I think he was joking) that he would have to go to Syria and Egypt to find other colors. Luckily, he did have other colors that we could also use.

My printing instructions for my Train the Trainer program are difficult enough for English-speaking folks to follow. I didn’t think about how incredibly difficult they would be in translation.
There will be 50 participants (split into two 5-day sessions). Each person needs a copy of each day’s materials plus two reference packets plus approximately 10 associated individual documents.
Then, on two days, the participants will be evaluating each other- so that is 50 participants x 50 copies for each day, or a total of 5, 400 pages (if my math is correct, so you might want to check it..)
In addition, there are activity material pages with 2-3 different pages. These involve 3 or 7 people at a time, so we only need 17 or 10 sets. Explaining this strained all communications, so for ease they are going to print enough for each person and then discard the extra pages. But this is an incredibly expensive way to resolve the problem.

Deb in Amman March 20

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 stores 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…

Deb in Amman March 21

What a busy and hectic day this was. I met with Maha D., Fadi, and Ghassan to coach them on presentation skills. They are all bright, articulate, very pleasant and gracious people who sincerely want to become better presenters. We had a good session of several hours, if you don’t count the innumerable interruptions by staff with questions, and IT person to figure out why my laptop wasn’t receiving any internal email and couldn’t communicate with the printer, grantee meetings, preparations for a big symposium tomorrow, a visit by the acting Chief of Party Kareem, and multiple crises in regard to attendance and materials for the train the trainer. After 2.5 hours of this, we finally locked the conference room door!

Then I worked the rest of the day on lesson plans for Product, Price, Place and Promotion, as well as making major revisions to the first day lesson plan on Situational Analysis. I’m used to working at my home office without any interruption for long hours on end. Working in this office, where Lina had continual questions about materials and logistics and Maha D. had continual questions about attendees and class size, was like looking at a strobe light!

The biggest train the trainer crisis was that some grantees or donors (I’m not sure which, but they were high mucky mucks) insisted on attending the program and Mona said that we should increase the number of participants to 35! Lina, the office manager, thought that it was a simple matter of bringing in another table. I had to show her the math- that we could barely manage 10 videotaped sessions in one day.

So, the next thought was to have a third train the trainer and for me to stay another week to facilitate that. After that somewhat stressful possibility was raised, then the word came that the office staff should not attend the training. Maha D. has not sent out any confirmations to any participants for the training that starts on Sunday because she doesn’t know how many people to allow in that session!

If the office staff cannot attend the train the trainer, then I made a poor decision with the presentation training session this morning. I only took them through content and activities that do not occur during the train the trainer, saying that they would get the rest at that program. Now I’m going to have to figure out a time to give them the rest of the content- assuming the final decision is not to allow them to attend the train the trainer.

I have to tell you about Fadi. He is a blogger and maintains the office website. He also conducts training on social media. Besides this, he is an actor and a published author- of a book dealing with Violence against women in Jordan!!! He was at a book club meeting last night and the women who took great offense at his apparent attack on their culture, their religion and their values, were very vociferous. The women who appreciated his book reportedly snuck out rather than staying to defend him. The poor guy.
I asked him why in the world he would be surprised by the angry resistance. He agreed that he should have anticipated it, but had enjoyed a warm welcome at a previous book club.

Today is Mother’s Day in Jordan and it is a VERY big deal. Maha D, who has two children, received congratulatory calls every few minutes all day long!

This evening, Cassie invited me to accompany her and Kareem to a good Italian restaurant just about a block from the hotel. Kareem never made it (he was visiting family) and Cassie and I had a devil of a time getting a table because the restaurant was booked solid for Mother’s Day. They offered us one table that was almost in the kitchen and definitely in the path of every waiter. However, we took it and the food was excellent and the service wonderful. As a matter of fact, the maître de assumed that I was Cassie’s mother- wished me a Happy Mother’s Day- and gave me a white rose! Isn’t that nice? Cassie was also very sweet, treating me to dinner

The only (major) drawback to our dining experience is that it became very smoky with cigarettes. I had to jump in the shower as soon as we got back to the hotel.

My big news is that I am planning to go to the Dead Sea on Friday. It is about an hour away from Amman and I’ve been given very clear instructions- not to stay in the water longer than 20 minutes (because the salt content is so hard on the skin), to cover myself with the black mud, etc., etc. They told me that the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. I’ll have to check that out on the web.

Anyway, a taxi driver they know and like (I’d tell you his name if I actually knew it, maybe Abdul?) will drive me there, where I’ll stay for a few hours, and then drive me back to Amman.

I had originally thought about going to Petra, which is several hours away. That would entail sleeping over. I could pack up all of my stuff (which I just spent several hours ironing!!!), check out of this hotel, check into a hotel in Petra, then check back into this hotel. If I did that, Ecodit would pay.

Cassie told me that she just goes for the night, gets a room at a hotel in Petra but retains her room here at the Intercontinental. She ends up paying for the stay in Petra, but avoids all the hassle and inconvenience of checking out and back in. That was what I planned to do, going on Friday and coming back on Saturday- until Lina reminded me that I needed to set up for the training beginning on Sunday. I’ve been here just under a week and I definitely have not adjusted to the idea of Friday and Saturday being the weekend.

So, Petra will have to wait until after both weeks of training are over.

I also want to walk to Rainbow Street, which is about a 30-minute walk from the hotel. It is in the old section of the city and has lots of restaurants and shops. I keep hoping I’ll get back to the hotel with enough daylight left (and enough energy!) to go there. Today we didn’t leave the office until after 6 p.m., so we got back to the hotel after dark. I’ll have to wait for a weekend day (maybe Saturday either before or after we set up for the training- with the participant number hopefully known by then).

Tomorrow, I need to finish the lesson plan for the third day of the Social Marketing training, meet with Fadi as my subject matter expert to design training on social media, meet with the two trainers who we scheduled to handle videotaping in separate rooms (when we knew we had 30 participants) so I can brief them on how I would like them to handle the feedback sessions after each participant in the room facilitates a 10 minute participatory learning activity of their own design, discuss whatever Kareem and Mona decide regarding staff training and any extension of my contract, review the participant binder that Lina puts together, remember to pull out the extra copies of the various role play games that participants are not supposed to have in their binders, meet with Cassie to be coached on how to complete the USAID Ecodit expense report- I think that’s the morning…

Oh, another funny thing- at least funny to me. I have been wrapping scarves around my neck so that it is covered, because I believed that Muslim women did not show their chest or neck. Then I was chatting with Maha K. and realized that her neckline was similar to mine. So, I’m not going to worry about scarves any more. I’m terrible at draping them with any semblance of class.

But I’m not the only one who has difficulty with covering up. For the past few days, I’ve watched as Maha D’s headscarf slowly slid back from her forehead, showing her hairline in the front. She is continually adjusting the scarf. What a pain in the neck it must be! I haven’t spent any time with any of the other women who wear traditional headscarves, so I don’t know if she is typical or not.

Regarding how chaotic the office is- it seems to be due in part to Mona, who is brilliant and creative, and changes her mind several times on the same issue- leaving the poor staff scrambling to keep up and adjust. She is apparently under great pressure from USAID for results within very tight and unreasonable timelines. They just seem to be operating in a continual crisis mode. Of course, they have many projects going on at the same time, including a $1.5 million exhibit on water and energy that they are building for the local children’s museum (I just found out about this project at dinner tonight).

Cassie is leaving very early Friday morning (her flight is at 8:30 a.m. so she has to leave the hotel by 5:00 a.m.) Sometime this weekend (I guess that means either Friday or Saturday!) another Ecodit staffer will be coming to work on the children’s museum project because the architects are bringing prototypes of the exhibits and interactive games. This is Meredith Frances, who is the very person who sent me a RFP for additional work with Ecodit. Cassie has given me instructions to plan a trip with Meredith while she’s here.

Speaking of traveling, Kareem came here from Lebanon, where he is the Chief of Party (Director) for Ecodit Lebanon. He looks like a Danish choirboy but clearly has a firm rein on the project and the staff when he is in Amman. He said that he used to make the 5 hour drive from Lebanon to Amman and that it was a very pleasant drive, with only 4 checkpoints- 1 as you leave Lebanon, 1 as you enter “no man’s land”, 1 as you leave no man’s land, and 1 as you enter Jordan.

However, because of the problems in Syria, he needs to fly (it is a 45 minute flight)- and the 4 daily flights are booked solid because other people no longer feel safe driving.

Cassie told me this evening that she was very surprised when she was in Beirut because it is very cosmopolitan and people speak French.

I’m sorry, talk about stream of consciousness and random thoughts.

Deb in Amman, March 22


After playing for your sympathy about how busy my day would be in the office today, all I needed to do this morning was to complete the Day 3 lesson plan, make arrangements to go to the Dead Sea tomorrow, and meet with Cassie for coaching on how to complete the invoice and expense reports for this trip. At 9:30 or so, almost everyone left the office on a bus to go to a World Water Day conference. So, the office has been very very quiet- what a change! It certainly made creating a lesson plan a lot easier!

I am planning to go to the Dead Sea tomorrow. Omar, Abu Rashad’s nephew, will pick me up at the hotel at 10 a.m. He is charging me 50 JD for the round trip.

We’ll get to the Dead Sea by 11 and I’ll stay until 3 or so. Mona had suggested that I consider spending the night or at least getting a day room at one of the hotels, to save money and to ensure I had somewhere to shower and rest.

However, Mamoud told me all I need to do is get a voucher at the Marriott Hotel (for 40 JD) that will give me access to the beach, shower, lunch, changing room, beach chair and towel, etc.

I had been thinking I might not go, because, to tell you the truth, I’m very tired. But Mona assured me that the Dead Sea was a perfect place to go, because it is very restful to float in the water and then sit on the beach. She advised me not to stay in the Sea more than 10 minutes and several people have cautioned me NOT to put my face in the water. So, I won’t.

She also suggested that I use the Marriott spa and take advantage of their services. For example, to get a massage (just not from the Korean masseur that Richard goes to, because he really pounds your body!) I’ve only been to a spa once in my life and, to tell you the truth, I could take it or leave it.

A massage sounds very appealing, but since I have some degeneration in my neck, the wrong move could easily end up hurting a nerve. So clearly I’ve already decided against a massage! Now, if they do a foot massage, I think that might be terrific (having never had one before). I’ll go and I’ll see what’s what. Or I’ll simply stay by the water and go for a walk.

She discussed the fact that, due to the decrease in tourism, the hotels at the Dead Sea have really hiked their rates. When her husband, Richard, went there to go bicycling and wanted to simply leave his car in their parking lot, he had to pay 50 JD.

She was surprised when I told her that Abu Rashad was charging me 50 JD for the trip, because she remembered it as being 25 JD. However, since the government took away whatever kept the gas prices low, gas has almost doubled in price. So, the increase in the taxi fare makes perfect sense.

Mona also told me the best way to manage going to Petra- leave Amman on Thursday night and come back on Friday night or Saturday morning. That would leave enough time on Saturday afternoon to set up for the training. She also told me that the hotel might let me leave my things in my room and not charge me while I am in Petra. I’ll be very interested to see if that will actually occur!

Cassie told me that since Jordan PAP has consultants coming and going continually, and they all stay at the Intercontinental (or the Intercon as folks here refer to it)- so the office has a great relationship with the hotel. Hmmm…

Okay. The latest information I have about how many people will be in the training: we need to accommodate any grantees, so we will have 30 in each class. This may or may not include some of the office staff.

If all or some cannot attend, then I am to give an accelerated version to them on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before I leave at 2:45 AM!!! on Wednesday morning, April 11th.

To show you how gracious folks are, when I tried to call Abu Rashad back to schedule the trip to the Dead Sea, I inadvertently called Mohammad, our office driver. He was perfectly willing to come in his own car and drive me there- until I realized, when he said: ”It makes me happy to do it, Madame Deborah” that I had reached him rather than Abu. What a sweetheart! And no, obviously I’m not going to take advantage of his generosity. He has two little girls at home, plus a pregnant wife, and he needs all of the weekend time he can get!

Cassie goes back tomorrow morning and I’m really going to miss her friendship and energy. It’s not the same as it was with Tricia, because we both left Lagos on the same day. I would have sorely missed Tricia (even more than Cassie) if she had gone and I had been left on my own in Lagos. Tricia was my mainstay both in and out of the hotel.

But Mona is very friendly, so is Jasmine and Maha D- and actually everyone else in the office, so I’ll be just fine. And since two other (female) consultants will be coming- one this weekend and the other the following weekend, I’m sure that I’ll have plenty of company for adventuring in and around Amman.

Oh, there was a huge story in the Jordan Times today about the trip the staff took to interview the inhabitants of two places where the springs are drying up. The story was accompanied by several pictures taken by the staff and a very long write up of the problems and some of the folks’ comments. They used to have lush orchards and now they can only grow olive trees, which are also failing. Since these are farming communities, many are starting to plan to move to the cities for work.

I was reading over Cassie’s shoulder. In the future, I’m going to have to pick up an English version of the Jordan Times to know what is happening in the area. Another headline I saw was that “there are no more mines in Jordan.” However, she read further and found out that won’t be true until the end of May.

In Madison, I only skim the headlines of the Wisconsin State Journal online, and read the articles that interest me. It seems like it would be prudent to know on a daily basis what is going on in this region- since I certainly can’t understand the Arab news stations.

Remember that I mentioned getting a very small jar of (creamy) peanut butter at a mini mart the other day? I had no idea how to gesture that I would prefer chunky peanut butter! Well, according to Mohammad, our driver, there are three centers where Jordanians in Amman can pay to learn English. It is not taught in the schools.

So, it’s pretty obvious that the folks in the office are very unique in having English language skills (some more proficient than others, of course). In general, it is very unlikely I am going to meet Jordanians who speak English, other than in the hotels and larger restaurants.

Well, I’m waiting for the office folks to get back (probably not for another hour, which will make it at least 1:30 p.m.) to order lunch. My stomach is still programmed to be hungry at 11:30 a.m. so I’m starving! The apple I brought from the breakfast buffet is only a distant memory at this point.

Deb in Amman, March 22 p.m.


There was a man in the elevator this morning who was laden down with three rucksacks. I asked him if he was camping and he replied that he had been touring- to the Dead Sea, Aqaba and Petra. He was taking back souvenirs. His souvenir from the Dead Sea was salt. On another floor, my touring partner got into the elevator with his rucksacks.

It wasn’t until they got out and I saw the back of their sacks- US ARMY.

When I got to the office, Maha D informed me that there will be 30 participants in each round of train the trainer classes.

We met with the acting Chief of Party, Kareem. I was incredibly nervous in front of this man who exudes authority while looking like a Dutch choirboy. He turned out to be a true micromanager. For example, we discussed training design templates that I suggested be available in word and he suggested should be in Arabic. Converting a table from English to Arabic involves reversing the table because they read from right to left. He told her to reverse the table, told her what that meant exactly (!), directed her to highlight the areas the participants should fill in (using a light gray)… I’m sure you get the picture.

He was very gracious to me, but clearly had no comprehension of participatory training. He questioned Maha why it took a day to design the one-day Situational Analysis training.

He wants to provide some training to the staff and asked me to condense the 5-day program. I thought he wanted a three-day program. Nope. Just one day.

At that point, I told him that I would give him the agendas and learning objectives for the first four days of the training (since the fifth day is almost totally devoted to facilitation practice. I suggested he circle the content he believed would be important for the staff.

Then I ran into difficulties with printing again. They called in the technical guy, who finally fixed it so I could print on the Kyosera (which I had been using) as well as a color Xerox. When I tried to print on the Xerox, something happened and the printer began spitting out page after page of code. I kid you not, it had printed almost 100 pages before we got it to stop!

Anyway, when I gave the information to Kareem, he said he would share it with Mona and the two of them would make the content decision. Later, Maha D informed me that he wants them to learn lesson design and the content of Day 4, which includes presentation, motivation, and overcoming participant resistance.

I pride myself on being a miracle worker, but even I can’t jam pack all of that content into one day. I’m going to talk with Maha on Saturday when we are setting up for the train the trainer. I’d like two days with the staff. Let’s see if we can get Mona to agree. She is second in command and the only manager on site since Kareem had to go back to Lebanon.

Cassie treated the entire staff to a very late 2:30 pm lunch with falafel, humus, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, fruit salad, bread (piles of round bread bigger than a pizza, from which we all pulled off chunks to dip in the humus), and a cheesecake for dessert. Their humus is incredibly tasty! I even ate 4 small falafels, which tells you how hungry I must have been since that is typically not my favorite thing.

While we ate, we watched a video made of the staff trip to the two areas where the springs are running dry. GrayScale, a production company, made it and it was spectacular, with music, interviews, and photos of the springs. It was very impressive. PAP Jordan will use it any number of ways, including putting it on their website.

Then Maha D drove me in her car to meet with the three trainers who will be assisting with the videotaping on the fifth day of the train the trainer. Rama, Eman and Eman all work for the Civil Society Program-Jordan (CSP). They were all bright, articulate and knowledgeable about participatory training.

This is also a USAID funded project that focuses on institutional capacity building for NGOs (non-government organizations), advocacy to create social change, and the creation of an environment that supports economic and social reform.

They discussed the problem of trainers who have no training and no knowledge of the topic- who think that they can train on anything. So CSP has been working on getting the trainers to specialize on one topic on which they are knowledgeable and establishing criteria for trainer accreditation. To this end, they review the lesson plans, the training content and learning activities, among other things.

They provide train the trainer programs with Global Learning Partners (a consulting firm) that end with videotaped practice. However, they limit the participants to 10 or 11 and each person has an opportunity to facilitate a 30-minute activity (rather than the 10 minutes I can allow). They sympathized with the difficulties I’ll face with 30 in the class.

It was a real pleasure to meet and chat with them. They gave me a CD in English and Arabic titled “Training Management Manual for Civil Society Organizations.” It is very thorough and well written, spanning anything and everything related to training management, design, facilitation, evaluation, marketing, creating a training office- with lots of examples and suggested activities. I’m definitely going to treasure it and refer to it.

They asked me to let them know which day or days might be best for them to stop in and watch the training. I wrote back to them after I got to the office.

When we got back to the office at 5:30 (long past the time Maha usually picks up her two little girls from daycare, so her husband had to cover for her), Lina had everything packed and ready to go to set up for the training that starts on Sunday.

The word came that we can get into the hotel (where the training will be) at 2 p.m. on Saturday. This is great news, since the other possibility, if there was going to be a wedding at the hotel that day, would be to get to the training room very early on Sunday to set up.

It sounds like I’ll have at least two and maybe three people to help set up, which is great.

Random information:

I’ve been having a devil of a time getting out of cars here. It’s like climbing out of a low sports car, even though they are sedans.

The curbs are very high, so high that the cars have to park away from them if people want to be able to open their door.

There is a very tall fellow in complete Bedouin regalia who comes in late afternoon and sits on ornate pillows in the hotel entryway, serving coffee in tiny cups (must be Turkish coffee). We’re usually not in the hotel at that time, but I have caught a glimpse of him once or twice. Before that, Cassie and I had wondered why there was a hot plate and tiny cups there!

My rose is still in bud form. It is off white with a green tinge along the petals. It is so beautiful.

This will be a relatively brief message since I’ve written reams about my trip to the Dead Sea on March 23. You’ll be getting both at the same time.

Deb in the Dead Sea, March 23

What a day!

First, I tried to get money from my checking account from the ATM right next to the hotel (from which I had previously obtained money) and it would not let the transaction go through.

When Omar, my driver, showed up, we went to six different ATMs and four of them were not in service and the one that was would not accept my transaction.

I was thinking that I would have to cancel my trip to the Dead Sea, because my understanding was that I was going to need at least 200 JD (and I only had 150 JD) However, Omar saved the day. He told me about a beach that cost only 16 JD to enter (instead of the 60 JD that the Marriott would charge). Then I paid 1.5 JD each for a locker and a towel. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was simply a deposit that I received back when I returned the locker key and towel.

On the way, which took less than an hour, Omar told me about his children: twin 4 year olds, a 2.5 year old and a 1.5 year old, with another one on the way. He explained that Arabs like large families- and like to have the children one after the other.

That makes Mohammad, my driver from the airport, that much more unique in his concern that his wife not have more than 3 children.

Omar was born in Salt and is a Bedouin, so he has a swarthy complexion. He explained that when he was ready to have a wife, his mother and sister arranged for him to visit with the father and brother of the woman they had in mind for him. Omar only saw this woman for 2 minutes when she came in to bring coffee for the men and then left without speaking. Her father immediately asked Omar whether she was acceptable, and Omar said yes.

He was then able to visit with her in her father’s house, but nowhere else. No dating, no going for coffee or to a movie.

I asked him if the woman was able to say “no” and apparently she has no say in the matter, it is simply between the father and the potential husband.

On the way, we saw a large herd of goats with curled horns right in the city of Amman as well as outside the city. There were trucks piled high with tomatoes and lots of small farm stands. One enterprising farmer had parked his truck so you would see the side of the truck as you came down the road. He had arranged some kind of large lettuce all along the top of the truck. It looked very festive. And the fruits and vegetables available in the Jordan valley are lush.

We also saw Bedouins on camels! And on the way back, I saw a herd (is it called a herd?) of camels. Very exciting for me!

While we drove, Omar pointed out where we could see Palestine, gave me the name of mountains (I didn’t get that one down), pointed out the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley, and showed me when we went below sea level. The gradient on the road is very steep, so you can actually feel your ears close up as you’re driving!

Once at the beach, Omar knew everyone and shepherded me through paying for my ticket (he checked to make sure I got the correct change), and getting a towel and a key for a locker. Then he advised me not to buy anything at the shops there because he knew of a place where the items were less than half price, plus he got a 20% discount because he knew them there. He pointed me toward the changing room and off I went.

I only took the towel, water and my glasses down to the beach. Going down meant walking on a long flight of very uneven stone stairs. By the way, although it had been 16 C (I don’t know what that is off hand) in Amman, here at the Dead Sea it was 33 C- very hot!

The water is beautiful and it is absolutely true that you can lie down and it holds you up. It is also very cold! It is very very difficult to swim or even to right yourself after floating because of the salt content. At the water’s edge there are large blocks of salt.

When I got out of the water, I noticed people smeared with black mud. Cassie had told me that this was what one was supposed to do. I kept looking around to see where people got the mud and finally asked a young Chinese man (who was covered from head to toe!). He pointed out a place where they sell the mud for 3 JD per person.

So, I had to go back up the long flight of stairs to go get my bag with my money. Then back down to mud up. The Chinese fellow happened by and helped me mud my back. Then an American couple came over to put mud on their faces (1 JD per person) and the woman offered to take a photo of me.

Then I baked in the sun for a while and when the mud was cracking (not a good look, as if wet mud is any better!) I went into the water and tried to wash off. You can’t hunker down in the water because it keeps popping you up again- but I managed. Without a mirror, I’m not sure it all came off.

I trucked back up the hill to an outside shower, where a man had a hose and hosed me down. I was taken aback when he squatted down, increased the pressure of the water and aimed in right at my crotch- for several minutes. He also pointed the hose down the front of my bathing suit and the back. This was a very awkward situation for me. I really didn’t know if he was making sure that my tender parts were not covered with salt- and/or he was getting his kicks with the ancient American lady.

After that, I went back down the hill and sat in my towel (I had no cover up or hat) and read and took photos of people reading a paper while floating (!) and many different men and women. The very religious women did walk into the water, getting the hems of their dresses wet.

There were oodles of beautiful young Chinese women who had a ball getting mudded and floating. Omar told me later that this is the time when there are a lot of tourists from China, Malaysia and I think he said Pakistan. I mentioned that some folks nearby were speaking French and he said a few French and other Europeans come now.

It was lovely to sit near the water and listen to the gently lapping waves (very small waves). I could have sat there for the rest of the day, but I did get worried about how much sun I was getting.

So, back up the hill. There I saw that there were few people in this very large pool, so I put all of my stuff into my locker so I would be unencumbered and could go for a swim.
There were two little boys waiting to use the ladder, on which a non-Jordanian man was standing while he chatted with his friends.

When I got there, he moved off the ladder and I waved the little boys to go ahead. The older boy (maybe 7 or 8) nodded no and gestured for me to go first. In the meantime, the littler one (maybe 4) had started down the ladder. The older boy berated the younger boy, pulled him off the ladder so I could go down first.

The water in the pool was very cold and clear. I swam for 10 minutes or so and then I was done. I went into the changing room and saw only one shower open, which didn’t have a curtain. I used it anyway, and then went to put my clothing on. It was difficult to find anywhere to put anything down, because there were maybe 6-8 Chinese girls there with their bags, etc. spread out everywhere. I got dressed and was thankful that the towel had been packaged in a large plastic bag, because I was able to put my wet swimsuit in it.

(If you are thinking that I was incredibly unprepared for this trip- and should have had a cover up, sunscreen, a hat, and a bag for my wet suit- you’re absolutely right. Working in the office until 6 p.m. every day seriously lessens the likelihood of daylight by the time I get to the hotel. And I’m not going to walk to a store in the dark.

I did have sunscreen when I was in Nigeria, but I packed it in the bag to go back with Tricia. I thought it was going to be winter here.

I have to admit that I almost dozed in the car on the way back, I was so relaxed. Then we stopped at the store Omar had recommended. It was fantastic. Upon entering, a man gave me some wonderful cream for my hands. Then there were all sorts of things to see.

Omar had them try to work with the card that I use to take money out of my checking account, but of course that didn’t work. (I had left my credit cards back at the hotel). When I told them their items were lovely, but I was going to have to come back when I had money, they assured me there was no problem.

The plan was that Omar would take me back to the hotel, where I could get the money for them. At that point, I was very concerned that the ATM would still not be in operation and that I wouldn’t be able to give them the money. They solved that problem by deciding that one of them would ride back to the city with us to swipe my charge card in the hotel!

I probably spent much too much in the store, but they kept giving me huge discounts. There were lots of buy 2, get the third one “free,” and I purchased enough that they threw in some of my items for free. I now have some spectacular gifts, predominantly made by Bedouins. And for those of you who know my shopping habits, you may be surprised to learn that there is neither jewelry or clothing among my purchases!

Now I’m back at the hotel, sunburnt and fed. I ordered room service as soon as I got here, because I never had any lunch. I just took some buns and fruit to the Dead Sea and decided not to eat at the restaurant there because, at that time, I wasn’t hungry.

On the drive, Omar told me about different places to visit and gave me a book on Jordan that was so lovely I purchased one for myself when we got to the store. The plan for next weekend (I think) is to leave Thursday night (we’ll see if I have the energy to do this after conducting training for five days for 30 people!!). We would drive to Wadi Rum, which is more than half way to Petra. There, I will have Bedouin food, watch them dance and also watch a simulated wedding. Omar told me that the sunset and the sunrise there are very beautiful.

In the morning (not too long after sunrise, I imagine) we’ll drive to Petra and stay the night. On Saturday, we would drive back to Amman- with enough time so I’ll be able to set up for the second round of training that begins on Sunday.

The following weekend, we spoke about going to Aqaba, where I will be able to snorkel in the Red Sea, within sight of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. “The Red Sea is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, offering some of the most colorful sea life anywhere.” (I’m quoting from the book).

So, that’s my news!

Deb in Amman, March 24


This morning at breakfast I watched a woman come in with her husband. He was wearing a tee shirt and she was entirely covered up so that the only thing you could see was her eyes.

They ended up sitting very close to me and I was curious to see how she managed to eat. When I first looked at her, she had removed her veil so that I could see her entire face. However, once her husband sat down, she put her veil down and ate by bringing her food under her veil. That can’t be an easy way to eat!

It was a beautiful day (most of them have been) so I decided to walk to Rainbow Street, which is one of the oldest sections of Amman. On the way, I passed the Embassy of Turkey, the Embassy of Iraq, and a huge area that was apparently the King Hussein Club. All three places had armed guards.

I also passed a grocery store and promised myself I would look for my chunky peanut butter on the way back.

Cassie had told me it would take 30 minutes to get there, but I got there in 20 and decided to walk to the end, which was down a very steep hill. There are lots of cafes and shops all along it. There are also excellent panoramic views of the city, so of course I took some photos.

When I got to the end of Rainbow Street, I decided to explore a side street that went up a steep hill. I was able to see some of the Roman ruins on another hill. There is also a huge Roman amphitheater in Amman, but I haven’t been near that yet (at least I don’t think I have). Luckily, this long steep side street emptied out onto Rainbow Street, so I didn’t get lost. If it hadn’t, I would have had to retrace my steps.

It was very very warm, so off came my hoodie, and even then my thin cotton shirt was almost too much. I did stop into the grocery and spent some time in a fruitless (or should I say peanut-butter-less) search. It wasn’t until I went to check out (with two sodas and some fig cookies) that I saw lots of peanut butter. I purchased two- one is chunky (which is very peanutty and great) and the other is crunchy- I’ll have to see what that tastes like later.

Mohammad came to pick me up at 2:45 to go to the office and meet Lina and pick up the rest of the training materials. Lina didn’t get there until after 4 p.m., because she was getting one of the video cameras fixed. In the meantime, Mohammad told me about how he met his wife.

He had been in love with her for 3 years (she went to school with one of his sisters). When it was time to marry, his mother went to check her out. Then Mohammad went to meet her father, very nervous about what her father would say. His father ultimately gave Mohammad the green light to meet and have coffee and talk with his possible wife-to-be. It wasn’t exactly clear to me whether or not she had a real say in this- I think she did.

Then the families came together to meet, with the men in one place and the women in the other. The chief man (I’m assuming that meant the oldest?) for each family conferred and agreed to the marriage. Mohammad said he cried when he was given approval to marry his beloved. Then Mohammad was able to go and put a ring on his wife’s finger.

Mohammad is apparently from Palestine and he said that Palestinians prefer to have these celebrations in their home rather than at a hotel.

We also discussed my trip to the Dead Sea and Mohammad said he would be happy to taxi me in his own car. With a third child on the way, I’m sure he needs the money. So, I’ll arrange any future trips with him.

Once Tina got to the office and Mohammad had loaded everything up, we went to the hotel where the training was scheduled. The staff there were incredibly accommodating, moving heavy tables, helping put things on the walls, checking the LCD projector and laptop hook up, and bringing in extra flip chart easels and paper, taping down wires, etc.

Maha was there with her little girls, Miriam and Sarah- I think 5 and 3. They helped put items on the tables and put up the kites. I had to split up what I’d packed to make sure that we would have enough for both classes. I’m glad that I always pack more than I need, but even so there will not be everything for everyone in the class by any means.

The training site is in a kind of ballroom, which meant that there really wasn’t a long wall on which to put my agenda map. We put it up on a far wall, but no one was going to be able to see it.

The ultimate solution was to get three double dividers made of wood and tape the agenda map on four places where the room dividers created a V. It’s far from perfect but much better than the alternative.

Then I had to write the learning objectives for all five days on flip charts (the participants will be putting stickers next to the objectives of greatest significance to them), which took some time. Miriam and Sarah had a ball with the extra Koosh balls and other items in one of the suitcases, making lines and then designs. At one point, Miriam took out the balloons I use on the 4th day so she could count them as she put them back in. Miriam was very helpful (Sarah not so much..) but they are absolutely adorable and were incredibly patient.

It was 7:30 by the time we were done and Lina took me to Rainbow Street to eat sharma, which is chopped chicken or meat (probably lamb or goat) mixed with spices and placed in a rolled flat bread. I ate everything but it wasn’t my favorite dish. I really missed having a salad, which I’ll have to eat tomorrow for dinner.

We had a long chat. She is 28, is divorced and has an 11 year old. As a divorced woman, she is not looked on with favor. She has no option to date so either she gets married or continues to live with her parents. We shared our experiences as single parents.

Lina is a beautiful tiny woman. It’s a shame that her culture constrains her options so much. She is also a very dedicated office manager. When I asked her about taking a vacation, she said that she was responsibility for logistics, so she was needed in the office. But it’s clear that she does socialize and have fun- including at the office, where she enjoys everyone. She played Arabic music for me in the car (which is a huge 4 x 4 that she expertly maneuvered through very narrow streets).

The music was very catchy and upbeat. I’m going to upload it into my computer tomorrow so I can play it during the training. She said that if I did that, they would get up and dance. I’m not sure if she was joking or not, so I guess we’ll see what happens.

Well, it’s been a very long and enervating day, so I’m going to take a shower and go to bed! Wish me luck tomorrow!

Deb in Amman, March 25


This was my first day of the 5-day train the trainer: Designing and Delivering Dynamic Learning. This was also probably the 3rd time in 30 years of training that I did not complete the entire day’s scheduled content.

You may ask why and I will certainly tell you. Despite the fact that the training was publicized as being in English and despite the fact that the confirmation letter reaffirmed that the training would be in English- yes, you guessed it, there were at least 6 people who did not speak or understand English.

That meant that Maha D and Maha K were conscripted into translating all day, which was incredibly unfair to both of them. They had come as participants and were not able to participate. Other participants served as translators for people sitting next to them, so there was almost a continual buzz.

I had to speak very slowly and leave cartoons up for a while so they could read them and take a moment to understand them. With this and with the need for translation, the time for activities was doubled and often tripled. Simply having 30 people take a minute or so to introduce themselves ate up an hour alone. I can safely say that we are almost a half-day behind. I have to figure out how I’m going to handle it tomorrow so that we can catch up.

I didn’t feel that I could ask them to complete an evaluation form for today, since so much of the content is yet to be covered. They’ll just have to complete the evaluation forms for Day 1 and Day 2 tomorrow. However, I did have people vote with the fingers of one hand (5 fingers mean everything is great, down to 1 finger (being careful what finger that is) and the response was very positive. In fact, one woman has already invited me to do something as yet unspecified tomorrow night. Isn’t that nice?

My day had started rather stressfully. Lina had said that she would pick me up at 7:45. When she wasn’t there at 8, I asked one of the men outside who worked for the hotel to call her (I at least had her number). I was planning to take a taxi and then realized that I didn’t remember the name of the training hotel (Quality Suites), which would have made that option somewhat problematic.

Luckily, Lina arrived about 8:10- and the training was supposed to begin at 8:30…
She told me that she had left her home at 7:15 but the traffic was terrible- and she expected that others would be late. Yes, they were, so we had to start late.

The group is very warm and welcoming and sincerely interested. They’re enjoying the candy and kites, taking photos of the agenda map, and even making things with the pipe cleaners. They get and laugh at most of my cartoons. Getting them to turn off their phones and not keep checking text messages is a small problem.

When we finally got to the training hotel, there were two participants already there who immediately volunteered to help with last minute preparations (such as putting out the candy). I noticed that three Koosh and a glitter wand I had left on my table were gone, as were three other Koosh from the tables. I was not happy about that, since they had assured us that the room would be locked and no one would be entering it for any reason.

Maha D. got the hotel management involved and, at the end of the day, they told us that they had a video of the exit to the room and knew who had taken the items. They promised they would be returned tomorrow.

I began the training day by saying ”hello” and “welcome” in Arabic. They appreciated that- and then I immediately explained that was the extent of my Arabic and they laughed. That’s not exactly true. Thanks to Mohammad the driver, I know how to say important things (if I look at my crib sheet). These include- “no problem,” “I am hungry,” “hello (which is different for a man and for a woman),” and “goodbye,” “I probably should learn how to say “I’m lost and need to get back to the Intercontinental Hotel.”

The lunch buffet was spectacular, starting with an entire turkey! There must have been 5 different salad or vegetable dishes, as well as pasta dishes, other meat, humus, several types of breads, and rice. There was also a huge table filled with about ten different types of desserts. The salad, vegetables, turkey and rice that I had were delicious.

Most if not all of the participants represent organizations, associations or USAID projects focused on water and energy conservation, women’s issues, children’s issues, and green building.

Oh, Wail (an older man) told me about demonstrating a solar oven at the Death Sea the other day for journalists. I don’t remember what he cooked, but it took just an hour using the sun’s energy. He told me that Jordan is not interested in nuclear power since solar power is so much safer- and Jordan has mostly sunny days.

There was another interesting conversation after I mentioned coming from Nigeria. Mohammad and Wail made a comparison between the level of graft in Nigeria (very high) and in Jordan (not half as high) as well as the level of danger (as I’ve written, it’s unwise to walk alone in Nigeria) while most areas are very safe in Jordan.

Both of these men are engineers who travel all over the world. Wail had just returned from Libya, which he said needs everything- referring to organization, technology, etc.

Mohammad the driver picked me up at the hotel and took me “home.” When I told him about the stressful morning, bless his heart, he arranged for Tarek, the other driver, to pick me up tomorrow instead of Lina, with her approval. Hear me breathe a sigh of relief!

I told Mohammad about going out for shwarma with Lina the night before and he showed me a place that is just a block from the hotel, should I ever want any more. I asked him where the best place was to have mansaf, which is a national food made of lamb, vegetables and yogurt. He offered to take me to a restaurant that serves it tomorrow! So, you see how generous and kind everyone seems to be.

One glaring exception is the woman who takes our room number when we go into the breakfast buffet. Whereas the entire staff at the hotel in Nigeria were always smiling and greeting everyone in a very friendly and warm way, this woman is sullen and stolid and very unwelcoming. She is very definitely not a happy camper.

It’s really surprising, because even the people who screen us upon entry to the hotel smile and are very pleasant and friendly.

Oh, it was a nice surprise last night when I got into the shower. The housekeeper had left Dead Sea mud hair and body gel products for me in place of the standard (and quite nice) hotel issued products. I leave a good tip every day, which probably accounts in large part for this gesture.

I also had purchased and have been using some Dead Sea soft mud soap (although it is dark like mud, it doesn’t smell or feel that way) so that may have prompted the change. These products are supposed to have lots of good nutrients and minerals. I used some Dead Sea body lotion on my sunburn and it took the sting out immediately. I don’t look like a half boiled lobster any more. (The sunburn wasn’t that bad, but pretty close).

Well, I had better start work on tomorrow’s lesson before I get ready for bed. I’m totally pooped from today.

Deb in Amman, March 27


I didn’t write yesterday because I was just too tired. It took until just before lunch to complete the Day One content (designing learning objectives). Since lunch is at 1 p.m. and the class ends at 4 p.m., I had less than 2.5 hours to cram in the relevant Day Two content. Talk about pressure and stress. Luckily, Day Two is a relatively light day, otherwise I never could have accomplished it.

Yesterday, I laid down the law in the morning- that I could not cover the content adequately if folks didn’t get there on time. We are scheduled to start at 8:30 am and some folks don’t get there until 8:50 am or later. They are also rather lackadaisical in coming back from their 10-minute break (which is actually ridiculous, since the break food and beverage is situated in another space in the same large room.

We discussed options (starting and ending later), which was not happy for the many women who needed to pick up their babies (their husbands just don’t do that or much else, if anything, to assist with domestic chores). Everyone agreed that they would be there at 8:30.

Today, 8 people were there on time and it wasn’t until 8:55 that we had most of the class. I was not a happy camper at all, so we discussed it again. People claimed difficulty with traffic (which is a real issue) but others just advised folks to leave earlier.

Anyway, we accomplished most of the content and activities- and then I went back to the hotel and completely collapsed. I did try to figure out a way to accomplish the content that Kazim and Mona want for the staff train the trainer and determined there was no possible way to achieve that in one day.

I discussed this with Maha D, who recommended that I send Kazim an outline that indicates the time required- and if I made the program start at 9 and end at 3 every day, there was a good possibility he might approve the second day.

The good news is that Tarek now picks me up every day by 8 am or a little after, and he knows shortcuts that get us to the Quality Suites in 10 minutes!! So at least that stress is gone.

Today is the third day of the train the trainer and it is lots of fun. We started with a bingo-like game with questions related to the content from the first two days. They had never played this before and man, did they get into it. Of course, it was only supposed to take, at maximum, 30 minutes- and with this crew I had to stop them after an hour.

The high level of excitement, humor, competition and pure energy continued and spiked several times throughout the day.
Our process for the day was to experience a participatory activity, assess it, review a reference about it (that laid out what it was, how to use it, how long it might take, what its benefits were, which levels of learning were best achieved with the activity, and which learning styles were most appreciative of the activity), create it with the entire class, and then create another one individually (except for those who needed to work together for translation purposes).

We began with a focus question, then a questionnaire, a case study, a game (a relay race), and a role play/simulation activity (using Tinker Toys to make a merry-go-round). After I drew answers from the group to model how to create an activity, I would give them only 10-12 minutes to create their own.

They were wonderfully imaginative. And almost all of them volunteer to report their activity because I reward them with devil ducks, clappers, ecology ducks and/or Smarties candy.

They were amazed that participatory activities; (1) do not have to cost a thing, (2) are fun and easy to design, and (3) can be created in a very short time. Each of them left the class today with a focus question, questionnaire, case study and game they had created and can now use in their own training programs.

Tonight, I have yet to read all thirty of the complete lesson plans that they had for home practice last night. They had the choice of using a table lesson plan template or an outline lesson plan template. A complete lesson plan should include: title, learning goals (what the participants will learn and why they would care about it), learning objectives including key content, learning level and active verb), agenda, learning activities, AV, handouts and how the learning will be evaluated. I sure hope they’re great…

There is one woman in the class, whose name I don’t know, and whose English is very spotty- who is also just brilliant. She has comments and questions about absolutely everything, talks to me at almost every break, and has given me new perspectives on a number of things, bless her heart.

The group is very astute. It’s exciting to hear the comments of the folks who speak in Arabic, because I am continually amazed at how well they comprehend and can apply the content (once I hear the translation). Lots write kind notes and thank you’s on the evaluation forms.

The home practice for tonight is for the participants to identify a metaphor to use in their training to bring it alive, and then further enrich it with enhancements that engage as many senses as possible (to create an accelerated learning program). After their amazing game ideas, I expect great things from them!

Mona came to lunch to discuss the issues with the group (to try to minimize them with the next class). When I told her that the need for translation was eating up lots of training time, she went on an attack mode (haven’t you ever training in another country before?) My immediate response was that yes, I had, and we had had a translator in the room. The difference with this program is that the non-English speakers were unexpected and therefore, not accommodated. To which she replied that this always happens here in Jordan. And my response: then there should have been a translator scheduled and available.

We reached détente and ate lunch together. The warm person emerged and she talked about her concern for my health- and being able to relax on the weekend. I told her my health was fine, I was just completely exhausted. I also told her I was interested in going to Petra this weekend- and that Omar, the taxi driver who took me to the Dead Sea, had suggested sleeping in Wadi Rum on the way.

Mona got a strange look on her face. She then explained that I would have choices for sleeping arrangements. I could have my own tent (keeping in mind that it gets below freezing at night in the desert) and then share a bathroom with both men and women. If I didn’t wake up real early to get in the shower, I was likely to have only a trickle of water when it came my turn. She told me that this was the deluxe option!!!

The other option was to sleep in a huge tent with lots of men, women and children.

I think I’ll pass and just go straight to Petra…

One plan Mona had was to translate as much of the training as possible into Arabic for next Sunday. She asked me for the Power Point and sent some kind of USB device along with Mohammad for me to upload the program for him to take back to the office. Maha D and I discussed the fact that there were templates and documents that the participants really needed (since there is very little narrative on the slides). I ended up using my own thumb drive (since hers wouldn’t accept any transferred files) to give her about ten documents for translation.

I know that Lina will call me tomorrow to find out what to do with these documents.

There was a (black humor) funny moment today when Reena told me that she has to give three training programs in a row out in a distant village next week. She wanted to know how to keep her energy up. (The black humor part of this is that I was barely able to stand while we spoke!!!) So, I told her the tricks I know: avoid caffeine and sugar (because then you crash and feel worse afterwards), drink water continually to stay hydrated, try to find some quiet time (at breaks or at lunch, eating by yourself if at all possible) as well as an acting trick of swinging your arms as you bend over several times in a row.

I promised her that we would discuss this tomorrow, although with how to manage nervousness in front of a group.

Random thoughts:

I may have mentioned the incredibly tall man dressed as a Bedouin who serves coffee from a very ornate pitcher in the front lobby. Well, yesterday he was there and I decided to ask him if I could take his picture. He was very sweet and seemed very young. He let me take two pictures, then gestured for the camera- and took a photo of me!

The lobby is decorated with towering vases of roses, orchids and other flowers. Just exquisite.

The “turkey” I ate turned out to be lamb, which doesn’t taste gamy the way I have experienced lamb in the states. It really has the texture of dark meat from a turkey.

My beautiful rose bud is still beautiful.

I wore a hot pick crinkle skirt with sequins on it today- and one woman came up to tell me how much she loved the colors I wear.

Lots of participants are making pipe cleaner creations. I take photos of them, to send with the photos of the flipchart work. I also have been taking photos of the groups when they work on a game or a project- they are so wonderfully animated. This also means that I’ll be able to show folks at home pictures of the different types of head coverings worn by the women.

Some wear the scarf very tight on their head (like it’s elastic, it’s so form fitting). Some wear scarves that flow around their faces and puddle below their necks in a beautifully graceful way. One woman wears what almost looks like a bonnet, except that it is tight around her face and neck.

That reminds me of a conversation I had with Mohammad the driver yesterday. He is very unhappy about the women who wear the headscarves but then wear revealing clothing. That is not the Islamic way! His wife stays properly covered and so should they.

Tonight, as I trudged back to the hotel, there was a woman in front of me covered from head to toe in the black full tent-like dress. As she walked, I noticed that she had on bright bright red slacks and very high heels.

It is so strange to watch the news and see men wearing long (I guess I would call them dresses) with various head coverings. Some are quite rakish, some are anchored with a black round band (sometimes two black bands), some are long, some are checkered (that indicates Jordan), some are white or black (Palestinian or Saudi). Many wear suit coats over this costume. It really takes some getting used to!

My latest technological accomplishment is learning how to unlock my phone (don’t ask) and also (as of this morning) how to silence and then unmute my phone. I may actually learn how to make or receive a phone call by the time I leave…

I’m sure that there is plenty more from the past two days, but it’s 10 pm. And I still haven’t read the thirty lesson plans. Definitely no rest for the weary.

Deb in Amman, March 28


Now both Banyan Global (Nigeria USAID) and Ecodit (Jordan USAID) have disavowed any responsibility for the ticket I had to purchase to leave Lagos and get off in Amsterdam so I could get the flight to Jordan. That ticket cost me over $1200 (Dutch Airlines really gouged me!) I certainly do not plan to get stuck with that charge. I wrote to both groups telling them it was unfair to expect me to be responsible for the ticket- and that I expected them to work it out between them.

That was one of the items on my to do list last night. I also spent over an hour creating a lesson plan for a two day compressed train the trainer program for the Jordan PAP staff, which I sent to Karim El-Jisr for approval.

Tonight, I found some email from Mona indicating that some of the staff would be attending the full train the trainer next week- and the rest of the staff would be out of the city the following week (when this proposed 2-day session was to be scheduled).
So, it turns out that I will not need to give that training, so I will not need to prepare the materials.

The training today went very well, with two glaring exceptions. First, just after we ended the session, the hotel staff came to tell us that we would have to tear down EVERYTHING because they had scheduled a wedding for that evening. I couldn’t believe it! If they had told us this in the morning, we could have had staff on hand to help us- and we would have asked the participants to clear their tables.

So, we had to take everything off six tables (candy, Koosh, pipe cleaners, index cards, glitter wands, dice, table tent name cards, post-it notes, markers, highlighters, and binders, etc.) We had to take all of the peripherals off the walls: the huge agenda map, the kites, and the various quotes from different trainers. We had to remove everything from my training table and from below it (four huge containers of Tinker Toys, training masters, lesson plans, evaluations from the past three days, my own Koosh balls, index cards, glitter wand, post it notes, note pad, pens, pencils, markers, extra materials, binders, prizes, etc. etc.

Everything was ultimately unceremoniously dumped into two different suitcases and a big box. This means that I will need to get there tomorrow at 7 a.m. to first sort through everything and then set up all over again- only to take everything down the end of the day for the weekend. What a royal pain in the butt.

Second, my 8-year-old iPod died just as the class was starting. I really depend on the music to keep my own energy up (I play music softly during training time and select upbeat music to play more loudly at breaks). Lina took it with her, hopefully to find someone who can repair it. Barring that, I’m going to have to purchase a new one here- I can’t possibly conduct a five-day train the trainer class without one. I only hope there is one for sale here in Amman. I’m going to check on line after I send this email.

Last night, I reviewed 13 lesson plans (there are still 15 outstanding- and if they don’t turn them in, the participants will not get a certificate of completion). To a great extent, the lesson plans were very good. A number of them included creative learning activities. The only issue was that sometimes the activities really didn’t achieve the relevant learning objective. The participants also tended to severely underestimate the time involved for these activities.

For example, one woman wants to have her 15 participants draw themselves as a vehicle, food or animal. She planned only 3 minutes for this activity. My experience tells me that people often need 5 minutes alone to wrap their minds around viewing themselves from this perspective, and a good 5 to 10 minutes to draw and then write down the features and characteristics of their drawing.

She also allocated only1 minute for each person to present and discuss their drawing. I haven’t met ANYONE who can do this in 1 minute- I don’t care what continent they live on!

So, I spent some time writing suggestions and comments on the lesson plans. Today, it was clear that no one could read my writing- so I ended up having 13 conversations throughout the day. They sincerely want to understand and to write a good lesson plan, and I appreciate that. And, it would be nice every now and then to have a break where I can sit down and relax instead of coaching, problem solving, or arranging the next activity.

Tonight, I think I have four or five more to review. I guess we’ll see if the others turn them in.

Two very sweet things happened today. One woman told me that she had discussed it with her husband and children and they all invited me into their home sometime this weekend. Isn’t that lovely?

Another woman, who is a real character and lots of fun, came up to ask me what color I preferred: dark blue, green or orange. I told her that I like all of those colors. I’m intrigued to see what she is planning to do with this information.

It turns out that I will be going to Petra and Aqaba (where I can snorkel in the Red Sea) next weekend rather than tomorrow night. That is just as well, because I am going to need Friday to sleep, relax, read and go for a walk. Saturday I may go to Arawa’s house I the morning and then, late afternoon, back to the Quality Suites to set up for the next round of training. It’s too bad their weekends aren’t 3 or 4 days long- but of course, that would also be nice in the US.

Random thoughts:

I didn’t mention in my email yesterday that if there were going to be a lot of participants who don’t speak English in next week’s class, Mona would hire a person to do simultaneous translation into headphones- and we would have a split screen, with an English version of the PowerPoint on one side and an Arab version on the left. This would have been an incredibly pricey undertaking- a good 10,000 JD, which is approximately $10,500.

It’s time for me to finish work and get to bed, since I have to get up so early tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing their 10-minute facilitated learning activities. Given their creativity, these should be something!

Deb in Amman, March 29

Hello! This was a really great day. Although Tarek was late picking me up, it turned out that Lina had been at the training hotel since 6 am and had almost everything set up by the time I finally got there at 7:30 am. That was a huge relief.

Sana, who had asked me yesterday what colors I liked, gave me an exquisitely embroidered pillow and lots of hugs and kisses. What a sweetheart!

Next, my research last night on how to fix a frozen iPod was very fruitful and ultimately very effective. By the middle of the day, I was able to play music again. Hurray!

Every single one of the 10 participants who facilitated their activities in my room was absolutely terrific. I truly have never had a group that is so consistently creative. It was such a joy to watch them.

I’ll give you four examples.

Maha K. had taped up about 8 articles. She had the other nine participants do a gallery stroll (to music) to assess what they liked and didn’t like about the articles. She then drew out their answers (which a volunteer printed on a flip chart), which created a list of the essential elements of a good article. It was fun, classy, engaged everyone, and met the needs of all learning styles.

Zaid had everyone stand in a circle with his or her backs facing the center of the circle. He had one volunteer in the center on whom he placed 13 markers- while the participants took turns stating one thing they love and one thing they hate.

He had them turn around and then asked each person how many markers they saw. Because of their different perspectives, they all saw a different number. He used that to reinforce the idea of different perspectives.

Zaid asked the group to identify what impacts our perspectives: religion, culture, gender, stereotypes, likes, dislikes, etc. After they had listed their responses, he validated their list by a reference on a flip chart. He also had them relate their loves and hates to the perspective categories listed.

Next, he had the participants open both hands and interlace them so they could see through a space between the thumbs. He first had them look through their fingers when their hands were far from their bodies- and determined that this really narrowed their perspectives, because now they could only see a part of the center person’s body. After he had them bring their hands next to their faces, they were able to have a much wider perspective.

It was very creative, engaging and effective. He did a masterful job.

Ala created a game around charades to focus on stereotypes. She had the group sit on the floor and told them that they were in a theatre and she was on the stage. She asked for a volunteer to come take a slip of paper and then act out what was on it, to have the other participants guess what it was. The first one was guessed to be a domestic worker- female, but the real answer was that the “actor” was supposed to be a male domestic worker.

The next role they had to guess was the highest religious person, who is typically male. In this case, the iman was a woman.

The third role was a belly dancer, but male instead of female. I’m sure you’re getting the point.

Ala explained that there are stages dealing with stereotypes: recognize, tolerate, accept, defend, and finally adopt. Then she asked the participants to signal (thumbs up if yes and thumbs down if no) if they would want a male domestic worker in their home. With few exceptions, most said no.

Next she asked who would want a male belly dancer to entertain at their wedding. Only one woman said yes, it might be interesting. The others were vehemently against the idea.

Since she only had 10 minutes, the activity had to end at this point. The next activity would be to discuss the reasons for their votes. It was fascinating

Oh, I also have to tell you about Nadia’s activity. She created a scrabble relay game about stereotypes. She split the participants into two teams and told them that stereotypes can be both positive and negative. She drew out some examples of each from the group.

Then she showed them that she had letters written on small square pieces of paper that she had laid out on a long table, with white paper for one team and yellow paper for the other.

The teams were lined up behind a line of masking tape on the floor. When she counted down to 1, each team could send 1 person at a time to select three letters and bring them back to the team so the next person could repeat the process. They were to get enough letters to write three different reasons why people stereotype. And by golly, both teams did! Interestingly enough, they both wrote “veil” as one of their three words.

You probably can tell by all of this that I loved these folks!

Raeda gave me a beautiful gift of cloth coasters that were both embroidered and decorated with shells. Just lovely. She apparently has a store where she makes and sells these items. These are very warm, loving people.

We always close with a celebration of blowing bubbles and then thanking people for what they did to enrich their learning during the training. They had a blast blowing bubbles to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.” Tarek even took my camera and got some great shots of them blowing lots of bubbles.

Everyone came to either hug and kiss me or shake my hand to thank me on their way out. Every one of the folks who spoke only Arabic during the class thanked me in English!

Lots of people helped to break down the room and we were lucky enough to be able to leave the two huge suitcases and several large boxes and bags at the hotel for storage, instead of having the schlep them to my hotel room.

Before I left the training hotel, both Mona and Maha D separately invited me to do something on Saturday. I’ll tell you, I’ve never had such a full social calendar before.

Once I got back to my hotel, I found a bouquet of flowers on my desk. I am guessing it is the way the hotel celebrates spring, which begins tomorrow. We have to set our clocks forward tonight, which means that now I’ll be 7 hours ahead of the east coast and 8 hours ahead of the Midwest.

I also got some wonderful news. Ecodit is going to reimburse me for that expensive ticket. I can’t tell you want a relief it was to receive that news.

Tonight, I’ve uploaded 131 photos from the five days (photos of flip chart work, pipe cleaner creativity, and various group activities) and mailed them to Lina to send to the participants. Once I get their emails, I can send them more information directly.
I also washed a week’s worth of underwear and lighter weight clothing in the bathroom sink. The gentle dripping serenades me. It complements the sound of the rain falling outside.

I have 10 lesson plans to read, 5 of which are in Arabic, so I’m going to have to wait until I can sit down with Maha D. in a week to translate them for me. Then I’ll have to write up my comments and send them.

The participants who were in the other two rooms also want me to review their videos and send them feedback. That will be time consuming, but I have to admit I can’t wait to see their facilitated activities.

Once again, the participants voiced an interest in getting everyone’s videos, so Mahmoud will be working on that. He designed a beautiful cover page for the DVD’s. I wish I could take him home with me to do all of my graphic design (then I would HAVE some graphic design!)

Area just called me to find out which hotel I am staying at- and to tell me I should dress warmly, wear pants and a coat, because we would be walking and it would be very cool. She is definitely intent on taking good care of me, bless her heart.

Random thought: I don’t know if I’ve commented on this, but every day we drive past wherever we are going until the driver can make a sharp U-turn to go back the way we just came to get to our destination.

When I asked Tarek what he would do this weekend, his answer: go to the mosque, go to his parents, eat, smoke shisha (the water pipe), and play cards. The very traditional males really have it made here- there was no mention of domestic chores or childcare…
However, I know he loves his children very much, because he spent the night in a hospital earlier this week when his 3 year old ran a very high fever.

Some of the younger women who wear headscarves and loose clothing use belts to cinch them at the waist.

I’ve been trying to decide if the headscarves come prefitted or if the women wrap and pin them themselves. I may ask Arwa about it tomorrow. Or I may wait and ask Maha or Mona.

Okay, enough is enough. I’m going to hope that my laundry (which includes my night gown) is dry enough to take down so I can take a shower. Right now, it’s all hanging in the shower.

Deb in Amman, March 30

Hello. This was an amazing and very very long day. I spent 12 hours with Arwa, her husband Jafir, their 8 year old daughter Zain and their 4-year-old son Raed.

This included a special Jordanian breakfast at their flat, lots of playing with the children, showing Jafir how to project from his diaphragm (he also teaches), getting huge flat bread baked in front of us in a wood oven, looking at lots of family photos (including marriage and baby pictures), driving to Salt (their original home), going to an outdoor lamb barbeque at Jafir’s father’s farm, meeting his father’s two wives, walking, taking photos of the children climbing trees or on a horse, taking photos of the amazing landscape and lots of different spring flowers, getting a tour of Salt, and reading in English with Zain.

Once Arwa had picked me up at the hotel and taken me to their flat (in a new building), she proceeded to spend the next several hours cooking and baking while we chatted. Her English had been spotty during the training class but she was able to carry on a continuous stream of conversation once in her own home. She roasted green peppers and tomatoes. She made some yogurt sauce with different vegetables and what looked like black-eyed beans (if there is such a thing).

She put out green olives from Jafir’s father’s farm, some other brownish something, some green leafy vegetable, the bread, and tea with mint. Although she told me the peppers were mild, one small bite had me stuffing bread in my mouth. Yikes! Other than the brownish item and the olives, everything else was delicious

Then she made a wonderful fruit salad with the juice of blood oranges, which was also great.

Next, she got out an enormous round pan (much larger than any large pizza pan) and toasted lots of pieces of bread in the oven. She made some concoction with milk, sesame seed, walnuts, pistachios, coconut and spices, then mixed it onto the bread. Then she swirled strawberry and caramel syrup on top as decoration. This “sweet” was to be taken to the barbeque.

Zain is very beautiful and precocious- and loved speaking English to me, whispering into her mother’s ear to get a word here and there. She proudly showed me her certificates from school, her English workbook and notebook, a guitar (one of two that both children made) created of a large box decorated with beads and things, with large rubber bands as the strings, the photos of her as a baby, her room, etc. etc.

All the while Raed played games on the computer. He barely stopped for breakfast, eating two olives. He is very strong willed and totally ignored anything his parents told him to do. When they finally dragged him off the computer after two hours, he gave an award-winning tantrum, becoming a dead weight, kicking his feet and screaming.

They fondly call him their “naughty boy.” Among his other notorious exploits, Raed snuck into Zain’s birthday party. While the girls were dancing, he poked them in the butt with a sharp two-pronged barbecue fork. He kept throwing a very small very hard ball at me with all his might. His parents essentially ignored this behavior

I played with him, and he had a great giggle. He also sucked his thumb and stroked not only his ear, but his father’s- and later, mine.

The wedding photos showed a much younger and slimmer (and quite beautiful) Arwa in a lovely wedding gown, tiara and veil. I don’t think they have a wedding ceremony like we do, I think these photos were at the celebration afterwards. There were photos of their honeymoon in Turkey, lots of family, and both children.

I asked Arwa how she met her husband. Apparently he had loved her from afar for a year, while she wasn’t even aware of him. He finally told her that he loved her, his parents spoke to her parents, and they were married.

This is definitely not a traditional Jordanian home. Arwa and Jahir are clearly equal partners. He took care of his son, cuddled his daughter, went to do the grocery shopping and was very mild mannered and quiet. They both work very hard and neither of them makes a lot of money, but they have a budget. They don’t go out or take vacations because they are sending their children to a private school and are saving so the children can go to college. They both also take classes and volunteer to teach ecology-related classes in the elementary and high schools, as well as the university.

After breakfast and some conversation while Arwa washed dishes, Jafir went to the mosque to pray. I think he must have been gone about an hour or so. We left for Salt after he got back. Jafir drove, Zain sat next to him, and Arwa and I sat in back, with Raed between us. Between mischief and tantrums, he sucked his thumb and stroked my ear, then climbed into my lap for a little while before getting into mischief again (mostly poking or trying to poke his sister).

The drive to Salt was fascinating, because you go into the mountains and see huge homes surrounded by forests, olive orchards, and then many many tall boxy apartment buildings.

I was welcomed at the barbecue by some of Jafir’s brothers (he has seven of his mother and two of his father’s other wife), their wives and children, Jafir’s father and I think his first wife’s mother. It was very chilly, but we ate lamb chops, onions, and lamb meat on skewers roasted over the large fire and then kept warm under Jordanian bread (which is the consistency of parchment and even larger than the other loaves we purchased for breakfast. The food was delicious.

Later, Arwa’s “sweet” was a huge hit. Most of us (including me!) had two servings (eating with spoons). An interesting observation. I was served first (as the guest). Then the oldest man, Jafir’s father, then Jafir, then the women.

They use the bread to pick up the meat and dip it in sauces (yogurt and another very spicy tomato sauce). The lamb chop bones went into a plastic bag to go home with the second wife for her cats. Unfortunately, she later discovered that the farm cats had devoured everything.

Oh, I haven’t told you the other fascinating thing about Jafir’s father. Besides having two wives, he continually smoked what we call a hookah. His first wife lives at the farm and was completely covered and wore a flowing white scarf pinned under her chin, except for her face and hands. She is clearly much older than the second wife, who wore baggy clothing and a simple headscarf- and spoke quite a bit of English.

This second wife was a real character. She was gnawing on a lamb chop and immediately handed me one and urged me to eat (this was before anyone else had any food). Then she grabbed skewers of meat for both of us (we’re talking about 12” of meat) and told me it was best while it was hot.

Jafir’s father was quite old, very skinny, wearing a red-checkered headscarf folded in a very fancy way around his face, a long beige robe and a suit jacket. The first wife’s mother was also covered from head to foot in a tent-like overdress with tiny blue flowers all over it. She also wore a flowing white headscarf pinned at the chin.

Everyone was very friendly and had lots of questions about where I live, was this the first time I was in Jordan, where had I visited in Jordan, how many children I had, etc.
The second wife has a relative in Kansas and one in Arizona. Someone else had a sister married to one of Jafir’s brothers and lived in Chicago.

Jafir’s father used to have a thriving chicken farm, but the economy took a dive and he had to rent out the farm buildings to someone else- and go to Saudi Arabia (two hours by plane) to work at a chicken farm there. He comes back every other month and stays a month.

Jafir and Arwa showed me one of the vacant chicken “coops”- it looked more like a long and wide concrete hangar. They used to let the chickens roam free on the floor.

It was lovely to sit, look at the countryside, see spring flowering trees, and hear lots and lots of birds. I haven’t heard any birds at any point previous in my trip, so this was delightful.

I’m getting very used to sitting while a conversation goes on that I can’t understand. It doesn’t appear to concern me at all.

Zain invited me to go for a walk with three other children. She showed me all of the different wild flowers. She also plucked petals from a low growing yellow flower and told me it was delicious- so I ate what she gave me. Not delicious, but not poisonous (thank goodness!)

I alternately walked and ran (mostly after Raed!). At one point, a man came riding on a horse. Zain (who is Ms. Social Butterfly) hailed him and low and behold, he stopped and proceeded to give each child a ride!

Later, when I asked Arwa if they knew him, she said that he was related in some fashion to Jafir’s family.

On the drive back, they took me to scenic spots in Salt (which is the oldest city in Jordan and has caves filled with bones from hundreds of years ago). The terraced hills with long steps going up steep inclines, the yellowed stones and ornate window grills, the view of houses over houses over houses as they marched up the hill- it was all just wonderful. And Jafir stopped here and there for me to hop out of the car and take photos. He told me that the houses in the oldest parts of the town are 200-300 years old!

After my long week of training and this long day of playing and people, I was ready to be dropped off at my hotel. But instead we went to a store, where Jafir purchased bread that we took to Arwa’s mother. She stood on her second floor balcony and welcomed me, inviting me in for dinner. She was really quite persuasive, but I held my ground.

While Jafir was taking the bread in and we were speaking to Arwa’s mother, a woman drove up, dumped three children (including one who was screaming and kicking), along with bags, and drove off. She is divorcing one of Arwa’s brothers and wants nothing to do with her own children. It was an incredibly sad story. So now the children and their father live with his mother, who Arwa told me is ill.

We then drove back to their flat and piled out of the car to go upstairs. Once there, Arwa took a sleepy Raed to take a bath, then it was Zain’s turn. In the meantime, I noticed Jafir go into a living room and pray. (Oh, some of the older folks had had prayer beads in their hands at the barbecue. When I asked Arwa about it, she told me that she herself had had her prayer beads in the class.) Then Jafir went out for about 45 minutes.

I walked around (after sitting in the car), waiting for bath time to be over. When it was, I asked Arwa when it might be convenient to drop me back at the hotel, she said that she wanted to make me dinner. I told her I was really tired and still full- and she said that she had hoped we could talk after the children were in bed.

Goodness only knows when that would have been, because when we left at 9:30, the children were both busy with crafts and chocolate.

When Jafir got back, Arwa made fruit smoothies with bananas and strawberries and we chatted while Zain did something in her room and Raed was glued to Tom and Jerry cartoons on the TV.

Although she said she didn’t mean to pressure me, she really wanted Jafir to be in this second round of training. Maha had told her the limit was 30 and I explained why that was: we only had 30 more binders printed and we could only have a maximum of 30 people for videotaping (10 in three different rooms). She persisted, saying that we had ended with only 27 in the class, so it was likely that some people might drop out of the second round as well.

Oh, she also told me that she gave Jafir a hand clapper (one of the prizes from my class) to take to a 3-hour lecture he gave at a university. He had trouble getting the students’ attention, but when he used the clapper, they quieted down immediately. He said it worked like a charm the entire time.

I finally promised to check with Maha (which I’ve done this evening via email) to see if we really had a full 30 people registered for the training. If not, I’m going to advocate including Jafir. Before that, I had suggested to Arwa that Jafir just show up on Sunday and if we have an extra seat because a registrant is a no show, he could take it.

I would really like to thank them for their hospitality. I had taken the flowers from my hotel room as a gift, but that was hardly sufficient.

Random facts:

The Jordanians say, “Yannee” like we say, “you know?” Apparently, that’s essentially what it means. It peppers all of their conversations.

Arwa and Jafir showed me a tree that has what looks like an acorn, but instead of a smooth flat lid on the top, this has a rounded prickly shell-like top. They collected some for me to bring home with me.

Arwa did not wear her scarf in the house. She has lovely shoulder-length hair. She was also wearing a very low cut flowered clingy blouse that showed considerable décolletage.

When I was taking photos in their flat (with her permission, of course) she quietly told me not to take a picture of her, since she wasn’t wearing her headscarf.

That’s all for me tonight. I’m going to bed and not even asking for a wakeup call. I think I deserve a long rest. I also expect that either Mona or Maha will call about plans for the morning, and barring that, Lina will contact me about when I’ll be picked up to go set up the hotel room for the next round of training.

Deb in Amman, March 31


This was a restful day. I allowed myself to sleep in without a wakeup call. Ah, bliss!
I managed to get down to breakfast 15 minutes before they shut down the buffet. I was able to eat leisurely and read my Nook book.

Then I went back to my room and got a chance to chat with the woman who had just cleaned it. I had some work to do: I had promised Alison that I would apply for a full-time Training Director position at the Department of Transportation. That meant compiling information so that I could respond to four on-line achievement history exam questions on my experience: managing training programs, designing and delivering curriculum, directing the work of others, and creating e-learning programs.

The first three questions were manageable, but the last question had to be answered in anticipation rather than in accomplishment. I haven’t worked with e-learning software myself.

I guess we’ll see what happens with it.

Then Tarek picked me up to go to the hotel to set up all over again. I must admit that it took much longer without Maha’s two little girls to help. The reason why they weren’t there is pretty horrific. There was a violent demonstration at the Dead Sea yesterday and Maha’s cousin, who is a policeman, was shot. I just spoke with her tonight. His surgery was successful and he is now out of danger.

Lina and I set up, with assistance from one of the hotel staff. I made sure NOT to leave out the Koosh or the glitter wands. I’m three down on both the Koosh and the glitter wands.

A somewhat troubling fact was that five or six families came in to check out the hall for weddings. Lina and I are both praying that these weddings aren’t scheduled for this week. We really don’t want to take everything down and put everything up all over again, as we did last week.

We heard some very loud music and Lina said that they were getting ready for a wedding downstairs. We went to look and it was magnificent. The bride and groom sit on a beautiful white couch, surrounded by what look like large white half-moons that reach almost to the ceiling.

She took photos (since I didn’t have my camera) and I’ll send some shots so you can see what I mean.

Lina also explained the Moslem wedding ceremony. The bride and groom enter the room and exchange rings. Then they slow dance. Then others dance. Then the cake is presented. At 10: 30 p.m., dinner is served. The wedding couple dines alone in a separate location. When they return to the hall, the bride wears something different. (Now I understand Arwa’s wedding photos. In one photo, she is wearing a white dress with a tiara and veil. In another photo she is wearing an embroidered gold dress and her head is bare).

After that, each guest takes a picture with the wedding couple. Instead of gifts, they give money.

When the bride and groom leave, so do the guests. The wedding couple’s car has a huge bouquet of white flowers on the trunk. Lina said that the guests speed around the couple’s car and often stop in the middle of the road to get out and dance! It sounds pretty crazy.

Lina showed me photos of her cousin’s wedding this past weekend. She also showed me photos of Petra, which looks fascinating. She warned me that I will need a hat and lots of water, because it is exceptionally hot there and you walk a lot. I’ll work on that.

We discussed my trip to Petra and Aqaba next weekend, considering a variety of arrangements. It’s good that we talked, because she had planned to have me stay overnight (in a tent on the ground, sharing a filthy shower) in Wadi Rum (no thank you!) and to simply shop rather than snorkel in Aqaba.

Now the plan is for a driver to take me to Petra and then to Aqaba, where I will stay at a hotel overnight so I can snorkel there. Then a different driver will bring me back to Amman.

After we finished setting up, Lina asked me if I’d like to get some dinner (as she had done after we finished setting up last Saturday). Since I hadn’t had lunch, I was certainly ready for dinner. We went to a new restaurant and had an absolutely wonderful meal of pink (!!) humus, bread, a terrific salad and a chicken and vegetable dish (that was so large I have some for tomorrow’s dinner). The only drawback to the restaurant was the fact that lots of people were smoking shisha and, by the time we left, you could barely see through the smoke (no lie).

Lina told me that smoking shisha is comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes at one time. Yikes!

When she dropped me off at the hotel, I considered taking a walk to air off my clothing and my lungs (!), but it was almost 8 p.m.- and I needed to finish the exam questions and submit them.

I chatted with Jenny over Skype (as I do almost every evening) and, among other things, she informed me that she had to add postage to the two envelopes I had stamped for mailing. I apparently missed the hike to 45 cents over February, being otherwise engaged with recovering. I’m so glad that she pays attention to these details, because the envelopes were going to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and the Federal IRS…

I also spoke with Maha, which is when I learned that her cousin was going to be all right. I had previously checked with Lina to see if we had a full house of 30 participants for this week (we do), just to see if there was any possibility that Jafir could attend.

When I asked Maha if there was any chance he could still come, she mentioned that she had already promised Arwa that she would let her know if there were any last minute cancelations.
Then Maha mentioned that several of the staff would be coming to translate, which meant there would be at 4 more people in the room- so one more wouldn’t matter so much.

I called Arwa to tell Jafir to send Maha information about: his position, organization, credentials, and why a train the trainer would benefit his work. She was very appreciative.

I realize that I wasn’t under any real obligation to get him into the class, but I certainly feel better knowing that he’ll be able to attend.

I had previously discussed with Lina where to seat the non-English speaking participants. Maha had thought it would be better if they were distributed among the tables rather than sitting at one table. I suppose that would work if we had someone to translating at those tables (I’m not completely convinced that the staff will be able to focus on translating…) Given how many staff are supposed to come, it would be possible.

However, there is absolutely no way that we will video more than 30 people on the last day. In her “non pressuring” conversation last night, Arwa assured me that Jafir would be content to not be videotaped if that would mean he could attend the other four days. Perhaps we’ll schedule to video the staff next week before I leave.

Last night, all of my clothing smelled of wood smoke (not a bad smell). Tonight, all of my clothing smell of shisha (also not a bad smell). Goodness only knows what my clothing will smell like tomorrow!

Deb in Amman, April 2


Sorry about last night. The first day of training (31 people!!) tired me out. For the first time this entire trip, I lay down on the bed to read and fell asleep for several hours.

Again, we had at least 6 people who didn’t speak English. However, this time we had three staff there to help with translations.

We didn’t finish the day (as with the last group) but at least this time I was prepared. I didn’t get stressed, because I knew we would be able to finish today. And we did.

This group has a lot of high level (chief of party) folks who have a lot to say .:-) They are also very bright and wonderfully creative. I think this is due, in part, to the fact that I have several folks who teach children. As a result, they have used interactive learning activities already.

The sad thing is that, when we arrived on Sunday, three glitter wands and three Koosh balls were missing. Sunday, after the training was over, I collected and hid the remaining wands and Koosh. Today, Monday, when I arrived, I discovered that all of our candy had been taken. So, this evening, I hid that- and had some very stern words with the manager of the hotel.

Tarek the driver went to get replacement wands and Koosh. What he found were apple-sized latex balls with faces and tentacles- that light up! He also found wands that light up. The participants certainly did know the difference- and had a ball with them.

Today, I spoke with the group about some of the evaluation comments from Day One. One person wanted to have had the materials ahead of time. I discussed the problem with this- that few people read the materials and some people even forget to bring them.

Another person wanted me to use “simple English.” I promised to pay attention to the words I chose to use. I also told them that we had a learning contract, in that they were to tell me as soon as possible when there was any concern or difficulty. Waiting until the end of the training day made me feel terrible- had I known earlier, I could have adjusted.
Hopefully, that point was made.

To complete the Day One content, we worked with designing learning objectives using two templates I provided: one for skill-building training and the other for attitude-changing training. First, we reviewed the 4 examples in their manual. Then, drawing information from the group, I modeled how to identify the key content, determine the desired learning levels for each key content item, and plug in an active verb to convert the key content into skill-building learning objectives. We did this with two examples.

After reviewing 3 examples in their manual, we worked with the attitude-changing template for one example. Now it was their turn to work in their groups to create the learning goals and learning objectives for a topic of their choosing. Every group chose a topic related to energy conservation (not surprising, since that is the mission of Jordan PAP and these were representatives from either donor groups or grantees). I wanted to ensure that they worked with the correct template (since one or two groups last time got confused). They all reported that they would be working with the attitude-changing template.

Five of the six groups got it exactly right. One group was a stitch. Their topic was solid waste disposal. While they waited for other groups to finish, they created “solid waste” consisting of an ecology duck inside a large water bottle, a trashcan with decorative trash, etc. etc. What a riot!

The sixth group (somewhat bullied by a supervisor person, I believe) got it absolutely, utterly wrong. There were two major problems: first, he had his own ideas about how the topic should be taught, so he went off on lots of tangents. Second, their program was really a skill building one, but they had used the attitude-changing template.

When I tried to coach them to the correct approach, the supervisor started to argue with me and said point blank that he did not agree with my approach. At this point, I interrupted him and simply said that I was not going to argue with him. Then I called on the next group to report out.

After the break, I discussed the need to reteach this section to make sure everyone was on board. This group was seated at the back, so I worked with flip charts at the back that were right next to them. There was a little confusion, but with some expert translation (thank you, Maha!!) they finally got it. I rewarded them all with devil ducks (upon their request).

What was incredibly gratifying was that, when we worked on the next step in the lesson design process (create the agenda), this group chose to create brand new goals, learning objectives, as well as the agenda. Not only did they do it perfectly, they did it in 15 minutes! Talk about being committed to learning and applying what they learned!

For home practice, everyone is to create a complete lesson plan (with goals, learning objectives, learning activities, handouts, and means of evaluation. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all of the time we have invested will be reflected in their results.

At the end of the day, when they each stood to report their key take away, this supervisor admitted that he essentially had seen the light and saw the importance of a clear lesson plan structure and participatory activities. Hurray!!!

After creating agendas, the next step in the lesson plan process was to select learning activities that would achieve the desired learning levels for each learning objective. We discussed ten different categories of participatory learning activities. When I asked if anyone had used art, 7 people raised their hands and described wonderfully creative activities! That was a first for me, to say the least.

They had great examples for dramatizations, games, role-plays, etc. As a matter of fact, they described activities that I plan to have them do tomorrow, just with minor differences.

One example: tomorrow, I will have them build a merry-go-round out of Tinker Toys. One woman described an activity in which participants have to create a structure out of marshmallows, spaghetti and tape. Same focus, just different materials.

When I asked if anyone used a debate as a learning activity, their responses indicated something much more formal- more in line with teaching how to debate and then rating the debate.

So, I decided to show them what I meant when I referred to a debate. I assigned half the group to come up with a few reasons in support of lecture, and the other half to come up with reasons against using lecture. They only have 3 minutes to jot down their ideas on note cards. Then I asked for a volunteer from each group to debate (and easily got two women who wanted the devil ducks!)

We created a debate in a fishbowl, with the debaters in the middle and their teams surrounding them. The teams really got into cheering on their representatives and everyone had a great time. I just know they are going to go crazy with the relay race tomorrow. This group will love all of the activities and games.

As a matter of fact, when they were asked to select a topic and decide what learning activities would meet the needs of six different learning styles (visual, aural, interactive, print, haptic and kinesthetic) they all wanted to have the rest of the group act out their activities! Would that we had had enough time.

Oh, I didn’t mention that Jafa (that’s actually the correct spelling of his name) was able to attend (as one of the non-English speaking folks). He had a radiant smile all day and thanked me several times.

Today, one woman brought her sister and a man brought another man to the training. The man sat at a front table and gave me a huge smile every time I looked his way.

At lunch, one of the men, who is chief of party of a large association, asked me if I would be interested in conducting a twelve-day train the trainer in May. He is going to send me the RFP information.

Another woman invited me to go with her tomorrow after the training to see the downtown. I had thought Rainbow Street was downtown, but apparently it isn’t. When I asked one young woman where the downtown was, she giggled and said “Downtown.” Yup, it was a pretty pointless question to ask!

I can’t imagine this happening anywhere in the States, but a young man told the giggling woman (who was exquisite) that she had gained weight since she had her child 6 months ago! When I said she looked lovely and where did he get off telling her that, he agreed she looked lovely. And all she said was that they worked together. Hmm.

By the way, he is Christian and, according to the young woman (Sireen), quite a Don Juan. Although how he could possibly be one with all of the Muslim women living with their families I have no idea.

He said that if he had been Muslim, by now he would have 4 wives. That prompted Sireen to say that her father-in-law has 9 wives! That reminded me that when the PAP team went to interview villagers near the dried up springs, they met a man who has 97 children!!! You know he didn’t manage that with just one wife!

Sireen explained that the culture was changing and most young couples are content with only having each other.

All I can say is that maintaining a relationship with one spouse is hard enough. Goodness knows how these men budget their time between the wives- and where they get all of that energy. It exhausts me just to think about it!

At the end of both days, a number of participants have come up to thank me and tell me how much they are enjoying the training and learning.

Today, after one young woman thanked me, I told her how beautiful her headscarf was. She immediately asked me if she should bring me one. I tried to tell her that wasn’t necessary, but she already had a plan. So, I told her, then she is going to have to show me how to wear it. I may look like many other Moslem women tomorrow…

Coincidentally, I had asked Maha earlier whether they draped the scarves or if they came draped. No, they drape it and secure it with one pin. She also told me that the elastic looking band that covers their foreheads and shows under the scarf is actually a cap that covers their entire head.

When I’m back in the States, it’s going to seem strange not to see women with their heads covered and frequently wearing coats covering their clothing all day long.

On the way back to the hotel after the training, Tarek told me that he had to swing by the PAP office to pick up Pritti (sp?) She is a communications consultant who flew in two days ago from Seattle (a 20 hour flight!!)

She told me that she had just had the meeting from hell. She had asked me if I planned to go to dinner with others tonight at a restaurant Mona had selected. Since I had discovered there would be a lot of shisha being smoked, I begged off. Then she told me that every one of the men in the daylong meeting had chain-smoked. They had been told to attend by USAID, but they saw no value in learning how to create a communications plan. So, they all held side conversations. The poor woman.

At least I have authority as the trainer and, if worse comes to worse, can through Koosh at folks. She certainly couldn’t do that, particularly since these were all chiefs of party.

Today was so beautiful that I went for a walk after I got back to the hotel. I walked to the grocery store, about 6 or so blocks away, to pick up sparkling water and peanut butter.

When I got back to the hotel, it was time to send my laundry (and Mona’s jacket and scarf) out for cleaning, and to wash my light items.

Random thoughts:

Yesterday morning, I have never seen so many people. There was a group of middle aged (if that’s what I am?) people from Utah- there must have been at least 40 of them- here for a tour to Petra. It was impossible to get to the chef who makes omelets and other egg dishes. I almost couldn’t even get to my granola, fruit and yogurt. The staff couldn’t keep up- either with replenishing the food or resetting tables.

There were two air force men seated next to me and one said that he was there every other month or so and he had never seen such a crowd.

When Arwa was driving me from my hotel to her flat on Friday, we passed a man in an orange jump suit sweeping the street (with a hand broom). She said she really liked these folks, who were there keeping the streets clean no matter what the weather. She explained that few people were interested in being garbage men. It seemed beneath them. However, since they changed the title of the position to city worker and increased the salary, people with higher degrees are now taking the jobs.

Let me close by saying that I love training and I am really enjoying this adventure.

Deb in Amman, April 3

Hello. Today was another good day. They experienced a focus question, questionnaire, case study, game and role play/hands on activity. They assessed each activity, they created all but the role play/hands on activity with me, and then they created their own. They loved it all.

Mamoud came with Mona to bring me the DVD on which he had every one of the videos from last week. He had also designed a snazzy cover and as a surprise to me, had a candid photo of me on the back of the DVD cover. He is very proud of it (apparently he has included animations). I want to skim it tonight (it’s late) because he’s dying for feedback. He worked long and hard (including late nights) to get it down and send it out to all of the participants. What a sweet guy.

Mona told me that everyone had told her how wonderful the class was. She thanked me, which was very nice. She also invited me to dinner at a Dead Sea restaurant on Thursday. That will be lovely.

Lina told me that my weekend plans are set. I go to Petra early Friday morning, spend the day there, and then go to Aqaba for the night and snorkeling the next day. I will get back in the afternoon or evening on Saturday. It should be wonderful.

Today, between the morning and the afternoon, three of the four new Koosh-like balls that Tarek bought disappeared. Good grief! Then the participants told me that I would be able to replace the stolen Koosh and glitter wands in downtown Amman.

Rosey(who is a Bulgarian married to a Jordanian- and has resided in Amman for the past 23 years) took me downtown. This meant driving to Rainbow Street, parking, and then hiking a number of blocks and down three incredibly steep stairs to the downtown street. There, we found shops galore. Shops with barrels or sacks of all kinds of herbs or nuts or grains. Shops with shoes, toys, clothing, electronics, cloth, head scarves for women and head coverings for men, dried fruits, fresh fruits, frozen fish, all kinds of breads, plus all kinds of gift shops. Rabbits, all kinds of birds, and baby chicks colored pink, blue, green, yellow, purple, and orange! A complete Roman amphitheater and columns still standing hundreds of years later. Roads so narrow, made narrower by cars parked on either side and shops spilling their wares out to the road- and still trucks and buses come zooming along.

Throngs moved through the streets, sometimes carrying us with them. I wanted to find a hat to wear when I go to Petra, but had to finally purchase one of the head coverings that men wear. It will keep the sun off my face and off my neck. I don’t know that I’ll look particularly stylish, however.

Rosey took me to Wild Jordan for dinner, where we ate out on a balcony overlooking the city and had wonderful salad (and a hummus sandwich for me). I had a lovely time, but was exhausted by the time she dropped me off at the hotel around 9 p.m.

Deb in Amman, April 4

Hello. Last night, I was so tired, I just couldn’t bring myself to finish my letter for April 3rd.

Today was another great, if jam-packed and somewhat stressful day. We had to begin Day 4 by finishing up activities from Day 3 related to accelerated learning techniques- and more specifically, selecting metaphors to enrich a learning program.

Then we were able to get into Day 4. Noor (a very bright, articulate young woman) brought me a gift of two magic tricks to use in training. One involves a scarf that you make disappear into a thumb glove (a pretty obvious hiding place). The other is much more interesting. There is one dice inside a box and you are supposed to ask the participants how many dice they see. The obvious answer is one. Then you hit the box and the dice (which is magnetic) sticks to the top of the box, letting 6 tiny dice that were hidden inside it suddenly appear. It was very sweet of her- and now I just have to figure out how and when to use the dice trick. Pretty cool!

Mohammad, who lives in Aqaba and is a dive master, got excited when he learned that I would be going to Aqaba on Saturday and offered to arrange my snorkeling adventure. Later that day, he informed me that everything was all set. I’m not actually sure what he has arranged. It may not be necessary, because I had told me that I would be staying at the Intercontinental (which is what Lina had initially told me) but it turns out that I will be staying at the hotel with a dive shop and immediate beach access. So, I don’t think I’ll need to bus somewhere else. Anyway, I’ll clear that up with Mohammad tomorrow.

The poor guy, he was the only person from the class who stayed at the training hotel. Every day, he has asked me different questions about what he could study that evening- and checked with me throughout the day to make sure he understood different concepts or techniques (which he did).

He proudly showed me a completely new lesson plan and Power Point he had created using what he had learned in the class so far. It was wonderful!

Mousa (the young Christian “Don Juan”) told me that the first two days of the training, he wondered if he would be able to remember and apply anything. Then, when he did the home practice assignment to create a lesson plan, it amazed him how easy it was for him to do because everything fell into place.

Two different young women told me essentially the same thing. It was very gratifying to hear!

Today the participants selected an object from a bag and were instructed to create a 2-minute presentation about it: a story, selling us on its benefits and features, or working with us to find possible uses. Instead of poking around in the bag to find something that was meaningful to them, it appears that they simply put their hand in the bag and took out whatever they felt first.

That became apparent when one after the other came over to me to show me what they had selected (golf tees, a miniature orange traffic barrel, a top) and ask me what they were.

Twenty-four out of 28 participants were able to give their 2-minute presentations (some wonderful, some funny, some very creative) and get brief participant feedback before I had to end the class. A good 8 or 9 of them gave their presentations in Arabic, which Maha kindly translated. We’ll have to finish the remaining four presentations tomorrow.

I have half a mind to eliminate the Jeopardy game I use to start off Day Five, but it was such a winner for last week’s group, I hate to do it. I guess it will depend in large part on when the participants get to class. Our 8:30 a.m. starting time has typically been 8:55 or 9:00, which makes things much more difficult. I also need to give the participants 30 minutes to design their AV, which will be flip charts- and give them the feedback oath so they give constructive and honest feedback to each other. If we have 9-10 participants in each of the three taping rooms, we’ll need to start the taping by 10. You see my dilemma.

When the class was over, a very kind man collected the candy, Koosh balls, and glitter wands (so I could hide them). And Mahmoud drove me back to the office, where I met up with Lina (who gave me the information about my trip to Petra and Aqaba), and then went with Mona, Meredith (a communications consultant with Ecodit) and Pritti (the marketing consultant from I don’t know where) and Mona’s husband, Richard, to a restaurant on top of a mountain far above the Dead Sea.

It was a pleasant trip (the three of us consultants were seated intimately in the back of the car), the scenery beautiful, and the restaurant had a terrific view from the terrace, which is where we sat. There was a nice breeze, we could see Palestine- and there was Indian (who knows why) music and great food.

The sunset was lovely and then we searched for Venus (found 1) and Mars (found 1 that was an airplane, 1 that wasn’t Mars, and finally 1 that was) and had lots of good conversation about religion (I’m sure I mentioned in an earlier letter that Richard is writing a book about religions).

On the drive back, I could barely keep my eyes open. But we had to stop at Mona and Richard’s house to get an envelope to deliver to someone at the hotel. We all went up to their apartment, which I’ve described before. Their magnificent view was even spectacular at night, with the lights of Jerusalem in the distance.

Once we got back to the hotel, I found out that the addressee of the envelope had checked out of the hotel, so I’m going to have to give the envelope to Meredith to mail when she is back in the States (she goes back on Sunday). Then I needed to write about my experience conducting the training and the benefits that the participants received- so that Meredith can put it into a press release.

Then find three previous Laurel Learning Tips related to training large groups in an interactive manner, to send to Trisha and Piotr for Bassey.

Then score four pre-tests that came in today (and were completed today) so of course almost all of the answers are correct. Maha is quite literal- if people need to complete the pre-test, that’s what she has them do. I had pointed out to her yesterday that these pre-tests were no longer pre, if you know what I mean. I’m going to have to throw them out.

Speaking of literal and task-focused, Maha created a schedule of work for me (and her) next week that was going to start on Saturday!!! Luckily, she didn’t realize that I would not be conducting a two-day train the trainer class for the staff. That freed up two days. Otherwise, my trip to Petra and Aqaba would have had to cut out Aqaba. Whew!

I have not yet reviewed the 28 lesson plans- and quite honestly, I can barely keep my eyes open. I’ll just have to review them and return them next week. I simply cannot keep getting 5 hours of sleep. (Uh oh. I just looked at the clock and it is already 12:30 a.m. on Thursday. I haven’t had my shower yet, so a long night’s sleep is still not in the cards for me. Oh well, one more day!

P.S. Mona spoke with me about returning to provide coaching to the trainees in 7 to 10 months. I said absolutely!

Deb in Amman, April 5, Deb in Petra and Aqaba, April 6, back in Amman April 7


This was the last day of the second 5-day train the trainer. Last night, after getting back so late from the trip to the Dead Sea restaurant, I stayed up until 2 a.m. reviewing 27 of the participants’ lesson plans. As opposed to last week’s participants, who were often confused, I had about 7 lesson plans that were excellent. (I attribute this to: (1) reminding them to compare their lesson plans to the examples in their binders and (2) walking them through the different elements of the lesson plan at two different points to make sure they understood what each category meant).

This group also enjoyed the Jeopardy game. Then, after catching up on 4 Showcase presentations left over from yesterday, the participants took their Feedback Oath and then worked on creating their AV (flip charts) for 30 minutes.

We split up into the three groups- and Maha and I made sure that the other two rooms had kites, Koosh, candy, and sweet rolls, etc. to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

My group, as like last time, did amazingly creative activities. Many of them designed their own games. Noor played music (!!!) during her activity.

Maysoon went one step further: she played both music and then background effects of traffic. Her activity related to taking public transportation. She began by asking common ground questions: How many of you were late to class at some point during the week? A number (sheepishly) raised their hands. Most of the reasons pertained to getting caught in traffic, or having to drop children at school, husbands at work, and then getting to the training hotel. She also asked how many had experienced a traffic jam, to which a few raised their hands.

She got everyone up to look at photos of cars, bicycles and buses, all the while playing the background traffic noises. Then she asked the participants (9 in all) to identify one advantage and one disadvantage of public transportation on sticky notes.

Next, she created four teams for a simulated relay/traffic jam. Two teams had to “fight” past the other two teams (who stood in front of them or pelted them with Koosh balls) to place their advantages and disadvantages on flip charts.

She didn’t have enough time to finish in the 10 minutes, but her quick summary related to the fact that taking public transportation was much less stressful. Very clever.

Finally, she gave a tee shirt cut out of something thick and sturdy (I think the saying on it was “I survived a traffic jam”) as a prize to someone who had experienced a traffic jam on the way to the training.

Sawson’s activity was absolutely brilliant. She gave us (including me) 10 small sticky notes with our names on each note. Then she had us participate in a type of gallery walk. She had created 6 flip charts for 6 types of energy-saving categories. She divided each flip chart in half, with two possible energy-saving activities and an energy saving fact on top, and two different possible energy-saving activities and a different energy saving fact on the bottom.

We had to place our names next to every energy-saving activity we did.

Then she looked at the results and asked us why many people did certain activities, but not others- which led to a great conversation.

Finally, she had us each add up the number of name post-its we still had in hand and we were able to give ourselves a score that she entered on a huge energy-saving thermometer she had constructed.

She rewarded the person who achieved 90% energy saving with an energy-saving booklet that her organization produced. Later, we all discussed the fact that she should have actually given the book to the person who achieved the least energy saving!!

At lunch, I found out that some of the participants in the other two rooms had ended up lecturing- although their peers lovingly pointed that out. I won’t know until I see the videos from those rooms whether or not the facilitator had the individual and others discuss what the “lecturer” could have done instead to make the lecture into an interactive activity. I sure hope they did.

If not, I’ll definitely have that opportunity, since I promised to review all of the videos from the two other rooms and send my feedback to each participant. At least, that’s my plan. We’ll see how successful Maha and I will be in getting these sufficiently translated while I watch them so I know what is happening. Maha is also going to have to translate 10 lesson plans (in total from both rounds of training) that were submitted in Arabic.

At the close of the session, I didn’t have enough bottles of bubbles, so I had them blow up balloons and bop them around to music instead.

At the beginning of the day, Rozi gave me a beautiful banana leaf closed basket. At the end of the day, Maysoon gave me a beautiful scarf (just like the one she was wearing) and showed me how to wear it. Sawsoon gave me a lovely card.

When we gave out certificates, some of the women hugged me and gave me kisses: one on the left side of the face and two on the right side. One man (the one who had been upset by the triune brain activity) held his hand to his chest and smilingly explained that he didn’t touch other women, so he couldn’t shake my hand).

After the training, four of the young women came up to tell me that their participation in the training had changed their approach to training and their approach to something else- they were all now wearing colorful clothing (which I had modeled daily)!

Three people gave me their cards and told me that, if I had the time, they would like to take me around Amman to see the sites. What loving, generous people!

Then, we packed up everything and I went back to the hotel to completely collapse, then sort through three large suitcases to start packing them properly, and finally pack for the trip to Petra and Aqaba.

Deb in Petra, April 6

Ahmed (sp?) arrived right at 8:30 am. to take me to Petra. A very sweet young man, the only drawback was that he spoke very very little English! However, as we drove the 3 hours to Petra, we certainly attempted to communicate. He would point out camels (he slowed down so I could take some photos- but I missed a photo of a baby camel drinking from its mother, sorry)- mosques and schools (apparently, the words for both are very similar, with just a different vowel the very end of the words), etc.

I have to admit that I dozed on and off on the way (4 hours of sleep the night before will do that..)

At Petra, I bought a hat with a brim (deciding it would be wiser than a scarf). We paid for my entrance to Petra (50 JD). Then I paid for a guide (another 50 JD). Radwan spoke excellent English and had a wonderful sense of humor, as well as a wealth of historical, cultural and religious information about everything along the way.

Petra consists of magnificent natural sandstone formations, carved out by water over the centuries. It is awe-inspiring both in its beauty and in the history of cultures that it presents.

Four different cultures carved out tombs, homes, gods, and temples out of the sandstone at Petra (which is the word for rock- you probably knew this). Radwan pointed out their differences in design and construction. The earliest were created by the Nabataeans, who left many tombs as well as homes and an actually city center. There are Greek and Roman and Egyptian influences.

I have attached three different photos. The first is Al-Khasneh, which means The Treasury, which was reputed to hold the hidden treasure of the Pharaoh in the urn at the top. Radwan pointed out the bullet holes near it, where people tried to shoot it open.

The second is Ed Deir, of the Monastery, where Christian monks lived at one time!

The third picture is of the camels and donkeys walking all around me as people took rides to and from the major sites.

Fascinating facts: There is a very long water “pipe” through the caverns bringing water to the living locations within Petra, which proves that the Nabataeans were very sophisticated and technologically advanced.

There are holes above each of the Nabataean gods for hanging sacrifices.

The Swiss were involved for many years with excavations and putting down some surface to walk on where the sandstone blocks of road washed or eroded away.

Two years ago, a lot more of the city center buildings were excavated. Work goes on here all the time, now primarily by Americans.

There is only one standing edifice that was not carved from the rock, because it has timber (Juniper, apparently a very hard wood) beams. That is a large temple in the middle of the city center.

Radwan pointed out the artisanship and mastery of the sandstone carvers, because one slip and the entire carving would be ruined.

It was very hot and very dusty, although nice and cool in the shade of the caverns before you get to the open areas with the huge carved tombs, etc. Radwan said that there were many homes not yet excavated, but archaeologists do not consider them as significant as the tombs and temples- nor is there plentiful money to support this work.

Radwan mentioned that today (Good Friday) was exceptionally busy. For the past year or so, tourist traffic has been very light, due to fears about the region. He hoped things would be better soon.

As we walked, here and there we would find litter. Radwan, disgusted, would pick it up saying that it was left by Jordanians, because tourists are much more respectful of the site.

As a side note, litter is everywhere. It is piled disgustingly in the downtown of Amman, you see it on the side of the road even in very remote locations, and it sits in front of service stations and cafes. A terrible habit of Jordanians. I don’t know why.

I asked Radwan about the mosques, because every single one I’ve seen is different, with very different designs to the spires. He said it was personal preference and opined that he thought it would be better if the money that went into creating the more ornate mosques went to people in need instead.

The camels are quiet and calm. The donkeys have colorful saddles and are secured in part by a large cord that goes under their tails. Besides these and horses, which are continually offered as means of transportation, there are also covered buggies pulled by horses. They come thundering down through the paths, shouting at people to get out of the way!

I think that, in total, I walked for 4 hours- because you have to walk all the way in and then all the way out. In is mostly downhill. Out is, obviously, uphill. I’m glad that I carried a lot of water bottles and an apple. I started walking around 11 a.m. and got back to the starting place by 3 p.m. I was very dusty (my black walking shoes are a total mess), hungry and very very tired.

After I took 140 photos, my camera battery died. Luckily, I was almost at the end of the walk. Oh, I could have climbed into the mountains to go inside different tombs and temples. I’m glad I didn’t, although a camel ride back might have been a lot of fun.

After missing each other for about 30 minutes, during which time I tried calling both of his phones and finally called Lina, who came to the rescue, Ahmed met me and took me to a great buffet at a restaurant overlooking Petra’s hills.

Deb in Aqaba (briefly), April 6

Then, on to Aqaba. Again, I dozed, really too tired to try to communicate with him. We went through desert, saw tents and long flat homes of the Bedouins, lots of mountains, and then, as we began to enter Aqaba, lush foliage. We drove for miles along the Red Sea, which had huge ships (Aqaba is a port city), beaches, all through the city itself.

The streets were jam packed with cars and people were everywhere, there were lots of shops and restaurants- just like a major seaport resort city.

Coral Bay Hotel was just 5 kilometers from the Saudi Arabia border and far out of town. We had to pass through two armed checkpoints.

Here is where my adventure took a sad dive. First, it took forever to get checked in. Then they apologized and said they had not kept my reservation (for a sea view room) and brought me to the farthest point from the reception area. The room was filthy and had no lights (they had to bring in two light bulbs). These were two wall lights that cast very little light, certainly not enough to read by. The view was of a concrete wall. There were two twin beds, no desk, no phone, no internet. Okay, I could live with that, because I was absolutely exhausted.

Before he left, the person who led me to the room turned on the TV. When I went to turn it off, I couldn’t. Finally, I went back to reception (since there was no way to call the front desk) to ask for someone to turn the TV off. When I got back to the room, I COULD NOT UNLOCK THE DOOR!!!

I had visions of continually being locked in or out of the room in this isolated place. By the time someone came, I had made the decision that I would NOT stay there. I packed up, called Lina about alternative transportation back to Amman (because Ahmed was exhausted from the 4.5 hour drive). Then I went to check out, where they promised to do whatever I wanted to make it better. I told them that there was no way they were going to replace the door and the lock- and insisted on checking out.

Then I waited outside for perhaps 2 hours, reading, while Lina first tried to find another room in another hotel (not possible), and then a driver to take me the 4.5 hours back to Amman. Finally, at 8:30 pm., Ahmed drove up with his friend, Ari. Ari had taken the Jet bus from Amman to Aqaba, where he found that they had given away his reservation. Neither young man had a place to sleep, although Ahmed had planned to sleep on the beach!

Ari spoke perfect English and was also quite a hunk and very sweet. He asked if it would be all right if he got a lift back to Amman with us, and I was delighted to have him along

First, I told them that we needed to get some dinner. It was 9 p.m. by the time we sat down on the sidewalk at a restaurant (under a full moon). Right next to us was a camel!!! At first I thought it might be fake, but nope, it was just sitting there calmly, with different people taking pictures on and next to it.

We had a lovely meal, sharing food. Then Ahmed went to get me (and them) some water for the trip back. I found out that Ahmed is 30, left school after 8th grade, and lives with his mother and sister.

Ari is 25, works out at the gym and looks like my son, Seth, in terms of lean muscle and height, and is studying German because he plans to go to Germany in the summer to study architecture and interior design. He taught himself English and speaks with people every day to keep it up. Languages apparently come relatively easy to him.

I told them both that I can’t remember having a dinner date with two young handsome men and they got a kick out of that. I really had a lovely time with them.

On the ride back, Ari and I discussed culture, education, philosophy, politics, religion, dating, Facebook, movies, family…and I dozed a lot. I sat in back, so Ari had enough room for his long legs in the front and I could stretch out on the seat in back (still in my seat belt).

We stopped several times for Ahmed to get coffee, go to the bathroom, and smoke (he never smoked with me in the car). At one place, I got out to go to the bathroom. I walked in, saw one filthy toilet, and then saw another place in the bathroom with four stalls that each had a hole in the floor. I walked right out again and decided I could hold it until we got to my hotel.

Oh, probably not a coincidence in a city where everyone knows everyone, but Ari is friends with a hairdresser in the hotel- who turned out to be the man who cut my hair!

Deb back in Amman, April 7

I walked into the hotel after 2 a.m. My first priority, once I was in my room, was a long hot shower. I didn’t get to bed until 4:30 a.m. (one thing I had to do was email Mohammad in Aqaba that my accommodations didn’t work out (how diplomatic of me) and that I regretted not being able to snorkel the Red Sea with him.

Then I went to bed, woke up once at 11 a.m. and again at 4 p.m.

Now it is just past 7 p.m. and I have had one-quarter of a club sandwich, taken my vitamins, packed up laundry and sent it to be cleaned, and hand washed a large number of items. I don’t plan to leave the room…

While tomorrow would typically be the start of the workweek, since it is Easter, I was told it was an office holiday and the office would be closed.

Maha had written earlier to Karim about our working together anyway, since I have so little time left here and so much left to do with regard to reviewing the lesson plans and videos from the two weeks, as well as designing more curriculum for the social marketing program. She told me she would let me know if I got the holiday off. So far, I haven’t heard back from her.

I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow (Easter Sunday) if I don’t go to work (which I think is highly likely). Probably go for a walk, perhaps call one of the participants who invited me to tour the city. Continue to catch up on my sleep.

I do want to get the email addresses for all of the participants. I’d like to send thank you cards to everyone who was so kind to me. I’m trying to think about what I can possibly give Lina, who has been my anchor any day or night.

So, that’s the scoop.

I’ve heard from Mona and Cassie that everyone is delighted with the training. I’m very glad.

I’ve met wonderfully warm, gracious, loving, intelligent people. I’ve traveled from one end of Jordan (the Dead Sea in the far north) to Aqaba in the far south. I’ve seen across into Israel, Saudi Arabia and Palestine. I have been made exceptionally welcome here in Jordan and would love to return to see people again and hopefully finally swim in the Red Sea on a non-holiday weekend!

Deb back in Madison, April 13

Yes, I’m back in Madison. I see that I missed the daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, flowering apple and plum trees, pussy willow, most of the tulips, and the forsythia.

But let me back track to the night I left Amman.

Deb leaving Amman, April 11

My flight was at 2:45 a.m. on Lufthansa. Mohammed picked me up a little after midnight. I tipped the bellhop 10 JD for hefting all four bags into his car. It is interesting that Mohammed has a clear sense of role expectations, because while you or I might help put the luggage in the car, he just sat there.

At the airport, two porters came to help me. Thank goodness! They showed me where to go for this and that, and then negotiated down the payment for the extra luggage. I was allowed 1 piece, which was overweight (probably 90 pounds). Then I had two other extra bags, both also overweight. I think I was looking at paying 600 JD in fees, until the porter argued and argued, got the manager, and finally achieved having me only pay for a standard weight extra bag: 150 JD. Wow!

I can’t remember all of the maneuvers I had to go through (4 or 5 stations at least), but the porters took care of me all of the way. So, I took care of them- I gave them my last 50 JD as a tip.

Upstairs at the gate area, there were maybe a hundred people in various Arabian dress. There were also women wearing very colorful embroidered dresses that had little cap hoods (like little red riding hood) attached. They were very bright and very pretty. It turned out that these folks were going to Zaire.

The flight to Frankfort took about 4.5 hours. Around 4 a.m., the man in the seat in front of me turned off my reading light. I had probably been the only person awake. It was so dark, I couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on. I had to go to the back of the plane to get a stewardess to help me.

I finally nodded off just as we arrived in Frankfort. Then, when I tried to get my carry-on luggage out of the overhead compartment, it fell sideways and clunked the man in the seat in front of me in the head with one of the wheels. I felt absolutely terrible- and thankful it didn’t knock him out. With all the travel I have done over the past 15 years, I have never bopped anyone in the head with luggage before. I hope I never do again!!!

I had to go through customs, and then I had about 1.5 hour to walk around. I decided to purchase another adapter (anticipating future travel to countries requiring one). In retrospect, I should have just purchased the same type as before on board. When I got home and compared them, the one I just bought is much larger than the other one. Oh well.
I also looked for an Internet connection place so that I could call Jenny to tell her I had arrived safely. I finally found a small standup machine with a keyboard, but I couldn’t figure out how to pay because the instructions were in German. A young man came over and asked me if I needed help, but by then I realized that I didn’t see a symbol I would need for entering my password, so I gave it up.

It wasn’t until I was on the plane that I realized I could have used a different email account…

When I got on the plane, I had trouble finding somewhere to put my carry-on bag in the overhead compartment. One man came over and I actually thought he was going to put my bag in the clear spot I was looking at. Nope, he pushed me aside and put his briefcase there. Luckily, the young very tall man sitting next to me offered to help and was able to place it directly overhead. Bless his heart! When we landed, he took it down immediately.

The flight from Frankfort to Chicago took about 8.5 hours. The flight crew was very young and I think, easily distracted. At one point, I watched a steward serve water to one aisle and waited and waited and waited for him to come back and serve our aisle. I finally got up and went to the back to request water and ask when they would serve our aisle. Two stewards, male and female, had been busy flirting with each other. They looked horrified when they understood the problem.

I think I ultimately drank 7 cups of water! It gets very dry on board and I really should have purchased some water before I got on the plane. I’ll remember for next time.

When we got to Chicago, we had to go through customs. Then we had to get our luggage and carry it to another checkpoint. You should have seen me trying to lift those heavy bags and balance them on top of each other on a small trolley. In Nigeria, someone would have helped me. In America, no one offered.

My stack of luggage defied gravity, and I was able to successfully push it (it rolled easily, thank goodness) to the United luggage drop off place.

Next, I had to go through security to get to the United gate. The line didn’t move for almost 30 minutes. We (another woman and I) decided that the person who was screening the luggage had to be very new. He certainly was very thorough.

Luckily, it turned out that my flight from Chicago to Madison was delayed for over an hour- or I would have missed it. Since I was in the B concourse, I had to go downstairs through the hall of lights and music to get to the C concourse for gate C-2.

When I got there, I found out that they had moved the gate to- yes, you guessed it, B-19. So back I trudged. And when I got there, they said that the gate had been moved again- yes- to C- 5. I think I would have held a sit down strike if they had changed it again!

I have to say that I was disappointed with the long flights because I thought I would get a chance to watch some movies (as I had on the flights over). Nope. The plane from Amman to Frankfort was a regular plane like you take anywhere in the states. The plane from Frankfort to Chicago had one monitor up on the ceiling for us to watch, but we had no choice about the movie. I just read and read and read some more.

All of my luggage arrived safe and sound (well, the old red one just barely hung on…)

After Jenny picked me up, we went to the US Cellular on East Washington where Seth works. You see, I didn’t have my phone and Trisha said she couldn’t find it in the luggage she brought back to the States for me. After a month and a half essentially without a phone, I had forgotten how important it was.

They were quite busy, so we went for a great meal at Outback, and then returned. It was still busy, but Jenny was able to ask a manager if they had (the next generation of) my phone in stock. They didn’t, but the store on the West side did. So, Jenny kindly drove me all the way over there to get the phone.

On the way back home, I discovered that I had 19 messages!!! A few were actually pretty important. So, it’s a good thing I’ve got a phone again.

Funny ruminations: At some point in the 36 or more hours that I was awake, I realized that I had been saying “Good morning” to people when I thought I was saying “Hello.” No wonder I got strange looks!!

I realized that I had not miscounted the flowers that I purchased as gifts for various PAP staff. The “extra” one was for Mahmoud (who did all the videotaping). He was on vacation, so he wasn’t in our cake celebration. That’s why I forgot about him. Now I have to think about what I can do from here.

After I unpacked everything and put them in piles, I realized that I still have the charger for the phone they lent me in Jordan. Goodness only knows what black cord thingy I left with the phone in its stead. I sure hope it isn’t something I absolutely need right away. Yikes!

Once home, I did laundry, put clothing away, entered all financial transactions in my check books, organized the bills I needed to pay, went through all mail, checked and responded to some email, emptied three suitcases and pot all of the training materials into the fourth, to take down to the basement, and took a long shower. Ahhh. With one thing or another, I was up until 6 a.m.

When I finally got to sleep, I didn’t wake up until 9:30 p.m.! Man, were my cats ravenous!
I paid bills and I don’t remember what else.

So today is Friday the 13th and I was up at 8 a.m. I know that I will need more sleep, but I’m doing very well at the moment- and I’ve been very busy all day long.

Thank you for keeping me company on this trip. Hopefully, there will be many more in my future. So, keep your passport ready!

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