iftar (breaking the fast) with Syrian refugees in Amman

Our Project GO and Dialogue students were treated to an evening with three families of Syrians who are in Amman, as refugees from the Syrian civil war.  We broke our group of 29 students plus 5 staff and translators into three groups.  My group was hosted by a family of 9:  6 children (3 boys, 3 girls), their parents, and their aunt (mom's sister). Of course we provided the funds so that the families could prepare food without the expense of feeding our group; we arranged this with a friend of mine (Ms. Dema) who works with Syrian families all over Jordan.  And of course, we also left a donation to the families for whatever purposes they see fit.

It was a beautiful night, according to all three of our different groups.  I found tonight both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time.  Hearing the stories of war, families split apart, mothers disappeared, fathers shot and wounded and unable to work, children unable to attend schools for whatever bureaucratic or financial r…

Amazing week in Amman - and now, Ramadan Karim!

Today is the first day of Ramadan.  It's also the end of a very busy, beautiful week for our students and our team. I'll try to capture some of it with words and the rest with pictures.

Monday - pretty much "all Arabic, all day", including Language Partners for all students.Tuesday - after 4 hours of Arabic, and some Arabic dancing (see picture), we went to the ILO (International Labor Organization) here in Amman.  ILO is a UN organization that focuses on workers' rights and labor laws, but once the Syrian refugee crisis developed and intensified, the ILO here had little choice but to also start working with Syrians on issues related to work. And once the Government of Jordan agreed to allow Syrian refugees to get work permits (which is a very rare event, for refugees anywhere to join another country's labor force), then the ILO became more involved in that effort also. Our own Maisam alAhmad, NU graduate of 2016, is currently working for ILO here in Amman. O…

Jordan Dialogue & Project GO 2017

Nearing the end of Week 1 of the Dialogue/Project GO program, all students are well, in their appropriate Arabic classes, settled into their apartments, and have already started their history, politics, and foreign policy lectures as well.

Below are some pictures from some of the above activities; first 5 pics are from Mt. Nebo ("Mount of the Prophet" [Moses], where Moses saw the Promised Land) and the last 2 are from today's lecture with Dr. Badr Al-Madi, University of Jordan and formerly with the Royal Court.

AND BELOW IS MY FAVORITE "BARBERSHOP QUARTET", the Shabaab of the Dialogue: Raed (our faithful bus driver), Nidal (the "Big Boss" and Brains of Bright Star Travel), Charles (the peripatetic Baron of BCARS), and my new brother Rami (driver extraordinaire and otherwise caretaker of us all in his Hybrid Toyota):


Reminds me of Alexandria Egypt. And there's a great reason for that, since Alex was founded by the hero of this part of Greece especially! -- Alexander the Great. (We visited his father's and his son's royal tombs today in Vergina) 

And yesterday we toured the major highlights of the City. 

Below, the Rotunda: a Roman temple for a time, which later served as a mosque during the Ottoman period. Now back to serving as a church with regular services on Sunday's. 

Above: Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) home - he lived here around 12-13 years. 
Below: Constantinos, our beloved guide around Thessaloniki. 

Belgrade - so much to catch up on!

It's been over a week since I've posted anything; so much to write about, but too damned busy to do so!  instead, i'll put up as many pics as possible.

Today, we had a tour of the Serbian parliament plus a lecture by a Political Economist at U-Belgrade, Dušan Pavlović, who is also a member of Parliament (and a harsh critic of the ruling party as well as the corruption and unfairness rampant in the political and economic system of his great country).

And here's our guide for the morning explaining the national Crest/Coat of Arms of Serbia 

Srebrenica - connecting Anne Frank (1945) to Srebrenica (1995)

Enroute from Sarajevo to Belgrade, we made the most important visit of our program thus far, to Potocari Memorial of the Srebrenica massacre/genocide of July 1995.  Our visit occurred 21 years almost to the exact day when the killing fields of Srebrenica ended.

Haggadah and National Museum

Our last day in Sarajevo. I gave students the day to explore on their own, with a "scavenger hunt" as a guide. Many went up to the 1984 Olympics Bobsled "chute". Others went to the Srebrenica photo exhibit (before we go to the Potocari memorial tomorrow). 
And others of us went to the National Museum where the highlight is the Haggadah.