Showing posts from May, 2013

Jerash and Ajloun

Road trip, Jordan style:

Our first stop was at Jerash, a.k.a., the 'Pompeii of the East'.  Jerash is considered to be one of the best preserved and most complete Roman cities in the world. It was a member of the Decapolis group of cities: one of the ten biggest Roman cities. 
The site itself is quite expansive, so our students and I got a workout!  Add into the equation the 96 degree heat.  And the drive to Jerash is quite beautiful, as it lies in a green and fertile valley in the hills of Gilead.  After 90 minutes of walking/hiking around the site, we had lunch and then off to Ajloun.
Ajloun Castle rests on a high peak about 20 minutes drive west of Jerash.  Visible from all directions, the castle was originally built in 1184 by a cousin of the great Arab leader Saladin and was used as a base in his successful campaign to drive the Crusaders from Jordan.
Here we are atop the castle, both groups - "Group One" (NU Dialogue students) and "Group Two" (Project GO s…

Exploring Amman - in Arabic only

Today, the SIT building is like a "ghost town" - all the hustle-bustle of the past 2 weeks is a memory (temporarily).  The reason:  all classes, all students are engaged in an "Arabic activity day" across Amman.

Students are visiting a mosque, cafe, bookstore, restaurant, a famous DVD store, a souq (market), a spice market, and a theater.  And they are exploring all this using only Arabic.

The Arabic teachers gave everyone a guide - language guide, geography guide, and a bit of history - for the students to explore, compare, report and debrief about the activity (which will last 4 hours at least).

This is the "Arabic in action", Arabic immersion, practical/applied Arabic that makes this "language-anchored Dialogue" the best way to learn this most critical (and extremely difficult) language to learn.

It's more than Jordan

While we are fully engaged in learning about Jordan, its culture, history, politics and especially its language, our program continues to look more broadly at the Arab world, the "Arab Spring", the Middle East "peace process" (which is indeed a joke, sadly), and the Syrian refugee crisis (which is no joke, sadly).

My own "homestay" (with the wonderful Marriott family of Amman) is just a block away from the Meridien Hotel, where our former Senator and current Secretary of State, John Kerry, is hanging out today.  Welcoming Secretary Kerry to Amman is a tiny group of Syrian "demonstrators" (the group is so small, I cannot even call what they are doing a "demonstration").  Kerry has a nearly impossible task of promoting Middle East Peace between Israelis and Palestinians (see here) as well as a seemingly impossible task of promoting peace in Syria.

Our students generally appreciate the amazing opportunity they have to be in a safe and s…

Fully engaged in Arabic, dialogue, and politics

Our two groups, the 23 Northeastern students who are here for 5 weeks plus the 14 NU and non-NU students who are on a special language immersion program for 8 weeks, are fully engaged in their Arabic classes plus our broader Middle East studies course (history, politics, culture, and special focus on the Arab "Spring"/Uprising).  
Today, our guest speaker was Mouin Rabbani, a Palestinian and Dutch journalist/analyst based in Amman.  Mouin is a "regular" in our Dialogues, speaking with all the groups I've brought to Jordan over the past 3 years.  He spoke today about the Arab uprisings, with special focus on Syria and on the internal divisions within Palestine (i.e., internal Palestinian divisions).  
Our students all have (or soon will have) individual language partners, so our students will have individualized tutoring in language as well as culture.  
Nothing especially "dramatic" to report - and that's very good news, so far :-) 
Yes, we'v…

Two groups, 37 students, (nearly) all settled in ...

"Group Two" (as we call our Project GO student program) has arrived (or 12 out of 14 have); they arrived in Amman about 36 hours ago and are now settled in to their homestays.

Group One (our original 23) has been here a full week and they're pretty much integrated into their homes, their classes, and perhaps even into Amman, the city.  We still have a few glitches with internet access, but we're "on the case".

Heather and I are taking Group One to Ma'in, the hot springs area about 90 minutes south of Amman.  I'm sure there will be great pictures to post soon!  "Watch this spot" for pics in 24-48 hours ...

otherwise, TGIT! (Thursday being the start of the weekend here).

Kuwait, Jordan, and Syria - by Sheikh Faisal Al-Sabah

Thanks to our own Sheikh Jabber Al-Sabah, a Northeastern student and a member of our Jordan Dialogue, we had the high honor and rare privilege to meet with His Excellency Sheikh Faisal Al-Sabah, member of the Ruling Family of Kuwait and former Kuwaiti Ambassador to Jordan (as well as to Palestine).

Sheikh Faisal was in Jordan for only a few days, yet he graciously offered to spend time with us at the SIT learning center.  The Sheikh spoke about 5 main "themes":

Kuwaiti democracythe Arab Spring and the Gulf countriesthe Syria crisis and Gulf countries' involvementKuwait's role in the world, especially the Arab worldKuwait-U.S. relations
Sheikh Faisal has a very special interest in, concern for, and passion about the Syrian refugee crisis, especially how it has impacted Jordan. In fact, after his meeting with our students, he invited Heather and me, along with 2 students (which was very difficult to choose only 2!!) to visit a Jordanian hospital that is caring for many…

finally, a few pics!

yes, they caught me half-way through removing my hat ... what students are calling my "Indiana Jones hat"

students finding respite in the shade atop Mt. Nebo, before we descend to the lowest point on Earth (the Dead Sea)

Arabic, full-steam ahead!

Students began their Arabic immersion program today with their first full day of lessons - 4 hours of intense study, plus whatever homework their teachers gave.  Our 23 students are divided into 3 levels, depending upon their previous course work and/or their level of facility with the language:  beginner (no previous experience), advanced beginner, and intermediate/advanced intermediate.

On Monday, after Arabic classes, we will be honored to receive a Kuwaiti Sheikh as our first guest speaker.  Sheikh Faisal will speak about Kuwait-Jordan relations, Kuwait and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Syrian crisis and the Arab world's response and responsibility to that, and anything else the Sheikh and the students want to discuss.

Normally, I would be putting up many pictures in this space - but my camera is acting up, so I'm relying (funny word, that!) on students who are taking pictures and who have promised to send them to me for posting here (hence the "funny word…

Madaba, Mount Nebo, and Dead Sea (and Mother's Day!)

as promised and as planned, we visited the Dead Sea today - after first stopping in Madaba and visiting the Church of St. George, which holds the 6th Century map of the Holy Land (the oldest such map in the world).

then, a short drive to Mount Nebo (as I mentioned yesterday, it's the site from which (according to both the Bible and the Quran) was Moses' last view on earth: the view of the "promised land".

and then we descended to the lowest point on Earth - the Dead Sea, which rests some 1,378 feet below sea level.  And it is 30% salt, which gives it its buoyancy.   Some students "mudded up" (lathered themselves from head to toe in the "mud" of the Dead Sea; others just floated in the Sea; and still others decided to hang out with Heather, Dr. Raed (our partner in Jordan), and me under the shade.

My camera died (or hopefully just the batteries) and a few students have promised me some pictures of the day, so I can post them here ... so, "…

relaxing Friday ...

Friday.  The best day in the Muslim world, at least in the Arab world (as I can't speak to the entire Muslim world!).  Students are all moved into their homestays.  They have internet and cell phones, provided by our program, so we can maintain communications even on a 'relaxed' day like today.  And, so it is not totally relaxing (sorry students!), I gave them their first writing assignment today as well.

Tomorrow, we head to the Dead Sea - preceded by stops in Madaba and Mount Nebo, where the Bible says Moses lived out his remaining days. 

If I'm not completely "flat out exhausted" tomorrow after Dead Sea, I'll post some pics and update the blog ...

Arrived! Let the Dialogue begin!!

After our long layover in Frankfurt (where most of us went into town to explore, stretch our legs, get some fresh air), we landed in Amman airport right on time.  The students are all settled into Hotel Imperial Palace; I, however, am back at the airport to pick-up one more student who is arriving from Belgrade.  It's 5:25 am; her plane has landed; I'm just waiting outside baggage claim and will "deposit" her also back at the hotel so we can all grab some sleep before orientation later today ... 
more soon!  stay tuned and keep watching this site for pictures, updates on our Dialogue in Jordan, and other news.