Adopt a School Project
Service has always been something that has been important to me. In high school service was a required part of my classes, and while freshman year it felt like a burden, by senior year it was something I looked forward to. I no longer worked for the bare minimum, but strived to accomplish all I could. Once I entered college finding service was harder. I wanted to volunteer for an organization that had volunteers for the benefit of the organization not just my own ego.
When I saw the sign up sheet for our service in Jordan I was skeptical. I wanted to participate in a project that actually gave back to the wonderful community that I have been living in these past few months. But you never know unless you go for it. I was excited to learn that the service we would be doing would have a direct impact on an all girls school, in one of the poorer areas of Amman. We were covering up offensive graffiti, building a garden, and providing appliances for the neglected special needs school attacked. We had the opportunity to do the service while the girls were in school so we got to work with and get to know some, very energetic, young women. At one point, during their break, we were more or less swarmed by hundreds of excited students wanting to ask our name, age, where we were from, etc. They were so excited to meet us, and we had a cool opportunity to practice our Arabic with them. After our service we had a chance to play a rather competitive game of basketball and share a meal.
I was very excited that I chose to participate in this service opportunity and I am looking forward to following the continued progression of work on the school.
Ohio State University
The Jordan Trail spans around 300miles from Umm Qais in the North to Aqaba in the South. While it would be a dream to thru-hike the entire trail, I was fortunate enough to enjoy a four-day section from Wadi Dana to Petra. Our group of twelve set out on what would unknowingly be quite a windy adventure. On the second night, we had finished our hiking for the day and were camped up on a plateau. By the time we wanted to fall asleep, seasonal winds from the Red Sea had started to ransack our campsite. Tents flattened to the ground with broken poles and people’s belongings were flying away. We had decided to sleep under the stars that night, and my friend next to me shouted over the howling wind, “I think my shoes blew away!” I looked down to see that mine actually had. Moments later, another woman started screaming with laughter as her tent ripped apart. Scrambling in the dark trying not to lose everything and still get a night of sleep, we tossed rocks on our packs and all huddled together on the mats behind the truck. There is a brief moment of peace, and I look up at the stars, who are somehow undisturbed by the earthly commotion.
University of Vermont
We started the hike after a short bus ride to a small mountain with a view of a sprawling valley. Not knowing what to expect or what we would see; we were excited, because sometimes Jordan’s surprises have been the best part of these trips. We followed our guide and his young son who proudly sported an oversized Indiana Jones shirt, up a considerable hill full of bushes and rocks with no clear trail, making the experience feel all the more real and fun. After some time ascending we arrived to the other side of the elevation to overlook a long, flat field and were soon told that at one time it was an old Roman Sport’s ground that was intentionally and well preserved. We took pictures and ran around excitedly until it was time to move on. We walked up and down small jumps in the mountain’s terrain, marching through a lush environment that we thought a hike in Greece must look like. Olive trees lined fields tilted on the side of mountains, remaining on these hills since they were first brought there several centuries before. We hiked further and stumbled upon many Jordanians, some only visiting while some lived in the forest in hand-built houses along streams and creeks. Many were friendly and were by no means afraid of throwing greetings as we walked by.
Although the day was hot, water presented itself in several forms on our excursion. The first encounter was earlier in our hike when we happened upon a small pool to rinse our feet and splash water, some happier to be splashed than others. The second however was a much more interactive experience. With the creek turning into small pools from dams, several of us jumped in to the waist deep water and swam until we were too cold to carry on but also too happy to care. And finally, we finished the tiring but refreshing day with a cold soda, an abundance of chicken and rice, and some fresh kunafah for lunch. All of which was cooked over a fire that crackled just ten feet from out shaded tables. By the end of our day were were tired, wet, and full. But also happy for the surprising beauty and amusement Wadi Al Rayyan had shown us.
Washington and Lee University
On CIEE’s recent trip to Azraq I saw a side of Jordan that one does not experience when living their daily life in Amman. As we entered Azraq Nature Preserve we immediately started a jeep safari tour where we left the concrete overcrowded jungle of Amman and traded it for the dusty desert savannah. On our adventure we learned about animals such as the wild Onniger, a desert hawk, which I discovered had very soft feathers, and a delicious tasting plant that I put in my water bottle. After our safari, my group ventured out to the once prosperous Azraq wetlands. Upon arrival we learned that illegal pumping left this once luscious preserve in the shadow of its previous glory. Despite this sad news, there are still many pools of water and amazing wildlife, such as water buffalo. Additionally, I learned that 4 out of every 10 glasses of water come from this preserve. To finish the trip off, we visited two desert castles. One, called Qasr Amra, is a UNESCO world heritage site due to its well preserved Ummayad fresco’s. The second, named Qasr Al-kharanah, was a beautiful desert castle where we could explore several rooms that contained doorways that opened to the interior courtyard (I have pictures included for a clearer description). Overall, it was an amazing trip that I will never forget!