Wednesday, March 30, 2005

i Jordan 

This post is coming from the new Fundraising Director of the event management and public relations company i Jordan. That's right, I finally got a job! I bet you can almost feel my gigantic, sigh of relief emanating from your computer screen...

But let me tell you that three weeks of being stuck in a house doing nothing all day (in an unfamiliar city/without a car/where you don't speak the language) isn't as glamourous as it sounds...

My coworkers are all impressed when I tell them I have only been in Amman for 4 weeks and already found a job but it was only thanks to Ali, a rockstar co-worker of Shanes', who got me the interview. He also happens to have been one of my scuba instructors and his girlfriend Nada took me to the globalization conference (both events of which I wrote about below). So he definitely deserves a shout out.

Now about the job:

They are a five year old company and they specialize in organizing events/concerts for non-profits and charitable type organizations. They also do some random bookings like Sting and Bryan Adams.

They have always tried to get corporate sponsorship for each event without much success. So they created my position to try to beef up their sponsorship program. Basically, in the next couple months I am tasked to find big-money sponsors for a native Ammarin Bedouin tribe festival that still live in a tent camp near Petra, a Symposium on the results of the first-ever osteoporosis study in Jordan, and the "Star Academy," which is Jordan's version of American Idol.

This could be a ridiculously formidable experience since I have absolutely no donor relationships here. However, Amman is so small that everyone I have met here knows like 20 other people that are the owner of a successful travel agency, or a grocery store chain, etc. So my hope is that through the relationships of others I will be able to get in the door and pitch these noble sponsorship packages. We shall see! I'll keep you up to date and call it internet advertising when I do! Either way, everyone I work is has offered to help me build relationships. The office is 80% women under 30 and one of the owners is a young woman as well. It is actually a very impressive operation.

I feel like this is such an amazing experience. I will be learning so much about so many different projects, be using my expertise as a fundraiser to build a new program in a region previously unfamiliar to fundraising, and as a contractor I will still have flexibility as to travel around the world with Shane every few months. (Oh, and we decided on our first trip itinerary: South Africa, Zimbabwe for Victoria Falls depending on the political situation, and then Tanzania). Basically, I just feel incredibly lucky right now.


Friday, March 25, 2005

A Whole New World 

We went scuba diving in the Red Sea last weekend. Shane went off to explore a shipwreck but I was busy doing my first and second training dives in order to get my scuba license. I'm sure it wasn't as amazing as exploring a shipwreck at 3o meters but it sure was beautiful. The visibility was amazing (even despite some heavy waves at the surface), and the aquatic life was phenominal. There were parrot fish, puffers, angel fish, scary looking chicken fish and I even saw an eel and a baracuda. It was so relaxing to swim among the coral and the fish and just listen to your breath entering your lungs and bubbling out. I felt like I was on another planet.

It wasn't all soothing of course. I had to perform all sorts of skills, take my mask off underwater, throw out my mouthpiece and retrieve it, buddy breathe, drop my weights and emergency ascent, etc. but it still so much fun.

I was humbled on land. As I stood on the shore of Aqaba, Jordan, and look out over the vast Red Sea I could see the coastlines of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all on the same horizon. I never in my life thought I would see all of those countries with my own eyes.

I only have one training dive left to go and a written exam and then I will have my license. Even though Jordan is one of the most inexpensive places to get your license, it is still not cheap. But once you have it you can dive anywhere for the rest of your life. Not a bad deal if you ask me. Our next stop is Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. It is still the Red Sea but they are supposed to have some of the most beautiful reefs in the world.


Thursday, March 24, 2005


I saw a commericial the yesterday for this cream called "Lighten Up." It was in Arabic and it showed a beautiful woman's face getting lighter and lighter. Then she was at a party looking happy and radiant and she was surrounded by envious darker people.

So the grass is always greener like skin is always more beautiful....

Half of us go to the beach as often as possible or pay $10 a pop to fry ourselves in little booths in search of that deep olive tan, while others are staying in the shade donning a bottle of chemical bleach. Hmmm....


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Little Birds 

The Bedouins are only a small segment of the Jordanian population (around 10% I think) and can be basically compared to the American Indian population in the U.S. Most people here are recent Palestinian, Lebanese or Syrian immigrants but if they have been here longer then a couple of generations they are also considered native Jordanian. But because the combined Bedouin and "native Jordanian" population is still so small, they don't have many truly Jordanian cuisine. I have only learned of one dish, "Mansaf" a Bedouin lamb stew that I still have yet to try.

The other night I got to eat high-class Lebanese cuisine. Our friends Ali and Nada took us to a great restaurant called Fakhr El-Din (if you click you can see they actually have a website).

Being great hosts, our friends ordered for us tons of tapas-sized appetizers to sample. Unfortunately, by the time we had finished trying all the exotic first course dishes we had absolutely no room for the main course and decided to skip it.

Anyhow, the appetizers were wonderful. There was the traditional hummus and tabouli that I've grown up with, but they also had very unique dishes. From a steak tartar that was basically raw hamburger meat they smeared with garlic butter (which overpowered the taste of the meat), to fried frog legs (that dissapointingly taste like fried chicken). To what I thought was the most interesting dish, called 'Asafeer.' It looked like little sausages but when you looked closely there were bones sticking out of the meat and they had the shape of a little foul body. Asafeer translated means "little birds." I don't know exactly what kind of birds they are but was told they are the brown and white sparrow-like bird commonly seen on telephone lines in Amman.

You basically pop the Asafeer like popcorn, and swallow them bones and all similar to eating a sardine. The foreigners at the table were admittedly horrified, but I had to suck it up and try one.

They were actually really good. The bones gave them a crunch so they were textured nicely and since they were whole, they were very juicy. I ended up convincing all but one of the other foreigners to try them and they were all impressed.

Shane eating Asafeer.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Globalization from Across the Globe 

Today I went to this amazing seminar and review of this book called "In Defense of Global Capitalism." It was a panel discussion including the Swedish Author Johan Norberg. It was put on by my new friend Nada's group called the Friedrich Naumann Foundation which is a German foundation for liberal policy. The event was co-sponsored by Jordan's Young Entrepreneur's Association.

So there I was sitting in a conference room in Amman, Jordan hearing Jordanian scholars, young businesspeople (about 2/3 men, 1/3 women) and a Swedish author debate the merits of globalization (about forty people in all). Not my usual crowd to say the least.

First, I was impressed by the moderator, a very attractive woman in her late-twenties/early thirties who is Editor-In-Chief of a new magazine: Jordan Business Monthly. We each got copies of the magazine which was an impressive publication more aesthetic than the Economist (I haven't had a chance to thoroughly examine the contents yet). I spoke with the woman briefly afterwards and it turns out she studied at Georgetown University. She gave me her card and told they are always looking for new writers especially regarding international issues. I wonder if they need any bloggers?

Anyways, back to the seminar itself:

The panel consisted the author of the controversial book Mr. Norberg, a Jordanian Senior Researcher at the Jordanian University who adeptly criticized scattered parts of the book, a young Jordanian businessman who talked mainly about the institutional factors hindering Jordan's participation in the global marketplace, and an "Arab woman activist" (title taken right off the program), who was basically the counterpoint. She was the anti-globalization advocate and reminded me of about half the women involved in my hometown politics (Madison, WI) and 3/4 of the students at Wesleyan University.

I admit though, despite my historical protectionist leanings, the Swedish guy did an amazing job. Yes, I still stand with the criticism (highlighted by the professor on the panel) that the book didn’t address the argument that it is not the theory of globalization that is the problem, but the way it is often carried out (i.e. Michael Moore’s images of Flint, Michigan’s despair post-General Motors plant shutdown). Still, I was surprisingly swayed by his overall hypotheses.


Globalization Seminar Continued 

It wasn't letting me publish the full post so I split it up:

Norberg made a compelling case that despite short-term layoffs locally, unhindered free trade policies benefits so many more people on a globally. This might be a horrible comparison but I think he would argue that Flint Michigan is a small price to pay for lifting millions out of poverty in India and China (and I still insist that the company or government should be obligated to ease the transition much more in massive layoff situations then they have done in the past). I know this idea is not novel and may be even cliché, Anyhow, but Norberg backed up common macroeconomic theories with tons of interesting historical evidence. For example, when an audience member asserted that one of the problems with globalization was that companies were rewarding despot governments by moving to the markets with the cheapest labor and worst work conditions, Norberg countered with evidence that companies only invest in areas of stability, transparency and rule of law. Foreign investors won’t touch the most impoverished countries where the wages and work conditions are the worst, like Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, not for noble reasons of course, but simply because the investment there is too risky. He also noted the proven positive correlation between wages and work conditions and foreign investment. When the audience member challenged that when the conditions and wages improve, the same companies pick up and move to other countries with lower wages thereby depressing the country once more, Norberg responded by citing statistics that when companies leave a country because the wages and work conditions are raised up, the country continues to benefit from the elevated standard of living and does not fall back (he used Japan as one of his examples of this). That was only one of the many interesting interchanges during the three hour panel. Also interesting, was the author’s discussion how globalization does not equal Americanization, but is often perceived that way. He argued that globalization has actually been bad for the U.S. citing examples of how China and India are now tremendously influencing American policy and decision making because of their elevated trading and economic status. Another interesting topic was globalization from the local perspective here in Jordan. I won’t expound on the issues for sake of time, but according to the panelists Jordan is making great progress (and it seemed like an honest discussion of that progress. For example, they cited the recent privatization of the telecom in Jordan, but faulted the transition for not yet allowing for competition). It was an extremely interesting morning (although I am aware I may have bored all of you immensely with this blog post). Okay, so I am basically writing about a typical lecture I would have yawned through at Wesleyan. I guess what made it so unique and engaging to me was the company in the room. I got to hear a discussion of globalization from a European author who began his political career as an anarchist and citizens of a country not fully bombarded by it yet--or as Norberg would say, not fully benefiting from it yet.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Props to the EPA 

One thing I will give the U.S. credit for is the implementation of decent car and truck emission standards.

If you ever want to convince someone of the benefits to environmentalism have them come to Amman. I walked four blocks home today from the gym along a busy street and seriously almost passed out from the smog. It is three hours later and I still have a sore throat. I think I took at least a couple days off my life.

I think it's time to start the importation of some Toyota Prius'.


The View 

We get three English language channels at home. All of them have Arabic subtitles. One is a pretty decent movie channel, the second is a European news channel that has great international news coverage (and subsequently is pretty hard on U.S. foreign policy). The third is like a typical big network channel in the U.S. like CBS or actually probably more like Fox. The typical daytime programming includes soap operas, re-runs of Friends and my new least favorite show "The View." It took me coming to the Middle East to watch an entire episode of this horrific daytime talk show. How Barbara Walter can sit around with these four idiots is beyond me. The older redhead is the only one with half a brain.

Today they showed a rerun from the summer. In the first five minutes they touted the benefits of plastic surgery, decided Linda Ronstadt should have been thrown out of a Vegas casino for dedicating a song for Michael Moore (when the redhead mentioned free speech the young, pregnant blonde said "don't other people have the right of free speech to not have to hear her say that?"), they listened to Joan Rivers talk about how she was getting fat (up to 98lbs. from her usual feeble 85lbs.), and none of them could understand why people were upset that Arnold Schwartzeneger had called California legislators "Girly Men" for not supporting his proposed budget.

On a seemingly unrelated not, yesterday I went to the pharmacy to re-fill a prescription. I greeted the clerk with "Marhaba" (an Arabic hello). I then asked for my prescription in English (which she spoke perfectly) and as I was leaving I said "Maa Salama" (goodbye/with peace). Surprised, the pharmacist asked me if I spoke Arabic. I told her no, that I had been here for a week but was trying to learn what I could. She looked at me quixotically and replied "you are learning Arabic? you must be a smart American."

I impressed someone by knowing two words of Arabic. Come to think of it, I also witnessed the surprise of Jordanians when my American boyfriend jokes with them in Arabic far beyond my words of greeting.

So that's another strike for us. I guess Americans living in Jordan typically don't even learn how to say even two common words that impressed the pharmacist so much.

Between our redneck administration, our apathetic expatriates and our quality overseas programming how can we expect anyone in the rest of the world not think Americans are idiots? It is embarrassing.... But at least we still have Linda Ronstadt.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Jet Lag 

My first post from Jordan. I've been here 4 days and am still exhausted from jet lag. To complicate my already skewed sleeping pattern, each day I've been woken up by prayer from a nearbye mosque that blasts throughout the city starting at 4:30am. They have an excellent sound system. The prayer takes place every few hours five times a day (and is coincidentally happening as I write). I'm not sure what the melodic voice is saying but sometimes it sounds creepy and other times comes across very soothing. I can't tell whether it's my mood that makes it one way or the other or an honest variation in the tone. Either way, I kind of like it.

Amman unfortunately is not much of a walking city but it is a more modern city than I imagined. Last night we went out to a local bar "Whispers" that was much hipper than most bars in DC. They had this big tank of foot-long sharks right in the middle of it. (I wish I knew how to post pictures. I followed the instructions bloggerbot posted and have the software to post but I can't find the actual html. If anyone has any suggestions please let me know.)

The Jordanians we met at the bar were almost all western educated. Everyone in the place was dressed in western garb. The only difference I noticed in terms of fashion was that the men wore tighter pants (European style) and the women wore less makeup and had less cleavage than typical American bar-goers (stylish yet modest).

Over appetizers and drinks I asked for advice from the Jordanian women in terms of different etiquette, culture, safety etc. I asked if it was out if it was safe for women to walk alone during the day, at night, etc. They talked about the different neighborhoods in the city and how most are safe but I should stay out of a few. They even compared it to where I came from, Washington, DC, asking if I felt comfortable walking everywhere by myself there. They seem to take pride in the safety of tourists here. Tourism is very important to the Jordanian economy (despite its less than ideal location and instability of the regions surrounding them).

Honestly though, I don't plan on walking alone just yet. As independent as I am I think I should just observe for the first couple months, learn at least some conversational arabic before venturing out by myself. All I know for sure is I feel like I sure have a lot to learn. This is a new society with different rules and different attitudes. My blog is going to stay focused on the cultural and social aspects of my experience. I think it's better to stay away from talking politics... listening to the people here ...of course, but I'm going to pass on writing about it. I did enough of that in the states to last me a lifetime. And in this land of so much rich history and culture, I'm sure I'll still have more than enough content.


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