Monday, October 1, 2012

Eco Park Weekend

*This is my 25th post and I am 25 views away from 1000 views. Blogging milestones!*

On Thursday morning, September 27, a group of 30 boys from Mabarrat Um Al Hussein in Marka descended on Sharhabil Bin Hassneh Eco-Park for a three-day ecological camp. The students ranged from 12 to 17 years old and were either orphaned or had been abandoned by their families. Despite that they were some of the happiest, most enthusiastic and well-behaved children I have met.

I was nervous before leaving on the trip because I had received very vague instructions on what the weekend would be like and how to get to the eco-park, which I had to find on my own because I had classes in the morning that I could not miss. After my two classes and running some errands I rushed home to pack and quickly eat, and was soon in a taxi cab on my way to the bus station. Of course the cab driver took a detour to pick up his friend and fill up on gas, but eventually I arrived and got treated to a bus ticket by a friendly Jordanian man who sells medical supplies in Jeddah but had just returned from a holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh. Once I got to Irbid, the second largest city in Jordan but by far much smaller than Amman, I waited in a couple of queues and finally got a bus to the next bus station in Irbid, and finally a bus to North Shuneh, the nearest town to the eco-park. On the bus to North Shuneh I sat next to a very friendly female child psychologist who worked with Syrian refugees.

Once I arrived in the small merchant town of North Shuneh, near the Syrian border, I was picked up by my internship supervisor and one of the employees at the eco-park, and we purchased a bunch of fruit for the children. We soon stopped again to buy trees at a plantation. The Ghur, as the Lower Jordan River Valley is called locally, is verdant, humid, and especially breathtaking as the sun is setting. At the plantation I sat down with a couple of local women who offered me coca cola and chocholate biscuits. People are so friendly in Jordan!

Once I got to the eco-park I had time to relax after my long journey while the children were still out on an excursion exploring the nearby dam. Eventually they descended on the camp and quickly surrounded me and the only other female, my supervisor Emily. After dinner, which was prepared by a local family, we sang and danced with the children. Later on the interior minister of Jordan stopped by with 30 people for a briefing on issues facing Jordan right now and I had a very interesting conversation about the culture of corruption with men who probably have the power to do something about it in Jordan.

On Friday morning breakfast was served at 8, followed by a workshop on grey water systems. After a PowerPoint presentation on the subject the students were divided into two groups and shown the water purifier that purifies the dam water into drinking water at the Eco-Park, as well as the waste water system at the outdoor sink by the visitor’s center. The students then practiced making their own grey water system using tanks, tubes, and other tools provided by FoEME.

After a short break the students started a workshop on composting, in which I myself presented (although most of what I said had to be translated due to my lack of colloquial Arabic skills). The children learned to compost their leftover food throughout the weekend. Lunch was followed by a long break, in which I befriended a local family that had come for a picnic in the park. They were so generous, not only inviting me to their home but giving me all the snacks and drinks they had and a little medallion to protect me from jealousy. 200 trees where then delivered to the Eco-Park and all the children and staff helped to plant them at various locations around the park. Before dinner the children got to see a small demonstration of the Eco-Park’s solar panel as a preview of the solar power workshop to be held the next day. For dinner we had a little frying party, and I have to say that homemade French fries are so much better than the ones at restaurants! In the evening the boys showed off their dabke skills and tried to teach me Arabic songs.

On Saturday, the last day of program, the students were taught about solar power. Following the PowerPoint presentation on the subject the students went outside to see demonstrations of a radio being powered by the solar panel and a teapot cooking on a solar cooker. The students were also shown the solar water heaters behind the bathrooms at the Eco-Park. After free time and lunch the students went back on the bus and returned to the Mabarrat much more conscious about their environment than when they left. We stayed on to plant some more trees, and I got back to Amman by early evening. The evening was spent doing laundry, cleaning my room, doing my homework, and then meeting a couchsurfer in Abdoun, where we got caught in the rain (yes it does rain in the Middle East!!!) at Vis a Vis, one of the modern cafés in Amman’s wealthier neighborhoods where you go to see and be seen.

Next weekend I’ve already made plans to visit Umm Qais, an ancient Greco-Roman city with sweeping views of the Sea of Galilee, with the man I met on the bus going to Irbid. My camera was broken this weekend but I plan to get it fixed in time to have more and even better pictures from this coming weekend. Yalla bye!

No comments:

Post a Comment