Amman Travelogue – 2013

February 1, 2013

I’m back in Jordan for two weeks to conduct three train-the-trainer programs for the Jordan Civil Society Project (also funded through US AID). I left the USA on Thursday, January 31st and arrived in Paris and Amman on Friday, February 1st.

This time, I flew through Paris. I had a 5-hour layover, but it wasn’t long enough to take a tour of the city. Instead, I walked back and forth past all the shops. My abiding memory of the Charles DE Gaulle International Airport will be the cloying fragrance of different perfumes mixed with cigarette smoke (who knows where it was coming from, because they said it was a non-smoking airport…), and the fact that the ladies room had a small separate room with a makeup mirror and stool. They clearly take looking good seriously! Also, signs saying there were free 15 minutes on the airport Wi-Fi, but it didn’t work for me.

Thanks to Ron, I had selected my aisle seats on line, so that is what I had from Madison to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Paris and Paris to Amman. All of the flights were uneventful, but I learned why people bring their own headphones to watch the movies during the flight- because the tiny ones the airline gives you don’t work for beans.

Delta from Minneapolis to Paris had lots of space and leg room- I could have laid down
across four seats, had I the ability to sleep on a plane. However, the flight from Paris to Amman, also on Delta, was without room to move. It didn’t help that a very large man sat in the middle seat and had n0 idea of boundaries. He threw his large wool coat over his body and covered half of me. When we were eating, his elbow was just in front of my nose. I pointed that out, he looked at me with surprise and apologized, and afterwards he was much more considerate.

I purchased two large suitcases to haul everything- one neon blue and the other neon pink. They both have round green plastic happy face tags that Jerri gave me. I had absolutely no problem finding them! My luggage came quickly and my driver, Abu Rashad, was right there when I got through immigration.

Oh, I think I’ve finally learned that when a man comes over to give me lots of assistance with my luggage, he is NOT airport personnel and will expect a tip. I’ve really got to watch that.

A kind of funny story- I have what amounts to be about $60 in Nigerian money. I haven’t been able to convert it back to US dollars in Madison, so I tried in the Minneapolis Airport and in the Paris Airport. Nope, no one will touch it. Gee, I wonder why…??

My one unhappy aspect of the trip is that I came down with a bad cold. I had been hoping that it was just the fact that I hadn’t taken any allergy medicine for two days. Nope. Luckily, I had presciently packed all sorts of cold medicines that I started on immediately.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I had a bad night, getting up every few hours, so I slept in all day. I finally got up at 4:30 p.m. The young porter who helped bring my luggage up to my room last night had showed me a switch I could push to indicate that I didn’t want to be disturbed. So, I did and it worked! Magic!

I just spoke with Rama to tell her my situation and discuss plans for tomorrow. Someone will pick me up at the hotel at 9 to take me the four blocks to their office. Last night, on the way to the hotel, my driver showed me where the office is- but Rama thought I might have things I needed to carry. Since the training will be here in the hotel (whew!) I really don’t need to bring anything except possibly a file and my laptop- but Rama was distracted because she was apparently giving her two nieces, 5 and 2, a bath. So, I simply agreed to be picked up. Actually, if it’s raining, that will be just as well. It was raining when I got here yesterday, with huge puddles everywhere. Given the terrible lack of water in Jordan, they would be happy if it rained for the next 6 months. I just looked outside and it doesn’t seem to be raining now.

I’m glad that I stayed at the Intercontinental when I first came to Amman, because the view of the old city was spectacular. Of course, I was on the 8th floor then. Now, at the Sheraton, I’m on the third floor and my view is of city buildings that one might see in any relatively modern city. in other words, nothing special.

Well, the good news is that I feel a lot better than I did last night. I’ll take good care tonight and not push myself too much tomorrow so that, hopefully, my cold will prove itself to be merely 24-hour and disappear. My first training (4 days: Designing and Delivering Attitude-Changing Training) starts on Monday the 4th, so I’ll need to set up tonight. Rama assures me that the hotel got my diagram, so I’ll hope and expect that there will be no need to push any tables and chairs around. Rama will be with me, so if I need help, I’m sure there will be plenty available.

Now, to eat something and iron my clothing!

February 4, Amman

Hello.

Before I get to today’s adventures, I need to confess something that happened the night I arrived. Okay, I was jet lagged and exhausted, but why I ended up in the men’s room- and didn’t know it until a guy came in and told me, goodness only knows! Unfazed, I told him I might as well finish washing my hands before I left- so I did. It certainly explained why the place was so filthy… I have no idea why this slipped my mind.

On to today. I learned that I absolutely must pack at least one package of Mr. Sketch colored markers when I travel. Without them, I wasn’t able to create the flip charts of the learning objectives for all four days last night when I set up. This morning, I had NO help getting my tactile materials onto the tables (5 were set up) or the walls. I was there at 7:30 and it wasn’t until 8:40 that the participant binders, markers, etc. arrived. To say I was a basket case doesn’t convey my sweaty reality. Diala arrived shortly after the materials and she and someone else helped put the post it notes, candy, etc. on the tables as I raced around writing the flip charts.

Luckily, only a third of the participants were on time, so I was just able to finish a little after 9- the scheduled start.

We had 15-17 people (it fluctuated a bit during the day). It is a wonderful, incredibly bright, funny, appreciative and, at times, loquacious group. Working with simultaneous interpretation is an acquired skill, let me tell you! I had to wear a lavaliere microphone and the participants who didn’t speak English had headsets to hear the translation and large microphones to speak into. When they used the mics, I had to wear a head set to hear the English translation.

At the beginning, I could hear the participant speaking Arabic and see the translator’s lips moving (there were two translators, very charming women, seated in a glass booth erected yesterday). It took a while for the translators to realize they had to push one button to translate in Arabic and another to translate in English. It took all day for all the participants to remember to speak into the microphones. The Arabic speakers were already wearing headsets, so they tended to remember. The English speakers would forget that, although I could understand them, the Arabic speakers could not.

I would turn off my microphone during long group activities or breaks, then start and speak for several minutes before someone reminded me to turn my mic on- at which point, I would have to repeat what I had just said.

I also had to remember to take my headset off when people spoke English, because otherwise I would hear the Arabic translation. At one point, I was so confused I put my headset on and the gentleman pointed out that he was speaking English…

I’m sure that, by the fourth day, we’ll all be almost perfect with it.

When I went to take photos of the agenda map and the groups’ flip chart work, I discovered that my camera battery was too low. I’ll have a lot of photos to take tomorrow- of flipcharts written in both English and Arabic (which still looks like water music to me).

I had had some trepidation about this first day because it was brand new. It focused on attitudes: a definition, causes, resistance to change, how to get past or manage that resistance, how to understand the source (values and beliefs), etc. Activities related to handling negative transfer, motivational techniques and persuasive triggers were also included.

At one point, I started to feel like my choice of topics and the flow of the content no longer made sense. But lo and behold, the two sections I was most worried about (regarding beliefs and persuasive triggers) were the ones cited by several of the participants as their key learning. Whew!

I won’t know how they really felt about the training until tomorrow. We started to run short just before 5, our scheduled ending time. I hate closing a session with an evaluation, since all of the energy of the group dissipates, so I had them promise to complete and return them tomorrow morning.

February 5, Amman

Hello. Today was a day of many trials and great kindnesses. It all started when Diala, who had forgotten to bring in the promised CDs of Arabic music, discovered that Ayeman had music on his laptop.

So, enterprising and take charge woman that she is, Diala downloaded the music onto a thumb drive and tried to copy it into my iTunes. That was partially accomplished, and then I needed to access the PowerPoint for today (the second day of Designing and Delivering Attitude-Changing Training).

However, because Diala was so enthusiastic about the Arabic music, playing in on my computer before the class started, I was not inclined to put my music on. Usually, I play energizing classical music very softly during the training and then different pop songs to raise energy during the breaks. I didn’t do either, which took some color and energy out of the training- at least for me.

Then people didn’t get to the class until 30 minutes after the scheduled starting time of 9 a.m., which was frustrating. I brought up the need for people to be there at the correct time- if they wanted to leave at the scheduled ending time…There appeared to be tacit agreement that they would all be on time tomorrow. I guess we’ll see.

They absolutely loved the grab the Koosh activity, where they have to come up with two different content questions from the previous day and assign a point value to each, from 10 for a difficult question down to 1 for an easy question. They competed against each other at the table. Since they spoke in Arabic, I had no idea what all the conversation and humor was about. The activity went twice as long as it usually does in the States, I think because they enjoyed analyzing each question.

Then my technology failed me. My laptop started to freeze every 20 minutes or so- necessitating the need to escape the PowerPoint program and restart the computer each time. My headphones didn’t work initially, so I needed to have the participants repeat what they had already said in Arabic so I could catch up with the translation. I continually forgot to turn my microphone back on after breaks- so I’d have to repeat everything I said once they brought that to my attention.

And my computer kept freezing. And freezing. Until finally, after about the 7th time, I turned the darn thing off and worked from my materials alone. Since the PowerPoint is only a complement to the participant materials, consisting only of bullet points and cartoons, it wasn’t a substantive loss. But it was certainly not as visually stimulating as I prefer it to be.

So, no music and limited if any PowerPoint. And then things took a turn for the worse- the room filled with cigarette smoke. There had been absolutely no problem the entire preceding day, so it was a terrible surprise. My throat started to close up and my ability to think started to get clouded, because I’m terribly allergic to smoke.

Apparently, so were some of the participants, including Diala. She got on the case immediately, prowling the room, checking doors, talking to hotel staff, finally getting security to unlock two doors so we could better ventilate the place. Bless her heart, she had me stand next to a fountain, went to move outdoor ashcans far from the entry to our room, and brought me lemon tea. By the end of the break, the room was much better ventilated. However, I still felt somewhat shaky and discovered later that she had brought me lemon- flavored black tea- meaning lots of caffeine, which I never take.

Add to this general pervasive malaise an incipient headache and sore throat, because the group was very very very difficult to quiet. And they still dawdled back from break, chatting sociably after they got in the room.

Deep sigh. Oh, on top of this, one of the translators told me that she was having a terrible time providing translation because some of the participants refused to use a microphone. She told me that one of the participants actually told her that she was allergic to the microphone???!! So, I had to continually, continually ask people to turn on the mics and/or repeat what they said once the mic was on.

There was also the constant juggling on my part- writing on flip charts, then having to run back to my laptop table to pick up the headphones, never knowing whether the person was going to speak in English or in Arabic- because some folks who used the headphones the day before would sometimes speak English today. As a matter of fact, there were several occasions when the translator would tell me through my headphones that the participant was speaking English.

By the end of the day, I finally said “I’m tired and I need your help.” People quieted down then, but that was toward the very end of the day.

I got the evaluations back for Day One as well as Day Two. There were two comments from today that I shouldn’t tell adults how to act. Well, I completely agree with that sentiment. I’m going to bring it up tomorrow and ask the group how that kind of situation should be handled…

Now that you’ve heard my complaints, there were wonderful parts of the day. Wael, who is a pharmacist and provides training to community based organizations because he is passionate about changing life for the better, was a wonderful support when I needed specific examples to explain concepts. As I mentioned, Diala was wonderful. Others had terrific insights, great humor and thoughtful discussion.

Oh, back to a problem that I really could have avoided now that I consider it in hindsight. I use a questionnaire to introduce a section on assumptions about how adults learn. The purpose of the items in the questionnaire is to raise awareness rather than provide definitive answers. One young, very beautiful, woman who is not a trainer but is very bright, got fixated on one answer. We must have taken 30 minutes (I don’t think I exaggerate too much) trying to explain the answer to her.

Finally, I understood what this was all about. She is recently out of the university and, bright as she is, she is used to getting “A’s. “ She absolutely could not bear to have an incorrect answer on the questionnaire. I stopped the conversations and pointed out that there wasn’t a true right or wrong answer. You should have seen her brilliant smile of relief!

Speaking of the university, I learned something extraordinary. Many of the Jordanian women I have met happen to be engineers. Now I know why. Apparently they take a test their senior year of high school and, depending on the grade, they are told what types of occupations they can pursue. Those with the highest grades go into science, mathematics or engineering.

This came up because one of the participants was working on a lesson plan to help youth recognize what they really wanted to do, so that they could make better career decisions.

My heart goes out to these brave trainers who are trying to effect change in social, cultural and religious attitudes and behaviors. Even if they can create a training program in which their participants truly accept and adopt new attitudes and behaviors, they will have limited success.

The most sincere and committed person faces untold obstacles when they get back into their lives. People will first tease them for acting differently, then criticize, then get angry that they have changed the rules of the relationships, and finally personalize it. A person has to have a strong will and unshakable commitment to continue to act differently rather than falling back into old behaviors.

Tomorrow, we move from the more analytical aspect of lesson design (needs assessment, goal setting and learning objective creation) to the fun stuff- playing with a wide variety of learning activities that can be used to achieve the learning objectives. It will be a very busy and exciting day- and I mean that with every hope and expectation that we exhausted all of the snafus today.

When I got back to my room, I took the battery out of my computer for a while. Since then, I’ve checked out working with the PowerPoint with no difficulty. So, fingers crossed, I plan for a much calmer day.

February 6, Amman

Hello.

Today people still weren’t in class until 9:20. I welcomed them and then said that I appreciated their evaluations and wanted to discuss two of them.

I admitted that I had hated feeling that I was scolding them yesterday. I needed to know how I should manage the content and the time so I could deliver what I had been hired to provide.

They responded that they liked my honesty and transparency- and respected me for it. Basel explained that they needed more time to discuss activities than I gave them, and that their continued conversation focused on the training content, not social chitchat. I acknowledged that I was at a disadvantage because, unlike in the States where I could wander around and listen to group discussions to see when they ceased to be fruitful, I couldn’t do that here. We agreed that they would tell me if they need more time and that I would share any decisions regarding what content to keep or eliminate when time was at a premium.

I also mentioned that I felt very disrespected when people didn’t come on time. As trainers, they certainly would not like their participants to come in late. They accepted that calmly.

They handed in the lesson plans that they partially completed (title, goals and learning objectives) for my review. Five of them were in Arabic and Maize, one of the translators, kindly wrote out what they had written in English.

I noticed immediately that several of the participants had created skill-building lesson plans rather than attitude-changing lesson plans. I showed them my template for creating skill-building learning objectives, in which they were greatly interested. Then I emphasized that this class was focused on attitude-change and therefore I would give them feedback and suggestions using that template. I ended up rewriting about 8 of the 15 lesson plans.

For one of those written in Arabic, I dictated my comments to Maize so that she could write them in Arabic. For the others, I didn’t have that luxury of time. So, I wrote my comments in English and the participants asked their peers or Maize to translate for them.

I learned something new about energizers. I’ve always considered them to be about adding physical energy to the participants (through a quick exercise or Koosh toss). Wael said there were actually two types of energizers: the physical ones with which I’m familiar and mental ones. He explained that sometimes participants are highly geared up but not focused on thinking and learning. In those cases, he gives them a puzzle or a mathematics problem to rein in their physical energy and stimulate their mental energy. I think that is fascinating.

I had no computer woes until the midafternoon, when my computer died. It wasn’t until I got back to my room around 5:45 p.m. that I discovered the battery was dead. Somehow the cord got jostled out of the electric plug.
When I was preparing the PowerPoint, I spent hours and hours selecting cartoons- many of which I’ve never had an opportunity to show them. Since they laugh at only a few of them, it is probably not such a bad thing.

We will have 9 people facilitating their 10-minute learning activities tomorrow, with simultaneous translation. On Sunday, we will be in the CSP training room instead of the hotel, with 6 people facilitating, all of whom will conduct their programs in English.

I always want to be sure that the participants are well prepared for the fourth day, so I insist on finding out what each plan to do. I kept having to provide a reality check that 10 minutes total time meant only about 7 minutes of actual activity. The rest of the time would be devoted to providing instruction at the beginning and leading debriefing discussion at the end. I had to attempt to rein in at least 9 participants who had great ideas that would probably require a half an hour or more.

I had a funny discussion with one man who spoke about giving 2 minutes for the participants to create something together and 2 minutes to complete a brainstorm. I thought that was hilarious, and so did several other participants standing with us, because I haven’t seen this group accomplish ANYTHING in less than 30 minutes! For goodness sakes, I thought they could create agendas for the training program they were designing in their small groups in a snap, since many of them appeared to use agendas. It took them 30 minutes instead of the 5 minutes I anticipated!

Of course, one group’s agenda was a work of art. Their time management program agenda:

Welcome
Look closer
Spend it wisely
The ticking clock
Elite like Rolex, Efficient like Swatch
Buy one, get two free
Thank you for being on time

I’d be happy to tell you the learning objectives that these were based on, but they’re written in Arabic, so no dice.

The two other groups chose incredibly difficult topics: Dealing with a Culture of Shame and Equity for Women. These folks are highly committed!
Many of them provide this training out of a passion for a cause or to improve their communities, as an addition to their paid work.

Oh, one unhappy thing today was my realization that all of the candy (which I had hidden) had been taken. I told the hotel managers about it. They really took it to heart because later that morning, one of the managers came in with a huge bag of enormous candy bars and said they would provide more for tomorrow’s session. What an amazing customer service orientation! We were all very impressed.

There is much more to tell, but it’s late, so I’ll end here.

Tomorrow should be a fascinating day.

February 7, Amman

Hello.

Today, I discovered that the best way to get participants to a training room on time is to scare the pants off of them! Six of the nine people scheduled to be videotaped today were here by 8:30 and the other three were here before 9! So, now I just have to figure out how to scare people into getting to a class on time without creating a negative learning environment… fat chance!

The activities the group facilitated were fantastic- but what was even more wonderful was the feedback and suggestions that they gave each other. They were thoughtful, perceptive, going much much deeper than any group I have ever experienced in the past because they are so passionate about changing attitudes and behavior- and don’t want to pass up an opportunity to affect the deepest change possible during a session.

I’ll tell you about Bashima’s activity, because that was amazing. In preparation, she had placed eight lanes of parallel lines- like stepping stones. She lined the other eight participants up at the start of the stepping stones. She then gave each person a role (a divorced woman, a 12 year old boy selling gum on the street, etc.) although no one knew what the other persons’ roles were.

Bashima then read a statement, such as “I can get the level of education I want,” or “I will not experience any sexual harassment.” If the statement was true for the assumed role, the person would take a step forward.

Bashima read 7 or 8 of these statements. At the end, one person was far ahead, two were in the middle, and three were left back at the beginning.
She asked the ones who were able to move if they ever looked behind to see how others were doing. The general answer was, “no.”

Her entire point was that certain groups are marginalized and no one seems to care about them. The participants were really shaken up by this activity- and most particularly the ones who played the roles that could not move ahead for any reason. In just 10 minutes, she engaged everyone, affected them deeply, and raised their awareness. Just brilliant!

One other thing happened toward the very end of the day, when Abdulmonem pointed out that there was still some confusion about what level of affective learning each of the facilitated activities was attempting to achieve. He thought it might have to do with the terminology. When I had originally introduced the levels back on Day Two, I had mentioned that the terminology seemed confusing- but had not suggested alternatives.

So, we looked at it carefully and, after much consideration, decided the following:

Level 1: Receive. At this level, the participants passively receive information that raises their awareness about an issue.

Level 2: Respond. At this level, the participants actively discuss their attitudes and emotions related to the issues.

Level 3: Value. At this level, the participants accept the worth of a new attitude or feeling about an issue.

Level 4: Choose. (Instead of “Organize.”) At this level, the participants decide to commit to a new attitude or feeling about an issue.

Level 5: Act. (Instead of “Internalize.”) At this level, the participants take action in accordance with their new attitude or feeling about an issue.

I think our changes help to make the distinctions between the levels much much clearer.

This group was warm, funny, articulate, passionate, and perceptive, comprised of wonderful, caring human beings committed to making change in their culture and their communities. It was a real honor to work and learn with them.

We left each other with hugs, warm handshakes and a mutual hope to see each other again.

February 8, Amman

Hello.

Last night I was absolutely exhausted, so I slept late this morning. Actually, I didn’t set up a wakeup call because the phone they gave me (which I have yet to use…) already had an alarm. However, it didn’t go off and I woke up to housekeeping knocking on the door.

Since it was past 9, I dressed quickly and went down to breakfast. I ended up sitting next to an American woman whom I had noticed at breakfast almost every morning, usually with another woman. Today, she was alone and came to sit at the table next to me.

We got to chatting and I learned that she works for the US government screening refugees for immigration eligibility. She travels all around the world. I asked her what would make a refugee ineligible for immigration and she told me either being associated with a terror group or a group responsible for torture, or being a criminal. I asked her if people typically volunteer that information and she smiled. Some do, but her group does very thorough background checks.

I commented that this must be very distressing work and she agreed that it was difficult to hear about the atrocities that drove people into leaving their countries. However, she felt good that she was helping them. She was here with a team of 6 others and had been here for 6 weeks.

On Wednesday, she is going to Vienna, which will be her first visit. She’s been to most of the Gulf and Near East countries, most of the African countries and South America. After Vienna, she is looking forward to going to Cuba, because she speaks Spanish.

She also had a cold and a very bad cough, so she was the only person from her delegation who was staying at the hotel this weekend. The rest of the group had gone to the Dead Sea. She said that she was looking forward to going to Vienna because she would get a three-day weekend there.
She was eating a very hearty breakfast, including bacon. She was surprised that the hotel served it (I had been, as well) because the prevailing religion forbids it. She imagined that it was possible the owners of this hotel were Christian or simply good business people.

We made plans to go to dinner at Whispers, a restaurant that Rama had recommended that is very close by. Then I went back to my room, where I found the young man who is a housekeeper was not finished. I went down to the lobby and was able to sit on one of the comfortable couches next to a waterfall wall fountain and read for a while.

When I got back to my room, he was still there- and I really needed the bathroom. So, he grabbed his stuff and left. I realized later that he had lovingly laid out all of my makeup on a towel and also folded all of the clothing items I had laying on top of a counter inside the closet near the bags for laundry. I have been leaving a nice tip every day (5 JOD which is probably close to 8 USD) so it was gratifying to see that it was appreciated.

I started to read, then decided to take a shower (I hadn’t the night before because I was so exhausted), washed some clothing (using shampoo, which my globe-trotting friend Joan had taught me) and then realized I was still tired and needed to sleep. The front desk was somewhat surprised when I called down to get a 4 p.m. wake up call.

When I woke up, I realized that I still was exhausted and had no appetite. I only knew Julianne’s first name, that she was here with a US delegation and that she was leaving on Wednesday. By golly, reception was able to figure out who she was and connect me with her room! I called her to beg off our dinner date and she was very gracious. Perhaps we can go somewhere tomorrow evening.

On one hand, I feel badly that I haven’t gotten out to explore. On the other hand, I realize that the last time I was here, I spent many days in the PAP office writing curriculum. As a result, I had time and energy after my workday. I was also here much longer.

I hope that tomorrow will be as nice as today so I can get out and explore. After all, I will be celebrating my 65th birthday tomorrow.

By the way, I forgot to mention that I finally was able to upload the Fayrouz music CD that Diala gave me (it took two hours for some unknown reason). I played it on the third and fourth day and everyone, including the hotel staff, told me how much they liked it.

Hello.

Thank you for the kind birthday wishes!

The highlight of my birthday on the 9th was talking with my mother, who reported 3 feet of snow in Greenport, New York, and talking with my daughter over Skype. Other than a beautiful sunny day in the 60’s and my first walk in the neighborhood, my day was very mellow- reading, napping, and relaxing. Oh, I also went with my taxi driver Abu Rashad to the same gift outlet I visited the last time I was in Jordan. I was on a mission- to find Dead Sea Treasures Soft Mud for Dry Skin for Jenny-which I did find, as well as a few other gifts to bring back with me.

Today, the 10th, I set up in the training room of the Civil Society Program for the 6 remaining folks to facilitate their activities and be videotaped. Their feedback lacked the depth and thought exhibited during the taping on Thursday, so things moved a lot faster today. It went well and very quickly- we finished with everyone before lunch at 1.

Then I walked the four blocks back to the hotel, to rest and read- and then to set up the hotel training room for the two-day Auditing for Quality Training Decisions program.

I sometimes feel like I’m wading through fog when it comes to these programs. I told the hotel staff I only needed three tables, because I was told that there would be 15 attendees. However, when I looked in the box with the participant binders, there were 20- so we added another table. Who knows how many will actually be there.

In the meantime, a troop of guys came into the room and I realized that they were setting up the booth for the translating team. No one had told me that there would be a need for translation for this program. I’m glad I saw them so that I wasn’t surprised tomorrow. Now I’ll know to wear my one and only belt so I have something to hook the mic pack onto.

It was another sunny warm day in the mid to high 60’s- and Rama gave me wonderful directions for a great walk. But I was tired. That seems to be my refrain this trip.

So, this is a short missive. I need to prepare for tomorrow. I’ll let you know how that goes.

February 14, Amman

Hello.

Today was a great day! Twelve mentors attended the session, and all but 3 of them have been in one of my classes the past two weeks. Six of them were in yesterday’s class. They represented four different groups who mentor community-based organizations.

I had them identify their mentoring issues and challenges when they introduced themselves. We placed the issues into three categories: commitment, organizational structure, and communication. Each table group (comprised of a representative from each of the groups) took one category. Their task was to identify specific practical steps and strategies to avoid, minimize or eliminate their issues.

Then, once their recommendations had been posted on flip charts, the groups moved to look at the other groups’ lists, adding or revising items. Everything was in English, which was a welcome change and made the session much easier.

I was very pleased with their recommendations, and so was Eman, who heads this mentoring program.

After reviewing their lists, I told them that it looks like they need to discuss the mentoring process with their mentees- as well as the mentoring goals, deliverables, and deadlines. In short, discuss the how along with the what. I suggested that they should create a checklist of questions that, if asked at the beginning of the mentoring process, should minimize the possibility of many of the issues the group had listed.

Eman liked this idea. Since we only had about 40 minutes left in our 3 hour session, I proposed that each table take one category of questions: roles and responsibilities, capabilities and resources. The groups came up with good questions- and realized that capabilities and resources belong together. Eman is going to add a logistics category and compile the checklist.

A good half day’s work. I’m glad to leave on a high note…

I had an interesting talk with Rama, who flies to Dubai on Friday to participate in a weeklong women’s bike for peace. They’ll bicycle in a different emirate each day. As a result, she has a real problem deciding what to pack. It is the desert, so it will be very hot. She can wear shorts and a no-sleeve top in some of the emirates, in others she’ll need to wear short-sleeved shirts and pants, and in others she’ll need to wear long-sleeved shirts. She’ll also need to bring something to wear at night, because the desert gets very cold.

Good grief! I have trouble simply deciding what to pack for training. I can’t imagine having to consider all of these different cultural and religious dress requirements!

I asked her if she’ll be able to wash out clothing in the evening and she said that there would be little time. She is also bringing linen- sheets, pillow case and towels, because she’s been warned that the hotels where they’ll be staying are pretty filthy.

Frances, who is the Chief of Party, has invited me to go to dinner and possibly some shopping this evening. She’s been working day and night on the proposal to get funding to continue the program, so I met her briefly the first day I was here and haven’t seen her since until today.

I told her it would have to be an early night, because my flight is at 5 a.m.
I’ve already settled my hotel bill (for meals) so I don’t have to worry about that tomorrow. And, as of now, I am as packed as I can be.

During the mentoring session, while the groups were working, I was busy drafting my final reports on the three training sessions and the mentoring session. So, hopefully, I’ll be able to finish them and send them off (after I get home and get some sleep)- so that I get paid. ☺

I can’t end this message without thanking Jenny, Janis and Mom for their encouraging and supportive responses to my woe-is-me message from yesterday. They lifted my spirits immeasurably and I really appreciate it!

Thank you for coming along on this trip. I may send one more message if my travel back, through Rome and Atlanta, offers something interesting to write about.

One last note. Every day I’ve been here in Amman, I’ve been able to open my hotel windows. I just looked at the weather forecast for Madison, which is frigid, frigid, bone-chattering frigid temperatures. Sigh…

February 15, Rome

Hello.

Let me tell you what I HATE about the Rome Airport. You get off the plane and need to get onto a shuttle. The temperature was 1 degree Centrigrade, so chilly. We ride and disembark, only to wait in a drafty hall for about 15 minutes before we very very slowly place our carry-on luggage on the belt to go through screening and walk through screening. Then I thought we went to pick up our luggage to take it through additional screening. I waited and waited at carousel 4 where the Amman luggage was to be delivered. I noticed that I was the ONLY person waiting, so I got nervous. I walked up and down the area, discovering that only carousel 4 was listed for Amman.

More waiting, then panic. I asked one customer service agent near carousel 4, who sent me to the Air Italia customer service agent near carousel 8, who told me that I did not need to pick up my luggage.

Fine. I go upstairs and discover that my flight to Atlanta checks in at location 536. Increasing panic as I realize there is NO 536- they only go up to 430. By now, my watch says it is almost 9 a.m. and my flight leaves at 9:50 a.m.

I finally discover that I need to take a shuttle to terminal 5. I find the shuttle and no one else is on it and it is not moving anytime soon. So completely panic-stricken, I ask one of the shuttle guys if I’ll miss my flight. He assures me that I won’t.

Ten minutes later, my blood pressure rising dramatically, the shuttle finally starts to move. When we get to terminal 5, I need to check in, where there is some confusion about my luggage- which is determined to be booked all the way through to Madison, although I’ll have to take them off the carousel in Atlanta to go through security.

I’m sent through a door to a huge room where I’m completely confused as to what to do next. A staff person yells at me, pointing out a door. There, I go through a more thorough security, where I have to take out my laptop, camera, phone, iPod, iPod player, Kindle. I’m almost having a heart attack by now, and one guy ahead of me takes his sweet time putting his belt on , his shoes on, I wanted to yell at him because they wouldn’t put my things through security until he was out of the way. When I get through screening, my stuff has just come through on the belt so I start to pick it up. A guard scowls at me when I pull my bag (which has already gone through the screening) before it is totally on the conveyer belt. He grabs my bag and puts it through screening again.

I go through a door and see another line for more screening. I can’t believe it! I ask the staff person there, who points at a far door and tells me to go there, where they checked my passport.

Then I find that I need to take ANOTHER shuttle to the gate. A guy from California and I sit there in the shuttle waiting and waiting for it to move. Fifteen minutes later, an entire crowd gets on the shuttle, including a woman pushing a huge stroller, and off we roll.

When we get to the gate part of the airport, we need to go up an escalator. Despite signs to the contrary, the woman puts her stroller on the escalator.

By now I’m certain that I’ve missed my flight. I race to G3 (I had to find a monitor first, because my ticket had no gate information). My watch says 9:10 and the ticket agent tells me they’ll be boarding at 9:10. I ask if I’ll have enough time to run to the rest room and he tells me I have plenty of time, because it is really 8:10.

GOOD GRIEF!!!

After a strange experience following a man into the woman’s rest room (where he extricated someone from a stall) and doing my business, I went in search of a water fountain. Well, guess what. There ARE no water fountains in the airport!

The young woman who told me that informed me, when I asked where I could get water, that I should go to restaurant. There was a somewhat classy “fast food” restaurant (selling spectacular pizza, by the way). I waited 10 minutes to be able to purchase my bottle of water. By this time, I just handed the counter person my envelope of euros and had him pull out what was needed.

So, I’ve been up since 1:45 a.m., had a 3.5 hour flight from Amman to Rome (where I had to keep asking the stewards for water). And then fell into this nightmare.

Bottom line, trying to navigate the Rome airport is horrendous!

Okay, I hear that they’re boarding my flight. Onward and (literally) upward!

Fondly,

Deb/Mom

February 16, Madison

Well, a long 36 hours later, I am in Madison. Jenny picked me up. It was good to have finally made it!! I sorted things (laundry, luggage, mail, bills, cat, etc.) until midnight. Then slept all day (literally) on Saturday, waking up finally at 8 p.m. for breakfast…

Thank you again for coming along with me on my travels.

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