Amman Travelogue – 2017

Hello,

This is my first full day in Amman. I’ve spent most of it sleeping, since I can’t sleep on the trip over.

It is 23 C outside, or 73 F. I’m looking outside at a brilliant sunlit city- through a very dusty window. I haven’t gone outside because I needed to:

Visit the room where the training will be held. It is the Crystal Ballroom and that is exactly what it is- a ballroom. There will be plenty of space for the 24 participants and any activities (such as the relay race and gallery walks) I’ve planned.

It takes me at least 1.5 hours to set up a training room: put the kites and agenda map on the wall; create learning objective flipcharts for all 6 days of training and put those on the walls; prepare each participant table with koosh balls, pipe cleaners, index cards, stickers, wands, binders, colored paper, mini springs, name cards, colored markers, etc. etc.; find extension cords so I can use my adapters to plug in my laptop and IPod player; check and set up the LCD projector and make sure it connects with my laptop. There are so many fun things that can and have gone wrong with these set ups.

Usually I arrange with my client so I can get into the room the night before to do most of the set up. Then I can worry about the electronics items in the morning before the training begins.

Unfortunately, we are conducting training at a hotel and there is a wedding scheduled in that room. It begins at 7 pm and goes until midnight or 2 am… the front desk didn’t know. I had been planning to set up after the wedding, but not after 2 in the morning!

I explained my dilemma to the fellow at the front desk and he assured me that they would arrange the tables and chairs after the wedding, the room would be kept open, so I could get in any time I wanted to in the early morning. So that is my plan.

It’s not ideal by any means, because this means I’ll be on my feet for 2 hours prior to the training, which goes from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. I’ve managed before and I’ll manage again

Get something to eat and drink. I’ve missed both breakfast and lunch. I was directed to the restaurant, which wasn’t open. This is, by the way, a very no frills hotel… My option was to go back to my room and order room service, which I’ve done. They just brought my farmer’s salad with local vegetables and a fresh squeezed orange juice! The juice is delicious!! I’ll eat after I finish this message.

Ask for an iron and ironing board. This is the first time in all my 30 years of traveling and staying in hotels where there isn’t any closet space where I can hang my outfits. I usually iron everything for the duration on the very first night (because I’m usually so tired and need to put my feet up after each training day). In this case, I’m going to have to iron each outfit just before I wear it. Good grief!

I need to check my email, etc. and the websites I usually visit each day. However, I’ve received a message that this connection is not secure and anyone can access what I do. So, I’m going to have to think this through… this certainly explains why I wasn’t able to access a state site last night.

By the way, happy Easter!

More tomorrow.

Day 1 of Train the Trainer, Amman, 4-17-17

Hello. This has been a very long day. I just could not get to sleep, so I got up at 4 am to go set up the training room. It’s a good thing I did, because it took me 2 hours and I needed another shower before I dressed for the training!

The group is, as I’ve always found in Jordan, just lovely. One kink is that instead of 3-4 folks who needed an interpreter, there were 8! Poor Majd had quite a job translating for her table and then reporting out. A number of the guys actually spoke and understood some English, but they were afraid they would miss important information.

When we first began, I needed to use a hand-held microphone. When the participants introduced themselves, their accents plus the fuzzy microphone sound made it very difficult for me to understand them.

At the break, Luma helped me move all of the tables closer to the front and closer to each other so we could dispense with the microphone. That was much better!

We weren’t able to complete Day 1 material, due in part to my need to frequently repeat explanations for the Arabic speaking table. Luckily, there are some men who speak English very clearly and helped by telling me what other highly accented folks said- and explaining in Arabic when my explanations were insufficient.

A good portion of the participants work in the field for Mercy Corps and do not, nor will they, train. I asked Majd why they attended and she explained that Mercy Corps wants everyone on the same page for everything.

When we conducted needs assessments and volunteers reported their findings, one of the questions they had to answer was how long their training programs would be. The answers: 5 days, 6 days…amazing!

Other than some of the women in hijab, the sound of Arabic, and men praying in the corner during breaks, this group is no different than any you might see in the states. Unfortunately, my cartoons don’t translate well. Only a few get laughs- and I have to wait a while for them to read and then react to them. They do like the music I play at breaks. One fellow asked if I had James Brown singing “Only a Woman”- which I don’t. A number of the participants are working on a gender awareness and gender violence project, so he thought he’d yank their chains.

Their training topics are terribly serious: child abuse and violence against women are just two of them.

I have to admit by 4 pm, after 12 hours in the room, I’d had it and ended the session instead of at the scheduled 4:30. Needless to say, the participants were very appreciative!

When I was informed that a wedding was scheduled in the room this evening and everything I had taken 2 hours to set up would have to be removed, I was almost beside myself! However, Majd and Luma worked it out so that the hotel staff would be responsible for putting the kites and my agenda map back up on the walls and placing the participant binders and materials on their original tables. I certainly hope that everything is back in place tomorrow. I almost fell asleep on my bed once I got back to my room, so I know I won’t be showing up at 4 am again tomorrow!!!

After being on my feet for so many hours, I called for room service. The club sandwich sounded great: chicken breast, roast beef, tomato, lettuce and fried egg. The reality was something else. I don’t think I’ve ever had spam before, but that was the “roast beef” in the sandwich. My other meals have been just wonderful, so this was an exception.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my closet safe failed last night and the maintenance guy had to take it apart. It works perfectly now.

Another note: I asked Zaid, who is the person who brought me back to Mercy Corps if Trump’s actions had affected their US AID funding. He said that they were getting most of their funding from a Great Britain organization- but because of Brexit, their amount of money was significantly reduced. Almost all of my overseas trips have been funded by various US AID projects, so I’m concerned about their longevity under Trump.

Day 2 of Train the Trainer, Amman, 4-18-17

Hello.

Well, wonder of wonders, the hotel staff DID put up the kites and my agenda map, as well as putting all table top materials out. What a relief!!

I had a good night’s sleep so I felt much better today. We had to practice creating learning objectives and the four groups did a wonderful job! Considering that English is not their language, they are quite articulate.

The table of Arabic-speakers was much less populated today. I had asked the participants to sit with other people, so a number of them did. Interestingly enough, that table group completed every small group task faster than any of the others! And these tasks weren’t simple. In addition to developing learning objectives for one of their member’s learning goals, they also had to: select a learning objective and identify learning activities for each of the six perceptual learning styles (print, visual, interactive, aural, haptic and kinesthetic); compete against the other table groups to identify three different learning activities to achieve each of Bloom’s cognitive hierarchy, with no repetition (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, evaluation and creation). All the groups were wonderfully creative. Then they had to select learning activities for the learning objectives they created earlier in the day- and again, this table group was done first and, again, all groups were wonderfully creative.

By the way, their learning objectives related to: time management, security and safety, effective communication skills, gender awareness and self-awareness. I was particularly pleased with the self-awareness group’s selection of activities I had just introduced to them, including pop ups, art (draw yourself), gallery walk (look at different images and select three that define you) and scavenger hunt (I can’t remember what they would look for now).

Lunch is from 1-2 (we start at 8:30)- and after lunch I had the group throw Koosh balls at each other while I played Joe Cocker’s “Set me Free.” It turned into a battle royale. Although I kept them busy with the above-mentioned activities, it was more difficult to herd these cats. Perhaps because they were now very comfortable with me, or less intimidated by this new trainer from America, they started to be very chatty and often took phone calls. It wasn’t to the extreme extent that I experienced in Kenya, but it was still disruptive. I laid down the law: get back on time, don’t speak when others are speaking, and put phones away. This was much less effective than I intended it.

I’m going to be stricter about it tomorrow because I checked with their supervisor, Zaid, to see if any of them had business reasons to be on their phones and he told me no one did.

There is only one learning activity (a gallery walk for the four Kirkpatrick evaluation levels) left to complete from Day Two, so it should be smooth sailing through the rest of the curriculum.

The home practice for tonight is for each participant to complete a table-format lesson plan, including title, goals, learning objectives, module titles, learning activities and expected durations. They can focus on any topic they like, it doesn’t have to be job-related. I also told them they could complete it in Arabic as long as someone would translate for me. There is apparently some sports match on tonight that many of the men mentioned, so I guess we’ll see if they come with their lesson plans. Some questioned if they could complete it electronically since their handwriting is poor. So I asked Majd to send me their email addresses so I could send them the lesson plan template in word. I just requested that they print out the lesson plan and bring it to class with them.

After we do the evaluation gallery walk, I’ll have them add in the means of measurement for each learning activity and then give the completed lesson plans to me for review and comment tomorrow night. With 22 participants, that should take a while!

As I had hoped and expected, it was somewhat easier for me to understand their accents. One fellow, Mohammad, is very comfortable with English, asked a number of very thoughtful questions, and translated my directions if folks appeared to be confused. Over lunch, although Trump’s policies frighten Jordanians (as he said, if any of the missiles fall short, they will hit Jordan!) he very reasonably reviewed past less successful Presidents (Bush, Nixon, Reagan) and put Trump into context for me. I still don’t like him, his rhetoric, beliefs or policies, but I now have a more balanced view.

Mohammad also discussed Hilary Clinton, who lost the election because she didn’t focus on the economy or pay attention to the needs of the middle class. I’m quoting him. He didn’t like her and would have preferred Bernie (oh, wouldn’t we all!)

Other interesting items, in no particular order:

Majd (I misspelled her name yesterday) had a very perceptive regarding how to recognize verbs that are too vague to be observable and measurable. She said the vague verbs tend to relate to cognitive (think, learn, believe) and emotional (fear, worry like) responses. I had never considered them from this perspective and I think it’s very useful. I’ll definitely add it to my materials and discussion in the future!

Majd told me that she just returned from 3 months of maternity leave. I was worried that she was exhausting herself translating all day, particularly since, as a new mother, she must already be exhausted. She said that her baby slept from 10 pm to 6 am without getting up. Both of us were surprised at this, but she attributed this to whatever her nurse is doing with the child. This nurse has also taught sign language to this little 3-month old: I’m hungry, I want to be held, and four or five other messages. Just incredible!

The hotel staff are amazingly attentive. They anticipate our needs, keep the room clear, and after today’s session, a manager helped me clean up, reset the tables, hang the flip charts for the gallery walk tomorrow, etc. Other members of the class have mentioned the staff, saying they were much better than staff in 5-star hotels.

It’s crazy, but not unusual for me when I travel and conduct long days of training- I have been in the hotel nonstop since I arrived. I am so exhausted at the end of the day (and my feet hurt!!!) that I don’t have the energy or will to go outside. Tomorrow should be much easier because it requires much less analytical thought, so hopefully I’ll be up for at least a short walk outside.

There wasn’t a wedding scheduled for tonight, but the front desk has told me that this is the wedding season and so they have weddings scheduled somewhere in the hotel every night. Now that I know the staff take good care to replace what they take down (they apparently take photos of the walls and table tops) I won’t worry if and when (mostly when) we have to clear the room for a wedding.

I think I probably looked ridiculous today. I put on a simple sleeveless summer shift with a green and gold pattern. Then I realized that none of the women in the class show their arms or their chests (or their legs, for that matter) They all wear long sleeves, loose blouses (there is only one woman who wears the long coats-very stylish ones, by the way) and scarves on their heads. There is only one woman who is bare-headed (Heba, young, slender, able to put away dish after dish of food at lunch- she must have a wooden leg!)

So, I pinned a long scarf I got in Dubai to cover my chest and arms. It wasn’t until lunch when I went to the bathroom that I saw the heavy pin had pulled the scarf down as low as my dress neckline! I repined it and found to my dismay when I came upstairs to my room that I had not fixed the problem at all. Good grief. Tomorrow I’m wearing long sleeves!

Boy, do they all love the prizes! I’ve given them flower-shaped ducks, puzzles, star stampers, mini Slinkies, star student pencils, and bendable pink flamingoes. One woman in particular, surprisingly named Sandy!, whines and complains when others get the prizes. I had to tell her that if she volunteered to report out or write on a flip chart, she would earn what she wanted. So she did, and she selected what she wanted, then later wanted to trade it, then stewed some more. At that point, I had to ask if she was still in kindergarten!!!

I’ve got to go take a shower and hang up the laundry I cleaned in the sink (using shampoo), so I’d better end this now.

Day 3 of Train the Trainer, Amman, 4-19-17

Hello.

Well, that was incredibly unpleasant. Management has brought me dry toast and Sprite, so I’m waiting to see if they help settle my stomach. They have called to check on me, the manager came up to see if I needed a doctor or to go to the hospital- when I said I was going to see how the soda and toast worked, he asked if I’d like some tea. Very quickly, a server returned with chamomile tea.

Unfortunately, my date with the porcelain goddess was not over. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I can’t keep this up all night and train all day tomorrow.

Thanks in advance!

Here are incidents and reflections from the day:

A number of my large dice and star-shaped squeezables have been ruined with writing and drawing. Luma felt terrible about it and offered to try to wash them off. She wasn’t successful but still asked if she could take them home to use some other cleaner. Of course, I said yes. What a loving and generous young woman.
Luma is also very talented. I asked her about a cloth bracelet that looked hand loomed- and she both makes and sells them. There is no loom involved, she just spends hours twisting the cloth. Many of the staff are wearing her bracelets. She lets them select the cloth colors and then makes the bracelets to order. I’m very impressed with her work! I’m going to ask if she can make one for me. ☺
When reviewing the evaluations, everyone loves the training except for one person. I have no idea who it is. Majd told me it has nothing to do with my training, that they do have some negative people. I decided to establish a learning contract (which I should have done the first day)- that they tell me when the training isn’t meeting their needs, so I have an opportunity to make adjustments. Tonight, another zinger.
I also laid down the law- be on time, be quiet when someone is speaking, and put away the phones- or I will take them until the end of the session. It did have a small positive effect. I had to repeat it later in the day and they paid more attention.
Majd spoke to them about not defacing my table top toys- and yet at the end of the day three more were defaced. We have permanently removed them from the tables (two days’ late…)
They loved the Grab the Koosh ball game, where they quiz each other and the person who has the answer grabs the Koosh from the middle of the table. Correct answers have assigned points, which they are under the honor system to tally for themselves. The competition was fierce, to say the least! At the end of the day, Abdullah said he planned to use it in his next training.
We did a gallery walk where small groups went from flip chart to flipchart answering questions posted there about the five levels of evaluation. They surprised me by having a number of good responses, although many precipitated long arguments and discussion. (Most of the activities last much longer than usual for the very same reason).
They had very perceptive learning activity ideas to minimize resistance from reluctant participants.
They also loved the activity where they write down a classroom challenge on a small slip of thin paper, roll it up, push it into a balloon, which they blow up and tie off. They had a blast hitting the balloons to music and popping them when the music stopped. Each person had to grab one of the slips of paper and read it for the group to make suggestions. We all sat in a circle for an hour, many on the floor and some (including me) on chairs, discussing various constructive responses. Wasam thanked me privately, saying that was the most useful activity for him.
I sat with Abdullah and Wasam at lunch and learned about: working with Saudi children in the camps; the work with teens at risk outside of the camps, providing counseling, training, career mentoring- and psychological help if necessary. Wasam has been volunteering to work with children all through his high school and college- he is very committed to them. They both mentioned how, despite all of the horrors that the small children have already experienced, they continue to have hope in their eyes.
There is another wedding- and now I know how they are able to replace the tables exactly as they were- they literally carry the large tables out of the room!
Majd gave me a fascinating explanation regarding Arab culture and the ruined materials, but I’ll have to tell you about that tomorrow. I was going to review and comment on the participants’ lesson plans, but I just don’t have the energy or stomach for it right now. I’ll have to do it tomorrow or Friday when there is a holiday so we won’t be meeting.

Day 4 of Train the Trainer, Amman, 4-20-17- that wasn’t

Hello.

I got very little sleep and had a terrible time getting up the energy to shower, brush my teeth and dress. There was no doubt I would avoid breakfast because I didn’t dare eat anything. I did, however, do something very uncharacteristic of me. I took a Coke out of the mini bar. When I was a child, we used coke syrup to make us throw up and I wanted to see how I was doing before I got to the training room. So far, so good- but my laptop, etc. felt like 90 lbs. as I dragged myself to the elevator.

When I got to the room, I discovered that more than half of the class- and most of the class next to us, were all in the hospital due to severe food poisoning! Mohammed gave me some medicine, the hotel manager gave me peppermint tea, everyone there was very solicitous, and I sat trying not to move….

Not that misery loves company, but the final decision was to cancel today and add three hours to Saturday and Sunday. Thank God! All I wanted was to climb in bed and sleep.

Sweet Luma, who did indeed get a lot of the ink markings off of my table top toys, bless her heart, helped me pack up and carried everything (she would have carried me!) back up to my room. I undressed, collapsed, and slept- from 9:30 am to 3:30 am! At some point, Majd called to see how I was and ask if I needed her to take me to the hospital or anything.

These folks are so incredibly loving and caring. As I left the training room, Abdullah and several others told me they would take me to the hospital- all I had to do was contact them.

Luma gave me big hugs- this is a very tactile loving group. Women hug each other often, and men sit with their arms around each other’s shoulders. The sexes do not touch each other.

When I’ve needed help getting up once or twice (sitting on the floor going through one of my suitcases to pull out materials for the day, the men give me their forearm rather than their hand.

After I woke up, I drank some cold bottled water and ate a bit of the toast they sent me yesterday. It is now completely crisp, like eating a cracker. One piece was enough. I also cut open apple I had taken from a meal earlier this week and had two pieces. That was also enough.

I didn’t want you to worry, so I thought I should write to you. Now I’ll be able to rest all Friday and hopefully be tip top shape (and hopefully have a healthy class) on Saturday. Majd thinks there may be a scandal with the hotel given the food poisoning epidemic.

Interesting enough, some participants attributed it to the fresh salads, while others attributed it to the meats. Still others thought it might be something we drank- although they drank tea or juice at tea break and bottled water or bottled soda at lunch. I think that leaves only rice and potatoes as safe fare!

I do plan to get up to go to late breakfast (it begins at 6:30 and ends at 10:00) to at least get more fruit.

At some point on Friday I’ll have to review and correct the lesson plans I’ve received as well as plan how to apportion the training modules over the two instead of three days.

Right now, I’m going back to bed!

Day of Rest in Amman, 4-21-17

Hello.

I made it to breakfast, where I was able to stomach some yogurt. Then I went to the front desk because I saw there was a pharmacy across the street and I wanted the hotel staff to write what I needed in Arabic. They assured me that they spoke English in every pharmacy, so I trotted over there. This was the very first time I had been outside since I came here. The sidewalk crumbled and the street looked very commercial and unwelcoming. When I got inside, there was a very young man (obviously not the pharmacist) who did NOT speak English.

So I marched back to the hotel and reissued my request for a written note. Eventually the manager said that it would be best if he sent one of the bell hops to get it for me. I gave him money and off he went. He must have gone to more than one pharmacy, because it took him quite a while. He came back apologetic and empty-handed (other than handing me back the money). It was attributed to the fact that today is Friday and many places are closed for the weekend.

I had intended to send a few of my things to the laundry in preparation for my travel back, but noticed that they did laundry every day except Friday. Good grief!

So, I rested some more. Then I read through the participants’ lesson plans and was pleasantly surprised. They really understood how to design a lesson plan- and several were very adventurous with the learning activities they selected: gallery walk, game, envelope pass, skit, role play, case study, competitive brainstorming, scavenger hunt, walkabout, personal action plan, questionnaire, mind map, pop ups and art, to name a few!!

I also sewed a dress (with needle and thread in the ubiquitous sewing kit that had thread the exact same color as my dress) so the décolletage was much more modest and ironed a wrap to wear to cover my arms.

Yesterday, the participants who were healthy (or relatively healthy) and showed up to give their 2-minute presentations about an object they pulled from my bag intrigued me with their plans. As a result, although it wasn’t scheduled, I emailed Majd to see if we could videotape them tomorrow morning. If not, that’s fine. But it would be great to have it all on tape. The last time I was here some of these “showcase presentations” were thoughtful, hilarious, and simply brilliant.

I finally broke down and asked if room service could bring me some yogurt, because nothing else is appealing- and their menu doesn’t list breakfast things, such as toast, yogurt, etc. most probably because they assume guests will have their breakfast from the buffet.

I’m going to have my breakfast, take a shower and go to bed.

Deb/Mom

Day 5 of Train the Trainer, Amman, 4-22-17

Hello.

I woke up feeling much better and quite hungry. I dropped off my few laundry items to be cleaned and had a good breakfast.

Then everything fell apart.

The room must have been used for a function because there were high tables, an arm chair (!), my agenda map was missing, all the flip charts were missing (including the sign-up sheets for the showcase presentations, and another wand and more Koosh balls were gone. We were supposed to start at 8 and the IT person didn’t show until 8:01- then we couldn’t get my computer to communicate with the LCD, the right screen had to be lowered, etc.- I’m sure you’re getting the picture.

Luckily, only a few participants came on time, with the rest straggling in by or just after 8:30 (which had been our start time for the other training days). In the midst of trying to get all of the materials on the tables and set up my laptop and IPod player, hotel staff brought in a pile of flip chart (not the easels). I started to go through them and just told them to throw them away (since they related to lesson design, not learning activity design).

Then I went around sticking back up all the butterfly kites I brought to liven the room. They have been moved so often, and the poster putty lost and replaced with masking tape, that there is a continual fluttering sound as they waft to the ground. I’ve probably put them back up at least twenty times.

About an hour into the session I realized that my wonderful agenda map (that covered most of the wall) was missing. Staff later suggested that the map had been folded up at the bottom of the flip charts, so it had been thrown away. Boy, that was a lesson learned.

The showcase presentations were wonderful- dynamic, interactive, humorous, and well-designed. I could tell everything but the latter since all but two were in Arabic.
We closed off Day Three content with the showcase presentations and began with Day Four, with a focus on designing learning activities.

I used a bingo game in small groups to check their retention. They are VERY competitive!! And when they win they’re pretty obnoxious. ☺ Instead of 20 minutes, this took over an hour. Keep in mind that there was a need to translate everything during the game.

We assessed a focus question, questionnaire and case study- participating in them, assessing the design rationale, and creating their own as a large group. It was fascinating when we created the questionnaire. They decided it should be about Interest-Based Negotiation and that was fine. Then they proposed eight statements that were subjective and controversial, such as: “Negotiation is mandatory in our lives,” and “The 7 Element Tool is the most important tool for negotiation.” I realized that I had to clarify that the questionnaire needed to focus on the objective aspects of the topic at hand- and they were then able to propose questions along that line.

Since we began at 8, we had lunch at 2. When we returned our next focus was games. I had them split into groups to play a relay game. On the flipcharts, I had written vertically: LEARNING ACTIVITIES and they were tasked with completing each letter with a word or phrase related to training. There was fierce competition and lots of arguing over the other group’s list. I gave them all back scratchers and told them they were all winners.

On a side note, the issue of cell phone use- both in the classroom as well as walking outside making calls- continued unabated. I spoke to them twice, then Majd told them later in Arabic. I think it partially sank in.

Using games in training is a very novel idea, so I decided to have each of the four small groups create a game for the other groups to play. They came up with fantastic games in 20 minutes:

To show how important it is that everyone participate and cooperate, they had one group count all of the table toys and one group count all the drinking glasses- then both groups gave their counts to the third group to report the final counts as if they were part of a weather report. Very creative!
The next group (of Arabic speakers) wrote each learning level on its own colorful index card, spacing them out- one set each on two different flip charts. They split the group in half and each group was given a glass with active verbs written on pieces of paper. The groups competed against each other to place the correct verbs under each learning level- in 3 minutes!
The third group gave each table pieces of paper with letters on them and told them to create a sentence using all of the letters, then tape it up on a flipchart. The sentences turned out to be three of the six steps I taught them for designing a lesson plan. They were also given a short time, but I didn’t catch what it was.
The last group gave each table a handmade envelope with 14 tiny pieces that they had to make into squares. (It was almost exactly the same as Broken Squares!) Some groups sat on the floor, others stood, some sat at their tables. The group used it as a team building activity.

I’ll admit right now that I plan to use the active verbs and the letter puzzle activities in future train the trainer programs!! ☺

Our next focus was on role play. Half of the group (skeptics) prepared reasons for using participatory learning activities and the other half (change agents) prepared reasons against using participatory learning activities. I placed the change agents in a circle, facing outward. The skeptics formed a circle around them, each facing a change agent. They argued their cases for about a minute, then the skeptics moved clockwise to argue with the next person. They changed three times- then I had them switch roles and repeat the process three times.

When they reconvened in their two groups at the tables, they had to come up with the top two most persuasive statements in favor of using participatory learning activities- which they did.

We spent some time discussing their assignment for tomorrow, which is to design a 10-minute participatory learning activity they have never used before and facilitate it (while videotaped). We’ll split the group into two groups of 8 or 9 (food poisoning affected some more than others, so we’re not sure who’ll be there). Before they left at 6 pm, they had to tell me what type of activity they planned to use. It sounds like there are going to be a lot of games.

I asked Majd to check if anything would be in the room tonight and the answer was “no,” which was a relief. I decided to take all table toys off the table and discovered one more wand and four more Koosh balls gone (you would think I had learned my lesson the previous two days, but I’m too trusting). I looked through my two huge suitcases, pulling everything we need for tomorrow into one and putting the rest into the other. While I was doing that, a manager came in and told me we were NOT in the room tomorrow, but in the ballroom next door. It was almost 7 pm and I was dead on my feet. He took pity on me and eventually returned to say that they had moved the meeting that would have been in “our” room. GOOD GRIEF!!!

I am finally back in my room. I called down to the front desk about my laundry and they told me it would be brought right up. That was an hour ago. I’ll deal with that after I finish my letter.

I had mentioned in my Day Three missive that Majd told me some fascinating things about religion and the Arab culture. She termed it “social (or fundamental) attribution error.”

Oops, when I tried to Google social attribution error, I couldn’t get on the internet. I’ve called the front desk again about my laundry and now about the password. Both are supposed to be coming right up. Hmmm..

Majd first mentioned it as an explanation (not a justification) of the defaced and/or missing table top toys. They look at the materials, decide they must not cost very much, so it doesn’t matter what they do. In the culture, either they justify their actions on the basis of religion or on their culture. She said that Arabs are highly emotional- they either love you or they don’t and there isn’t much you can do about it. (This part related to our discussion that there is one person who is simply not happy with anything any day- and makes it very clear on his/her evaluation. Majd explained that it really had nothing to do with me).

On a side note, I asked her if women smoke, because almost all of the men do (walking past them outside the training room door is a treat). She said that smoking is one of the only ways for women to get rid of their stress.

Okay, laundry received and new password in hand.

Mark Sherman in Psychology Today writes:
In other words: When we see someone doing something, we tend to think it relates to their personality rather than the situation the person might be in.
For example, if someone cuts in front of you in line, your immediate reaction is, “This person is a complete jerk!” But in reality, maybe he never cuts into lines and is doing it this time only because he is about to miss his plane, the one he’s taking to be with his great aunt, who is on the verge of death.
Interestingly, social psychologists have found that we make the fundamental attribution error (or FAE, as I have never heard it called) about other people but rarely ourselves. When we do things, we always have a good reason. It’s other people we see as defective. (FAE or not, other people are defective. If everyone was more like me, this world would be a much better place!)
A classic example is the person who doesn’t return your call. You could go the usual route and think, “He is an inconsiderate slob and my parents were right years ago when they said I should have dropped him as a friend.” But the fundamental attribution error would remind you that there might very well be other reasons why this person hasn’t called you back. Maybe he is going through major issues in his life. Maybe he is traveling for work. Maybe he honestly forgot. (Maybe before you get all hot and bothered, you should check the obituaries, though if you’re really the resentful sort, even death may not be enough to mollify you.)
Closely related to the FAE is the tendency we all have to take things too personally. Maybe you could call this the fundamental selfishness error, or the “all about me” effect. This describes the everyday experience of encountering people who don’t treat you just right, as the royalty you implicitly believe you are. The feeling we have of being disrespected is so common that we’ve shortened the word to “dissed.” Someone says something that you feel belittles you, or they ignore you, or  talk about food when you want to talk about sports. You’ve been dissed! Don’t they know who you are?
However, if we all take a step back to recognize and accept the fundamental attribution error, we will feel dissed far less often. Most people are good and decent, subject to the same difficulties in life as you are. When they ignore us, or don’t say thank you when we hold a door open for them, or step on our feet and don’t apologize, or make nasty comments about our mothers, we must remember that they are simply fellow sufferers.
Miscellaneous items:

I play different music at breaks. When Mohammad heard Benny Goodman, he said that this type of jazz is all the rage in Japan.
I’ve never brought 4 shoes to training and it has made a huge difference. I don’t have to sit with my feet up any more after a long day (and believe me, today was a very long day!)

I had mentioned that the men are affectionate with each other. They also kiss each other on the cheek. It is very sweet.

The Arabic-speaking men did a terrific job, both with their individual showcase presentations and with the game they created and facilitated. I’m very impressed.

I looked ridiculous today. I mentioned that I’d taken advantage of the small sewing kit in the room and made the neckline of my dress much more conservative. What I didn’t mention is that this entailed taking up an inch at my shoulder at either side. It ended up looking as if I had small wings. I wore a wrap that covered it up nicely, but in running around trying to handle everything before the session began, I was a sweaty mess. So I took off the wrap. It wasn’t until the afternoon, when I went to the rest room, that I saw how I looked. Sigh…

I take photos of the flip chart working and the groups when they are working together, but the participants love selfies and group shots. I’ve actually found this to be true in every other country I’ve trained in recently (Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, and U.A.E.) I definitely stand out in any photo with my blonde hair- and my hot pink dress today!

I spoke with Majd again about the reasons for having all staff, including non-trainers, participate in this session. She is the director of training and wants everyone to know what good training looks like so they can make recommendations if they see something done poorly.

Okay, it’s 8:30 pm and I need to have some dinner. The menu selections are extremely limited and I am very tired (and very cautious) about them. I wish I had packed a jar of peanut butter to spread on an apple I take from lunch. Oh well.

Day 6 of Train the Trainer, Amman, 4-23-17

Hello.

When I arrived downstairs, no lights were on! Eman and I walked into the training room and luckily she knew how to turn on the lights. Everything was as I had left it that night. Eman put out the Koosh balls (now down to 18) and pipe cleaners. No dice or wands, for obvious reasons.

She practiced her facilitation program while I set up my electronics and reposted any fallen kites. Then I wrote: English Sign Up on one flip chart and Arabic Sign Up on the other, in preparation for the two practice groups. But Talal, one of those needing English translation, came up to me to ask that all of the participants stay in one group because they wanted my feedback.

I told him I’d see if I could manage it, knowing that we had two activities to get through before the facilitation practice could begin. If we began at the scheduled time of 8:00 am and went until 6:00 pm, I figured we wouldn’t be able to begin the practice sessions until 11:00 am. There was no way that each person could have 30 minutes (5 minutes to set up and break down, 10 to facilitate, and 15 to receive feedback). Even giving 20 minutes a piece, that got us to 6- and we needed at least 45 minutes for debriefing, post-test, evaluations, certificates and celebration.

When Majd got in, I told her about Talal’s request and she agreed that breaking into two groups would be most feasible. However, as more people arrived it became clear to me that only 2 planned to facilitate in English and everyone else would be in the Arabic group! So the decision was moot. I just needed to hope that we could start at 8- (nope, a bad traffic jam kept many folks from arriving until 8:30 or afterwards)- and cut lunch in half- (nope, the men felt that 30 minutes was too short for them to pray and eat, so we could only cut lunch down to 45 minutes)- okay, that some miracle happened and time was elastic, so we could accomplish everything before 6 (Majd checked to see if we could go later and no one felt they could stay because they had to take care of personal matters before they left the next morning to drive to Acaba for a 6-day negotiation training!)

I’m sorry that paragraph was so long, but it definitely represents what was going on!

I began by walking the group through what the agenda map would have shown them- the focus and content up to today. Then we had two activities to complete Day 5. The first was a hands-on activity using Tinker Toys to create a merry-go-round. We created three groups and I dumped out Tinker Toys on each table. One person from each table volunteered to be an observer and another volunteered to be the Voice of Reality, who would continually interfere with the building process for the first ten minutes. The groups really got into the project- and the Voices of Reality were quickly either ignored or pushed aside. While two groups had begun their merry-go-rounds, one group still had all the components on the table. Yet, surprisingly, that group finished before everyone else.

The rowdy Arabic-only speakers, all guys, created a merry go round extraordinaire! All groups were very proud of their creations and posed for photos.

We discussed how the activity can be used for leadership and team building and they felt they could use a similar activity in their programs.

Then on to six principles of accelerated learning, which they could attribute to the merry go round project. We closed Day Five with a fill in the blanks questionnaire to check their retention- then finally were ready to begin Day Six!! Whew!

Day Six began with a PowerPoint Jeopardy with five categories to cover the content of the previous five days. Because one of the groups required translation, I decided that the other groups could not try to answer until Mohammad (who was translating) stood up to indicate his group was ready. Then all the members of a table group had to stand before they could answer a question. I was going to have the table groups tally their own points on an honor system. However, Mohammad suggested (I’m laughing as I’m typing this) that it would be better if some objective person kept score, since there was no trust that groups wouldn’t cheat! I agreed to keep score- and had the groups come up with a name for themselves.

The groups were: The Neocortexs, the Falcons, the Dolphins and the Lucky Six! The Falcons (with Murad) and the Neocortexs (with Majd and Heba) won with just one point difference. I rewarded them with small pinball machines.

We took a break and then began the facilitation sessions. Although I had a special feedback sheet for them to use, they had been printed in numbers needed for two groups of 10 rating 9 others in each group. As a result, we didn’t have enough for 20 to rate 19 others. I wrote a basic format on a flip chart: Name, Activity, Strengths, Recommendations- and asked the participants to use small pads of paper on the tables to create their own feedback sheets. That seemed to work pretty well.

I’m thrilled to report that no one fell into lecture, which is always a concern. Everyone engaged the participants in one or more activities. Almost all of the facilitated activities required everyone to get up, so we had lots of happy kinesthetic learners! And everyone did a wonderful job!

Majd, Heba (from a previous program) and/or Mohammad (who was videotaping) provided translation. Luckily, Zaid, their project leader, was there to provide feedback regarding nuances that I definitely missed.

I wish that I had taken better notes so I could tell you about each of the facilitated activities. Unfortunately, my need to pay attention to the translation and also to the time kept me sufficiently distracted so I entirely forgot to at least list the activities they used.

You’ll probably be relieved that I can only report on nine. Since it’s been two days and long sleepless flights since then, you have to know that these nine had to be pretty amazing for me to remember them! I’m just going to hit the highlights:

Hala split the participants into two groups, having one prepare reasons why using social media in their outreach work was a good idea and the other group prepare reasons why it wasn’t. Then she had the groups debate, which I’ve never seen before but worked beautifully! Both sides had strong arguments, so it was a very lively debate.

Eman had everyone stand up to have them experience that we pay more attention to nonverbal than verbals. She would say “nose” and point to her knee- and most pointed to their knees. She would say “arm” and point to her chin, etc. It was a very powerful demonstration.

Luma showed a video with a man who ended up crying. Then she had the participants complete a worksheet that had the numbers 1-20 placed randomly. They had one minute to find the numbers in order. She next showed a video that was very funny and had them complete another worksheet in one minute. She wanted to demonstrate that we find tasks much harder when we are sad, as part of an emotional intelligence experiment. Fascinating!

Dima had the participants pair up and try to poke a slim pointed stick through an inflated balloon. Unfortunately, not only could no group accomplish it, neither could she ultimately demonstrate it. Apparently it can be done. She had two balloons taped to the wall and within each was a note explaining how to do it. Heba ran to pop them and read the notes, which said that there are two places in a balloon where the latex is most flexible. I don’t think I’ll try that one because I couldn’t bear to have balloons popping all around me.

Majd seated men in one line parallel and opposite to the women. Then she gave each a proverb to act out in charades. Each proverb was very negative toward women- and when they were acted out, the unfairness and meanness of the proverbs (which reflect the culture) were even more apparent. The participants had great fun doing it, but It was a powerful activity.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember who facilitated this. Maybe Sandy? The person divided the group into two groups to run a relay race to list as many ideas for what religion and the community can do to support and encourage women to succeed.

Abdullah had everyone stand up on one side of the room. He explained that he would tell them a story and every time they heard a number they would have to form groups of that number. They loved it, racing to be part of a group and not be left out. This related to something about the brain but I don’t remember what.

Zaid had written and posted three flip charts: agree, neutral and disagree. He had the group stand and participants move to line up in front of the relevant flip chart as he made statements. He began with simple objective statements: “I am single.” “I have children.” Then he moved to more subjective statements: “I am considered short.” Finally he moved to deeply personal statements: “I would marry a person of a different color.” “I would allow my child to marry a Syrian refuge.” When he debriefed with the group, for many it had been a moment of truth. Some were surprised at their choices, which seemed counter to what they thought they believed. Again, very powerful.

Murad split the groups into two, giving one group the task of drawing the characteristics of a good listener and the other group the task of drawing the characteristics of a good speaker. The groups had fun with it. Murad is one of the senior trainers (along with Majd and Luma). I watched in awe as he would raise his hand and look sternly to have the groups quiet immediately. Had I known it was so simple, I would have done it! I was advised, however, that people are “afraid” of him for some reason, and I definitely didn’t cultivate that emotion in the participants, so it probably would not have worked for me!

Majd and Murad scheduled themselves last, thinking that they would not facilitate if time ran out. But I knew they wanted my feedback, so we just kept going. I’m glad we did. However, this resulted in incredible stress for me. I had the participants complete the post-test and stood grading them as they were handed in. I was also placing their scores in a table to determine how much their pre-test grade had improved. They all stood around me, watching and reading what I wrote. Yikes! I knew that we still had to have a certificate ceremony, but Majd told me we could just hand them out informally. I had her read them off and distribute them while I completed the grading. Then I rewarded those with the greatest improvement with parrot-shaped paddles with balls attached.

There was no time for the ending celebration, so I had everyone take bubbles home with them. We finished at 6:10. Whew!

Then Zaid called for a group photo, for which we all posed as a hotel staff person took the formal photo and folks in the group took selfies with the group.

I got a lot of hugs from the women thanking me and handshakes or comments from the men. Abdullah actually gave me a side hug. Majd had to run since her husband and three month old son were waiting for her. Murad and Luma stayed to help clean and pack up. This first involved dismantling the three tinker toy creations. Next, taking down all of the kites. Murad left and Luma stayed to the bitter end (I’ve never had anyone do that before!). She helped me wheel the two large suitcases to my room, then gave me two of her beautiful woven bracelets and a lacy white shawl. And great hugs!

So I packed, took a shower, ate some fruit (I couldn’t bear another meal) and was picked up at 11 pm to go to the airport, where I got some fantastic humus and lots of pita bread to scoop it up with. Lovely.

The 5 hour flight from Amman to Frankfort left late, so by the time we got to Frankfort it seemed very likely that I would miss my flight. I raced as quickly as I could- to be stopped for passport check- for luggage security- for other security, running what seemed like a mile. By the time I got to the plane I was dripping wet and had to ask the steward as I boarded for a drink of water.

This is the first flight where I absolutely froze, despite cocooning in two blankets, for a good portion of the 9 hour flight.

When I got off the plane in Chicago, I realized that I had two apples in my carry on and I had better dump them. Good thing I did, because while I waited for my luggage after passport control, an officer with a dog came over to me. She asked if I had fruit and I said I didn’t any more. The dog can smell fruit several days after it’s been removed. (I learned my lesson some trips ago when they pulled me over for having an orange and held me for quite a while).

I finally got home to Madison at 2:30 pm to a nice sunny 70 F day, with spring flowers and fruit trees in blossom.

Thank you for coming with me.

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