Carnival of Hope

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

This morning the women showed us around their workshop (which is incidentally right outside my door). One woman, Rawaa, showed me sympathy and was patient with me as I tried to converse with her in Arabic. She showed me her station, how she makes her shawls, and told me about her life in Syria. The women were eager to show off what they had made, and rightly so – it was really beautiful stuff. Shawls, tops, pillows, towels, vests, toys, bags… you name it, and they have crocheted it. We talked about bringing their stuff back with us to California and hosting a bazaar and fashion show, and they loved the idea.

Mouna left to go to lunch with an aunt, and said “don’t be so shy, fix the wifi, and go and meet your neighbours!” I had promised myself that’s what I would do, and so after an hour of worrying, looking up words I might need in the dictionary, asking Faris to make sure what I wanted to say made sense, and being a coward, I finally did it. I went down to the first floor, and as confident as I could I said “momken tsa3adny ma3 al wifi?”

I didn’t fix the wifi, but I did manage to meet people. I started talking to the manager and he was patient beyond belief. We talked about our projects, me teaching the boys English, and me learning Arabic. We worked out a nice system where he talked to me in English, and I replied in Arabic so we could both learn. Two of the residents, Tarek and another whose name I’ve forgotten, sat on the couch opposite us smiling, and laughing every so often (presumably at my Arabic). Amer took me around the apartment and introduced me to the residents, though very few said more than “ahlan” to me. Amer brought Malek out with me to talk to me, while he went and did work.

Malek is a 22-year-old living in the apartment. He is originally from Der Zor, but studied electrical engineering in Aleppo until the revolution forced him out. He’s the only one in his family in Jordan. He was very encouraging with my Arabic, and made sure I understood that it was “okht wa7ida” and not “wa7id okht.”

A man named Mohannad came out after we had been talking for a while, and introduced himself as the founder of “Project Bukra,”(go like his Facebook page!) and in desperate need of a volunteer. He came to Amman after realising that there was so much potential in the Syrian students, and scholarship opportunities available, except for the students lacking in English and TOEFL skills. He had found trained TOEFL teachers, and volunteers for the Basic English level and a classroom (he was to use an empty room on the 2nd floor), and all he needed was one more volunteer to replace the one who cancelled her flight at the last minute. He asked if I would be willing to do it, and happily I agreed. So, that’s what I will be doing tomorrow. A 9 am placement test, and a few hours of teaching English to a class of 10 students. I’ve never taught English in my life.

When Mouna returned, we went to the carnival run by Fareeq Mulham. Hundreds of laughing, screaming children were picked up from around Amman in buses, and brought to a small amusement park-like place above a supermarket. It had a few small rides, a trampoline, a carousel and things like that, and there was a group doing live entertainment.

The kids were all adorable, running, laughing, and playing. When it came time to break the fast, the kids sat down 3 long tables in the back and we ran up and down handing out water, juice, and sandwiches.

“I want orange juice! I want apple! Can I have grape?! I don’t have a straw!”

Keeping track of it all was exhausting. I met a really sweet girl named Ola who introduced me to everyone and helped translate when I was really lost. By the time I got back to the apartment, I was dead, and Mouna left to Paris. I was alone until Sherin arrived.

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