So its that time of the year again… SPRING CLEANING. And as you go through your closets and cupboards and boxes and bags you will have things you don’t use anymore, things you don’t like anymore, things that don’t fit anymore, things you don’t have places for anymore…

 

Don’t keep them… give me a call and drop them off at mine and I will recycle, reuse, redistribute them to those who may need them.

 

In return you can go through the growing pile of things and take whatever treasure you may find.

 

So its recycling swapping cleansing drive…

 

Things you can put into the pile:

Clothes,

books,

toys,

kitchenware,

appliances

gadgets,

knicknacks

Household items

 

The pile grows and shrinks so bring them any time… to my house or my office 🙂

 

 

And thanks in advance for the contributions.

I love taxi rides and taxi drivers. Every time I get into a taxi it is an opportunity to learn more, interact more and get a pulse for what people are thinking, or even how they are thinking (some may argue it’s the other way round). But the thing I notice the most when in cabs, and this is symptomatic of a the majority of our society, is how we are always willing to shift responsibility and of course blame on the anonymous and magnanimous OTHER. The other can be the system, the government, women, men, youth and children, drivers, families, society…etc. The other depends on the topic of the conversation, and who we can blame for it. I will give you examples:

  • Littering: its bad, its dirty, “They should clean up the streets!”, as a tissue paper, cigarette butt, can, bag of junk food is being thrown out of the window of a car, even as we walk down the street.
  • Traffic: A sign that says do not turn, one way street, a place in which turning would be dangerous, etc… “Well they do it all the time!”
  • Price hikes: “They should do something about it”
  • Rainbow Street: “They ruined the street, they should complain and get it changed.”
  • Taxi driver status, benefits, needs: “They should give us health insurance/ social secutiry/ protect us…etc.”

The list goes on and on, what is common in all of them though is that there is never a language of “us”.

My response to most of these gripes is to ask “who are they?” or “where are you in the equation? Where is your voice?” or “ Why don’t you do anything about it?”. When I look back at my mother’s generation or the one after it there seems to have been a more vocal youth and a more vibrant society, but something (well many things) happened along the way which killed that voice, quelled that energy and just muted us. I don’t want to go into all those things right now because in a way it is irrelevant. We have inherited a muzzle. It’s up to us now how we choose to use that muzzle. How we give ourselves the excuses and convince ourselves of our impotence or NOT.

Each one of us is responsible for our lives, our community, our society and there is power in one as much as there is power in many. If we continue to toss the task on the infamous other, and expect things to be bright, and perfect then we deserve what we get. If I throw garbage out of my window, I shouldn’t expect a clean street or complain about it.  Extrapolate that to a larger bigger scale and even think government. If I don’t participate in elections, and then don’t hold my elected official accountable, why should I then expect this system to work for me?

I think it’s time we owned up to responsibilities as citizens since clearly leaving it to the other hasn’t worked for us. If we are unhappy at how we collectively behave towards something, about an attitude, about our street’s cleanliness then do something about it. There are many many many initiatives, programs, organization and even individuals out there doing this work. If you cant find them then start something yourself. I truly  believe that we have the power and the keys to  instigate positive change that starts at a small and local and scale. And slowly, it takes hold, it becomes the norm, and a few years later you turn around and something has changed. I am not saying its easy, I am saying is doable! If you are wondering what I am talking about then take a look a these initiatives and programs: Zikra, Ruwwad, Hamzet Wasel, Action Committee, Palestinian Action Network (PAN), Jabal Amman Residents’ Association (JARA), Gender Equality Movement, Urdun Mubdi3… and the list goes on. They all started as ideas and they have all become catalysts for change and voices for the communities and peoples they represent.  They are all very diverse in their ideas, approaches and goals, but they all share something, someone took responsibility and carried that frustration to the next level!

We continuously complain about issues, policies from government, and I want to flip that back at us, the people. There is a system, it may be defunct, but that is because we have made it so. When we elected our parliamentarians, there was a frenzy of slogans, rallies, and mustaches on the street what’s happened after that? We see the occasionally media frenzy, the storm in the tea cup, yet what do we do about it? Well, since we elected these MPs and we gave them the power to be our representatives, we also have the power to hold them accountable. Some of you are probably snickering at me right now, which I understand. However, let me ask you to do two things at this point: 1- Read this report that was issued by Al Quds Research Center, to understand how our current parliament works and what makes them tick. 2-Use their monitoring website Jordan Parliament Monitor (www.jpm.jo) that not only tells you who the MPs are and what committees they are on, but their voting track record even. From there you can get your representative to take on the issues you find important and need attention. If they don’t listen- well they don’t get your vote next time round, its that simple and that complicated at the same time.  When we use these tools, we become active participants in the debate, not just some frustrated ranting taxi drivers, and therein lies the difference.

I was at an Earth day festival in Washington DC this April, and there was a group, Zendik That were selling T-shirts with a slogan that I immediately fell in love with and adopted “Stop bitching start a revolution”. Pick up your trash, lobby your taxi driver friends or our parliamentarians, follow safety rules and start your revolutions, what are you waiting for?

A wall is being built that separates, divides, and excludes. It takes a play area, a view point, a rendezvous site from it community, from all of us in Amman. This wall is going up on around the lands near the citadel. The site is being expanded to include refreshment stands, bathrooms and a public plaza for events and concerts. But all this is being walled in by a massive concrete wall that will be beautified by laying stone on top of it.

The wall stands about 3.5 meters high allowing for the complete sanitization of the experience for who ever is inside while excluding everyone outside. The wall discriminates indiscriminately; you are either inside – after paying a fee of course, or outside.

This wall takes away the Jabal Al Qalaa play area where little girls and boys head to for some space away from the tiered and clustered homes they live in. It is where they fly their kites or kick around their balls. It is where they sit and look out a beautiful city they call home.

GAM has responded to a community concern on the website Creative Jordan with a response that does nothing to answer the issue but merely tries to justify the situation and actually reproaches us for our agitated state of distress because we care for our city not to be gentrified and sanitized for visitors of privilege whether they be tourists or locals.

I urge you each one of you to read the discussion thread and make your voice heard. We all have voices and this affects each and every one of us in Amman, not just the Jabal Al Qalaa residents.  The discussion can be found  here.

Jabal Al Qalaa- the citadel is a place where each one of us has a memory, a story, an experience… don’t let them take that away from you by modernizing a piece of history. History should remain untouched for us to interpret and understand through our senses not to be sanitized and modernized and made something it is not.

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Kite Flying at Jabal Al Qalaa (Citadel)

Kite Flying at Jabal Al Qalaa (Citadel)

A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to be part of the start of a new initiative. The aim of the initiative is to bring the diverse people of the city together and find fun and meaningful ways to connect and learn from each other outside of the traditional. What that translated to was that a group of friends and myself headed to the citadel to learn how to make and fly kites.

Arriving in the morning and seeing all the old friends arrive with their kids, walking over and meeting the other kids in the neighborhood youth center built up the anticipation to what was to become an explosion of colors, string, wood, and a lot of smiles.

I never expected kite making to be such an intricate science, and the way these kids made them made seem so easy, but kite making is exact, delicate and time consuming. What amazed me is the kids didn’t once use a ruler or measuring tool, they instead measured with the string they were using against the sticks. They used staples to put things together if they couldn’t tie them securely. And then when they were done with the body of the kite with string they made a tail. I learned that without a tail a kite won’t fly.

The kids were so giving and so full of information. Some were amazing teacher others were fantastic kite makers. But whatever role the children took on they gave willingly and freely. My friends and their kids all had a great time watching and learning, but what really made the difference to me was the connections they made with the people from the neighborhood over a labor of love and joy.

When we went to fly the kites everyone’s face was turned upwards watching their kites fly. Collectively they took pride in their efforts but everyone was overjoyed that they flew – the winds were not favorable that day. But despite the poor wind the kites fly high like the aspirations of everyone on that hill. I remember two women coming up to me and what they said “This is better than playstation” to her I say YES AKEED. The other woman said “my daughter has nevr been so happy”. Thank you to everyone for making it a great day.

But here is where I want to do a plug in about the neighborhood and the hill where we played. This is a small flat area, free of artifacts and ruins, it is not the best but it is the only place the kids of the neighborhood can play. Currently it is used a parking lot for the citadel and for RVs. If you want to help make the space free for all to play in and maybe even made into a community park then please contact Raghda Butros (raghda@gmail.com) an Urban Activist.

We each can make a difference go visit the space, understand the dynamics of the location, meet the people, and contact Raghda. Our children need to be outdoors need to play, need to grow. They have a right to all of that, help preserve those precious spaces today.

Flying kites is a thing I have never really done. I don’t know how to fly a kite let alone make one. This weekend I have the opportunity to do both in a community event in Jabal Al Qala’a made possible by Adraaj Amman. So if you want participate in kite making and flying free up your Friday morning. Places are limited so do confirm your attendance.

 

Date: April 10, 2009

Day: Friday

Time:10:30 am 

Location:  Jabal Al Qala’a

Meeting point: Citadel Entrance

Cost: JD 5- 10 (you will participate in buying materials for both yourself and for a child from the Local Jabal Al Qala’a Community.

 

Contact info: Raghda Butros raghda@gmail.com 079-6637377

Confirm by: Thursday 3 pm

Note: Children welcome

 

See you all there and get read to see your creations, and those of the kids’, soar in a beautiful spring sky.

 

OK so for the first in a series of events we will be walking below are the details:

Jabal Amman Walk

Date: Friday, April 3, 2009

Time: 5:30 pm

Meeting point: Jabal Amman- Rainbow street- public square across the street from Sadeq home

Cost: ZERO 😀

Duration: As long as you want to walk with me or chat J but I would say an hour or two at most.

Jabal Elweibdeh Walk

Date: Saturday, April 4, 2009

Time: 5:30 pm

Meeting point: Duwwar Paris/ Paris Square (near French Cultural Center and Stop n Shop)

Duration: As long as you want to walk with me or chat J but I would say an hour or two at most.

Comments:

Wear comfortable shoes, parking available if you take the right at Sadeq home – there is a new parking lot on the right in that street. Bring friends.

Stay tuned for:

1- Kite flying in Jabal Al Qalaa

2- Treasure Hunt in village in Al Gour

3- Renovations of a Women’s Center  in Gaza Camp


OK for those of you that read my post about my birthday celebrations and want to partake I have an update. There is a lot of coordination and collaboration involved in making these things happen so I would like to thank everyone who expressed interest in joining me and more importantly those of you helping me make my thirty second birthday a celebration of us rather than me. And so here are the various events and ideas that all or any of you can help in and by doing so give me a fantastically rewarding birthday:

 

  1. Jabal Al Qalga Kite making and flying with the kids of the neighborhood with Hamzet Wasel Initiative
  2. Renovating and fixing of Women’s Center in Gaza Camp in Jerash with V-team Initiative
  3. Undecided event with Zikra Initiative
  4. Buy a tree and plant it in Palestine with APN – Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (http://www.apnature.org)
  5. Give me your old clothes, recyclable paper, tins and plastic and I will send them to a community center or the recycling center
  6. And finally for those that just want to hang out a walk in Jabal Amman and a walk in Jabal Al Weibeh (two of my favorite places in the city) the weekend following my birthday

 

 

I will post more info these initiatives and events and include dates, times, places and costs this coming week. And for those of you on Facebook I will create events for them. All are welcome even if I don’t know you and you want to do these things Ahlan Wa Sahlan.

I will soon be 32 and I have been asked what I want for my birthday whether it be for celebrations or for gifts. These questions got me thinking about past birthdays and gifts and what they’ve meant to me. I’ve done the crazy parties with the cakes and sparklers and massive amounts of booze, the traveling for my birthday and the quiet dinners. But this year I want something different, and I know exactly what I want.

This year what I want involves none of the above in any way, shape or form. This year I do not want any parties in bars or restaurants or cafes. I do not want any celebrations with cake, or alcohol or food. I do not want all that money spent for such a selfish and self centered purpose. My birthday! There have been many and who knows there may be many more too. But I do not want to be the excuse for a night of drunken revelry, I do not want massive amounts of food consumed at some lavish dinner in an expensive restaurant, I do not want anyone to go out of their way for me to celebrate in frivolity a day that comes a long often enough and there is really nothing special about it except that I popped out from between my mother’s legs like thousands if not millions of others on that day.

I do not want any gifts either not matter how big or small, grand or symbolic for I have enough stuff in my life and I am trying to get rid of a lot of it! There is nothing I really need at this moment in time and the things I want I can do without. So thank you but no thank you.

When I made these declarations to my friends their faces were so puzzled, confused and some were upset and said that was unacceptable! And so I told them that what would make me happy instead was for them to do something selfless, something that gives back to the community, something outside themselves and me.

One of my favorite quotes is “Be the change you want to see in the world” by Ghandi and this year this is what I want for my birthday. And so to celebrate I want organize an event that gives back to the community in some way or form. That recognizes the pleasure in working together to make a difference. If there is any money to be spent then it would be on the event and it should go towards your local community. And if you insist on giving me a gift then make a donation in my name to an organization that makes a difference to people’s lives like a cancer foundation, orphanages, NGOs that work on community development, and if you don’t want to give cash then clean out your closet and give the things you don’t want to people who can use them like the Gaza aid souk or the King Hussein center for the mentally disabled, or Ruwwad in Jabal Al Natheef, if you want to do this and don’t know how give me a call and I can help you or just drop things off with me and I can take care of it. Spend a day volunteering. If even that is too much trouble then just do something nice for a stranger in the street, it can be that simple.

If you still insist on giving me something personal then give me a good memory. Walk with me in the streets or Jabal Amman, come over and watch a movie, let’s have a good conversation, send me a letter or an email or help me paint a new bookcase I’m getting, take a picture and send it to me. I will also personally be arranging an outdoor activity that will focus on giving something back to the world we live in. Let me know if you want to be part of that activity, it will make me really happy to spend time with my friends doing something along those lines and I will post it here once the details are sorted out.

Help me be the change I want to see in this world we live in and embody some of the ideals and beliefs that I have. Yes I am an idealist and to some I may be foolish, but I think we can make a difference one small step at a time. Will you walk with me?

Last week I had the privilege of dinning with the unprivileged. In a group iftar for some 200 kids from various orphanages and centers, five toastmasters (myself included) volunteered with Action Committee and Family International to help with the kids and entertain them. We were all hosted by Al Isra’ University.

 

I must say when our club circulated emails about the event I dismissed them. I had no inclination to do this. The our club president called and we discussed it over and the conclusion was we needed to help and supervise activities for the kids and he had me slated to story tell. That pretty much sealed the deal. And off we went to the university.

 

We walked onto the football field to find kids as young as 5 and 6 years old and young adolescents that were 16 years old. They had with them their surrogate moms and dads from the centers and everyone was having a good time. We were all running around playing games, learning dabkeh, playing ball among other things.

 

We then broke fast for those fasting and had dinner for those that weren’t together. The energy in the hall was lovely. Everyone was having a good time. I was impressed with how organized, well behaved and obedient the kids were. One of the groups came from a center for juvenile delinquents and contrary to my image of how these boys behave they were a joy to be around and such fun.

 

After dinner I put on my costume, and prepared myself to tell a story. I got up on a stage, put on a mic and pranced around with different voices, different characters and a story to tell. I had such a great time, and the kids as well as the adults were all having fun. For 25 minutes I was able to put a smile on 200 kids faces.

 

It was such a feeling of euphoria, I have done this kind of thing before but usually at parties for the privileged. Parties with spoilt kids who are thirsty for pop culture not history or fairytales. That night though it was I who was privileged.  The lives of these kids are so removed from ours that we forget them. We forget that they exist, we forget that they need love, care and attention not just from individual but from society. And if there is one thing I am grateful for Ramadan for it is the remembrance of these kids. It is their inclusion into our lives. It is the spirit that we lost.

 

I am glad that I was able to recapture the lost spirit of Ramadan, even for one night. And as Ramadan comes to an end this week I would like to wish all those that partake in the month a Ramadan Kareem and a Happy Eid.