Not-so-ordinary Jordanians: Change or Be Changed

This series aims to shed light on the people who are the underlying driving power of change in the Jordanian society: The ordinary citizens with extraordinary ideas, stories or actions.

If I was to describe this man in one sentence, it would be “a man you can never get bored listening to”. Still,  that won’t be enough; because you don’t just enjoy what he says, you also come out of it feeling like a better human being already, or at least wanting to be better and feeling that you can.

Jamal Al-Salah started his professional life as a civil engineer, but day after day that field proved more and more unbefitting for him, for he was building houses for people, while his inner calling was something totally different, something that involved talking to people, something that had human interaction at its very core. Perhaps the last stroke came when he started to see the amount of corruption that goes into engineering projects, and when others started telling him that if he continued to live by his principles and base his work on honesty and integrity, he will declare bankruptcy. Dealing with this mindset in such a profit driven environment, he knew it was time he moved to another playground.

Mr. Jamal’s journey in the field of Development and training started in 1989, when he took a training course with another 15 people, after which he was selected among 8 people for an advanced training and then 5 out of these 8 were chosen for another specialized course on moderation. What’s interesting is that after the course Mr. Al-Salah invited the other 4 trainees over after the course was over, and being one to believe there are no shortcuts to any place worth going, he suggested that they all kick off their careers as assistant moderators in order to gain some practical experience, to which their reply was: “If you’re not confident enough that you can make it as a moderator then speak for yourself”. He wasn’t shaken by that, instead he went ahead and started working as an assistant moderator for several projects while the others started as moderators right off the bat. Several years after that, he is the only one of them who continued in the field of moderation, but that’s not all, he’s also praised now as being the best moderator and trainer in the region, with his own training and consulting  company, INTERACTION, under the slogan (ensures effective communication and cooperation) We were created to interact.

When asked why he chose the field of development, Mr. Jamal explains that the billions of  funds that have been pumped into development since the 1950’s for the most part haven’t met the needs of the targeted groups, and that’s because of the development projects weren’t planned properly, simply because they were imposed on those groups or communities instead of being created by them. And that’s where the moderator comes into play: to help facilitate the communication between the different groups in society in order to reach a common ground where everyone can agree on the same needs and priorities, and by doing that they are more likely to work hard to make it happen in order to validate their choices. It also allows people of different backgrounds and interests to understand the position of the other in conflict or other opinion, and try to shape knowledge and priorities according to the crossing interests to finally reach a point agreeable by all parties. This is a great interaction between humans, bringing their scientific knowledge and personal thinking, institutional and personal interest from individuality to collectivism.

For Jamal Al-Salah, his work is a continuous learning process. Think about it this way, each workshop or working session of 3-4-5 days you meet with people of expertise in a certain field, and you come out of the session having added more to your knowledge in that particular field, not to mention the things you learn through human interaction with people from different backgrounds. It’s a win-win process where you can teach and learn at the same time, and it’s a highly humanitarian work.

Getting tired is a mindset issue, when having fun one cannot get tired or board in contrary one enjoys hobby and wish to have more time . People get tired of their work and what they should do when they don’t like it, while if you work from your heart then you are  “hobbying” – and to practice your hobby you need endless time. The Chinese say (love what you do to do what you love), Jamal says great results are only produced when worked out joyfully.

A good example of that was his work with the Family Protection Department, where he discovered new things about parenting and realized the truth about individual differences, which reflected on his relationship with his own children. “The only difference between me and my son is that I was born before him and got to experience things he hasn’t, and yet as parents we try to impose those experiences on our children instead of letting them have their own experiences”. Which also brings me to the issue of personal differences between people. The way he sees it is that if people weren’t different the way they are, if we all were on the same page, we would still be living in caves. The clash of two different positive ideas results in a better idea, that’s how progress happens.

There’s no way I can fit all the things he talked about during our 2-hour conversation in one post. From his work with UNIFEM on the project to empower women business owners, to the detailed explanation of the trait theories, illustrated with examples, to the stories of the people who came across and got to learn life lessons from, or through them. One of those was a Sudanese man called Othman, who had prosthetic arms, yet he was a calligrapher, which made him realize that it all happens in the brain,  the tool isn’t the problem. You just need to set your mind on it, whatever “it” is that you want to do.

In a nutshell, Jamal Al-Salah is a believer in the power of creativity and education towards positive change. For change is inevitable, you either make it happen yourself or you just watch it happen. It’s as simple as that: Change or be changed.  He was given the choice, and for him, it was a no-brainer.

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Not-so-ordinary Jordanians: La Captain Planet
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Not-so-ordinary Jordanians: La Captain Planet

This series aims to shed light on the people who are the underlying driving power of change in the Jordanian society: The ordinary citizens with extraordinary ideas, stories or actions.

If you ask any person about the principles they live by, you will get answers that cover an A to Z range of values. However, to 22 year-old Aya Al-Fawaress, the principles she lives by are mainly presented by 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

In addition to being a computer engineering student, an AIESEC alumna and an ambassador for interfaith dialogue with One Young World, Aya is a self-confessed tree hugger with a dream to save the planet. For her, it wasn’t just an accidental interest triggered by hearing about all the people dying of cancer due to ozone depletion, but rather an inner calling or a second nature she acquired being raised by an environmentalist father.

As time went by, Aya got busy leading a busy life between school and work, and she got distracted from environmental issues, but that could only last until the wake-up call came in 2009, with the failure of The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15). At that point, as Aya puts it, she realized how close we were to  a catastrophic climate change. She saw that most governments weren’t dealing with the issue as a serious threat to every human being’s life, and decided to step up and do her part in paying it back -or forward- to Mother Earth in every way possible.

Climate change is affecting our lives directly, through the natural disasters we hear about on daily basis as well as indirectly, as it’s a major cause for biodiversity losses, says Aya. Yet, in keeping up with reality, she doesn’t believe in overnight change. Change is a gradual process and it starts with the individual, for the way she sees it is that the governments won’t take concrete actions with regard to the environment unless the people themselves felt responsible and stopped passing the buck and blaming others for what’s happening. In her opinion, we all have contributed to this climate change, which has now gone beyond global warming to new and more dangerous levels. We did that by failing to save energy and water, as well as actions like over littering and increasing our own carbon footprints, among other things. It’s the start that stops most people, because once we start everything else follows, and we can find the support we need. It’s the domino effect, or the ripple of a stone in a lake. Every goal we strive to achieve starts with an individual action that disseminates through the masses.

In the spirit of her calls for social responsibility, Aya started an initiative in her university prior to her graduation. She proposed having a “Green Day”, which is to dedicate one day a week to educate students about the environment and how to live a greener life. Through that initiative, she aims to attract as much young individuals as she can to the environmental circle and to educate them about how serious this issue is, thus setting them on the road of environmental activism. She’s even thinking of starting a green club to make this a sustainable and ongoing process. Moreover, being a blogger and an active Twitter user, she has also taken advantage of the power of social media as a tool to spread awareness about the issues she’s most passionate about.

In the same vein and being one to practice what she preaches, Aya has always led an eco-friendly lifestyle. Some of the things she does to make her life as green as possible include saving energy by switching from light bulbs to compact fluorescent ones, shutting her computer at night or whenever she’s not using it and washing her laundry in cold water. And speaking of water, she also installed low-flow fixtures to reduce water usage. Moreover, she tends to use greener ways of communication like e-mails or text messages, and to reduce paper use she switched to e-books and uses her laptop to save notes instead of paper notebooks. And if she ever needs to use paper, God forbid, she writes on both sides, for every inch counts. As for transportation, she tries to use alternative transportation means as much as possible, like public transportation or sharing the car with colleagues or friends. She’s also planning to buy a bike sometime soon. She avoids plastic bottles and bags, refilling the bottles she has to use and reusing plastic bags as garbage bags. In addition, she goes an extra mile by trying to live by less, which is not easy especially for women who tend to be more susceptible to shoppaholism, and whenever she’s shopping she has a taste for recycled products as well as non-toxic ones, especially when it comes to cosmetics and cleaning products.

While Aya’s lifestyle might seem hard to adopt by some people, Aya herself believes she’s not doing anything out of the ordinary. In fact, she believes other people could be doing the same things she does, except she makes a point of educating people about the effect of every action by linking every negative or positive behavior to a fact or a study that supports it or undermines it. As for her future plans, in addition to continuing to work on her Green Day initiative and working on building the Green Club, she’s also planning to earn a master degree in green buildings, combining her passion for design with her passion for the environment.

Aya believes that environmental volunteering is mostly interesting because it’s where small changes could have a big impact. It doesn’t always require hard efforts or lots of time, but rather passion, will and persistence. And while she believes it should be approached by both genders, she finds women more entitled to take the lead in this particular field, as they tend to have a finer taste in almost everything, have a stronger connection with nature, food and home than men do. And since women are better at multitasking, then they can always think of something greener to do. And then there’s the fact, which is often stereotyped, that women are more talkative and have better listening skills than their male counterparts, which they might as well use for the benefit of Mother Earth. Plus, everyone knows the major role women, especially mothers, play in building better educated generations, and hence a better future, which is reflected in the famous Arabic saying: “A mother is a school, prepare her well and you prepare a nation”.

Aya’s message to the world is simple: Waiting for someone else to do something will put our lives in danger. We can all be environmentalists and do something to save this planet. It’s not an overload. We can all hug a tree, save money and live green, all in style.

P.S: A while after writing this article the Green Day initiative crystallized into a bigger movement named http://www.hashtaggreen.org/ and you can follow it on  Twitter @HashtaGreen

This is WRONG

Has it ever happened to you? You know, you’re going around the parking lot looking for a parking space, and sometimes you’re in a hurry because you’re not one of those people who enjoy spending their lunch break looking for parking spots -however little the number of people with this particular disorder could be- and then suddenly you are faced with this brautiful scene, like a slap to the face…

Give me one reason that gives a person to park his car in the place of two cars. Just one reason and I will forever hold my peace…

Now I’m seriously thinking of taking pics of those people’s cars and posting them to Twitter… out of good old إلى متى هذه الظاهرة؟

Not-so-ordinary Jordanians

Question: what’s the most important resource in Jordan? Well, it must be quite obvious. We’re not an oil rich country (don’t let the new GCC status fool you) and we’re not exactly headlining the G8 conferences and please let’s turn a blind eye to the water resources for the moment, we can cry over that later. So, that leaves us with our most precious resource: the people.

It’s true. Just look around you, you must know a bunch of talented/active/impressive/hard-working people. I know I do! And most of the time these are not famous people, not even micro celebrities. They are ordinary citizens who are doing something to improve their society, empower people and have ideas that deserve to be heard and shared with others.

Be that as it may, I was thinking that those people’s efforts and creative ideas should be acknowledged so I had this idea which is to write a weekly post about one Jordanian citizen who’s making, or at least trying to make a difference. In other words, it’s an article about ordinary citizens who are doing extraordinary things or have extraordinary ideas. And it’s not about publicity; it’s about getting ideas across and spreading positive vibes by focusing on those people who can set an example for others.

I have some people in mind  and if there’s anyone you think is a good candidate for this, and I’m sure you do, we all do, then please do send me their contact information because I would love to get in touch with them and write about them.

Stay tuned, I will kick it off on Sunday in sha’a Allah with the first article about the first of many not-so-ordinary Jordanians, and it’s a girl by the way… it had to be!

عن العودة والكرامة

15 -5-2011

صارلنا فترة بنستنى وبنترقب في هاليوم، بتعرفوا ذكرى النكبة في عام الثورات العربية، يعني كان عنا توقعات كبيرة، ريحة الحرية في الجو وفلسطين مصب الثورات. بس الحمد لله على نعمة الاعتياد على الإحباط

وإن ما حزرتوا عن شو بحكي فالمقصود أحداث منطقةالكرامة في الأردن، وقبل ما أي حدا يجهز الرد للدفاع عن أي جهة ويبدأ استعراض القدرات الوطنية، اسمحولي أحكي إني بدي أحاول أكون موضوعية،  خصوصاً إنه صار حكي كتير وشفنا ناس بكتبوا كلام طالع نازل وكالعادة انقسم الشعب فريقين ونسينا اليهود الصهاينة واشتغلنا في بعض… أنا وين شايفة هالفيلم؟

المهم، ملخص لي صار امبارح نزل ما يزيد عن ألف شخص في مسيرة باتجاه الحدود مع إسرائيل أسموها مسيرة العودة وتم فض المسيرة بالقوة والعنف والرصاص الحي لمنع المتظاهرين من الوصول إلى الجانب الإسرائيلي. طبعاً صار حكي كتير وتبادل للاتهامات وكل طرف حط الحق على الطرف الثاني عشان هيك خلينا نحلل الخطوط العريضة

أولاً، حق العودة على راسي، بس في شغلة لازم نفهمها وهي أنه شئنا أم أبينا الأردن مرتبطة مع إسرائيل باتفاقية وادي عربة، مش عم بحكي إنه الاتفاقاية شرعية ومقبولة لأني شخصياً بعتبرها اتفاقية انهزامية تخدم الكيان الصهيوني على حساب الأردن مقابل إنهم “يكفوا شرهم عنا”. لكن بغض النظر عن رأيي في المعاهدة هاي اتفاقية قائمة وموجودة للأسف يعني الأردن ملزم فيها، وبالتالي لو كانوا المتظاهرين امبارح عبروا الحدود فالكيان الصهيوني رح يعتبره تعدي على أراضيه ورح يكون للموضوع تداعيات على الأردن. بعرف إنه الموضوع صعب ينهضم لأنه بالمفاهيم المجردة اللي صار هو إنه العرب تصدوا للعرب لحماية إسرائيل، شيء مخزي، لكن لا يمكننا تجاهل الواقع لأنه السياسة مش أحلام وردية وهتافات وطنية، السياسة لعبة وسخة، والخزوة ما بدت امبارح بس، الخزوة بدت من يوم ما حطينا إيدنا في إيد من لا عهد لهم، والجندي على الحدود ينفذ الأوامر ولا يضع القوانين

لكن هذه الحقيقة المرة لا تلغي الواقع الأمر، وهو الأسلوب الي تم التعامل به مع المتظاهرين، يعني الدولة مش بريئة ولا رجال الأمن ملائكة. أكيد سمعتوا كلام كتير واتهامات عن جنب وطرف وخصوصاً إنه في هيك حالات يختلط الحابل بالنابل وبتبطل عارف مين بدك تصدق، عشان هيك زي ما حكيت رح أركز على الأمور الواضحة وأعتمد على روايات  بعض الأشخاص الموثوقين

أولاً، الشرطة حذرت المتظاهرين من وجود “مواطنين متجمهرين عند الحدود للتصدي للمتظاهرين”. نعم؟ مين هدول؟ طبعاً الناس اصطلحوا على تسميتهم بلبلطجية، لكن أنا شايفة إنه لازم نعيد النظر في التسمية لأنه هدول البلطجية صاروا يمثلوا سياسية تخويف وقمع جديدة في العالم العربي (يا عيني علينا بنتفنن وبنبدع لما الموضوع يكون فيه قمع)،وذلك من خلال قيام جهات معينبة تجنيد فئات مدسوسة لبث التفرقة والعنف بين المواطنين، ما رح أتهم جهة بعينها لكن من الواضح أن هذه الجهة أياً كانت تتصف إما بالغباء الشديد أو الحقارة الشديدة أو الاثنين معاً. يعني صار عنا في العالم العربي ثقافة بلطجة، في القرن الواحد والعشرين وفي عام الثورات العربية الناس عن بتحاول تمشي لقدام وهاي الفئات المضللة عم تسحبنا للوراء

ثانياً، بالنسبة لضرب المتظاهرين سمعنا كلام كتير ومش حابة أخوض فيه، بس لفت نظري كلام سمعته من وحدة بتقول إنه قوات الدرك معاهم تعليمات ما يتعرضوا لأي متظاهر سلمي، لكن السؤال: هل يتقيد جميع الدرك بهذه الأوامر؟ ومتى يعتبر المتظاهر غير سلمي؟ بعض الناس حكوا إنه رجال الأمن سبوا عليهم وهددوا يتبلوهم وضربوهم وبعضهم حكوا إنهم ساعدوهم يعني واضح إنه رجال الأمن فيهم الصالح والطالح وإنهم ما عرفوا يسيطروا على الموقف ولا يحتووه. لكن للأمانة قال شهود عيان من المتظاهرين إن رجال الأمن ما طانوا يطلقوا الرصاص عليهم وكان يطلق من سكان محليين. يعني اللي بده يدافع عن رجال الأمن رجاء ما يعمم واللي بده يسب برضه ما يعمم بس لا شك في أنه في شيء مخزي وهمجي صار امبارح فلا تحاولوا تضحكوا على حالكم وتنكروه

الشيء الفاضح والمشين الآخر هو ضرب الصحفيين وتكسير كاميراتهم وتهديدهم… أهلاً بكم في العصر الجليدي! الناس عم تمشي لحرية الصحافة والإعلام واحنا بنقول للصحفي صور وبكسر الكاميرا على راسك، بس السؤال ليش؟ ما هو اللي ما بده يتصور معناته خايف من إشي، أو إنه إحنا فعلاً شعب مش متعود على وجود صحافة حرة تنقل الحدث بتجرد من دون تطبيل وتزمير

بغض النظر عن كل شي صار، أهم شي الشعب ما ينقسم قسمين، مع وضد، وما في داعي لقلة الاحترام والمسبات لأنها ما بتقدم ولا بتأخر بالعكس بتأزم الوضع أكتر. والله يحمي هالبلد من التخلف المتفشي فيها ومن الجهل ومن البلطجية والمدسوسين ومن حذا حذوهم، وعقبال ما ييجي يوم نقدر نطالب فيه بكرامتنا المسلوبة من دون ما نكون مضطرين نرهنها أو ندفعها ثمن مقابل الأمن والأمان… لأنه على رأي بنجامين فرانكلين اللي ببيع حريته عشان الأمن لا بستاهل حرية ولا بستاهل أمن… والله بالسر عليم

طفل في الثالثة والستين

اليوم عيد ميلاد أحمد. أحمد ولد يتيماً قبل 63 عاماً، لأب شهيد وأم أسيرة. أحمد يرحل كل يوم، ويستشهد كل يوم، ويغني للحرية كل يوم. أحمد طفل لا يكبر أبداً، ويعيش عمره في انتظار يوم واحد: يوم يلغي شهادة ميلاده ويولد من جديد

 

A Danish Affair

You know how it goes: You arrive in a city for the first time and everything looks new and you feel completely clueless. Then, little by little, you start to get familiar with the streets, the people, the atmosphere, and you find yourself becoming a part of that city, even if for a very brief period of time, and you find yourself falling in love with it, a sweet, childish crush of sorts, that is how I would describe the relationship I had with Copenhagen.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m such an eager-beaver who can be very easily amazed, but if my first visit to Europe won’t get me excited then I don’t know what will. What’s that expression, a child in a candy store? Happy as a clown? Well I’d say a child in a candy store made of candy and full of clowns, and that would still be an understatement.

For starters, the city blew me away. The old buildings everywhere, the museums, the castles, it smelled of history. Now I know I come from a country that’s rich with history but that’s a different kind of history. Our history in Jordan in represented by ancient ruins and cities that are carved in stone, while in Copenhagen they have this tangible history that you can live and touch on daily basis just by walking on the streets. I’m not holding any comparisons here, both of them are great, it’s just nice to experience something different. The other thing that captivated me was the nature. I have never seen so much greenery in one place. And of course the ducks, I’m a sucker for ducks!

And to be quite honest one thing that really put me in the mood was that I often felt like I was in a cartoon. You know, the cartoons we used to watch as kids were all made after the things in European cities. The houses, the animals, the chimneys etc. One time I felt like I was at Gargamel’s house, another time I would get wide-eyed because a certain house reminds me so much of Sally, one of the most famous cartoons we watched as kids.

And if you think that isn’t enough to be excited about, then add to it the pleasure of meeting a wonderful group of ladies who come from different backgrounds, each with her distinctive personality, and telling you interesting stories about her country, her life and all sort of things. Yet, I know of at least one thing those girls have in common: they are opting for positive change. It was great to feel that connection to people you have never met, especially when you’ve had known them online for so long and then you got to put the face to the name. I feel like I want to talk about each girl in detail but that would be hard to express in one post.

On the first day we attended a conference on Cyber Activism where we got to hear from some of those ladies among others, all talking about the role of digital tools in changing the world and other things related to the Arab spring. Then for the next three days we had a workshop organized by Danish Pen and sponsored by Kvinfo. It was very impressive to see this great work done by that group of wonderful Danish women which teaches you a very important lesson about the universal human values that transcended all kind of differences. A lesson about understanding the other and working together for a better world. It’s time we stopped generalizing and judging people by the actions of a minority or the actions of their governments.

All in all, it was a great experience that added to me more than I could think of, and I enjoyed it even more. A shout out for all the great girls I had the honor and pleasure to meet, and a big thank you to Mille Rode and all the wonderful ladies at Kvinfo and Dansk Pen who saved no effort to make it happen.

As for Copenhagen itself, I can go on and on describing how beautiful a city is, but why do that when I have an easier, more visually appealing way to do it? Enjoy!

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صحرا يا بلادي صحرا On deforesting the Desert

Take a look at this, it’s probably a scene most of you are familiar with…

Yes, Jordan from the air. Bravo! Now I’ve seen this before too but today with the cutting down of the trees in Ajloun being a hot topic and all I couldn’t help but relate. I mean, some people argue that they’re cutting “only” 300 trees, no big deal, we still have plenty. But you see, that’s the point, we don’t have plenty. In a country that mostly consists of deserts 300 trees are too many trees to cut down. In fact 1 tree is too many…

Save Birgish trees, save the environment, save Jordan!