γεια σας! – Greetings From Greece: A Jordanian Girl’s Experience

Living in a foreign country makes you establish unusual friendships. Due to my terrible sense of direction; it took me a month to manage to get to the bus station, which is 10 minutes walking from home, so the GPS and Google Maps became my true best friends through my stay in Greece.

In Greece, nature is accessible for everybody to enjoy!
In Greece, nature is accessible for everybody to enjoy!

What I loved about the Greek culture is that people are really friendly, helpful and extremely chillaxed, and you see the cafés ballooned with people all day long. Also, I cannot portray how delicious the food is ; which resulted in getting addicted to gyros.

I didn’t like the fact that the shops and supermarkets close very early compared to Jordan, besides everything is completely closed on Sundays!

 

Everywhere you go, you literally feel the rich historic and cultural heritage of Greece , it has many notable places and museums to visit , in addition to the various choices for spending the night out , but what I really appreciated here is that the nature is accessible for everybody to enjoy!  and there are many activities to be done without you having to check your wallet, for example going for a run around the marina, going to the beach to enjoy the sun and the water anytime you wish, or simply to sit somewhere with a good view ,which you can find easily in Greece to watch the marvellous sun set.

 

We managed to make normal friendships as well with the people in the places we frequently go to which made us feel more welcome and attached to Greece.

 

What I really want to say is that ,living in Athens for three months will definitely hold a special place in my heart.

Cyrine Hamarneh

OUR Palestinian day

With tears, hugs, compassion, appreciation we ended the great day, after 2 days of working and running around trying to make everything look perfect, this day exceeded every expectation we had.

It all started when our manager asked us to plan a day for Palestine, a day in which we will present our country to the employees and clients of MAPS, so at first I thought, well, okay this is going to be easy, we will do a small presentation, prepare some food, and we will show them the traditional dance of Palestine. But then we had to “face the music”, because this wasn’t easy at all, we had to prepare everything from scratch, we had to think of every little detail because we wanted to succeed , this was a huge responsibility that we were given, in order to share our reality, our occupation, our history and our heritage and everything. We had to be the ambassadors of our Palestine and send the message and the awareness to our audience.

So this is how we started, First of all, the history of Palestine since the early times until our recent was covered including the occupation of course, and how we got where we are today, and apparently it was shocking to most of them since all they ever know about Palestine is from the mainstreamed media and Propaganda so this rose a lot of questions.

Then circles were made, with a background music playing and everyone was cheering and moving around trying to learn the “Dabka” in the Palestinian way of course.

In addition, to the highlight of the day, “The Food” it started with the manaqeesh as breakfast with tea and sage, then the bomb of the day was the upside chicken “Makloobe”, it was a very challenging part of the day but thank God it was a success and everyone loved it, and now we need to go back to Palestine and open a restaurant for Olivia since she was the amazing Chef of the day.

At the end, I wish there would be ever enough words to describe this amazing day and how it ended and how much it affected me, Wissam and Olivia, and everyone that was there, and the words of the manager and the director of MAPS and the way that the described their experiences and visit to Palestine was very emotional and made us cry. In addition to everyone’s compassion that made us feel how important and emotional was this day for everyone, and we could never be thankful enough or prouder of this opportunity and this day.

LEBANON: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

It was the end of March when Daniel came to me with some news about a new European Project called CaBuReRa. We were having lunch at “Habib’s Donner Kebab” (what a coincidence) and, as he was talking, I could already feel the adrenaline rush, starting to build up… Overwhelmed, with positive and negative feelings – should I stay or should I go?! – we finally decided to have a meeting at Anje and ask for all the details and what did we need to do to sign up.

 

After this meeting the feeling was kind of numbness – too much information and, at the same time, the feeling of craziness – none of us had ever studied or worked abroad, not even out of our small city so this was REALLY going out of the comfort zone. This was one of the major reasons why we wanted to do this: we felt stagnated, we needed something in our lives to really feel alive and this could be a golden opportunity to grow in a personal and professional level, hopping that it could open some doors in the future.

 

And so we decided to go…

 

Our parents were in panic as some of our friends, saying that this was so dangerous, this was not a safe country, that we should stay, and so on…

The information mass media delivers can definitely get you feeling disturbed and scared, most importantly, miss informed. The picture in our minds about the Middle East, sold by the Media, is of people with big beards, scarves on their heads, women in their burka and war/destruction everywhere. I did not even bring any shorts because I thought it would be disrespectful…

Guess What? When we arrived we thought we were in America or something… Women are dressed in such a fancy way – high heels, short dresses, long nails and hair, always full of makeup and men (women too) proudly show off their cars (Mustang, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, Camaro…). Everywhere we look there’s an American restaurant or coffee – Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s, etc…

The feeling we got was that for many of the Lebanese people (we live in Beirut so we are using it as the example) is better to look than to be, people want to be closer to the west!

 

We came here expecting to see and live the traditions of the Middle East but in Beirut it’s very difficult to find that, only if we get out of the big centres, if we meet someone that shows us the right people, we can get to see the real Lebanon and its traditions.

 

Besides all of this, Lebanon is amazingly beautiful and has so much to offer! That was, really, a very pleasant surprise.  We came here without doing any research  about the country, we came to discover it, so when we saw that it had so many green, mountains, rivers and beautiful places to see, we were really amazed! Once again, our idea of the Middle East was that it’s mainly a desert and camels everywhere…

The experience of meeting new people (not just the locals, but also our housemates) was amazing. People are extremely kind and giving, always wanting to help, even when they don’t speak the same language, we can always communicate. We found out that when you want, you can communicate with everyone, everywhere and about everything. We had a lot of funny situations where none of the players spoke each other’s language, and somehow we manage to understand each other using body language. That shows a lot about the character of a people!  But that’s another story…

Confessions

Barcelona 13th of July, 2015.

Roaming the city visiting shops trying to buy something very special, something that will make up for my absence in the past 2 months.

I have lived away from my home country for 17 years, I was even born away but never felt homesick because to me home is where your family lives.

Today is my brothers’ birthday. The two that are closest to my heart the most and I would literally give my eyes to. The two that have always treated me and protected me like I was their little baby princess. I have always been bothered by that because it was kind of hard to live independently when you always have someone looking after you and keeping an eye on you and making sure you are happy, safe and in good health.

I couldn’t just pick up the phone and say: Yaaay Happy Birthday!!

Sarah Qabbani

The past two months were cold enough because I was too busy experiencing a new life.
Nothing at the shops was special enough for this occasion, so I started brainstorming ideas with my friends on how to wish my brothers a happy birthday and a great year when we haven’t been speaking much lately.

Compromises… That’s what you come to deal with when you choose to live away from home, family and friends. This is the first Ramadan I spend without my family and this Eid is going to be my first Eid away from home.

This experience is totally worth the selfish decision that I have made, but nothing beats a family gathering over a cup of tea and a warm talk.

Sarah Qabbani

Beirut

Beirut

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They called it “the Paris of the Middle East”. They keep on dreaming of those days, when tourist flown and banks were flourishing. Nowadays Beirut is a completely different city, it’s growing up without knowing what would be made of its future. New buildings are raising everywhere and advertising on their construction sites show busy businessmen and happy families. Soldiers watch out the streets where the traffic jam melt brand new luxury cars and old fashioned taxis. Traditional mana’ish stores are back to back with western fast food chains.

Beirut is a city carved out of its contradictions. That is its backbone, its whole history. You can either like them or not, and sometimes even its citizens don’t stand them anymore. From time to time hatred blows. When you see people walking by the roads sometimes you find yourself wondering that most likely a good amount of them were actually shooting each other not too much time ago. As somebody told me, “they had to be involved, they had to take a side”. This is especially true referring to the civil war.

While people, understandably, avoid the argument or just recall how the nightlife was still ongoing after sunset, its scars are still visible today. Few iconic buildings, like some hotels, churches or the municipal hall, are left completely tore apart, as modern monuments from a past-not-so-past ago. But bullet’s holes would suddenly appear after each corner in most of the city, immediately unveiling the true range of the conflict.

Beirut is the sum of it’s neighborhoods, not the other way around. Or more likely, it’s exactly this what makes Beirut Beirut. By walking on a straight line you could feel going from a noisy Arab shari’a to a delicate French rue, and then back to the scented Armenian neighborhood and eventually to the luxury Manhattan-like downtown and its skyscrapers. At a certain moment in the evening, walking down by what was used to be known as the Green Line (the former line of demarcation between the Muslim western part of the city and the Christian eastern one), you can clearly hear the melodious voice of the muezzin coming from one side, challenged by the church bells tolling at the other.

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Even its inhabitants seem to suggest a certain amount of chaos guiding the whole city: while everybody might entirely fulfill its needs and, thus, be fitted in this abstract drawing, Beirut itself appears not to belong to anybody. Who could rightly claim to be its core? Would that be the wealthy upper class or the overwhelming not-so-wealthy suburbs’ inhabitants? Are the thousands of expats settled here from generations now, or the newly comer Syrian refugees whose number, after a rough esteem, raise up to a million? Not to mention Bengali and Sudanese that do the humblest jobs. And without mentioning also Palestinians, which are isolated and almost forgotten in the sadly notorious Shatila refugee camp, near the borders of the city.

I could tell about the ridiculous amount of NGOs and international institutions established here, each one with its purpose and values and small field of work. I could tell about the hour-long blackouts that define the time flowing as well as the slow moving of clouds in the sky do. I didn’t say a word about the terrific food (“writing about food is like dancing about architecture” would be my justification). You might feel as if dozen of things are missing and, probably, you will be right. But there is a reason for this: you have to come and unfold Beirut by yourself.

Distrust who claims to know Beirut flawlessly because it’s in the spirit of the city itself not to be understood, not to be the same the moment after, not to be mastered. Are the streets themselves that tell you this story: you’ll see how each of them has its own name, but nobody ever recall what it is.

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Dario Modugno

A country surrounded by imagine(ary) walls

Your first entrance in the Palestinian Occupied Territories from Israel could be impressive, it is up to you to decide whether the impression could be positive or not.

The monumental wall separating Jerusalem from the West Bank, erases from your sight the whole imaginary of olive trees and yellow lands, replacing it by grey horizontal bricks made of concrete: from each and every brick, you can hear an illusory voice screaming “the entrance here is forbidden and against Israeli law”.

The sight of that grey monster chasing you along the journey, calls from within feelings of regret, disappointment, despair into being, because this is likely not the Palestine you imagined. Nevertheless, those few minutes it takes to go through iron cages, passport controls, traffic and urban noise, opens your view and your expectations to a completely different scenery. Not yet dabkeh and olive trees, but peddlers of any kind of good, kids who run around you, trying to catch your attention for bargaining lighters or lollipop, mothers and children waving hands from faraway balconies, dozens of young men and women in a worried hurry before their passage through the checkpoint.

Then, going ahead towards the city, as the service runs along, a kaleidoscopic landscape can be perceived, made of palm trees, high building, and refugee camps. Indeed, this is a first introduction to the complex and critical aspects of the occupation.

Just after the cease of Second Intifada, from 2003 Palestine has been enclosed by walls and fences, designed to protect Israeli state from the illusory enemy of Palestinian violence. Since then, cities like Qalandiya, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, and others, are prisoners of tons of grey concrete and barbed wire. As a new step in the occupation process, it dragged the whole West Bank into new forms of displacement and restriction of movement, factually splitting the region into disconnected areas, and blessing all the inner contradiction to be exacerbated.

Palestinians reacted,  many times , with unexpected moves:  turning the monster into a “canvas” for intense graffiti like the ones in Bethlehem; climbing over the high bricks during Ramadan just to reach al-Aqsa for the Friday prayer, and losing their own life instead, protesting every Friday against a closer and closer trespassing in Bil’In.

The wall is, as a matter of fact, a physical boundary, but is not yet a state of mind. Fences did not surrounded hope as the occupation cannot wipe out any wish to look further. It weighs the burden down changing the face of resistance.

No one knows how separation would affect Palestinian commitment in the long run. For us, passive audience in a controversial play, on the Palestinian flank, those same grey and high bricks do not state “the entrance is forbidden”, they scream out loud “this wall will not exist anymore”.

And beyond this wall? A never-ending sea, Gaza and the land of Return.

Rosa and Caterina TG2 in Lebanon talk about their mobility experience

One of the first thing that strake you as you arrived in Beirut is the massive presence of soldiers, check points are spread all around the city, as well as around the all country. The awesome deployment of soldiers, a great employment of barbed wire and anti-breakage barriers, had a great impact on my mind and I started to imagine Lebanon as a big fortress.  It happens often in the simplest circumstances of daily life – take a bus, travel with a car or a taxi – to spot checkpoints with a large number of militaries and small flags with the inscription “Jaysh  Lubnān”  “Lebanese army”.

Despite the fact that Beirut looks as a  large,  modern metropolis with every comfort,  the proliferation of checkpoints and controls in almost every area and neighborhood, make the same town take on the appearance of a giant “military box”.  Control procedures are usually quite quick (a look at the passports, and maybe a few questions about the reason of your presence in Lebanon), but still the whole atmosphere is perceived, through the eyes of a foreigner, as  heavy and, in some ways, forced.

Despite the foreign observer perceives the overabundance of military controls as something abnormal and strange, observing the military armed to the teeth going around the streets of Beirut also exudes an unusual air of normality : Lebanese citizens seem to oscillate between  a passive acceptance of the status quo (“this is the situation and cannot be changed”) and a kind of gratitude for the presence of the Army  that, in a context of unstable government authorities and fear for what is happening in neighboring countries , provides some assurance –  or at least a semblance – of protection and safety.

 

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The use of military checkpoints is not only limited to the control of the border areas , but, being employed widely even within Beirut, it  multiply and amplify its internal boundaries, taking the form and the role of a control device for immigration, especially among the many Syrian and Palestinian refugees, who are often living  in the city since many years, but  still in a marginalized condition, since the equality of  rights is not yet recognized for them.

The increasing control of borders and their multiplication in and outside the countries reflects in my opinion a general trend in the international migration management. Check points are actually working in Beirut as real border for an amount of people without documents living in the refugee camps in Lebanon further limiting the free of movement of a lot of people now residing in the country. The great enforcement of the border control and of the ongoing securitization process, justified by the Syrian crisis, propagated as a security threat, not only became a tool for the government to canalize popular resentment toward a xenophobic or racist victimization of  Syrian refugees, but above all it works as a device of discrimination that produces different status connected with different access to the rights, and make migrant people vulnerable to different practices of exploitation.

 

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Stemming from this consideration, what seems clear to me is that borders are not acting as mere barriers and the border management has not as main goal to prevent or block human mobility once for all, rather both are devices to create differentiated degrees of inclusion, that means differentiated access to the rights and vulnerability to the exploitation.  Border becomes a tool of inclusion which select and filter people through a process that includes different forms of violence, that have nothing to envy to those employed in exclusionary measures.

All these considerations about securitization and border management directly remind me to Europe, where the new policy regarding border management is sharply connected with the restrictive spirit of contemporary migration policies. The border politics implemented by Europe and the whole discourse about migration as a threat in term of security, national identity and welfare, has a lot in common with what is going on in Lebanon. European borders are more and more controlled: increasing patrol agents today can rely on technological and advanced equipment; new actors are implemented in the border control, but still, the idea which run under all these new ways of control, is not to avoid migration rather to articulate and manage it, to create exceptional space where the rights can be not recognized and suspended in an eternal limb.

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The institutionalization of the border management in the Mediterranean sea is a clear symptom of this process of border enforcing, but then it should be recognized that this process has always to face with the challenges put into practice by migrants who every day break this order, forcing the politics of control to come in term  with the practices of migration that structurally exceeds its re-bordering  methods. What I would like to underline is the importance to recognize the border not as something fixed once for all, rather as a place of tension between denial and access, mobility and immobilization.

Considering the power of border not only in negative term provide with the possibility to situate the new control politics within wider logics of governmentality and management as well as it allows us not to look at migrants just as needy people but as new emerging political subjectivities. It provide with the possibility to go beyond  the worn-out securitarian and humanitarian rhetoric, making more intelligible a phenomenon that becomes more and more important on a world-scale, and that contributes to organize and to structure different spheres of our lives.

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Almost One Day in Jerusalem

I will tell you a short story about a girl who wanted to go to Jerusalem. She lives in a small village near Ramalla, she is 15 years old, nothing special an ordinary girl. One Sunday she decided to go to Jerusalem, she took a shower early in the morning, she put on her nice blue dress and she was ready to leave.  The dress was a gift from her grandfather, maybe the dress wasn’t that nice but the memory of her grandfather was more important.

She took the bus and she noticed that she was the youngest one in it. She didn’t care, she actually felt special for that matter. She wasn’t afraid, she taught herself not to be afraid. The bus took them to the security control, in order to be checked and continue the road to her Jerusalem. The place felt more crowded than the last time she was there and for a moment she didn’t know which way to go. ‘How is it possible’, she whispered,’ I have done this too many times’. In an instance she had found her spot in the crowd. She was very careful  because  she didn’t want to ruin her nice dress.

No one seemed to move, or you couldn’t understand the movement because of the yelling and shouting. “Why is it the same every single time?” she whispered again. For a glimpse she closed her eyes and imagined to be in charge of this place. She had a plan of creating 3 lines, one for women and children, one for the grandparents and one for the men. On her face appeared  a smile of satisfaction. Yes an ordinary girl from a village could make a difference, could remove the burden out of the people even though she knew that the men and women with uniforms from the other side will remain.

‘Noooo’, she screamed in the middle of her thoughts, someone has pushed her and she fell on the ground. ‘My dress’. She was about to burst into tears but she didn’t. She stood up and yelled to everyone ‘You let them control you’ and she left. She knows that she has to face the brutality of the people with uniforms and she has managed to do so. In her mind she kept the look of  a man from the other side looking at them with twisted joy and satisfaction. ‘No’ she said to herself I will not make them a favor.

She didn’t go to Jerusalem that day. To be honest she hasn’t been to Jerusalem for almost 10 years.

She admitted to me that she has only one fear. The uniforms may remain, unfortunately alongside with that the Palestinian society will remain standstill.

 

P.S: If you find any similarity with reality, don’t be upset I assure you that is fictional.

 

Eftychia Psarra

Chronicles of a Jordanian journey. Chapter 1: Mario and the taxi drivers

Mario sits in the front, because someone at the beginning told us that it is more appropriate for women to stay in the back seats. I’ve never been fully convinced by this advice, but most of the time we all just tacitly comply to these unwritten codes of the alleged Jordanian bon ton. So, I said, Mario sits in the front and elegantly greet the taxi driver trying his best to pronounce correctly the Arab international hailing formula: “Salam aleikum”, to which is punctually followed the common reply.

The first couple of minutes pass in quiet. The driver sweats silently and ascetically endures the massive traffic. The radio plays an Egyptian classic. We mentally curse the heat and the lack of public transportation in the city. Mario is sensing the situation. I can see him thinking. He starts twisting his blond lock compulsively. He is becoming fidgety, the worn-out leather seat is starting to itch beneath him.

He turns towards me: “How do I say can I smoke here in Arabic?”. I tell him. He thinks about it. He asks me again. I tell him again. He thinks a bit more. Then he finally gives it a try. “Mumkin adakhin hun?”. I know it’s not really because he needs to smoke. The thing is that he wants to establish a connection. The man smiles extensively and offers him a cigarette. Mario thanks and shows that he has his own pack and to return the courtesy offers him one of his, but after a long negotiation he ends up having to accept the man’s. I don’t know how or when it starts and I don’t know in what language it is but I suddenly find them finding themselves in an intricate and deep conversation ranging on a impressive variety of thrilling subjects.

This pattern is subject to small but unpredictable variations. The outcomes are unforeseeable, and usually splendid.

Once there was a boxing glove-shaped keychain hanging from the rear-view mirror. It had the colours of the flag of I don’t remember which country, somewhere in central Asia. Mario pointed at it, uttering the name of the country accompanied by an eloquent question mark. It ended up with the driver showing him videos of boxing matches on his mobile. The guy used to be a professional boxer in his country. He had to stop then. No money, no time.

Another day the taxi driver revealed he was a football commentator renown in all the Arab world. He also had recordings on his smart phone. We listened. He had a passionate powerful voice. Mario and him started to talk about Napoli and Italian soccer in general. He even knew the names of football players of Italian serie C.

Sometimes, many times, the taxi driver is Palestinian. We ask from which city, and at a name like Nablus, the memories of our recent trip to the West Bank start flooding our minds, and instead of asking him questions, we blurt about our own experience, of how much we liked Palestine, how beautiful it is, and what we did and visited and ate. We see pride and sadness in the man’s eyes and we just smile.

Once me and Mario had a conversation, I don’t remember if I started the conversation, or if he started it, or if I only imagined to have this conversation with him, maybe it happened  only in my mind, but all these details are not really so important. It was after a crazy ride with a crazy taxi driver driving at high speed and zigzagging and racing among the cars with the radio at full blast playing disco music and him dancing on his seat and speaking as fast as he was driving, about football and Italy and expensive cars and Filipino immigrants. Well, after this ride me and Mario found ourselves making conjectures about the life of the guy, does he have a wife waiting for him after his crazy drives, what does he tell her when he is back, does she wait for him awake when he comes late, does he pass by a bar to smoke argila with his friends before going home. I can’t really explain why this is something I thought worth mentioning or even remembering. I guess I just felt that we were sharing this “spying” interest, this “curiosity” of strangers’ lives..  doesn’t ever happen to you to look at one window and try to imagine the lives of the people living there?

But there are times, usually at night, when the radio fills the taxi with the enchanting melody of the Quranic recitation. Then we all keep quiet, we abide by the silence of the man absorbed in his tranquil drive, and we just drown in our own thoughts, contemplate the lights of the city, and let the voice of the tajweed lullabying us till home.

Mario has this way to break a breach in the wall that usually stands between strangers who know they are going to share just few irrelevant minutes together. What I think is that maybe he likes a look, a wrinkle, an object of the man. Thus he starts questioning using those three Arabic words that he has learnt, pushing the man to speak that little English that he knows, and when the language resources are running out, the communication moves to another level, which I assume is what they call body language, but which I would rather define metaphysical.

This brief rides along the streets of Amman, which might had passed unnoticed in the chaotic flux of the days, give us instead a glimpse on the lives of an amount of accidental humanity. A driver just supposed to take us to the other side of the city, lets us instead make a tour into his microcosms, revealing pieces of life, of dreams, of memories, of experiences that we would never see if we just stared out of the window.

Alessia Carnevale

 

Multilayered captivating Palermo

Living in Palermo

I am Husein Smadi from Jordan and I work as a lawyer and in the field of human rights. I decided to apply for this project because I wanted to discover a new culture,as well as language and way of living; but I also wanted to share my experience, so Palermo was one of the best decisions I have ever took in my entire life.
During my mobility period I worked at the Human Rights Youth Organization: we worked with refugees and for women rights. I learned many things in this career and I met a lot of beautiful kids and good people.
But now let me tell you about Palermo! Good friendly people who like to have fun, they are funny but crazy drivers and they have the best night life you can ask for. You just have to look for those hidden little streets where you can find music and people partying all the time – street clubs are all over the city. In Palermo they have also a lot of food – I mean street food – so tasty and cheap. Palermo is full of beautiful beaches and green beautiful mountains, but you can also find a lot of history in Palermo, I mean a lot for all generations and time. This is a beautiful city for a peaceful living, and it is also a very cheap city.

I am really happy that I chose Palermo for this project , I met a lot of people that I would never forget , and I learned a lot about new things, culture, language, food, nationalities. One day I will go back to Palermo to visit the new friends I met and this beautiful city as well. I really miss it so much.
Finally I would to thank CESIE and Al Hayat Center for this opportunity.

hussain

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