(Since I'm behind on posting, I'm doing two simultaneous posts. So, check out the other one above/below this one.)
I have been able to make some progress on my project and have gotten some organizations to talk to me about the work they are doing in microfinance. This was all done by leveraging connections I didn't even know I had and asking favors from people I didn't know would grant them.
I've been on quite a few adventures lately from repelling down waterfalls to visiting one of the wonders of the world (pictures below). From my blog posts one might think that all I am doing on this trip is having wild adventures in far off lands. And although that's mildly true, I just want to give you a realistic idea on what my daily life is like. Every (almost) week day (Sunday-Thursday), I wake up and I try to make progress on my Watson project. I spend the days contacting (or trying to contact, because people in Jordan don't always answer their phone or respond to emails) organizations involved in microfinance. It's only on the weekends when I go out to see all the beautiful places in Jordan; it's only on the weekends when do fun things with the friends I've made in this country. I don't post much about my project because I'm still processing a lot of what I'm learning here in Jordan. It's a lot easier for me to tell you the funny stories and cool things that I see, instead of digging into topics that I haven't quite formed an opinion on.
I won't pretend that I've accomplished as much as I hoped here in Jordan, but I do think I learned a lot about how to approach a challenging and open-ended project. Very soon I will post a short post summarizing some of the things I've learned about microfinance in Jordan for those that are interested. This will include information about the economic and cultural climate, details on the current microfinance sector, and my unsolicited opinion about microfinance in Jordan. I hope to use that post as a summary of my time in Jordan because this coming Thursday, I am leaving for a new adventure in New Delhi, India! Before I leave though, I'll be going to Wadi Rum (the desert) and Aqaba (a beach town in the south of Jordan). Look out for a post with pictures of those wicked excursions.
The 3 illegal dams were less beautiful. One of them is pictured above. People create these dams so they don't have to pay for water for their crops. However, it creates tons of algae in the streams. Plus, there are these giant black tubes that transport the water to the farms which destroy the natural landscape. It would be really easy to regulate these illegal dams, but it doesn't seem like the government really cares...
The Dust Storm
There was a huge dust storm throughout the Middle East the week after I went to the wadi. I'd never seen weather this bad, and, remember, I lived in LA for four years.
I went to Petra, one of the wonders of the world, for two days. Petra is an old city established by the Nabataeans in 312BC. It's known for it's amazing architecture, which is carved into cliff sides. To say its fabulous is a huge understatement.
Last week I went on a desert castle adventure organized by my friend Sara. Sara was a Greek and Roman Studies major in university, so she knows all about these amazing forts/castles built in the desert thousands of years ago. These forts were built along the Roman road that crossed the Middle East and allowed the Roman army to maintain control of the land. The amazing thing about these forts is that they are not monitored; there are are no entry fees; and you're free to climb all over everything. If I'd been a little kid I would have had so much fun pretending I was a knight fighting for the prince's hand in marriage (I might have actually done this as an adult...).
The first fort we visited is the best preserved fort in the middle east. We had to drive off-road in the desert in a 4x4 for several kilometers to reach it. Sara warned us in advance to look out for the wells (or giant deep death traps in the ground) that were still distributed around the fort.
This fort was more crumbled rocks than recognizable ruins. However most of the walls were intact and this fort was made from a beautiful dark black rock.
We also had to drive off-road to access these ruins. On the way back to the highway, we noticed camel bones on the side of the road and I had to stop for a bite.
The last fort was the least well maintained, but the biggest. Only to an observant-eye (or someone who knew it was there), would it look like much more than a large pile of rocks. However, once you wandered around a bit, you could see rooms and sections of wall.
While the other forts were ancient ruins, Karak Castle is a only-a-couple-centuries old castle. It is very well maintained and has tunnels and rooms you're free to explore. I recommend you bring a flashlight.
Hiking Wadi ?????
The next week I went hiking in a wadi with four friends. It was a wadi that one of friends came upon by accident, so none of us knew it's name. The water in the wadi was extremely hot because there was a hot spring near the top. Usually, I would think hot water was nice, but not when it was 90 degrees outside.
We climbed up many waterfalls (not so bad) and then climbed down many waterfalls (terrifying!). I slid down one of the waterfalls (on purpose) too!