Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The New Year's Update

I've been absolutely deluged with New Year's and Holiday greetings and I'm sure all of you have been too. Because people never actually SAY very much in those messages, I've decided to send my New Years greetings to my faithful if few, dedicated readers in the form of a little update on things here in Jordan.

First off, it's cold here in Jordan. I'm trying to milk out my heating fuel so it will last until the end of January without me having to buy more ... when I finally get to move out of this apartment, with it's screaming cats and smirking landlord.

For New Year's Eve, I invited a few guests over from the Christian Peacemaker Team (unfortunately there is still no news of our friends kidnapped now more than a month ago in Baghdad) and even a guy who used to work with Voices in the Wilderness (the peace group with whom I originally came to Iraq). Plus an old Iraqi friend came by (someone I actually met before the war in Iraq), who worked for the electoral commission here in Amman. He gave us a little election report and said there were something like 29000 votes cast in Jordan (up from 9000 in the January election) ... Allawi came in on top, 555 (the religious party that seems to have won overall) second and 618 (the Sunni party) third. Sorry to say he said the vote buying by Allawi supporters and a few of the other parties was indeed happening. Perhaps over-zealous supporters? Since I know the guy who was running Allawis campaign office in Baghdad, I know this wasn't the campaign office's policy. My friend said they caught a few people trying to vote twice.

In other news. I finally have a little editing work to keep me busy (whooo hooo!). Things have been dead on our new Iraqi biodiversity project ... I had hoped that spending the holidays in the Middle East wouldn't be as bad as in the U.S. (with all the commercialism and excessive Christmas cheer not to mention the truely aweful Christmas music that you just can't escape) but even here it is still truely a dead time ... everyone is away, you can only leave messages for people, no decisions or meetings can be set until after the holidays, etc. Plus they have a few nasty Xmas tunes I've never heard before. I hate to be a grinch but I'm glad it's over with and I'm hopeful that things will finally get back to normal again.

Have had a few communications with USAID and state department folks over a small Enviro Ed proposal that I'm working with another Iraqi environmental group on. When I was in the U.S. in the fall, I got some invitations for a few Iraqi educators to attend some teacher trainings in environmental education next summer. We are hoping to bring a couple of people from the NGO and some from the Ministry of Education. The trainings and room and board will be free. We just have to come up with the travel and misc. expenses. To bring five people to attend three trainings in three different states, we are thinking it will cost about $35,000. The expenses are made more challenging because some of the people will need to apply for visas in Jordan, which means we have to pay for an extra trip to Amman so they can have their embassy interviews. Anybody know of any professional exchange programs that might support a project like this?

So that's it for the report from Jordan ... Let's hope we have a happy, productive, healthy, safe and much more peaceful New Year.



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