Friday, October 31, 2008

Until we meet again, Father Michele

I was literally stunned to read the very sad news of Father Michele Piccirillo’s passing. Jordan has lost a true friend who gave 40 out of 64 years of his life to a cause that gave so much to so many. Although I did not know him very well personally,  his presence  as a scholar working for greater understanding of history as a means to peace, his impassioned advocacy of archaeological preservation and above all his spirituality and love for the land embodied in his work at Mount Nebo, has left its mark on a region and its people so desperate for peace. 

We can only hope that the call by Father Bader to honour the memory of this great man, will also include preserving the sanctity and integrity of the land surrounding Mount Nebo.

I can only pray that ‘his will be done’ ….

Thank you for all that you do, Father Michele, may you rest in peace.


Monday, October 20, 2008

hooray for the Ministry of Social Development!

I always felt sorry for this ministry and reckoned it was one of the most difficult portfolios in the government. They have suffered from a high turnover of ministers and inappropriate appointments - how on earth can an army officer manage this ministry (as nice as he might be)?

So, this morning I was at the opening of a regional conference for police officers on family protection and sitting behind me was an old friend whom I had not seen for a long time. He was the head social worker at the Family Protection Department (police) and is now head of the family department at the ministry. He was telling me that they are now putting orphaned children in foster care instead of in an institute. I think this is an absolutely fantastic initiative. Those institutes were not the places to bring up children. I asked if prospective parents ask for girls or boys (being worried that the girls might be used as maids) and he said absolutely not and they have very high criteria before fostering is allowed and close follow up.

As an aside he told me how fantastic his minister is (Hala Latouf) and how they all respect her and how hard she works with long hours in the office. In all the years I have been in the development field this is the first time I have heard such praise from someone about their minister! Good for her. T

using mobile phones whilst driving

A quiet residential street in Jabal Amman, a terrible screeching noise and neighbours rushing out to help the driver of a small four wheel drive that had turned upside down. No other car involved. Seems the female driver was on her mobile phone and smoking a cigarette.

The number of times I have had near misses because of drivers being distracted with talking on their mobiles is too numerous. Surely the driver can pull over and answer the phone or, if not, wait until a suitable moment? It is such a danger to all the other people on the road and IT IS AGAINST THE LAW, although this particular point does not seem to put people off. T

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It seems unreasonable that coming to Amman from Damascus should take longer than coming from London. But that’s what happened to hundreds of travelers last week, three whom I know personally who waited on the Jordanian side from one and a half to six hours. Yes, it was the time that many Kuwaitis and Saudis visiting Syria needed to get home and many of them did that via Jordan. Still, knowing this is a peak season every year, you would expect at least our side of the border to be better prepared. Alas, it wasn’t so.

There were only two lines for the cars and not enough people to check and stamp passports. Even returning Jordanians had to join the crowd in front of a counter manned by only two men. They did their best but, as there are no winding barriers to form narrow queues, it was basically a free for all. Four to five people would arrive at the counter at once and thrust forward their passport or passports while two or three others would approach from the side, having skipped the line entirely, and throw their passports up onto the counter.

A simple solution of just having a couple more men on duty and a few winding barriers for the queues, including one for women, would help to keep an orderly line and would do much to solve the problem.

Parking could also be improved with a few lines on the pavement and a few people directing the parking, lest one wait all that time and then find his/her car blocked by others parked in totally random positions as is the case at present.

I’m all for e-government in Jordan but first let’s just get the basics in order...................z

Monday, October 13, 2008

how you should not have to spend your time

Zain sent me an SMS to say the bank had rejected their monthly direct debit for my bill. So off I go to the bank to find out why they had refused the payment and after waiting for ages they told me they had nothing to do with refusing it but said maybe because my Visa card had been renewed recently. I thought what has that got to do with anything, it's the same number etc? So, next stop Zain, and they said that they had to photocopy my new card, my id and sign 3 pieces of paper!!!

I spent 2 hours going from here to there just to be able to pay a bill. Ridiculous!! And while I am having a moan, my bank sent me a note saying that they were increasing the limit of my credit card. And that meant another trip to the bank to sign 3 times that I did not want my limit increased!! Why can't they ask first? T

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The King who had six wives (not all at the same time!)

I was reading an interesting article about how to write memoirs and biographies when a couple of sentences jumped out at me and made me think how we view history.

'I would further cite the peril of hindsight. We may know that Henry VIII will marry six times, but he didn't...'

So when we look back on our lives and others and try to make sense of it all we have to remember that we/they did not know what was in their future. T

Saturday, October 04, 2008

World Animal Week 4-10 October

Did you know it is World Animal  Week, 4-10 October 2008 .... and all I could think of was the appalling conditions of the animals both wild and domestic, that are kept in a compound that sells itself as a zoo, on the outskirts of Amman.  

With nothing but concrete and barbed wired and dry water troughs for company day in and day out, the animals look terribly distressed.  This prison is located on the airport road in a park opposite the Amman Waves, and in front of the Dunes Club ... thousands of people pass it by on a daily basis without knowing the extent of the cruelty and carelessness that is inflicted on these animals that range from a lion to domestic cats and dogs.

And out of the mouths of babes,  one little girl was heard crying to her mother, "mama, mama, why are the animals so sad - I don't like this place" ....

Why indeed!