St. George Church

St. George Greek Orthodox church in Madaba, Jordan. The quality of the photos is not consistent, but I did the best I could without flash. The photos weren’t really taken to display, but more for sentimental reasons.

Wikipedia has some good photos of Madaba and the church, here is the mosaic itself.


Photos, left to right:
Row 1: Church entrance.
Row 2: [1] Interior of the church, rear entrance, where there is also a place for donations and a container of sand for lighting candles. Two angels are painted at the tops of the columns, I think Michael and Gabriel, this one should be Michael. A painting of St. Catherine and a wheel can be seen on the left through the arch. [2] Front of church. In orthodox churches, typically the podium-like construction on the right is for a picture that illustrates the name of the church, this should be a picture of St. George. The roped off area of the floor is the map mosaic.
Row 3: [1] Painting of Christ over the altar area. [2] Stairs leading down to miraculous painting of virgin and other paintings.
Row 4: [1] Miraculous virgin, credited with healing miracles, two hands hold the Christ child and a third blue hand was discovered to have appeared on the painting one day after a church service; no one knows how long it was there before the discovery. There seems to be fire shooting out of her thumb. [2] The mosaic, a boat with the disciples in it, the faces intentionally obscured by iconoclasts during the 3rd century(?); the boat is upside down, the photo being taken from the front of the church.
Row 5: [1] Mosaic, map of Jerusalem [2] Mosaic, fish turning back from the saline water of the Dead Sea; some sort of frolicking antelope creature has somehow escaped the attention of the iconoclasts.
Row 6: [1] The rear (southwest) corner of the church, showing the crosslike division of the main space into smaller spaces. Another painting of St. George menacing the dragoon with a spear is seen through the arch. [2] Art: John the Baptist, and in the background a virgin. As a side note, there is a very old image of the Baptist at the nearby Mt. Nebo that escaped the iconoclasts, having been discovered when the pulpit was moved during remodeling.
Row 7: A sampling of some more art typical of this church. [1] An icon of an angel. [2] A chariot with flames. The angel on the right has flames coming out of her hand (as does the miraculous virgin).

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Jordanian Sweatshops

Jordan has appeared on a list of countries that produce goods by child labor or forced labor. The Labor Department has just released a report mandated by Congress titled The Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. If you look at the chart on page 13 you will see that Jordan is listed as a country producing garments with forced labor.  For more information you need to go to the bibliography at the end of the report.  The countries are listed alphabetically; Jordan is on p. 118.

The culprits, it seems, are the QIZ’s  (special economic zones)  that have proliferated in the last 5 years as the result of the U.S. giving Jordan special trade status with the U.S.  and the workers considered to be “forced labor” are not Jordanians, but guest workers from countries like Bangladesh.  This New York Times article is representative:

But some foreign workers in Jordanian factories that produce garments for Target, Wal-Mart and other American retailers are complaining of dismal conditions — of 20-hour days, of not being paid for months and of being hit by supervisors and jailed when they complain.

An advocacy group for workers contends that some apparel makers in Jordan, and some contractors that supply foreign workers to them, have engaged in human trafficking. Workers from Bangladesh said they paid $1,000 to $3,000 to work in Jordan, but when they arrived, their passports were confiscated, restricting their ability to leave and tying them to jobs that often pay far less than promised and far less than the country’s minimum wage.

“We used to start at 8 in the morning, and we’d work until midnight, 1 or 2 a.m., seven days a week,” said Nargis Akhter, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi who, in a phone interview from Bangladesh, said she worked last year for the Paramount Garment factory outside Amman. “When we were in Bangladesh they promised us we would receive $120 a month, but in the five months I was there I only got one month’s salary — and that was just $50.”

Why am I not surprised.  Jordan is not a wealthy country and its guest workers are the most vulnerable of anyone in the country.  A New York based advocacy group, the National Labor Committee, has documented abuses in Jordan. (Unfortunately their search function will only display the four most recent items, although those items do have more links.)

To complicate matters, a QIZ is one of the areas where foreign investment money can be used to set up factories. Rumor has had it for a long time that much of such investment capital comes from Israel.  One of the most egregious cases has come from Musa Garments in Irbid (owned by two Israelis) that makes Israeli labels such as Irit, Bonita,  Pashut, and Jump.

The lesson here is clear.  Special trade agreements are great, and I’m overjoyed to see the U.S. in a special relationship with Jordan.  But a small and hungry country like this isn’t going to be able to police their own ranks, much less control foreign nationals operating within their country.   Special U.S. trade relationships like this need to be tied to fair labor legislation.

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An Old Hack

australian akubra hatCanehan, a sometime commenter at Languagehat, has started his own blog, An Old Hack. This is going to be great.  Not only did Calahan once live in my home-away-from-home, Amman Jordan, but he also had my secret dream job–he was a reporter for a major news service.

What exactly is an Old Hack?  Says Canehan, it’s a self-depreciating British journalists’ term for a grizzled old veteran who can do the job and has no illusions about being a star. It’s a term that’s not age-related, but just means veteran or experienced.  I would love to be an “Old Hack”–it sounds so worldly and jaded and Guy Noir-ish–more serious and atmospheric than the Lois Lane kind of thing, but Canehan says it’s a term that’s only used for guys.

What’s a “Canehan” and how do you pronounce it? He explains that all here.

And the hat?–it’s an Akubra, the signature hat from Canehan’s native Australia.

Some people learn once when they are young and in school and then stop learning.  For me, learning has been a lifelong adventure and has often taken place in non-traditional ways or outside of academia.  My discovery of writing came late; I owe it to an editor who encouraged me by introducing me as “a journalist” before I even had my first piece published.  I can’t begin to tell what a thrill it was the first time I saw my name in a byline.  It’s a greater pleasure than even chocolate, and I do take my chocolate seriously!

So I will be very eager to see what Canehan has to say about the Middle East…and about writing.

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Queen’s birthday

Today is the birthday of Jordan’s Queen Rania. One of the interesting facts about her from Wikipedia is that she once worked for Apple Computer. That might explain her YouTube channel. But as a teacher who has seen firsthand the type of corporal punishment used in Jordan’s public schools, what I most remember about her is her campaign against child abuse, a courageous stand indeed in that part of the world.

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Mapping Jordan

It looks like Jordan will soon have GPS navigation devices, if this article is any indication:

NAVTEQ, the leading global provider of digital map, traffic and location data for in-vehicle, portable, wireless and enterprise solutions has launched a navigable map of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Offering full coverage stretching from the elegance of Amman in the north to the magnificent landscape of Wadi Rum and the coastal city of Aqaba in the South, the new map includes over 28,000 kilometres of Jordan’s expanding road network and, very importantly, over 13,000 of the Points of Interest (POIs) which are so key to navigation in this country.

With mail delivered to post office boxes, street addresses rarely used and most places of interest (such as government buildings, hotels and restaurants) in Jordanian cities and towns well known, directions are usually given based on nearby landmarks. With its usual attention to local detail, NAVTEQ has therefore included a particularly wide range of POIs which can be used as destinations. The commonly used 1st to 8th Circle names for the central jabal junctions have also been retained but NAVTEQ has also added the alternative official names where they are available.

Here is a screenshot (clickable) of the Jordan map from their website:
amman map

As you can see, my search for “third circle amman jordan” gave me locations in Texas and Hong Kong–not even close–although it recognized my Chicago IP and gave me a good map for a Chicago address I tried. The map though is more fun.  The controls are similar to Google Earth but maybe a little easier to use. The screenshot shows the Roman theater as a semicircle on the right, Jebel Hussein in the center , and the First Circle to the left. The meandering gray line above that is Wadi Sacra, where the weekly Friday intifada demonstrations used to march from the King Hussein mosque until they were moved to the Professional Buildings on Fourth Circle. Above Wadi Sacra is Jebel al-Weibdeh, the traffic circle at the top being the crest of the hill above Luzmila hospital.

It will be interesting to see if this spurs any improvements in the Jordanian mail system.  Anyone who wants to receive mail at all rents a P.O. box, although I had about half of my mail disappear.  And the official names don’t match the local names at all.   For example, one intersection whose landmark is a building with long plants trailing from its sides, Dekolia, is named after a ministry that isn’t there any more, while Medeena circle has some impossibly long name that sounds like it was named for some battle of Egypt’s former President Nasser.  If you are riding the bus, you will get off at “Medina”.   Chicago has its vanity street names of course, sections of streets being named after some celebrity, but our maps (and our street directions) at least are usable.

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Confluence hunters

jordan-confluence-points1This is amazing.  The Degree Confluence Project has the goal of  “an organized sampling of the world”.

The goal of the project is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location. The pictures, and stories about the visits, will then be posted here.

The project was started by Alex Jarrett.  He says, “…I liked the idea of visiting a location represented by a round number such as 43°00’00″N 72°00’00″W. What would be there? Would other people have recognized this as a unique spot? Another reason was that my friend managed to convince me to buy a GPS and I had to come up with something to do with it. I also hoped to encourage people to get outside, tromp around in places they normally would never go, and take pictures of it.  I visited several confluences of my own and posted them to my personal web site. Before long others found the site and visited confluences of their own, and it just snowballed from there.”

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

There is a confluence within 49 miles (79 km) of you if you’re on the surface of Earth. We’ve discounted confluences in the oceans and some near the poles, but there are still 10,699 to be found.

You’re invited to help by photographing any one of these places.

The degree confluence view of a country can yield some completely unexpected views. You can browse the photos by country from the home page or go to their interactive map to browse a particular region.  One of my favorite countries is, of course, Jordan.  I have been almost everywhere in Jordan, everywhere habitable that is, but the views from the crossing of lattitude and longitude lines gives a more pure view of the land use of the country.

Here’s the Jordan entry.  There’s a small map of Jordan showing where the longitude and latitude lines cross and the visits that have been posted by confluence hunters. If you click on a picture, you will get a diary entry for the trip, along with the photos they have posted of the area and the GPS.  Jordan has a lot of variety form one end to the other, but for some reason all the Jordan photos look pretty much the same.  Blue sky, tan sand, and an endless horizon. Here is a trip that was slightly different: you can see a sand storm on the horizon (and inside they have a nice sunset too).  That’s the kind of weather that signals lots of grittiness in the house and the need for an extra bucket of water dumped on the floor and squeegeed across and off the edge of the balcony when cleaning day comes.

It’s an interesting view of Jordan, but not one I would care to make myself if I had limited time in the country.  After all, the most interesting part of the country is the people themselves with their incredible hospitality–and curiosity.  Still, it is, as Jarrett says, a great excuse for people to just “tromp around in places they normally would never go”

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Bedouins and goats

Here is a Jordanian goat.


The goat belongs to Fatma. Fatima is the one on the left. Yes, they have tatoos on their faces. I found out later that Jordanian women don’t usually allow themselves to be photographed.  I hope I don’t get into trouble with the Bene Sakr for this one.

Fatima is stirring up the goats with a stick to try to get them to be more photogenic for the picture.


Then Fatma took a picture of me with the goat. I don’t know if she ever used a camera before.


[photo edited]

I know a Jordanian guy who put a photo of his wife on the internet–she had a proper scarf on, hair completely covered  and everything.  He had to take it down after some guys at work started making nasty comments about her. There were pictures of his kids too, but that wasn’t a problem.  I wanted to take a picture of her–I had stayed with the family a few times–but by then she didn’t want anyone taking her picture because of the bad experience.

It’s too bad when women’s photos have to be removed–in any culture. You don’t see that happening with men.