Saturday, October 31, 2009


Throughout the month of October, myself and another Amideast student (Siler from UPenn) would go every Thursday morning with two students from the Jordanian University, Abdurrahman and Ahmed, to volunteer with Madrasati. Madrasati is a royal educational initiative from Her Majesty Queen Rania that works with struggling schools to better their facilities, hire new teachers, improve resources, etc.

Siler and I signed up to do theatre activities with children at a school in Zarqa, a very low-income town nearby Amman that has that volatile mix of poverty and conservatism that produces people like Zarqawi, whose name says it all. Somehow it wasn't mentioned to us beforehand that said school was for the deaf and mute, so quite a shock when we arrived on the first day prepared to do traditional theatre games! Still, we played lots of charades and learned some Arabic sign language. The second time around, we were prepared and actually did pretty well; we bought art supplies for the children to make masks which they would then write and perform plays around (the idea being that with the face covered, the physical actions in a play are emphasized and they can in fact communicate a great deal without having to speak). There were also lots of awkward conversations about whether I was married to Siler, why I wasn't wearing a hijab (also - isn't it strange to have children being taught to lip-read but having all their female teachers in niqab, amirite?), and whether or not I was Muslim, and then ohmygod how can you not have a religion you must at least be Christian, etc, etc. All in a day's work.

Their final presentations were surprisingly good - a small group of older students acted out, with props and costumes, a little morality-type play about a day in the life of two children, one good and one bad. The bad kid ate a candy bar and didn't brush his teeth afterward, which led to him getting a toothache, etc. Groups of younger children were randomly split up and did little improv scenes based around their masks (lions, cats, frogs, princesses, aliens, and so forth). The children had a great time and it was nice for them to be able to keep the masks, to have something that they made to remind them of the fun experience. I was hilariously interviewed IN ARABIC for a promotional video for Madrasati, so if I ever get hold of the footage I'll post it for a good laugh.

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