Shway shway

“Little by little”….

Little by little, life in Amman is beginning to feel more normal. Days are relaxed and comfortable here, which is a welcome contrast to my hectic life at Penn! Though I hit the ground running when I first arrived– quite literally, considering the car accident mentioned in my last post— over the past two weeks I have really begun to settle in, both at work and into Jordan as a country.

First up, my internship at UNESCO. Unlike many of my cohort members, my scope of work is much less project-based and more that of a triage nature. That means I add to a wide range of programming, rather than focusing on one particular topic in-depth. Since I got here, we have been applying for 3 different grants, researching others, and running several events and meetings to increase coordination with the Ministry of Education. Basically, it’s my job to step in and fill whatever holes may exist. Sometimes that involves desk-warming while I wait for my next assignment (the reality of any internship, I suppose!), and sometimes it means editing a proposal an hour before the deadline. At first it was difficult to keep up, but shway shway I am building a more complete picture of how everything fits together. Now that I have a little more context for the one-off tasks I often receive, I am better able to contribute. This is what I’ve been doing recently:

  • Research on the coordination structures in place to implement the education goals of different countries: As I mentioned earlier, Jordan recently released its Education Strategic Plan for 2018-2022. Click at your own risk– it’s an informative, ambitious 155 pages that is well-aligned with Jordan’s Response Plan for the Syria Crisis (116 pages!). How can you make sure that different sectors of the government and civil society are working together to actually accomplish national education goals all across the country? Well, I’m trying to find out by looking at strategic plans from other parts of the world. Frankly speaking, this has been a bit of a challenge: it is easier to optimistically say you want to increase communication between parents and schools, for example, than to logistically carry that out by specifying what kind(s) of communication, through what means, and with whom holding what level(s) of responsibility. After plodding through a lot of fluffy language (Pakistan, Egypt, Zanzibar, St. Lucia, and South Africa, I’m looking at you), Myanmar‘s plan is a true standout in terms of clarifying collaboration mechanisms– though given the country’s current politics, its operationalization warrants closer inspection.
  • Editing grant applications for grammar, consistency, and content: Thank you (I think??) to @ameenagk for being such a stickler with APA citations this past year! There’s nothing like trying to submit a proposal for an academic research project, but realizing its references don’t meet scholarly standards. I was part of an exciting last-minute scramble to find and sort appropriate sources, and to double-check the accuracy of education statistics on Syrian, Iraqi, and other refugees in Jordan.
  • Organizing the Education sector’s “knowledge management system”: This is a fancy way of saying I helped clean the office by tossing away outdated files and boxing up the rest. By regulation, UNESCO must hold on to all project documents for 5 years in case of an audit, and according to our department head they hadn’t been culled in 20 years. Needless to say, my colleague and I were able to clear up a lot of cabinet and shelf space… our lungs, however, are a different story (dat dust doe).
  • Independently exploring gender disparities in Jordan’s education system/ labor market: Our recent conference sparked my interest and I have been trying to learn more. If you have the time, this amazing article from The Atlantic describes barriers for both males and females. If not, check out this alarming infographic:
Accessed at


So, on to my non-UNESCO life. Shway shway I have been exploring the beauty of this country outside of Amman. For this born-and-raised city gal (yo whattup Chi-town!), escaping the urban sprawl has always held a certain magical appeal. These past few weekends I have joined a number of tour groups to: see the desert for the very first time; visit a vineyard and winery near the Syrian border; take a traditional cooking class from local women using locally-grown olives and figs; and hike through a forested area on the Jordan Trail near Ajlun Castle. The diversity of this country’s natural landscapes is astounding to me: you can travel for an hour in any direction to find desert, forest, mountains, or sea. Growing up, it took me an hour just to travel to my own high school!

I am trying to see as much of Jordan as I can while I am here. And a lot of that will happen next week, when my parents come to visit(!!). But until then, I will leave you with a scrolling photo album of some of my solo adventures. Enjoy!

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Some photos (and the featured image for this post) were taken by the lovely humans at Experience Jordan. Special shoutout to my new tour guide buddy Mahmoud 🙂

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