Sunday, November 14, 2010
30. Visit Jordan Post script -- A presentation on water scarcity
There are a few things I don't like about my job (like grading and paperwork, both of which I can never keep on top of) and many more that I absolutely love. One of the things in the latter category is the oppportunity to travel to amazing places and meet incredible people in the course of doing research. Another is the chance to work with wonderful students who are as excited as I am about research and travel. The best of all is when those two things coincide, as they did this summer when my friends Connor (a current student) and Siham (a former student) and I all went to Jordan to learn about water scarcity there. Along the way we got to have one of the biggest adventures of our lives (our time in Petra) and collectively decided that Jordan is probably the most hospitable country on earth (and that's saying something because I never thought I'd find a place that would edge Tanzania out of that title).
I made several postings from Jordan recounting both our research and our adventures there; the one that is most directly relevant to this one is the post I did about our visit to the Baqa'a Refugee Camp .http://trish52newthings.blogspot.com/2010/07/30-visit-jordan-part-iii-silly-and.html
After we got back Connor and I started working on a paper about what we had learned, and this weekend, we presented it at the Northeastern Political Science Association Annual Meeting. The paper was called "The Politics of Water Scarcity Among Refugee Communities in Jordan" and looked at the double challenge that Jordan faces in terms of hosting a huge population of refugees (especially relative to the country's size) at the same time the entire country is suffering under an extreme water shortage. It is just the beginning of what we hope will be a more extended exploration of these issues, and we hope to go back to Jordan to work with some of the same people who were so helpful to us in teaching us about the problem last summer.
Of course, it would be too much to expect that everything about the day would go off perfectly smoothly, and we hit a small hitch about an hour into the trip when I realized that the curb I went over a few days ago had torn some piece of the undercarriage of the car that was now scraping the road. Happily, Connor in his capacity as Manager of Turtle Underground, our on-campus live music venue, just happened to be carrying a roll of duct tape in his backpack and crawled under the car to do a temporary fix. This fit right in with the role Siham and I had given him in Jordan, when despite the fact that we are both self-proclaimed feminists, we kept making Connor do the "guy things" like sit in the front of all taxis and eat all the extra food that was urged on us by our hosts when all of us were too full to eat another bit.
With no further mishaps we made it to Boston and attended our conference. We went to another session before ours where I was the person assigned to discuss the papers presented, and then we presented ours in panel on environmental politics later in the afternoon. In the picture I put in here Connor and I are posing with Amanda (Mandy), an SMC grad who's now in her third year as a PhD student at U Mass Amherst.
After the conference Connor and I met up with Siham, who lives in Boston now, for dinner at Durgin Park in Faneuil Hall. Then we got back on the road and headed back to Burlington. The whole experience had us all reminiscing about all we had learned and done in Jordan, and I've included a few photos from the original trip. There's one of Mazen, who took us into the camp, together with Issa, the camp's Executive Director. Another is of Siham as we were walking through some of the housing at the edge of the camp, and one of Connor, Siham and I waiting to be served tea in the home of a group of women whose house we visited. They don't have a water tank, so as you can see, try to keep a supply of water in containers outside their home.
It's easy to caught up in everyday life and forgot about the rest of the world in the rush of deadlines and classes and plans. But I'm lucky to work in a field that allows me and the students I work with to keep going with information that we gather. This paper was a very small step in the much larger struggle of figuring out how to include the people who are suffering the most in decisions about how to divide scarce resources like water. But there is a whole lot more work to go on that one!