Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Everytime I think about September's trip, I involuntarily say 'Alhamdulillah' again and again. Alhamdulillah for many things. Alhamdulillah, because it was a very smooth trip with very little trouble. I'm a hectic person and this lends to trouble most of the time, but with this trip, everything went magically smooth. Well not everything as in EVERYTHING. Well, actually it's everything except when I set foot in Jordan; one of my check-in bags didn't arrive and the books I sent arrived a month late. But aside from that, almost everything on the way to Japan and in Japan went really smooth and easy.

One of the things that I was very fortunate for was that I met friends everywhere I went to in Japan (okay, except Hiroshima) in addition to some wonderful participants in the program. This really made me feel at home and enjoy the trip to the max.

Osaka (and Kobe):

Before this trip, I knew nothing at all about Osaka. One of my friends in Amman was good friends with an acquintance who studied Arabic in JU, and he told me that he's now in Osaka. So he offered to send our Osaka friend an e-mail telling him about my visit and he did. So, I connected with N-san and we met twice in Osaka after my lectures in Rinkuu town ended.
The first time we met, he offered to take me to Nara or Kobe and I chose Kobe, which then became my favourite place in Japan. In fact, I already miss Kobe. Kobe, can you hear me? I love you. So, anyways, we went to Kobe and it was around sunset we entered Kobe university (where N-san is studying) and there we waited infront of a beautiful view of the city; we waited for N-san's French friend, S-san, who's doing his masters also in Kobe university. Together we had a lot of interesting conversations and learned a lot of things from each other. For example, I learned how bad my Japanese was, N-san how bad his Arabic was, and we both learned how good S-san's English and Japanese were. And I also learned a lot about Osaka and various other things. N-san, I can't stress how thankful I am for taking me to and showing me around Kobe! I hope you can come again to Jordan to return the favour (although, I'm sure you saw almost everything already).

Anybody's got razors, please?


My knowledge about Kyoto is a little better than Osaka. For example, I know that nature in Kyoto is beautiful and I know that Nintendo is headquartered there. That's all.

In Kyoto I met my dear friend Y-san, who was a JICA Intern researching Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. We arranged to meet by e-mail while I was in Amman, and my sensei at that time, N-sensei, was going to return to Japan just a week before I went there, so she gladly joined the gang. Last February, before Y-san left Jordan, I invited him for Palestinian food at my home (Msakhan, Mnukhiyeh and Maftool) and at that time two of his friends in Japan were touring the Middle East and they happened to be in Jordan so he brought them along. So, in Kyoto one of them H-san was in Kyoto and she also joined us and brought along another friend. Y-san had a Jordanian friend working in Kyoto who was all too happy to join because someone is visiting from Jordan and he also brought along a colleague from work. It was a much bigger gathering than I expected, but it was a good one, or as they say in Japanese: 「いい集まりでした」

I was really delighted that I could meet Y-san, N-sensei and H-san once again and we had a good time. Although it was raining that night, I felt warm :)

Y-san got me a mamori for my family and H-san got me some delicious Gion festival Maccha cookies, which were so good I had to hide them from my friends (and greedily eat them alone).

Group picture in Shin-miyako hotel, where I was staying the night.


In Tokyo, fortunately, I was able to meet two of my neighbours in Amman and K-sensei, who taught me Japanese for the better part of her two years stay in Jordan and still supports me in my studies until now. In Tokyo, I stayed in the Japan Foundation's Center in Kita-Urawa, Saitama-ken. T-sensei who was doing his Masters in Japanese language at the time was staying at the very same center and he had already completed his thesis and presentation and getting ready to return to Amman's warm bossom. I arrived to the Urawa center on the night of September 15th, and he left to Amman the 10am the next morning (whew, that was close). I also met my dear neighbour Saqufu-dono (as T-sensei fondly refers to him), better known in JICA as 'Occha no Ahmad' who is doing a Master of Arts in Tokyo and I also met S-san who is doing masters in Electronics Engineering in the best and most famous university in Japan, Tokyo University. The atmosphere in Urawa center, where we all gathered was wonderful, especially after a tiresome trip to Tokyo.

We had dinner in some restaurant and I chatted to my hearts content with Occha, S-san, T and K-sensei. I exchanged gifts with K-sensei: a bottle of Wadi Rum's purest and reddest sand for a popular Japanese picture book. Afterwards, I walked in Urawa a little with T-sensei and he took me to a supermarket to try the much talked about 'Tunamayo-nigiri' and I went into the place were he spent most of the last 365 days in: his room.

On the next day, Occha no Ahmad took me around for "One free day in Tokyo".

Group picture in Urawa with K-sensei, T-sensei, S-san and Occha no Ahmad.

Kishiwada, Osaka (Homestay family)

The following picture is of homestay family's youngest daughter, Hiroko-san. I met her in the homestay family's house only for a few minutes. In a few minutes talk we somehow arrived to Miyazaki and Ghibli and I told her that 'Grave of fireflies' is one of my favourite movies and said I saw a picture on the internet of a large version of Setsuko's 'fruit drops' in some outdoors location in Japan. I thought it was well known but she only recognized the Laputa soldier outside Studio Ghibli. Anyways while I was out, she bought and left home one 'Sakuma drops' and when I first saw it, I was very surprised and affected as I thought it was based on Setsuko's drops, but then I realized that Setsuko's drops were based on Sakuma drops. I know it isn't expensive or not that special in Japan, but I was very delighted when I saw it and I was surprised that a 10 minutes talk caused her to go and buy my this present. It tasted good by the way, when I finished the last drop last week, I understood why Setsuko cried!

I didn't take pictures of Hiroko-san and her little Takuto, so she sent me this picture by E-mail. This is infront of the Amanohashidate (天橋立 Heaven's bridge) one of the three scenic views that represent Japan. It is a natural bridge covered pine trees connecting two opposite sides of a bay. By the way, I visited another one of the scenic three: The huge torii in Miyajima (pictured in the 'beautiful scenery of Japan' post)

Everywhere else (The participants):

In this program, there were 61 participants from 59 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America (Sorry North America and Europe, you can come with your own pockets!!). There were people of all colours and languages and from countries I never heard of and while some weren't very friendly and quite introverted, others were extremely friendly and outgoing. Naturally, people clustered according to their continents and languages mostly, South Americans were together most of the time, Western Europeans, Africans and even the Arabs (ahem)..

Me and my Egyptian and Yemeni friends (and my backpack to the far left) in Miyajima.

Also in Miyajima with Chile, Turkey, Madagascar and Vietnam-san

Two participants who were always together and interacted a lot with me, Egypt-san and Yemen-san are Madagascar-san and Vietnam-san. Madagascar-san was really kind and silent most of the time, but she picked the wrong company (Vietnam-san). Vietnam-san is the one I talked about in the awkward moments post. At first, we all thought that she was acting crazy, but in the end we agreed that she might be indeed crazy! As for Madagascar-san, she kept coming to me and telling me "anaaaa bahebak, anaaaa bahebak".. yoroshiku habeebti!!

All participants in the program during the farewell party

Last but not least are the Japan Foundation program organizers. They all were so helpful and understanding. Always trying their best to help us with our troubles and special needs.

In addition to being a very nice person, M-san helped me a lot during the program.

So in the end, all I can say is thank you to everybody who took care of me and Alhamdulillah for such good friends, teachers and people.