I can’t say that I’ve ever had a more diverse range of daily activities than yesterday. It’s not too often that one starts out the day in a neat, tidy private school building and then ends the evening up to their arms in the combined muck of noodles, vegetables, chicken, and an interesting sauce of what appeared to be dressing-milk-water-orange juice-Pepsi. Although both types of activities were informative, I preferred the morning’s computer work a little bit more!

Wajih picked me up from the house bright and early, and we had a short drive across town to the school, a tall building covered with ivy and vines, and surrounded by date palm trees. It looked so symmetrical and neat on the outside that until we walked through its security gate, I assumed it was an apartment building. Once inside, I had a short meeting with the principal, some of the teachers who happened to be tech savvy, and a few other aids. They showed me around, demoed the server system and the computer lab, and asked me for some recommendations on updating things. I fixed a few issues with audio on some lab machines, and helped one of the teachers with a corrupted domain account regain access. All in all, it looks like it will be a neat little account, and I’m looking forward to it. One funny thing of note: I was reminded again by how mild the winters here again when I saw that in order to run ethernet cables around the building, they actually snake them outside the windows, up along the outside of the building, and in through higher-floor windows; something you could never get away with in Wisconsin.

After a brief stop at the Farmer’s Market-esque Beit al Buwadi, or House of the Valley where Entity Green workers were hard at work selling lemonade and banana-leaf baskets, Philip mentioned he had a new project to introduce me to: the recycling work at the prestigious, five-star Sheraton Hotel of Amman. So, I rolled up my sleeves, got my security clearance from the guys sitting around guarding piles of trash, and waded in.

Thankfully, most of the really gross garbage (like the foodstuffs I mentioned earlier) were packed in cold storage refrigerators, so the smell wasn’t terrible until we had dragged out the least-disgusting of them, tossed them up onto the sorting tables (where several promptly burst open in a horrific fashion) and the goop rolled out. The “best garbage” was the housekeeping stuff, where we could pick out our prizes of bottles, cans, and non-destroyed newspapers out of cigarette butts and kleenex. We had divided our workstation up into plastic bottles, aluminum cans, tin cans, and high-density plastics and together, Philip and I went to work.

The first thing I noticed was the appalling waste of water. For those of you who don’t know, current stats say that Jordan has around a quarter of the amount of water available per citizen, compared with the United States. The tap water isn’t so clean here, so like most Jordanians, I drink only jugged or bottled water. The hotel residents are no different, as we quickly filled up three huge bags of just plastic water bottles. However, the remaining contents of them was ridiculous – I would say at least half of the bottles I touched were still 1/3 full, and a couple dozen looked like they hadn’t even been drank out of. But yet, all were dumped into the trash, never to be seen again. Although this was just my first day, Philip had been coming here for over a week already, doing the same work each day and had already formulated plans to try to salvage the water during the crushing process for possible use in gardening, another program that Entity Green will eventually offer. However, we just don’t have the capacity for storage yet, so it was with a heavy heart that I realized that I was personally responsible for re-dumping over 50 gallons of water back into the trash.

The newspapers were almost as bad, although we didn’t see nearly as many. I suppose it’s probably policy that in a five-star hotel, they have to have a fresh newspaper waiting for you on your pillow, but I must have thrown away two or three dozen brand new, unopened newspapers still in their plastic bags. However, the newspapers that did appear to have been read were covered in stains, coffee grounds, and even worse stains that I tried not to look at.

Although this sort of work certainly wouldn’t be something I’d want to do every day, Philip seemed positively cheerful and it was his lighthearted, joking manner that helped me get through it. What I really appreciate about the guy is his eagerness to roll up his sleeves and take charge of any project his organization is involved with, not just the “pretty stuff” but the grungiest jobs available. Part of his job, it seems, is to beseech the Sheraton’s employees to start taking responsibility for dividing up trash and recycling at the source. Eventually, we hope to get the Sheraton contract (along with the rest of the recycling contracts) passed off into the hands of capable locals to provide them a source of work and income, but as with all of the projects, it’s something we’ve got to start ourselves first.

Ramadan starts tomorrow, and as Philip and I walked over to Winkie’s, I noticed the green Star and Crescent symbol that is a popular icon among Muslims twinkling in green lights in dozens of windows. The loudspeakers in the minarets have been working overtime this evening, singing the Qur’an almost nonstop. Philip tells me to prepare for tomorrow morning at 4 AM, when the cannons at the Royal Palace will go off, the mosques will all start ringing, and everyone will awaken for the first feast. Me, I think I’ll have an apple – not because I won’t be feeling feast-y, but because it’s about all we have in our fridge right now!