While all work done between CRP and individual families is done so with Iraqis only, most events held at the CRP center are open to a wide variety of community members within the area. Just as many students from the United States travel to Jordan to study Arabic and Arab culture, people all over Amman have just as strong of a desire to learn English and socialize with those from other cultures. With this desire in mind, Sasha and CRP have established an event now known as the English Language Social, which takes place very Tuesday evening from approximately 6-10pm here at CRP. While I had seen several advertisements and invitations regarding this event via email and facebook before coming to work with Sasha, I now have a better understanding of what the event actually is, what is required to prepare, and why it is so important for this diverse group of people to come together once a week to socialize while simultaneously working towards a common goal.
Starting around 10am Monday morning, Sasha and I began cooking, cleaning, and setting up for the event up until about 15 minutes before people began to arrive. While it varies from week to week, this social in particular involved cooking American cuisine such as coleslaw, pasta salad, and other similar foods. Not great at cooking anything besides those dishes that don't require cooking in the first place (salads, fruit salads, etc.), Sasha showed me the way and put me to work. As people began to filter in around 6:30 which is equivalent to 6:00 Arab time, each participant would pick up (if he or she had come in previous weeks) or make a name tag for them self written in both English and Arabic.
The social itself consists of Muslims, Christians, Assyrians, and Sabean-Mendai. All of these individuals sent approximately two hours eating, speaking, and learning about each others' languages and cultures. As some are more hesitant to begin speaking in a new language than are others, this social serves not only as short language lesson but simply as an outlet for socialization. Although both men and women attended, there was a separation of the two as the night progressed and the men moved into another room.
Once the social started coming to a close, the activity room was then taken over by the men in order to play several rounds of the game Dominoes. One may ask, why Dominoes? While in Iraq, this game was often a social bonding point for many of the men. When Sasha picked this up, she instantly decided that Dominoes should be added to the evening's schedule. The idea is roughly equivalent to "guys poker night" in the U.S. This English Language Social is important for many reasons, the first being people's general desire to learn to speak, understand, and make socialize in English. Secondly, it is a way to build bridges of peace between several different communities in the area. The social is open most all religions, and ultimately anyone who enjoys socializing or learning more English. As there are often past tensions build up between Iraqis, Jordanians, and Palestinians, the social serves as an opportunity for people to lessen their tensions and build their friendships with one another. Lastly, the social it is truly a chance to get away from that of one's everyday life. Children come and play with other children, women catch up on each others' lives, men spend time bonding over Dominoes, and it is a learning experience for all!