August 2016


It was fabulous to be back in Jordan at the end of May, before Ramadan or the real heat this year.  I enjoyed the Centennial celebration of Jordanian independence with a date milkshake at Wild Jordan as we watched the flyovers around the Old City.  It was also nice to grab some Zalatimo’s Sweets as gifts from their shop around the corner from my hotel.  Another memorable element besides catching up with friends was finally visiting Jerash (Gerasa) before sunset one day after work. Jerash has been hosting humans since the Bronze Age and has fabulous Roman antiquities. I particularly enjoyed the Hippodrome.

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As Samra (c) Kathryn Pharr

As Samra (c) Kathryn Pharr

This work trip included a tour of the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant. Before I started my job, which includes water and sanitation issues, I had never visited a Wastewater treatment plant. This facility was just as innovative and impressive as DC Water’s Blue Plains. As-Samra’s completion of its expansion includes technology so that while overlooking the site, you cannot smell anything. (A colleague assured me it had smelled pungently before.) The amount of effort and engineering that ensures humans and ecosystems have safe water should not be undervalued and yet it so often is.

Another point where I noticed the effects of humans (less positively) was in the shocking decrease of the Dead Sea’s water level from my last trip in 2008 to Amman Beach Tourism Resort, Restaurant & Pools, which includes day access to a nice pool area, showers, and the Dead Sea. For 3 JD, you could coat yourself in Dead Sea mud and then wash it off in the Dead Sea (recycling, right?). On the right below, you can see how much closer the water is to the pool back in 2008. The left photo demonstrates how far we had to walk after coming down from the pool area. Eight years ago, that was all covered in salty water! (Yes, the sand was very, very hot.) Additionally, the resort had removed the fountain that was part of the pool area back in 2008. These were just small examples underlying the water security reports that continue to come out warning of increasing water scarcity in the Middle East.

 

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When I wrote last May about my trip to Stockholm, I knew I’d travel back for Stockholm World Water Week in August. As this pillar of the water community is looming on the horizon, I wanted to share some aspects of last August in addition to my visit back in February.

(c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

Stockholm Bridge, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

I will pause a moment to explain this World Water Week phenomena. It’s an annual event organized by SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute) that brings together people from around the world (~3,300) who work on water issues. It’s a wonderful, jam-packed week that flies by and is never-ending with sharing experiences and meeting new and old friends. In 2015, the mingle dance included an awesome tribute ABBA band that we all loved.

Skansen, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

Skansen, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

It was a lot of work, but we did have fun. Colleagues and I explored Stockholm through a Under the Bridges tour of Stockholm, which included a fabulous sunset and seeing Hammerby Sjostad, a sustainable urban neighborhood. One evening reception was at City Hall with its Blue Hall, that is covered in gold. There was a great evening of dining al fresco at Eriks Gondolen in Slussen with its stunning view of the city. After the conference, I wandered around the open-air museum of Skansen,

which opened in 1891 with houses from throughout Sweden (& now with period costumes from across 500 years of Swedish history) and with its own little zoo. If you enjoy Colonial Williamsburg, this is a must!

 

Galma Stan, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2016

Galma Stan, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2016

The long summer evenings in Sweden were a sharp contrast to the shorter February days of my next visit. However, I deeply appreciated the dustings of snow that I came for. While there was less time to enjoy Stockholm in the sunlight, I appreciated my evenings in Slussen, a hip part of town that is easily accessible on the T-bana and that is walking distance into Galma Stan, the Old City. Slussen has good thrift shops and some fun local bars like the Black and Brown Inn.

In winter, it was wonderful to start the day with kardemummabullar (Swedish cardamom rolls). Even better were semla, special Shrove Tuesday buns. Working with a local partner for a few weeks, I also enjoyed Fika (afternoon cake time), which is a “daily” tradition in Sweden but luckily for my waistline, this organization only brought in goodies once a week! I had a lovely dinner in the basement of Gyldene Freden in Galma Stan.

Skiing on palace, 2016

Skiing on palace, 2016

It was a cool experience to catch the ferry that is part of public transportation from Slussen to the Vasa museum of the ship that sank just beyond port in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later. The restoration work and the sheer size of the ship was stunning. The other big tourist attraction I saw was The Royal Palace in Galma Stan. We did not plan enough time to explore everything, but we did enjoy watching the changing of the guards. The guided tour of the palace rooms was amazingly well done. In the winter, it seems you can ski for free down the steps of the palace, so I had a go. Note: downhill skis are not the same as cross country skis.

Vasa museum, 2016

Vasa museum, 2016

With the cold weather, I’ll admit I did buy a Swedish sweater as a souvenir. It was a needed and beautiful expense. I can’t wait to find out what my next Stockholm adventures include!