A True Bucket-List Opportunity!
The newly established Hibbitt/Rockwell Fund Travel Fellowship is an opportunity for faculty and student-facing staff to engage in a travel experience that will energize and enrich their professional lives. The intention of this program is to promote enthusiasm and creativity in their work with students. Marion Athearn, Upper School Math teacher recently went to Jordan. Below is her story.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Hibbitt-Rockwell Fund, I was able to spend 10 days in Jordan expanding my understanding of Islamic geometric design- an opportunity I never dreamed would be possible. An organization, VAWAA (Vacation With An Artist), connected me with an award-winning Jordanian artist who took me under her wing for a 20 hour apprenticeship covering techniques and applications that were new to me. Because I am already comfortable with the geometric construction techniques, we focused on artistic possibilities- especially watercolor technique and the use of a special drafting pen. From there we moved on to “biomorphic” designs and her ceramics studio where I learned several decorative techniques including scratching designs into un-fired clay and working with glazes. In addition, I had specifically asked to learn about any spiritual connections of the designs to Islam, and this was one of the most rewarding aspects of the apprenticeship. I am looking forward to bringing all this new knowledge into my Geometry classes, and am eager to share with other classes outside of mathematics.
The reason I went to the Middle East for this experience was that I wanted to understand the historical and cultural context for this art. The artist, Ruba, not only shared her art. She invited me to her home where I met her family and had the opportunity to experience Arab hospitality first-hand. If you are ever invited to an Arab family’s home, be prepared to be warmly welcomed and to eat healthy, delicious food until you are bursting! I allowed several days on either end of the apprenticeship to explore Amman, where I was based, and other must-see areas in Jordan. In Madaba I visited a school training students in traditional mosaic techniques at an ancient site with beautifully preserved Byzantine tile work. Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea were part of the same itinerary. I also took an overnight trip to Petra and Wadi Rum. Petra is, of course, amazing. The walk through the canyon from the visitor’s center to the “Treasury” alone is worth the price of admission. Having been raised by a geologist, I found the beautiful rock formations particularly impressive. At Wadi Rum I stayed overnight at a Bedouin camp complete with Bedouin food and camel ride to watch the sunrise. The guide was so impressed that I was willing to get on a camel at 5:30 in the morning that he offered me one camel to marry him. (“You are a very strong woman!”) I declined!
Everywhere I went in Jordan I was warmly welcomed and met curious, helpful people. My tiny facility with Arabic was greatly appreciated (thank you, Mary Briden!) and I always felt well taken care of even when I got lost. It is hard to overstate the generosity of the Jordanian people and the love for their country. This is an experience I will never forget!