After spending a most memorable time in Egypt, two days later, I found myself at another house, this time in the Madaba Palestinian refugee camp in Amman, Jordan, as part of Peace Boat's home-stay exchange program with Palestinian refugees which I was assigned to interpret for. The atmosphere this time though was not one of celebration, neither was it one of sorrow, it was a reality check, and one that hit hard, not just because of the reality I was confronted to, but because of the realities from back home that it was reminiscent of.
On the second day of the program, having spent the night with local families, we had the opportunity to hold a discussion with first-generation refugees and hear their stories of how they fled for days and weeks from their homes, some of them stopping first in Gaza, others coming directly to Jordan, all leaving behind family and friends on the way. The night before, just as I entered the house of my host family, they led me to a map of what is today known as Israel/Palestine. There, they pointed at the town were their actual home was, and showed me the old key of their home, from where they were forced to flee and which they have keep all this time awaiting for the day when they can finally go back.
Back on the ship, as I saw the lights of the city get farther and farther, I couldn't stop myself from shedding tears down my face, as I reflected on the testimonies of the elders, my conversations with the young third generation refugees, their strong feelings of longing for their real home, Palestine. I also realized that many of the persons living in informal neighborhoods back in my home country Colombia probably had similar stories which I wasn't even aware of and had never stopped to think about.
My first visit to the Middle East, Egypt and Jordan, was eye opening, mind opening and heart opening in so many different ways. It made me realize my own unknown prejudices, which I was able to break only by connecting and making friendships with local people. It showed me how little I actually knew about the Israel/Palestine issue, even when I felt I was aware of it. It made me think of issues back home too. It opened my eyes to so many different long lasting effects of conflict and war. And overall it was the one experience during this Peace Boat voyage that strongly raised my interest in peace building and international understanding, and in working for these issues..
Juan Carlos Uribe studied Sustainability Sciences at the University of Tokyo and during his student years embarked on a life-changing adventure with Peace Boat. Juan eventually transformed this experience into a great career kick start as he now works for Peace Boat as International Coordinator and in this series of articles he will share with us more information about Peace Boat, their yearly trips around the world and how he landed the career of his dreams.