Weeks 6-7: Independent work and impromptu translation

The last two weeks at IUCN have presented numerous new challenges.  First and foremost, with the arrival of Ramadan imminent, the first week of July flew by in a flurry of activity, as everyone in the office rushed to hold their last meetings and make final field visits.  I was invited to attend a workshop in Amman hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat.  This workshop brought a large contingent of stakeholders together, mainly from Iraq’s Ministry of Environment, to learn the process of developing Iraq’s National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan.  More about this workshop in my next post.

With the start of Ramadan last week, I’ve learned that the pace of work slows, as offices shorten their hours to accommodate the vast majority of the population fasting – no food, no water, from before sunrise until after sunset – to remind ourselves of the millions of people around the world without access to food or drinking water.  Besides the challenge of fasting (it’s expected that even those not fasting do not eat or drink in front of fasters, so might as well!), I’ve found that my work has become increasingly independent.  Environmental professionals around the region have had to focus on their own work, and responding to emails or Skype calls from a distant office about one project proposal is low on the priority list when you’re in the office for only five hours a day.  Additionally, as my office does not have a marine officer, and our acting regional director retired on June 30th, my work within the ROWA office remains relatively independent of my colleagues.

During these last two weeks, I also was assigned a new task.  Since I am a native English speaker and decent Arabic speaker, two of my colleagues asked me to provide some rough translation work for them.  This provided me a great opportunity to practice my Arabic, realize how incredibly challenging and exhausting translation can be, and learn more about ROWA’s other programs.  Specifically, I was asked to draft English subtitles for a 20 minute video (here without subtitles yet) on the Regional Water Resources and Drylands (REWARD) program.  This program aims to return conservation to Jordan’s dry lands areas, strengthen land rights, and improve the distribution of ecosystem services to land users.  To do so, IUCN has worked with the Ministry of Agriculture and six local communities to develop a community-based management system that regulates livestock grazing and restores natural medicinal plants for cultivation and sale to benefit the local community.  My colleagues also asked me to translate six documents summarizing the latest updates in the REWARD program from each of the six communities, which include Beni Hashem, Al-Daleel, and Al-Helabat.  Not only has this translation exposed me to more of ROWA’s invaluable efforts in Jordan, but it has shown me the truly incredible effort that the Translation & Interpretation students at MIIS put in (and how far I have to go in Arabic)!