How I Destroyed a Glacier

Two weeks ago I drove east toward Jökulsárlón in Vatnajökull National Park, which has a lagoon of floating icebergs (pictured above). I was so excited to see the country’s glacial landscape, which covers 11 percent of Iceland’s land. Just a tiny part of an iceberg sticks out above water level, and even those pieces are massive. The sight of the icebergs—some of which were moving with the water current, fascinated my friends and me. Then, nature did the thing it does best: it inspired me. I was inspired when I saw a large icebergs going through the process of calving, where a chunk of its ice breaks off at its edge.

I drew a correlation between the massive sizes of the iceberg and Saga Fest. The large amount of logistics and coordination involved with the festival, it can seem like an overwhelming project. If I could help it, I didn’t want Saga Fest to go through a process of calving—where one of the festival’s experiences loses its connection to the overall outcomes/vision.

On the other hand, I started to think about how large icebergs are broken apart into smaller pieces through calving. Perhaps, I thought, there could be a way to break Saga Fest apart in a similar way. What if instead of viewing Saga Fest as this huge, ambiguous and overwhelming project, we divided the festival into a high volume of miniature experiences that all shared the same vision? What if Saga Fest isn’t just a single festival organized by a single group of organizers, but rather, a coordination of hundreds of smaller experiences organized by hundreds of people? If we took the latter approach, could people test and reiterate mini-experiences even before the festival took place in May, and how would such a prototyping process shape the community Saga Fest is hoping to engage?
› Continue reading

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 Thoughts No Comments

Let’s Paint The Northern Lights

Here I am (center) pointing toward the Northern Lights, and sharing the experience with friends Ilmur (left), Christian (right) and Anjali (not pictured).
Photo by Anjali Daryanani

By the time we got to the hot spring, it was almost completely dark. With the exception of a few stars that peaked out in the sky to join us, we were alone because the spot is a well-kept secret.

We parked the car, leaped out, tore off our clothes and jumped into the hot spring—it felt like needles dashing into every part of our bodies because of the sudden transition from biting cold to warmth. As we eased in, the four of us sighed a collective breath of bliss, and we corked our heads up toward the night sky to watch the stars come out one-by-one.
› Continue reading

Friday, September 5th, 2014 Thoughts 9 Comments


(Non-Arabic speaking readers can access English subtitles for this video by using the “captions” button located in the bottom right corner.)

Better, together.

My colleagues and I reach the small, withered doorway of an old apartment building in central Amman after a precarious decent down a steep set of craggily concrete stairs. From outside we can hear a group of voices talking over the dim hum of a grainy radio, though access to the building is obstructed by a canopy of wet, drying clothes strung about a low lying chain of crisscrossed metal wires.

Inside, surrounded by the building’s unfinished walls, fifteen or so men are gathered around the makings of a modest dinner. Though they have little – just black beans and rice – they are quick to invite us for supper. We politely decline and instead ask to see the rest of the two-bedroom apartment that the men share.
› Continue reading

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 Audio, Thoughts, Video 5 Comments


Since March, my time in Amman has been dedicated to launching and growing Sound It Out! (SIO) the music and theatre based language learning program that I introduced in my last post. Now in its third month, the project has begun to find its rhythm. Each week, a local staff of musicians, theatre artists and language instructors collaborate to offer 25 music and theater sessions for 400 displaced and disadvantaged children in Jordan.

The SIO team is currently working on a short video piece about the project, which I look forward to sharing once complete. In the meantime, I’m excited to introduce “Creative Refuge”, a summer long blog series examining other music, theatre and arts initiatives that work with refugee youth in Jordan.

AptART’s Camp Colors

Zaatari Refugee Camp, AptART 2014.

Jordan is among the most water poor places in the world. According to the United Nations, any country with an annual water supply of less than 500 cubic meters (cm) per person is considered to have “absolute scarcity” of water. Jordan’s annual per capita supply registers at just under 150cm.
› Continue reading

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 Thoughts 2 Comments


SIO music instructor Owais Omari with student in Amman

Unexpected Findings

I am sitting on a classroom floor at the primary school in Yaffa – a hillside village 20 miles from Amman – listening to thirty children play with various percussion instruments at nearly deafening decibels. Without too much trouble, my colleague Sami softens the group’s excitement and the students find a steady yet powerful unified beat. He begins a call-and-response exercise meant to teach English letter names and sounds, layering fun rhythms with nonsense syllables and short English words. The children shout eagerly in reply, their focus interrupted only by their laughter.

I am awash in a sense of relief. The class is the first session in a new program that has been months in the making. But the experience is also a surreal one. I did not plan to teach English while in Jordan, nor did I intend to design and implement a language program for several hundred children.
› Continue reading

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 Thoughts 7 Comments

Current Grantee Posts


In partnership with Fulbright