Lived Updates: Impressions in & around Zaatari

The second and final update from our team in the field covers the most recent impressions and occurrences in and around Zaatari.

Following the pre-production work undertaken over the past weeks, this week has been oriented around the filming for the documentary. In order to remain efficient throughout this process, the team on the ground has divided up and worked in parallel, with some members in Mafraq, Zaatari camp and Zaatari village for the filming, and some members in Amman to attend more meetings and to prepare for the second phase of our project.

After having been to Zaatari and Mafraq and having spoken to several families inside and outside the camp, we began filming on Monday and Tuesday. Carrying the necessary equipment and being accompanied by a resident who has lived in Zaatari camp since its opening in summer 2012, again we made our way through a few different districts. Meeting children and their families, some for the first, others for the second or third time, we filmed conversations, which revealed a lot about young people’s lives and their everyday experiences – marked by the past, and by the present life in the camp. As we moved from the wider streets to the denser neighbourhoods of the camp, we took the chance to film on the busy market streets. Varying from vibrant to hectic, these streets appeared distinct from the rest of the camp, which features monotonous, pale-coloured arrays of white tents and caravans on dusty ground. By coincidence, we met a 13 year-old boy. This young man knows the camp. Confident to interact with us and with the camera, he showed us around in the camp, the world he lives in; after having welcomed us in his caravan, he took us to the streets where he used to work and the places where he spends his days.

The families we met and filmed in Zaatari village live in similar arrangements; tents and caravans make temporary homes. For us, the most striking difference was to see the horizon.

Our final two days of filming took place predominantly in urban Amman and Mafraq. Filming the children playing and sharing their stories in these diverse contexts, we captured moments of life outside the camp – some of them indicated similar, others very different – experiences of being a child and of being a refugee. Most experiences that were shared with us reflected the suffering and challenges of life in displacement, but also revealed the presence of resiliency and hope. One feature present in all these experiences of displacement was confinement —whether structural, spatial, emotional, social, or otherwise. The days of filming have not only allowed us to gain further ethnographic insights into some of these children’s everyday lives, but also to share their lived experiences with others through the medium of film.

As for the team in Amman, a lot of behind-the-scenes work has been done to facilitate the work of the filming crew on the ground, but also to reflect on our time here, on the network we have created and the potential contribution we could make. This involves continued research into the many organisations present in the field, and based on the knowledge we gathered here through interviews and ethnographic observation, the assessment of the needs of the individuals (i.e. Syrian refugee school-aged children, their families and hosts communities) we engaged with. To ensure reflexivity in the writing of our report, some team members in Edinburgh have also conducted research on these organisations, and through phone conversations we are bridging academic knowledge with our ethnographic insights, ensuring a reflexive and rigorous report that will be the stepping-stone for the second phase of our project, for situating ourselves in this context, and for stimulating group discussions in the near future.

As our time in Jordan is coming to an end, we are extremely grateful for the support of everyone who has contributed to the shaping of the project and allowed us to make this project a reality. We are very much looking forward to sharing our experiences and knowledge back in Edinburgh, and to continue working purposefully towards the realisation of our broader goals and ambitions.