- The Washington Times - Friday, August 21, 2009

DIRTY WORK

In previous assignments, the Jordanian ambassador dealt with tyrants and war criminals, but Friday he will really get his hands dirty.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, a member of the Jordanian royal family, will close the Jordanian Embassy and lead his staff of 30 diplomats and local employees to a distressed elementary school in Washington to paint walls, clean windows, pick up trash and weed the lawn.

“It’s a way for us Jordanians to say, ‘Thank you,’ to the United States,” he said Thursday.

Prince Zeid said that rather than hosting a diplomatic reception to celebrate 60 years of U.S.-Jordan relations and the 10th anniversary of King Abdullah II’s ascension to the Jordanian throne, he would give “something back to the community.”

“We live in the city. We are part of the city. I thought this was a good idea,” he said.

The ambassador conceded that it was not an original idea. He was inspired by a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, who told him over a dinner that she tired of hosting diplomatic receptions on the Fourth of July and decided to get her own embassy staff to volunteer services to the local community.

“She said those receptions are a colossal waste,” Prince Zeid said.

He explained that the embassy contacted the D.C. school administration to volunteer its services and asked D.C. officials to select a school. The ambassador and his staff will show up a 9 a.m. at the Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School at 659 G St. NE.

In addition to the day labor, the ambassador plans to donate $17,000 to the school.

An embassy employee Thursday was making final preparations by dividing the staff into five teams, each with a specific task.

Asked what he would do, Prince Zeid - who helped establish the International Criminal Court and served as the political officer for the U.N. task force in the former Yugoslavia - said, “I will go with the least desirable task.”

ELEPHANT DAY

The annual Asian Elephant Day at the National Zoo will offer Sri Lankans in the Washington area an opportunity to celebrate more than an ancient symbol associated with the South Asian island nation.

Saturday’s pachyderm party will mark the first such celebration since the Sri Lankan army in May defeated Tamil Tiger rebels who waged a 26-year civil war.

The festival will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the zoo’s Elephant House, home to two elephants from Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Embassy said Thursday. Sri Lanka donated a female elephant named Shanthi to the zoo in 1977. She gave birth to a female calf named Kandula in 2001. A third Asian elephant, Ambika, is from India.

The embassy has organized a VIP reception in the morning at a Sri Lankan pavilion and performances of traditional dancing throughout the day. Visitors can also sample Sri Lankan iced tea.

Asian Elephant Day is jointly sponsored by the embassy and the Smithsonian Institution to promote wildlife conversation in Asia with special attention to saving elephants.

Sri Lankans have honored elephants for more than 2,500 years, as part of their heritage.

The elephant appeared on the country’s coat of arms and national flag from 1875 to 1948, and today many Sri Lankan institutions use the elephant as an insignia. Many large Buddhist temples actually have their own elephants.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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