Friday, December 9, 2011

so long to the headstrong

These last four months my life has been filled with translating newspapers, studying vocab, speaking appointments and presentations, and meeting new people. Although it has been tough and exhausting, it was very rewarding. Throughout my time in Jordan I have learned a lot about myself and have grown to love this culture, religion, and its people.  There are many things that I can’t help but love and appreciate about Jordan.

-          Traffic and transportation: I know the ins and outs of Jordan through its services, buses, and taxies. My favorite thing to do is ride a taxi from one side of the city to the other while listening to fairuz or American music late at night, watching as some parts of the city are closing down for the night, while others are just getting started.

-          Buildings and neighborhoods: There is a clean line of the rich and poor in Amman. One side of the city is filled with old, overlapping apartment buildings, broken roads and stairs, markets, and falafel stands.  In the other side, you’ll find bridges, tunnels, main roads, nicer apartments that are designed the same, supermarkets, KFC, and McDonalds.

-          The People: However, whichever side they come from, the people are the most generous that I know.

-          Religion: Muslims live their religion better than I do. Nothing is as inspiring as watching a man stop in the street or a women leave your company to pray. Nothing is more beautiful than the call to prayer at sunset.

I have become very comfortable her, so much so, that I haven’t felt like a tourist, or even a foreigner for a long time. Things that were a surprise and different to me at first are second nature to me. I try to envision my life before I got here and I can’t remember. I laugh when I try to envision myself trying to fit back into Provo life and ALL that goes with it. I worry that I’ll miss Jordan too much, and have moments of craziness. However, I worry at how easy it will be for me to participate in my old life as I used to as if I had never left, and how easily I’ll forget my life and experiences here.   

To be honest I haven’t improved in Arabic as I had wanted or expected to when I got here. Not because of my program or any other factor other than myself. I’m just not that brilliant, and need more time. And it’s taken me a long time to accept that and be ok with it. There are some days when it’s harder to accept than others, but I’ll get there. It does however, give me an excuse to come back, and that makes me smile. 

Some of my favorite memories-

Annie taught me everything I know. :)

Fruit salads

the city of salt

cold apartment and cold roommates.

good friends and the best of times. 

my primary class

petra and good company

view of al-ashrafiyya at sunset

one of my fav places. darat al-fanun. 

The boudia and riding a camel. 

boating on the red sea

city of aqaba

wadi rum

eid istaklal

good people. good times

view from al-ashrafiyya at night
al-ashrafiyya mosque

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ذكريات لذيذة

The other night I decided to put some effort into my dinner. I searched the kitchen for some food I could work with. I looked on my shelf only to find the usual; cheese, pita bread, and Hindo Mie (the Arab equivalent of top ramen, but better). After rummaging through Annie’s food and leftover items from the program, I had found my inspiration for my meal.

These last couple months I have been working at a women’s center. During my time there, some of the girls would cook food for me. I was also invited to eat with them in their living quarters on a few occasions. It was always random and a surprise. In order to show my appreciation, I always ate whatever they gave me quickly and praised them for how delicious is was. This of course was not hard to do, as everything they made was delicious. On one occasion, the girls made a huge dinner and invited me to come.  I watched as each girl prepared their assigned dish.  One girl made a salad that is to this day, the best I have ever had. She cut up peppers, cucumbers, martabela meat, and tabouleh lettuce into fine pieces. She then fried pieces of pita bread to make croutons. She mixed all of these together and added corn and spices. It was amazing. I especially loved the croutons. Another girl’s favorite food was cheese. She’s a girl after my own heart because I love cheese as well. She cut big blocks of a type of very salty cheese here in Jordan and put them into a bowl of water, in order to soak up most of the salt. After that, she coated them in flour and fried them till they were golden brown. Another girl made rice. It was very simple. Boiled, drained and added with butter and spices. A fourth girl added fruit powered juice to water and added ice, which I would consider a delicacy here.

These were the kinds of meals that the girls would bring down to me and what I tried to recreate last night. I boiled and drained rice and then added some chicken and garlic spices. I drained some salty cheese, covered them in flour, and fried them, along with pieces of pita bread. And I finished the meal off with fruit powdered juice. I decide to eat my meal outside, as iftar had already begun. I moved our table to the very edge of the balcony in order to see all I could of our amazing view. I listened and watched fireworks and gunshots throughout the old city. I reminisced of my time at the center as I enjoyed my Khadeeja croutons, Noura cheese, Bassima rice, and Yusara juice. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

i'm fixing a hole.... miss kate's lonely hearts club band

Three years ago, the summer before my senior year, I decided to take summer school. I wanted to get my senior project out of the way to make my senior year less stressful and so I could maybe graduate early.  Years prior to this summer I developed an interest in the Middle East and had expressed interest in learning Arabic only to my parents. Believe it or not, I was embarrassed to tell my friends, family, and people who would ask what I wanted to do when I was in college, this interest of mine. I didn’t think it was very realistic and it was just random. Arabic? Middle East? Where was this coming from? I could hear people saying, ‘what are you going to do with that?’ and ‘well you better watch out, it’s pretty scary over there.’ (which is a common reaction) Not only was I embarrassed, but I didn’t think I was capable of doing it. I remember doubting the possibility all together and I put this dream on the back burner placing my focus elsewhere.
Well, three years ago I couldn’t keep it back there any longer.

In Idaho every senior has to give a huge presentation about a bill or law in which they make amendments to and give recommendations based on their research. That summer was the last semester in which your law could be on an international level. It has since changed to only state laws. I wrote mine about the United States foreign policy towards the Middle East, and that it needs to change. I used the past and current relationship between the US and Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran as examples of the way our government’s rhetoric does not match up with our actions. This project brought back that desire to learn and understand more about the Middles East, and especially the desire to be able to communicate with the people.

While I was giving that presentation, literally the exact time 11-1130 on July 22, my cross country coach and three of my teammates were in a car accident. I remember driving home from my presentation relieved and happy to be done with a long intense semester. I was super excited to go home and pack for our xc sawtooth running camp the next day. It was also raining. A few hours later I received the news that Steven had died. Mr. Mabey was in critical condition. Austin was in surgery, and Michael was doing ok.

The number one priority at this time in my life was my xc team. And it had been for a while. I started running xc in the sixth grade, when I actually first met Austin and Michael. I loved running. My team was my second family. I feel like runners have such a stronger relationship with each other than most other teams. We fight and struggle not only physically, but mentally as well. We push our minds and bodies to complete insanity, a feeling that only we know and understand. Our team got along so well. We hung out with each other outside of practice on a regular basis.  We just had a really strong bond that I continue to reminisce and reflect on. However, it’s not always the good times I remember. After Steven died, I feel like our team kinda fell apart. Everyone had their own way of dealing with it. The accident affected each of us in different ways and we tried to pick up the pieces the best we way we knew how. I remember a lot of unnecessary and disappointing drama. I remember being hurt and completely helpless. I tried so hard to hold on to the perfection of what we had been the year before. I had always thought that tragic things like this brought people closer together, and I always expected that it would turn itself around as such, but I don’t feel that it did.

I want to make clear that I do not put blame on anyone. I do believe that things happen for a reason. I accept that it was Steven’s time and that we all needed to learn something from it. I do however regret how I may or may not have handled the situation. As a senior, it was my responsibility to hold the team together. I don’t know if I was a good enough friend and support for my team. I don’t know how I should have done it differently. In the twenty years on my life (I know it’s not that long) this is the only time of my life that I regret.  If I could go back I would try to figure out how I could fix this.  I know that I may be the only one who feels this way. I feel like I didn’t really heal properly. I played lacrosse instead of running track, and I left for college two weeks after I graduated. This was an important time that I needed with my people, and I didn’t give that to myself. I needed my team. I needed to heal with them, instead of silently on my own. This hit me really hard that next summer. My first semester of college was miserable and the only thing that kept me together was that I went running every single day. The rest of my team was moving on together and I wanted to be there so bad. I’ve always known that all of us would graduate and move on and we would go different places and do different things with our lives, but I never considered that we would never keep in touch. There are a few that still hangout on a regular basis, even though they’ve since left high school. They had another year to run and be together in order to heal and move on. I’m so jealous of that. I think those of us who graduated that year have grown apart the most and I haven’t spoken to them in a long time, nor have I spoken to others on my team.

Running was my passion. I loved it. I used to be really good at it. It made me relaxed and was more of a relief from the stress of my life. Nowadays, it sometimes makes me more frustrated than ever because I can’t run as fast as I could and that I have no one to run with. If you had told me my junior year in high school, that as I approached my junior year in college I wouldn’t be running very much anymore, I would have told you that you were crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I do go through phases where I run a lot for a couple months and then I don’t. It’s kindof the new pattern of mine. I also have seen that this loss has carried over into other passions that I had. I was more creative. I loved music more and spent hours finding new bands. I don’t even remember the last time I did that. I used to read books ALL the time. Now it’s a chore just to finish books required for school.

This is what I reflect on every summer. However, this year I have discovered something else; something that I find to be very precious to me. And that is the connection I feel with Steven and my team.  Although I didn’t know him very well and not very long, I realize that he shares some of the most important events in my life that have furthered my interests in the Middle East. My senior project was such a big deal to me. It was kindof my statement to the world that I was serious about it. It also made me super vulnerable because I couldn’t turn back now; I had to go for it. Even still, I doubted myself. It was the turning point in my life just as it was the end of his life on earth. That next summer, as I said, was miserable. I was lost. I remember being very frustrated with the lack of direction in my life and on his first anniversary, I recall the thought of ‘yes you do have one kaiti, you figured it out last year, why aren’t you doing it?’ This surprised me and intimidated me. I spent that next year debating in my mind if and how I was going to do it. Most of my friends didn’t know of my plans. I remember telling one of my best friends that I wanted to learn Arabic and she agreed with me how unrealistic it was. I wasn’t a student at BYU and I didn’t know when and if that would happen so I didn’t really do anything about it. That year was one of the most depressing times ever. It was just left overs from the summer before and got worse.

On Steven’s second anniversary I would find myself sitting in the Intensive Arabic 101-102 class at BYU. The events that got me to that place are still somewhat unknown to me, but I truly feel that Steven played a part in some way. As cheesy at that sounds, I can’t help it. I can’t even begin to express how that summer changed my life. Even though I had lost the passion running gave me in my life, I had found it through Arabic. It was the hardest and best thing I have ever done in my life. I loved it! I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. I can’t imagine going back to who I was before; I don’t even know who that person is anymore. That fall, through means not unto my own, I was able to take 201 and became a legit BYU student in the winter. It put the fire back into me to care about school and work hard again.

This summer, on Steven’s third anniversary, I found myself standing in front of the Amman, Jordan Branch relief society, teaching a lesson about desire in English and Arabic. I recalled Steven’s example to me of desire. He wanted to be a great runner, and he was. He worked so hard to achieve what he desired and was a great example to everyone around him. He also had a strong desire to become closer to Christ. And he lived his life in such a way. My new passion in life has become learning Arabic and advocating for the Middle East. I finally did what I had wanted to do for so long. Finally people knew about what I wanted to do and I have their support. I am learning and experiencing the culture that I have wanted to be a part of for so long. I’m learning the language that I thought was impossible for me. I like knowing that Steven is progressing in this process with me and I plan to take his memory with me throughout my life and my career in the Middle East.

Even though I have found my new passion, I can still feel myself losing focus and being overwhelmed by my future goals. I think it’s because I haven’t reconciled what happened with what was once most important to me and the people that are still important to me. Since I’ve been here in Jordan I have really tried to find some of the passions I’ve lost and develop the newer ones. I’m nervous about my upcoming semester. I can’t believe that these will be the last required Arabic classes in order to receive my degree and be able to say I know Arabic…but I have come a long way and I am ready to settle down, get my shiz together, and start some intense studying!!

P.S.  I’m sure this makes no sense. But It’s been on my mind for a while and I needed to sort it out and write it down!
P.S.S I really hope some of you know where the title of my blog is from...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Aqaba take two: “does anyone have an appropriate zipper?”

This last weekend the gang and I went to Aqaba in celebration of the fourth of July. On our way there, at one of the rest stops, a couple of us were sitting on some steps. A few moments later a bunch of Asians arrived in what would seem as the oriental express. They began taking pictures of themselves in front of the store of the steps we were sitting on. As they were leaving, a man walked up to Jer Bear with his camera. Jer assumed that he wanted him to take a picture for them, but that immediately changed as the man put his arm around Jer. This created a ripple effect as more Asians started jumping into the picture of this man and three white people sitting on the steps. A lady wrapped her arms around my neck and shoulder rather tightly for the picture. I did not like that.

 After a long, uncomfortable bus ride to Aqaba we were dropped off at our hotel Aquamarina. I think the best way to describe the quality of this hotel would be to say that when we arrived there were no numbers on the corresponding doors, so they had to show us what room was ours. I believe that they began gluing them on after we arrived.

We set off to the beach. This is the same beach where I made the camel guy mad, so I was hoping that he wouldn’t make his presence known. After about a half an hour sitting on the beach that isn’t appropriate for girls to get into the water, I wanted to go to the other, touristy beach. I decided to go shopping before we were going to head out. I couldn’t find the store that I had previously seen during our last trip that I had made a mental note of going to. Instead, I went to the Dream Mall. This place was less like a dream and more like a nightmare. It was the weirdest mall I have been to. It was small, and as I walked in, there was no one in it. I couldn’t see anyone. There was no noise and the few stores inside didn’t have anyone working in them. I walked up the escalator that was not working to check out some clothing stores that looked the least Arab. (stores selling more than just hijabs etc.) None of the clothes really sparked my interest and I used the elevator to go up to the next floor. While in the elevator, which was glass, allowing me to see the rest of the mall, a man finally made himself known. He watched me go from one floor to the next as I tried to compose myself from being startled at his sudden presence. The floor I arrived at turned out not to be a part of the mall, but offices. I found the stairs and made my way down to the main floor. From there I finally saw a couple more employees. It was pretty sketchy and creepy to say the least. Instead I went to some stores on the street and ended up buying some flip flops and a fitted sheet for my bed. I cannot find fitted sheets in the balid to safe my life and for some reason I don’t have flip-flops. So I was pleased with my purchases.

The south beach is cleaner and more tourists hang out there. We set up camp and chilled in the water for a little bit. The bottom of the shore is covered with sharp rocks and there was no sand as we went further out, so we didn’t stay in the water long. Instead, we relaxed on the beach. That night, we watched the sun set over Israel.

We went to dinner that night at the same restaurant we had gone to for lunch that same day. It was probably one of the best restaurants I have been to in a while. When we got our bill, Annie realized that she didn’t have her wallet with her. This is where the night got interesting. We couldn’t find it anywhere and it wasn’t in the bathroom where she possibly could have left it. The manager and employees of the restaurant were very helpful. Annie and I watched the camera footage of the restaurant while we were there. We saw Annie enter the bathroom with her wallet and leave without it. Then we saw two sketchy girls enter the bathroom about twenty minutes later. We couldn’t tell if they had the wallet because they had huge purses with them.  But there were the only girls to enter the bathroom for the rest of the night so we know that they are the thieves!

With the videos in hand, Annie, Jer, and I went to the police station. I don’t even know how to explain this situation as accurately and amazingly hilarious as it was. Annie talked with the tourist police as Jer and I just sat there and made an occasional joke. The policeman seemed pretty bored because we quickly became the case to be in the know about as men would come in and out giving their two cents about the situation. One of the best quotes of the night was when Annie was describing the wallet. She didn’t know the word for zipper. After a quick look at her pants she asked us “does anyone have an appropriate zipper?” Jer promptly obliged with the zipper on his backpack, which was followed by our laughter. They asked her a bunch of questions. She got a marriage proposal. They got my information as well. It was a pretty big ordeal getting through the spelling and pronunciation of my name. I was a witness! I’m not gonna lie, I felt pretty cool.  It took them forever to write her statement and get things moving along. We missed any chance we had of finding the girls. I thought it was cute that one of the employees of the restaurant rode around on his bike looking for them. Precious. The policemen seemed to be pretty excited and into the case until this old guy came in and basically sucked any enthusiasm left. After that we could see that it was basically going nowhere. We didn’t leave until about two in the morning. We were super tired which made everything ten times funnier. We were asked to come back around ten the next day, which we did. After a couple more hours of sitting around Jer and I left. It was a pretty unforgettable experience.

Jer and I walked back to our hotel and we checked out and put our things on the bus. The rest of the people on the bus were going to go look at an aquarium or something and then go on a yacht where they would be dancing to obnoxiously loud Arab music, so we usually peace out on those events. Instead, we went snorkeling. Guides from the snorkeling place came and picked us up at our hotel and took us to the beach. I tried on the flippers to find the right size for me, and when I asked for smaller ones, they looked at me like I was crazy and said that the ones I had were the smallest that they had. The guy then gave me the ones that were the next size up and said that I should use those ones. I was a little confused by that but it worked out ok. They told us where we could go on the shore and let us do our own thing, which I wasn’t expecting. So that was nice.

The ocean kinda freaks me out. I don’t like the unknown and unpredictability of the ocean. And come to think of it, I def don’t like the known and predictable things about the ocean too. The idea of being able to breath under water and being in the presence of things that live under the water makes me nervous. Nevertheless, I tried snorkeling anyway. It wasn’t too bad. I had a few mini panic attacks. I felt like I couldn’t breathe a couple times and I’d resurface from the water. I saw a lot fish that I’ve seen in pictures and learned about throughout school. There was one fish that freaked me out. It looked like a long stick and it moved rather fast. I didn’t like that one too much. It was a beautiful array of colors and textures under the water. I swam through a couple schools of fish. I also saw a jelly fish! That I quickly swam away from. I’m not sure if I’m ready for diving deep underwater anytime soon or that my negatives thoughts of life underwater are completely gone, but this was a good start. I’ve heard that Aqaba is one of the best places to go diving and snorkeling, so I’m glad I got to experience it there.  Although, I wish that I had had an underwater camera. After snorkeling, I laid out tanning for the rest of the day in my swimming suit! It was marvelous. I finished the day with a delicious sharme sitting in a shaded park. Aqaba once again has been good to me. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

TOWANDA: the diary of a mad white woman.

So, I’m dedicating this blog post to one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes. These last couple days I have discovered my inner Towanda. Please consider this quote for a moment. (excuse the language)

“I never get mad, Mrs. Threadgoode. Never. The way I was raised, it was bad manners. Well, I got mad and it felt terrific. I felt like I could beat the shit out of all those punks. Excuse my language. Just beat 'em to a pulp. beat 'em till they begged for mercy. Towanda the avenger. And after I wipe out all the punks of this world, I'll take on the wife-beaters, like Frank Bennett, and machine-gun their genitals! Towanda will go on the rampage. I'll put tiny little bombs in Penthouse and Playboy so they'll explode when you open them. And I'll ban all fashion models who weigh less than 130 pounds. And I'll give half the military budget to people of 65 and declare wrinkles sexually desirable. Towanda, righter of wrongs, queen beyond compare!”

Think this is a little extreme? I think not.

A couple days ago Janae and I discovered bug bites on our arms and legs that itched like crazy. I looked like a Dalmatian, but instead of black dots, I was covered with tooth paste dots all over my arms, legs, and hands. By Sunday I had had enough!

Sunday is our water day so we can use as much water as we please without paying for it. I was fully prepared to take advantage of it and came home straight from work and skipped the gym. My first plan of attack was to clean all of my clothes. This process is very time consuming so while that was ensuing; I started in on the bed. I took my bed apart and dosed it with our bathroom cleaner that is so strong it disintegrated a rubber band. I then proceeded to scrub it off with boiling water. I felt that it would do the trick. After that I scrubbed my floor through the same process. I washed my sheets and bedding in the shower, again with boiling hot water and soap. This created the most disgusting orange/brown color of water that I have ever seen. Basically someone who has never drunk water in their life and has a disease would have produced this color of water. And I was sleeping on that! The bedding soaked up almost all the water and became 200 lbs as I carried it to our balcony to dry. Then I carried our large bedroom rug out to the balcony to give it a good disinfecting. I scrubbed that thing with our squeegee until I had collected more than a handful of hair and disgustingness from it. As I set those out to dry I finished the rest of my laundry and cleanup my mess from operation: ‘kill every damn bug.’ Today we set up booby traps around our beds and sprayed every inch of our room with ‘all bugs’ killing spray. I’ve been sleeping on the couch for three days, I have nasty-a bug bites all over my body, and I itch like a mad women. I do hope at least one bug survives so that he can tell his friends about me, because Towanda is here to stay.  


I have a confession. Living in Jordan has created more opportunities of swearing, (just a few choice words) which I have taken full advantaged of and embraced. I’ll try to work on it. We’ll see what happens. 

I'm up in the gym, working on my fitness

After a couple weeks of Jordanian food, I soon realized how quickly I needed to find a gym. This search led me to Aspire. It is located across the street from Jordanian University. After looking at many other gyms, this one is by far the best. It’s a women’s only gym which I would prefer. It isn’t too expensive either. It offers classes almost every hour and spinning classes. It has all the weights and gym equipment you need to work out, which I couldn’t say for other gyms I’ve seen here. Go figure. It has a hot tub, sauna, and salon. They blast American and Arab pop music all day and the AC is always running. (Pun not intended) I also enjoy reading Arabic subtitles of Grey’s Anatomy, Dawson’s Creek, and Arab soap operas. I usually try to go every day after work. The transportation is burning through my budget. My second day there I ran into my friend who works with me at the center. I’ve noticed that we are two of many foreigners who have discovered Aspire. Arab women don’t really run on treadmills. I feel kindof weird sometimes when I’m the only one running. And the treadmills are really slow here. A 10 here is the equivalent to like a 6.5 in the US. I’ve also started running at Sports City. I’ve already gotten bored of running of a treadmill, so this place is my saving grace. It’s a closed in wooded area with trails throughout it. It reminds me of my XC meets in Coeur d’Alene back in the good ole days. This place only has tennis courts, volleyball courts, track, and many other things I have yet to discover. I also know all this working out is paying off because my neighbor told me my face looked skinnier today! Fist pump. Success. J

an added perspective

The other day while at the center, some of the beneficiaries invited me to eat lunch with them. I spend most of my time at the center with these girls and I love them. I didn’t realize eating with them meant I had to go up into their living quarters, which is mamnu3, (forbidden) but I did it anyways. When I got up there their supervisor told me I couldn’t be there, called for permission for me to be there, which was then granted, so I feel ok about it. The girls were so excited to have me as a guest. They don’t get to make meals for other people since there not allowed to leave the center and they straight up don’t have guests. They immediately began preparations as they taught me how to make their favorite foods. It was a joy seeing them in their element and I felt so comfortable with them. We enjoyed a delicious meal and they showed me pictures of their families. This gave me an added perspective on these women’s situations. At first glance I only see them as women who have difficult problems and need help. But after that day, I was able to see into their lives and understand who they are better and where they are coming from. These women had lives and were living them before they arrived at the center; they have family and friends on the other side that they aren’t able to have much contact with. I gained a greater respect for them and an added motivation to do my best work in assisting them.  


So I’ve heard such wonderful things about the Badia from my good friend Jer Bear, so of course I was so excited to visit. (insert sarcasm) However, to its credit, it wasn’t that bad. Our first destination was the beit alsh3r. Here I felt like mosquitos were all over me. I tried to limit the amount of time my mouth was open so I didn’t end up eating all of them. We learned where the guest sits, how we are served coffee, and how to tell someone we are done with our coffee.  From there we visited the camels! These camels were huge compared to the ones I saw at Petra. These camels didn’t have saddles, but I tried to ride one anyway. It was actually really fun. They get them on the ground and you just chill on the edge of their back and hold on tight to their hair. After that, we visited the female camels. These girls were less scary. They didn’t make loud, obnoxious noises to warn of attack.  I didn’t ride these ones, but I was able to get a lot closer to their faces and pet them. A guy that was our guide told my professor; ‘I like Kaiti, she’s very durable.’ After a few laughs from Ralph who said durable is used for washing machines and such...He helped him find the words; daring and adventurous. So apparently I’m durable. Good to know. We also went to a volcano site. That night we enjoy chicken, potatoes, and carrots that were cooked underground. I like how open and 
widespread the Badia is and the people were very friendly. It was a very successful trip.


Janae’s friend invited us to visit her and her family in Salt. We took a bus ride about 40 min from Amman that was only 40 piasters. Her family was extremely nice and welcoming. They made a huge, delicious meal for us. This was my first real experience with an Arab family and true Arab hospitality. After lunch they dressed us up in hijabs and we had a dance party. They took us around the city and to an old Christian church. Salt is beautiful. I would liken Salt to Jordan as Tuscany to Italy. Everything is green and it’s not as busy as Amman. Our hosts wouldn’t let us pay for anything, they were so nice. We exchanged contact information, so I’m looking forward to my next visit. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Petra, Wadi Rum, Aquaba

This last weekend I went to Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aquaba. It was a blast. We left Friday morning for Petra. We were planning to go hiking when we arrived, and I realized on the bus that I hadn’t dressed appropriate for such an activity. So I strategically changed my clothes on the bus while sitting in my seat while everyone was unawares.  When we arrived we headed off on our hike to the Monestary. We walked down the trail to the treasury which is in a scene that everyone kept referring to from Indiana Jones. I wasn’t too excited to see the treasury due to the fact that I haven’t seen the film that is was a part of. However, I was very impressed with the beauty and workmanship of the exterior of the rocks. While at the treasury, my friends and I decided to ride camels to the stairs at the beginning of our hike. This decision was made partly because of laziness, but mostly for the experience.  It took me a while to figure out to get on this enormous creature even when it was lying down. After some assistance and after I was in position, the camel rose to his feet. I’ve seen camels in pictures and movies and I’ve never questioned the realness of their height, but from experience, they are really tall! I felt like I was driving my dad’s big-A truck again. I was glad that my camel was attached to someone else’s so I didn’t have to steer. But I soon realized that the view would have been much better had I been in front and I wouldn’t have had to interrupt the perfect timing of the camel in front of me going to the bathroom. The ride got uncomfortable real quick. I could feel where my bruises were going to appear within 5 minutes. I tried to raise my legs higher on the camel as long as I could, which was most comfortable, but my legs still got sore. It was especially fun when my camel started to run. Don’t get me wrong, it was cool. I just wouldn’t use a camel as a frequent mode of transportation.  Once we came upon the steps of the hike, we were approached by children with donkeys who could take us up the stairs. We couldn’t resist and proceeded to make our way up the trail on a donkey. I liked the donkey ride better than the camel ride. However, I felt bad because it literally carried me about two miles up a 45 degree inclined mountain. Almost twenty minutes later, my donkey and its child, were struggling for air as we made it to the top. From there we hiked about five minutes to other sculpted rock. I’d say it was a good hike.
From Petra, we went to Wadi Rum.  Wadi Rum is a desert with mountains of rock and sand. It is beautiful. There is something that deserts offer that nothing else can. I don’t even know how to adequate describe it or give it any justice. When I first arrived, I spotted a perfect sand dune far enough away from camp for me to climb. As I was running up it, my legs were sinking into the sand. This sand dune wasn’t even close to being the highest mountain, but I could everything from it. I saw our camp not too far away. I saw another camp a little further. Mostly I just saw mountains of rock perfectly shaped in their own imperfections. It was so quiet and peaceful. I played in the soft, warm sand. I tried to take it all in as my fellow travelers followed me up the hill. I loved how limitless it was. I felt as though I could go anywhere I wanted. Later that night we went on a night hike through the open wilderness. We stopped and rested under the stars. I haven’t seen the stars like that since I’ve been in Jordan. I haven’t taken advantage of them in a long time either. I saw a few shooting stars. There was a soft breeze and the conversation was hilarious per usual. It was a great night.

Aquaba was just what I needed. We stayed at a nice hotel with unlimited showers. My first adventure was going to the beach. It was the opposite of Wadi Rum, such that it didn’t have soft sand. It was more like rocks with sand in between them. But I did find that if I went further out into the water my feet touched sand.  I jumped off the dock a couple of times, almost lost my sunglasses four times, and drank my body weight in salt water which made my lips really chapped. It felt so good to be overwhelmed by the sun while immersed in cold water. That night we rented out a boat from a local guy to show us around. This was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Picture Annie, Janae, Aussie, Jensen, Skye, Jeremy, Ben, and myself chillin in a weathered boat barely holding itself together drinking Barios. (Bario is flavored non-alcoholic beer..aka..malt beverage ) We’re looking through a glass covered whole in the boat of the water below. Jensen’s wearing his short shorts, Ben has a cane (a story that is not mine to tell), Skye is as far off the edge of the front of the boat as possible, Aussie is considering climbing on the overhead cover of the boat, Annie is translating and keeping us from doing something stupid, Janae is working on her tan, Jeremy is getting his reflection picture in his sunglasses, and I am chillin with an air of a self-serving dynast. (more or less a comfortable way of chilling) It was a picturesque moment and I highly enjoyed it. We saw a tank underwater and some cool fish. Later we walked along the beach and explored the surrounding area. The next day I tried my hand at paddleboats. Only just before I offended some guy on the beach who kept bothering us by asking if we wanted to ride his camel. After a couple no thankyous from Jeremy, I finally told him that we didn’t want it and to go away (with a little attitude I’d admit) then he went on this rampage and yelled about who knows what. He couldn’t handle that he had been given attitude by a women and apologized to every guy around and still tried to talk to us throughout the day. Paddle boating was fun and I’m not as out of shape as I think I am. We explored a castle nearby and headed towards the bus towards home. It was an awesome trip and I can’t wait to hit up Wadi Rum and Aquaba again. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

عيد الاستقلال

So…65 years ago today, Britain asked the UN to end the British Mandate rule in Transjordan and King Abdullah became king. We celebrated Jordan’s independence today! First, we went to a restaurant by Gabal Hussein and had some shuarme, then walked to an easy green for some kunafe. Traffic was crazy because roads were blocked for the parade. As we ate, military planes flew by in formation. Jordan flags were everywhere, so I bought one. I panicked when I realized I’d be outside all day and I had forgotten to put on sunscreen. My poor little nose always gets sunburned. I found the nearest pharmacy who was selling it for 17 JD. Sorry nose, you weren’t worth it. Then we headed near the bridge where we saw a platform where music was being played and people were everywhere. Fancy guys in fancy matching outfits were dancing. To my surprise I found aussie and skye standing on the platform. I headed over there and chilled with the group of people waiting for the parade. The music was loud and everyone was cheering for the king and dancing with each other. Skye joined in on the dancing and it was hilarious. I was proud. Military groups walked by, along with dudes on horses and camels. Little kids danced in the street. We hung out there about two hours awaiting the appearance of the king and queen. When they did come, they were in black shaded cars going about 40 miles an hour. So, I didn’t see them. Lamesauce. Later that night, we went to a restaurant in the balid for fruit drinks. It was an exciting celebration. I think I like it better than screeching fireworks and bbq. Long live the king! Eysh, eysh, eysh!

check out the pic! pretty sweet! ill post pics from today on fb soon.

belly fat ladies

The other day I met two women who I like to call the belly fat ladies. Janae and I were going to a salon that we like to get her hair cut. Sadly, the lady she wanted to cut her hair was gone. So we decided to go to another salon nearby. As I walked in and took one look at the establishment and the women inside, I knew that it was going to get weird. These two women were probably around 50. The first one was wearing a tight red tank top that ended above her belly button; Tight, low rise skinny jeans that did not fit. Black fish net something or other between her pants and shirt, (it was like a net to hold her belly fat in?..didn’t quite understand that one) and oddly I found it interesting that she was wearing socks with heel wedges that were about an inch smaller than her feet. The second woman was wearing a blue tank top that went to her belly button with tight, low sweats. She too was wearing shoes too small for her as she stood on the back heel of them. This one would put a bunch of make up on and then take it all of off, to apply another different coat on that was equally unflattering. A friend of theirs sat in the corner with her baby smoking a hookah. As smoke clouded my view of Janae getting her haircut I awaited the arrival of these women’s pimps. We left just in time, because they never came. 

venting machine

So, as wonderful as Jordan is, there are some things that aren’t so much. I can deal with not taking a shower every day and wearing clothes that I wouldn’t wear unless I was an extra in a golden girl’s episode. That’s all fine and dandy, but I don’t like that everywhere I go EVERYONE looks at me. It’s super annoying. Smiling and talking in English increases my chances of guys whistling of making rude comments, so I walk quickly and stare at the ground whenever I’m in my neighborhood. I feel kindof invisible sometimes and that I have to lose part of myself just so I can walk down the street safely. Transportation is sometimes stressful. Even opening my mouth to speak Arabic can be stressful. Work can be emotionally exhausting. And at the end of the day while walking up three flights of stairs I think, why do I have live on the third floor!

I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean the other day in a new theatre on Rainbow Street. It was nice to hear and understand English. I think I seriously forgot that I was in Jordan, because I was surprised at the shukran that came out of my mouth as I was leaving. I was like ‘oh ya, I’m in Jordan….that’s cool.’

However, the simple cure is Diet Pepsi, a good laugh, fleet foxes, and/or a nap. J

ya salamti!

So I’ve been pressured and inspired by the women here in Jordan, along with my roomies. I willingly accompanied them on a ‘let’s go try out this waxing place’ adventure. I got my arms waxed. Didn’t hurt too bad. Nbd. I also got my lower legs waxed to try it out. I should have known better. I know that I have sensitive legs and most of the time they can’t handle shaving. Tmi I know, but it’s true and everybody knows it. Basically it hurt like a mother. It hurt the worst on the ankles and the mean wax lady was not gentle; the pain just kept coming and coming, and didn’t stop for a long time. I’m never doing it again. I’ll take razor burn that last an hour than two days, any day. 

west side story

So this past weekend I explored the West side of Amman. On Friday, we went to Souq Gara on Rainbow Street. Every week people set up booths selling beautiful art and jewelry, amongst handmade accessories and food. Afterwards, there is a concert.  The vibe there is totally different than in the balid. Basically, all the hip people hang out on Rainbow Street and the west side. On Saturday, we went to the first, second, third and seventh circles, along with c-town and the city mall. I bought some supplies I needed to teach my classes in the first circle. At the second circle, I was introduced to my first shuarme at Reem’s. It was delicious. I love that shuarme is different every place I go to.  I haven’t decided which is better yet. However, I did find my new favorite thing; Fruit Salad. The first thing you see when you walk in is 15 beautiful pictures on the wall displaying various ways to combine every fruit imaginable and flavored ice-cream in huge glass vases. It was wonderful. A new goal of mine for this summer is to try every single one. One  down, 13 to go! C-town in the seventh circle is a good place to buy familiar pharmacy supplies. I’ve also noted that it’s the only place I can buy Diet Pepsi cans in bulk. The city mall is super expensive and has a lovely grocery store inside for basically anyone who wants to buy American brands of ingredients and food. Overall, I like that I live in the old city so I can appreciate both worlds. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Parkour anybody?

I have arrived. Amman is amazing. My apartment is in the old city on al-Ashrafiya hill. Our apartment is on the third floor and it has a beautiful view from our balcony. I can't help but imagining Michael and Dwight parkouring it up around the city. Amman is the best setting to do so. These last couple days I've been exploring the balid. I have always known that I don’t have any sense of direction, but it’s definitely becoming more apparent here. I've gotten lost more days than I’ve been here. However, it’s given me a chance to see and explore more and I love it! I’m also looking forward to my legs of steel when I return after walking up so many hills and stairs. I would consider myself an aggressive driver, so I appreciate the traffic here. Everybody just drives where ever they want and you better get out of the way. If the car doesn't fit, it finds a way through.
A week before I left I met an Iraqi women at Wal-Mart and I told her I was going to Jordan. She said that Jordan had the best kunafe and shararme and I can attest now that she is correct! I have been eating very well here; Falafel, shararme, kabab sandwiches, the best orange juice I’ve had, humus, pita bread, tea, kunafe, zatar mena’sh, baklava…etc. I’m looking forward to learning how to make all of these and more. I started my official work at the center I’ve been assigned to. It has great resources for me to work from and I hope that I can be helpful. The communication is a challenge, but I look forward to increasing my language skills! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

here's the story morning glory

Alrighty, my bags are packed and my electronics have been labeled. I’m off to Amman, Jordan! I’m in for the long hall, eight months. I will be working as an intern for the Ministry of Social Development for the spring and summer and studying Arabic at a university in the fall. Friends and family have requested that I start a blog to update them on my amazezazing adventures. I will try to update frequently and lay off the handsome Arab boys!