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Outta Amman

Many people have heard of Petra, or have at least watch movies filmed in Petra or the Wadi Rum desert. If you have ever seen The Martian or Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade this would include you. There are a number of other films as well, but these are probably the most well known. It is true, these locations are absolutely phenomenal- watching the sun set in Wadi Rum while drinking tea heated over a fire, or hiking up to the monastery in Petra are incomparable experiences- yet there are so many more things to see in Jordan. If you have any interest in biblical history, you will find that Jordan is rich with instances from the lives of many different prophets as well as home to the area where Christ was baptized. There are ancient churches with remnants of floor mosaics that map out all of the different important biblical sites, including the Dead Sea, a place connected with the story of Lot; Mount Nebo, where there is history surrounding Moses; and, of course, the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized. Across the river, which marks the border of Jordan and Israel, you can see people getting baptized and hear people from all different backgrounds singing. On the Jordan side there is a wooden platform with steps leading down into the river, making it easy to wade in. The river is very narrow due to the massive amounts of use that it undergoes from both Israel and Jordan; so narrow in fact that it seems it would be easy to swim across except for the armed border guards lounging a few feet away. The Dead Sea, as touristy as it has become, is still an amazing place. The sensation of floating  while standing still in water or walking and doggy paddling are different than any other feeling. Also, the mud has a fabulous cleansing and softening effect on skin. Besides that, the sea has a pretty cool history and provides a nice and beautiful place to relax and reflect.

Other than the main touristy sites, there are also other historical places that are slightly less well known; Jerash, Umm Kais, and Aljoun Castle just to name a few that I have had the opportunity to visit myself. All of these places are rich in history with amazing structures built by the ancient Greeks and Romans and other people of a time before our own. Besides these and the more prominent tourist locations that I mentioned above, there are still many wonderful places to go in the cities surrounding Amman as well as within Amman. If you come to Jordan, keep in mind that there are lifetimes of places and a woven fabric of history that surround them within this seemingly small nation.

*The image above is the Monastery at Petra*

An Ocean of Words

Lately I have been contemplating the Arabic language more and more; which may or may not have to do with the fact that I am learning more and more of it every week (inshallah,  every day). At first, I experienced a little bit of discouragement regarding learning the language- a new alphabet and different specific pronunciations that change the meaning of words proved to be difficult to even begin to learn- but I persisted. I persisted simply because I love language, and more than anything, words. So when a professor told me that there was a vast difference in the sizes of the English and Arabic language; English being almost 100 times smaller (can you imagine?!) I was, of course, flabbergasted. However, after some skeptical researching on my part, I found that Arabic was indubitably larger than English, in fact, the language is so large that the very word for dictionary also means “ocean”. How cool is that? Now, I am sure that there are many different words for different types of oceans and seas in Arabic, and perhaps even many different words for dictionary. But with my limited knowledge of the language (as a beginner student) I thought it might be nice to share one of my little “WOW!” moments. Anyhow, my excitement about learning Arabic continues to build. I am even participating in an Arabic spelling bee next week (though I’ve never done one in English) with my room mate, so wish us luck!

P.S- The image featured is from above the Friday market, a very cool event where you can find almost anything- either new or second hand- and not too expensive. It is definitely a must see if you ever find yourself in Amman, Jordan. I’m sure it would be a good place to practice speaking Arabic as well.

!ما اسالامة

 

Loki and the City of Irbid

I know it has been a few weeks since I last wrote, and as such, quite a few things have happened. However, this particular tale is that of a small stray kitten living in Jordan. Walking through the streets of Amman, it would be impossible not to notice the massive amounts of stray cats; they linger under parked cars, dumpster dive, sprawl across the tops of stone walls, and prowl around through underbrush and (when they can) on the tops of buildings.

Imagine for a moment, before I really delve into the matter, that you have a great fondness for cats; that when you see them, you engage in meowing conversations with them- much to the alarm of the Jordanians passing by around you. If, per chance, you see a kitten- or any baby animal, for that matter- your heart simply melts and you completely and totally love it from the very first second that you see it. A strange type of love at first sight, I suppose. Now imagine this; you’ve just gotten ready, and you have plans to meet up with a group of friends and go to another nearby city for the day. You walk out, into the already dry and somehow clinging heat of the day, the dust rising from your footfalls as you make your way, accompanied by two friends that live closest to you. About three blocks from your house- a house that by the way doesn’t belong to you at all, but which you live in due to the generosity of your host family- you hear a small mewling and pause. Your friends are hassling you- they’re in a hurry, you’re already running late to meet the other group of friends- but you stoop down anyway, and peer into the shadows under a nearby car to see where that sad little meow came from. Lo and behold; it is a grey and tan -it would be grey and white if it wasn’t so thoroughly covered in dirt and grime- fur ball. Then, it mews again, and , to your astonishment, shows none of the fear of the other feral cats and instead wanders up to you and rubs against your hand as you meow back.

Hopefully now you see that what happened next, though completely illogical, was the only course of action I could possibly take; I picked up the little dirty fluff-ball of a kitten and brought it with me. After which I forced my friends to stop while I bought the poor little guy some food from a gas station (liquid cheese and milk, most assuredly questionable choices) and fed him, and then picked him up and continued on again. After what seemed to be at least another mile of walking (keep in mind I am a particularly lazy sort of person on most occasions) I felt a slight and most unpleasant warmth and I gradually, and vocally, realized that the kitten was peeing- yes, peeing- on me. At which time I thrust him out away from my torso and my friends disintegrated into heaps of chuckles, giggles, and hurrahs. I would like to say that at that point I turned, went home, washed up, and passed on our little day trip; but it was not so, and I cannot claim even that small bit of logic or sanity (call it what you must). No, I continued onwards-after the kitten finished urinating on the ground, that is. Eventually, we met with our other friends  and I discovered, to my horror, that we were taking a bus to Irbid city (at which time I contemplated briefly leaving the cat as it is about an hours ride). Still, I refused to part with my furry friend and continued on.

For the entirety of the day, I carried around that little kitten and even-with some slight assistance- began to call him Loki. He was smuggled onto two bus rides, rode in maybe five taxis, waited for me outside a restaurant, and a hospital that another friend of a friend works at in Irbid. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually see much of Irbid as my focus was absorbed by little Loki for the majority of the time, and even more unfortunately; I ended up wearing a disgusting shirt all day. However, I successfully brought the little guy home again, only to discover that my host mother is allergic. Loki did stay for a few days as an outdoor housecat; following me everywhere I went around the area, and even letting (I say letting, but really he had no choice) me bathe him. The entire weekend turned into a time of kitten snuggles and fun until I left on Sunday morning for school. The last I saw of little Loki was him blinking his eyes sleepily at me as I tried to sneak out before he could follow after me. I must admit that I am a little sad that he left, but more than that, I am grateful for the little adventure I had with Loki the kitten.

Eid Mubarak!

I just finished celebrating Eid with my host family. My room mate and I helped our host mother shape cookies that she made the day before in preparation for the festivities (we still have some sweets left over). After, it was just a matter of waiting anxiously for the holiday to begin-for me less so than for the rest of my host family, as they were fasting and I was not. On the first day of Eid family members swept through the house, first the men all went and visited everyone in the family and then the different households rotated from one house to the next to see everyone. All throughout the day there were plentiful amounts of food, especially sweets. These the small-& extremely adorable-children of the family ate with gusto. Everyone in the family dressed to impress, including the very littlest of the kiddos, and my older host brother even went out the night before with our host mom and bought a new suit.

The second day of Eid we went paintballing. When we arrived, we had to don our gear: long camo pants with a matching jacket, a neck guard, a protective vest (which looked like the bullet proof vests police wear in old TV shows), and a full face mask. Then, we took our weapons (each of us with 100 bullets to get us through the game) and entered the playing course. One of my host brothers was the target of the day, he was shot by his own team as well as by the opposing team. Though it was my first time playing, I was lucky enough to be on the winning team. I loved it. Not the winning necessarily (though that was nice) but the game itself.

The rest of the holiday has past in a blur. A blur of card games, soccer, good food, and better (if possible) conversation. I hope everyone else celebrating Eid was as full of good food and fun as I was during the holidays.

All Aboard- A First Flight

“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of flying,” I thought to myself as I waited in the Denver international airport security line. I simply couldn’t understand the impatience and disgruntled resignation of those around me in line. JORDAN! I was actually going. 24 hours later, I would look back at that earlier self and laugh at my naivety: it was only my second time flying and the first I’d flown alone. I arrived at the airport almost three hours early for my flight- it would be DIA to Chicago to Amman with a four hour layover in Chicago. I was ready- nervous, yet mostly excited. I found my boarding gate with no trouble and sat down to wait. Wait I did; after a three hour weather delay we finally boarded. My excitement not yet dampened, I found my seat and waited some more- a half hour- talking to the man seated next to me (an attorney) before we took off. We talked the full flight to Chicago- I didn’t read a single word of the book I’d brought. Then, as we landed in Chicago, we were informed that it was too busy to let us out of the plane and that another gate should be open in a half hour.

Suddenly, I began to do the math- it would have been a close call to make my flight in time if we had immediately unloaded. My flight was scheduled to leave in approximately a half hour. Nerves swarmed up, swallowing my excitement along with a fatigue that had set in somewhere during the long wait. Yet, I told myself, it was possible they may yet wait a bit if I hurried and communicated to the airport staff that I was on my way. As soon as I got off the flight, I realized that the boarding pass for my flight to Amman didn’t have a gate listed. I quickly informed some important looking individuals of my situation and was pointed to the international terminal. Sprinting through the airport with a rolling bag, whilst dodging thousands of other busy, moving people is no easy task and yet I succeeded. I Arrived at the terminal and immediately checked the all-knowing screens to determine my gate. Sweating and disheveled, I reached it, but the destination listed was not Amman. There, I found a group of three or so other individuals who were also looking for my flight. We reverted to asking real people, talking to three or four. Confusion ensued. We ran back and forth, up and down the terminal and all around until finally we were informed that we just missed the flight- it had waited for nearly 45 minutes for us and then left during all the running around.

I shuffled back out (accompanied by the other three) to the line where all the sad people with airline misfortunes line up. There we waited in line for about two hours- maybe more- before we could book new flights for the following day. I bonded with another girl over our hope that they would also supply us with a hotel room for the night. After another hour in which a very nice and helpful airline staff-member struggled to book my new flight, I was informed that the hotel was not to be. However, after grabbing some airport Starbucks with my new friend, I decided to invite her to grab a hotel room with me- my family, informed of my misfortunes had come to the rescue. In our utter exhaustion, I suppose we’d grown more trusting, or perhaps we just didn’t care that neither of us really knew the other- either way, it worked out. The next day, we caught a shuttle back and took the same flight together through Paris to Amman. We stuck together and at one point I had a lovely conversation with her and her cousin over face time or a similar app. In Amman, we finally parted ways swapping contact information.

From there, I discovered my luggage had been lost (though I have it now, it had an easier arrival that I did) and headed out to meet the program staff-member that had come to pick me up. We drove, cool night air whipping in the car windows, as we headed to the hotel I would be staying at for orientation. When I reached my room, only one thing was left on my mind-sleep.

*The picture featured above was from the last night of orientation as the waiters brought trays of food*

Orientation…

Arriving in Jordan, I had many uncertainties: how different would it be from the USA? How modernized was it? How big was it? Ect, ect. During the first week I was here-orientation week-some of them were answered, yet many are left to be discovered. For instance; the city is huge, very modern, and just in case you were wondering; the food is fabulous. As to how it differs from the USA, I learn more every day.

We tooled around the small bit of town we could easily walk to a few times during orientation. So, yes, we ate a little food. If you think you’ve had falafel that’s good in the states, think again. It is nothing compared to the falafel in Jordan, which is so unbelievably flavorful and scrumptious that I struggle to find the right words to describe it. Perhaps the next time I eat some I’ll make notes so I can attempt to express it to you. The last night of orientation we had a complete feast at a restaurant with our faculty and staff. There is never a shortage of food when you are eating out in Jordan (the attached picture was only the appetizer round).

Besides food, we experienced a few other things during orientation; a lovely bus/walking tour of the city in which we walked around at the Temple of Hercules and some other ruins from the Romans and other ancient civilizations; a mall with some intriguing stores including Haagen-Dazs ice cream, an ice rink, small amusement park, and go-carting.

Orientation was fun, but though it ended with full bellies and excitement for the future, it was not nearly enough time to give more than the superficial perceptions of a tourist exploring Jordan.