Monday, May 31, 2010

Weekend travels with only weekend friends

PETRA..............WADI RUM.................AL AQABA!
All very big destinations with reputations for awe inspiring sights. Last week, our program directors Ralph Brown and Malcolm Botto came into town to see Amman and check to see how all is going with our individual internships. So far, things have been going very well. I have been working in the MoSD headquarters, writing proposals, reading various documents, and just trying to figure things out. Some moments, I feel overwhelmed but after a task I always feel a sense of relief, accomplishment, and knowledge instilled. Good thing I think the work I am doing in the office is so meaningful because I will be at MoSD headquarters for at least two more weeks. The time is just flying by and the three day weekend helped with that.

Hitting up three amazing places in just three days could have been difficult but i think all was seen and all was done that could have been seen and done. Petra was ancient. The weather breezy. The souvenirs expensive. i have been instructed by fidaa to buy no more things with out her. She says that I always pay too much. I am grateful to have someone who always watches out for me.

Wadi Rum was a big night party. We ate lots of funny foods that could have been mistaken for American food but the hummus and pita made it all pretty Arab. There was a great big sitting area with pillows, a dance floor, and places for people's hookahs. Rule #1: Never leave your home without packing up your hookah(agila) with all of its accessories and tasty fruit-flavored tobacco. the night time was appreciatively cool and the air was filled with the smells of fruity smoke and bad techno Arabic music. A bunch of us went out to climb the giant sand dunes before bed. The dunes were cool and the wild dogs we ran into a little scary but Wadi Rum's greatest feature was its breathtaking views.

The Red Sea was the hottest but was the best place to see. We stayed in a very snazzy hotel that was situated well in the hot spots of the city. Aqaba was a hip beachy town with all the American treats one could ask for. The Seven Eleven had no Big Gulps but the McDonald's had Chokolat sundaes. The last hour we were in Aqaba a bunch of the guys and me went snorkeling. It felt so good to swim and to be out on a boat. It reminded me of being at Lake Powell with the family.

I spent the majority of my weekend palling around with a large group of boys. It was nice to have some American friend time and to enjoy the beauties of the ruins, desert, and sea.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fidaa's Big Independence Day

Jordan celebrated its 64th year of independence from British mandate today.The streets were filled with people selling Jordanian flags and other patriotic paraphernalia. Last night, we watched as young men dressed in very fancy suits screamed out of their expensive Mercedes, Audis, and SUVs in excitment for the holiday. Independence Days are usually exciting days for their citizens but today was especially exciting for my host mom, Fidaa, because tonight she was able to shake hands with King Abdullah and Queen Rania.

Fidaa works for the Ministry of Education and was invited to a reception in honor of Independence day and the royal family. So, this morning Joud, Fidaa, and I headed out to go shopping for Fidaa's big night! We went to some very chic European stores and found the best suit. Then it was off to the salon for hair and nails. It was fun to see Fidaa get all dressed up and to see her excitement in the opportunity to meet her sovereign. The people in Jordan truly love there rulers, the Hashem family. King Abdullah's picture, as well as pictures of the royal family, are everywhere in Jordan. I am able to admire the Jordanian Malik everyday as I work in my office. Patriotism is alive and well in Jordan.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The case of the missing muftah.

In every job, there is always the chance of being blamed for something one did not do. Today's work incident was no different. I received a call from a fellow intern saying that she needed me at work very soon. I arrive to find our office locked and the key(muftah in arabic) to the office missing and no where to be found. Last Thursday, I received a call from my boss asking me who had the key to our office. She thought she had left her Iphone in our office from our meeting that we had earlier. I told her that we gave it to some tall computer tech guy...........I mean he just stuck his hand out and we gave him the key. He said he would take care of it.

Trusting someone with the key to all of your work and basically the only place you can be productive should not have been such a light decision. After over an hour and a half of wondering around the ministry and asking everyone who could know where the key is or where we could get a master key, the man (known as Malik) who we had given to the key to finally emerged from wherever he had been hiding. He was sneaky about this whole key incident and did not come forward and give us the key. Malik said that he gave it to our boss and told other people that and then this tough Arab lady got him to give it to us. It was such a weird moment. No reasoning behind it. But apparently, my boss thinks this whole situation was my fault and now we are not allowed to keep the key. We have become kindergarteners. But I am just glad to have gotten some work done today.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pancakes arabi, dirty buses, and Mansaf feast.

In the Middle East, staying up till the early morning hours is very much the fashion. I sit up with my family here till 1 to 2 in the morning. We often eat our third meal of the day at Midnight. Last night, I was really craving some kind of warm breakfast food and Fidaa(my host mum) made pancakes for us all. Apparently, breakfast for dinner is not just a American thing. The flap jacks arabi really hit the spot. The kids liked to put ice cream toppings on their pancakes like chocolate syrup and strawberry sauce. I went traditional and stuck with the genuine synthetic maple syrup. Good choice.

As we were eating, I got a call from Aline ( the new intern from the U). She had made it to Amman and was interested in traveling with the group to the branch in Al Husn. We tried diligently to find a good meeting space that we both could locate. We decided to meet at C town( a mall/ grocery store about 5 minutes away from my house and 10 minutes from the bus station). Luckily, Lavon and Iwere able to find a taxi at 7:55(on the sabbath day granted) in the morning. It must have been written. We met the group and took a fancy Hijazi bus up to the Al Husn.

The small branch of Al Husn was an incredible sight to behold. Mostly Arab members were present. The meeting was held in both English and Arabic. I have never felt the spirit more than when I was listening to the sweet words of Huda (the primary leader in the branch) sacrament talk. Insha allah I will be able to go back up a few more times before I leave Jordan.

The bus ride back to Amman was not as smooth as the ride up. We got on the wrong bus and ended up paying for a tour of the three small roads we drove down. Eventually, the right run-down bus was found. You meet the best people at bus stations. We found a man who was Jordanian but had lived in Louisiana for years. He was peddling local tours of Jordan and gave us stolen pamphlets from the local hotels.
Later, a small Shahud( gypsy....panhandler child) came on the bus to beg. It was disheartening to see the state of this child who didn't even ask for money but instead grunted and moaned and stuck his hand out. No one gave him money( me included) I instantly felt regret. I then saw him outside below my window and i called, "Ya, walad( hey boy)". I handed him a package of chocolate biscuits I had bought for the trip to Irbid. He took it with no problem and ran off. The local men told him to say thank you but the small child refused. The situation in Jordan is hard on many. Unemployment is at 16% and one can see children walking through congested streets begging for piasters. It is difficult to know what to do sometimes in these situations but I am always up for giving food items to the kids. I just hope the kid liked chocolate.

Tonight, I was reminded how fortunate I really am. I have a family at home who loves me....and I have a host family who protects, cares for, and feeds me everyday. I was lucky enough to help Fidaa in the kitchen tonight as she prepared a Jordanian delicacy for us. MANSSAF! Manssaf is a special dish that is prepared for honored guests and on special occasions due to the high cost of the ingredients for the dish. I stirred yogurt sauces, sliced almonds, and watched Fidaa perform culinary magic throughout the cooking process. The meal turned out beautifully. Manssaf has a bold and impressive presentation in the way it is plated. Traditionally, manssaf is communally eaten by hand. I had a friend show me once how to eat "the right way" but I did not get the chance to try out my technique. I ate with a spoon. Joud told me that it is usually the men that eat it with there hands not girls. But maybe i will eat will my hands someday. As we all sat down to eat, I looked around and at the faces of the people around me and I realized how blessed I am to be here in Amman.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Walk About

I have been trying to get out and see the streets of the Amman a little more these days. After work today, Annie and I took a stroll between the 5th and 4th circle. We walked by all the big consulates and saw all the stern soldiers guarding each one. Algeria had the best building but Germany hands done had the best soldier.

Sidewalks are a bit difficult to walk in some areas. They are broken and forgotten.

After picking up some kibdeh and shwerma, we hopped a taxi and trekked up Jabal Webdieh towards Duwwar Paris. Annie had some travel business to sort out for our trips to Jerash, Petra, and Al Aqaba and I was just tagging along. East Amman is suppose to house the most ghetto of neighborhoods but I am strangely attracted to their rugged urban crust. The people are kind, the kids are hood rats, and the building are very old. I love everything about the edgier side of Amman.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Public Opinion

All individuals have their natural rights. They all have their opinions and the right to that opinion. In the beginning, I didn't expect to meet so many different people with so many different opinions. One person says this......another, something else. I am only an observer. They talk, I listen.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bitza Arabi

Hayley, I found pizza that could compete with Settebello's
My family took me to lunch at Pizzaria al-reef today. I got the Magherita "bitza" and it was the best pizza I have ever had. The decor of the restaurant was a mix of arab and country styled italiano. Every meal is a lesson for me. I love learning new words and being able to communicate even better. It was great to see more of the city today. We went to the tool store and the Mall after lunch. I even met a former BYU student at the petrol station. He was a really cool guy. My host Mother Fida is very good friends with his family too. Everyone seems to be connected here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Most of the gang together

Today I was able to meet up with Melody and Matt (aka the married couple) and see there very chic flat. Annie and her sister Leila met us at my house and we took a taxi to Mekkah street. I have been trying to pay very close attention to the roads so I can give clear directions to the taxi drivers when I am alone. I will be taking my first cab alone tomorrow. I think I know what and how to say the maybe.

Amman became real for me today as I got out into the city more. The weather has been really nice and I felt comfortable walking around the bustling streets. A bunch of us took off towards a market place to get some falafel at Mattam Hashim and the famous Kunafa of Habiba. The meals were extremely tasty and not too expensive. After that we headed back to M and M's place to wait for Annie and James to arrive. It was good to get the group together( me, james, and robert) i will miss them while they are in mafraq and i am in Amman.

I am starting to feel the jet lag kick in so I will leave on this note........I still love Amman. It has been exciting and challenging getting to know the area and talk with all sorts of people. I look forward to the rest of this week. should be interesting................................................

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jordanian Hospitality

The kindness I have been shown over the past two days has been immense. I got to Amman with 5 numbers from strangers who insist I call them if I ever need a hot meal and good conversation while in Amman. It did not surprise me to discover my hosts, the al-Issa family, were just as kind and wonderful. Abdullah, his daughter joud, and Annie were there to meet me at the airport and Abdullah insisted on going to the cafe. I ordered the chocolate mousse and it was heaven. The water they served comes all wrapped up and purified. Due to the poor water system in Jordan I have to watch the kind of water I drink. We sat, ate, and talked for over an hour. we really were on Arab time. After dropping Annie home, I arrived at my new home and met Hamouda and Fida. Fida showed me to my room and found this freshly painted pin-striped room with brand new beds and fancy floral sheets. Fida and Joud, my auntie and little sis, did it all themselves. I spent my first evening talking with Abdullah and bonding over some yummy hummus and falafel. Amman is beginning to feel a lot like home. shukran li dyafitkom

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A new camera for jOrdon

Above is the first picture my camera has ever taken.

I decided that getting a camera for Jordan would be a good idea. This Nikon CoolPix would be the first non disposable camera I have ever had. At the beginning of my search for the perfect camera, I consulted with my very knowledgeable camera man, Tyler. I asked him, "what would be the best camera to get for Jordan?", and he responded, "how much are you will to give to the Jordanian pick pockets?" I realize there is a high probability that my Coolpix could get hijacked but I am a risk taker. I will not let this camera out of my sight.