Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Desert Dream

Friday night found me staying up late, prolonging the inevitably short sleep before our vacation. The initial goal? Pack all I need into my school backpack. That led me to question how many pairs of socks I could conceivably go without. Somewhere around 3 am I finally went to bed only to wake up a few hours later. It was a long bus ride to our first stop.
Kerak. Wikipedia describes it as " of the largest crusader castles in the Levant." It sure was a large castle, though I've never really been to any castles before coming to the Middle East. What I remember is running around tunnels and walking around this ruinous artifact of history. At one point Daniel and I parkoured down to the museum looking for a model trebuchet and completely walked past it as it was rather small. The architecture was impressive. You imagine what it takes to build something of that scale in the time period.
Back onto the bus and onward to Shobak. You wouldn't believe it but Montreal exists in the Middle East! As a crusader castle with an extremely long and steep tunnel leading down to a well and eventually an exit. There was more exploring, more parkour, more picture snapping. And then the tunnel. I had a rather bright headlamp and jumped in as one of the first. Towards the head of our group was a little girl of 7. Makayla Bradford. Grandaughter of my first Arabic teacher. She is bold and ready to dive in headfirst to most things. This was not a good thing here with dark-steep-slippery tunnel. So I jumped to the head of the group and proceeded, most of the way backwards with legs perched on either side, to keep her from sliding all the way down and breaking something. We happened upon two young guys with an older man dressed in military get-up. The older man was struggling to get down, afraid perhaps. After a few times of the younger men asking us to wait I was reminded by Melanie that we speak Arabic and that I should tell him we're not in a hurry. Duh. Of course I know Arabic. Wait.... when did that happen? So on and on we went, down, deeper and darker. We finally reached the well portion of the tunnel (which was wide and tall enough for us to stand in most places) and a short walk after that on flatter ground led us to the short ladder up. Little Makayla couldn't reach one of the rungs and came back down. Melanie suggested I carry her up on my back. I've not  felt stronger and better than when I carried that little girl up the ladder on my back. I then started snapping pictures of everyone else as they popped up out of the dark tunnel and into bright daylight. Danny did a heel click out of the well.
Back up the hillside and onto the bus.
Our next stop is Little Petra and (big?) Petra. There's a small bedouin town next to the entrance to big Petra, where we stayed in a small hotel. Before checking in we stopped a couple sites to see a giant sandstone well basin where the rock was carved on the mountain side to drain rainwater all into this giant carved out basin. Dil, our program director, makes it a point that whenever we have a large group in any big room, we sing a hymn or two. So we sang. The hotel's dinner was nice enough. Nothing too fancy. Much better than the trip food we packed for ourselves... Cookies and fig-filled stuff. After dinner a group of us headed into town for exploring and water buying. We found a few young kids playing soccer in a small dirt lot with a mostly flat ball. After walking by we decided to walk back and play some soccer. The next 30 mins or so was an intense soccer game that kept accruing more players as word spread. Foreigners have come to play soccer with us! It was a great time. Dust flew and a flat ball moved quickly back and forth between two sides. One side didn't have a clear goal but we knew that whenever it flew past the goalie it was in. Even on a full stomach it was a fun game. My favorite memory from it was watching a little kid, no more than a few feet tall, get knocked over by our TA Jordan. As quickly as he fell over she whisked him back up. I'm sure he was fine but Jordan felt so bad. We definitely teased her awhile after that.
Danny and I roomed together in both hotels. Our teachers made room assignments for our two bed rooms. I don't know where he got it from but I guess every time he goes to a hotel he counts down and jumps into the bed first thing. So we did just that. Next thing was a nice hot shower. What a luxury! A bright and early start had us walking down the the park entrance for Petra. Our tour guide is a knowledgeable man who has guided BYU groups for a number of years now. I don't know how many of us truly enjoyed the potential knowledge we could get from him... I didn't particularly enjoy the time spent waiting as he explained things... but then again there were some things I wouldn't have noticed or understood had he not said anything. We walked down the Seeq(slot canyon?) down to the treasury, cameras in hand. Coming up to the treasury was an exciting moment. You see pictures on the internet, watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and just imagine what it'd be like to walk up to this amazing structure. My Facebook has the pictures to attest my experience but I'll likely appreciate this memory much more when I return to the States, unable to be so close to such a wonder. The Treasury itself is massive. The detail and symmetry of its structure impresses the mind of how much love was put into this art by its creators. This and most other carved structures in Petra were mausoleums, or tombs for fallen soldiers, and notable people. And there was no shortage of them either. You could hike, climb, and meander over to hidden tombs all throughout the hills of Petra. Which I did. One of my favorite spots was the garden tomb. Above it just a short hike was what players of Skyrim would say is a "word wall" I made sure and told my little sister Becky about this as soon as I got back to my laptop and uploaded the pictures. Up here near this enclave was a carved out pit in which a large green tree was growing. In a desert there is still life and you will find it if you look. We started at probably 7-8 in the morning and I didn't leave the park until 6 at night. My legs were extremely sore by the end of this adventurous day. Another magnificent site was the Monastery. A good 2-3 mile hike away from the Treasury up so many stairs. Past small stands run by Bedouin women selling wares and gifts. "Good price, just for you." "Buy her something special, she will love you more" Inside the Monastery a group of us BYU kids sang a handful of church hymns, entertaining other tourists. One black woman from Australia came up to a couple of us expressing deep gratitude for our songs, saying how much she enjoyed them. I ate lunch a hike away from the Monastery, overlooking a vast desert expanse on one side with a deep gorge just below, and the Monastery and Petra to the other side. My lunch was meager but filling. Water and bite sized fig-filled pastries. Nearby was a large Jordanian flag flying in the wind and a Bedou tent with some man playing an instrument and singing. The craziest of adventures happened when we(the gang and I) decided we'd try and find this one overlook of the Treasury. Jordan, our TA who had come to this study abroad 2 years before and visited Petra, told of this overlook and how she and her group had found it when they came. That and a nearby Bedou man told it was just up the mountain side maybe a half hour hike. Up past some ruins, up stairs and into narrow Wadis... A few of us splintered off and decided to return to the base of the Treasury. At this point I had to go to the bathroom. But Danny, Jordan, and Tyler were headed off to look at another way, hoping to find the right path. Now Danny's become quite a friend to me these past weeks. I chose to hang out with him rather than head back. It was a good decision but I was unaware of the hiking craziness that would follow. The next hour or so had us scrambling up steep stairs and through small canyons to pop up onto what we later found out was the main trail heading to the overlook. Before finding that trail there was a couple more backtracks and dead-ends. After chancing upon this main trail we ran into Harold and Shae who'd come a different way. We yelled down to them asking about their way but just before Shae finished his second word we heard a distinct "HeeeeeeeeeHAWWWWWW HEHAW HEHAW HE HAW" echoing in the canyon. A friendly donkey happy to see us.  Eventually we found the overlook. That and a small tent and two Bedouin men cooking something for their dinner. They told us the best view was from their tent but we chose a small outcrop just below their abode. Honestly, I was very afraid to be that high up and so close to the edge... so I elected to stand back and take a few pictures of the others. Jordan, Danny, Tyler and I decided to head back and tried finding our same way back. We chose the wrong path and started climbing down a small wadi. Danny was at the head of our entourage and told us to wait while he checked ahead a short way. We hear him chuckle and say "No way" He described a giant boulder with a cliff going down maybe 100ft. So back up we go, up, up, up. We decided to head up this trail we'd chanced upon originally and ran into Shae and Harold again. After following this well-worn path a ways we found a wide set of nicely cut stairs leading downwards. The main path to the Treasury overlook. Well, the going down was easier by far but the adventure up proved to us that we could do hard things. Always a good lesson to learn. We found Sylvia at the base of the Treasury when coming back and decided to wait with her as she was alone. She'd been waiting for some others(whom we later found out had gone ahead to the hotel) but in the meantime we mingled with the little Bedou girls who tried selling us postcards for only 1 dinar. They tied our kufiyehs for us and sweet talked Tyler until he gave in. I talked with a camel and apparently insulted him as he stretched out his neck to nip at me. Just before leaving I was lucky enough to snap pictures of these two camels seemingly kissing in front of the Treasury. Photographer's dream. Danny, Jordan, and Tyler sped up a ways and I was left to have a nice chat with Sylvia before getting back to the hotel.
Another beautifully warm shower, washing my two pair of socks and two changes of underwear in the shower. Dinner. And afterwards watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with the group.(not the whole student group, but my immediate group of friends).
Wadi rum is basically a deserty place with large rock formations, small mountains if you will. Here we took a jeep/camel safari to look at the landscape and pass by Bedouin camps. Our camel ride was maybe 15-20 minutes while the jeep safari was about the same. It was a really nice day. Not too hot. My camel wasn't tied up to anyone else's camel (like some were) and they gave me the freedom (or rather the freedom of my guide, a 15 year old boy) to roam among other groups of camels. Getting on wasn't so hard as they are pretty low to the ground while laying down, but as they get up you really gotta hold on because first their back legs stand up, leaving you leaning forward really far, and then their front legs pop up. Throughout the trek I constantly learned new ways to do yoga on top of my camel to stay comfortable. I can't imagine riding a camel all day through a desert, so uncomfortable. Did I mention that this was my first time riding any type of animal for a considerable distance? I'd ridden pigs before, for about 3 seconds. Cows? Maybe 5 seconds. Never a horse. I feel accomplished. Our camels took us to a group of tents where we had probably the most delicious meal of our vacation, in the desert of all places.
Afterwards we got on the bus and headed to Aqaba. It was deserty on the way and getting more and more humid the farther south we went.
This tourist town looked remarkably similar to a California town what with its palm trees and touristy stuff.  The only difference was the beautiful white mosque near the beach, the crystal clear waters, and not to  mention the plethora of Arabs. This hotel was much fancier, with a very small rooftop pool and a Jacuzzi that lied(it was colder than a normal pool). Dinner was also on the rooftop and this time there was music. Before dinner a group of us headed out to see downtown and have a look around. Tourist shops selling knick nacks and trinkets. Nothing terribly fascinating. One of these days before I leave I still ought to get an Aladdin lamp. A small one. There was no shortage of coral jewelry either, though I didn't end up buying any of that until we were out of Aqaba and on our way back to Amman. During dinner we found ourselves sharing the roof with a group of elderly ppl, apparently out on vacation to celebrate a dear friend of theirs. They at one point got up and starting dancing. A few of the students in my group encouraged me to get up. So I did. And it was fantastic. I spent most of my evening playing ukulele or watching cartoons in Arabic.(speaking of which , first thing Danny and I did upon getting to our hotel room, besides jumping on our beds in sync, was to watch Sonic the Hedgehog in Arabic). The next morning's breakfast was pretty good. A sizable number of our group had signed up and paid for a snorkeling trip out in the gulf. We walked to the dock and onto our boat with partial glass bottom. A nice morning. Once out to the site I was one of the first out into the water. It wasn't really cold at all and extremely clear. In some depths it seemed to go down 40 ft or more but I could see clearly all the way to the bottom. Amazing. A short swim away from the boat I found a small jellyfish the size of my fist. It scared me at first. What scared me more was trying to learn how to breathe with my face underwater. I'd swam upshore with a couple other guys a ways and saw many colorful and beautiful fish... large coral reefs. A blowfish. I even picked up a small sea urchin shell that had long been vacated. It's mostly white with a tinge of pink here and there. I swam around until I found Danny again. I brought him up shore to see more fish, at which point everyone else had gone back to the boat. Lunch was provided. Kebabs, salad, bread, and hummus. Music blared and we all sunbathed and dried as we made our way back to the dock. I danced a little, did a handstand for a picture. And just enjoyed the sunshine. I made it a point once we were back to shore to get back to the hotel with enough time to rinse off in the shower before we left for Amman. The bus driver took us back by a different high way, the King's highway (our way down was by the Desert highway) and this particular road took us by the Dead sea..which is an impressive sight any time. I tried sleeping most of the trip down and back but I have no particular talent for sleeping on planes or buses. Although the whole of the trip was fantastic and never to be forgotten, there is always some amount of pleasure in returning to a place one calls home, even if this quaint Middle Eastern apartment in northern Amman is my home for only 4 months. Speaking of 4 months, I have only 6 more weeks in Amman before heading out on another adventure to spend a few weeks in Israel, or Palestine as the locals here would say. Hope you enjoyed the read.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The only thing I have

My life is not without the influence of those around me. The only piece of my reality that is independent of all is my own choice. All that leads to that choice is influenced and affected by all else, yet my decision remains my own. By this I know that my salvation, although ultimately dependent on my choice, is not mine alone but is connected to the salvation of my friends, my family and anyone I will ever or never meet.
My life is not my own. I am made of dust from the earth and dust from the stars. Life is given to me in each breath of air made possible by trees and plants all over the world. Water sustains my living while the lives of plants and animals bring me sustenance and strength. I walk among men, women, and children. Silently we share the light we’ve been given.
I am not me without you and because of you I’m made all the more me.
Never again should I consider my life without in the same thought considering those around me. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'll try and do this more consistently.

The day was a success.
I woke up at 5:45 this morning and after turning off the alarm and a few more minutes I was fast asleep again.
Try number 2. I woke up at 7:30 am to a text that was sent 5 hours earlier from America. Just in time to throw some clothes on and run out the door with a left over falafel sandwich in hand and a bandana over my bedhead. Thank you delayed texts.
This was the first time I’d actually ran to the institute (a walk which takes about 3 minutes) because a few mornings out of the week I have writing appointments with a teacher from the institute. Come prepared with a short essay on that days topic and watch as red ink floods your paper with corrections (at least mine come back like that) I don’t expect myself to become exceptional in writing essays. Today’s topic was to write a short biography on the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. I indirectly learn so much about Middle Eastern politics through my studies here.

Translate some more news columns about recent German elections. Eat my falafel. Make plans to go play bumper cars at a local mall. Oh! Time for class. The next two hours was spent with Ibrahim, our native teacher, in what is called “Issues class”. This is where we discuss contemporary issues of the area in Arabic. Today we split the class into two sides and debated the topic of religion and government. After the first half hour I think we finally understood each other’s points and began arguing about the right things as opposed to just spitting out opinions. One girl on my side, Jessica (who had come back from a mission in Thailand just over 6 months ago), reverted back into Thai at one point when she got flustered. It was AWESOME. After another hour or so classes are done and we separate into our respective routines of homework. A few days out of the week I have an hour and half speaking appointment with one of the teachers. Tasneem is a 24 year old woman who is engaged (wedding end of October) and her fiancée was just offered a job in Qatar with Al Jazeera. We talk about clothes, politics, friends, strange things about the East, photography. Recently I’ve taken a new aim in my time spent with her.
If we can rewind the clocks for a while and go back to early Spring late Winter of 2012. I’m taking Family Processes and Electrical Engineering Intro Seminar (along with some other classes) at BYU. I’ve decided the EE is really not for me and one day happened upon a book. Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. A book explaining applied Attachment theory in therapy under the name of Emotionally Focused Therapy. After catching my eye I decided to sit and thumb through it. An hour later I bought the book and it has since been that click which led me to change my major.
My principal major is Marriage and Family therapy with a focus in Emotionally Focused Therapy(EFT) (sounds cool doesn’t it!?) but you might ask how Arabic plays into all of this.
Well it didn’t, at first. I came up with a reason to learn Arabic specifically in this field of study after I finished my first semester in the language.
Attachment theory says that we form attachments, or emotional connections, with those around us. This comes in greater or lesser degrees depending on the person. In my opinion it’s one of those things that we all do and have done and will always do that it doesn’t readily come to the mind as, “Oh yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about” but after a short conversation you begin seeing the water that you’re swimming in and recognize it for what it is.
The ideas coming from this theory have helped me learn ways to better cope with depression in my own life and in how to better form healthy emotional connections with those around me. It’s helped put into perspective past failures in relationships not only with women in a romantic context but also with friends of the same (or opposite) gender.
It’s given me a great deal and I’ve fallen in love with this theory on love. (I will for the rest of my life use this pun because it’s fantastic.)
How does this fit into the whole Middle East adventure and learning one of the harder languages of the world?
Arabs are very different from Westerners. No brainwork on that one. More specifically they differ in their perspective on relationships and its priority in their personal lives. More of life revolves around making and keeping relationships among people of the East when compared to people of the West (I have my own ideas on the basis behind this difference.) I suspected from what little I read and heard about the place friendship has in their culture that these people knew how to effectively make and keep quality friendships. Do they do something differently? Coming here to Jordan has given me an opportunity to see this interaction and come up with more ideas.
Now I’m in no obvious position of influence to have clout in spreading my ideas. This has a reach far into my future, potentially as a doctorate study. Between now and then I expect myself to achieve the education and training necessary to become a practicing therapist in EFT. But within that doctorate study I would observe the processes used to form and maintain emotional connections within both a family of the United States and a family of the East (most likely Jordan). Comparing the two I suspect that because of culture there will be obvious differences. But, I believe that because the family is a basic unit of all societies and cultures the processes within will be more similar than different across varying demographics. My goal is to show that we are more similar as Westerners with those of the East than we are different. My hope is that by this we will have more opportunity to respect and appreciate one another.

There’s a nutshell for you to chew on.

As time goes on I will hopefully record more of my observations and inshallah come back to the West with something of substance within these goals.
On other notes I went down to the markets in downtown Amman and spent 4 hours with my good friend Zach just wandering the streets of Amman, talking with people and enjoying the company. We went to a café and ate delicious shwarema, walked around looking for a wicked sweet light tan leather jacket for Zach (He’s got a fantastic yet specific look he’s going for, I’m committed to helping him get this) and also just meandering. In consequence I bought myself a brown leather jacket (relatively cheap, though I didn’t haggle well enough. After his initial offer and my rebuttal he accepted quickly…showing that I could have gone cheaper) Zach found it and it really is a nice jacket. I’m one Christmas present down out of 6 for the family after a visit to a couple shops.
Yes. It was a good day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hope I Can Remember All...

Day 20
I'm still alive and doing fantastically. Besides the hot weather I have no qualms about this place. Of course hot weather will always happen so no use in complaining about that. Today is the holy day and so a few of us took the bus up to Al-Husn to meet with the Arab branch in Northern Jordan. It's about an hour trip. Then it's 2.5-3 hours of church in Arabic! It's exciting how much more I understand from week to week. Last Friday I'd made it known I could play some church hymns when after the first hour I got to that piano and played some music in between Sacrament and Sunday School. One of the branch members was prompt in asking if I'd accompany for the following week. That's exactly what I did. And it was fantastic. A couple of the other students that come to the branch with me gave talks in Arabic. Today during Sunday School I got to know the youngest man in the branch, Haadi, 16. We chatted in Jordanian for awhile. I told him how I joined the church and he talked a little about getting his patriarchal blessing yesterday. Great kid.
As for my other adventures here? I found what will be my guilty pleasure whenever I want to treat myself. There's a mall called City Mall and some of the clothing stores there sell clothes well beyond any price range I'd ever consider. But I don't go to buy them, just to touch the nice fabrics and admire well made stuff. I did find a pair of yellow pants for what would be $10 in the states. It was on sale.
Taking taxis around here is always an adventure. More often than not you find a nice driver who doesn't try to overcharge you and the ones who do, you just get right back out and find another, there are plenty. I've eaten lots of different local food (well mostly just falafel and shwarma, well also some kebab).
Let's talk about my typical day, since I'm confident Mom wants to know what happens in my life here. I wake up anywhere between 5-7 am depending on the day and eat some flatbread with cheese and honey for breakfast. Long showers are a luxury here and so when a shower does happen it's quick in and out. Some time is spent studying for class and by 8 I'm on my way to the institute, which is a short 5 minute walk down the road. Speaking appts, writing appts, then class for 2 hours with Ibrahim. This guy is SO much fun! He's short and full of life and laughter. We never go a day without laughing in his class. We take a break at about an hour and I sometimes chance the time and run down 4-5 floors to grab some falafel from a little place just outside the institute. Mmmmmm falafel. It's my taco bell of the Middle East, and if you know me, I'm all about those chicken burritos at T-bell. After class with Ibrahim it's an hour of class with our program director Dil. We spend some time griping about what's bothering us and part of the time is spent working on whatever news article we were assigned for that day. The rest of my day I usually spend in homework, going out on the town for shwarma or some new restaurant and talking with whatever random citizen I seem to pass by. Some of my favorite places here in Amman so far include :Wast ilBalad, a downtown market place. Rainbow st, the most hip/happening spot of Amman for young people (also the place to which I'll go for a sing-a-long screening of Across the Universe in a local cinema tomorrow night) Always I enjoy malls and being around clothes.
I really ought to spend more time documenting the individual adventures. That will happen more as my life has settled here.
Not my most eloquent of posts but I hope you get some small idea as to what is happening over here in my life. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day 3-4?

Day 3
Like everything foreign and I mean truly foreign, the Middle East is an acquired taste. Different in countless ways I find the only familiarity being that we are all human, oh and not to mention the KFC just up the road from my apartment, known locally as Kentucky.
I’ve woken up twice now in the mornings at around 4:30 am. The call to prayer is easier to pick out when traffic isn’t bustling down the street. This morning found me getting up at 6:30 to eat some flat bread and my left over 80 cent falafel sandwich from yesterday. The fast food here is ridiculously cheap. It’s not been two full days here in Amman and I’ve already decided which is my favorite. Reem shwarma down on the 2nd circle. I went there yesterday with our whole group on a city tour and I went again today. I can’t make promises I won’t go again before the week is out. It’d be the hotspot of the Provo food scene if they ever made it that far.
After a morning of visiting with the roomies we decided not to all roam about in a huge group but split up. Dan and I took taxis around town this first half of the day. I’ll be honest, that first taxi was a bit intimidating. This may have been my first time ever riding in a taxi, let alone in a foreign country. “Wast il-balad min fadlak” And we’re off! Jordan doesn’t have much regulation when it comes to transportation. Lanes? Nope. Traffic lights? I think I’ve seen one so far. Crosswalks? Anywhere you can frogger across the road and not get hit. As for the drivers it seems a miracle I’ve not seen an accident, though the people are so aware of all the other cars, then again it’s kind of hard to miss someone when they’re honking at you. I wonder what they think when they come to America, “Why are people not using their horns?”
Wast il-balad is down town, and it really is down. Most of Amman is built on hills with small valleys all around. Downtown is kind of the center of all these valleys. We’d visited yesterday with the group but decided to come back in a pair as it made perusing much easier. No shopping today, just getting a feel for the area and what kinds of wares are being bartered. There was a nice little clothes shop we stopped in, they had a nice vest in the window. The owner, Khaled, offered some of his lunch to us as we came in, “La shukran”. The next half hour was spent learning about his family and how his grandfather rode a camel to Yemen and married his grandmother, why? Because he was a soldier in the Ottoman military. Oh, ok.. It was fantastic watching and listening to Dan comfortably converse. I’d piped in a few words but didn’t get much going. Dan mentioned wanting to see the Roman amphitheater again. Down the sidewalk and around the corner and, look at that, found it! 2 Dinars later and we’re climbing around the steep steps of these ruins. Quick peruse through the museum and we meet a family from Nablus. They noticed we were American and the usual “Welcome to Jordan, Welcome welcome” but after my “ahlan wasahlan” they excitedly came back with their whole family and introduced themselves. One man took my hand and showed me around the museum for a short while. The hospitality is fantastic.
From downtown you can see an old Roman citadel and from where we were it looked like a short hike up to the grounds. A good hike later around some abandoned buildings and we’re walking around the citadel grounds. Apparently you had to pay to get in… No one checked for our tickets. Also it seems we stumbled upon the temple of Hercules. Here we met a few Yemeni women and their son Adan. Bold little 4 year old, he walked up and plopped right in between the two of us where he sat while his mom/ family member took pictures of us. We also met some fellow students who are here studying Arabic through a different program. So I decided before coming to Jordan that this would be a dry spell for me in a matter of dating, getting girls numbers… and it still will be. But I did manage to get this girls number, Jade, from Minnesota. This was in case we decided to go to Wadi Mujib and so we could invite them.
At this citadel we found a Roman temple, an old Byzantine church, and an Umayyad mosque. What?! And an old bronze age cave too.
Day 4
After indulging in a siesta earlier today I find myself a bit of an in insomniac today. Well that or I’m still in my first week of jet lag. I do count my lucky stars I’m still so young. Like a new spring I bounce back no problem.
Our apartment is large enough to hold almost two full sets of living room furniture. We have a guest visiting area and a living room/dining room separated by what could be a draped entrance. After exploring more of the souq I may as of yet invest in a curtain. I’m currently lounging on one of our living room couches with my trusty sock monkey. The sounds of the night include a constant thrum of university street(whose actual name isn’t university) full of people coming and going. Down 5 floors and outside the front door is a lounge outdoor/indoor where men both young and old sit to watch soccer, drink coffee and smoke hookah. Last night a few of us ventured down there to discover that they also play  cards though I couldn’t tell what games they were playing. I did see one familiar game, whose name I’ll tell when I remember… BACKGAMMON! Also, 7 Dinar for 4 mango drinks and 4 small waters? A bit pricy but we’re foreigners so it seems right. We’ve quickly learned that 5 dinar to anywhere by taxi is a downright rip off. Most places can be reached in around 2 dinar which translates to $3-$3.50. Today was full. Wonderful and fantastic.
MouGaDarab (adventures) I’m getting used to being up by 7 am and eating a small breakfast. Today we walked down to Qasid (institute where we are taking classes) just after 9 and did internet and a bit of studying before class at 10. Ibrahiim, my native teacher for the semester is a funny guy. Short and full of life, this man made sure our first class was entertaining. That or the exhaustion and clear lack of preparation left us near lost as we navigated fusha in our introductions, making us feel like we were back in 101. Alhamdulillah. We know some Arabic. I did manage to talk about girls when listing my hobbies, to which Ustaaz Ibrahim replied with Haraam!(forbidden) probably not something I should be vocal about in public. I would hate to be considered a ladies man out here… bad bad name. Though he said it partially in jest I took note. By 12 I was already crashing, just in time for our class with Dil. So much talking, so much information and opportunity to feel overwhelmed. It took a bit to not want to sleep through it. But we made it. I sometimes think he likes to intimidate us.
Falafel sandwiches after classes and a bit of blogging.
It seems to get dang hot here in the afternoons. Not much worse than Provo but still, anything in the lower 48 of the US is hot for me. I came home and napped after downing 2/3 falafel wraps. It was SUCH a good idea. My headache left and I was ready to rock!
While waiting for a couple of the girls to take a taxi out to rainbow st we sat in front of Qasid and chatted up with a café owner there on the main floor. His friend, a taxi driver, knew a bit of English from foreigners and talked a little with us. He asked a couple times if we drank coca cola, sometimes… So the café owner opened up 4 and brought each of us a bottle. Guess we bought them. While leaving I asked how much and he insisted they were free. When Arabs do this, and they will near constantly with some foreigners, you must insist a few times. How far you insist and how much they push seems a delicate balance of decency. It’d be rude to accept this generosity outright yet forcing the money and finalizing the transaction seems to impersonal and Arabs are anything but impersonal, try having a conversation and not feel like your personal bubble’s still intact.
The taxi friend offered to get us a taxi and said he found a great deal of 5 dinar down to the rainbow st. No way! I negotiated it down to 3 dinar, mostly because I knew it’d be about 2-2.50.
This driver we went with was kind of funny. It was Daniel, MJ, Jessica and I so I got front seat.  We talked about this and that and after I decided to comment on how I need to get married he began telling me how many of Jordanian women were the best. Whenever we drove by one he would slow down and point them out telling me, “There! See! Beautiful!” He also insisted we marry at least 4 women. Daniel asked how he could deal with that many in one house and he explained that you can only do that with one for each woman. Fun conversation. As we got out he told me I should marry his sister, la shukran (no thank you). Perhaps in another life. Rainbow st. Definitely the place of the shabaab, the young and hip of Jordan. If you’re from the northern Midwest US I’d say it’s like state street in Madison, Wisconsin or center st in Provo if you’re familiar with that, which is still pretty accurate since all three have hookah shops (Whats so hip about hookahs?? I’m thinking mini-oud is the next big thing)
Wandering Rainbow st is a great pass time. It’s easy for me to exchange pleasantries with random strangers, mostly when they look friendly, which is most of the Arabs I’ve met. Out in front of a coffee shop I met Gamal (means camel) a young man from Egypt. Alhamdulillah I know Egyptian Arabic! After a good chat he wanted to exchange numbers so we could get together sometime. Woohoo! Made a friend! Jessica and MJ poked fun after walking away saying we’d soon be holding hands walking around rainbow st. (I realize how homosexual that sounds, especially since it’s rainbow st. but in the mind of Arab men their expressions must be louder and more obvious to reach the person down inside the body (no personal bubble) and so shows of friendship and affection are more than we ever would consider normal) Just the night before at the lounge near our apartment I was watching some young men play cards and when they got up to leave two of them held each other in a hand shake half hug and kissed each others cheek at least 5 times (kind of a hold each others face close to the other and kiss the air, not necessarily the skin) Drastically different. Anything less than the overt expressions and they assume there is not relationship. Perhaps I’ll feel strange after a couple weeks but so far it’s not so bad, no one’s tried to kiss me. I’m happy to enjoy the culture from where I’m at.

We finished the night with another visit to Reem shwarema and a taxi ride taking the girls home. I’m really glad I’ve got Daniel. He’s been to Morocco for a month last summer and kind of knows what’s what and his Fusha is mumtastic(Excellent) Not afraid to get in there and explore. He also shares in my love for shwarma. Hopefully he doesn’t tire of me soon because I have a feeling we’ll become good friends. Already we’ve boldy ventured back into wast il-balad (downtown market) and conversed with random store owners, stormed the roman citadel after exploring the roman amphitheatre, found some sweet secret fantasticalities of this beautiful city. Alhamdulillah ashkur ‘ala arrub! Hopefully now I can go to sleep with my day’s adventures logged away.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Days 1-2?

Aug 25
As we are getting ready to land in Amman I consider what I'm bringing with me.
What little faith I've left myself with coming into this adventure, the one suit case, laptop, the yellow pants and a tweed blazer (In the desert?!) What will I take home from this foreign land? What new perspectives? Strengths? Weaknesses? Experiences? What I bring home is up to me, that's my responsibility.

Aug 25 Night
Flying over the Mediterranean to see the shore of the holy land was fantastic! Tel Aviv, Israel with all the ,struggles, contention and so on. Tonight we ventured to the Mukhtar mall down the road for groceries, food and general exploration. The streets are busy, men are out in the cafes watching soccer and smoking.
Finding the food court at the mall took us upwards 4 floors and it seemed almost like an american mall besides everyone being brown, the men are smoking and no one is speaking english. I ordered a chicken sandwich from Crispy Chicken while my buddy Daniel got a mexi pizza from another burger joint. I tried chatting with the young guy standing out front of the counter and he talked really quiet, that or I've just got bad hearing. He asked if I was from Turkey and when I said America he started telling me a few things about vacationing I think. After sharing a meal I decided to wander around the food court and found some gelato. The guy selling it was actually Egyptian, at LAST! I know this dialect. We chatted for a short time in between his making coffee. I admit that this coffee smelled great and looked smooth and delicious.
Then on to the grocery store a couple floors down.

Aug 26 Afternoon

Trying to stay awake, it's 6:30 in the morning back in Utah. Even though I got a solid nights sleep last night. Funny story. Back in the states I've made this mistake twice of buying conditioner because it was cheaper than shampoo only to realize when I get home that it wasn't shampoo. Back at the mall last night? Same mistake, different language and different coutnry.
Today's adventure included a bus ride around Amman and a stop at the best shwarma I've ever had. The most I've accomplished in a matter of the language is a bit of small talk here and there with locals. Today I met Yad in front of the shwarma stand. He looked like he worked for the government. I guess we're halfway through the day and the rest of today will be spent getting some go-phones, some pots and pans, and maybe review some Arabic. And it looks like the rest of my apartment is ready to get out of here.... I think some of us are a bit stir crazy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Already I feel the building anticipation and fear of the unknown. How seriously did I consider this aspect of my adventure? Really not at all. My only thoughts towards this decision in the beginning were how amazing the experience would be, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the Holy Land. It's taking me days to clean up and pack, though I'm sure had I waited until tomorrow it would have all gotten done.
I'm nervous. Arabic? Did I really just start learning this a year ago? And now I'm diving into the Middle East to learn more of this strange language from those we Americans have come to fear.
I understand these anxieties are natural and expected. Whenever such challenges come my way I think how it'll be no problem, I'll face them and push onward.
In the meantime I'm watching movies and considering what I think I can do without when it comes to packing for this adventure. It's good I already enjoy minimalism in my life.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Because I need to

Today I'm glad there was food I could eat for breakfast. Leftovers from last night's dinner with Grainger.
I'm definitely grateful for this $25 Wal-Mart fan which helps me sleep in this hot apartment.
I have fun clothes to wear, so today I wore all green.
I have a hard copy of the Book of Mormon.
There was enough money for me to 1. Get a replacement phone when my old one cracked 2. continue eating the way I do as a college student 3. have a car 4. take said car up to Logan to see Micah and Rachel's baby blessing 5. Take a nice young girl to dinner tonight
My Mom loves me and has wonderful patience for my challenges and when I need someone to chat with.
This past weekend I got an unexpected text with some very encouraging words. Such nice things were said.

I need to write all of this and see it because for too long have I built up frustration and angst. Too many days have passed without my resolving my conflicts with God. Of course in the end all will fall into place. But for now I'm a child frustrated with His Father, trying to understand the course of events and their purpose.

I'm glad my roommates are good people.
I have good relations with my manager and supervisor at work. My classmates in Arabic are also good people.
I'm surrounded by good people.

This particular pair of shoes I'm wearing right now were miraculous in their own right.
In the beginning of my mission I found a very nice nearly new pair of brown Dockers dress shoes. They were at a popular mid-western thrift store. One of my favorite pairs of shoes, I wore them throughout my mission and eventually had to throw them out. Within the last six months of my mission I was in another thrift store hundreds of miles away where I found another pair of the exact same shoes. Very nice and nearly new and rather inexpensive. God knows I like brown shoes.

Already I'm feeling better. Already the clouds start to fall even though disappointment and frustration still linger. God has control. He loves me and knows my particular problems. And that's ok because He understands.
I think I'm ready to go to my appointment with the Bishop now. Ten minutes ago I definitely wasn't.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Describe Yourself in 100 Words or Less

It's been said that actions speak louder than words. What does this mean in a digital world where words are often all we have to judge by? Pictures give some vitality to the words in a caption and we know that a picture is worth a thousand words. What about videos? Instagram recently included a video option to their popular photo blogging app. So here we have thousands of words being expressed in short videos.
But how do you capture a human being in words? After spending a lifetime with close friends and family, can you with confidence accurately depict even one of those people in words? Perhaps with the help of some pictures in an old album or maybe with home videos can you begin to paint a picture in someone else's mind.
And yet, the description never does seem to justify all that this human being is.
This is where we are in the digital world; at odds against an impossible task of giving some inclination as to who we are in a 100 words or less and maybe a few photos or videos. The framework of social networks limit the human being in description. Because of their popularity we have stampeded towards these in hope of fulfilling whatever promises we may think exist. In glancing at the doorway into this world we see one size to fit all. It doesn't matter how magnificent or amazing you might be, you must attempt to depict yourself in 100 words or less just like every other person wanting to go through this door.
What do you bring with you? What do you leave out? Why are you censoring your own being? Doesn't matter when the party on the other side of that door is going on. And yet it does.
Before coming to the door of that digital party we will have conditioned ourselves to live within the limits of that door. But is that who you really are?
Though I might be able to show you a picture of my smile it doesn't mean that you will get to see what my face looks like as I smile. A girl I dated once told me how she loved that part of my lip caught on my teeth as I smiled. This is a small but important example.
If some aspects of your humanity escape the extreme criticism of your mind it doesn't mean they don't exist. Who you are isn't simply defined by what you think of yourself (though it takes the most precedence). Your being is defined also by the perception of those around you. If all anyone sees of you is your Facebook profile picture and a 100 words of less of what you think you are, how narrow is their perception of you?
After reading that the next question is why bother thinking about this?
There is danger in limiting our perspective on who you are. When we begin to define ourselves simply in terms of our fascination with photography or with what we find mildly amusing on the internet then we limit who we are. When those few things begin to disappoint us what else is there to make us happy? And what if you simply can't express your queer interest in how dancing makes you feel because words feel constricting?
Attempting to funnel your being into a such a concise definition endangers your self-perception because what you think becomes who you are. Don't let taglines, status updates, About Me's or even photo albums limit who you are. You are a human being, and even more, you are a child of God. Imagine trying to describe that in a 100 words or less.

Monday, July 22, 2013

For Love, the Cure

As it is written, "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:39)
Doing anything for Jesus Christ or for His sake is to, " . . . love one another. . ." (John 13:34) and so when we lose our life for His sake it is meant that we are to lose our lives in the service of others.
Whenever you are hurt emotionally there is great temptation to withdraw and focus inward; a natural reaction yet debilitating and potentially destructive. The problem is that emotional pain comes when love meets no return. As you withdraw and build walls to insulate from the pain you also barricade yourself against the cure.
In turning outward and seeking to help another we are giving love and in return we will be loved, either by our Father in Heaven or by those we help. In loving and being loved we are cured of our emotional wounds. This process never starts until the individual decides to try.
There is real risk in giving to someone who seemingly has nothing to give you or potentially has nothing by which you can benefit. But this is a lie. All who live are capable of love. It is within each of us as children of God and should be if all were commanded to give it.
With prayer any of us can begin to heal from emotional pain by seeking that person who today needs our love.
And think how much stronger, happier, and pleased will you be when it wasn't you who waited for help but instead sought and helped another.

Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,
I found him by the highway side.
I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
Revived his spirit, and supplied
Wine, oil, refreshment--he was healed.
I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

When I First Decided

8 years ago I decided to live my life for God. It was a promise I made in order to be happy. Simply said, I decided that I was going to be happy. There is a truth and after learning about it I decided it was time to be happy. Despite my mistakes and problems I'd faced, it was time to be happy.

That was the decision of my baptism. Letting go of hopeless despair and depression.

The embrace of hope for, "...whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world..."

I think it's about time I've had enough of depression and pain. Of course I sometimes feel as though I left the woman of my dreams. No doubt I have a hard time believing that another will come into my life.

But it's about time. God lives. Jesus Christ lives. They're alive. I can believe in them because somewhere in all of the universe, they live.

While I am still alive it's time to be happy again. I did this for me. I did this because You live.
Eventually I found more reason to keep the promise but it started out with me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Time to Pass

Summer's practically here in Utah as far as I'm concerned. The temperature has reached the peak of 80-85 degrees and we've had a bit of rain and cloudy days.
Unfortunately it seems to get hotter than expected. I'm unused to the heat and sunshine. I wonder if growing up in Alaska made me a hermit of sorts. No that can't be it. The weather down here must be broken.

I'm here in Provo with two hands full of time. Not entirely. A large portion of that time should be spent studying Arabic. Not always does that happen. Recently "not always" has been defined as almost always. But that's just the past few days.

It's one of those ruts. I've found a seemingly ideal living situation with a good friend and a change of scenery possiblized greater productivity. That was the case for a few days and now I face the challenge of too much time on my hands without a plan.

After some Netflix and a couple favorites in time-wasting websites I've decided to re-start and try this whole being productive thing once more, not for the last time I imagine. Horse of habit.

Blogging! That will help me reflect and decide to take responsibility for my lack of responsibility. So it does. Where's my journal? Oh right, still stuck somewhere in January of last year. This might be the time to fix that.

I found throughout my mission that keeping a journal reminded me daily of where I was at personally. I had no where to hide when each night I recounted what happened and what I thought. What a great thing!

I'm sure someone will be interested to hear what I think about the Arabic language as I'm studying it.

On good notes from the day I had my first speaking appointment with Mohammad from Sinai, Egypt. It was fantastic! Understanding grammar and picking apart sentences is invaluable for proficiency but when I have someone to talk with I do feel more useful. He complimented me saying that I spoke it very well. WOOHOO!! I must be doing something right (except the past few days of not really studying).

I also went swimming this morning. How could I forget that I've not exercised properly for some months now. That or swimmers are super humans. I'm not so sure but being that I breakdance I imagine that they indeed are super human. I'm going to do it again in the morning.

As for breakdancing. With how much time I seem to have this is something I need to be doing. That and playing my ukulele.

Somewhere in all of this mix I'll go out with friends and the occasional date.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bibliography for "Primed for Addiction"

Works Cited
Aaron, K. "Is Porn Bummig You Out?" Is Porn Bumming You Out? 2011.Web. <>.
Ak, S., N. Koruklu, and Y. Yilmaz. "A Study on Turkish Adolescent's Internet use: Possible Predictors of Internet Addiction." Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 16.3 (2013): 205. Print.
Cooper, A. "Sexuality and the Internet: Surfing into the New Millenium." CyberPsychology and Behavior 1.2 (2009): 187. Print.
Edwards, Catharine. The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome.Cambridge University Press, 1993. p. 65. Print.
Fiorino, Dennis F., Ariane Coury, and Anthony G. Phillips. "Dynamic Changes in Nucleus Accumbens Dopamine Efflux during the Coolidge Effect in Male Rats." The Journal of Neuroscience (1997)Print.
"Is Porn Harmful?" October 16 2012 2012.Web. <>.
Karaiskos, D., et al. "Social Network Addiction: A New Clinical Disorder?" European Psychiatry 25 (2010): 855. Print.
Krach, S., et al. "The Rewarding Nature of Social Interactions." Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 4.22 (2010)Print.
"Statistics on Cocaine Addiction." Cocaine Addiction.Web. <>.
Steiger, S., et al. "The Coolidge Effect, Individual Recognition and Selection for Distinctive Cuticular Signatures in a Burying Beetle." Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences 22 (2008): 1831. Print.
Sun, Chyng, et al. "Comparison of Male & Female Directors in Pornography: What Happens when Women are at the Helm?" Psychology of Women Quarterly 32.3 (2008): 312-25. Print.
Volkow, N. D., et al. "Relationship between Subjective Effects of Cocaine and Dopamine Transporter Occupancy." Nature.836 (1997): 827-30. Print.

Primed for Addiction?

            With the number of smartphone users increasing by leaps and bounds every year it is evident that the fastest growing market is in our very own pockets. The basis of this new gadgetry relies heavily on what we have come to call “apps.” These are downloaded onto smartphones and benefit the user in a myriad of ways from finding the best Thai restaurant nearby to translating the menu at said restaurant. From, a website that compiles and collects statistics, we find that in just two years from 2010 to 2012 the number of smartphone users has doubled to nearly 120 million in the United States (eMarkter). As of January 2013 Apple iTunes offers approximately 775,000 apps to an iPhone user which has grown from approximately 800 in July 2008, just one year after the release of the original iPhone (Costello). Out of these apps estimates that 24.9% are for entertainment, 16.7% are for lifestyle, and 3.5% are for social networking. It takes little observation to note the difference in daily life since the advent of the smartphone. With this tidal wave of technological change we are seeing consequences. The good we have become keenly familiar with, but what about the negative effects? Radical yet subtle changes are happening in our society as social media becomes more readily accessible to the masses. As we explore other technological advances within the last thirty years we will begin to see what kinds of negative effects are happening.
            One such advance in technology that has brought with it a negative consequence is the pervasive relationship between the Internet and pornography. As long as humans have existed there has been pornography. Rome’s history was inundated with pornography in various forms ranging from the simple artwork depicted in buildings to the lavish whorehouses (Edwards 65). The difference between then and today is the Internet, or in other words with the advent of the Internet came increased anonymity, affordability, and availability which caused a flood of voyeurism. It is estimated by many that the adult entertainment industry skyrocketed from $75 million in 1985 to nearly $12 billion in 2005 (Sun et al.) What that figure is today remains uncertain as a majority of this industry operates underground. Internet statistics report that every second there are about 28,000 users who are viewing pornography (Sun et al.) A writer for Men’s Health commented on a study in Norway on couples and pornography use saying, “…Porn is fine—and can even be good for your relationship—as long as you’re not replacing real intimacy with virtual sex” (Aaron.) But is there harm? Another writer for Men’s Health wrote in an article exploring the harm of pornography the following:
The distinction between casual and problematic use may have less to do with frequency and more with masturbation. “The big kicker that people leave out of the equation is the ejaculatory response,” says Struthers. “This is what really stores the memory. When you have an orgasm, there’s a release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, presumably to bind you to your partner. If you’re viewing pornography, your partner is the screen in front of you.”
There are obviously some choices made on the perspective taken when asked the question of whether or not pornography is detrimental. With the development of brain scan technology many scientists have eagerly peeked into the processes of the brain in hopes of better understanding why we do what we do and answer some of these questions.
As highly addictive drugs became detrimental to society health officials anxiously used brain scans to reveal the chemical processes behind addiction in hopes of finding new ways to treat it. One of these highly addictive substances is cocaine and since its rise in popularity state and federal government in the United States had made it illegal because of its harmful consequences. Brain scans on those addicted show impairment in specific areas of the brain, particularly those which deal in dopamine. But what is dopamine? William Struthers in his book How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain writes this about dopamine:
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in the mesolimbic system that coordinates all natural reinforcing behaviors (eating, drinking, sex). It is also the primary neurotransmitter that most addictive drugs are known to release. Dopamine plays an important role in reinforcement and is part of the reason why craving occurs. Sometimes referred to as a pleasure chemical, dopamine focuses our attention on things that have significance to us (Struthers 100-101).
Cocaine blocks the reuptake of this neurotransmitter and causes a sustained high. Consistent flooding by dopamine causes the brain to adjust and become desensitized to more than normal levels. More stimulation is needed to further achieving this high and addiction ensues.  Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and Addiction said in an interview with The New York Times that addictions all boil down to dopamine (Volkow). When we anticipate satiation of hunger or thirst the chemical dopamine is released and encourages us to keep moving towards the goal. Where this connects to pornography is through the idea of the Coolidge effect.
            The Coolidge effect is the progressive decline in a male's propensity to mate with the same female combined with a heightened sexual interest in new females. During mating season the alpha male of a pack will mate with every female until they’ve all been fertilized because of this phenomenon. Dopamine is the driving force within the brain of the male, causing him to mate even until exhaustion. Each time a new and potentially ready female is present there comes a spike in dopamine causing the male to seize the opportunity. This effect has been observed in a study on the burying beetle in the Proceedings of the Royal Biological Society (Steiger et al.) and in The Journal of Neuroscience in a study on male rats (Fiorino et al.). Though essential for survival it can be said that the old adage, “Too much of a good thing can be bad” rings true, especially here.  The popularity of Internet pornography thrives under this principle of dopamine spikes within the brains neural pathways. Online pornography functions as the medium by which a man is presented with endless potential mates. The novelty of a new mate kicks the dopamine levels in his brain telling him to seize the opportunity while it’s here. If what Volkow said about addiction is true then prolonged use of online pornography will desensitize the brain just as cocaine did through a constant flood of dopamine. A neural pathway is forged in the brain causing a behavioral addiction, much like a stream that cuts into a river and eventually a canyon. For those who experience addiction there is a sense that control is lost, they are subject to the addiction and have no choice but to satisfy the craving. At this moment there are 28,000 Internet users viewing pornography (Sun et al.). Cocaine addiction help websites cite a statistic saying there are 5000 people trying cocaine for the first time every day, presumably in the United States. It seems apparent that pornography has addicted the masses and science explains that it is through the same process that cocaine addicts the brain. Why is pornography use vastly more prevalent? It is anonymity, affordability, and availability. It is practically free and can be accessed from a smartphone anywhere there is connection to the Internet. Are there other potentially addictive aspects of the Internet so readily available to the masses? If it deals in dopamine then chances are it will be addictive. Let us look at the example of social relationships.
            Dr. Sue Johnson, a leading voice for attachment theory and the application thereof, has commented on a natural necessity many have overlooked. While searching for the cause of death amongst otherwise healthy orphans in post-WWII she came to the conclusion that many were dying out of emotional starvation. In her book Hold Me Tight, a course for application of these findings, she further establishes that we make emotional connections with each other out of necessity, without which we suffer. An obvious detriment appears when there is a lack of this connection, as shown by Johnson. A necessity to life such as this must be driven by a dopamine process in our brain because the physiological rewards are obvious. On the opposite end of the spectrum it is apparent that we don’t make close emotional connections with everyone we meet, signs that this dopamine signal stops at a point when we’ve had enough. There are those who are outgoing and tend to befriend everyone, but as for the emotional connections mentioned in Hold Me Tight, we keep a select few. Can too many connections be a bad thing?
Social networking sites have thrived under this basic human need to connect. Given license to connect with potentially thousands of friends, Facebook is a hotspot for dopamine kicks. A study done on Turkish adolescents attempting to discover predictors of Internet addiction found that when it was used for entertainment and social communications then there was high probability of addiction (Ak et al.). The validation of constant instant communication can become addicting, as suspected by European psychiatrist Karaiskos who treated a woman that showed many symptoms similar to that of a drug addict. Karaiskos found that the woman remained home most of the day spending approximately 5 hours/day checking her Facebook webpage. After 8 months of Facebooking she had over 400 friends and ceased many of her usual activities. She lost her job as a waitress because she repeatedly checked her Facebook on her phone. Karaiskos noted that:
According to the prevailing view regarding addiction, Facebook addiction can be considered as an “urge-driven disorder” with a strong compulsive component. Although our patient had been using Internet for the past 7 years she had never been previously addicted to Internet use. We suggest that Facebook addiction may be another subcategory of the Internet spectrum addiction disorders. (Karaiskos)
This woman’s problem came not when she first got the Internet, but when she first subscribed to Facebook. But wait, can we become addicted to almost anything? Anything that deals with dopamine, as Volkow, director of the NIDA, said. What other new social media are we readily consuming that have potentially negative consequences? Let us examine a relatively new app for the iPhone and determine if there are any trends.
            Tinder is a relatively new social media app available to the iPhone. Introduced in October of 2012 it advertises anonymity and efficiency in connecting the young and single. Using photos from one’s Facebook account, their interests, and age, it connects users to potential partners in a set area around their location. Much like Grindr or the old website HotorNot it is visually based. Because it is a dating app users will be showing attractive pictures of themselves in hopes of finding a relationship. In this way it is similar to pornography and in some users’ cases it could be considered “soft porn” depending on their choice of pictures. The dopamine receptors within the brain of those using the app are likely following the same patterns as were shown previous. When opened, the app shows a picture of someone their age, first name and a short “about me” section. The user is given the option of liking or disliking the person and a new profile is shown. When two users have a mutual “like” then connection is made and they’re given the option to chat within the app. Much like in Facebook, the user is experiencing a social validation when a mutual “like” occurs. In a highlight review titled The Rewarding Nature of Social Interactions, Soren Krach explains that the same dopamine process associated with non-social stimuli such as food or psychostimulant drugs are involved in those social stimuli, such as interacting with friends (Krach et al.). The fact that Tinder is free, practically anonymous, and easily accessible gives is the same premise under which potential addiction ensues, just as with Internet pornography. Tinder estimates that within the first two months of release more than 35 million ratings were shared and over 1 million matches made (Empson). With that many users we are seeing nearly a third of all smartphone users trying out a relatively new dating app, and just within the first two months. Seven months later we can expect that number to have increased and continue to increase. The initial target customer for Tinder has been college students as its test run was on a California college campus, but what are the implications as that customer base extends to high school and even middle school? Understanding what these and many other new apps are doing to our brains is important if we are to be prepared for the changes happening in our society.
            The rise in app technology will continue as technology simplifies the process of creating new apps. Smartphones are becoming more widespread and will continue just as the apps made for them. The explosive expansion of Facebook and Internet pornography are just two examples of how new media is tapping into the potentially addictive dopamine processes in our brains. Without understanding how we are affected by the media we consume there remains the possible future in which we become more and more addicted to entertainment in its various forms, whether its pornography or social networking. As noted earlier there are those currently searching for answers to these questions and seeking to understand the impact social networking sites such as Facebook are having on the public, but only in response to problems they see in clients who come to them for help. In anticipation of continued consumption of apps like Tinder and many of the other 775,000 apps available to just iPhone users, one out of many smartphone operating systems, we can expect consequences through overconsumption. It is imperative that we understand the consequence of being inundated by this flood of technology that surrounds the rising generations.