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.