Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jenni, this one's for you

So, it's a little past midnight, and I was about to go to bed, when I remembered that I promised Jenni Boyle that I'd start up my blog again (yes, it was that popular). And so I stayed up for fifteen extra minutes to keep my word. In fact, I'm even going to include a picture.

This is me on top of the world. I feel great. I feel good. Jordan was an awesome, wonderful experience that taught me a lot about what this world has to offer and what this world needs. I felt what it was like to not have constant access to the internet, an iPod, a nice gym, running, running water, a toilet, or clean clothes. Lately, at BYU, in addition to the million other things that I'm doing, I've gotten involved with an internship through Students for Social Entrepreneuring where we are helping a company involved in providing loans for poor students in South America.

I've recently found out about social entrepreneurship. Basically, you use markets and basic economic principles to provide services to the poor instead of just giving them handouts. For example, Vittana, the company that I work for, connects people around the world with students needing loans on their website, www.vittana.org. People can make a loan for as little as $25, and the students get the money to finish to school and eventually pay back the loans. It's an awesome concept- using the resources of normal people to help those who are less fortunate.

I'm seriously considering a career in international development. When I was on my mission, I decided that whatever I was going to do was going to be as close to missionary work as possible. Being involved in helping overcome the problems of the world- no matter how insignificant my efforts are- is the closest thing that I've found. Life is beautiful. Profitons-en.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The End

Well, I feel that I ought to close out (this section of) my blog with some sort of grandiose, thought-provoking summary of my experience. I think I'll start off with a list of things that I missed from America (in no particular order):

  1. My Pandora stations
  2. Running
  3. Milk and cookies
  4. Normal interactions with females
  5. Toilet seats
  6. Things that are green
  7. My family and friends
However, that being said, let me now list the things that I will miss about Jordan:
  1. The falafel sandwiches from the falafel shop in Salhiyya
  2. Not having to shower for several days on end
  3. Mansef, Maglouba, and Kibsa (Arabic dishes)
  4. The kids that I taught English to/the Egyptian bread workers
  5. Muzzeins (the guys who do the Islamic call to prayer- it's really beautiful)
  6. Working out on top of the roof at midnight and seeing the stars (I'm romantic, aren't I?)
  7. Going to Church at the al-Husn branch
  8. Being mistaken for John Cena
Ok, just because there are eight things in the Jordan list does not mean that I miss Jordan more than I enjoy being in America- in my opinion, the seven American things are qualitatively better than the Jordan eight. I did, however, love my time in Jordan. Despite the frustrations of trying to do an internship where there was no work to be done, I loved the culture, the people, and the food. I really think Americans could learn something from throwing time out the window from time to time and start building relationships Arab style. Hopefully I'll be able to go back sooner or later.

Maybe I'll update my blog in the future. I don't know yet. I created it for the Jordan internship, and that's over. But thanks for following me this summer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yeh hosers...

I haven't showered since Friday night. Cyrus hasn't showered since Friday afternoon. Robert showered on Saturday, but he rode a camel today and is therefore probably dirtier than Cyrus and I combined. So, we were all rather overjoyed to come home tonight and to (separately) take a shower. Well, I didn't really care, but Cyrus and Robert were. That was, they were overjoyed until we came home to discover this:

What is this, you might ask? An empty water tank. Water is really scarce in Jordan, so there is no underground water pipe system like the one that we have in the States. Instead, water trucks tour around the countryside and fill up the water tanks on people's roofs using some complicated system of pipes that go from the ground to the... actually, I don't know how it gets filled. I just know that every Thursday morning/afternoon, somehow our water tank on the top of the roof gets filled, and that water is supposed to last us a week. In the past, we have had problems with the water overflowing, so we've always had to go up and switch the valves off. I guess last time we forgot to turn them off, because we didn't have any water when we got home tonight. Luckily, there are four water tanks on top of the roof, and the other three--connected to other parts of the building--were somewhat full. After lugging buckets of water across the roof for about 15 minutes, we found a hose to siphon the water from one of the water tanks to the next. Robert was brave enough to climb in the tank and get the siphon going.

Our Japanese friend Sey, who works for the Japanese Peace Corps and lives in our building, came and helped us get it going. Eventually, we got it figured out and now have it siphoning... But it really does make you appreciate American plumbing. And Robert got to take his shower.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Garbage Man

Update on the situation locked in my room: We fully dismantled the lock, and then Robert kicked in the door. I got out.

When I was little, I wanted to be a garbage man when I grew up. I don't know why exactly, but I was fascinated with the whole garbage pick-up process. I have an extremely vivid memory from when I was six or seven of setting up little garbage cans next to all the rooms in my house in Ohio and going from door to door collecting the trash. Wow, I must sound like a freak. Anyways, I've recently had the chance to put my latent childhood desires into action out here in the Badia. The trash situation out here is pretty terrible- littering is commonplace and "trash collection" consists of putting everything in a trashed dumpster and setting fire to it. So, scenes like this are not uncommon:

Unfortunately, I had succumbed to the prevailing cultural norms of the Badia; Robert, on the other hand, was made of sterner stuff and decided to organize a day to clean up the area in front of our building (i.e., see picture above). Last Saturday (the 10th), we got about 40 sacks and tempted the children from the apartment complex with a soccer game and lots of American suckers and set about cleaning the area. The kids were rowdy but enthusiastic and we got the bags filled in about 40 minutes or so.

The whole process up through then had gone smoothly, but our Western-styled organization quickly broke off in the face of two of man's most primordial desires: fire and candy. As I mentioned above, real trash collection doesn't exist, so we had no choice but to haul our little pile of trash to the dumpster (not the one above) and burn it. The next morning, we found the dumpster tipped over and the trash in a half-burned, smoldering heap. The candy situation was worse- the best way to describe it is to say that I felt like a UN aid worker trying to hand out flour to a mob of starving, unruly Somalians. People came out of the woodwork to pick up the suckers and the kids claimed exorbitant amounts for their little brothers at home. Worst of all, they disposed of the wrappers in the only way they were familiar with- throwing them on the ground.

So, maybe it wasn't the most successful trash pick up, but we were able to get 25 Jordanian kids together for an hour to work on something and make them feel useful. That's a pretty big accomplishment in and of itself.

Oh I was sitting, waiting, wishing...

Everyone, I sincerely apolgize that I haven't updated my blog in a really long time. A lot of things have happened in the week and a half or so since I updated- visited Roman ruins, had a run-in with the Jordanian secret police, taught English classes, saw the baptism of a couple of Jordanians, watched a couple really good movies. I just haven't had time- until now, when I woke up in my friends apartment in Amman to discover that somehow the lock on the door had broken overnight. It got worse when I, using my John Cena-like muscles, broke the key off in the door. I took off the door handle using an extra set of keys I found in the room as a screwdriver and broke a leg off the chair to act as a hammer to knock the lock out, but unfortunately the lock is encased in steel. So, two hours and a bloodied ring finger later, I finally have the time to update my blog. Aside from the fact that I really have to go to the bathroom, that my finger hurts, and that I have nothing to do, being trapped in my room isn't too bad. My friend's wife give me some Fruity Pebbles through the bars of the window and I have my computer and a copy of V for Vendetta that I can watch if I get really bored. The only problem is that I left my camera cord in Salhiyya, so I can't put any pictures up. I'll do that when I get out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ceasar, Those Who Are About to Die, Salute Thee!

This past weekend, we saw a lot of Roman ruins, an old Crusader castle, had a meeting with a really interesting lady involved in development out here, bought 4 DVDs for the equivalent of $8, and had a race in the Hippodrome (see below). The Fourth of July was spent in a celebration of American cuisine at Fuddruckers followed by a showing of Arrested Development, which Cyrus bought- all three seasons- for about $25. As far as actual work goes, things have once again been slow. We are looking at different societies for future BYU interns and looking to get involved in different projects (such as a trash clean-up), but a lot of it is still in the planning stages. On Sunday, we met with Rana, a lady who studied in the US and who gave us a lot of contact information for projects we could get involved with. We've also been talking with a lady about helping with an exchange program for youth from the Badia to visit Amman and vice versa. It's too bad we'll be leaving in a few weeks.

This is picture of somewhere in Northern Jordan, which is absolutely beautiful and relatively unpopulated countryside. On Friday after Church, we had a barbecue out here and I climbed one of the hills.

At Umm Quais, or Gedara (look it up in your Bible). Robert and I found an old mausoleum that we tried to break in to, but the only entry- a skylight- had about a 15 foot drop. Next time we'll bring a rope.

Also Umm Quais, along the main rode. On the left is the remnants of a 19th-c. Ottoman village.

Part of Ajlun castle, which was built in the 12th-c. by Saladin to counter the Crusaders.

Jerash, which is supposedly the largest Roman ruin site in the world. It was pretty awesome. This is the main road (sorry Annie, but the overall picture was sweet).

Another Jerash picture, me looking goofy. Notice (or try to notice) the week-long attempt at a goatee. It didn't work. My mustache still looks like a mexistache that a junior high school punk would grow.

So, maybe you wondering where the title comes from. Well, this is Robert and I, looking innocent and happy and unaware of the terrible decision we are about to make. We missed the chariot races (they stage them) at Jerash, so Robert and I decided to run our own- barefoot on the hot sand. We ended up with second-degree burns on our feet and open blisters. Ceasar, those who are about to die, Salute Thee!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Garden of Prince Hamza

So, I recognize that I haven't written in my blog recently. That is mainly because there hasn't been anything really exiciting that has happened lately. We've been visiting different societies in the area to understand what sort of development efforts are going on and to establish contacts for future BYU interns, but nothing has really been blog-worthy. A few days, I was pretty desperate. I almost wrote a blogpost about how I won 34 straight games of Freecell (the run was broken last night). But luckily, something awesome happened.

We made contact with a society out in a tiny village called Rowda Emir Hamza (literally, the Garden of Prince Hamza), and went out to visit. The society is relatively new and is run by a really sharp 24-year old Master's student. We spent most of the day with her, her parents, and her nine siblings. The fact that we met her mother and her sisters that our are age is amazing- foreign men NEVER meet the women in the family. They are probably the most progressive family I've met in the Badia. Well, here are some pictures from the visit.

This is "Mister Mahmoud," the father of the society's director and proud owner of a German made, 1969 cargo truck, bought in Iraq thirty years ago.

Me looking west (towards Irbid/Mafraq) on top of a dormant volcano in the area.

Facing south towards the huge Eastern Desert that makes up most of Jordan.

The emergency brake of Mahmoud's truck, which pulls straight out like a cane. There is no key- he presses the black button on the right to start/kill the engine.

Me milking a goat. It's hard. I wasn't able to get too much out of it.

Me and three of Mahmoud's ten kids at his house in Rowda Emir Hamza.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Date-filled cookies for everyone!

Oh my goodness. That is all I can really say now. Have you ever watched America play a soccer game against a team from the Arab world with a bunch of other Arabs? It's an experience I'd recommend to anyone. Tonight, we went to the local Markaz Shabaab, where we watched the American-Algerian game. If America won, they would make it out of group play. Our only allies among a crowd of some 75 Jordanians were a handful of Egyptians. There is no lost love between Egyptians and Algerians- the two countries almost cut off diplomatic relations after Algeria beat out Egypt to qualify for the World Cup. Talk about an intense 90 minutes. The crowd erupted with cheers at every near miss (or not so near miss) by the Algerians and every defensive stop from the Algerian defense. When America had it's opportunities, our cries in English were supported only by a few yells from the Egyptian crowd and some dude in a white thob that I had never met before. At halftime, I traded war cries and insults with the local shabaab (the guys from the area). The match dragged on, my nerves nerves were increasingly frazzled, and America, despite some golden opportunities, couldn't punch it in. Stop time started, and then the impossible. Altidore rushed Algeria's left side, got off a shot that Mbohli deflected- right into the path of Donavon who punched it in for a win in the 91st minute. The Americans and Egyptians erupted, the Jordanians started filing out. They were good sports and congratulated us on the win- Algeria really did play a solid match. We went to the shops and bought date cookies for our friends the Egyptians who work at the bakery. Wonderful!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Dead Sea is very dead... and hot

Well, I've decided that the Dead Sea is aptly named. It is very dead. In the words of Charles Dickens, it is as dead as a doornail. It is so dead I don't know if it was ever alive. And it is very hot. I thought it was hot in the Badia, but I hadn't experienced anything like the heat that comes from being next to a dead lake at a few hundred feet below sea level.

So, this last weekend, we went to Mount Nebo, Christ's supposed baptismal site (see below), and the Dead Sea. It was a lot fun, especially because there was a group of Christian Jordanians that work with one of my fellow interns that came along. They were cool and invited us over to watch the Denmark-Cameroon game later on that night. Mount Nebo (where Moses stood and looked over the promised land) and the baptism site were decent, but felt kinda contrived and touristy. Mount Nebo had an awesome view of the Holy Land- if it was a clearer day, I think we could have seen Jerusalem. The highlight of the day was the Dead Sea, which being in is one of the most bizarre experiences in the world. The lake has a salinity level of 33%, which means that getting it in your eyes and being 200m away from the shore is no fun. But because of the high salt levels, the only way to drown is to lie flat on your face and not struggle. Otherwise, you float. I made my self perfectly vertical with the ground and just floated there and resisted the urge to rub my eyes. Oh, and the mud is apparently very good for your skin (see below).

Well, I think I'll keep it short tonight, just say that I had a great time this weekend, that American should have beat Slovenia, that Muse has some awesome, awesome piano parts, that Amman is wonderful, that life is wonderful, and that I love you all. Peace.

Monday, June 14, 2010

70km from the Iraqi border

Right now I am sitting in my apartment (or rather Robert's bedroom) practicing sitting cross-legged and doing things because that is an essential skill to being a Bedouin. And I suck at it. So, lately, I have been practicing sitting cross-legged for about a half-hour a day, because that is usually all I can take. But anyways, that's not what I really wanted to talk about.

Today, was a very interesting day. Part of what we are doing in the Badia involves making a comprehensive list of the NGOs in the area and figuring out what they need, what they've done, and what works in development out here. The main problems in the area involve women's rights, education (especially English education), caring for disabled kids, and just basic economic development (the vast majority of the people are employed by the government/receive government welfare). So, we contacted an NGO out in Rawashid, which is 70km from the Iraqi border (and about 200 from Salhiyya, where we live). After a couple false starts (which included walking for about a mile on the Baghdad Highway), we made it out to Rawashid. The drive was awesome. It is such a desolate and haunting area. I've been told that some volcano, now dormant, exploded in prehistoric times, and that is why the ground is littered with black rocks. We had a productive meeting with the NGO, who agreed to give us a list of their projects and their needs. It's really exciting work because these people have lots of big ideas and huge hearts, but lack the technical expertise and the financial resources that we in the West have. Afterwards, we went out to Qasrd Bourga, the most remote of a series of hunting lodges built by Ummayyad lords in the 7th/8th centuries.

It was awesome. The NGO provided us with a Bedouin guide who drove us on a dirt road thirty minutes or so into the desert. We drove through flat, seemingly endless desert before arriving before a ruined building next to, of all things, a lake. In the middle of the desert. Apparently, a river or stream used to run through the area, but the dude who built the place back in the day dammed both sides of the river and created a lake. The dichotomy was amazing: a greenish lake and a ruined palace in the middle of desert in the middle of nowhere. Humans are versatile creatures.

Well, you'll be happy to know that I made it for about another half-hour of sitting cross-legged, and I didn't give up because of the pain- my laptop was about to die and I had to plug it in. Well, enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Celebrity Look-alike

So, a typical conversation in my limited Arabic with a Jordanian usually goes like this:
Me: Hey, how are you?
Jordanian: el-hamdidullah (an arabic response to the above question meaning "God be praised"). Where are you from?
Me: From America.
Jordanian: Oh, you look like John Cena! I mean, your face at least. Do you know John Cena?

At first, I didn't know John Cena. But now I do, since approximately every Jordanian under the age of 30 that I have met has told me that I look like John Cena. John Cena is a pro wrestler who has starred in movie classics such as The Marine and the 12 Rounds. Apparently, alot of people out here stay up to date on their wrestling trivia. But, even though every single Jordanian thought that I looked like John Cena, I remained unconvinced, so I took a shot of myself in a menacing pose and luckily found a shot of John Cena- in the exact same position! So I will let you be the judge of whether I look like the famous, nine-time world champion, three-time WWE US Champion, two-time World Tag Team Champion, and winner of the 2008 Royal Rumble Match.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What am I doing in Jordan?

So, most of you who read my blog are probably wondering the exact same thing at this moment: "What exactly does James do in Jordan? I mean, he talks about snorkeling, riding camels, and having a hole as a toilet, but I thought he was on an internship. So where is the interning and the actual work that he does?" Well ladies and gentleman, that questioned is being addressed in this blog post.

In Jordan, or more specifically in the Badia, I am the regional IT expert, consultant, and web designer. At this point, you might be thinking: "Huh? That doesn't jive with the image I have of James. When I think of James, I think of a runner. Or loving brother, son, and friend. Or connessieur of French cheeses. Or runner-up to the 1999 McVay Elementary Spelling Bee. But not IT expert." And you would be correct in this way of thinking. Be that as it may, most of the work that I have done here has been with computer support and building websites. And before you let your disbelief get the better of you, let's consider my credentials:

  1. I passed the Excel class at BYU.
  2. I had my own website for about three days when I was 12.
  3. My dad is a computer engineer.
  4. I spent countless hours trying to make Age of Mythology work on my parent's computer.
  5. No one else in the Badia has 1-4 (this is my most important credential).
So, I have been creating websites in English and Arabic. I mean, it's nothing big since I don't know HTML or any programming languages, so I have been using free web hosting providers and website templates. But the people out here seem to love it. Someone asked me today to make them a website for their organization just as I was finishing up the one for the Badia Development Cooperation Society, the organization that I work for out here. Check out badiadevelopment.webs.com or badiadevelopmentarabic.weebly.com. The latter is the Arabic version of the English site. And oh my goodness, have you ever tried creating a website in Arabic? First off, I hardly speak the language. Second off, all the templates are made for English script. Third off (third off sounds kinda wierd, doesn't it?), the computer I am using has dialup internet and has all the power of a horse and buggy.

But on the whole, they appreciate my work, and I've enjoyed doing it. It's confirmed to me that if I want an international career, simply knowing the language and culture isn't sufficient. That's not to say that cultural and linguistic skills aren't essential, but just that coupled with a technical skill, it can be so much more effective than one of the other along. You gotta bring something to the table, some tangible skill you can use to improve the life of others. Like medecine. Or finance. Or accounting. Or IT skills.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Phone Number

Hey everyone, I finally have a phone in working order that I can make and recieve calls on. The number is 0779816929 and the country code for Jordan is 962. I don't know exactly how out of country calls work, but I think you can buy calling cards to Jordan for cheap. That is, if you want to talk to me. Talk to you later!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Blahg, Blahg, Blahg (do you get it?)

So, I realize that it has been a long time since I've blogged and that I may have let some of you down in not blogging. But rest assured, you have not been forgotten. It's just that I don't really have internet very regularly where I am (hopefully this will change very soon). Let me tell you why. In order to have the internet in the Badia, you need a phone, which you hook into your computer and which connects you to the internet. My phone happened to be a used phone that we got from Mafraq, the closest big city to us. Unfortunately, the phone is messed up and sucks away all the energy from the charger, meaning that it goes through batteries like none other. We tried twice to get it fixed, and then we took it to Riyad, the guy who bought it to us, and we are waiting to hear back from him. I don't know when I will get a phone.
Well, as if that wasn't super depressing! Oh, I have one more piece of depressing news before I get to the good news, which explains why I won't have any pictures for this blog- I left my camera battery charger plugged in to the wall of our hostel in Amman. Don't worry, I got it back, but I don't have any pictures of our weekend vacation in Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba. Ok, so on to the good news. I'm engaged! Ha, just kidding. But it's almost as exciting- we saw some really awesome sights in Jordan this past week. We saw Petra, which is a city carved out of rock in the middle of the desert that the Nabateans and then the Romans inhabited. It was awesome. I will post pictures later. Cyrus and I decided at 1:30 to hike out to this monastery carved into the side of the rock. This wouldn't normally have been a problem, except for the fact that our tour bus was leaving for Wadi Rum at 2PM and the monastery was a good half-hour hike out. We figured that since punctuality isn't a big deal in Jordan, it wouldn't be for the tour bus. False. For tour buses, Jordanians are very punctual. We get a call around 2:15 as we are still a half hour away from the bus saying we need to be there asap. We walk fast and then we run. Then a half mile from the bus, we get a call saying the bus is leaving. We think we are screwed. So, we agree to pay some guys 70 dinar to take us by horse to the bus station and then to Wadi Rum, a couple hours away. They lead our horses out at a trot, which was really the first time that I had ridden a horse. I have a new found respect for the toughness of the butts of those who ride horses. So, we get to the parking lot, and then get another call, saying that the bus had left- and driven a half km away to a restaurant so everyone could eat. So everything worked out perfectly in the end.
Saturday and Sunday were spent in Aqaba, the only Jordanian city on the Red Sea and site of one of Lawrence of Arabia's battles (some movie trivia: the scene of Aqaba in the movie Lawrence of Arabia was actually filmed in Spain because the director didn't like how the actual city looked). There is some beautiful coral reefs out in the area and we decided to go snorkeling. I have never been before and I don't swim well. In fact, I don't really like being in the water at all. But I wanted to go snorkeling, so I sucked it up and decided to go. I put on my fins and goggles and jump in the water, only to have one of my fins slip off and my goggles to get water in them, so I can't see and can't swim very well and the water is pretty choppy. At this point, I think I am going to die and start slipping under the water when I hear a voice (just kidding; this is just for dramatic effect). But anyways, I get my fin back, get back on the boat, and they put a life jacket on me and send me off again. Once I figured out how to use the snorkel apparatus, it was actually really cool. The coral was amazing. It was like watching a movie, but it was real life and blew my mind. Jordan rocks.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Katie, on a scale of one to ten, how jealous are you of me?

Yup, I've become a real Bedouin out here. I ride on camels and Arabian horses from place to place distributing medicine and love and spend my nights beneath a beautiful Arabian sky. Just kidding haha. This horse is actually not broken and was doing it's best to bite me as I held on to it. Despite my cool, cowboy appearance, it was pretty nerve-racking. The farm is owned by the al-Ouns, a family who lives in Subha (really close to Salhiyya where I'm at) and who has helped us out a lot in the Badia. They are one of the more prominent families in the area and own most of the farms and shops in the area. Shlash, one of the al-Ouns, works on the farm that we went to on Wednesday night and is a really good friend of Loren, the guy who's been in the Badia since January. Although I might not be a Bedouin, I did ride a horse and a camel for the very first time. They have 14 camels, two absolutely beautiful Arabian horses, a few cows, a donkey, and 500ish sheep on their farm. Have you ever heard a camel make noise before? Just make really throaty, guttural groans and you have the general idea. It is one of the most godawful noises that I've ever heard. Riding a camel is a really interesting experience, too. You ride on the backside of the hump, which actually provides a comfy seat. Camels are really big, too. While we were there, we had to change the ropes that tied together three of the legs of a bull camel that had rubbed the skin raw on one of the legs. They tie three of the legs together because camels, apparently, can kick in 360 degrees (unlike horses), so if they try to kick, with their fourth leg, they'll fall down. But anyways, we had to get the camel on it's side. Remember that camels are probably eightish feet tall and are just huge and do not like to be forced down. So, you have to pull down on a rope around their face until they kneel down, which takes some work in and of itself. Afterwards, you have to push the camel over on its side. Remember, the camel is not happy with this and is probably trying to bite you at this point. When pushing the camel over, you have to avoid it's kicking legs and then sit on it's hump to destabilize it so it can't get back up. Also at the farm, we drank camel milk. It was pretty good, actually- it tasted like melted ice cream.
Well, we've been doing other stuff than just riding camels, eating at people's houses (it's amazing how many different ways you can cook rice and chicken), going to pool houses with the shabaab (the local term for young guys), and playing soccer with little neighborhood kids. Business is just done differently out here- I feel there is no sense of time and people get things done at their own pace and in their own time. Life is basiita- simple. I have been teaching English at a preschool, which is pretty fun, and it seems that most of what I'll be doing out here is teaching English and helping people write proposals in English. Oh, and I agreed to make a website for the organization that we work for despite the fact that I have never done it before and have limited internet access. My phone died again, and it looks like I'll need to buy a new one, so all my adoring fans will have to wait a few more days before they can call me (and before I'll have regular phone access. I feel like a little kid here- I eat alot of candy and don't shower (tonight was the first time since Wednesday morning).
Ok, so I'm going to try and update my blog more often and put on more pictures. Maybe I'll update it tomorrow if I have time. Til then, I'll leave you with another camel picture. When camels get angry and start making lots of noise, they end up sticking out there tongue. So, here you go:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Allen Wisallen (shout out to Stacy)

Allen wisallen from Jordan! Or actually, allen biik. Because allen wisallen means "welcome," and allen biik is the appropriate response. So I wouldn't actually wouldn't say allen wisallen to you. But anyways, I am currently in Jordan, and my mind has been blown. It is insane. The only way to really describe to you what it is like is to walk around with a video camera and film a day out here. The trip over was fairly eventful. New York was awesome and I took a ton of pictures, but the internet out here is really slow and it is hard to upload pictures on the internet. And, in any case, the day in New York has been overshadowed by my time in Jordan.

I'm not really sure where to even begin. I am in a little village called Salhiyya, which is total Bedouin and a couple of hours north of Amman, really close to the Syrian desert. It is really an underdeveloped place, although not like African underdeveloped. But jobs are scarce and most people live off the generous welfare benefits from the government. The only way I can really describe things is that they are insane. Coming here you have to just really change everything that you know and they way that you act. Remember how I told you all that I didn't really know what I'd be doing here? Yeah, I still don't really know what I'll be doing.

Arab culture is completely different. All Americans coming here to do business have to throw out all planners, schedules, and really any kind of structure to your life. You don't plan to hang out with people EVER and you don't really plan to do anything EVER. If a friend says that he is coming over, he might come over in 10 minutes or 3 hours. People see you on the street and they invite you over to their house before they meet you. My gosh, I think I am experiencing culture shock. Some thoughts:

1) My toilet is a hole in the ground. There is no seat. All the showers that I have taken have been a trickle of cold water. I have showered every other day, and the ratio of days to shower to will probably increase as my time goes on.
2) I speak no Arabic. I knew there was a problem when I was sitting at the JFK airport and tried listening to a couple of Arabs talk and understood nothing. In school, I learned Modern Standard Arabic and the Egyptian dialect; here they speak the Jordanian Arabic with a heavy Bedouin influence. It's like the mission all over again.
3) On Thursday, we went over to Irbid to stay with an LDS family (see point 4) for Church. This is how we got there: Hitched a ride with Riath to Mafraq, took about 3 hours to get phones and to watch Riath run errands and then took a bus to Irbid. Going home is more exciting. We got dropped off in Irbid, and realized that there were no buses running that day (Friday is the Muslim holy day). So, a couple of guys asked us if we needed a ride, so we paid 2 dinars each to get to Mafraq. So, this guy takes us to our his car and we head over (see point 5 for driving in Jordan) to Mafraq. Then, we try and figure out how to get from Mafraq to Salhiyya, and the process is repeated. A couple of guys, start talking to us, we haggle for the price, and pay 1.5 dinars to get over to Salhiyya.
4) The Church exists in Mafraq. There is a branch of about 20-25 members out here and some really solid youth. Who knew the Church was out here?
5) Driving is crazy. Two lane roads become three lane roads. No one uses signals. People cut each other off like it's no body's business. And no one get's mad.

I think that's good... I'll let you know more once I figure things out and get used to life out here. Massalaama.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Game's Afoot

Well faithful followers, the long wait is over and the revolution will begin shortly. And by revolution, I mean my second blog post in the world. I was going to wait until I went to Jordan (since this is a blog mainly about Jordan), but my adoring fans couldn't wait any longer and just had to have another post. The title has absolutely nothing to do with what I will write about. I just happened to watch Sherlock Holmes with my family tonight and I liked it a lot. I've been walking around my house for the last hour saying clever things to myself and pretending that I am uncovering some Masonic conspiracy to take over the world. Movies do that to you.

Anyways, so I have been doing really nothing exciting at all. Except for going on lots of dates. Just kidding. But I did go on one. I had a peanut butter and bacon burger at The Slip in Kirkland, and it was amazing. I know what you are all thinking--how do I get myself one of those and why have I never heard of this before? The mesh of textures between the creamy, thick peanut butter, the bread, and the meaty burger just is really amazing. You're chomping your way throw a nice slab of bacon and the crumbly ground meat of the burger, and you're taste buds are met by a latter of sweet peanut butter that holds everything together and creates an explosion of exotic taste in your mouth. I've never quite had anything like it before. I was going to put a picture up, but I didn't take one and the search results from Google images make me want to puke. So I didn't. Put one up. Or puke.

Ok, so as far as preparation for Jordan goes, this is what I've done so far:

1) Got a typhoid vaccination.
2) Read books on life in the Middle East.
3) Ate lunch with Ahmed, my dad's co-worker who is from Jordan.
4) Avoided working out so as not to overawe the natives.
5) Played Rome Total War to hone my ancient warfare fighting skills.
6) Ate a peanut butter and bacon burger sandwich to condition my stomach to foreign foods.

Number three from the list is worth some detail. On Thursday, I met my dad and Ahmed at their work, and we went to Tandoori Fire (maybe it was Tandoori Kitchen?), a Pakistani place that was super cheap and super good. We talked for a couple hours about Islam, Middle Eastern culture, and Jordan. I love Muslims. If I wasn't Mormon, I'd be a Muslim. They are some of the nicest, most hospitable people in the world. On my mission in France, the native Europeans would hardly give you the time of day once they saw "Jesus-Christ" written on the badge, but the Muslims would always invite you in for a drink and a chat about religion. I love their emphasis on the community and on human relationships. It would annoy me to no extent when Muslims and Africans would be late for or not show up for their appointments, but I came to understand why: family and friends and the relationships you have with them always come first. Usually they'd be late because someone came over to their house or a friend needed help. Don't get me wrong--it's really important to be on time and to keep commitments, but sometimes we put too much emphasis on that and lose opportunities to help others or to make new friends.

Wow, this blog post is going to be really long and no one will want to read it. So I'll stop now.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Like a blogger, blogging for the very first time

Hey everybody!

It's Arabic James here, coming at you live from the Harold B. Lee Library. I'm sorry that's so disappointing and lame, but I actually won't be going to Jordan until May 9th. But I was tired of studying for finals, and Stacy was showing me her blog, and I was inspired to make a blog. Amy got mad at me for talking really loud while trying to come up with a name, so when I asked her what I should name my blog, all she said was "You are so loud!" And the name stuck. Haha, I love you two! (By that I mean Amy and Stacy--Amy got confused and thought that I meant 'too' but spelled it wrong). Well, I need to finish studying for marriage and family prep final. I only have five hours left before midnight tonight, which is when I need to find a bride or be turned into a pumpkin. Just kidding. But I need to get to work. Later!