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.