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 or 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!