Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On Lettuce

Before we left for Jordan, they told us to avoid the salads. No lettuce. None.
Before I went to Russia, they told us to steer clear of salds. No lettuce. None!

Crystal and I would often talk about salad when we were in Jordan. In fact, Crystal wrote on her blog, "Salad is the most wonderful thing ever. I tried to get a cafe rio grilled chicken salad on the way home from the airport but they were already closed. Yesterday I got one for lunch and it was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. Forget about desserts...I just missed lettuce." And it is true. It's hard to have salad taken away from you when that is really one of the most common vegetables eaten in the United States.

Now, I like more vegetables than salad. I get harrassed by my in-laws for my like of broccoli. But salad, I really do have to admit that I enjoy. A lot.

In the Middle East it can make you sick. In Russia it can make you sick. Why? Because the water they use to grow the lettuce is sometimes a little less-than clean. Things get inside and can't get out. Unlike other vegetables, lettuce is pretty hard to bleach. It is so pourous that it just sucks in whatever moisture is around that: bleach, water, e. coli, etc. Believe me, you don't want to eat over-bleached vegetables, and it's easy to over-bleach lettuce.

Funny how the idea of that happening is so "third world" and then it happens here! I kind of find it funny just because America seems to hold so much pride in being a "developed" nation. I guess these things can happen anywhere.

So, before you think of coming to America, let me warn you: don't eat the lettuce. No lettuce. None!

That said, I think I will continue to eat salad. I can't help it. I'm with Crystal. I went for four months not having a salad.. By golly, I'm going to eat it here!

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Moral of this Story

This is one of those stories where you get to hear the moral first. And the moral of the story is: don't wait for like 2 months or more after you're done a trip to finish writing about it. Now Turkey is in this blur of planes and multiple countries and no sleep. It was a good trip, but honestly, all the days are kind of blurring together. So this post will be more like me describnig pictures and then if I think of any cool stories, they'll also be told. Unfortunately, I can't really recall which day we did what. Know that we were there. We took pictures. I just didn't write anything down until now. Oops!

This was a pretty small museum, but it was pretty inexpensive, too. The best part was that it was in an old Ottoman style house, which is always quite nice and very interesting to look at. That's the Blue Mosque in the background.

There are little graveyards sprinkled throughout Istanbul. Most of them are of royalty. Some of them you have to pay to get inside to see the shrines for the kings. It's pretty cool, especially reading about them. Most of them did poetry. Most of the wrestled. A few of them had big noses and long beards. None of the plaques said anything really special about the kings--just that they wrote poetry when they weren't wrestling.

Here is a fenced-in gravesite within a fenced-in graveyard within a walled-off courtyard. Really, I think that might be overdoing it.

Andrew and I also went to the Grand Bazaar, a must-see in Istanbul. While we were walking there (it isn't far from where we stayed), Andrew described to me how he and his parents got lost trying to find it but really it was pretty easy to find and he knew right where it is. Well, we ended up by a mosque somewhere that had a nice park where we could consult our guidebook. Yup, it sure is hard to find. We had to ask someone how to get there. We did find it and it was really quite neat.

Well, we finally made t to the Bazaar, which is completely roofed. It's about 60 streets all walled in with roofs and doors and everything. The Grand Bazaar is the first market that Andrew went to in the Middle East. He was there about a year ago with his parents. He thought that is what the Bazaars were like all over the Middle East. So, when we first arrived in Jordan, and we decide to check out the Suq (Bazaar in Jordanian Arabic). We got in a taxi and Andrew asked the driver to take us to the Suq. So, he does. He drives us right to the center of the Suq, which happens to be an open-air district. Tons of shops, just like the Grand Bazaar, but no roofs over the street. Andrew was very confused. He asked the driver, "Where's the Suq?" the driver retorted, "Right here." We still weren't out of his taxi and made no movements like we were going to get out. I mean, here we are, fresh meat in an Arab country...like we're going to get out of a taxi when we aren't sure where we are. The driver gave a heavy sigh and says, "This is the Suq." He started pointing to different buildings saying, "That's a suq and that's a suq. Everywhere is a Suq." Yeah, the Grand Bazaar is quite different than the open-air markets we went to in Jordan and Egypt.

We went to some other museums. Right behind Topkopi palace, closer to the gardens where Andrew and I went everyday, there is this little series of museums. You buy your ticket at the gate and the museum, I swear, seems to go on forever! There were probably 5 different buildings that we went into, just full of artifacts (which were much better labeled than the Egyptian Museum in Cairo).

We weren't very impressed with the mummy though. This mummy is about 1/2 the age of the ones we saw in Cairo. And he has no skin. The ones in Cairo had skin, hair, painted eyebrows. It was pretty amazing to think that you're looking at King Ramses. That's pretty old. And he looked pretty good for being thousands of years gone. This mummy looks a little more like a skeleton. Of course, that is probably why Egypt is famous for mummies and Turkey is not.

Oh, and here I am by a replica of the Trojan horse, not in Troy, of course. This museum had some really cool models of things--such as the Trojan horse. They had things from all over the place because the Ottoman Empire was huge. They have things from Jordan and China and, well, just about everywhere.

Dolmabahce palace could be a whole post in and of itself, except that we weren't allowed to take any pictures, so...let's just say this palace is grand! They have a chandelier that weighs a ton! I'm serious. It weighs 1 ton. They had to do some of the work in wood and paint it to look like marble instead of actually using marble because the palace is so huge and heavy that they were afraid it would sink into the Bosphorus. It's a valid fear because it sits on the Bosphorus. It kind of reminded me of my Grandma Conrad's house because a lot of the rooms were named after colors. Not that my Grandma's house was that big, but as kids, we would distinguish the rooms as "the yellow room," "the red room," "the blue room" and so forth because of how they were decorated. This palace also has a red room, which is quite noticably red, as well as a blue room. It has multiple wings for family (men and women in separate areas), the hammam (bathrooms--turkish baths are huge), and for guests. This took up pretty much half of our day.

Hagia Sopiha is a sight for sore eyes. She sits right across from the Blue Mosque, which is absolutely brilliant . She doesn't hold a candle to it. She's red brick, comely...kind of boring. But then you go inside and it is a treasure trove. The stained glass windows are remarkable! And the art is really pretty cool. Hagia Sophia (St. Sophia) was originally a Christian church. It was taken over and converted into a mosque. Instead of destroying the original art though, the muslims just covered it up. They put plaster over the mosaics and hung wooden signs with arabic caligraphy over crosses. They turned some of the crosses into stars. It's actually quite remarkable what they did.

(note the arabic sign hanging from the ceiling and the angel in the archway just behind it)

There is a pillar in Hagia Sophia that is said to bring good luck. Traditionally the soldiers would come to the church/mosque/what-have-you (I'm not sure what it's considered anymore) and would put their thumb on the pillar and then do a full 360 degree rotation. So, today people do the same thing except that now it is so worn down that you have to stick your thumb inside a hole that has worn through the copper plate and into the marble itself and then twist your hand around 360 degrees.

Istanbul is really quite a few islands. There's the European side and the Asian side, which everyone knows about, but there are also a ton of little islands scattered in between. Andrew and I decided to check out the beaches. We got off the ferry at the wrong time and went to some small-town island with 100% locals there. We didn't realize that no tourists were getting off the ferry until we had gotten off the ferry. Apparently there is a tourist beach that is actually pretty nice. Our beach was nice, too...but rather rocky. And, after our time in Dubai, no beach will ever be able to compete. So, we weren't very impressed with the beach, but it was really fun to get to observe the Turkish people. There were no cars on the island (that we saw). It was just a cute little island.

Andrew and I went on a cruise down the Bosphorus starting at the bridge by the New Mosque and going under the first Inter-continental bridge and almost to the second one and then back again. It was pretty cool. We had a party boat. Our captai was pumping some strange dance beat the whole trip. I memorized the chorus and could sing along at the time, I'm not sure I could now though.

Before the ferry ride we decided to take a walk on the bridge. They have little piers under the bridge with restaurants all over it. We should have known better than to venture down there because we were bombarded by waiters the minute we were in sight. We couldn't help it though. We wanted to take a picture of us on the Bosphorus. How much closer could we get than jumping in (which we had done when we went to the beach).

As we walked back to our hotel for the last time, I made Andrew take a picture of this house. People actually live in it. I was obsessed with the run-down houses in Istanbul. I couldn't believe the conditions people were living under! If that house was in America, it would be condemned for sure!

Here's a quick shot of our hotel lobby. The hotel is actually an old Ottoman style house, nestled in a ghetto...note the picture above. But it was really cool! The electricity was shoddy, but the architecture was neat!

At long last, we left Istanbul and headed back to Amman, thus beginning our 3 or 4 or 5 (I really can't remember) run of sleepless, bedless nights. When we arrived in Amman, we decided to visit the falafel dudes one last time. They were so shocked to see us. It was awesome! They were pretty worried, too. They were afraid our flight got cancelled and we were stranded...after we convinced them that we were okay, they let us eat.

When we were leaving, Mohammed (the 13 year old kid who works there) kept pretending to cry and saying, "Oh, I will miss you. Sniff, sniff." I personally think that he was fighting back tears for real. I know I was. It was hard to have to say goodbye a second time. Leaving home is always hard no matter where home is.

After lunch we went to Mecca Mall to get another Cinnabon (they're the second-best in the world! Who wouldn't?) and some books to read on the plane. Arabs just aren't readers. I had assumed that they would be, but they aren't. It was hard to find a good bookstore there. After we felt that we had wasted enough time, and were so tired because we had been up for 48 hours, we went to the Steed's house and crashed for a few hours. Sleep never felt so good! But, alas, the few hours soon expired and we were off to find a taxi and take all of our luggage to the Abdali bus station.

Yes, leaving was definitely hard. I fought tears saying goodbye to the Steeds. I fought tears on the bus. Sometimes I really just miss living over there and wish that I could be there right now. Other times I sure am glad to be home! Home...it's such a strange word. Home is everywhere!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not Constantinople

Here we are in Istanbul, easily the most European city we've set foot in since leaving Austria in May. Our hotel is located in the Golden Horn just a few minutes walk from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. It is a wonderful location. The streets are cobblestone and the all the buildings in sight are very European...but our hotel is an old Ottoman-style house. It is quite amazing--on the inside, at least--but there are a few downfalls (namely hardly any lights, small rooms, etc). I've posted a picture here but we'll have to get some better shots. It really doesn't do the place justice.

On Monday we headed out to explore Topkapi Palace. The gardens are amazing and extend much farther than the grounds of the "palace." There is a park that Andrew and I have walked through almost everyday that is part of the Topkapi grounds, but you don't have to pay to go in so they are much better!

We went on a tour through the Harem first off. The Harem is the name for the living quarters for the Sultan and his family. It housed the slaves (who were apparently paid) and his wifes (no more than 4 at a time) and his children. I wouldn't mind living in a harem myself after looking at this one.

Our guide was pretty humorous. He didn't speak English very well. Surprizingly no one speaks English very well here. Combine that with my lack of Turkish and it is pretty much a recipe for disaster. I would have thought a lot more people would have spoken English...or Italian...or Russian...or Arabic...or anything a lot better than they do, but that's okay. Anyway, in each room our guide would say, "Yes, my guest, we are in the bathroom of the king. I mean, the hammam of the sultan. I mean the Turkish bath where His Highness would be massag-ed and bath-ed." It was funny because he would say "Yes, my guest" even though there were upwards of 60 of us and he would say it in each room. Then he would say the same thing in 2-3 different ways (see the hammam example). Before moving on to the next room he would say, "Yes, my guest, we are to see the room of the mother of the sultan. The sultan's mother room." Then we would go into the next room and he would say, "Yes, my guest, we are in the room of the mother of the sultan. The room where the sultan's mother lives. The room of..." I think you get the picture.

Andrew and I then went on to explore the rest of the palace. There were quite a few rooms that we were, unfortunately, not allowed to take any pictures...but we had a good time looking around at all the treasures and enjoying the gardens and fountains.

**On a side note: Andrew and I went to McDonald's (on the Asia side) the next day, and who do you suppose we saw? Yes, my guest, we saw our tour guide. In a city of 10 million people we ran into the guide of our tour. The one who was giving us a tour of the Harem.**

After grabbing a bite to eat we headed off to the Cistern. Andrew likened it to scenes in Pirates of the Carribean and The Phantom of the Opera. I likened it to being really slippery, but it was kind of like those movies, too, as well as one of the Adams Family films...a lot of movies have cisterns in them. Probably because they are really cool.

I was not in the best outfit for going into the Cistern. The Cistern is an underground building used for storing water. Thus, it is wet. They've built platforms so you can walk around without getting too wet, but water still drips from the ceiling and the fish splash water up onto the platforms (I'm sure it is not malicious). So, I am wearing a long skirt and a pair of flip-flops that are over 2 years old, are paper-thin, and have absolutely no grip on them. There were times when I held onto Andrew's arm and he just pulled me along. It was that slippery. But, it was definately worth seeing.

On our way home from the Cistern we stopped by the Blue Mosque. It is really cool inside, but I think that I liked the Muhammed-ali Mosque in Egypt better. I almost think because it was more reverent. I can't really tell. The mosque in Cairo was based off the Blue Mosque, and I think that the Blue Mosque is more inviting because it is a lot lighter and open. But the people here aren't quite as into the religion as they seem to be in other places in the Middle East. People were letting their kids chase each other around and things were pretty crazy.

Between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are these beautiful gardens and a wonderful fountain. I like to pull Andrew into the park every time we walk by (which happens to be every single day). They are just really pretty. I'm not sure if you'll all agree but I haven't seen water, sprinklers, grass, or flowers for quite a long time. The park is beautiful!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Good ol' Dubai

Dubai seems to me to be a city of "new" wealth. Everything about the city screams newness! We arrived at the airport and it was definitely a lot better kept-up than Amman or Egypt. It was also quite a bit hotter! We were a little worried about finding our hotel since we didn't have an address, but we followed the directions given on the internet site: "tell the taxi driver it is by the clock tower." Andrew and I, thinking that this was an Arab country so it definitely has some history, thought that the clock tower would be some old fashioned tower. We were wrong. And amazed.

As you can tell, the clock tower is anything but old. And once we got to the tower, our hotel was in plain sight. I think we fell asleep almost as soon as we got in our hotel room. The heat, even at 1:00 A.M. was quite oppressive.

The next day we took advantage of the hotel's free shuttle to the beach. As we were sitting in the lobby, Andrew picked up the paper and read that the day before had been the hottest day of the year. It had reached an even 46 degrees Celsius (114 F), there was a nice load of sand dumped on the city from the "empty quarter" during a sand storm, and it had been overall a pretty miserable day. We were glad we had missed it.

We knew that it would be hot at the beach, and that we would probably burn so I insisted that we lather up with sun screen. It's probably expired by now or something since it's the same sun screen I used as a lifeguard when I was like 16...but apparently it still works well since we didn't really burn at all.

Anyway, the beach was beautiful. It was clean, the water was clear. There were no rocks or seaweed. It took us forever to find anything resembling a stone, shell, or living creature. The water was nice and warm. It was perfect. We had 4 hours of ocean bliss. The best part was that the beach was pretty uncrowded! I've never been in a more deserted beach in my life! We didn't figure out why until the next day...but it was definitely a good time at the beach, regardless of circumstances.

At 12:30, we decided that we should probably pack up to leave since the shuttle was coming at 1:00 to pick us up. We were drying off under some palm trees when in the distance we hear some disgusting gagging noises. Not too far away, at the showers, a man was puking his guts out. Like I wanted a shower now. Andrew and I headed to the showers anyway and rinsed off our feet while the lifeguards tended to the poor man.

We left the beach and commenced waiting outside for the shuttle. Soon beads of sweat started forming on our faces. Then those beads of sweat began dripping down our faces. We realized that our shirts we soaked. Our pants were soaked. Our hair was soaked. And we had just dried off. We decided to go to a near-by cafe and buy some AC. This was done by purchasing the cheapest thing on the menu and eating it as slowly as possible. Luckily the cheapest thing on the menu was ice cream. We were cooled inside and out! But after finishing our ice cream we had to head back outside to wait. Why was the shuttle taking so long? Why of all days did it have to be late?

We went and waited by the road once again. Drenched in our own sweat. Ringing out our shirts to dab our foreheads. Fanning ourselves with our hands. It was horrible. Finally the shuttle came. We filed in and turned the AC vents to face us. We were exhausted. I saw a billboard, that I wish I had caught on film...but was much too tired to do so, that had the traditional "men at work" sign on it, only instead of working then men were sitting under umbrellas. The sign said, "Men at rest. 12:00-4:00 P.M. Sunday-Saturday." Or something to that effect. I conceded with the sign and quickly fell asleep. It seemed to take forever to get the hotel but we finally made it there.

We somehow stumbled up to our room, drank more water than imaginable, and fell asleep. I slept for six hours, woke up and was still exhausted. I'm pretty sure we were suffering from heat exhaustion. At least it wasn't heat stroke, which I suspect was the level of the man vomiting at the beach.

The next day, a nice Indonesian couple staying at the hotel said that it had been 52 degrees (125 F) at noon the day before. I haven't been able to verify that, but if it is true, that would explain our reaction to the heat. I'm sure I sweated out more water than I had taken in that day. The other days we were in Dubai were all around 45-47 degrees and the heat was manegable...but our first day there was utter insanity. I've never been hotter. Nor have I ever sweat so much in my life! The beach was worth it, but it may have been nice to have done it on a slightly cooler day.

Dubai reminds me a lot of Las Vegas, architecture-wise. That, or a museum of art. It is just amazing the array of buildings they have. And then you go in the buildings and they are just as extravagant. Although I'm sure Dubai has slums, we didn't find them. Everywhere we went was pristine. And boy, did we go everywhere!

On Friday we set out to go to church. We had an address, and although our hotel didn't seem to use the numbering system, Dubai actually has a nice grid-like address system. We gave the address to the taxi driver and set out for our short taxi ride to the church. We ended up in a fancy neighbourhood, which could be right...but we couldn't find the villa the church was supposedly in. We drove all around the neighbourhood and asked everyone we saw if they were familiar with the address...costing us a pretty penny. Alas, we could not find the church and didn't have a number to reach anyone with. At 80 dihrams, we decided to call off the search. It was getting much too expensive. (Not too expensive though. USD outweighs the dihram 3 to 1!) The ride cost us 4 times the amount our trip from the airport cost us! And airport rides are outrageously priced.

Not only did we skip church on Friday, we went to the mall in the evening. We had planned to go the day before but were busy dealing with heat exhaustion. We didn't buy anything though since everything was too far out of our budget range. We did, however, watch an interesting fashion show. A fashion show for hijabs. It was pretty cool. It was a contest for local designers so there were judges for the hijabs. I really wonder how they judged though since all the outfits were black, to the ankle, to the wrists, and hooded. They did add some flair here and there, but really, it was a close call all around. They did a "casual wear" section and a "formal wear" section. Some of the formal wear was pretty scandalous! Seriously, some of the gowns I wouldn't wear...low cut, strapless... They were covered by capes, but I still would not venture out in those gowns.

After the mall, Andrew and I went to the Clock Tower to take some pictures. Dubai has a mascot and he is placed all over the city. His name is Modesh and he has a catchy smile! The fountain has quite a few of these Modesh mascots so we decided to pose with them all. It was pretty fun...people thought we were crazy, but Dubai is kind of a crazy city, so I suppose we just fit right in.

Andrew and I had learned our lesson and refused to venture out during the day, leaving our next days (Friday and Saturday) just mornings and evenings. Besides which, Andrew had developed an ear infection from swimming and getting water stuck in his ear so I had to take care of him.

This involved finding the nearest hospital. I went to the front desk and asked where the hospital was. The clerk was unfamiliar with that term in English. He questioned what I wanted. I said, "My husband is sick. We need a doctor." The clerk informed me that what I needed was a "poly-clinic" and said the nearest one was "Sunny Poly-clinic" and was five minutes (insert ambiguous hand gesture here) that way. I was like, "What way?" and he's like (repeat ambiguous hand gesture) "That way." I'm like (mimicking hand gesture), "Oh, that way?" and he's like (repeating hand gesture), "Yeah, that way."

I went up and retrieved Andrew. He was in pain, swollen, and deaf in one ear. Cool things can happen in just a few days. I told him that I found out about the hospital. It should be cheap. It was close. But I had no idea where it was. Then I told him again. And then I told him again. And then I said, "Never mind. Let's go." So we went to the desk. I stopped to ask another person where the clinic was. They gave me the same ambiguous hand gesture saying it was five minutes that way. Great, I thought, Andrew and I have walked these streets countless times. We had staked out all the pharmacies for self-help just the night before. There was no clinic in sight from the hotel. So, we walked five minutes in what we deduced was that way. After walking for a few minutes we saw a fancier-looking hotel and I decided to ask the clerk inside for directions. He had no idea what I was talking about but was really nice about it. He phoned the local directory to get the number for the clinic and then asked for directions from his hotel to the clinic. He then walked us outside and said, "Turn right at the next street, walk down the whole block and it should be the last building. You'll see a pharmacy with a sign saying, "Ben Sina" and it will be right after it."

I was dubious because we had visited that pharmacy and they told us to go see a doctor but had not said that there was a doctor right next door. Plus, we didn't even see the clinic when we were there...but we followed the directions to a tee considering they were a lot better than the directions we received before. We got to the end of the block and didn't see the clinic so we kept walking. I stopped and said, "This is dumb. It should be right here! Why can't we find it?!?" A man on a bicycle stopped and said, in a nice Punjabi accent, "What are you looking for?" I sighed...would he really know where it was? "The Sunny Clinic," I said. "It's right here." He said and pointed to a sign high up on the building we had just passed. Yup. It read "Sunny Clinic." I thanked the man and dragged a confused Andrew to the sign. We looked at all the signs plastered on the apartment complex. That's right, folks. Apartment complex. We found one that said, "Sunny Clinic. Floor M. Entrance E." Cool, a little computer printed flyer telling us where the clinic was. No wonder we missed it.

We found the clinic by walking through completely unmarked doors. We were ushered into a waiting room where we were almost completely alone, except for the company of one woman who stood up and rushed out of the room as soon as we entered. She was the doctor...she was wearing a sari, but that's okay...she was still the doctor. She looked at Andrew and gave him a prescription. We paid the clinic 50 dihrams and went to the clinic nextdoor to get his prescription. We then walked across the parking lot and...into our hotel. That's right. Our hotel was right there. Why they didn't say, "Take a sharp right until you get to the apartment building with the blue balconies and then go into a door marked "E" and go to floor "M." is a question I'll never know the answer to...but we got Andrew the help he needed and he's feeling a lot better.

That evening we were able to go to the suqs downtown and found a clock with Arabic numbers, hurrah! We walked through the long gold suq and were bombarded by numerous people trying to sell us stuff. It wasn't nearly as bad as Egypt or Jordan. They were pretty wimpy, as street sellers go. I think that's because selling without a license is actually an enforced thing in Dubai, so we had people making us offers but then a police officer would walk by and the seller would disappear. It was interesting. But it was nice to not be bothered!

Dubai was nice, but if I had to live there, I would insist on having a few things:
1) a car with AC
2) AC in the house
3) 24 hour access to a pool
4) an ice machine

Excluding #3, I never thought that I would want any of those things. I've always thought that I could do without AC and ice, but in Dubai that's really a death sentence. How did people live before air conditioning, you ask? Simple...windmills. It's true. Without a cooling system you couldn't live there!

Language-wise, if you don't speak a lick of Arabic, you'll feel right at home. 80% of the city's population is foreign. Most people we saw on the streets and roads and everywhere were Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Filipino, Thai, or Indonesian. Andrew spoke Arabic to two people the whole time we were there - our first taxi driver was actually from Syria, and another taxi driver was from Pakistan who spoke mostly English. Andrew started in Arabic with him, so he struggled through the conversation in Arabic the whole time, amazed that a Westerner like Andrew actually spoke the language. He insisted that we must have had Lebanese or Syrian ancestors or something!

Best point of the lack of Arabic: in one of the pharmacies we went to, a native Arab lady came in and asked the pharmacists if anyone spoke Arabic. One of the Indians affirmed, so she stayed. Even in her home country, she couldn't get by on Arabic. Wow!

So, if anyone wants to come out here for a lucrative job offer, we say go for it. It's hot, but it's a cool, organized, modern city, and English is pretty much all you need to survive (plus AC and all that other stuff I mentioned...)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Goodbye, Jordan

Hopefully this post doesn't get too sappy. But it is our last day here, which is rather sad. Soon we'll have to head back to Orem, BYU, school, and work--real life. There are a lot of things that I'm going to miss about living in Jordan:

-Signs in more than one language...

-Our bridge (the yellow and blue one in the picture above)
-Falafel on every street corner
-All the history, both Biblical and political
-The Dead Sea
-Crazily decorated taxis
-Sunshine everyday
-The company of the Slades
-The Call to Prayer
-Our Branch
-Singing every verse of every song we sing in church

There are also a number of things I'm looking forward to when I get home:
-Sunshine with a chance of rain
-Having something to do everyday
-Our own mode of transportation
-Salad, and any other foods that aren't fried
-A little less dust
-A dryer
-Milk that doesn't go bad 2 days after you buy it
-My family

Well, I suppose I'm glad to be heading home, but Jordan has become a part of us, so now when we go home we'll miss it, too!

The next leg of our journey

We're busy finishing packing, cleaning the apartment (I just found a huge cockroach under the table! Gross!) and thinking about leaving Jordan. A sad thought, but there is a golden lining: we'll be traveling through the United Arab Emirates and Turkey on our way home.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 16th we will leaved Jordan and fly to Dubai in the UAE. We're not really sure what we'll be doing in Dubai since everything is super expensive. I know that we're planning on visiting some near-by Emirates, hanging out at the beach and the pool at our hotel, and basically relaxing. We also plan on finding the chapel and going to church on Friday. That should be an experience!

We fly out of Dubai on the 20th. Turkey should be more of an interesting experience. Andrew has been there before so he has some good ideas of what we can do while we're there. We should also have internet connection in our hotel, so that's exciting! Maybe we can post something while in Turkey!

We head back to Jordan on the 25th at 1 am. We'll probably be spending that morning sleeping in some forgotten corner of the airport and then will head into Amman to pick up our suitcases from the Steeds, who will be watching all our luggage while we're traveling. We will probably take a nap at their house because sleeping in airports isn't very efficient. Then we leave very early in the morning on the 27th, which means that we'll be spending the night of the 26th in another airport. It should be fun.

While we are a little nervous to fly in light of recent events, it looks like it is one of the safest times to fly. Security will be at its highest so we have little to worry about. The ban on carry-ons has been lifted for now so we should be fine to bring all of our suitcases home...without any liquids, of course. We look forward to seeing you all and sharing our experiences with you!

The Last Hurrah!

We are quite happy about the fact that we are leaving this apartment. In addition to the funeral wailings, they have started digging up the road in front of our house. It certainly is noisy in our neighbourhood. It is interesting how they are going about paving the road. They kind of just work around the cars that are parked in the street and people will drive right through the construction honking their horns at the tractors...I think it might work a bit better if they would close the road for a few hours and get everything done without interruption, but I'm no civil engineer, so what do I know?

Anyway, to celebrate our last evening with the Slades, we decided to go out for dinner. Jason suggested that we go out but no one would say what we were thinking for dinner. We all sat in silence waiting for someone to make a group decision. Finally Jason said, "Well, what do you guys want? Pizza?" Crystal, Andrew and I all said, at virtually the same time, "That's exactly what I was thinking!" So, we all headed to Pizza Hut, or as they say here: Bitza Hoot. It was a very enjoyable evening. We all had fun watching Ezra goof off and dance around.

Ezra doing the pizza dance

When we want ketchup the most, we can't get it. I like to have ketchup with my french fries, but here they tend to be a little stingy on the ketchup packets giving you only two for a whole thing of fries. Hardly enough ketchup if you ask me. Instead they use mayonaise, which I find disgusting. Who has plain mayo on fries? Gross! But then, when you think you have no need for ketchup, like when you are eating pizza, they give you a whole bottle.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Funeral Wail -- 24 hours and counting

For the last 24 hours we've been listening to an on-going wail. It's kind of off and on and because it's been going on for so long we kind of tend to block it out. All of a sudden we'll hear it again and think, "Wow, it's way too early for the 'Call to prayer.'" At first we thought that maybe it was a political campaign of sorts but there wasn't anything in the news about that. Then we thought that maybe the Call to Prayer times really had changed (rather dramatically) but after checking the schedule we found that it had not. So, after hearing it again this evening we went out onto our balcony to record it. As we were doing so we noticed quite a few fancy cars parking and then people walking toward some unknown location.

A Sample of the Wail

Andrew said, "Do you want to go for a walk?" Normally I'm the one who says this, but since he said it, I jumped on the opportunity. So, we headed out to find out what was going on.

We walked down to the traffic circle and started following people up the street (where cars were double and triple parked!) to an apartment building not far from ours. Everyone was dressed rather nicely and going into the courtyard of this apartment. Since Andrew and I were not-so-nicely dressed and we were uninvited, we decided to just ask the guard what was going on. The conversation went like this:

Andrew (in Arabic): What's happening?
Guard (in English): What?
Andrew (in Arabic): What's happening?
Guard (in English): What?
Andrew (in English): What's happening?
Guard (in broken English): There's man dead.
Andrew (in Arabic): Oh, there's a funeral.
Guard (in Arabic, confused): You speak Arabic?

So, it's a funeral. We kind of walked by the courtyard very slowly to observe what we could. They had carpeted the ground (this is outside, mind you) and there were flowers and stringed Christmas lights arranged very nicely. Everyone was hugging each other (well, the men were hugging the men and the women were hugging the women) but that was about all we could see.

Oh, no: Out again!

Yes, we ran out of water today...again. Hopefully this is the last time. Afterall, this is our last week here so we really shouldn't even have a chance to run out of water again. However, since this is us we might run out even though we fill up tomorrow and are leaving on Wednesday. Crazily enough we've only had two weeks here that we haven't run out of water. I'm not sure whether or not to count this next week as the third week or not. I mean, we won't (crossing our fingers) run out of water, but if we stayed the whole week, we probably would run out of water. It's a toss up!

A few weeks ago we decided to keep all of our water bottles to see how much we were drinking. We collected quite a few--and most of those are 2 litres! That's not all the bottles in the house, and we have thrown a few away...but that is a lot of them. We call it our water bottle graveyard. (aka: weapons of little-to-no destruction).

Water Bottle Battles

We have a lot of fun things that we do in our apartment to keep Ezra (and ourselves) entertained. Ezra and I will play a game kind of like hide-and-go-seek, but instead of Ezra ever finding me, I jump out and scare him and chase him all around the apartment. Ezra also likes to get "stuck." This involves tickle torture. We also have been known to engage in pillow fights.

Here are Ezra and Andrew having a water bottle battle.

No one was harmed in the making of this film.

Party time!

We are really in the last stretch here! Last Thursday was the last day of classes so we had a party! Andrew was both happy that the semester is closing but sad that we will be leaving soon. He took the camera to school to catch some pictures of class in action.

Crystal and I came to campus to meet everyone there. When we arrived a good Arabic feast was laid out already, complete with various types of humus and foul, pita bread, falafel, some pastries stuffed with meat and potatoes, vegetables, sesame cookies, and kanafa (which Crystal and I both think is really gross). It was really good. Jordan doesn't have any very good baklava, at least not in my opinion. Andrew and I found some good baklava once...mostly though they sell huge pieces of dessert that look like baklava but inside have the same cheese that they put in the kanafa. Even though the desserts were kind of disappointing, it was fun to socialize with everyone once again.

Some of the Action

After we were all stuffed and getting ready to go, the students paused on the steps of the Language Center for a final picture. It was hard to get everyone to stand still and we had so many people taking pictures so the students didn't know where to look, but this one (of the three I took) ended up okay. Andrew is on the back row, the second on the left.

After we left, Andrew and I wandered through campus to take a few pictures of some landmarks. The campus is really quite beautiful. There are so many trees (in comparison to the rest of the city!) and so it tends to be a lot cooler. The students hang out all over campus all day. They sprawl all over the sidewalks, under the trees, on the benches...

Our final picture of the main gate. No longer will we be harassed for our ID cards or teased by the guards because we can't speak Arabic (well, Andrew can but I struggle...). No longer will we take the bus to the University and get over-charged. No longer will we fight our way through traffic to get to the pedestrian tunnel to get to the Falafel Dude's place. No more sitting outside the Language Center waiting for class to get out. Sad, but joyful at the same time.

(It reads, "The Jordanian University" : Al Jamia Al-Orduniya)