Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Air raid maybe?

So, we were sitting and eating dinner today when we suddenly heard a loud sonic boom - a fighter jet flew right over our house. When I ran out to the balcony, I saw the jet, and then one minute later, helicopters started flying by. 19 of them. They circled Amman for about 10 minutes until leaving.

At the Dead Sea we had a helicopter patrolling the beach to make sure nobody swam across to Israel. Military police are pretty good here. Who knows what the 19 helicopter convoy was doing today - they were flying towards Iraq before they started circling Amman. Maybe we'll find out in the news soon.

Just another cool thing that happens here.

Visa Extension...

Today Andrew and I went to get our visas extended. We bought our initial visas at the airport for 10 JD a piece, but they are only good for 30 days, so in order to stay in the country legally you have to, as they stamped in our passports, "Contact the nearest police station within one month." Since we arrived on May 3rd and tomorrow is June 1st, we decided that we should probably do that PDQ! It was quite an adventure.

I left our apartment just before 1:00 to meet Andrew at the University after his class. From the University we took a taxi to Sweilah because that is the closest police station to our neighbourhood. At least, we thought it was the closest one since that's where Levi got his visa extended and he is only a 10 minute walk from us. Sweilah isn't exactly in Amman though, it's suburb of Amman (kind of like Sandy to Salt Lake City) and only part of the people in our neighbourhood, Tela al-'ali, are allowed to register there and we live in the other part, I guess. So, we get to the police station in Sweilah and talk to some guards with big guns and then go into the station. We met a really nice man from New Jersey...

He is a used car dealer, but the FBI is on him because a lot of the cars that he sold were shipped to Iraq and used by suicide bombers. The FBI tracked down the VIN and since he sold the car, he got probably doesn't help that he is Palestinian, but as he said, "I sold them the car. I asked for money. They gave it to me, I gave them the car...does that make me a criminal?" He was really cool.

After we were told that we couldn't extend our visas in Sweilah he gave us a lift to Tela al-'ali where we tried to find the police station...but there is no police station in Tela al-'ali so we then took a taxi to Shmeisani, the next neighbourhood over. Our taxi driver was really quite nice but he had no clue where the police station was. He took us to the military base with armored guards everywhere who told us to go to the American Embassy. Andrew told them that we had to go to the nearest police station because that's what it says to do in our passport. I was getting nervous with all the guns around, getting poked by them occasionally and everything. Finally the guards got frustrated with us and told us to go to the other gate and talk to the guards there. Those guards told us to take a taxi to the police station. We were frustrated because we had been trying to find that police station for some time. But, we caught a taxi anyway and asked the driver to take us there. This driver actually knew where the police station was and dropped us off about a block away because he didn't want to turn around. So, we walked up the street to the station and then asked the guard where to go. He didn't actually know where so we followed some people around to the back of the station to a room with a bunch of people waiting in it to get their visas.

There were a lot of Iraqi refugees there registering their passports. Their process was a lot easier than ours. All they had to do was provide a telephone number. We had to give our address and the name of our landlord (which we don't know, interestingly enough...we've never met our landlord). Since Andrew didn't know the name of the landlord he explained this and then said, very sheepishly, "Is that a problem?" (in Arabic). Everyone in the room laughed at him. He sounded rather nervous. It might have been all the guns around...

In the end we got the visa extension and were then sent upstairs to get it signed by the head-honcho police man. He had an air-conditioned office. It was nice.

Now we can legally stay in the county until August 3rd. Slightly problematic since we are here until August 16th. I think since we are going to Egypt in July we will just get another visa and then register that again. Hopefully that works. :) If not...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Since we're new to this blog thing, we're still discovering new and cool things we can do with the blog.

Like commenting. We just discovered a way to allow anyone to comment on our posts. If you read our blog and want to say something cool about it to us, go right ahead! We can see the comments you leave. Please leave us comments so we can see what you think about it all!

Also, we added a link to Jeremy and Bridget's Blog. If you all remember, he's the assistant director of the program - we went to the Dead Sea with them a while ago. They've got interesting stories too... Also we added a link to Jason and Crystal's Blog, who live with us.

So, moral of the story - leave comments! We should have fixed it so that you can comment even if you don't have a account.

Hope to see your comments!

How Hot is Hot?

We were asked a very good question: How hot is hot? Well, it's pretty hot, but it isn't terrible--however, since I really enjoy the heat you might want to take that with a grain of salt. Anyway, the average temperature in the summer is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). Today it was 92 degrees and that was pretty hot. Even in the school, although it is air conditioned, everyone was sweating.

The houses here are built to keep things cool. The walls are brick and cement and the floors are all marble. It makes things really cold - like the beginning of May when it was freezing inside but around 20 degrees Celsius outside. So, it isn't dreadfully hot inside but it is still rather warm.

The heat brought Andrew a very interesting situation yesterday. Our neighbours were installing new furniture all evening. Around 8:00 PM, the porter and our neighbour knocked on our door. Instead of actually talking to Andrew they say (in Arabic), "Water, water? It's hot outside! Water." They then start waving their hands in front of their faces and panting. Andrew thinks to himself, They must be thirsty from all their work and have run out of water and want to borrow some. So Andrew goes to the fridge and pulls out a bottle of water and tries to give it to them. They refused it but said again, "Water, water? It is very hot outside!" Andrew's like, "Yeah, it's hot..." but still had no idea what they were getting at. So, the porter left and came back with a 20 liter container of water and said, "1 JD." It turns out they were trying to sell us water, not borrow any. Since we had been trying to find a place that sells water in large containers (we'd been buying 1 litre- 5 litre containers and go through them really fast!) we were really excited. Plus, this is way cheaper. Andrew starts to pull out his wallet but then they say (in Arabic), "Change! Change!" So Andrew thinks to himself, They don't want me to give them bills...they want coins. Okay. He starts pulling change out of his pocket so that he can pay them with his coinage. But then they say, "Old one, new one." and Andrew realizes that they are asking if we have an empty container to trade with them. We didn't so he paid them 1 JD and they left. So, now we have 20 litres of drinking water that will be replaced each week. Andrew was quite embarrased about his miscommunications. We often find ourselves wishing that people would speak to us in full sentences. People find it hard to believe that, as Americans, we can speak any Arabic at all, therefore, they will either speak English to us (even though their English might be worse than our Arabic), or they speak in baby-talk to us. But, as Andrew learns more and becomes more fluent more and more people talk to him. They realize that he actually does understand and that he actually can speak. It's what we call the "talking-dog" syndrome. People listen to what you say and then tell you that they don't understand what you are saying. You'll say what you say again and they think, "Wow! That dog is talking!" but they don't respond. You say it a third time and they think, "That dog is talking and I know what it's saying!"

Monday, May 29, 2006

Goats in Amman, Andrew in the Dead Sea

Here is our local goat herder with his goats--they eat trash.

And here is Andrew snacking in the Dead Sea--he eats pita.

The Gas Truck Theme Songs

These are some of the songs from the gas trucks. These gas trucks can be quite annoying, although they get Ezra all excited everytime he hears the music! The music is rather obnoxious and they only play a few bars of it so it gets stuck in your head and then everyone is whistling we thought that we would share it with you so that you can have it stuck in your head, too!

You could all go into the gas business here. It is pretty easy. It works like this:
1) Buy a gas truck. It has to be blue and fit about 60 tanks of gas in the back. You can buy them from your local taxi/gas truck/mini-bus car lot.
2) Decorate the truck in brightly coloured geometric shapes.
3) Get a gas company to sell you gas and have them assign you a neighbourhood.
4) Drive around the neighbourhood all day starting at 7:00 AM long playing your little 2-bar song. All day means 12 hours. With the same song. This might seem rather monotonous, but if you get a few of your buddies to do it with you then you can all drive around the neighbourhood playing the same song...but not at the same time. You could also all drive around at the same time but play different songs.
5) When someone comes outside, slow down. Be cautious. If they whistle at you or motion for you to stop, stop the truck and turn off the music.
6) Sell the tanks of gas to whoever stopped you. They cost 4.25 JD...but you will need two: one for the stove and one for the water-heater. (In the winter you will need a few more tanks for your space heaters).
7) Go into their house and set them up for your patron.
8) Return to your vehicle and turn the music back on.
9) Continue your drive around the neighbourhood.
10) You can occassionally stop for a cup of hot licorice beverage or tea with your gas and taxi driver friends. You can leave your music on or turn it off. Whatever you would like. At around 7:00 PM you can quit your route and go home.

Theme song 1

Theme song 2

Street Sweepers, Garbagemen, and Trash Collectors

Like a lot of big cities, Amman is full of litter. There are garbage cans everywhere, but not everyone uses them; therefore, three different jobs have been created from the excess garbage. The first are the street sweepers. These are they who walk around with wheelbarrows and shovels picking up trash from the street. They then take the trash to the dumpsters and continue sweeping the streets. The second are the garbagemen. These are they who wear orange coveralls and ride on the back of a dumptruck and empty the dumpsters into the back of the dumptruck. Thirdly, we see the trash collectors. These are they who wander around Amman all day looking for treasure (one man's junk is another man's treasure!). They range from children looking for whatever to goat herders trying to feed their flock to men looking for scraps of things to sell.

Today I ran into one such Trash Collector. I was on my way to a meeting at the Junior Achievement HQ in Amman (I'm supposed to edit their monthly newsletter)...I was a little afraid to do so since I had never exactly been out of our neighbourhood by myself. But, I now am fully confident that I can get home, so going anywhere isn't really a problem (before I could say jareedit a-distour, it was another story). So, I took a taxi from the University of Jordan to the Arab Bank in Shmesani...or almost there. My taxi driver stopped and said to me (in Arabic), "The bank's here. Get out." I was like, "Okay." So I got out and I looked around but couldn't see the bank anywhere. But I did see a little police station, so I walked upto the police station and asked if they knew where the Arab Bank was. Just my luck: they didn't speak English. So, I asked them where the bank is in my very broken Arabic and get directions. I didn't understand anything the officer said to me (except "the bank is here.") so I followed his pointing and finally made it to the bank. From there I had to follow a little map that my friend Tim had drawn for me. I think I am directionally impaired because I could not find the planned destination. As I'm wandering up a road, a Trash Collector walks by, dragging his stash behind him. This was no ordinary trash collector though! This Trash Collector spoke English! As we passed each other he said to me, "I love you!" I ignored him, but he said, "Hey! I love you! Come here! I will hold you!" I still ignored him. He started following me...apparently I am better than trash. He kept talking to me, "I love you, pretty girl. Come here! I love you!" I turned around and said in Russian, "I don't speak English, go away!" He then started speaking to me in Spanish. I was quite annoyed and didn't really know what to do.

Here I am, lost in Amman with a Trash Collector hitting on me. Lucky for me there was another guy on a corner just up the street. He said to me, "Hey, I you can help!" and so I walked over to him and the Trash Collector left. That was nice. But then the nicer guy wanted to talk to me. I just said that I was supposed to have a meeting and I just need to phone someone to meet them here. He said okay and walked away. Phew...alone again. Lost...but a step up from being followed around by a Trash Collector.

I phoned my contact at Junior Achievement. She said that the person I was supposed to meet with had a baby yesterday morning so I won't be able to meet with them this afternoon. I went home--with a very nice taxi driver who spoke English well and taught me a little more Arabic. I was a little frustrated that I wasn't able to meet with my boss after all that I had been through today, but having a baby is understandable. Maybe next week I will be able to start editing!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Political the university?

Universtiy life here is relatively normal - almost like BYU in lots of aspects - the girls dress modestly, there aren't any major problems, etc.. However, two weeks ago, life got crazy. Why? Student elections.

Anytime you mention the word elections in the Arab world, people go crazy. Even the student kind.

For a full two weeks, campus was plastered with signs and pamphlets calling for votes. "Vote for Mohammed!" "Vote for Mahmoud!" - stuff like that. The candidates then organized themselves into political parties - not the fake, arbitrary parties we do in America in school elections. These were extensions of actualy parties. One party was pro-Palestine and Hamas - another called for the unity of Jordanians and Palestinians (Palestinians in Jordan are treated like Mexicans in the southwest) - another called for a pure Jordanian state, or no Palestinians. Campaigning got more heated.

Demonstrations were held all day every day. Hordes of chanting people marched around campus, with the presidential candidate at the forefront, crying out their parties' positions. More often than not, anti-American, anti-British, and anti-Israel phrases were chanted in addition to the normal campaign slogans.

The day before the elections, the university administration disqualified one of the parties, the one calling for a pure Jordanian state, because of excessive demonstrating. So, the next morning, a riot broke out on campus. Police and military are not allowed on campus for some reason, so students and teachers had to stop it. For the rest of the day, though, campus was surrounded by armored cars, humvees with huge guns on top, a tank, and tons of men with machine guns to help calm the situation. Undercover police men were spread around campus to prevent any further disturbances.

I ate my lunch that day in front of the tank while students talked with the soldiers.

Cool, huh?

What does Andrew do all day?

I wrote about how school was organized here a while ago, but it's changed a bit and is now officially set in almost-stone, so I'll comment about it again.

We are all studying at the مركز اللغلابت (language center) at the University of Jordan. Normally, language classes are held there for both Arabs and foreign students, like us. They have set teachers and classes just like any other university. However, becuase our BYU group is so large (30+ students), we have our own separate and special program.

We were all divided up according to our level of proficiency in Arabic, decided by competency tests taken our first week here. There are 4 levels - beginning, intermediate low, intermediate high, and advanced. I was unfortunately placed in intermediate low, probably because of my 2 year Arabic hiatus. Class is actually really easy for me now (for the past few weeks it hasn't been though - it took a while for Arabic to kick back in).

Each group attends classes together, kind of. There are 4 different classes of fusHa, or written Arabic, one for each of the levels. There are 3 classes for ammiyya, or spoken Arabic - the intermediate classes combine for those.

The teachers are UJ professors from different departments on campus, specially hired and contracted for our program. For example, my fusHa teacher is normally an Arabic grammar teacher. She actually taught in a private school for the royal family before coming to the UJ five years ago, so she taught grammar to princes and princesses and famous Jordanians. My ammiyya teacher is actually the department chair of the French department. He has an extra hour every day to teach us, even if he's not an official Arabic teacher. Ammiyya isn't taught in schools here - it's just spoken in homes - so having a class on ammiyya is rare - no teachers really teach it.

I'm on campus for a little over 4 hours every day. My fusHa class goes from 11:30-1:00. I then have a lunch break from 1:00-3:00 and then have ammiyya from 3:00-4:00. It's a pretty easy schedule.

Just to give you an idea of what I actually do at school and learn in classes, in fusHa we have to read the newspaper in Arabic everyday for homework and we discuss current events in class and debate about them. Recently we've talked about Iran's nuclear program, Darfour, and Iraq's new government, but we've mostly focused on the problems between Fatah, Hamas, al-Qa'ida, and Israel, since all that is going on a little over an hour away from here (it's a 90 minute drive to Jerusalem from here...). It's been fun learning all that vocabulary and focusing so much on the news that's happening in this area of the world. It's also fun to talk about it with people on the streets, although discussions can get pretty heated.

In ammiyya, we don't have any set lesson plans. Our teacher just teaches us words and phrases for specific situations, based on our needs. We know how to find an apartment, take a bus to places out of Amman, order food from a restaurant, check prices of food from a grocery store, talk about soccer and the World Cup, including all the names of the positions on the field, and lots of other stuff. Our homework is to go and use those words with people on the streets. Last week I had to go to a bus station and figure out how to get to Petra. Jason Slade (the guy living with us), had to go to a restaurant yesterday and talk with the owner while eating food (hard homework, eh?). It's a fun class.

So that's what school is like here. I'm learning a lot!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Safeway - the exciting place to be

A few cool stories from last week...

1 - We've discovered the coolest store in the world here. Safeway. It's right next to Abdoun, the expatriate rich neighborhood. The store has food from every Western country. We got maple syrup, Italian tomato sauce, American ceral, peanut butter - everything! It's like an international Walmart. We got our sheets and pillows and pots and pans and stuff there too. They even have a semi food court that makes fresh juices and milkshakes - we got pineapple juice and a strawberry milkshake last time.

So, last week in Safeway, we met an Italian couple who were impressed that I spoke Italian. We gave each other our phone numbers and left. They called us a few days ago and invited us over for dinner. So, we happily went. We had real Italian pizza (there's a pizzeria across the street from their apartment - the Arab owner lived in Italy for a few years, so he knew what he was doing) and some way good pasta and spoke Italian most of the time (even Nancy).

We think they had ulterior motives for the invitation though. They are both devout Jehovah's Witnesses.

When I left with Pietro to get the pizza, he cheefully asked me where I was from. When I said Utah, his mood changed completely. He said "Oh..." and got really silent. I wrecked his plans for a bible study that night. As you may know, the relationship between Mormon missionaries, even ex- missionaries and JWs isn't that good.

They were still pleasant and nice the rest of the evening and never tried fighting us or converting us. They gave us a few pamphlets and an Arabic bible when we left, but didnt' invite us again for another evening - didn't even say that we should meet again. It seemed final. They lost us as potential investigators. We got good food though.

Who would've thought that we'd eat dinner with two Italian JWs in Amman Jordan? Cool, huh?

Cool story number 2 - once again at Safeway...

The first day the Slades were here, we took them to Safeway to buy groceries. I talked with the driver a lot and it was pretty fun. He dropped us off in front of Safeway and I stayed in the car and got the money out to pay him. I gave him a bill from my wallet and then got my coin pouch to pay him the rest of the fare. I then left really fast to catch up with everyone else.

I then realized that one of my pockets was empty. My wallet was in the taxi still - with all my money (I had just taken 350 JD out of an ATM - according to Google, that's $493.30...) and credit cards and ID and everything. Nancy and I panicked. The taxi driver was driving away. I started yelling and chasing him down, but we were stuck in the walled parking lot of Safeway.

He heard our cries of panic and stopped in the middle of the road and saw us stuck behind the wall. He moved over to the side of the road. As he did so, brave ol' Nancy scaled the wall and jumped down the other side to grab my estranged wallet. She thanked him and he drove off, and we were a lot happier, although we were pretty shaken the rest of the day. I'm a lot more careful with my wallet now.

So, that's all for now!

Independence Day in Amman

So, yesterday was a pretty fun day. It was the Jordanian Independence Day - 60 years ago the UK dissolved the Palestinian protectorate and formed the country of Transjordan, which later was renamed Jordan after it took the West Bank from Israel in one of the many wars they've been having.

Because of that, we got a three day weekend (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). We hoped to go to Petra for the whole three days and stay in a hotel there, and Kirk told us to go out and see stuff, but the next day, he sent out an e-mail saying that all travel on Friday (the Sabbath here) was prohibited, meaning that our Petra plans (and everyone else's) were dashed. Lots of people got mad at him since he gave us no alternatives. It seemed like we'd never be able to leave Amman for extended periods of time to see other places. A few days later he called a meeting and told us he'd make other real 3 day weekends for us to leave and see stuff in Jordan. So hopefully we'll have time soon to get to Petra.

So, since we were stuck in Amman for the 3 day weekend, we went downtown to see what ancient things exist here. One of the main sites is an ancient (duh) Roman amphitheater that is extremely well preserved (Europeans use rock to build buildings - Arabs make their own brick out of sand - when Europeans needed building materials, what better source did they have than a huge colosseum sitting in the middle of town, not doing anything. The Arabs just ignored the big stone things here. Plus, it never rains here - minimal weather damage).

The theater is huge, and is part of the old Decapolis city of Philadelphia (modern day Amman, obviously). The main capital is on the top of a huge hill, now called the Citadel, and the old temple, or Acropolis, is up there too. Most of those buildings are destroyed now after numerous wars and stuff over the past 2000 years, but it's still pretty cool.

When we got our tickets (1 JD each - cheap), we walked in and an old, nearly toothless man came and proclaimed himself our guide for 5 JD. He then started giving us the tour before we could say no. He took us through the two museums and the main amphitheater really quick so that he could take us out to a small souvenier store and force us to buy something. We left the Slades in the shop and ran back to the amphitheater to take more time in it. It was nicer without the guide reciting a made up tour. For example, in one of the musems they had a whole bunch of mosaics from the city of Madaba (near the Dead Sea - biblical Moab). One mosaic was clearly labeled as "boy with wig," but the old guy said that the mosaic came from the amphitheater and was a picture of the king of Rome (wouldn't that be emperor?)

After that, we went to the main market to buy some cheap DVDs - 1 JD each. We bought Paradise Now last week, about 2 Palestinian suicide bombers (Nancy wrote about that earlier), so we bought 5 more yesterday (Ice Age 2, The Wild, Munich, The Benchwarmers, and the Legend of Zorro). We watched The Benchwarmers when we got home, but the quality was horrible, as was the film. Some guy filmed it from the back of a theater, so we got the audience laughing along and occasional popcorn breaks and people standing up to go in and out of the theater. Hopefully our other movies are good quality like Paradise Now.

While we were in downtown, the Jordanian Air Force put on an airshow right above the market, so everyone on the streets (and the cars) stopped and watched for 10 minutes. It was pretty cool. Later that night we heard fireworks, but couldn't see anything because our window faces away from downtown.

Today was pretty uneventful - we just went to church, came back, took a nap, got the wireless working, and cleaned and organized and relaxed. Tomorrow we'll do some more stuff in downtown more, maybe, and I have tons of homework to catch up with.

Pictures from our Indepdence Day trip in downtown Amman

We're talking to the Slades from the other side of the curve (Romans were pretty smart)

The ancient Acropolis, or temple, is off in the distance on top of the hill

Native tribal costumes in the museum

Women's tribal headdresses in the musuem

A camel eating a tree outside the amphitheater (he's a Jordanian Army camel too)

View from halfway up the amphitheater steps

View of East Amman (mostly Palestinian ghettos) from the top of the amphitheater

Me on the steps of the amphitheater

The Slades down at the bottom. They are talking to us and we can here them just fine. They are standing at the acoustic center of the amphitheater, so projecting your voice is easy.

Us and the Slades (they are jetlagged, hence the not too energetic faces)

The fruit market in the main huge Amman market

We're at 100%! Finally!

Okay - I hope you all enjoyed the pictures of the Dead Sea and of our apartment. The Dead Sea post was actually written a while ago, and we haven't posted much lately because of some more changes.

First of all, not only do we have DSL, we have wireless internet too! We bought a router a few days ago, but for some reason, I couldn't get it to work at all, even following all the instructions. I was even on the online chat help thing with Linksys for 1.5 hours and they couldn't figure it out. I spent well over 20 hours the past 3 days trying to make it work. So, today, Nancy suggested that she try. In less than 5 minutes, she had the wireless up and running. I don't know how she did it. Magic I guess. It works now!

Second, we don't live alone anymore in our wonderful apartment (that's finally growing on us - we've been here for two weeks now!). The Slade family moved in with us. Jason is a BYU alum who graduated a while ago in Near Eastern Studies/Arabic (the predecessor to my current MESA major) who's currently in med school in Illinois. He is working on his MD/PhD dissertation and is doing it on Arab health care, so he's here studying Arabic at the UJ like me, but is going to try to set up internships and interviews with hospitals here. He brought his wife Crystal and their almost 2 year old son Ezra. Ezra is such a cute kid! The Slades got here on Tuesday night, the same night we got internet.

The internet was such a hassle! I spent a week and a half calling Jordanian Telecom, Wanadoo (our ISP), the landlord (who isn't really the landlord), and went all over Amman by myself to different government buildings scattered throughout the city. On Tuesday both Nancy and I spent all day with JT technicians and tried to get the Wanadoo guy to come and just give us our password. He called at 5 saying he'd be over at 6:30. Then he called at 6:15 saying he'd be over at 7:45. Then he called at 7:30 saying he couldn't come that day, but maybe the next day. We gave up hope and pretty much resigned ourselves to never having internet. At 9:30 he called and said he was here. He decided randomly to come that night and set us up. It was a miracle!

So, today, I finally unpacked and organized everything. Everything is now perfect and set up and working properly. We are no longer gypsies in Jordan. We are technology enhanced Middle East gurus loving every minute out here now!

So, that's all for this post. I'll make another one about our adventure yesterday.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pictures of our house

View from our kitchen balcony

The big bathroom that we do use (there's a pigeon nest in the window - that's what that black junk is at the bottom of the window)

More pictures of our house

Our kitchen

Dining room

Little ghetto WC - nobody ever uses it...

Spare bedroom - the beds are combined now for the Slades

The Dead Sea (Saturday, May 20, 2006)

On Thursday, which is like a Friday because it is the last day of the work week, I was over visiting with Bridget and she asked what Andrew and I were planning on doing for the weekend. We weren’t really planning on doing anything, but Bridget said that she and Jeremy were planning on going to the Dead Sea—so Andrew and I, as well as the Joneses (Ariel and Matt) decided to go too. It was so fun!

We met at Kirk’s house at 9:00. Andrew and I walked there; it takes about 25 minutes. It used to take 30 but then we discovered another road that makes us backtrack less. On the way we saw a horse being used to plow the islands of the road. That was kind of strange…I guess they don’t have roto-tillers here.

Since we got to Kirks a little early, I got to hold Miriam while the Palmers finished getting ready to go. From Kirk’s, the Palmers, Andrew and I caught a taxi to go to the bus station by the Third Circle, where we were meeting the Jonses, in order to get on an early Amman-Dead Sea bus. (Zahran Street is one of the main streets in Amman and there are 7 really fancy traffic circles on it. They are well-known landmarks. The church is right off of the third circle, as was this bus station.) The bus was kind of junky, but it was cheap (1 JD) for an hour’s ride. We kind of got ripped off because Jeremy only had a 5, so he paid for Bridget and himself (Miriam rides free—she’s only 8 months old) and for Andrew and I. But then, even though he told the money collecting kid that he paid for all four of us, the money collecting kid insisted that we pay as well. So we did. We were a little upset, but it was still a pretty cheap bus ride.

The drive was really interesting because we got to stop by a little village. It was so strange. People were looking into the bus and pointing and waving at us. They were telling people to come out of their houses to look at us…I suppose the not too many Americans travel through that village. It was a really cute village. I think that everyone must be banana farmers there because there were so many banana fields. And everyone had flowers in their gardens. It was really pretty.

No sooner had we left this village and the last of the banana fields behind than the landscape was totally arid. It was an amazing dichotomy: lush fields with bananas (and some corn and bamboo and flowers) to parched landscape with nothing (no trees, very little desert grasses).

Then we arrived at the Dead Sea. It was a beautiful sight: red sand and rocks, palm trees, the clear blue sea, and the mountains of Israel/Palestine in the background. The cost to get into Amman beach (that’s where we went because they have change rooms and freshwater showers…and it’s the cheapest beach with such commodities) is 1 JD for Jordanians, 5 JD for foreigners, and 2.5 JD for students. (It’s a good thing that we got our student ID cards a few days ago!) The beach was beautiful, albeit there was trash scattered all over, and we took a nice spot under a bamboo umbrella.

Bridget said that even if people tell you about the Dead Sea, you are not prepared for how it feels to be in it. It is pretty strange. At first I thought it was pretty normal until I tried to stand up and had a hard time getting my feet to go back down to the bottom. It was really cool! I think that even my mom would have enjoyed swimming there! The water was warm and you couldn’t sink. Andrew and I were just floating on our backs…our stomachs…straight up and down in the water…completely effortlessly. It was so cool! There were people reading the newspaper just lying on their backs. I did some synchro (without dunking my head) and it was so easy! I could just lift my legs into the air and not have to scull or anything. Andrew even ate his pita sandwich floating on his back.

I don’t know how salty the ocean is compared to the Dead Sea, but I can tell you that it is a whole lot saltier! If you get a drop in your eye you can’t see anything until you rinse it out (with fresh water); it burns so badly! If you get it in your mouth, it also burns, so you spit and spit and spit to try to get the taste out of your mouth. There is so much salt that while you are in the water you feel all oily and then after you get out the salt starts to get all grainy on your body. (I’m still picking salt out of my ears!) There was salt all in my hair and all over my skin. It was kind of gross, but I think it’s better than the chlorine feeling. The sand collects on the shore as well as all over the bottom of the sea. We picked off a bunch of salt crystals to bring home with us. We got some really big pieces! There are huge pillars of salt in the sea—literally! A word to the wise: don’t shave the day you plan on going to the Dead Sea, and don’t go in if you have any open wounds. (Poor Andrew had a blister on one of his toes…ouch!)

The Dead Sea is famous for its “magical” healing powers. The muds and waters of the sea are supposed to cure almost any ailment (headaches, skin disorders, etc.) People were smearing themselves with mud to clean their skin. Andrew and I did as well. It kind of burns because there is sand and salt mixed in the mud so when you scrub yourself with your pores get exfoliated…and then the water gets in and it burns. But it did feel really nice. People actually collect the mud and sell it. Others make lotions and soaps out of the minerals. I don’t know why anyone would buy it. You walk in the Dead Sea and can sink up to your ankles in mud (before you get in so deep that you can’t keep your feet down anymore).

After a few hours (like 4) we were all pretty much done—Miriam especially. So we had to find a way home. We hired a van to take us back for 20JD. He took us right back to Kirk’s house, so we didn’t have to hire a second taxi. That was nice. However, we had squished too many people into the van so we took a lot of back roads in order to avoid the checkpoints. (On the way to the Dead Sea we got stopped at 2 checkpoints, we got ID-ed at one and questioned at the other – there are tons of checkpoints all along the road that goes parallel to the Dead Sea-Jordan River-Sea of Galilee since Israel/Palestine is less than 5 miles away and there are a few little problems over there…). One road took us to the middle of nowhere! There were a few Bedouin tents and then an even smaller village than before. This one was just a bunch of mud-brick homes, not that mud-brick homes are abnormal because people still make their own bricks in Amman, but these homes were one-room homes with no electricity or anything. It was pretty amazing how scarce everything looked. We had to slow down for an old lady to cross the street leading her donkey…

Now we’re home, showered, fed, and dead-tired! All that sunshine will do you in. Andrew and I were joking that because we’ve now fully experienced the lowest point on Earth that we should climb Mt. Everest…I’m not sure that is going to happen. I’m not really one to complain about the heat…but I do whine about the cold a lot! In fact, Amman has been too cold lately…the Dead Sea was much warmer and the sun was much more concentrated. Andrew and I both got a little burnt. It was a good day though! And this week is a short week so we are looking forward to having next Thursday off of school for Jordanian Independence Day (60 years this year)…maybe we’ll explore Petra!

Pictures from the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Close up of salt that was "growing" in the Dead Sea

Nancy floating in front of fat Russian guy

Monday, May 22, 2006

We have internet finally!

I'm sitting at the computer, on a nice comfortable chair, with my wife, in MY OWN APARTMENT!!!

Finally, after literally weeks of beurocracy, we are officially online at our apartment in Amman - the technician just left.

I'll let Nancy fill in all the details of us getting it working here, since she was a witness to lots of it.

I have homework now, so I'll be off...


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Our Apartment

I think I’ve decided that the apartment really isn’t all too bad—at least after Andrew and I spent all weekend cleaning. It was so gross. We went and bought sheets for our bed because the ones on it were sketchy! We vacuumed the bed and sprayed it with Lysol (or the closest thing to it) and I put fabric softener under the sheets. The bed was so gross—you’d sit on it and dust would puff up…there was hair all over it. It was gross! Now it is a lot better now that we can sleep without getting dust all over (we’d wake up so stuffed up!). A lot of people had the same problem here, so if you are planning on coming to the Middle East, I would suggest bringing sheets with you so that you can sleep the first night here without wondering if you are going to contract some strange disease.

Our Bedroom

Fabric softener was a good idea to bring, too. Since they don’t have driers here, they usually just sell liquid fabric softener. Andrew and I brought a huge box of Bounce because we thought that mosquitoes would be a big problem (which they aren’t—there are hardly any bugs here at all). I put them everywhere in the house! Under the rugs, under every couch cushion, on top of all the cabinets, in the closets…everywhere! The house still smells a lot like paint/smoke but it is a lot better (meaning that it doesn’t give me a headache). And amazingly enough, it doesn’t really smell like fabric softener either…there is a faint laundry smell but nothing too over powering.

Bathrooms: we really are quite blessed in this department. We have two bathrooms (we have only used one so far because one is so small and then it also has the water heater in it so that makes it even smaller). The big bathroom has a shower, a toilet, a bidet, and a sink. It takes awhile for the hot water to get to the shower, but once it does, it gets really hot! We can’t open the window in the bathroom because some birds are nesting on the window sill right outside…there are bird droppings all over the window and even some inside the bathroom, so that window stays closed tight! Andrew was nice enough to take the job of cleaning the bathroom while I did the kitchen.

As iffy as our bathrooms are, we are blessed because a lot of people have the toilet-shower combination. I’m not sure how fun that is…

To help get rid of the smell in here, I also vacuumed like a mad-man while Andrew was at school one day. I took the attachments off the vacuum and scrubbed the floor with the vacuum hose. It looks a lot nicer now and little puffs of dust/paint flakes don’t come up when you walk.

I feel perfectly safe here now and can see a lot of interesting things from the balcony…goats and gas trucks. It’s fun.

Oh, Welcome to Jordan!

Taxi rides can be pretty interesting here. Sometimes the drivers are so busy trying to light a cigarette that they don’t put their hands on the wheel. Sometimes they drive really slow and get everyone mad at them. Sometimes they drive really fast and scare you half to death. Sometimes they are grumpy and tell you to walk because it’s too close to drive and they want more money (even though it would be a 2 hour walk). Most of the time they are really friendly. Andrew is really good at talking to them. For part of his homework, he has to do 12 hours of speaking and listening, so talking to cab drivers counts as homework. He has made quite a few friends. I have too, although I can’t say much. But everyone loves me. See, my name is Nancy—therefore I have automatic popularity. There is singer here named Nancy (we think she is Lebanese) so everyone things that I have a good Arabic name.

One day we were in the taxi and the driver was talking to Andrew. (Andrew will be speaking to the cab drivers in Arabic and then they’ll ask him if he speaks Arabic. When he says that he does, they get really excited and then ask if I speak Arabic too. When he says that I don’t they just grunt and then ignore me for the most part). A very popular song of Nancy’s came on and Andrew said in Arabic, “Hey, my wife’s name is Nancy.” And the cab driver (who had been ignoring me previously because I couldn’t speak Arabic) got all enthusiastic and said (in English), “Oh, welcome to Jordan. Nancy is good Arabic name.” It’s not, but that’s okay. Everyone can say my name and they all love me when they find out my name is Nancy. It’s pretty funny.

Unaccompanied Around Amman

Speaking of taxis, I took my first cab by myself today (March 16th, 2006). I flagged down the cab driver and told him “The University of Jordan.” He drove me there and asked me which door and I told him “The main gate.” Then he told me the price and I gave him the right amount. All in Arabic. All by myself. I was so happy.

Then I had to get through the gate to the University. The University is pretty safe. It is entirely enclosed and they ID you at the gate. There are also security guards in every building and they stop you if you look suspicious (or if you just look like you have no clue what you’re doing or where you’re going). Getting through the gate is pretty tricky since we don’t have ID cards yet. But I made friends with one of the guards yesterday so today he just let me through without any problem. You can get through the gate if you tell them you’re a student at the language center. I can say center but the word “language” has a pharyngeal in it and I can’t say it. So, I just try to walk through with a big group of people.

Yesterday, however, I went out with two of the wives: Ashley and Ariel. (Ariel got married like 2 weeks ago…crazy!) They were sick and tired of being cooped up all day. I was still coming to grips with the fact that I now live in a huge city and hadn’t yet had the chance to explore my own neighbourhood, let alone the rest of Amman. But it was still fun to get out with them. Since none of us really speaks Arabic that well, we decided to check out Mecca Mall, simply because you can say, “Mecca Mall” and the cab driver will take you there. It’s easy! It’s a huge mall and has some really cool clothes in it…I didn’t have as much of a terrific time as Ashley or Ariel did. I think that’s because I don’t shop for fun in the States…so I don’t really find it all that fun here. But it was fun to have some company during the day and since this was the first time we had all really gone anywhere without our husbands we felt pretty accomplished.

After we were done at Mecca Mall we went back to the University. I didn’t know how to say “Main Gate” at the time so we kind of just got dropped off on the side of the road. That is generally fine except that the main road in front of the University is on the side of a hill that is almost vertical and about 10 feet (I’ll have to show in a picture how it works). There’s a pedestrian underpass that you’re supposed to use, but we walked along this little sidewalk until we found some random stairs. It was kind of embarrassing. Everyone kept honking at us because you’re really not supposed to be there.

From the University we walked to another mall…I am so not into the mall-thing but I went anyway. This one was cooler because there was a little suqh (market) kind of in the mall but kind of not. It’s kind of strange. You’ll be walking in a really nice mall and then you’ll turn a corner and be in a dingy indoor-market. We stayed mostly on the market-side where we could barter with people. Ashley bought a skirt there. The artisan shops were my favorite. (I actually dragged Andrew back to the mall today to meet Mahommun who is a really gifted painter. We plan to go buy some of his paintings before we go home). They had painters, wood carvers, and sand artists. It was really cool.

City Center

Andrew and I tried to go to the city center on Saturday 13th but our cab driver insisted that we’d have a better time shopping at the Jabal Hussayn shopping district. Since he took us there instead of the city center we paid him and got out. He obviously didn’t understand that we were shopping for garbage cans and kitchen towels because Jabal Hussayn is an upscale shopping district. There were some street vendors and they were a little more affordable and we did find some smaller shops that sold hijabs for like 5 JD. But we decided to just go home and try for garbage cans the next day.

So, on Sunday the 14th, we go into the city center again. It’s just a bunch of shops. Tons of shops down every alley and street and sidewalk. There are vendors all over the place! It’s pretty cool. We bought sandals and the garbage cans and towels we were looking for.

We also found a movie that everyone’s been watching. It is called “Paradise now.” It is about the Palestine/Israel dilemma and illustrates it very nicely. It brings some interesting insights to what we see in the news. What we see on the news in America is so narrow-minded! It was kind of scary to watch the movie here since it takes place in the West Bank and is about suicide bombers…and I’ve stood right in front of the West Bank (from the other side of the river), and I’m only a few hours away from where all this is happening. But it was still a pretty cool movie.

The Sounds of Amman

Starting at around 7:30 a.m. and running until 7:30 p.m. the gas trucks drive. These trucks sound like ice cream trucks. They play really annoying music—but only like 3 measures of it and then start again. They drive around the neighbourhood all day everyday! I took a video of one of the trucks. You’ll note that toward the end of the video they start backing up. That’s when I turned off the camera waved “no” to the truck and went inside. If you look at them they will stop because they think you want to buy gas. (In Al Husn they blare their horns and sound like trains! In Syria they bang on the propane tanks with a wrench and yell “Gas!)

We have quite a few mosques in the vicinity of our building (name one place in Amman that doesn’t), so we get to hear the call to prayer everyday as well. 4 am is the earliest one. The latest one is around 9 pm. They have five of them during the day, so there are three more. It’s fun to hear the different mosques doing it. They quote the Q’uran before they give the call to prayer. And they don’t all do it at exactly the same time so you’ll hear it multiple times within just a few minutes.

We live just off of Queen Rania street. That is the main street that runs by the university. We are far enough off it that our neighbourhood is pretty quiet, but we can see the busy street from our window. Pretty much every night we hear the sirens of the ambulance. I’ll have to catch that on video sometime—they aren’t quite the same as the sirens in the US. It’s remarkable that we only hear the sirens that often. The street is 3 lanes each direction and it gets much more traffic than State Street does. On State Street we would see multiple accidents everyday. Here, we’ve yet to witness and accident. The traffic here just flows. It’s pretty amazing—it’s organized chaos. The cars are weaving everywhere and cutting cars off and making the three lane road into four or even five lanes. They honk all the time…but they never crash! It’s pretty amazing. Honestly, if we had the same drivers here that drive on State Street in Provo Queen Rania Street would be a car grave-yard.

I'll have to add a link to the video of the gas truck a little later!

Scrambled Pancakes

Jeremy (the TA) came over a few nights ago with his wife Bridget and daughter Miriam. They live pretty close and just wanted to be sure that they knew where we lived and how to get to our house. Bridget also brought over some Maggi for me—it’s a brand of soup (kind of like Cup-o-Soup for all you Canadians)—to help me feel better. I had been very sick and not able to eat much. It was really nice of her to bring that over. After she left, Andrew and I had that for our second dinner.

Our first dinner was pancakes. I’m sure you all know how Andrew feels about pancakes. He absolutely loves them and makes all different kinds of pancakes. This sometimes good and sometimes not-so-good: sometimes what he experiments with turns out very well and other times…he experiments like Patrick (rootbeer and honeycomb, anyone?). This evening was a not-so-good evening. Andrew made maple-guava pancakes. The batter was surprisingly okay, but…it didn’t work out. The frying pan we have here is very old. It’s supposed to be a Teflon pan but the bottom is completely silver and all scratched up (if that gives you any idea of the condition of the pan). So, Andrew tried making a pancake—it didn’t work. He had to scrape it off with a teaspoon…and it kind of turned into scrambled pancakes. So, he dumps the rest of the batter in the pan and makes a whole batch of scrambled pancakes. Because we were lacking some key ingredients, or because there was so much batter in the pan, they didn’t cook all the way through, but they did turn into scrambled pancakes. And they were gross. At least we had some maple syrup to go with them, but we were really quite glad that Bridget brought us some instant soup. Second dinner was much better than first dinner!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

We almost have internet

Finally we're almost completely settled down here in Amman - our apartment is clean - it's close to campus - we have food - we have everything except high speed internet, which has been a huge beaurocratic hassle so far. We should be finally getting it in the next few days ان شاء الله (God willing...). For now I'm in an internet cafe above Pizza Hut across from the UJ, but it's pretty expensive, so there's not much time to write. Once we're hooked up, life will be great!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Change, change, and more change...

So, here's the scoop now. I'm sitting in al-Husn on Friday afternoon in the Dew's apartment, while Nancy sleeps and the Dews are out visiting members with the Bradfords from Amman. Sounds like we're at home, right?
As of our lasts posts, we were still all set to live up here in al-Husn. Our original plan was to live with a member family up here in their large house, but to accomodate the most amount of students, we gave up our spot there to 5 girls, who are having a blast. We were planning on staying with the Dews, the branch president couple up here. But, a small twist was added to our situation - we couldn't live with the Dews, since it's against mission rules. We then had to find some other place up here. The apartment above the Dews was available - really big, nice, clean, and cheap - but only until June 1st. We spent this whole last week pretty much homeless; we stayed at the Dews while they went down south to Petra, but we had to leave by the time they got back.
So, after much deliberation, we decided to go back down south to Amman. We will both miss al-Husn a lot - it's beautiful up here, life is calm, the members are great, everything is amazing. The only problem is the 4-5 hour daily commute - 2 hours each way, sometimes more when busses break down. The actual ride from Irbid to Amman is only 1 hour, sometimes less, but taking taxis to the stations, waiting for the busses to come, and having busses constantly overheat was too much. All the other single students are staying up here - bus time for them is hangout time since they have nothing else to do. Nancy was just spending way too much time alone and stranded up there.
We're in al-Husn today because we came up with the Bradfords (the missionary couple in Amman - he's district president and was my old Arabic 102 teacher in 2003), since they made a branch visit. We're going back down with them to our apartment later this afternoon.
We finally have an apartment in Amman. It was difficult to find and get since I was spending all my time commuting instead of finding apartments (even though Kirk wanted us to come out here in the first place...we haven't had any help from him finding apartments...grr...). Unfortunately it's a little expensive, but we have two empty beds in our place since it's so big, so hopefully we can get some apartment-mates!
It's a 30 minute walk or an 8 minute bus ride to the UJ (that's a lot better than 5 hours...) in a really quiet neighborhood near other students as well. It's a big place, fully furnished, but kind of a dump. They just repainted it like last week and never ventilated it, so the whole house reeks of fresh paint and cigarette smoke (if anyone has suggestions on how to get those smells out of our apartment, let us know!), and they never cleaned up, so there is dust and dirt and paint everywhere. Tomorrow is clean up day! We also have to find sheets and pillows, since the ones already there are pretty disgusting. We don't feel at home at all yet - we're actually pretty disgusted - but as soon as we get it cleaned up, we'll be able to finally be settled in, after more than 2 weeks of gypsy-like homelessness in 3 continents!
We'll also get internet set up soon. We're calling the company on Sunday and they shoul have it installed by Monday, so if you don't see any posts for a while, that's why. We'll be temporarily offline. We'll also get some pictures of our new place uploaded - hopefully before and after shots so you can see what we have to clean up.
Life has been extremely stressful these past couple weeks - probably the hardest weeks of our lives - but those weeks are over now. We finally have a place to live. We are finally settled down (or will be after tomorrow). What stress... If we ever live out here later in life, I'll be working with the government, who will actually organize everything for us and have a nice apartment and everything lined up already...that would've been nice here, but alas! It was definitely not the case!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My first adventure myself!

I went outside yesterday. At first I just took out the garbage and then took some pictures of the apartment building and some of the trees in the yard. Then I got a little braver and went out into a field to take some pictures (I had to prove to Andrew that I actually went outside). Well, as I was taking pictures, some kids started shouting, "Hello! Hello!" So I smiled and waved and said 'hello' back. (We get that a lot here. People will open up their windows while we're out on the streets and will say "Hello!" or "Welcome!" They love us here). Well, this girl named Iya comes up and takes my hand and starts talking to me (in Arabic). I can't understand anything she is telling me and she starts dragging me around everywhere. We went to look at her olive orchard and inside her house to meet her mom. The whole time she kept repeating, "Rsn...Rsn...?" I was like, " hablo arabo....uhhhhhhh..." I was kind of nervous to just be following around a little girl that I didn't know. But it was okay in the end. Everyone here is so nice so I wasn't really worried. Iya took me to this house and asked Rsn came out. (I have no clue what vowels to put in her name so I just left them out). Iya was good friends with Rsn, who is a member of the branch and had been telling her about all the Americans she had met. So, Iya brought her American (me) to show off to Rsn. I hadn't met Rsn so I didn't recognize her, but Rsn recognized me and knew that I had been walking and "talking" with her older sister on the Jordan River trip, so she went to get Lama...that was nice because Lama and I are pretty good friends, at least, from what I gather from our conversations we are.

Lama took me inside to meet the rest of her family and then we went out walking. We went all over the place. She took me to her family's store where her father gave us chips and popsicles. We went to go see her sheep and her brothers made me sit on the donkey (that was in with the sheep). There was no saddle on the donkey so if I look a little uncomfortable in the picture, that's why. We walked out in some fields and picked some "Gelatan" and ate it (it is kind of like peas...only different). I was out for an hour and now have about 20 little Arabic children who are all my best friends.

It was pretty fun...I think I might be brave enough to do it again. Especially now that I know where Lama's family lives. They are very friendly. Her father told me (at the store) that if I need anything at all, just ask. They are here to help me.

Oh, and Lama's mom is looking for a wife for her son. She would like to know if Josie would be so kind as to come out here and meet him. I told her Josie couldn't because she has school in America that she has to attend and she is much too young to get married anyway.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Life is normal again...maybe....

So, school is started officially, we finally have a semi-set schedule, and we should have a syllabus by tomorrow. It's been the most unorganized thing I've ever experienced.

We have classes at the University of Jordan (الجامعة الاردنية) in the Language Center, which is like the JFSB at BYU, where all the lanugage classes are taught. Most of the students around the building at foreign - there are a whole bunch of Americans from all over America, a huge group of South Koreans, and lots of Sweedish, Japanese, Chinese, French, British, and even some South American students, all learning Arabic. The Jordanians in the building take French or English.

Our teachers are actual UJ teachers who Kirk and Jeremy (the assistant director, PhD student at the AZ State in Arabic and my former Arabic 102 TA at BYU years ago - cool guy - most organized person on the trip) convinced to teach us. All the other foreign students take actual UJ classes, all mixed together, but since we're a huge group from the same university, we have our own classes. It's kind of difficult because we have to work around teachers' schedules, so we sometimes have class at different times each day.

Our group of 30 students is divided into 4 different groups - beginning, intermediate low, intermediate high, and advanced. We were placed according to how well we did in our Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) that we did before coming, and based on how well we did on a pretest we did at the beginning of this week. I scored an intermediate low on my OPI, which is a lot higher than I expected since it was the first time I had spoken Arabic in about 3 years, and did pretty okay on the pretest.

Each group has their own teachers and schedules. I go to have my fusha (فصحى, pronounced Foos-hah, or formal, written, newspaper Arabic) class from either 11:30 to 1 or from 1 to 1:30, depending on the day. I then have my 'amiyya (عامية, or spoken, colloquial Arabic, which is completely different in every country) from 3 to 4:30 every day.

I'm relieved at the normalness because for the past week we haven't had set teachers or classes - we finally got divided today. Before today we just came to the Langauge Center and hoped that Kirk would tell us where to go. We never knew what time we had to be there.

He's not the most organized person in the world and hasn't helped any of us very much. I should dedicate an entire post just to him, but I probably shouldn't. He'll get better...

So, life out here in al-Husn (الحصن) is really quite cool. It's really in the middle of nowhere. The only problem is that it is so far away and it's semi difficult to get to Amman from here. I have to walk 15 minutes downhill from here to downtown al-Husn (the one street that has any stores on it constitutes downtown) and take a taxi into southern Irbid (a much larger city, about 1 million people), where I take a bus from there to Amman, passing al-Husn on my way down (the backtracking thing is slightly annoying, but necessary). I get off the bus right in front of the UJ. Coming home is also slightly annoying. I have to take a taxi from the UJ to the Abdali bus station because the Irbid bus doesn't pass by the UJ on the way home (why not I don't know...), but I get off in al-Husn and walk home.

Al-Husn and Irbid

Amman and Irbid (close to Syria and Palestine)

Irbid is in the Guiness Book of World Records twice, a fact that the natives are very proud of. It is the city with the most number of smaller villages around it, as evidenced by the map above with all the little places like al-Husn around it. It's second entry is even more important. Sharia Jamiya, or University Street, is the street that has the most internet cafés on it in the entire world. There is actually a tax exemption for anyone who wants to open an internet place on that street so they can maintain the high honor. What fame!

Well, it's getting late here, so it's off to bed now. We'll write more later, especially after Nancy's adventure today. She left the house and wandered around al-Husn all by herself today while I was at school and did some cool stuff. She'll write more about that tomorrow.

Broken Buses

Andrew was supposed to have come home yesterday at around 7:00. Usually he will come home around 6:00 but he went to get me a cell phone as well as help some of the other girls get some cell phones so he left Amman a little later than usual. However, instead of arriving home at 7:00, he got home around 9:30. I was getting rather worried since I had been home alone from 2:00 on. I was lonely and without a phone (except the land line which is terribly expensive to use). Needless to say, I wasn't very happy...well, come to find out:

Andrew, Rachel, and Kate had gotten on a bus at around 6:30. They drove 5 minutes and the bus broke down so everyone had to get out and wait for another bus to come and pick them up. (The bus "schedule" is that the buses leave every half hour but all the buses are privately owned so it doesn't really work that way. They just come whenever they want.) So, after waiting for a long time, a bus picked them up. Andrew phoned me when the bus broke down to tell me this so I was expecting them to be at least an hour later...but then, on their way to Irbid, the bus broke down again. They suspect it was overheating because a bunch of men got out and they poured a ton of water into the engine somewhere, but they were just sitting on the side of the road waiting for a long time. I finally phoned Andrew to ask him where he find out that they were stranded on the road once more. I wasn't very happy about having to be alone more, but I survived.

When they got home, Rachel and Kate came in to check their email. It was fun to have some people to talk to. And then the Jakemans came home from the Tashman's house and brought with them the other girls staying in Al Husn so that they could check their email as well (Jenna, Janna, and Becca). We had quite a party here and stayed up until about midnight.

We also checked out our new apartment. We can pick up the wireless internet signal from the Dew's if we are in the room just above them, so that is good. The apartment is pretty nice but is sparsely furnished in the kitchen and bedroom departments. The living areas are great: there are a ton of couches! I'm glad that there isn't a lot of stuff in the kitchen because then the Jakeman's kids can't make so much of a mess. They are the world's messiest children! Honestly...I've been around enough children to know that these children are absolutely messy! But that's okay. As long as I don't have to clean up after them. I don't mind cleaning up after children when I've been watching them and they've made a mess...but when I just stumble upon a mess (as in you can't walk into the kitchen there is that much food on the floor) I get a little annoyed that their parents didn't clean up any of it).

Anyway, my challenge today is to go outside by myself. We'll see if I can be brave enough to do that.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Right now we are staying with President and Sister Dew who are missionaries here in Al Husn. We thought that we would be able to stay here permenantly but it looks as though that is against mission rules. However, we are planning on staying in Al Husn.

Let's talk about pricing. Here, we are staying in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. It has a large entry way, a large living room, and a large kitchen. It is fully furnished. It is clean and bright and beautiful. It costs 120 JD per month, which is about 160 USD. That's really pretty good. In Amman, an apartment this size costs well over 600 JD per month. There is a couple in Amman who are renting a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, really junky apartment with a combined shower/toilet bathroom for 200 JD a month. That is the cheapest apartment in Amman and it is really cheap.

We are looking at staying in Al Husn, perhaps renting the apartment above this one for the same price (120 JD/month). We would share it with another couple, the Jakemans. They are currently in the living room here at the missionaries' apartment. The Jakemans are really nice. Dave is here doing a law internship (they are not with our group - they came on their own but are from BYU). His wife, Becky, is blind and they have two little children. I would like to live near them because Becky and I will be home alone all day while our husbands are gone to school/work and since no one speaks English out here in the country side, we kind of want to stick together while we try to get brave enough to explore. Plus, with Becky's blindness, she doesn't want to go outside with her two kids by herself. She is a really neat person and I don't think that Andrew and I would mind living with them at all--even though their kids sream a lot! The apartments here are all very nice because they are made of thick cement walls. If you go into your room and close the door you can't hear anything that is happening on the other side of the house.

Anyway...I am pretty sick of being a vagabond and I know that Andrew is as well so we are hoping to find a place soon. We got all the single girls placed. There are 5 other girls in Al Husn and they can't take public transportation without a male, so Andrew helps them all get to school in the mornings. Then there are 3 boys staying in Irbid (the city just 15 minutes away from Al Husn).

Mount Nebo, the River Jordan, and Umm Qais

Yesterday (Saturday the 6th), we took a biblical tour of Jordan that Nadal set up for us. He is a strong member of the branch here in Al Husn - served a mission in South Africa and speaks English perfectly. He also has connections all over Jordan (anything you need, just ask Nadal). We were supposed to leave Amman at 7:00 in the morning, meaning that the Irbid/Husn people needed to leave at around 6:00 am. This is problematic because Jordan really doesn't wake up until 10:00 am so trying to get a Jordanian bus driver up to drive earlier than 6:00 was asking a lot. He was quite late and laughed at us when we told him he was late. But we all got on the bus and promptly fell asleep for the hour and 15 minute ride.

The rides from Irbid to Amman (and vise versa) are really quite interesting. You go up a hill at 20 miles an hour because you can't go any faster and then you go down the hills much faster (as in, I never see break lights come on). Imagine riding through a canyon road going 100 miles an hour around curves. It's interesting. The view is interesting as well. There are a lot of olive orchards and vineyards and pottery kilns. You can also see the bedoin tents and houses carved into the rocks as well as a lot of caves. And then the goats. There are tons of goats in Jordan. People herd goats up the highways and through towns (including right through Amman). They tether goats to poles at the butcher shops. It's interesting to see the goats there. They look so nervous - and then you realise that two goats are currently being skinned right in front of these two goats. It is really quite gross. They do it all right there on the street for everyone to see. Everyone has goats!

This trip, however, we didn't take the main highway. We took a "back way" which was much more windy and a few girls got sick. We had to stop the bus for one to get out. It was a pretty sad ride, but we finally made it to Amman and picked up the rest of our group. We all got on the bus and Kirk wanted us to sing hymns, so we sang one verse of something before everyone fell asleep. After singing alone for a while, Kirk got the message that we were all still struggling with jetlag and he sat down.

Our first stop was Mt. Nebo. It is on of the mountains that Moses has been known to be at. There is a statue of a staff with a snake on it that is really quite cool, as well as a church that is famous for its mosaics. From the top of the mountain you can look out over Israel and the Dead Sea. We saw a little bit of Jerusalem, Jericho and a few other well-known biblical towns, as well as the site of the dead-sea scrolls. It was really neat.

Statue of Moses' Staff with Snake
Us inside the Moses Memorial Chapel

From Mt. Nebo we drove down past the Dead Sea to the River Jordan. The road was so windy and had so many switchbacks (we had to keep holding our breath and praying that the breaks wouldn't give out!) but down at the Dead Sea everything was pretty flat. All of our water bottles got crushed as we went down because of the change in pressure. We didn't get to stop at the Dead Sea though. We will go back another time. Instead, we carried onto the River Jordan. We had to stop at a lot of check points because the borders are not very well defined (our cell phones welcomed us to Palestine) and there are mines and snipers all over the place. If you get off the trodden path you are in real trouble.

John the Baptist SpringChapel of the Jordan River
We did a little hike around the River and found John the Baptist's Spring. It is a little pool of water that springs up from the ground (hence the name) and feeds into the River. The water was very clear and cool (no, we didn't drink it). We then continued on to the "Chapels at the River." This is the proposed spot of baptism for the Savior. It has some chapels and some steps leading down into a big hole (the water has been diverted back into the Jordan River so it is empty now). The Savior was baptised at "Bethany beyond the Jordan" so chances are he wasn't actually baptised in the actual river and since there was a font at these chapels, it seemed pretty likely that "this was the place."

Nancy dipping in the Jordan RiverAndrew and Nancy in front of the Jordan River
(The West Bank is just across from us.

Note the flag of Israel and all the fences!)
From there we went down to a platform on the river. We were on the East bank. About 10 feet in front of us was...the West bank. Seriously...if I jumped from the rail of the platform I probably could have landed in Israel. If I were to swim across the river, it would have taken me 2 strokes. It really wasn't all that wide. But, with the snipers and land mines, we decided to stay on the Jordan side with our snipers and land mines. If we had attempted to cross, there would have been trouble, but we got a nice picture of us with the Israel flag waving in the wind. We also touched the river. It was murky brown and pretty warm.

Oh, and the Al Husn branch met us at the Baptisimal site and we sung hymns in English and Arabic. That was pretty cool. We sang some of the primay hymns about baptism while we were looking out over the river and that brought a whole new meaning to the songs.

Alas, we are moving on again. This is kind of how the whole trip went - in and out. So, we're on the bus again on our way to Umm Qais. This is apparently pretty cool, but we didn't quite get there. It's supposed to be a great picnic area with a lot of vegetation and trees but, since it is right on the border of Syria and Israel the borders are, again, pretty disputed. They were having a military demonstration up there (in the middle of no where) so we couldn't go all the way.
We went as far as they would let us and then we got out and look over the Sea of Galilee. Standing on the ground where the Savior did almost his entire life ministry was pretty cool (remember that Jordan and Israel were the same country. Jordan used to be Israel or vise versa...the borders are all pretty fuzzy here).

"Fastlink wishes you an enjoyable stay in Syria..."
It was neat to see the cities in a distance, and get a message on our cell phones welcoming us to Syria (even though we were still in what is considered Jordan). But because of the men sitting behind machine guns who were urging us to get back in the bus and go home we weren't there very long. There are a bunch of ruins up there and we would like to go back to see them.
Ruins at Umm QaisIt was a wonderful trip. We'd like to do it again, maybe taking the whole weekend or just doing one site a day.