Wednesday, May 31, 2006
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.
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 questioned...it 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
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 blogger.com account.
Hope to see your comments!
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
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
through the trash to find food for his goats.)
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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
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.
Monday, May 22, 2006
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
I'll have to add a link to the video of the gas truck a little later!
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
Friday, May 12, 2006
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
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
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.
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 was...to 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
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).
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.
Us inside the Moses Memorial Chapel
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!)
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.