Monday, July 31, 2006

Accidental bus ride

Transportation in Jordan can sometimes be a hassle...well, it's always a hassle. The main mode of public transportation is the ubiquitous minibus, which are privately owned and go pretty much anywhere. They usually follow a set route, but are sometimes negotiable, like the one we took to Wadi Mujib and the Dead Sea. You always risk not getting on the right bus.

Since I take the bus to and from school everyday, getting a wrong bus is a semi-common occurence for me, but is easily fixed, since the bus driver usually changes his route for me (weird stuff...)

We had a similar problem going to Jerash. When we got to the Abdali bus station, I started looking around for the line of Jerash minibusses. The destination is always written on the side of the bus, and I had seen Jerash busses before, so I knew that they existed. I soon found our lucky bus. On the side was written "Amman to Jerash Camp" and in my momentary ignorance, I figured that meant a military camp or a tourist campground. I asked the driver if it went by the main Jerash ruins and he replied affirmatively. So off we went...

It didn't take me long to figure out what the Jerash Camp really was. The bus was full of Palestinian refugees heading home to their ghetto refugee camp. Hmmm...that's kind of dangerous for Americans to go to, since they place direct blame for their situation on us and Israel. But we were already underway, so we decided to ride it out.

An old guy next to me asked me why we were on that bus - he already knew we were Americans. He then drilled me on America's policies with Israel and started getting angry with me. He used an analogy 3 different ways to explain his anger at Israel - "What if someone came and kicked you out of your house at night? Would you try to get it back?", "What if I stole your bag and drank all your water? Would you want your water back?" and "What if this was your bus and I stole it from you? Would you want it back? Would you fight for it?"

I just kept telling him that I didn't support Israel and didn't support America's policies towards them and that I was against the war in Lebanon and Palestine. He couldn't believe that an American would say such things.

It didn't help that he spoke to me exclusively in broken English - it made the others on the bus very wary. I responded to him in Arabic the whole time, and it was pretty funny when he asked me halfway through the conversation if I spoke Arabic.

Anyway, during his heated conversation, some guy got on the bus and sat in front of me. He heard that we were talking and turned around and yelled at the old guy "Do you know what you're talking to!? Do you know where he's from? He's a Zionist supporter from America!!". The old guy just said "Yeah, I know. It's okay - he likes Hizballah - he hates the Jews." That wasn't completely true - I definitely don't hate Jews (since I'm 1/4th-ish Jewsih), and I'm not completely against Hizballah - but I wasn't about to negate my "redeeming qualities" in front of the angry guy. He angrily turned around back in his seat and was mostly silent during the rest of the trip.

He only spoke up in response to the BBC news that was on the radio. Every time America, Bush, Condoleeza Rice, or Israel mentioned, he and half the bus would mumble something. Once, after Rice was mentioned in one news report, he turned to me and said "That's your stupid foreign minister coming here. What are you going to do about it?!" I just ignored him and remained silent for the rest of the trip.

It was a huge relief to get off that bus at Jerash. Fun experience, yes. Something I want to do again, not really. At least, not during an Israeli war.

The way home was easier and much more peaceful. We found a busy intersection where tons of people were waiting around for something. I asked if they were waiting for a bus to go to Amman, but one girl responded by telling me that there were no busses to Amman and that we had to find a ride. Some guy overheard our conversation and came to offer us a ride for 6 JD for all of us. Since we paid 40 piasters each coming up, that was way too expensive, so we declined his offer. I asked other bystanders, and they all agreed - there was no bus to Amman. We decided that there had to be a bus to Amman, so we walked down the main road to find the city bus station. After 10 minutes of walking, a large bus for Amman pulled over and we got in.

Our bus drove up to the intersection where everyone was waiting, and everyone got on - even the girl who denied the existence of such a bus. Unfortunately she didn't see us on the bus...I had so wanted to call her bluff!

Global Village

The Global Village is something that I would compare to The Del Mar Fair, or any State Fair for that matter, but I've only ever been to that particular State Fair. There were a bunch of stands, mostly from Islamic countries, such as: India, Pakistan, Iraq, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates, Iran, Senegal, Kenya, Thailand, Yemen, Jordan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, China and Turkey. We may have missed a few in our list, and they aren't all Islamic countries...we aren't really sure why Kenya and Thailand were represented but that's okay. We're glad they were there anyway. Lebanon even had a sign, although there was nothing at their booth.

There were interesting things to buy (we just looked, mostly) at all the places. A lot of the booths sold similar things like the popular Indian-style clothing, and Pro-Palestinian things and vegetable cutters, but some of the booths were rather unique. Saudi Arabia had a nice display of daggers and diapers. Singapore sported some nice "shocking news for the Arabic's"! Shan: A steam BBQ and steam food maker--It's really a gift for fat worried people and heart patients [sic].

(If you click on the picture you might be able to see it better).

Some of the booths were really cool. Andrew and I really enjoyed Pakistan--India was not so cool, although we still liked it. We also liked Palestine, whereas Jordan was completely empty. We really liked Kenya's booth. They had a lot of really neat artwork. I saw a carved hippo that I really wanted. It was so cute (we neglected to take a picture). Andrew told the lady working the stand that we thought the hippo was cute. She said, "Her name is Willie. She is 20 JD." I didn't think that we could spend 20 JD on a carved hippo so Andrew told her that. She said, "Okay, how much will you give me for Willie?" Well, after she named that hippo, I really couldn't barter her down any further so we just left. Sad...but what would I do with a hippo anyway?

That picture is for Josie who went to India this summer. I totally wanted to go visit her but it was not possible. She had a great time acutally being there and I had a great time pretending to be there. Although India did not have any saris or kameezes that I could afford (they had very few...and those were totally fancy. In India they mostly just had peasant skirts and gaucho pants) I did buy a salwar kameeze set and some bangles in Pakistan. Next time we go to the Hare Krishna temple in Spanish Fork, I'll be all decked out and ready to dance!

There were some places that I went that I probably won't get to go anytime soon, like Iraq. I like how Iraq chose to decorate their booth with broken walls and shut-up windows...sadly there was only art in the Iraq stand. Not that the art was was really neat. I just think it is sad that they aren't really exporting anything anymore. At least they had more than the Lebanon booth...Lebanon really isn't exporting anything. We went to go get cereal at the store but there was hardly any Poppins left in the whole store! War certainly does terrible things...

Jordan, on the other hand, had a very remarkable display of the Treasury in Petra. They were also blasting Arabic music. We thought, from the looks of their booth that the inside would be cool. We were wrong. The inside was virtually empty--they don't even have an excuse! We walked through the blasting music for nothing. Oh, well.

We got to the Global Village fairly early in the evening. This was a good thing because our tickets were only 1 JD. Things started to liven up later in the evening (as most things here do). It was pretty amazing to see how many families were out with their children that late! More and more little shops opened in each country as it got later. We wandered through each booth like 3 times and noticed more and more things each time. The second time through Saudi Arabia we noticed their pet shop.

Aside from just shopping there were rides to go on (which we opted to not!). The rides looked about as sturdy as this bunny...who is in pretty sad shape!

(And if you think that toothpaste is strange, there are commercials
on TV all the time for new flavors of toothpaste. Will your mouth
really taste clean after brushing with chocolate? I submit that it would not!)

Global Village was pretty big...they had shopping carts for people, and bicycles to take people around. Andrew and I were pretty tired near the end of our time in Global Village and looked for a bench to sit on. Unfortunately we never did find an available seat.

Getting a taxi home was remarkably easy. We were worried about it while we were there since when we arrived we were one of few families there...but when we left the parking lot was packed. Taxis were lined up waiting to take people home and no one was leaving yet. It was great!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

RACE: The Roman Army and Chariot Experience

The Chariot Race

Better Gladiator Fight

First Gladiator Fight

V-line break

Replenishing the Army Lines


Jerash is one of Jordan's treasure troves; it's one of the best preserved Roman cities in the whole world. And I must admit, it really is very well preserved when compared to Rome. There were columns everywhere, the streets were original Roman-paved roads complete with underground sewage systems and ruts on the road. It's a complete ghost city.

The first thing we came to was the hippodrome. It was kind of awkward because we bought our tickets at the gate and passed a sign that said, "Make sure you got your tickets." and then we were at a loss of where to go. We hiked up to this wall and then saw a break in it and so walked through. It was completely we took a few pictures and walked through another gate. At last we saw some people. They were selling tickets for a show. We decided to get them since we are residents in Jordan. Our admission price to Jerash was only 50 piasters (instead of 8 JD for tourists!), and the tickets for the show were only 5 JD (instead of 20 JD for tourists!). The show was really pretty cool.

The men in the show are in the Jordanian army (from the looks of it we think that some of them are retired) and they march well, although their lines got off quite a bit. They "spoke" Latin and had pretty good costumes.

I'll do separate posts for the other videos so that they don't take as long to load. The show was about an hour long. We first had the legion 5 come out, and then watched some gladiators fight, and then saw a horse race. All through the show, the soundtrack from the movie Gladiator was playing. Apparently the Royal Family here really liked that film and thus rennovated the hippodrome and ordered the horse races, actually hiring the people who helped in the Ben Hur chariot races to train the Jordanian Special Forces who are assigned to least, that's what we were told by Prince Firas bin Raad when he visited BYU campus last semester.

We had a fairly rough day. We just didn't prepare well at all. I wore flip flops for the first time this summer, which probably wasn't a very good idea. None of us put on sunscreen and we had only 3 little water bottles and 2 packages of cookies between the five of us (Me, Andrew, Jason, Crystal, and Ezra). Needless to say we got more and more dehydrated as we went...but it was pretty cool all the same.

We first walked to the South Amphitheater. On the way, Andrew pretended to be a column and I squished into a statue niche to prove that I could. (Ezra was standing in one...and so we thought that we would see if I could also be a statue. I can, by the way!)

The amphitheater isn't much compared to the Colosseum or the amphitheater in Vienna, but considering the population of Gerasa at the time, and that there are 2 amphitheaters in the same city, it is pretty remarkable.

There is a wooden stage covering the original flooring because they were preparing for a big event in Jerash. Every year there is a Jerash Cultural Festival there where Arab musicians and artisans come and do concerts and so forth throughout the park. Unfortunately it was cancelled this year due to the war in Lebanon, since a lot of Arab singers are Lebanese (such as my namesake, Nancy Ajram). We were looking forward to going, but it was nice to go when the park was pretty unoccupied.

South Amphitheater

After the amphitheater, we hit a bunch of churches. Most of what's left of them is columns--there were so many columns! While we were in one of the churches the Call to Prayer sounded. There were so many mosques around (I think we spotted 5 minarets) so it was pretty crazy. It wasn't quite a mess as in downtown Cairo, but it was still pretty garbled. They were all going at the same time and I couldn't really hear the words from any particular one because they were all running together and echoing on the hills. It was really pretty cool.

For some reason we really liked the amphitheaters. The North Amphitheater was smaller but also very well preserved. The tunnels to get to the seating was really cool! When we walked in from the sunshine we couldn't see anything and almost fell down the staircase! There were also some really interesting reliefs on the seating.

On the way out of the North Amphitheater we ran across a dead centipede. We saw so many millipedes and centipedes. I have never seen bigger bugs of this sort. They were probably as long as the palm of my hand and my fingers combined!

One of the last things we walked by was the elaborate Nymphaeum. Andrew had me pretend to be a nymph sitting in the fountain...I'm that tiny blue dot in the fountain base.

For more pictures you can check out the Slade's blog (who went to Jerash with us), and the Palmer's blog (who went to Jerash the same day as us...but we didn't ever see them).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Still Life

At our shopping trip yesterday we got a lot of produce. After bleaching it we set it on the counter to dry. I had bleached our produce earlier that afternoon and left it on the counter. Then Crystal did her produce and left it with ours. When I walked into the kitchen to start dinner last night I thought it looked too funny...kind of like a still life picture, only less artistically arranged.

Something fishy is going on

While we were in Egypt, something fishy started happening in our kitchen. When we came home, the first thing we noticed was the smell...we started looking around at what the smell could be but could not find anything that would smell funny. Of course, we weren't really sure what we were looking for. We checked around for signs of mice. Nothing. We looked for rotten food. Nothing. We looked around our sink for molding stuff. Nothing.

Finally at breakfast a few days ago, I looked up at the ceiling. There was a little line of yellow gunk on the ceiling. It was so small I wasn't sure that it was actually the source of the smell but now I see that it actually was the culprit. That little yellow line has grown into somewhat of a monster and has taken over the whole area above our fridge. Water is starting to drip off of it so we called the landlord and someone should be stopping by shortly to check it out. We'll let you know what it is.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

You know you've been in Jordan too long when...

Andrew and I finally went shopping today. It's been awhile...all we ate yesterday were some biscuits, so it was high time we went grocery shopping! We even splurged and got a baguette (30 piasters--big splurge!), so for dinner we made spaghetti--Italian style (not from scratch, but Italian none the less).

Andrew dished it out and we both stared at our plates for a few minutes. Sure, we had forks, but really, what were we to do? Andrew then broke out the baguette. Relieved, I quickly tore off a chunk of the baguette, opened it up and in a claw-like manner grabbed a handful of spaghetti. Andrew looked at me funny and said, "You've been here way too long."

Here's our list of ways you know you've been in Jordan too long:

1 - Your eating utensil is pita bread instead of a fork.
2 - You are really happy when you've gone a whole week without running out of water (this is week #2, by the way!)
3 - You tell the time based on the call to prayer. ("What time is it?" "Oh, it's..." "Allaaaaaa-hu akbar!" "...about 9:30.").
4 - You sit calmly in a taxi as it weaves through city traffic going well over 100 km/hr.
5- You'll run across the street with cars coming both ways to catch a taxi at a red light (very out of character for Nancy!).
6 - You watch Oprah and other shows you'd never watch at home like Jake 2.0.
7 - You feel uncomfortable in a t-shirt and change before leaving the house so you aren't immodest.
8 - You recognize all the Arabic songs, who sings them, and what the music video for each one is.
9 - You don't look twice at a herd of goats walking down the street and will pick your way through it if necessary.
10 - You hardly notice the gas truck any more.
11 - Your house has turned into a water bottle graveyard.
12 - It's 100 degrees out and you see babies wrapped up in quilts and think that it's normal.
13 - Instead of dancing to songs you all stand around and clap...just clap (and maybe let out a Xena yelp occasionally!)
14 - You understand that instead of yeilding, drivers just honk at blind corners, the tops of hills, when entering tunnels, and anywhere else you could get into a head-on collision, and you're ok with this.

We'll let you know if we think of any more.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

One of the coolest places in Jordan - Wadi Mujib

We have a three day break this weekend, but instead of going out to some far away place, we decided to go to a little-visited place in Jordan - the Wadi Mujib nature reserve. If you read about it it sounds really boring - it's just a big animal reserve on the shores of the Dead Sea. It's really quite amazing though.

All along the shore of the Dead Sea there are fresh water springs that flow into the huge body of salt water - water coming from the mountains (but not from runoff - who knows where it comes from?!). One of the larger creeks is Wadi Mujib Gorge - part of the main reserve - which is a long hike up the river through a narrow canyon, ending at a tall waterfall. Immagine Petra's Siq with a fast moving river coming down, like the Subway or the Narrows hike in Zions National Park. Pretty amazing stuff.

We hired a mini bus from the Muhajereen bus stop by the 3rd circle in Amman. We negotiated the price for the whole day - 50 JD. Slightly ludicrous, but we only had a group of 5 (the three male BYU students in Irbid, Curtis, Stephen, and Andrew (aka Sami) came with us), so we took it. It was nice, since we had the driver wait for us wherever we went.

After about an hour drive we made it to the trailhead and paid the 7 JD per person. Once again expensive. Oh well. After paying we started hiking. We walked on man-made, metal bridges for a couple minutes until we came to the edge of a cliff with a metal ladder hanging down. Thus began our long, wet hike.

We had to swim twenty feet across to the other side of the river, where we could actually stand up and walk. We hiked in the shallow water for about 30 minutes, heading up the narrow canyon. The water gradually got whiter and rapider and deeper. We then got to some steep, small waterfalls/cliffs that we had to climb up.

Some video of the beginning of the steep waterfalls

As we got closer to the main waterfall, the water got even faster and the cliffs that we had to climb up got higher. Ropes were provided on one of the difficult ascents. As we climbed, we took lots of breaks in the water, playing in the powerful mini waterfalls.

After climbing up all the rapid waterfalls, we made it to the main one, which was a lot more rapid and powerful than the other small ones (duh). We all had fun running through it, trying not to get knocked over or lose anything. Curtis's watch got ripped off his wrist - it's still up there somewhere (maybe we'll find it in our sink someday). Stephen lost his glasses, which Sami miraculously found under the pummeling waterfall. It was amazingly fun!

Me getting pummeled by the waterfall

Nancy falling in the waterfall

After a long while at the top, we headed back. This was a lot more difficult, and a lot more fun than coming up. The group that left before us took the ropes that we needed at the steep climbs, so we had to jump down some of them and slide down others. The undertow was really strong on some of the waterfalls, making it difficult to get away and continue. We were all completely bruised by the time we got to the end. My shoes didn't survive - too many fast currents, poweful waterfalls, twisted ankles, and big rocks.

Once again at the beginning of the hike, we spent half an hour jumping back in the water from that first cliff with the metal ladder. The surrounding water was extremely deep and very warm - perfect cliff jumping water. Even Nancy jumped!

We then found our bus driver having a smoking/tea break with the guys at the trail head desk. We got back in the bus and went up to Amman Beach on the Dead Sea and met up with the Slades. We spent a little while floating in the Dead Sea again, but it wasn't as fun as the first time. We had so many stratches and scrapes and bruises from Wadi Mujib that the salt just stung. It hurt way too bad. I still love the Dead Sea, though.

After a while there, we found our driver, once again chilling with the ticket and security guys - with tea - and came back home. It was an amazing day! We highly reccomend Wadi Mujib to anyone thinking about going! It's an incredible place! (Just don't go to the Dead Sea directly after...ouch!)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Riots in Amman again

So, the news reports are starting to come in from the riots all over the Middle East. The picture below, courtesy of al-Arabiyya, was taken at the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, which we visited a couple weeks ago during our long Islamic Cairo tour.

The riots got violent in Cairo, and probably were semi-violent here in Amman, since more than 2000 people marched here today. We won't find out about the violence of the riots until tomorrow when the newspapers are printed, since Jordan doesn't have very good current local news online (the newspaper sites are just digital forms of the daily paper, so it's not too current). Fun stuff!

Friday prayers today were cool. I actually heard chanting and yelling from one of the mosques nearby. I'm just glad we weren't downtown, where the worst of it happens.

I love it out here! It's so much fun!

Safety Precautions

Church was only 2 hours today. The Branch President wanted to be sure to give us plenty of time to get home before the anticipated riots and demonstrations began. So we had Sacrament Meeting and then skipped Sunday School and went straight to Priesthood and Relief Society. We were done by 11:30 and told to go straight home without stopping to mingle with the other branch members.

So, that's what we did! As soon as the men got out (kind of backwards here...the men are always the last ones finished instead of the RS!) we left. When we got to Zahran street, it was a battle for taxis! We always have problems finding empty taxis on that road so it always takes a long time to catch one, but today even empty ones wouldn't stop for us. It was kind of frustrating.

We finally found a cab and our driver was really nice. I have my suspicions that he supports Lebanon in this crisis since he had a sticker of a cedar of Lebanon on his back window. He was nice enough though and didn't seem to have any hard feelings against us being American.

Lunch time was interesting since we were home for Friday prayers. Usually we miss these because we are still at church...but today we got to hear them. It was pretty cool. On Fridays they do the call to prayer and then they say the actual sermon. It was neat to hear.

So, now we're at home sitting out the riots...tomorrow we head to Wadi Mujib. It should be fun!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Cool Chair

In our house we have a "Cool Chair"--the one where the cool people sit. It's the one holding one of the doors to the hallway shut; we still haven't quite figured out what that door is for. The first time we walked into the house we tried opening that door from the hallway and our bowab (doorman), Mahmoud, told us that we couldn't open that door. When we walked into the living room we realized why. Now every time someone new comes over, which doesn't happen very often, they try to open that door. It is pretty funny.

This is the chair that I sit on all day while I work. It's the chair that Andrew does his homework on. Andrew and I actually sit on the chair together a lot. We sit on the chair to read emails, co-write blog posts, watch the name it, we're on that chair. It's kind of our study/office/living room all combined into one chair.

Because of this, Ezra also thinks that this chair is the epitome of coolness. Ezra will often just go and sit on the chair. Sometimes when I get up in the morning, he'll pull me over to the chair and then sit on my lap. Sometimes he wants to be on the chair with both Andrew and I. He'll come an wrestle with us on the chair. He'll come and cuddle on the chair. He'll come and steal our headphones so that he can also listen to the news. And sometimes he just uses it to reach the lightswitch.

Because of this, the Cool Chair has taken quite a lot of abuse. It sags more than the other chairs do (not that any of the chairs are incredibly great...) an the foam cushion is more misshapen than on the other chairs. But the Cool Chair is well-loved, so I suppose it was a sacrifice that had to be made. Being cool never was easy. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One bottle of pop, two bottles of pop...

We aren't really sure what causes the bottle caps to become embedded in the pavement, but they get there. We're just glad that they aren't quarters glued to the road or we'd be really sad at all the wasted money. We think it has to do with a combination of heat, people littering, and then cars driving over them repetitively. First, it has to be hot so that the pavement gets a little mushy (it wouldn't really melt or we'd all die since asphalt tends to melt at around 300 degrees Fahrenheit), the heat will also cause more people to buy soft drinks, and because soft drinks sold in bottles are cheaper because they refill the bottles, more people buy those, and because "garbage can" means very little in this place, the bottle caps will just end up on the ground somewhere. Should that unlucky bottle cap end up on the street, it will be mutilated by an onslaught of cars driving well over the speed limit which will in turn slowly push the bottle cap into the asphalt.

Anyway, the bottle caps are impossible to clean up now -- they've fused with the pavement.

This is a more popular phenomenon in front of stores (because they sell things such as bottles of pop). The main road in front of the University of Jordan also sports these beautiful bottle cap accessories.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Breakfast isn't breakfast...

In the States, we buy cheap cereals, it's true, but we buy a nice variety of cheap cereals. Honey-nut Toasty O's would be a welcome change from Poppin's Corn Flakes. As would anything else on sale at Macey's! It seems like the only brand of cereal produced in the Middle East is "Poppins," a brand produced in Lebanon. They have other cereals, it is true, but they cost upwards of 5 JD a box for a 16 oz. box, which I think is pretty crazy. Poppins Cereal is relatively cheap; at least, the Corn Flakes are relatively cheap. Anything else is over a JD more and we haven't yet branched out that far. I'm holding my breath that this war between Lebanon and Israel doesn't cut our cereal shipments or we will have nothing to eat for breakfast. To be perfectly honest, I haven't eaten Poppin's Corn Flakes in a l-o-n-g time. I've been eating oriental noodles, fruit, leftovers, and anything else I can possibly think of besides Corn Flakes. I'm sick of them. Andrew, on the other hand, will dress up his cereal with "poo-cookies," honey, sugar, syrup, or whatever else he can find around the house.

I suppose the cereal isn't too bad though. It can actually be rather humorous. It provides us hours of entertainment as we speculate about the "Family Album" on the back of the box; I also get in a lot of Arabic reading from that cereal box. It is fun to learn about cultural differences, too. For example, many people call cereal "cold cereal." Why? Because you eat it with cold milk...Obviously.

However, not everyone in the world likes their milk cold. The first time I had cereal at my homestay family's house in Russia, they boiled the milk and then put it on my cereal. I promptly told them that I liked oatmeal (if I have to have my milk hot, I want it on hot, pre-soggy cereal) a lot better than cold cereal.

Also in Russia, they think that if you drink a cold drink, you will get sick and die, or so I was told--so they always serve lukewarm or hot beverages.

And when Andrew and I had dinner with his Grandparents (who served a mission in Lebanon) and some of their Lebanese friends, I noticed that the Lebanese couple refused ice in their drinks because they preferred them to be warm.

To combat this warm-milk tradition, Poppin's advises that you eat your cereal with cold milk. I think that cereal tastes better with cold milk, so they aren't twisting my arm...but some people may take a little longer to jump on the band wagon.

I suppose that brings me to the topic of milk. Here in Jordan, the cheapest brand of milk is the no-name brand pictured below. As you may note, it really has no name. They call it MILK. It has no brand...they just let you know that it was made at the Jordan Dairy Co. and that it comes from cows. Even though the milk is pasteurized you have to watch for signs of expiration, not only the expiration date.

A few days before it really goes bad, it will start to smell like eggs. Then it will taste a little off. Then...well, we don't know the next stage because we usually end up tossing the last little bit in the carton.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Night time security...

Recently, because of all the riots and stuff going on here, security has been increased like crazy here in Amman as a result of the Israel-Lebanon war. Getting into the University of Jordan is trickier - they ID everyone now. There are more jets and helicopters flying around every day, patrolling and guarding everything.

Even cargo trucks get extra security. We live behind the Dustour newspaper printing press, so there is a warehouse that is constantly used for newsprint and ink and distributing printed newspapers. Usually we have 1-3 semi-trucks in front of our house waiting to be loaded. Yesterday, we saw a few of them drive away with a full police escort. Kind of weird...

So, last night, as we were laying in bed, we heard Arabic voices on walky talkies - right under our open 2nd floor window. We had police cars directly under our apartment. Thinking rationally late at night is pretty much impossible. We had no idea why they were there. Were they tipped off that there would be some sniper attacking us during the night? Were they called in to protect our house from a potential terrorist raid? Or worse, were they really terrorists, ready to kidnap us while dressed as police, alla Iraq, where this happens every day? Were we about to die?

The voices went on for hours - until at least 1 AM. All I could pick up was that they were patrolling the area around the Dustour, that all was clear, and that patrols would continue. Were those all code words for the imminent attack/strike/kidnapping? Was zero-hour about to come?

At around 1:30, I hear two large engines turn on, startling me even more. A rocket was just fired! Two of them! We were going to die!

The engines were put in gear and drove away. The police radio stopped. Did the rockets get the police instead of us? Were we just saved by the actual police, who stopped our would-be kidnappers and torturers?

Nope. It turns out that it was just another police escort for two semitrucks. Their loading was delayed, as was their departure, so the police escort just had to wait - right under our window.

So, all is well in Amman, including my mind!

Running low on water?

As you may be aware we have been having water issues. We have run out of water every week since the Slade's have arrived. Generally the water needs to be pumped on Fridays when our porter is out at the mosque, so we have no water on Fridays. Then we'll have it for part of the day on Saturday...and then it will be gone. Not a drop on Sunday. Usually the water fills up on Monday. This usually happens in the morning but sometimes doesn't happen until late afternoon, so we typically go a day to two without water. It's inconvenient, especially when we get sick with Pharaoh's revenge...but, it's doable. Amazingly enough, we haven't run out of water at all this week (yet). One of our neighbours was not so lucky.

Yesterday afternoon, the watertruck pulled up. They lowered a rope from the roof and attached it to the hose; they then hefted the hose up to the top of the roof and connected it to someone's water tank and started pumping the water. The hose was kind of a make-shift hose and was spraying water all over the place. Water was running down the street and spraying our window.

We had always wondered what had happened if you really ran out of water (which we have). Our porter would always just tell us to wait because we'd get water in a few days. I guess if you pressure him enough you get a truck of water. 20 minutes and 20 JD later, our neighbours have a full tank of water. Ours, I am sure is getting rather empty...

We are not the only ones who've had water problems. Bridget, Brian and the Slades have all have similar complaints. We're just glad that this week it's not us out of water! Posted by Picasa

Joining the Anti-Drug Campaign

While in some places in Amman they encourage you not to experiment with drugs, in other places they are a bit more forceful with their wording:

In Saudi Arabia, they will help you get there. I found this border control card in my in flight magazine on the way back from Egypt to Amman. It reads, "Death for Drug Trafficker." I'm not sure the message could be any more clear.

It's funny much as Arabs dislike drugs, they don't consider cigarettes to fall in the drug category. Almost everyone here smokes -- way more than in America. I wonder what they'll do here when they find out that nicotine is also an addictive drug? Posted by Picasa