Friday, December 25, 2009

Adventures Back Home

I can't seem to travel anywhere without something going wrong. Even if it's just a little wrong, and a lot funny. It had been 4 years since my last international flight back into the US so...I was bound to forget something important. Such as.....checking in my luggage with US Customs when I landed at JFK. Yep, I Totally forgot. And I swear, nobody reminded me! You'd think someone would have said 'hey, don't forgot your luggage isn't going straight to Detroit. You have to get it at JFK so Customs makes sure you aren't bringing in any contraband items, such as lemons.' I swear I read the fine print.
So there I stood at the luggage carousel, feeling like an elephant because my legs were swollen to the size of a small child, waitinf for my luggage that never came. I patiently waited in line to enquire about my luggage and was told that it was at JFK because I didn't clear it with customs. I swear this lady was trying to stifle a laugh. And really, who can blame her? Luckily, it was delivered to my front door the next day. As for my swollen legs, let's just say I will never again forget to walk around and move my feet while on an 11 hour flight.
When I got home, I was happy to see a Christmas tree waiting to be decorated. We decorated it in the usual way, putting the majority of the ornaments on one side. Unfortunately, the next morning we woke up to 'The Leaning Christmas Tree of Toledo'. Hmm....maybe because all of the ornaments were weighing it down. So my mom and I agreed to fix it when she got back from Detroit. No problem, it wasn't leaning so bad that I was worried about it or anything. But, just as I was sitting down to do some work on the computer, I heard a big crash from the living room. Crap! I rush out to find water crushed ornaments, pine needles everywhere and water running onto the carpet. Awesome.
I call my mom hoping that she's still far far away. "uh....can you come a little later?" Mom: 'Um, why?" Me: 'Well, the Christmas tree fell and I was going to try and clean it up before you got home." Mom: 'You can't do it by yourself, I'll home in ten minutes." Well, I tried. Next year, we won't buy a pain in the butt real Christmas tree and we will be sure to put the ornaments on All sides! And the bright side is that we got to decorate the tree....twice!
Everything was going great back here in Toledo. I had my luggage, normal legs and a Christmas tree that was stable. That is, everything was awesome until I walked to my car yesterday morning and realized my car door wouldn't open. That's funny, it was fine when I came home last night and I haven't touched it since. Then it dawned on me. My Mom hit my car!!! And now I couldn't open the freaking drivers side door. So I go back to the house, knock on the door and wait for my mom. "Mom, I think you hit my car." My Mom: "Well, that's on par with the things have been going." I showed mom the damage and the paint on my car, which matched the guilty vehicle in the garage. "Oh, I'll get it fixed soon!" "Really, don't worry about it mom, I don't really mind climbing in and out of the car from the passenger side."
Let's look on the bright side. This will keep me flexible and prevent me from using the car more than I need to. Or maybe I'll just use drive throughs more often and honk the horn for my friends to come out. Note to self: short dresses are out until my car gets fixed.
But really, I'm glad to be home for these two weeks. And hey, what would a trip back home be if there weren't mishaps to laugh at?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Anyone who knows me won't be surprised that I'm writing a blog entry about food. My family didn't call me moochie for nothing. "Are you going to eat all of that?" or "When are we going to eat?" is probably what comes to mind when certain people think of me. in Jordan is pretty awesome. For instance, check out the photo of figs. I really don't even think I saw a fresh fig in the US but here you can find them everywhere in the summer and fall. Did I mention how extremely tasty they are? I miss them. They are out of season. The tomatoes are also pretty darn good. The tomatoes here generally don't taste like cardboard which is a bonus. Sure, you can get great tomatoes when they are in season at farmers markets in the US but that's about the only time they are good. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an American food hater. I miss my Taco Bell (yeah, I know it's not the model of healthy eating, nor is it fresh) and kettle corn, macaroni and cheese, sheet cake and other things. But there are realllly good things here too. Another bonus is that fruits and vegetables here are inexpensive. I bought a couple green peppers, some onions, sweet potatoes, garlic, apples and bananas for $4.50! Oddly enough, a latte here costs almost the same as a bag full of fresh, tasty produce. I don't get it either.
The schwarma here is pretty awesome as well, for $1.50 I can get a huge, tasty grilled schwarma on some nice flat bread. Way better than the ones back home. (sorry to all the Middle Eastern markets back home) There aren't as many preservatives here and I'm pretty sure that the animals aren't pumped full of hormones and antiobiotics. The last thing we all need is more hormones and more antiobiotics.
I discovered a tasty winter drink a couple weeks ago that I'll try to recreate at home. It's called sahleb and it's a cup full of goodness. It's milk with cornstarch, to thicken it up, rosewater, cinnamon, raisins and nuts. It might sound odd to some but trust me, this stuff is not to be missed.

I Just Want Water....Really!!

Nothing has ever made me appreciate water more than simply.....being in Jordan. When I was in a shop the other day, the owner was telling me that America is nice because there is water and a lot of green....there is not a lot of water in Jordan. Exactly, or bizzabt, as they say in Jordan. Yesterday was the fourth time that the water in our apartment ran out. You kind of get used to it and just hope that if the water runs out, it's close to the day when your tank will be refilled. Fortunately, we ran out yesterday afternoon and our water gets refilled on Wednesdays. Unfortunately, I was taking a shower when the water ran out. Luckily there was enough water trickling out of the faucet that I didn't have to come out of the shower a sudsy, bubbly mess.

Lets just say, I've gotten used to taking 'bucket baths'. It's actually not so bad. I just take water from the big blue jug in the kitchen. I then heat it in the hot water kettle, put it in a big pot and add some cold water so I don't scald myslef. I then merrily go to the bathtub (hey, at least I'm able to get clean) with my pot o' water and cup. IIt's like being in India all over again. Except here there actually IS a shower here.

After we ran out of water yesterday, we raced to buy some bottled water and we ordered a blue jug of water from the water business across the street. Since we just moved, it was our first time ordering water from this place. I figured that it would be a good idea to give the guy my phone number in case he couldn't find the apartment. I tried to explain it in Arabic but....wasn't sure how successful I was. As it turns out, my phone number came in handy; they called when they were arrived outside of the apartment and said 'marhaba, water delivery'. Awesome, I'll be right there! WATER, Yaaaaayyyyy!!!!!

The down side is the mysterious phone call I got from a woman who wanted to know what my name was, where I worked and where I lived. Ummm......who are you?! She kept on mentioning water so I asked if she worked at the water company. She didn't. She kept going on about water so I said that 'I want water today at 2:30'. That's when I was expecting the water to come and my Arabic is not at all that sophisticated. Well, we weren't getting anywhere so she put her daughter on the phone. She asked me what my name was and how I was doing....which is fine. She told me I have a beautiful name and then proceeded to ask me, mulitple times, 'where do you live?' Ok, I'm annoyed. "Who are you?!", I ask. "Where do you live?", she responds. I'm passed back to the mom at which point I tell her that I don't understand and will hang up the phone. So why is some woman calling me asking me all of these questions and mentioning water every five seconds? Well, the only thing I can think of is that she's married to someone who works at the water company...and found my phone number, immediately jumping to the wrong conclusion. Do people usually give their phone numbers to the water company? I don't know actually but I take a guess at how things work here in Jordan and usually it works out alright. I'm not trying to get with anyone's husband. I really just want water.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jordanian Salons

The first thing you should know about Jordanian Salons is that you will be there for a long time. This is not because they spend more time on your hair, but because they are catering to approximately three different people at the same time. This is normal. The second thing to know is that it is normal to see people smoking while getting their hair and nails done. This is still weird to me, coming from the US where you can't smoke anywhere. Third, the person doing your hair will stop what he or she is doing if his or her cell phone rings. Then they will either excuse themselves or continue cutting your hair while talking on the phone. This is also quite the shock coming from a place where phone etiquette is very strict. I always fear being the one person who forgets to turn off their phone while it rings during a meeting, movie, etc. I don't even answer the phone when I'm out to dinner in the US because I consider it to be rude. Here, it seems to be considered rude if you don't answer the phone at any given time. Something else to get used to.

While getting my hair highlighted and cut today, I experienced all of the above, and more. Have you ever had the foil taken out of your hair at different times? I sat down thinking that I was going to have all the foil taken out at once; but when only part of one side was taken out and I sat there for several minutes waiting for the woman to come back, I began to worry. What if one side of my head was lighter than the other side? I know I've had some weird hair colors and zany ideas, but this was over the top. Even for me!

She finally came back and took out the foil on the other side and....disappeared again. What is going on people? I don't want to have freak hair!! She comes back about 5 minutes later and does the rest. I enuire about this odd timing and find out that they are taking out the foil in a timed manner to make sure it has all set the same amount of time. Ohhhh.....I get it!!! They are being efficient, not trying to make me look like a laughing stock. As it turns out, my highlights are pretty darn cool. Hair is a bit too short but that's my fault. When it gets really shaggy, I tend to over exaggerate how much I want cut off. If anyone even says I look like a boy.......

A Thanksgiving Dinner to Remember....or Not

So Sunday was supposed to be the 'big day'. This is when my roommate and I had planned our Thanksgiving dinner and it was also the first time many of our friends were going to see our new apartment. I wasn't too worried when Saturday night came and I felt a cold coming on. After all, if it was just a cold, I could plow through the next day without a problem. Take a little Lemsip and be on my merry way. wasn't a cold. It was the flu.

I woke up at 8 to run some errands in preparation for the day and by the time I made it to the kitchen, I was exhausted. Something was wrong. I felt horrible; my whole body hurt, I felt hot and generally not well. And my energy level was a -1 on a scale of 1-10. So I called off school for the next day, took some allergy medication to help me go back to sleep and was out like a light by 9 and I slept until three. Then stayed in bed for another hour and a half because I didn't have the energy to do anything else. I did however, get out of bed when I knew my friend Ahmad was coming bearing a strawberry milkshake and a thermometer! I don't know why, but I always crave strawberry milkshakes when I'm sick. After making some Lemsip in the kitchen, I quickly realized I didn't have enough energy left to stand so I went and crashed on the couch. And then......Ahmad came with my strawberry milkshake!!! I took my temperature, finished off the milkshake and went back to my bed. People would start arriving soon and I hadn't showered, I was in my pajamas and I felt like absolute crap.

When Mya and Marley came, they offered to get me some medicine from the pharmacy which greatly helped. Unfortunately, the Thanksgiving dinner wasn't rescheduled so I didn't get to enjoy it one bit. I did however, hear everyone having fun while I was in bed watching tv shows on my laptop. Good times? Not so much. Awkward? Yes. But thanks to Ahmad, Mya and Marley, I had stuff to make me feel better. Ahmad even took me to pay my phone bill the next day, which I needed to do because my phone had been turned off. Thank goodness for friends who are willing to go out of their way when you need them the most. Maybe tomorrow (the real Thanksgiving) will prove to be a more successful and fun one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Teaching Expressions

I found out today that teaching expressions is great fun. I realized this the minute I said "Elena's cheeks are soft as a baby's butt". They all started cracking up before I had the chance to ask them what it meant. In my last class of the day, I think I had students tell me at least ten times, "teacher, you are soft as a baby's butt!" Well, a compliment is a compliment right? I was also told that I'm a piece of cake. I think they might have missed the point on that one. Or maybe then meant that they are as excited when I walk into the classroom as they would be if they were about to eat a piece of cake. But I doubt it.

I busted out laughing out loud for the first time in one of my classes yesterday and they apparently were so amused they started telling their teacher how much they liked me, etc. One of the girls got stuck in her sweatshirt....her arm was coming out of the hole where her head should have been and she was caught in a really funny position. I went to go help her when this situation was brought to my attention. "Teacher, Leen is stuck in her sweatshirt!" Well, I couldn't successfully free her from the sweatshirt and between the girls smile and the rest of class already amused, I laughed so hard I cried. And several students informed me that I was red like a tomato. So now I'm a piece of red cake (maybe red velvet) that is as soft as a baby's butt. Awesome.

A Middle Eastern Halloween

Oh blog, how I have missed you. Since teaching took over my life, I forgot all about you blog!

I'm back! And I'm finally getting the hang of this teaching thing, hoorah! It's amazing what I learned in two to teach, how to make a lesson plan, how to manage a classroom, how to grade, where to find teaching resources and other things. Of course, I still have a ton to learn, but at least I don't feel completely helpless, frustrated and completely overworked. I'm actually starting to enjoy teaching now, even on the days I come home exhausted. It has it's drawbacks, like waking up at 6 am. Who could EVER picture me waking up at 6 am? I will wake up early for two things; money and food. So waking up early to have a good breakfast and go to work isn't all that bad. Painful sometimes, yes, but I'm getting used to it.

I had the pleasure of seeing all my kids dress up in Halloween costumes. They were absolutely adorable. There were a lot of witches and princesses but also more creative costumes like a punk rocker, a boy (this girl wore 'boy clothes' with a keffiyeh on her head) a clown, a pumpkin (also too adorable) a 'gypsy' and more. I didn't have the energy and didn't want to spend the money on a Halloween costume this year so when I heard the suggestion of one of the teachers to dress up as a student, I went with it. My 'costume' consisted of brown pants, a white dress shirt, a green headband, lots of stickers on my shirt and a piece of paper I safety pinned to my shirt saying 'Ahliyyah School for Girls Grade Four, Class 4 A'. When I asked my students what they thought my costume was, more than one student said "You're a sticker!"'m you!!! I tried.

There were two Halloween parties that I went to, both of which were great fun. At both parties, something I had went missing....I went to get my favorite green sweatshirt and I realized it wasn't where I left it. So I figured I would take a look around the place and see if someone was wearing it. Sure enough, within a minute, I saw some guy I didn't know wearing my sweatshirt. "Umm....give me my sweatshirt back" I said. "Oh, sorry...I was cold" skinny mystery boy said. That's ok, just give it back. I wasn't actually upset, it was rather amusing. I saw the same guy walking around later wearing a blanket. I guess he really was cold. Why else would a guy wear a bright green sweatshirt with the words Love Pink on it?

The second party had a more depressing ending. My phone fell out of my pocket and I was freaking out because I had parent teacher conferences the next day and I use my cell phone as my alarm clock! I left the party without having found my phone but luckily I remembered I had a travel alarm clock so I took the batteries out of the tv remote and I was good to go. I made it to the parent teacher conference a little tired but it was a success. Unfortunately some jerk decided it would be a good idea to throw my phone in the toilet. Seriously?!!? I would be upset if someone stole it and was actually using it. Luckily, when i went to Zain, my phone company, the guy gave me a free phone which is just as nice as the one that went toilet diving. That made my day!

When I was at the phone company, these two guys came it offering the employee and I some coffee. I particularly needed caffeine that day so I tried it. Let's just say that fresh mint and coffee don't mix. I made myself finish it because I didn't want to be rude. I did not ask for more.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Photos from Jerash and Umm Quais

A Sweet Dream....

This is me sneaking some contraband water during Ramadan, when drinking and eating in public before sunset is illegal. I don't think anyone saw me. Besides the photographer of course.
The other day I made an exciting trip to Cozmo to do some grocery shopping. This place has it all; macaroni and cheese, a huge selection of tea, a bakery, tons of pasta, a ton of British food [yay soup in a cup, porridge and vindaloo curry base] I would use my parentheses by the way, if I didn't spill some tea with honey on my computer, consequently rendering some of my keys out of comission. Cozmo also has a pretty decent ethnic foods aisle, similar to the ones I'm used to seeing at Krogers and Meijers in the US; a lot of chinese, Indian, Thai and Mexican. I had a good chuckle though when I saw Taco Bell salso in the ethnic foods aisle. For Jordan, it is 'ethnic' of course, it was one of the more subtle reminders that I'm not in the US anymore.

The possibility came up recently that I just be able to come home for about two weeks around the holidays. I'm excited for this for multiple reasons; I'll get to see a lot of people that I miss, I'll get to stuff myself with all things I have been missing [kettle corn, macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes to name a few] and I'll bring back some stuff that I stupidly left at home. For instance, my super awesome camera that has a million features I can be creative with. Just when I'm starting to get back into photography, I don't have my best camera with me!

As I was taking nap today, I had a very vivid dream of driving my Honda Civic around in Toledo, passing the Barney's gas station and being filled with giddy excitement when I spotted.....Taco Bell! I'm pretty sure I drooled on my pillow as I dreamed of a grilled stuffed burrito with ten packets of hot sauce, cinnamon twists and a soda. When I awoke from my dream I was sorely disappointed. I mean really disappointed. I awoke to the realization that I'm still in Jordan and there is no Taco Bell here. Not even a Del Taco or anything comparable. I just wanted to go back to sleep.

Now most of you are probably thinking "Duh, you're in the Middle East, of course there isn't a Taco Bell!" But, check out the list of restaurants and fast food places that I've seen in Amman:
Fudruckers, Applebees, Papa Johns, Dominos, TGIFridays, Bennigans, Burger King, Popeyes, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, some other fast food chain I can't think of, and rumor has it there is a Chili's that's going to open up soon. Sometimes it's the little things.....

On another note, guess what I found when I was going through some drawers in the dining room today? A SMOKE DETECTOR! Yep, that would have come in handy last Tuesday!! Ha ha ha ha.

Also, my camera mysteriously started to work again. It 'broke' about two months ago and as soon as I was finally getting ready to get it looked at somewhere, it started to work. This is awesome, I'm not complaining, just not what I was expecting. Kind of like that smoke alarm tucked away in the drawer with no batteries.

It's back to school on Monday, the lovely Eid break is almost over. Back to the busy teaching life and piles of grading. On the bright side, now that Ramadan is over, I'll be able to start a yoga class {cancelled during Ramadan} maybe do a dance class, go to a cafe after school and say adios to the nightmare traffic that ensued after school for the past month. Did I mention how thrilled I am that Ramadan is over? Not that I didn't enjoy the Iftars I had with friends {the breaking of the fast meal when the sun sets} but now life is back to normal. Allelulia.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Smoking Hot Good Time....or Not

You know the old saying, "You never really appreciate what you have until it's gone?" Well, I've found this to be more true than ever when a fire erupted on the ground floor of my apartment complex and there was NO smoke detector and NO fire alarm. I sometimes even considered them to be a nuisance when they would go off because of steam from a shower or a baking catastrophe in the kitchen. Now that seems like a minor inconvenience. Let me explain.

On Tuesday, I was home alone sitting in front of my computer when the electricity went off. No big deal, I thought, it should come back on in a couple of hours. I only had one candle and my phone screen was the only source of other light but hey, no big deal. Suddenly I smelled something burning. Burning plastic.....I rushed to the kitchen to see if I left the stove on but everything was ok. I opened the door to the apartment and was hit in the face by a wave of smoke and an even stronger burning odor. At this point my brain turned off....

In this moment of panic, it seemed like a good idea to jump off my balcony, but after looking over the ledge, I figured that a third story jump was not a good idea. Crap, I'd have to run down the stairs. It was pitch black and smoky as hell. In another lucid moment, I ran out of the apartment in my tank top, using my phone as a light to guide my way down the stairs and using my other hand to hold onto the railing. It honestly didn't even cross my mind to cover my mouth or put on a sweatshirt.

I'm pretty sure I was one of the last, if not the last, people out of the apartment. The fire trucks were already there and there were tons of people in the street. I didn't even hear the fire trucks (did they even have their sirens on?) there was no smoke detector to warn me and I didn't hear anyone scream 'fire' or anything else to warn me. The system seems to be as follows: Inshallah you won't be sleeping, or if you are, the smoke or burning flames will awake you from your slumber. If you are awake, Inshallah you will realize very quickly that there is a fire and get the hell out before you are either burned or suffer from smoke inhalation. Inshallah, your brain will still work and you won't even think of jumping off your third floor balcony (2nd floor here in Jordan) and you will have the presence of mind to cover yourself up with something before running through a ton of smoke.

The good news is that the fire department arrived within three minutes and nobody was hurt. The family who was living in the apartment over the summer had just moved back to Bahrain the same day so nobody's belongings were destroyed either. Best case scenario for a fire really. Unfortunately all that smoke seemed to expedite the cough that was already starting. By the end of the night, I was really hacking up a lung and couldn't sleep. Gretchen says it sounds like I have emphesema when I cough. This isn't helped by the fact that I didn't shut the door when I left the apartment so our apartment was filled with smoke and a nice layer of soot settled on everything. Ironically, my room had the most smoke of all.

Before going to bed, I told Gretchen, "Hey, things can't get any worse!"

I spoke too soon, I really should have kept my mouth shut because a couple hours I spilled some tea on my laptop. Tea with honey. Sticky wetness on my laptop sent me into panic mode once again. Luckily there wasn't a lot and I cleaned it up pretty quick. My computer is still working although the mouse pad is busted. Thankfully my friend Ahmad picked up an external USB mouse and now everything is in working order. When I get paid in 2 weeks and can stop subsisting on rice and beans, I'll try and get the mouse pad fixed.

The next morning I went to see a doctor and on the way into the hospital, my favorite sandals busted. At this point I just started laughing. What else can you do at this point? So I walked in with my right sandal in my hand. After being diagnosed with a throat infection and having four medications prescribed to me, I just walked out with both sandals in my hand. What's the point of wearing one sandal, really?

The icing on the cake was when I went to school to get my visa extended. I was taking the day off due to feeling like crap and hacking up a lung. I was told it was a good idea to get my visa extended that day because it would be nearly impossible to get it done over Eid. So I showered and went to school, where I was going to get a ride to the police station and be accompanied by the HR person of the school who could take care of the details. When the guy looked at my passport and visa, he said that we couldn't just go to the police station to renew my visa since I had already been here three months. He would have to go through the Ministry of Interior to get my extenstion. And of course, this would have to wait until after Eid. My visa is currently expired but luckily I wasn't planning on leaving Jordan for the holiday anyway and the school will pay the '1 JD per day for every day my visa is expired' fee.

In the end, I can laugh at it all. It's all one big adventure. I have survived so far.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My First Weeks Teaching

Sorry I have neglected you has been a crazy two weeks since school started as I have been trying to cram my head full of new information; how to memorize 100 students names, how to make a lesson plan, how to teach effectively, how to make learning fun and how to manage a class. Not to mention that waking up at 6:00 am definitely takes some getting used to! Those who know me are aware that waking up at 6:00 is not something I'm a big fan of. If I wake up around 8 or 9 I usually need about 15 minutes before I'm coherent enough to speak. Waking up at 6 means I need about a half hour. Luckily Gretchen seems to be the same way so we're happy just mumbling a good morning to each other when we wake up and the conversation doesn't start until we've left the house after 7.

Before I was complaining about Ramadan because I can't go to a cafe or eat out before 7. Plus the bars are closed. I have since slightly changed my mind about Ramadan due to the fact that I will most likely be getting a nine day holiday directly following the end of Ramadan. And I sure could use the 9 day break after the lack of sleep and constant work. I've also more or less put my Arabic studies on the back burner as I immerse myself in figuring out the whole teaching thing. This vacation time will be a time for sleeping in, finally getting back into Arabic and doing some pleasure reading. As well as doing more reading on how to teach effectively, etc.

Although the last 2 weeks have been a bit stressful, there have been a fair share of things at school that brought a smile to my face or made me laugh. One of my students told me that I look like Pink, which at first confused me because I wan't wearing anything pink that day and I wasn't sunburned. Another student raised her hand to ask me a question after receiving instructions for an in class exercise. I walked over expecting to clear go over the instructions but I was met with a 'teacher, why are you wearing a headband on your neck?' That day I was wearing a big silver necklace that lies low on the neck and I guess could be easily mistaken as a headband. The best was when a student raised her hand and asked me why I wore the same skirt every day.....I guess three days in a row is when people start to wonder about your fashion sensibilities; even fourth graders! Next time I should ask why the student wears the same clothes every day.....the obvious answer being that they have a uniform. I don't know how well that would actually go over though. Maybe I'll just actually have to switch up my wardrobe.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How 5th Graders Develop their English Skills

My friend Gretchen and I have been sharing a lot of stories lately related to our new positions as grade school English teachers. So far, it's been pretty great as the teachers and staff are all very helpful and make a point to tell us if there is anything we need, just ask. It makes the task of teaching for the first time less daunting to be sure.

As I was discussing the curriculum with Gretchen she mentioned that the first story her 5th grade students were reading was about nuclear bombs and death. Naturally, I was curious and got ahold of the story. Before I even started to read the story, I saw what she was talking about. The title is Nuclear Disaster! and the middle of the pages displays a prominent orange and yellow photo of the nuclear mushroom bomb. No joke.

As I was reading the story, several phrases jumped out at me, for example: my father looked sick. Mainly he was beginning to be sick, but mainly I think he was distressed. Bodies, just dead bodies, they're all dead. The Johnsons, the Peters' - they were all in there, all dead. There were dead birds in the streets. Not exactly a cheery story for the students to be reading, much less during the first week of school. I can picture the first day of class...."Welcome to English students, I think we will all have an enjoyable and educational time reading about death and nuclear bombs."

In the corresponding grammar sections I found the following sentences. There is always a risk of nuclear war if countries keep nuclear weapons. There are some countries, including Britain, that still have nuclear bombs. Steve emerged from the cellar to find destruction everywhere.

No wonder people from other parts of the world often know more about world affairs and wonder why we cringe at the sight of violence on the news; they are exposed to these things in grade school!

Jordanian 'Meetings'

As it's the beginning of the academic year, we have been having a lot of meetings at the Ahliyyah School for Girls, where I have just started my position as a fourth grade English teacher. Many of the meetings consist of a handful of people in an office and are conducted as I would expect they would be. The surprise came when we had two huge meetings, or an 'Arab Pep Rally'.

I was a bit surprised when the movie clips from Dangerous Minds, and some other American movie meant to inspire us as teachers, played for about 20 minutes. At first it was a nice break from all the Arabic, of which I understood very little and was making my brain tired. But as the film clips dragged on, I just wanted to go home and take a nice long nap.

To inspire us further, there were at least three poems read, some of which were read by who seems to have been designated the 'official poem reader' because of his commanding voice. There was a poem about different kinds of birds, trees and I don't even remember what else.

The meeting wrapped up with a series of songs sang by different people, complete with a piano, microphone and some kind of electonic gadget. They were all in Arabic of course, and quite beautiful, and I'm sure I would have appreciated them more if I wasn't tired, hungry and extremely fatigued. Just so that the Westerners wouldn't feel left out, they also sang an Elvis song which was quite sweet of them. I have to admit that I perked up a little, as I could actually sing along.

Sometimes it can seem like a waste of time watching the movie clips, singing and listening to poetry, but I'm sure that once I start attending 'normal' meetings as we would expect in the States, I'll be complaining that I miss the singing and poetry!

Monday, August 24, 2009


I really shouldn't be complaining, as I'm not even fasting. I don't have to wake up at 3:30 in the morning to drink water and eat a light 'breakfast', what they call Sahur, so that I'm not famished and dehydrated in the morning. But it having all the restaurants closed before sunset and having all the bars and clubs for the month of Ramadan is definitely something to get used to. I love being able to get a nice schwarma or some hommos and falalal for about $1.50 in the middle of the day. I think I'll miss that more than the bars being closed as drinks are so expensive here anyway. It's also illegal to drink or eat in public before sunset but I can deal with this no problem. Just guzzle a bunch of water before leaving the apartment or school and I'm good to go.

This is the third full day of Ramadan and the spirit is in the air. The apartments, houses and even restaurants and stores are decked out in Ramadan lights. Some look like the white twinkle lights that are seen in the US during Christmas and some are shaped like the moon and stars. I haven't taken a taxi during the day yet but I've heard that the taxi drivers, and probably all drivers for that matter are more irritable as they are going without any drinks, food or cigarettes all day. And I thought that traffic on a normal day was crazy here....

On the other hand the streets are virtually empty when the sun sets so I can hail a taxi in an instant and cross the street almost without looking. We will also get out of school at 1:00 instead of 2:00 and there is a special Ramadan course in Arabic that I'm taking from 2:30-4:30 five days a week. So I guess Ramadan is not without benefits.

I've heard that there are special Ramadan sweets, similar to special treats that are usually reserved for Christmas (think fruit cake, egg nog, frosted Christmas cookies, etc.) most of which I haven't tried yet but will soon enough I'm sure. The one Ramadan sweet that I did try was Gedaya, which looks like a pancake and tastes pretty similar, just more chewy than American pancakes. Gretchen and I walked into a bakery and found the placed stacked with these 'pancakes' from wall to wall. Pancakes everywhere! Of course we had to buy some out of curiosity, and also because we love pancakes. So we got home and proceeded to drench them in syrup. Later that night we were notified that nobody eats gedaye this way; they are traditionally filled with nuts and or some kind of cheesiness that is hard to identify. Then they are fried and drenched in a sugar syrup. I tried this stuffed fried variation and wasn't a big fan of it actually. I'll stick to eating them 'pancake style' drenched in syrup and immediately enjoyed. I figure it's also better for my arteries this way. Just talking about this is making me thirsty, I'm going to go indulge in a tall, cold glass of water....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting Things Fixed Requires an Entourage

Several weeks ago, I noticed that some of the molding in our bathroom had just fallen down, and our couch already needed to be fixed, as well as one of our other bathrooms so we figured it was about time that stuff gets fixed. We arranged a time for the couch and molding to be repaired and before you know it, our apartment was full of people. There was one guy working on the couch, two guys working on the molding, one guy just sitting in a chair, maybe overseeing the quality of the work?, and the landlord and her mother. I thought it was odd that the landlord would come with her mother while things were getting repaired. After all, it must be quite boring to just sit around doing not much of anything. I later understood the reasoning....when women live alone, it's not apropriate here for repair men to be alone in the house with them. So, the landlord and her mother were here for cultural reasons, to make us feel more comfortable since there were men we didn't know working in our apartment. This almost made me feel guilty since I didn't feel that the women needed to be there but at the same time I didn't want to tell them to go home.

Shortly after the men arrived, I asked if they wanted anything to drink; water, soda, juice...I don't know why I didn't think of offering them tea, I've already been here 2 months and have realized that tea is as important to life as eating and sleeping! One of the men asked for tea so I went about boiling the water and asked how much sugar they wanted. I figured there was about a 0% chance that they didn't want tea. 3 heaping spoons of sugar for each mug! Just thinking about drinking that nearly gave me diabetes. I then put some biscuits and pastries on the table for them. You can see this Jordanian sense of hospitality has really rubbed off on me. I swear I almost felt insulted when nobody ate the biscuits and pastries. I was thinking, something wrong? I even worried that the tea wasn't hot enough when I tasted mine and realized it wasn't piping hot. Well, when I get back to the US I'll probably still say please and thank you all the time and I'll be super hospitable. A win win situation for people back home :)

The confusing part was when one of the guys asked if I had newspaper. My first thought was, come on guys, did you forget to bring a drop cloth to cover the floor?! Come prepared! Then he said 'selah' which I didn't know the meaning of at the time. Of course I learned a couple days later that it means prayer. After some gesturing I finally understand that it was time for evening prayer and he needed something to kneel and pray with; newspaper, a blanket, a rug, whatever. All of the sudden it dawned on me and I brought him a blanket. He and the 2 others proceeded to face Mecca and do their prayers...while Gretchen and I sat on the couch not quite knowing what to do.

In the end, it was a learning experience for both of us; always have tea, water and a blanket ready and try not to feel guilty when women come and 'do us a favor' by sticking around when men we don't know are working in the apartment.

Random things in Jordan

This blog entry isn't about anything in particular, it's more a compilation or random things that I've noticed in Jordan recently. I've written about the crazy driving here before, and how crossing the street is an experience unto itself, but I believe I neglected to mention the unbelievable amount of people that fit into cars here on a regular basis. The other day, I was in a taxi looking around and I had to do a double take as I saw a car packed with 9 people....and I don't mean an SUV or anything. This was a normal sized car with 6 adults in the back and three in the front. On a normal basis, I'd say you can easily count on seeing at 6 people packed into a small car. The next time I think of complaining that I feel cramped in the backseat of a car with only 2 other people, I will just remember to be thankful that there aren't three other people sitting on our laps.

The other day I saw a mother in the front seat of a car with her baby sitting on her lap! In the US, this would freak people out and I'm sure many passer bys would be cursing about the irresponsible mother under their breath. If my memory serves me right, Ohio has a law mandating that people in the front seat wear seat belts. Even if the mom was buckled up, I don't think the baby sitting on her lap would count as being buckled in safely.

One of the most bizzare things that I've seen has to be the monkey that I saw sitting on the top of a car, being fed by it's owner. The guy looked totally casual, as if this is something totally normal that happens everyday, which it probably is, as I saw this guy and his monkey more than once!

There's one more thing that I saw recently that really stuck out in my head...the boy I saw in the barber shop. Now seeing a boy in a barber shop usually isn't an odd sight, but when the boy is standing in front of a man waiting to get a shave, that's a bit shocking! Just to make sure that I wasn't making any wrong assumptions, I asked my friend Ahmad about boys working in barber shops and he confirmed that it's normal, especially in the summer when they are out of school. I guess they must have a steady hand and experience with shaving but boy, I don't know if I would trust a 12 year old with a blade to get that close to me!!

As they say in Jordan, A'adi, it's normal!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Creeeepy Taxi Driver

Ok, generally taxi drivers here are pretty cool so I don't mean to diss all taxi drivers by any means. But there was an especially creepy taxi driver yesterday who was following Gretchen and I and kept on stopping on the side of the road for us. We were walking up a fairly steep hill getting a nice little workout and had no intention of getting a taxi, even if I did bruise my foot and we looked all out of breath.
After he had been following us for about ten minutes and stopped for the third time, I went over to him and said in Arabic 'I don't want a taxi, get away from me!''s nice to have friends to teach you useful phrases like that...luckily it didn't get to the point where I needed to say 'Ismah walla, bahshii ijrii fii teezak' 'listen I swear, I'm going to kick your ass' But it's good to know I have a nice arsenal of words to get the point across :) Now time to give Gretchen a language lesson....

Haircuts and Vitamin B Shots

It's been a little over two months since my last haircut so I figure I'm due for a trim soon, it's getting a bit shaggy. As I was thinking today of where to go to get it cut, I realized that there probably aren't many women who know how to cut really short hair the way I usually have it done in the states. My favorite tool is this long razor with a serrated edge that is used to layer and texture the shorter hair in the back. I think I might get some really funny looks if I went into a barber shop and I don't want to risk walking out looking like a boy. I went to a barber about five years ago just for kicks and I definitely looked like a boy; I shall not repeat this mistake!

Since I've been here multiple people have told me that they get vitamin b shots instead of taking supplements and I thought it sounded like a good idea. I take a special B12 supplement as well as a general B vitamin every day but hey, if I can get a shot once a week, which is probably more effective anyway, then why not? So I went to the pharmacy and asked if I needed a prescription for the B vitamin shot. The pharmacist said I didn't need a prescription and I walked out with five weeks worth of B vitamins for a little over $5. Pretty sweet deal if I do say so myself.

The next step was finding out where to get the shot; I was told to go to a clinic or a hospital so I decided to walk to the pharmacy that's a short walk from my apartment and ask the pharmacist where to go. As luck would have it, the pharmacist said she could administer the shot. So I walked home to get the vitamins out of the refrigerator and walked back to the pharmacy.

She led me into this little room in the back that's like a mini kitchen and storage room. Generally speaking, I really don't like shots but I'm a lot less queasy than I was in the past. I gave her my arm and was about to turn my head after explaining that I don't like to look at the needle. Uh uh, she shook her head and pointed to my backside. Getting shots in the backside is already not a fun experience but there wasn't even a place to lay down!! Oh well, I was already there and there was no turning back. My memory is bad enough and I'm usually low enough on energy that I really didn't care at this point.

I asked how much I owed for the shot and she told me that it's free. So in the end I get a pretty sweet deal; I can walk down to the pharmacy once a week with my vial of vitamin B that cost about a dollar and get administered a free shot. Just another thing that makes Jordan pretty darn cool.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Being Alone and Asking for Things

As most of you know, I'm an only child so I'm used to entertaining myself and being alone for periods of time and I used to be generally ok with that. Well, the culture in the Middle East is much more group and family oriented and it seems rather rare for people to spend a lot of time alone. It might even be looked at as weird if someone likes to spend a lot of time alone reading, listening to music or whatever.

Since I moved here, I've been around people a lot more than I'm used to back in the States. I've gotten used to it and I actually really like it. The only downside is that if I'm totally alone (in the apartment, outside, wherever) I start to feel lonely. I guess a lot can change in two months!

One thing I'm trying to train myself to do is to stop saying thank you so much and to not ask for things so much. With friends I often hear, 'you don't have to say thank you' and 'you don't have to ask, just take it, we're past that stage' as in, we know each other well enough so there is no need for these formalities. Having been trained all my life to 'mind my p's and q's' this is going to be quite difficult....and when I come back to the US if I've kept this habit, know that I'm not trying to be rude :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sweets Update

Remember when I was complaining about the cake here? Well, my friend Ahmad was determined to prove me wrong so he took me to a place called Merwan to see if he could change my mind. I actually didn't end up ordering cake because there were so many other things that looked good so I got the blueberry strudel, he got blueberry cheesecake and we split the two. As far as the strudel and cheesecake go, they are pretty darn good so no complaining there. And if the cake there doesn't turn out to be as good as back home, I can always make my own cake (which I don't think I've actually done before) and top it with a ton of betty crocker frosting. Although our oven is....rather interesting with only one of the bottom part working so maybe I'll just skip the cake making expedition altogether. If I'm home for Christmas, forget turkey, just serve me a sheet cake!

So the photo doesn't have anything to do with cake obviously but I thought I'd put up something with food. After all, my family and friends know that food is usually the first thing on my mind....

Jordanian Bureaucracy

I was told before I came that I had to bring my original diploma to have it certified by AMIDEAST and the Ministry of Education in order to be officially hired by the Ahliyyah School for Girls. So I had my transcripts sent, brought my original diploma and paid an insane amount, $120, to have this all certified. When I went to Amideast a month ago with Melissa to get our diploma's and transcripts certified you can imagine how surprised I was when she told me that they stamp your original diploma. What?! Why not just make a copy of it and stamp that? Doesn't seem to difficult.....but then again it is Jordan. At least the process was relatively smooth and I didn't have to make 20 trips to various offices using 'international sign language' to explain myself.

Today I picked up my diploma and transcripst from Amideast and sure enough my diploma has three stamps on the back. And they are clearly visible even with something behind the diploma. So I guess I'm going to have to order a new diploma to get framed. Lets see....I graduated two and a half years ago and still haven't framed maybe in a couple years I'll actually get around to getting a new one....

Gretchen arrived from the States 2 days ago and it's good to have here here, especially because I had the apartment to myself for the past few days as Sine went back to Denmark and Nadia is in Palestine for three weeks. Having 2 cats of her own in the US, Gretchen is our designated cat expert. I guess it's not good to have the kitten smoke hookah and feed her cheeseburgers after I'm going to stick with giving here a lot of lebnah; the cat might actually like it more than I do which is hard to believe.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Barber Shops, Salons and the Cutest Kitten Ever

A couple weeks ago while driving around in Amman that the barber shops stay open pretty past 11 pm! There were a bunch of guys standing around talking and it occurred to me that maybe men here hang out at the barber shop like they do in cafe's.

I also noticed something peculiar about the salons. First, salon is often spelled as saloon, which I find rather entertaining. Hey, maybe the first bar/salon will open up here in Amman and then it really will be like a saloon. Would you like a martini with your manicure? The other thing I noticed, which struck me as odd at first, is that you can't see inside many of the salons. The windows are often completely covered and you have to ring a doorbell to get inside. You can imagine I was really puzzled the first time I tried to enter and the door was locked so I knocked on the door and just stood around hoping someone was actually there. Soon afterwords, the obvious struck me; the doors are locked and the windows are covered because women who wear the hijab wouldn't want anyone to be able to walk by and see their hair.

Now onto the adorable kitten.....the boys next door found a stray baby kitten and decided she needed a good home. They gave her a bath until the water ran black, got some kitten toys and made a makeshift litter box. Unfortunately my camera is broken or else I would take some photos of this adorable kitten and post them. Hopefully I can get my camera fixed soon because I've missed out on a lot of cool photo opportunities! That's all for now, more on random Jordanian things later....

Monday, July 20, 2009


Ok, so one thing that I definitely miss so far is cake. It's just not the same can be sickeningly sweet but overall it's just not as good. The cake itself is not as dense and the frosting just isn't the same. I swear even the frosting is kind of fluffy. I haven't seen any specialty cakes such as carrot cake, lemon cake, etc. but maybe I just haven't come across it yet. In any case, the knafa here is so good that I really don't have a lot of room to complain.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Taxi Drivers

Generally speaking, I love taxi's here. They are relatively cheap, especially when compared to prices in the US, and it gives me a chance to practice my Arabic without being able to revert back to English if I can't across a point. Additionally, taxi drivers here in Amman rarely try to rip off foreigners and more often than not, after the typical 'where are you from' conversation, I get a friendly 'welcome to Jordan' greeting. I'm sure after I've been here for 8 months, I will still be welcomed to Jordan.

On several occasions I even had a taxi driver buy me some coffee and juice on the way to my destination. The first time, the driver asked if he could make a stop for some coffee and cigarettes and hey, I wasn't in a hurry so I said sure, something I didn't regret while sipping a nice hot cup of turkish coffee a minute later. The only challenge was trying not to spill it while the driver navigated the crazy traffic of Amman, which is made worse by the 700,000 extra cars, mostly from the Gulf countries, during the summer.

After being here exactly one month, I had my first experience of getting ripped off by a taxi driver. Ariana, Peter and I got into the taxi around 11:30, shortly before you have to bargain for a price, which starts at midnight. Apparently the meter was 'broken' or something but we were tired and didn't want to wait forever for another taxi so we agreed on a price of 3 JD, just a little more than what it would usually cost. You can imagine our dismay when we got to our destination, Ariana handed him a 5 JD note and he said 'no, 6 JD' We were out the 2 JD as he certainly wasn't going to give us change but we sure as hell weren't going to give the lying, cheating taxi driver another cent. Lesson learned; wait for another taxi if the meter is 'broken' and/or carry 1 Dinar notes at all times, if possible. And get ready to pull a ''throw some money to the front and run real' fast if need be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Medical Tourism

I realized today that I made a big mistake in my preparations for Jordan. Always one to try and cover all of my bases and be prepared for everything, I thought it would be wise to make all of my doctor visits before leaving for Jordan. It would have been much cheaper if I waited to do all of this in Jordan!

The Jordan Times posted an article today about medical tourism in Jordan, citing Jordan as the most popular medical tourism destination in Jordan, followed by Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Israel. The health care here is great and a lot of the doctors speak English and are affiliated with prestigious American institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic. Combine this with the fact that Jordan is one really cool place to visit and you have the perfect reason to pick Jordan as your medical tourism vacation destination! Some hospitals are even offering package deals including airfare. And it all costs less than 25% of what one would have to pay in the States for a major operation. Plus, you get to have a vacation afterwards....maybe swim in the Dead Sea, visit Petra, Wadi Rum, Madaba and more! And hey, if you like Middle Eastern food, you have added incentive. All the cheap hommus, falafel, schwarma, etc. that you could dream of.

So, if you are planning on visiting me in Jordan, it would be a great time to get sick or plan a major operation. And even if you weren't planning on coming to Jordan, consider coming if you have a major operation coming up. It's cheaper, more fun, and you'll be helping the Jordanian economy! Come on over, I'd be happy to be your tour guide.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mensef: The Full Experience

I know I already did a blog entry on mensef but this time I had the 'real deal' so I thought I would share this experience as well. It was fun, it was filling, it was messy.

My roommates, some friends and I were invited to go to Alis family's house in Irbid for some mensef, or should I say, a lot of mensef. Traditionally, the men all gather around a big plate of the mensef and dig in with their hands. More often the women sit separately and eat with forks. Those who know me won't be surprised that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to eat with my hands so I chose to eat on the floor with the guys and dig in. I was given proper mensef eating instructions, which consists of rolling the rice and meat into a ball in your hand and then using your thumb to scoop the food into your mouth. I had mastered the thumb manouver in India but had never tried to roll rice and meat into a ball so this was an entirely new challenge. The first couple times was challenging but after a bit, I got the hang of it. I think for a first timer my mensef ball rolling skills were pretty good.

Shortly after we dug in, Muaz said, I know you might think this is gross, but to honor guests, we put good pieces of meat in front of them to eat. Soon, I had pieces of meat being tossed in front of me from all directions and I felt pretty loved.

I was still picking away at the food after all but one of the guys had stopped eating, probably because it took me longer to eat properly and I was taking smaller portions. Suddenly, Andy said, 'you know Ali (the host) can't stop eating until you stop eating'. soon I got up to wash my hands and Ali followed, probably relieved that he didn't have to keep eating to the point of being uncomfortable. I look forward to my next mensef experience not only because it's good food, but because it's so fun!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I have complained about sidewalks in the US but now that I've seen the sidewalks in Jordan, I don't think I'll be doing much complaining about that ever again. I'll have to take a photo of the sidewalks here and post them; it's quite a sight.

For starters, the sidewalks are raised about 6 inches from the street which means that if you plan on riding a bike, it's actually more dangerous to ride on the sidewalk. You're better off in the street, if you can manage Jordanian traffic that is. I still get nervous crossing the street so as you can imagine, I have decided to pass on getting a bike. I have enough anxiety on my own two feet! There's a half page in the Lonely Planet Jordan book dedicated to traffic and crossing the street. If you really are too nervous, just tag behind the person closest to you who is also trying to cross the street and say a prayer. It's worked pretty well so far.

The second thing about the sidewalks is that there are trees planted in the middle of them. In my opinion, this kind of defeats the purpose of sidewalks if you are always trying to dodge the trees and random poles that one frequently finds smack dab in the middle. I have narrowly escaped a full on tree to head collision on more than one occasion. It might actually be a good idea to wear a helmet when walking on the sidewalk or crossing the street.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Marriage of Convenience

Yesterday I was exploring downtown Amman with Peter, who I met at the University of Jordan's Language Program. He's 6'5 so you can imagine the looks we got between the two of us. It was particularly cute when little boys would gawk openly at Peter and I'm pretty sure they were thinking 'wow, I hope I get to be that tall!"

We ended up talking to several different vendors/shopkeepers and one of them asked if we were married. We kind of laughed about it but then I thought, 'wait! you could be my creepy guy decoy'! So we developed a system. If we're ever together, and I'm getting a creepy vibe from someone who asks if we are married, then we'll say we're married. It's brilliant. I have a 'secret signal' that I'll do and boom! more respect and less ogling of the "married" American.

For those of you who have wondered what beer and milk would taste like combined, I have an answer. It tastes odd, but not as bad as it sounds.

There is a yogurt drink called shanineh here, which is very similar to doogh in Iran. It's thinned drinkable yogurt with salt. Sounds weird but it's good. Unless you get an uber-fermented batch. While walking around the massive fruit and vegetable market downtown, I stumbled upon a little shop that sold cheese, olives and other random things. Peter and I ended up talking to one of the workers and I inquired about the substance being poured into a bottle from a silver vat. He explained that it's shanineh, and offered us a sample. Now, I really do like this salty yoghurt drink, which is also supposed to be quite good for you. If the amount of fermentation has anything to do with the health benefits, then I'm pretty sure this stuff can cure anything. It was so fermented that it kind of tasted like beer. Lesson learned; keep trying new food and drinks because even if it's not great, it can be a pretty entertaining experience.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Floating Without a Microwave

I came to the realization this morning that I'm going to be eating a lot more cold food than I normally do. I will also be mixing food more often than usual. This is because I don't have a microwave. It's not the end of the world to be sure, but microwaves sure are convenient, especially if you like warm food as I do. I warmed up my lunch today over the stove!! For a moment, I felt like I was back in time, living a rustic life in a cabin. Well, this 'cabin' has satellite television so scratch that. It's obviously the 21st century and I just don't have a microwave. I don't even know how to make microwave popcorn without a microwave. Come to think of it, what is that microwave popcorn doing in our cupboard?

Over the weekend I took a trip to the Dead Sea with two American students, Ariana and Mike, that I met at the University of Jordan. The whole trip was absolutely amazing. And the Dead Sea is only 45 minutes away. The only downside was that any small cuts I had hurt A LOT once I took a dip in the Dead Sea, which is 30% salt, five times more salt than any other sea. I'm pretty sure this is the only body of water on earth where it is physically impossible to drown. Trying not to float actually takes effort; whenever I would put my legs straight down into the water, they would just float up so I landed on my back or stomach.

Normally, when I'm swimming in a river, the ocean, etc. I get anxious because I have a fear of seaweed and water dwelling critters brushing up against my legs. You know how jumpy I am! My anxiety quickly dissipated when I remember that the Dead Sea gets it name because it is so salty it can't sustain life. There wasn't even any seaweed, just rocks. It's kind of hard to describe what being in the Dead Sea is like, but if you put a couple pounds of salt in your bathtub and filled it up with lukewarm water it might give you a pretty good idea. It feels like your covered in baby oil and apparently it's really good for you. People have been coming to the Dead Sea for over two thousand years to cure skin conditions.

One of the highlights was indulging in a green mud pack, and watching all kinds of people slather on the green mud. There is something especially amusing about seeing men of all ages happily spread this green mud all over themselves, boasting about how good it is for you. It has been my experience that men don't get all excited about the prospect of putting on a face mask or going to the spa to soak in a specially formulated salt and mineral filled bath to soothe their muscles and cure any skin ailment.

Another thing that gave me a giggle was when I looked at the nametag of the man who helped us with our luggage upon arrival. Jihad. No joke, this guys name is Jihad. Now Jihad doesn't really mean 'let's go wage war on all of the heathen westerners' like a lot of people think. My understanding is that it's a more personal struggle; overcoming temptation, having a good heart, etc. But still, I'm pretty sure that there are many Jihad's in the US who have since acquired an American name like Jimmy, Jay, etc.


I finally started a flickr account so I can share all of my photos, yay!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dryers are Better than Sliced Bread

I forgot to mention how much I miss dryers. It's not that the process of hanging up my clothes bothers me that much; it's that my clothes and towels are not soft fluffy and warm when they are done drying. When I got the towel off the drying rack this morning, I swear it was crunchy. And my t-shirts just don't have the same softness. Maybe if I rub a dryer sheet on all my clothes it will help?

Going to the Grocery Store

As I get settled into Amman, I'm realizing that some everyday occurrences are both exciting and daunting. Taking a walk is fun since I get to soak up new sights and familiarize myself with my new neighborhood, or just enjoy the sunshine and get to know the different areas of Amman. On the other hand, there is a lot of head turning in my direction, which is occasionally accompanied by a 'what's up' in English, a whistle or something in Arabic that I don't yet understand. Given my somewhat shy nature, this can be a little unnerving to me, depending on how I'm feeling that particular day.

Doing simple things like going to the grocery store alone makes me a bit nervous as I haven't yet learned how to say "Could you please help me with this, I have no clue what I'm doing". Today for example, I saw a delicious display of nuts and seeds but did not see bags to put them in and wasn't sure where to weigh them. I'm sure I was a funny sight when I went up to the cashier and said in Arabic, "I don't know how to.." while pointing at the display of nuts. I did recently learn how to say nuts, but I thought "I don't know how to nuts" would sound more awkward than it already did. Lucky for me, the man assisted me and, either taking pity on me or hoping to strike up a conversation (in very limited Arabic) gave me the nuts for free. Whew, that wasn't so bad but now it's on to the fruit and vegetable section.....

On the way home, with my short blond hair, green striped t-shirt and reusable orange grocery bag, I'm sure I was a sight. Using reusable bags haven't quite caught on here so it's one more thing to make me stick out thus far. And I really need to learn how to say "I have my own bag" instead of just awkwardly giving the bag to whoever is bagging the groceries.

I was pleasantly surprised the other day to find that we have the super satellite television at the apartment so I have a choice of a couple hundred TV stations. So I can still watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and hopefully be able to watch Ugly Betty when the new season starts. At this point, I think I would be overwhelmed if I tried to watch anything in Arabic. "ah...I did understand the words door, buy, understand, apricots, nuts and window, but I generally have no clue what's going on"

After I inquired about where to take the garbage, I was notified that we just put the garbage out in the stairwell and the tenant comes to pick it up every day. In that moment I realized that although American have a reputation for being lazy, we do take our own garbage out, and that gave me a good laugh.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ginormous Bug Bite and the Royal Jordanian Film Comission

Several days ago I got what I thought was a mosquito bite on my achilles tendon.....and by this evening it looks more a bee sting, spider bite or something similar. It doesn't really hurt but i hope this goes away soon because it sure does look funny. If it keeps spreading I'll get it looked it and you know what....going to the doctor and getting treatment is a lot cheaper than in the US so no worries!!

I moved into my apartment with Sine and Nadia yesterday evening. I really loved staying with Melissa and Taurik; they were very helpful and extremely hospitable. I have been told that Middle Easterners are very hospitable but they even exceeded my expectations and now I know that I have a family here who's willing to help me and answer my questions, or eat grilled cheese and watch the Daily Show.

A couple of hours after arriving at the apartment I was introduced to at least six of Nadia and Sine's friends and we all went out for a nice meal to celebrate Sine, Ahmad and Nabeel's birthday. It was my first experience out at traditional restaurant and boy was it tasty. We all shared a spread of hummos, baba ghanouj, tomato and cucumber salad, pita bread, yogurt, pizza's, different meats and of course, tea. Before we left, a chocolate cake was brought out with three fire cracker looking things that were spouting out flames; it looked like it was it straight out of Ace of Cakes. The cake presentation was pretty impressive but I must say, I still prefer sheet cake from Kroger with buttercream frosting. I'm sure I'll find something I like just as much soon.

I'm sitting here chatting here Ahmad, Sine's language partner, and it turns out that he has relatives in Toledo. One of my neighbors works at the organization I contacted here in Amman regarding volunteering several hours a week. Small world.

In twenty minutes, I'm heading out to see part of the refugee film festival put on by the Royal Jordanian Film Comission in partnership with the UNHCR. World Refugee day was yesterday and there seem to be numerous events going on throughout the week. Thursday there is a play put on by Iraqi refugee children regarding their experiences as refugees. Although it's going to be in Arabic, I would like to go and see what I can understand and if I'm lucky, there will be someone there to give me an idea of what's going on. Be prepared for some heavy heart wrenching blogs ahead.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mensef, Cocktails and Yellow Hair

I had the opportunity to try Mensef today, the most popular (as far as I can tell) Jordanian dish. Mensef consists of yellow rice with almonds and or pine nuts, lamb and a yogurt sauce. I had heard mixed reviews of this mysterious dish so I didn't have very high expectations. Originally I was excited to have the opportunity to eat with my hands again but when the dish was put in front of me with some silverware and I wasn't surrounded by others eating with their hands, I succumbed to the temptation of silverware, to the pleasure of my just washed hands. It wasn't great but it wasn't bad either. I'm sure I'll be eating it again.

Today I found out that Jordan has the healthiest and tastiest cocktails that I've ever had. Their version of a 'cocktail' is what we call fresh squeezed juice or a smoothie. The orange carrot one sounded pretty good and it was indeed fantastic. A fellow student ordered a lemon mint one which was equally as good, with more of a punch because of the bitterness of the lemon and the strength of the mint. Fortunately, the guy understood when I ordered it in Arabic, I just have to get down 'for here or to go' and I'll be good.

Melissa's daughter Maria says that I have yellow hair. I don't know why but it puts a smile on my face.

The big event today was the placement test that I took at 10. I came here feeling pretty confident about my Arabic for only having taken two semesters. By the time I walked out of the placement exam I felt like a moron. Of course, the same test is given to everybody; the novices to the advanced. It just made me realize how much more I have to learn. During the oral exam I was asked to point out Jimmy Carter in a newspaper photo which amused me. The orientation actually started on time, which almost surprised me because from what I can tell, the Jordanian way of doing things is...not quite as formal and organized as the US. For example, the orientation was supposed to be yesterday at 10 but instead of e-mailing us, we all went to the language center only to find a sign on the door saying that the orientation had been rescheduled for the next day at 1:00. So I didn't have to wake up at 6:30 and leave at 8 with Melissa and the kids but at least I got an early lesson in 'the Jordanian way of doing things 101'.

We were all told today that we must be on time for our weekend excursions. I believe the administrator's exact words were "you must be on time for the bus. The bus might be late by 15 minutes for technical reasons but it's very important that you be on time" As melissa told me, "in Jordan, you hurry to wait"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sun, Ice Cream and Tanning

Yesterday I was outside talking with Melissa when I got all excited because I heard an ice cream truck. Well, I thought it was an ice cream truck until Melissa laughed and told me that she too thought it was an ice cream truck when she first heard it but as it turns out, it's a gas tank truck. These trucks used to drive by the houses and honk their horns to let people know they could come out and buy a tank of gas but as this constant honking was a nuisance, they were forced to change their 'arrival announcement' to something more pleasant. Incidentally, it sounds exactly like the ice cream trucks back home.

Driving from Amman to Zarqa today I noticed a sign that read "Amman Tanning". Now, why on earth would anyone feel the need to go tanning in Jordan? I mean, the forecast 360 days a year is 'sunny and clear'. I actually did look up the extended forecast and for the next five days it is going to be sunny.

I just learned that I get to try Mensef, the famous Jordanian dish, on Thursday which means that I get to eat with my hands, yay! The Daily Show is on, gotta go :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cheapest Person on the Plane

I thought I knew how to do something as simple as weigh a piece of luggage. I'm either horrible at basic math or the scale at home doesn't work. At the airport I realized that my luggage was 16 pounds over the weight limit and thankfully, my mom said I could charge the fee on her visa. "The card is for emergencies so you can use it now" she said. Well, if this is an emergency then my life must be pretty darn good.

We all know that nowadays some airlines charge extra for everything from the peanuts to the blankets. So when I was asked if I wanted anything to drink, I immediately asked "is it free?" This was met by a funny look and a "yes".

As I prepared for the long flight to Amman from Chicago, I got out my magazines, iPod and pillow before storing my carry on in the overhead bin. I tossed the magazines on my seat and the AARP magazine landed on top. The man sitting next to me glanced over and said "aren't you a little young to be reading that?" What can I say, there were some good articles in it. And I'll be the best prepared senior citizen on the planet when that time comes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


It's down to the wire now...only a few hours before I leave for Jordan! After several trips overseas, I've finally nailed down how to pack like a pro. I was pleasantly surprised to find that everything I wanted to take fit in my luggage.

Time to have one last meal in the US, which oddly enough is going to be korean food; hot stone bibimbop.

Did I mention that I'm super nervous?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


My departure is only a few days away and although I'm pretty excited for all that lies ahead, there are a few things I'm a bit apprehensive about.

The Airport: It seems some of my meds are not available in Jordan so I'm bringing nearly a years supply of several of them. Here's to hoping I don't get arrested for drug trafficking at the Queen Alia airport.

The Heat: I have heard it's very hot in Jordan but on the bright side (so I've heard) it's a dry heat so in reality it should be easier to bear than the heat in Toledo which is quite humid. It's been compared to the heat in Arizona. Unfortunately someone today notified me that the heat is absolutely unbearable in Arizona. So much so that people don't really go outside unless necessary. I have no air conditioning in my room so this scares me. I envision long nights sleeping on the couch under the AC unit covered with frozen peas....or frozen okra. Don't be surprised if I post a photo of me walking in the the city with an umbrella and one of those electric fans that people carry around at Cedar Point. I'm not exactly going to blend in as it is so why not go all out?

My Grammar: I read in my 'Teaching ESL' book that some students who study English as a second language know English grammar better than native speakers. This scares me. I haven't had proper grammar lessons in who knows how long. Luckily I'm bringing 'The Grammar Bible' with me and will read it diligently. My friend Gretchen who just earned her Masters in Journalism and will be teaching at the same school, will no doubt be answering a lot of my questions. Give it a few weeks and she'll regret ever having wanted to share an apartment.

Waiting in Lines, Bureaucracy and Getting Stuff Done: The Middle East is a lot less organized when it comes to bureaucracy, waiting in line and generally getting things done. I'm not making a personal judgment yet but this is what I've read and heard multiple times. Waiting in line here is generally a pretty orderly experience; you wait patiently in a straight line until it is your turn. In the Middle East, whoever pushes their way to the front first gets served. I have rarely if ever engaged in the sport of line pushing and I'm afraid I'll be horrible at it. Plus I don't know how to say "hey, you cut!" in Arabic. And even if I did, I'm sure I would get very strange looks in response.

Food: Don't get me wrong, I love love love Middle Eastern food but I know from previous experience that I'm really going to miss things like sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, stuffed pork chops, Taco Bell (don't laugh foodie elitists) ice cream with peanut butter topping, kettle corn and the variety of cuisines one can so easily access in the US; Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, etc. There are a variety of restaurants in Amman to be sure, it's what they won't have that scares me.

Hospitality: Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to experiencing the Middle Eastern hospitality that I've heard so much about. But I also know that this hospitality (tea, snacks, food) can lead to an ever expanding waist line. Is using diabetes (that I don't have) as an excuse to turn down sweet tea and desserts unethical?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Coolest Cupcake Cake Ever

This American flag cupcake cake made by my friends MaryAnn and JoAnna for my going away party is just so impressive I had to post a photo of it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Well, my adventures haven't really started yet....unless you consider getting everything done on my to-do-list-before-I-leave-for-Amman adventurous. Visiting with friends before I leave is great; packing all of my belongings in a box or a suitcase on the other hand is not so fun.

In less than two weeks, I'll be heading to Amman, Jordan for a year to teach English to fourth grade girls, learn some Arabic and get more experience in the non-profit world volunteering for an organization called Questscope. I won't start teaching until August 15th so for the first 7 weeks I'll be studying Arabic at the University of Jordan's Language Center. Focusing for three and a half hours in class every day might be a challenge but hopefully some good sleep and coffee will help.

I've never written a blog before, and don't consider myself a stellar writer by any means so I'm hoping the content should be interesting enough to make it worth the read.

I'm sure some of you are wondering why the URL is adventures in philadelphia when I'll be in Amman, Jordan not Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Amman has been inhabited by several civilations; the Greeks, Persians, Romans and Assyrians to name a few. While Amman was under Greek rule, it was renamed Philadelphia by a guy with a big ego; Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Hellenic ruler of Egypt. I wonder if it's possible to get a philly cheese steak in Amman?

Once I get to Jordan, I'll be posting photos and writing about cultural faux pas I will inevitably commit, cultural quirks, maybe a little history and politics, my job teaching, progress (hopefully) in Arabic and more. I hope it will be good and if you have any questions to ask or comments to make, feel free! It's an interesing part of the world....