Monday, May 27, 2013

Hangin out in the sharkles (the sharkle awsawts, of course)

Woah. So I was about to start writing this blog thing and I thought to myslef, "Self, let's be honest with us. We need some hummus and falafel if we are going to do this right." And so I walked 40 meters to the nearest shop and bought a pail of hummus, a bag of falafel, and a bag of fresh bread. $1.50. And then I came home and sat in front of this computer, telling myself that I would start writing any second, but just sitting and eating and eating instead. Shucks, there went half an hour... but a half hour well spent...

So I'm still just kickin it in the ME. I'm still loving it! Each day I'm here I realize how much less it is like the US. They do things quite differently here. And I'm just starting to figure out why... here comes a short story. I hope it doesn't just sound like I'm venting :)

About 3 months ago I turned in a CV, resume, and some other things to Kaiti, our program facilitator. She is in charge of setting things up for interns at the Ministry. She sent out these items to the Ministry for all the interns a few months ago. Each intern had studied the Ministry and picked a spot they wanted to work in. We had the assumption that we would start working the second week of May, as planned. Well, the Ministry didn't get back to Kaiti for a while. It turns out that by the time we got to Jordan they hadn't even opened our applications or read anything we sent them. So, we got here and they just told us to hang tight while they figured stuff out. We didn't set foot inside the Ministry for the first two weeks. Then we finally had a meeting in which they looked over our forms and told us where they were going to put us. Most people got places they wanted. I was planning on working outside the Ministry and the Institute for Diplomacy. I found out a week after I'd been here that they weren't taking any interns. So I came with the other interns to the Ministry to find a spot here. During our meeting, almost everyone got their position changed multiple times. It was really crazy. They told me I could maybe work here in the Ministry, but then a director lady came in and looked at me and said, "Oh no, you don't want to be here in the Ministry. You want to be out in the field with the people. Let's put him in the Juvenile detention center." And that was that. I got switched in the blink of an eye. They told Logan and me to be very careful at the Center because these were troubled teens ages 12-18 and we should be on our guard.

Picture break! I feel like this entry is really dense and long. So here is something cheery!

[Jethro Cedar Morrill with his father, Nikolai]

[My nephew Jet and his dad Nickypoo. I looked just like Jet when I was a baby, I bet.]

Well, Logan ended up getting switched by the end of the day to work in the Human Resource place. I found out after our meeting that I had actually been accepted as an intern at this other place called the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies. So, I planned on working there. They had expected me to show up for work 2 days prior but forgot to tell me that. So they were wondering where I'd been. Well, I show up in the morning at the Institute and they don't really know what to do with me. I sit and chat with some of the employees for a while and then they give me some mint tea. They keep asking me what I want to do at the Institute. I was kinda taken aback because I thought I was their intern and they would have many tasks and projects for me to help with. But they didn't. I ended up thinking about it for a second and then told them that I wanted to improve my Arabic abilities. That was number one. The second was to understand the role of religion and the situation of Christian-Muslim relations in the ME and to help their institution to succeed. They said that they had some things I could that would only use my english abilities, which I wasn't too excited about. They told me that if I really wanted to learn Arabic that I should go to the streets and talk with the people and cab drivers and fruit salesmen, not be in a suit in an office. They also said that they didn't really have much that fitted my desires as an intern at their place. So that was weird. Maybe I just had different expectations. I thought that if they reviewed my stuff and accepted me as an intern that they would have stuff for me to do. They were extremely friendly and understanding of my situation, too, and offered many ways to help me out. I don't think they were being mean or anything like that. They were only interested in my success and said that they want this internship to help me with my goals of understanding the language and religions in the region. They put my wants above their institute's agenda, which I thought was very kind.

I met some cool people there, too. One lady is an Arab born-again Christian who confessed to me that she hasn't been praying recently like she should be, to which I agreed and said that she should be more diligent about it. The second lady was raised Greek Orthodox and spent some time in Lebanon. We sat and chatted for a while. Everyone found out super early that I was Mormon because of the tea and coffee thing. Then she said, "Hey, I think when I was living in Lebanon from '69-'75 that two young men in white shirts and ties just like you came to my door. They said they were doing a religious survey and came inside with this book, The Book of Mormon. My father wasn't religious but was very curious and invited them in. They came over several times a week and talked and talked. I was really skeptical back then so I didn't really pay attention. Huh, that's funny. I had forgotten about that whole thing until you came in..." Then she asked me what we believe and all sorts of things. Now, talking about the Church is touchy here. But she turned to me, closed her office door, and said, "I'm now talking to you as Mona, not as an employee here." And, since she was Christian, I was able to say a few things about the Church. We have been told specifically to not say anything about anything to Muslims, as the Church has legally agreed with Jordan and other sites in the ME. They let us do our studies and such and hold church meetings as long as we obey our little non-proselytizing contract. But she was Christian, so we were able to chat a little about the Book of Mormon and such.

Another man I met is a professor of Islam here at the University of Jordan. He is on a sabbatical leave right now and works with the Institute. He is really fascinated with Mormonism as well. Our discussion started off with him telling me all about Islam and about Israel and all kinds of other wonderful topics. I actually really like hearing all of the opinions people have. I asked him a question about why Muhammad was the last prophet, which he thought was a good question from a Mormon! He understands me a little, I guess. His answer included the principle of not being led in all things and instead learning to use your own agency, which I liked. I also asked him about religious tolerance in the ME and what happens when Muslims change religions. He told me that he had recently written a paper on the subject and said he'd share it with me. He wants to sit down with me for a couple hours and discuss these things—he'll bring some arabic material on Islam and I'll bring english material on Mormonism. It turns our that I actually can't do that because of the anti-proselytizing thingy, so I'll have to break that to him this week. Bummer.

What a cool bunch of people. One of the big wigs at the institute is named Abu Jaber, and he told me that he lectured at BYU a little while ago! Craziness. He is a cool older guy and invited to come to his farm for some festivities, which I actually couldn't do because we had other plans (elikkä a totally sick bike trip to Mt. Nebo. more to come on that). In the end, I arranged to meet with the Islam professor once a week and to also do a translation project of a newsletter for them. I'll probably be there twice a week. However, I didn't feel that I would be productive the whole week, so I went back to the Ministry to see if I could work there the other 3 days.

They threw me in with the group to meet the Minister himself and to get our assignments. When they read my name and where I'd be working, the older lady who was to be my supervisor beamed and waved at me. She seemed like a super fun lady. She is older and wears the hijab like a boss. When it came time to introduce herself to the interns, she made some comment about me being handsome or something (at least that what we, the interns, understood), all the other employees laughed. Then she called me her third son and said I would henceforth be a member of her family. Then she winked at me and didn't take her eyes off me for the rest of the meeting. So..... I could tell this was going to be exciting.
After the meeting we met up and she is probably the spunkiest Arab lady I've met. She kept introducing me as her third son and was just so happy I was there. She even cradled my arm when she was saying goodbye. She is half Lebanese and half Indian, I think is what she told me. Then we sipped mint tea together and she told me wild stories about her dead grandma. Wow. What a day.

I came back to the Ministry the next morning and they stuck me in an office. They told me to go to all of the different sectors, 4 in total, and spend a little time in each so that I could pick a good place to work for the summer. I went to a bunch of offices and asked people where they were from and what their duties were, etc. But no one had work for me. Literally no one. I kept asking people, "Hey I'm here to help! Do you have any cool projects to do today?" Then they'd say, "Hmmmm. Nope. Not really. Sometimes we have busy days, but today isn't one of those." So I told them to come get me if a computer breaks down or something exciting so that I could come help them fix it or do whatever other tasks they were in charge of. One sector does in-field evaluations of programs, and I might get to go out with them and do the evaluations! Cool. But so far, not much work. I sit in this office at a computer with one other guy, عماد. He is pretty cool. 30 years old. Computer engineer. Our computers face opposite directions and the first day of work he was clicking his mouse nonstop. Like a 200 clicks a minute or something. I thought to myself, "Holy cow, self, what kind of game do you think he's playing?" So today I asked went over and asked him. Ah. Happy farms. Never heard of it. But he was planting and harvesting flowers at like a million miles an hour. So that's our joke now, he takes care of the digital flowers while I'll take care of the work. But he promised next week that we'll start a project in designing a survey for all the employees, distribute it, and then analyze the results.

He doesn't really have any hobbies or ambitions, sadly. He says that there is nothing to do and nowhere to go so you just don't do anything too crazy. Just live life and spend time with your family and be happy. And that is kinda the mentality here—you were born into a certain situation, hardly anyone will make it big and get out of mediocrity so don't sweat it too much and just do as much as the next guy so that you can get by. And don't go too crazy ambitious in things like your work because you should just spend that energy in spending time with your family. So everyone comes to work at 8:30 and leaves at 3:30. Kinda nice. Some of the other interns have little projects to do, but some are still finding it really hard to stay busy the whole day. I spent most of the day studying arabic, reading reports and letters in arabic, and talking to عماد in arabic. No one around me knows english which is a blessing for my tongue. It loves arabic.

That's enough business stuff. I realized that I never just write a little blog update. It's usually a wild giant monster book rant instead. So now I'll talk about some adventures we've had...

Independence Day! Hurray! That was saturday. We went on a sick bike ride from Amman to Mt. Nebo. There are like a million pics of facebook if you want to see. We stopped at Mt. Nebo and had the most wonderful hummus falafel sandwiches. Here is one pic I had to include because it features the durable Kaiti Chatty McChatterson right after she passed out! Kaiti is in shape and loves exercise, but something about the combination of heat and riding and getting off the bike led to her fainting. She just went black and fell backward, her legs spasmed a little and she made this weird groaning noise and her eyes rolled back into her head. She might've even foamed a little. I thought she was going to have a seizure. Then a guy grabbed her legs to elevate them and Kaiti's eyes just popped open like two little eggs out of a chicken. And we were like, Oh my gosh Kaiti are you okay? And she's like, Yeah of course what are you talking about? And she tries to just get up like nothing happened. Well, the guy made her stay on the ground. The picture is about a minute after fainting. You can see Kaiti on the far right, just chilling on the ground with a weird happy smile. She was kinda out of it, I think. But she was totally fine like 5 minutes later, no worries. Weird.

[The first rest break. Kaiti on ground. Durable? Yes. Invincible? Perhaps not...]

When we stopped near this little village, these two little boys came out and I took a picture with them and they wanted to ride my bike so I tried to humor them while not letting them die. The big was way too big and the kid wanted to take it straight down the hill. So yeah.

After the bike ride we went to the King's Gardens or something! They are super nice. They had some traditional Arab music concert going on and thousands of people in cool Jordanian clothing everywhere. And sooo many kufiyyas. Those are the red checkered scarf things. I've never seen so many in one place (besides BYU campus, of course. go cougs. and go MESA). They had a bigger concert with cool modern Jordanian music and thousands of shabaab. And there were some women out in the crowds, too! Which was nice. We ended up dancing our little hearts out with the shabaab. They love holding hands and belly dancing with me. I maybe gave myself too much to the dancing when I should've been sticking closer to the girls that were with us (sorry ladies I'll be better in the future!). I'm still learning.

[The crowd parted enough for me to snap a good shot of the plane and super legit traditional Arabs]
[The most patriotic baby I saw]
[Dancing with my bros] 
[Some fountains and such at the gardens]
[The King's mosque. Super huge and beautiful. I'll get pics of the inside later, perhaps.]
Cockroaches. We have some in our apartment. We usually kill several each night, but don't tell the girls in the program because they don't like them. The most we've killed in one evening is 10, I think. Lots of smaller ones, like an inch big, but some bigger ones that are 3 inches. They are awful fast. I don't really mind them because they stay mostly in the kitchen or bathrooms. If they were in my bed I might have different thoughts. But we still kill them because it's not cool to have roaches, I guess.

I better wrap this one up. I'll try and do shorter more frequent entries. 


Friday, May 17, 2013

The Holy Sabbath

I just got back from wonderful church. We have the sabbath on Fridays here in Jordan. The Arab branch meets at 9 for sacrament, then sunday school at 10:00 and priesthood meeting from 10:30-11. The branch is quite small, perhaps 5 natives and then a few more that live here for work or school and speak arabic. When interns are here for the summer, we add another 10 or 15. It is just wonderful. I'm learning all kinds of great words from church and I'm also studying and translating PMG to get what I need.
[Here I am last Friday at church with all that I brought into Jordan. I moved into the apartment right after church.]

I feel very much like a missionary again—I listen in church and write down words I don't know, then I give a prayer or answer a question poorly in the language, then ask more questions and try and try to communicate. I've found that I'm much less apprehensive about talking with people, though. Perhaps because the Finns are less open in public spaces and perhaps because I just got used to it as a missionary. After the Arab branch meets, the English branch comes in. It is more than double the size of the Arab branch, with Embassy workers, more interns, and other families serving in other jobs here or serving missions in the area. They have the same schedule as the Arab branch—two hours. We come to the Arab branch and then usually head out after the English sacrament meeting. This way we get to support the Arabs and learn the language in addition to getting the spiritual foods we ourselves need. Yum.

So, for my internship I have to write specific blurbs on stuff and things. I've decided to just kinda merge those into blog entries. So if you read some gibberish about development and culture and such, that is why. And I think it's super fascinating so hopefully you will too! Some cultural observations I've had while being here:

+Different parts of the body are considered sensual to many peoples in the ME. For example, your head hair. Because almost all women in Jordan wear some kind of head covering, men rarely see their hair. It is a sensual thing to them. I was people watching downtown the other day and three girls walked by—two veiled and one without. She had big dark wavy-curly hair that was long and nice. I saw a guy across the street see her and go berserk. He was so in love. He whistled to his friend across the street and then made some gestures to show his friend where the babe was, outlining with his hands the shape of her hair and then motioning for his friend to go make a move on them, which he didn't end up doing. Interesting. In the U.S. hair doesn't seem that crazy. You see it all the time. And yeah, it's nice, but not the way that it is nice here.

+Men are super close with each other. The lack of contact between the two sexes leads men to become super good friends with other men emotionally, physically, and socially. They will meet each other on the street and give each other several kisses on the cheek, sometimes just lingering and holding each other cheek to cheek for a minute. They also don't mind putting their hands on each other's legs / body / anywhere when they are talking with each other. When it's just two guys, they will also hold hands when they walk down the street . I've seen even older men, age 40s and 50s, doing it. And then little boys will do it when they walk home from school. Usually this hand holding isn't like full palm on palm or interlocking fingers, but rather just linking a few fingers together, kinda like when you do a pinkie promise. Or just a light hand hold. It's neat.

+Public space is usually messy and private space is usually clean. This perhaps has to do with the higher levels of poverty here. However, Jordan is considered an upper-middle class country. The streets usually have lots of trash on them, with dumpsters littered every few blocks. The concrete will be broken and torn, rocks will block the path, the sidewalk will have dead animal guts on it. They also burn piles of stuff, I think trash, on the sides of the road where I live. Practically no one uses the sidewalks. Everyone just walks on the street because it's more even and easier to walk on. And then you'll be walking in a worn-down street, but then when you turn into a gate toward an apartment, boom. Everything is super tidy. No rocks, no dust. Just clean. Then you get into an apartment and it's pristine. Nice tiles and stone, good doors and locks, and wonderful furnishings. It's like night and day. You can never really tell what a building will be like from the outside. It's like a new world when you walk into some of the buildings here.

[My friend took a picture of me when we were out on the town. I don't stick out much.]

We are here to develop this place socially. The Ministry of Social Development has several different facets. People from my group will be working in orphanages, battered women's shelters, an NGO evaluation office, Law Office (maybe), and I forget the rest. But I will, insha'allah, be working at the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies. The goal of this program is to "provide a venue for the interdisciplinary study of intercultural and interreligious issues withe the aim of defusing tensions and promoting peace, regionally and globally" (riif We were supposed to start yesterday by having a big meeting at the Ministry, but it got postponed because somebody important had something come up and couldn't make it. But such is life in the ME. You just go with the flow. 
We went Jerash the day before last. It is a wonderful ancient city that is now just a bunch of ruins. It was Logan's birthday and so we went to Jerash for the day and did cool stuff and then we went to Baab Al-Yemen for delicious Yemeni food. They bring out large plates of rice and chicken with sauces and yoghurt and then you just all dig in and eat till you can't. They hadn't brought the bread yet in the picture, but they brought out baskets of giant flatbread that was sooooo good and you use it to eat. I ate sooooo and my body loved me. And I loved it. And the food and I made a powerful union. And then I gave my body delicious Turkish ice cream. Gorsh it was nice. It was sweet and sticky, phew! My body and I are getting along nicely now that jetlag has been vanquished. We are quite happy. And we go running every day on the Sports City trail.
Whelp. May the Lord bless you and keep you. He sure is being nice to me. I've been pondering often what He wants me to get out of this whole trip and experience. One important thing is that we aren't here on earth just to survive or to get by. And when I'm in the ME and can't attend a temple or be in a BYU-like environment, it's tempting to just say to yourself, "Self, let's just preserve our spirituality and make it out alive!" But that's not the gospel plan. It's about always becoming, not just surviving. I'm learning a lot, but boy do I have a ways to go...
[JERASH. So of course we had to climb on the ruins and jump around like crazy Americans.]
[Eatin that Yemeni delight.]

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hashim's and Taxis

I moved into my new apartment a few days ago. We cleaned it up a bit and unpacked. We haven't started our internships officially yet, but have a meeting on Thursday this week with the people at the Ministry where they will explain everything and then get us off to work! I will wear my finest suit! Because we don't have to be in for work for a few more days, we have taken the time to enjoy the food, people, and city! I have been suffering from the effects of jetlag... I don't feel that bad, it's just that I usually wake up around 2 am and can't sleep until 7 or 8 am, when I usually fall back asleep for a little bit before the day gets going. It's really weird and I've tried everything to be able to go back to sleep... reading, listening to music, just laying there, reviewing all the arabic I learned that day, etc. Nothing has worked. So two nights ago it happened again, despite my staying up till like 12 to try and get really tired. I got up at 2:30 am and wanted to exercise really bad. I didn't think it'd be wise to run out on the streets, so I went into the other room and did push-ups, situps, lunges, squats, and every other exercise I could think of until I was totally exhausted. That worked. I was pooped and slept from like 4:30 till 11. Wow that felt good. So then last night I decided to stay up until 2:30, when I usually wake up, in hopes of finally sleeping through the night. It worked! I slept till 9:30 الحمد الله. So right now I'm really trying to not fall asleep and make it to 11 or 12 tonight and hopefully sleep through the night!

[Cleansing the Citchen]

[The Front Porch... and interns. The two guys are my roomies, Mark and Logan l to r.]

Our apartment is wonderful. It took a little bit of cleaning, but it is very beautiful. We have to entry seating areas, one outdoor and one indoor. The indoor seating area has a beautiful table with a elaborate Qur'an in a special wooden case. We have some Qur'anic sayings on the walls and lots of tea cups and rugs. It's quite nice. We are on the first floor right next to a humongous school and a smaller supermarket and restaurant cluster. The girls live a 5-minute walk away. There is a gorgeous mosque 7 minutes away. The minaret lights up green at night. People crowded the mosque last Friday for their main worship and sermon. We can hear the call to prayer from several directions and sometimes we hear sermons that are played through the loudspeakers. It is really cool to see so many religious people unite like they do here. I really love the people I've met! And I want to be Arab in so many ways. They are hospitable and complimentary and charitable to strangers. I love the way they can quickly connect with you and make you feel happy and grateful about what you have in life. I am trying to adopt their good ways. In fact, today we were is the city center and went to this wonderful place called Hashim's for lunch. They serve and specialize in hummus and hummus-like dishes. It's really really good and kinda famous. When we got our table, we were seated next to this table of like 15 senior-aged tourists and I was just like, "Ugh, Americans..." Woah! I actually thought that. So did my roomie. Even though that is us too! It was weird how quickly that happened. But it's kinda true—I just want the original experience biduun all the foreigners... I am glad that I am here for the summer before the internship though. That way I can do fun touristy things and get to know the city so that I can focus on having real Arab experiences and making lasting Arab friends in the Fall. I want to get some close friends, both Christian and Arab, so that I can participate in things like weddings and parties and awesome cultural meals during holidays. That would be marvelous.

[Eating falafel and hummus for lunchies. Notice old Americans in backgroud. Sorry, Jordan, for polluting your beautiful country with our presence! I love you.]

We get around mostly by taxi and serviis. Some of these details might bore an Amman-savvy reader, so feel free to skip this part. You just hail a taxi like any normal city and tell them where you are going, etc. Since I am a guy and I'm usually traveling with some girls, I sit in the front seat next to the driver. Girls don't sit in the front with the driver if it can be avoided. The taxi rides are very fun. I usually make a good friend by the end of the trip. We talk about Jordan, the weather, politics, and his family, usually. I like asking questions. You have to be a little careful about what you ask and how personal you get, but most drivers are pretty open about a lot of things. Last night we met up with some Christian Arabs and hung out at some cool streets and shops for a while. Then we had some great Indian food with the Jordanian twist. After the meal, I needed something sweet. I realized that I hadn't eaten anything sweet since coming to Jordan. So we went to a shop. I ending up eating some crazy versions of Turkish delight. Then I asked one of the guys working there about Jordanian deserts. They had lots of British, French, and German chocolates and candies, but I didn't see any real Jordanian varieties. The guy told me that they don't have lots of those! They like their kunaafa and sweet and baked goods better. This guy talked a little different from most people, but was of course still super friendly. We got to talking and he told me that he was a refugee from Syria that had just arrived with his family. Tough stuff. The issues and conflicts of the Middle East really start to become important to you when you live here. The news stories have an added impact on you and you start to see how each story affects lives...

Oh yeah, taxis. So we hailed a taxi to go home and we tell the guy where we want to go and he says okay, asks a few questions to make sure exactly where we want to go. We start the trip and get to talking. He told us he wasn't able to go to school as a kid because of his money situation, but learned to read and write through other means. On the trip, he should've taken a right at this one road, but took a left instead. We realized that he was trying to take advantage of us because we weren't from Amman, so we called him out on it. He tried to cover and talk out of it, but we just decided to get out and get another taxi. He apologized and gave us 50 cents off the cost because he knew he wasn't being fair. That was a really nice gesture. But sometimes you meet people like that. You're in a big city and you can find all kinds here. He was still a really friendly guy and we enjoyed the conversation. I love Arabs of all kinds.

I also had a nice Arabic blunder yesterday that I won't forget. I was in the front seat again telling the driver where to go even though my two roomies were in the back seat (who are double Arabic majors and are here to do research and finish their degrees). I told him to "liff shamaal" at the next roundabout, which I thought meant "turn left" because that is what I learned it was in Egyptian Arabic. Well, he goes through the roundabout and turns all the way around so that we are going the opposite direction! I was like, "Dude? Uh... I thought you were gonna turn left back there?" He said that I told him to "liff shamaal" so that's what he did. My friends in the back realized what happened and redirected the driver. I guess that in Jordanian "liff" doesn't really mean the same thing! And they don't use shamaal as much, either. So that's why he turned around. Shamaal can also mean north, but in Egypt they use it for left all the time. I think most Jordanians get that we mean left if we say shamaal, but this guy didn't. That's what I gathered from my roomies, but my Arabic isn't that great so I could be wrong about some things. Anywho, I should've used yisaar for right, but now I know better. It was a good lesson that cost me an extra 20 cents in taxi fare, but a lesson that I would pay 20 cents for any day. Experiences like this really cement words and such into your brain.

Lastly, some pics from part of our little excursion today! We went to the Citadel in Amman. It's an old historic point with Roman and ancient Islamic Empire ruins and such. Much fun and beauty!
[Temple of Hercules from way back when]
[The whole gang. Minus 3 other girls who didn't come/haven't arrived yet.]
[Old Islamic building. The dome was rebuilt recently, but the rest is real old.]

On the way home we stopped at this guy's shop. He was making little mosaic things out of little shards of stone and glass. Cool guy.

[This was his little workbench. He went back to write his name and number on a paper so we can stay in touch.]

[Some finished product. Very cool. It says, "Ma shaa' allah. La qawwa illa  allah." = "What God has willed you. There is no power but God."]

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I hit that dusty trail

at 12:50 pm Arkansas time. Boy was it dusty. When I got on the plane I thought to myself, "Self, you have many an hour ahead of you. You should do something productive with that time." Since I was finishing the Book of Mormon around this time, I decided to start the New Testament on my way to the Holy Land. I opened up to Matthew and fell asleep in chapter 8, waking up just in time to see us land in Chi-town. 

I connected quickly in Chicago for London. It was a night flight. I watched Jack Reacher and then slept. But only for a few hours. Then I was wide awake for the rest of the flight. Bummer. We landed early a.m. in London and then quick connection for Amman. The connection could've been tricky except that I just followed some veiled women and a rad Arab man as they spoke Arabic and led me to my gate. شكرا إليهم I arrived and caught the flight. Got into Amman around 5 and met Kaiti and Ashley. Kaiti is the facilitator of the program from BYU's end, meaning that she is the one that is finding all of our apartments, managing the program's budget, and doing some of her own research. Ashley is one of the interns and will be working at the orphanage. 

Wow. Right now as I'm writing in my little room, there is an Arab woman just outside my window scolding her little kid for something. Dang I don't know what he did, but he's getting it. I would not like to be scolded in Arabic. It's pretty, uh, forceful, but maybe that's just cause I don't really understand much of what she's saying.

Anyway, back to the airport. I didn't check any bags, just had my carry-on. (somehow 8 months all fit into one carry-on bag and my backpack!) We went out and found the man that brought Kaiti and Ashley to the airport with us. He was kinda annoyed that they had to wait for me (my flight was late). We got in the car and started down the road. After just 50 yards of getting out of the airport two policemen of motorbikes pulled us over. The driver got out of the car and started yelling at the car and gesturing to us. The policeman yelled back and starting writing him a ticket. Driver keeps yelling, pointing at us, hands gesture to us, then car, then police, shoulders shrug. We don't really know what happened so we just stay in the car. Driver comes back and hands ticket right to Kaiti and says she has to pay him 30 jordanian dinars (42 USD). She talks with him about why and what happened. He says it wasn't his fault but Kaiti asks if they said something was wrong with his car, he says the police said there is something wrong but that they are liars. Anyway. A trip that should usually cost 20 JDs costed 30 JDs.

Driving in Jordan is amazing. I wasn't actually driving, but I really want to! They don't usually care to paint lines on the road because no one looks at them. It's like you're in a movie all the time, dodging cars and people and cats and goats and mopeds. It's wildly fun and I certainly get my money's worth when I ride a taxi or serfiis, or however you write it. There are some many things to explain about the city and how it works, so for now I'll just continue with the adventure and explain later, as we have time.

We get to the girls' apartment. Guys are never allowed in the apartment, except for yesterday when I had no home. We stopped and put my bags down, got my phone and internet usb figured out, and then went out on the town to stroll. It was soooooooo wonderful. I'm still in that wonderful giddy stage where my eyes are like dinner plates and my tongue hangs out. I'm in constant amazement. Everything fascinates me—the people, the food, the clothing, the social norms, the houses, the language, the smells, the stinks, the sky... It is like a drug or something. I am high. We went out and just walked for maybe 45 minutes, then found a nice shwarma place and had our fill. It was good. I have seen many videos about the Middle East and done listening practices in Arabic etc, but being here is so magical. I feel like I'm in the Al-Kitaab videos and I'm about to run into Maha. But I know I won't cause she's dead, الله يرحمها. After my first of many shwarma's in this paradise, we went to find me a place to sleep. We took a service down to wast al-balad and found a nice little hostel for me. 

[The sign to the hotel. Obviously.]

[Up the nice stairs to the hostel. My window is just above yellow eyelid thing.]

That's where I am now, for my second night as well. They left me here and went home. I went to the bathroom, which was like a little paradise as well. Running water, toilet. The works. They only turn the hot water on from 7-9 am, so I took a quick cold shower. It was wonderful after so much travel and heat. It's not scorching hot, but still enough to bring out the sweaty pits and such. I was pretty beat. So I brushed 'em, flossed 'em, prayed 'em, then slept 'em. I woke up at 2:30 am. Wide awake. No going back to sleep. Some shabaab were still out on the town and making some noise. A baby was crying. I was so awake and couldn't go back to sleep. I might've dozed off once, but then the call to prayer/Qur'an recitation started at about 4 am and went on and off till about 6 am. It was beautiful. I am pretty close to one of the biggest mosques in town, and it was pretty loud. I should've just closed my window, but it was cooler outside. 

[Bedroom. Very nice. 8 dinar a night. I was the only guy in.]
[My little view out the window. Tree. Then neighbors' door 3 ft away.]
[Ah yes. This little beauty. Like an oasis for a tired desert traveler. Shower on right, toiled on left. Conveniently located right next to each other! I daresay I used both.]
I got up around 6 and chatted with Toddy-bo on Facebook for a minute. Hey Todd! Good to hear from you, you little G6. Then I got really tired. So I decided to try and sleep again. Wow. I was a dead man. I slept till 9:30 when Kaiti texted me to see if I was still alive. I was. So I got up, went downstairs and had the breakfast they provided me. Hard-boiled egg, bread, jam, butter, cheese, coffee and tea. I didn't have coffee or tea. Then I went out on the town and just walked. I walked for a while, just watching people, seeing some of the cool buildings nearby, and enjoying the views. Then back home where I got into a very emotional discussion with one of the hotel workers about politics. He is Palestinian, from Jerusalem, and came over the Jordanian border to get better health care in order to pass some kidney stones. When he tried to go back to Jerusalem, he said the Israelis wouldn't let him. His family, relatives, friends—everyone— have stayed there and he is forced to stay here. He has been here for over 20 years just working here. He had some things to say about America too. He said the people in America were good, but that there is some misguided leadership, etc. 
[Little pic of city I snagged when I went a walkin'.]

Then I met up with Kaiti and Ashley and we went out on the town again. Kaiti needed a screwdriver to put new locks into the two girls' apartments. Found those, did some more walking, saw an awesome mosque of which I forgot to take a pic. Sorry. Oh look, Google had one:
[Abu Darwish mosque]

Then we did some more walking and city seeing. So pretty. Just beautiful. Made our way back to the girls' apartments and then did some fixing up, replacing lock and such. Every time we do something right in this country, I simply say, "One small victory for the Americans!" It's like we are little children again who are feeling their way around in the world. But we are learning. Kaiti and several of the others have been here before, but I sure feel like I'm in a new world. It feels like my first few days of my mission, for sure. I remember thinking to myself, "Self, all of these people are actually speaking Finnish. Like, seriously, do you hear that?! Even the babies talk it!" And now I'm doing the same with Arabic. I love the people. They are simply wonderful. Yes, they have some things that they do differently here and sometimes could frustrate you—the American you. So you just become an Arab as far as your conscience permits you and you love every bit of it. It's wonderful. I love the veiled women. Not in a weird way, but just... it's cool. I feel really comfortable with it and they are all really nice. Reserved, of course, but really cool people and you can tell they have the same motivations and desires and troubles that we all have. I already feel at home. 

[At apartment. Kaiti on right. Ashley on left. Urine dead ahead.]
We walked the streets some more, ate some more food, and went apartment shopping for the guys' place. Kaiti has been trying for days to find a place, and we found some more today. We toured them and talked pricing and such, but didn't really land on anything. It's hard to find one that fits the program's needs and budget just right. But I just got a call from Kaiti and Ashley and they just signed and paid for one! Wahoo! I'm not a homeless tourist! I'm a housed tourist! But all the same... it will be nice to cook myself a good meal of vegetables and rice tomorrow afternoon. 

There are a thousand little funny stories I'd like to tell, but I think I'm boring readers. I'm fascinated with all the little leaves on the trees and the smells and the ways little boys follow us around. I'll try and write more succinct entries that have good little passages instead of this rambling. But I think it's because I need to go to sleep. So I will.

Oh yeah. So, for the past year all of the Arab teachers at BYU have been calling me Bool بول because they can't do P sounds. I found out a couple weeks ago that بول means urine in Arabic. So yeah. I've been thinking whether or not I want to tell people my name is Paul or just use something else to avoid the frequent association of me and urine. Maybe I'll be proud of the name my mommy gave me despite the juicy connection.

Much love!