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. 



  1. Fantastic cover on your experiences! Thank you for blogging.

  2. im glad you're dancing. wish i was dancing with you, keep it up