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!


  1. Oh my gosh - what fun! I am so glad you are sharing your adventures with us and the pictures are great!! I was truly puzzling over the blog name so thank you for the explanation...

  2. Coolio, Paulie-man.
    Heidi and Jonah and I just re-read your bloggernoggin and we loved it. Heidi says you are a G6. She likes how long it is, and says to keep the entries descriptive.
    Keep the words a coming - we liked the wholentire thing.

  3. AHHHHHHH! I thought your email was spam! So glad I opened it a day later, anyway. This was so so wonderful to read, every single word.

    You know I'm jealous. I miss that prayer call so dang much! And I love you and am so happy and excited for you and I can't wait to read all your adventures and ramblings.

  4. Also, I'm clearly delusional, because even that bathroom picture made my heart pitter-patter with longings for Thailand and the Middle East together! The all-inclusive tile room is just the best. Squatty potties forever!!

  5. I'm so jealous....sounds almost exactly like my first walk around Mombasa, Kenya. And yes, squatty potties are the real deal!!!