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.]


  1. That food sounds so delish! We are reading and enjoying!

  2. baab al yemen!!! You should definitely try Qsr Al Mandi. Right by Qasid. They're lentil soup is so GOOD