Friday, June 21, 2013


Hey family!!! Guess what? Hurray! I have finally found a job at a bakery. I don't know why I didn't pursue it earlier, but I really did this past week and it paid off. But first, some other things happened too!

We went to Habiba's. It's a dessert company that has delicious Middle Eastern food. We oftentimes will go to the one down in the city center in a quaint alley next to the bank, but this time we went to the mother of all Habiba's. It's like a big, fancy sit-down restaurant for just desserts. :) So we had a good time. In the picture you can see the fanciness of the setting in the background. In the foreground we have the stunning and delightfully curious Marc Jay, who never ceases to warm my heart with his smile, grace, and laughter. I love you roomie. You are loved and appreciated! By me. And by others, too. But especially by me! :)

[He went with the hairy kunaafa. I went with something else delicious , but I forgot his name.]
We also went to another festival at the King Hussein Gardens! This was quite a new experience. The Arabs in attendance were super Western—lots of uncovered hair, lots of hipsters, lots of free drinks, Western tunes, excellent English speakers, etc. It was to promote new ideas and business products and such, and it actually gave me lots of hope for Jordan's future! Some of the people I work with seem to be stuck in a rut of complacency because of harsh circumstances, which causes a lack of drive and efficiency and productivity plummet. I really do love all of the people around me at work, these are just some observations I've made. However, at this festival people were full of life and drive and excitement for the future. And they were all young, talented, educated, beautiful, wonderfully Jordanian people. So that was fun. I got my blood tested for free at one booth! They tested me and asked if I had drunk a Pepsi or eaten right before the test. I told them I had eaten a ton that day, the last time being about an hour prior. They told me I needed to go to a professional blood clinic and get a full check. They said my blood sugar and hemoglobin levels were totally wack. But then I explained that I had run 20 miles that morning for marathon training and that I had been eating a full meal every two hours for the entire day to reach a full recovery. And they looked relived and said I was probably fine and don't worry about it. My body was just trying recover. So I didn't worry about it! And I am fully recovered and healthy. No worries.

We also went to the King Hussein Mosque at the Gardens. I visited before, but this time we went in and got to witness the evening prayer. Very cool. We were walking toward the mosque as the sun was setting, and the call to prayer began. Soooooo beautiful. And then we made our way with the Muslims into the prayer room. The girls brought scarves to cover their heads this time so that we could all go in. We went to the men's area and the women to the women's. It was so beautiful and peaceful. Indescribable, really. 

[Markie Poo and Loagie Bear checking out the inscription on the Mosque wall. I love my roomies.]

[Purty, huh? I loved being there with so many people of faith. It really is a holy spot...]
The next item of business is my new dew / do / due. I guess it is "do" because that's how you spell hairdo? My hairs were getting really long and shaggy and my coworker kept asking me and asking me why I hadn't cut my hair yet. Like, really, I could tell he thought it was pretty horrendous. And then another coworker told me that my hair was ugly and made me look really old. He told me I should gel it straight back or cut it or something—just change it somehow. I told him that my mommy back in Arkansas likes long hair on boys and so that I'm used to long hair, cause that's what I had all growing up! That didn't help much. But it's true! And I love you mommy, so don't worry I fought as hard as I could. But in all truth, it was getting there, you know? Like pretty long. And if I were at the beach, I'd've kept it. But I'm in Amman. So I got it cut!!!!! And here's the proof. 

[Before. When I was "ugly and old."]
[After. When I'm "young and exactly like all the shabaab I see on the street." Convenient how that happened...]
Yeah, so that's the new me. The Arab me. All of the guys here have super gelled hair and short, tidy, cuts. So when I went to get a hair cut I told him to just take off a little bit everywhere but to keep pretty much the same look. And he just kept cutting and cutting and then he gelled my hair and parted it real fancy for me and gave me "the Italian swoop" as he called it (that's the cute flippy thing in the front, I guess). So yeah! Pretty new. I've never had that look, but I guess I fit in a lot better now. And people comment on how the good the change was for me. Like A LOT of people at work comment on how much better it is. And my boss said that with long shaggy hair (which he always calls "not nice") I look 24 or 25, but with this new cut, I look 18 or 19. So I guess that's good? I don't actually gel my hair every day, just the day that the dude cut it. So it actually looks pretty normal and not very short. It's a good cut and I like it. It was just funny to see the cultural differences!

Okay. Now onto the gooood stuff. Bread! I took some pictures of where I work. I have class two nights a week and then the Sabbath is Friday, so I usually can go in Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday nights and then Saturdays for a while when we don't take group trips to wonderful places around Jordan. I just showed up at a bakery and said that I want to learn how to make bread and viola! I was in like flint, or however that saying goes. The owner wasn't there, but they let me work with them and said they'd ask the owner if I could work for real at the bakery each day. He showed up two days later. His 13-yr-old son was one of the guys working so he had told him all about me—"Boolos" the American who wants to learn Arab bread so that he can actualize his dream of opening his own bakery in the States, cause that's what I told him. The boss came and watched us for a while and then pulled me aside and we had a good chat. He doesn't know a lick of English which is awesome for me. Actually none of the workers do, so I get to learn Arabic AND bread in one session. It's like heaven. Only hotter, kinda like hell. But not really because the bakery is a place of happiness and learning and laughter and delicious smells and tastes. Anyway, so we are talking and he asks me what I expect and want from working. All the workers want me to just quit at the Ministry and work with them all day, but I told them that I have to go to the Ministry because it's part of my schooling and I want to graduate and such. I think they wanted to pay me, too, but I told him that I honestly just wanted his knowledge and to get to use his equipment and so the boss told me I was welcome to work for him! He's a great guy. He also told me that his dream is to open an Arab bakery in the States. He told me we should go into business together. So yeah, he's a great guy and I love the bakery. I got a few shots that kinda outline the bakery.

[Das oven. The tanks of gas heat it. The round thing spins slowly in a big arc.]

[Fire. It gets very hot. Heated from below and above.]
[We form the balls of dough (on floor) and then put them through this machine to flatten them.]

[Then stack them in these trays. All the ones stacked on the left are full.]

[Then put them in das oven and let them do a full two rotations.]

[And then slide them off and stack them on racks to cool for a minute before baggin them in 2kg (4.4 pounds) bags. It's 50 JD cents which is about 71 US cents. So cheap!]
The young guy holding his hand out toward the majesty of the oven is Ahmad. He's the baker's son. We are tight. I love working at the bakery. It's good to just chat and work with the Arabs after a day of translating super technical government documents. The pictures show the normal pita bread, but we bake lots of other kinds as well. It's so tasty. There is an Egyptian, a Syrian, a Jordanian, an Iraqi, and an American guy (that's me) that work at the bakery. We are a pretty rag-tag bunch and each have our own story of how we got here, but we have fun. The Iraqi guy grew up his whole life in Baghdad and was 15 when America began the whole occupation business. He came here two years ago and has a wild story, but that's for another time...

Family, I will make us some of this good bread and we can have a nice Middle Eastern meal when I get back. I'm already excited! Tomorrow morning I'm meeting them at the bakery at 5am to start the mixing process for the dough! I'm pumped. And then we'll work a while and then I'll do my long Saturday run, then take a quick nap before we leave Amman at 12 for our trip to Ajloun and Umm al-Qais just a little ways north-east of here, I think. Not super sure, but it's supposed to be gorgeous. Life is just wonderful out here. Momma, I hope your marathon training is going well! I'm so impressed that my mommy is doing it with me! You are a pro and I hope I can keep up with you. I've never run that far in my life!

Well, I'm out. Stay safe family and I'll see you before you know it! Heidi, have a blast at BYU this summer and when I get there we'll party like no brother and sister have every partied. I love you guys!

Friday, June 14, 2013

My best selfie so far!

I have had so many incredible experiences in the past week! I really won't be able to even scratch the surface with this post, but I'll try and include lost of pictures. You can just use your  imaginations and make up funny stories with me in them. Just be creative and try and think like me and I'm sure you'll be able to fill in all of the dots!

Our journey starts with a wonderful trip to the Jordan River Baptismal Site, where Jesus was baptized (at least somewhere along the river). We had a wonderful morning on the bus and stopped at Mt. Nebo along the way. On a clear day from Mt. Nebo you can see Jerusalem, Jericho, and several other cool cities. Luckily we were there on a very clear day and saw all the cool sites. It's kind of a weird to see Israel from Jordan. We hear so much about Israel from the people around us each day and so to finally see it is somewhat like, Woah. Of course we hear a highly biased opinion, but I really like hearing the extremes on both sides to just try and get inside their shoes and see each point of view. That's one reason I like the BYU study abroad—we spent time on both sides of the border and with both people to learn both sides. But so far I've only heard the Muslim- Arab- Palestinian/Jordanian point of view. 

Anyway, it was really cool to see these ancient cities from afar and it make me want to go there! The baptismal site was cool. The picture shows our group members on the Jordanian side, just a few yards from Israel. We aren't allowed to communicate with people on the other side. It was pretty and warm and I loved it.

[Jordan River]
After the Jordan River we went to the Dead Sea and went to a resort thing. It was super posh and felt really weird after living in my apartment in Amman for a bit. But it was really really nice. We had a BUFFET which was sooo weird but delicious. So much food and it was really good. All middle eastern delights. Then we suited up and swam in the Dead Sea! It was so dead. And salty! And I floated on the water. It was so cool. I'm kinda skinny and so usually if I hold my breath and try and float in the water, I sink. But this time I could actually float on top! It was out of this world and I really really couldn't stop laughing. It was sooooo fun. Anyway, I loved it. Point made. 

Then we loaded up with that precious mud and scrubbed and exfoliated and became beautiful. It was like a dream. Putting mud on yourself and each other and it was socially acceptable. So wonderful. I let mine dry and I looked really good. Logan Tatham—you would be so proud of how manly we were. I needed you and your mate and your fancy clothing. Hopefully one day we'll do it together!

Then we swam in their fancy pools and woah, I just loved swimming. We had a blast and several of us got burned. I didn't thanks to Marc's SPF 85 sunscreen, which we applied to our bodies twice! Quite a day! A good break from the office translation work. Oh yeah, and then when we got home and about to eat dinner, Lindsay (an American here with another program) called Stefanie (a girl in my program) and asked if she wanted to go to a wedding in a city not far from Amman that I won't mention the name of. And Stefanie said a guy could come with her and so I got to go! A real Arab Muslim wedding. Super awesome. This family was a little more modern and chose to do the wedding mixed—both guys and girls in the same area. Traditional weddings separate men and women for dancing and fun and then bring them back together for a few key events. The bride and groom came down a stair case with disco lights, fireworks, and blaring music. There was so much energy in the air! And everyone was so happy! Many engagements last around a year, so the anticipation has been built up so much and everyone was very excited for this couple.

I got to dance all night with the people! They taught me some more belly dancing and even formed a circle for me to show off my moves. It was really just a load of fun. All of the girls had gotten all gussied up and had incredibly beautiful and snazzy hijabs and dresses. And since we were guests, they treated us like royalty. I got to witness several cool cultural things such as presented the bride with golden jewelry, giving the couple gifts of money, and the debka dance (it's for the dudes and very awesome. I got to jump in too). It was a beautiful end to a wonderful day. Long live marriage.

[Bride and Groom making their entrance!]

[Dancing! Notice the girls and guys together! But they only dance close is they are sisters and brothers, I'm pretty sure.]

[My best selfie. Selfie is a new english word I learned this week that means you take a picture of yourself. So I thought I'd include this one of me. From a bus ride.]
Then on saturday we went to Sahab for a classic Arab dinner with a family of Logan's Arab friend. We got there by a crazy chain of buses and taxis. We arrived at the home at around 5:15 and began the chatting. We chatted for about an hour and then they brought out drinks. Then we chatted for another hour. The Arabs recited some poetry for us and, of course, kept saying "ahlah w sahlan" every time the conversation died down. Then they sent someone out to buy food for dinner. Then we kept chatting. And chatting. Then we kept chatting for a while. It is they way they do things here. Go and chat and have drinks. And then around 9:15 they invited us into the sitting room for dinner! It was an awesome traditional sit-down-eat-a-million-dishes kind of meal. Great chicken seasoned with so many delicious herbs. I actually tasted a lot of cardemom, which I really haven't tasted since Finland. Sooo good. Chicken rice olives laban vegetables pasta bread fish... Just so much. And they just pile it on and pile it on for you. We ate for an hour and then went back to talking and more drinks. Then we all sang songs and more poetry. And then we ate a bunch of bananas and oranges for desert. And then we began the departure rituals, meaning we say we have to leave a few times and then an hour later we get to leave. I think it was 12:45 when we got home. Yep, just checked with Leigh. It was a late one. But I loved it. It was such an experience.

[Sitting down to feast.]
I also have started my Jordanian Colloquial class. We are six or so in the class and have a blast. Our instructor's name is Doctor Khaled and he is super funny and a great teacher. I've learned so many new words. It's also really nice to know the grammar and reasons behind the changes in Jordanian Arabic. Most of it I've heard before on the streets or from other readings, but I get to ask any questions I like and Dr. Khaled knows how to talk about linguistics, which is very rare among other Arabs I've met.

I love it!!!

[The celebrated and heralded ustaaz doctor khaled!]

[We got the lyrics to a song and then listened to it and had to put it in order! Just another fun day in class...]
Here is the link to the song. I really adore it!

You can skip forward a minute to hear the singing if you like, or you can listen to the beautiful Middle Eastern instruments!

So much is going on here! It's a blast. I'm still at the Ministry of Social Development doing translation projects and speaking with people in efforts to get better at Arabic (and of course to help develop Jordan socially). I also got to go to my boss's house to meet his rad son who is going to 'merica this week to finish his air force training at an American base. Very cool.

THEN...... I continued an amazing week by attending a conference at the Religious Institute of Inter-Faith Relations on how to use Social Media to promote good citizenship, move social development projects forward, and promote productive inter-faith dialogue. It lasted two days and was pretty sensational. We had some visitors come in from Lebanon. They were young, super hipster, tech-savy bosses. It was a blast and I became friends with a bundle of delightful young Arabs.

We were split up into several groups and picked topics to do a small project on. We had 24 hours to do it. Our group chose citizenship in Jordan. They have some problems with nationality and identity. Oftentimes you'll ask someone where they're from and they say, Palestine, or Kuwait, or Egypt. Sometimes these people really are immigrants from these countries and have just arrived. But most of the time, in my experience, they haven't even visited the country they say they're from— or maybe their family has lived here for several generations. And so they won't say they're Jordanian, despite being here for so long and having very few connections to other countries. This behavior hearkens back to the cultural and historical emphasis of family and tradition and heritage in the Middle East. So... the Jordanians in my group wanted to do a project to promote Jordanianness. So we made a facebook group and made a video, etc to promote it. You can check it our it you like:

[Train me, baby]
[Notice the hipsterness. Okay maybe not totally hipster, but pretty modern. Pretty cool.]
[Here we be.]
Well, I must be off now. This short description really can't do any justice to the experiences and magic in my life right now. LOVE

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Action Plan?

 I got my assignment at the Ministry. They gave me an "Action Plan" that includes four areas. 1- Knowledge Management. I don't really know what that means, but they explained that I will be doing research and such in Arabic and giving them reports so they can make decisions. We'll see how that goes! 2- Translate this packet of Arabic stuff into English. It's 50 pages and explains all of the services provided by the Ministry. They plan to translate most of the website into English and this is my portion. 3- IT support. There are some IT guys on our floor and I told them that I want to go around and fix servers and computers and stuff with them. They seem like cool guys, younger, that I can get along with and learn some good Arabic. 4- I forgot this one but maybe I'll remember it as I write.

I love my coworkers. Pictured below is Emad (standing), the essence of Arab manhood. He likes to smoke and drink coffee all day. I've only seen him eat food once the whole time I've worked here. He was a little shocked I took the picture because he was unbuttoning his pants to retuck his shirt in. Haha. Sorry dude. But he is a great guy and teaches me Arab things. Seated by his desk is Muhammad who just graduated with an MBA from NY University satellite campus here in Amman. He is cool too! This pic is taken from my little desk. It's nice. We have pics of the Royal family in the background, of course. Every room has these pictures. The dead King Hussein on right (allah yarhamu), then the living King Abdullah II center, and the future King, Prince Hussein on right. 

[Hello sunshine]

They are wanting me to spend about two weeks on each of the 4 areas so that I have a nice, well-rounded experience. I'm quite happy with the setup. Sometimes I don't feel very useful to others here, but they explained that this whole experience is just to help me progress in the areas that I want. So, I'm feeling good. I translate in the morning, talk with coworkers, then go to the cafeteria for a sandwich or something. I've made a bunch of cool friends in the cafeteria. Sometimes I try and eat quick, but people keep wanting to meet me and talk to me and I just have to stay. But I don't feel bad because one can only translate government documents in all their jargony fusha for so long... so then I get some good speaking time in at lunch. I also teach several people around me little English lessons. Very few people that work around can speak English, so I teach little English lessons sometimes for them. They get really excited about it. It's really fun and I feel like I'm at the MTC again... only a slightly different crowd (all the Sisters are veiled and all the Elders are smoking, for example. so I guess the only common thing is that I'm teaching stuff to people. I guess it's not actually as close as I was envisioning it to be).

One of my friends from lunch invited me to hang out with him yesterday. Oh but first I should tell about Saturday. Saturday was my long run day for marathon training. I got up nice and earlyish at like 6 or something and ran 14 miles. It was good for me and I felt good the whole way. When I came home, though, I got fatigued and so I took a short nap! Then we had a great day and relaxed. In the evening we went to Rainbow street, a cool place in the city. Then my buddies from work called me and asked me to go on a walk with them. They go a few times a week and walk from the First Circle to the Seventh Circle. Amman is set up in a series of Circles, meaning big traffic circles, numbered One through Eight. I said I'd like to go. So they met me at Rainbow street at 9ish and we started. We got coffees first and falafel, of course. I had some juice. Then we walked to the Second Circle, just chatting away. Well, it turns out we stopped at almost every circle to get more food and drink. It took us about two and a half hours to get to the Seventh Circle. Boy was I pooped. Like tired, you know? I had run that day a lot and then we walked for two and a half hours! Dang. So we all sat down and kept talking and smoking. I mostly talked though. I haven't picked up smoking yet, despite its popularity. So as we're talking, they ask me if I'm tired and I tell them yes, I ran a bit today and I'm feeling tired (it's 11:30 and we all have work at 8:30 in the morning). So I ask them where their car is or if I should get a taxi, etc. They just say, Oh yeah it's still down there at the First Circle. And then I realized... oh wow, we are still going to walk all the way back! Oh my. I might die. They ask me if I'll make it and I say Yeah I think so (cause I did think so). Well we keep talking and then Tha'er is like, Hey should we grab some donuts before we head back? So what the heck, we went and got donuts. Just the three of us—Me, Tha'er, and Ismail. We got donuts and coffee and chatted it up until about 12 and then started walking back. Needless to say, 12 kilometers and two hours later I got home and went to bed. It was quite a night. But that is just normal Arab social life. They love hanging out super late and talking and drinking coffee and smoking. It was fun! But I was a tired pup the next day at work. 

So yesterday we started our Jordanian Amiyya class at the Qasid Institute! That means that I have class twice a week from 4:30-7 with some friends. We are learning Jordanian colloquial. It's the way people talk here. I studied fusha(it's like the fancy language that they write newspapers in and is understood across the Arab world) and amiyya (this is the spoken language for each country and it can be extremely different from other dialects, sometimes even unintelligible to other Arabic speakers). But at BYU we studied mostly Egyptian colloquial and not Jordanian. Since I've been here, I feel like I've picked up most of the differences between the languages, but this class will certainly help fill in the gaps and give me time to ask specific questions and practice.

Then we all went out and had Yemeni food—big plates of rice and chicken and crazy delicious bread. Then my friend Abu Faisal from work wanted to hang out and so he picked me up and the two of us drove around Amman and got coffees and ice cream and smoked a bunch of cigarettes. I wasn't very hungry for coffee or tobacco that night, but the ice cream was to die for. We chewed the fat for a while and talked about the political problems that affect Abu Faisal and he showed me pics from his Honeymoon in Thailand that he took last month. He got married about two years ago and has a kid, but the Honeymoons are delayed sometimes. Then we met up with some of his Christian friends and drank more coffees and slushies and inhaled more burned tobacco. After another hour or two of that, I got tired again and Abu Faisal took me home, telling how much of a shame it was that I was tired when they were just about to have fun by going to a restaurant and movie (fast and furious 6, of course) to cap off the night. Well, it was 11:15 and I just had to pass this time. Shucks. But he said that we'll do it Thursday night because Friday is no work! 

This is how I spend a lot of my time. Translate and talk all day, then run home and eat some foods and listen to some Western music or a film in English to ease my brain parts, then hang our with intern friends or Arab friends, learning new things all the time. I feel like I'm writing down new words and phrases constantly no matter what I'm doing or who I'm talking to. So much to learn! I have over 250 words of government jargon just from the last week in translating.  There's just too much to absorb at once! I'm like a little baby in Arabic... Ha ha! But I'm learning quickly.

To wrap up, two items for your viewing pleasure. Item the first is this lovely picture of me demonstrating how I can lead a large group in stretching exercises, if ever needed.

Item the second is some translation excitement! I know that all people don't get stoked about translating stuff like I do, but this is just to literally give you a picture of what I do all day. Hurray! I don't have a digital copy of the Arabic, so all you get is English. Darn. 

[Whoops! I'm a creepy stretcher]

Name of Service: Issuing grants of a development project for charitable organizations:

Locations for Obtaining Services:
-Department of Productivity Enhancement and Poverty Reduction at the Directorate of Social Development / in the field.
-The Office of Social Development Satellite Directorate / in the field.

Necessary Existing Conditions to Obtain the Service:
-Be a registered organization under the Ministry of Social Development.
-Have completed the registration of the organization in a period of not less than one year.
-The project must line up with the goals of the organization.
-The location of the intended project must be within the workspace of the organization.
-The organization must have the technical and administrative abilities that will enable the management of the project, its location, and continuance.

-The organization must not have failed in the management or implementation of a project in the last five years.


Yeah, so if that didn't push your buttons, don't worry. It's not the most intriguing reading I've done. Whelp, I'm out. There is a baker up the block and I'm gonna go ask if I can come make breads with him a couple times a week... I'll be his apprentice and then open up my bakery in Brovo when I return. "Wealth" is just around the corner, it seems!