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


  1. Your words, thoughts and experiences are fantastic, grand and exciting; keep posting these posts! We love them. We love YOU.