Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Teaching the homies

 I had dinner with my boss. She invited me over for a Friday afternoon feast. She's great. Half-Lebanese, half-Indian. Pretty good combo because she's fun and crazy and muslim and arab. I feel like she isn't very conservative or traditional as far as male-female relations and contact go. For example, she'll grab my arm when she talks to me or put her arm around me. And she says that I'm her second mom when we're at work. When I went to her home, everyone called me her boyfriend. It was a good long-term joke that lasted the whole day and I loved it! Fun times. The people here are the same as anywhere else in the world. I meet people sometimes and I'm like, Woah that person is EXACTLY like so-and-so back home. They just speak different languages and wear different clothing, but same jokes and same desires in life! So cool. 

Lunch was amazing:

[Tabouleh. Soo good.]
[Indian rice and chicken. Sooooo good. And stuffed squash with chicken and diwaali on the right.]
[The whole gang.]
[Swinging and talking with my boss.]
It was such a good time. After lunch, I got to go with her son to a wedding engagement thingy. The steps to get married are more extensive than in America. At this stage, the groom had already seen the bride and they had gotten to know each other a little through a small serious of social gatherings where few members of both families are present. They go over some basic things and see if they like each other, etc. Then they might decide to get married. So they hold an engagement ceremony. We went to the groom's home (friend of the guy I was with) and all drank coffee. Well, most of us did. And then we got in all of our cars and drove to a specified part of town where a nice tent was set up with red carpets and nice chairs. All of the bride's relatives were present and we entered, greeting each one. Mind you, this is only for the men. The bride and her buddies are hanging out with her, awaiting the news that the engagement is final. 

We enter the tent. A cup of coffee is placed before the groom's dad, I think. Now, he can't drink the coffee right away. That is not a good thing if he does. He first has to give some words and finalize the coffee BEFORE he drinks it. So, the groom's father gave some words about their view on marriage and the promises and awesomeness that will soon ensue if the engagement goes through. Then a guy from the mosque, maybe a sheikh, stood up and recited some Qur'an (I think) and gave some finalities concerning the engagement. The bride's father agreed and then the sheikh said, "You may now drink your coffee!" and everyone cheered and the coffee was drunk and then they passed around coffee for everyone to drink! And some guy also pulled out a gun and shot 14 shots into the air. It was really loud. And I hope the bullets didn't kill anyone. Then they passed around kunafeh and soda and we all drank and had a blast. They then sign some papers to finalize it.

From this point, some traditions vary. Oftentimes, the engaged couple is allowed to be alone together and go on dates. They are usually engaged from 2 months to a year, depending on how well they know each other before, how they want to prepare, and the financial / living situation of the couple. Sometimes the groom is like one of the family now and can be at social gatherings of the family and spend time with the women of the family while they aren't wearing their hijab. People vary, though, at this stage depending on their views of Islam and Islamic marriage traditions. Many people are Westernizing more and more, it seems. But, I got to see the engagement thing! Super cool.

Then, we went home teaching! It was nonexistent before we got here, but Mark and the Branch President have been little angels and arranged it. Thanks Mark! We went and taught Salim. He is so humble and great and was very grateful for our visit.

[A snack and a lesson. A feast on both ends.]
Adventure continues. We went to a place where they take old olive tree wood that is cut down to clear land for new development and such and they make them into beautiful things. We toured the little shop and then saw and purchased some finished projects. 

[Each spot has a drill so that he can carve like 10 blocks at a time.]
[He traces one finished piece with one of the drills and it carves it into the 9 other ones. Cool!] 
[The finished products!] 
The adventure CONTINUES! I did a bunch of other stuff that I can't remember right now because I didn't take pictures because I kept forgetting my camera. But, we did go to Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba this weekend! So here is that update.

Petra was too legit to quit. It was just like Indiana Jones! I was so impressed with all of the amazing things they did. Those Nabateans...
[Approaching the Treasury through a gorgeous canyon thing.]
[This is me in front of the Treasury! But they didn't let me inside to see the big crevasse that Indiana Jones almost fell into... So I was pouting for the picture.]
[BUT, I did get to pet the jamals, so I was happy.]
The next thing I know, I'm trekking across this desert land toward the Monastery. I look over and what do I see??? Our good old buddies Scott and Chris riding those jamals. Pretty funny sight. They did a great job. 

[Just a couple of G6's doing what they do.]
We got to the Monastery and WOW it was cool.

[Soooo big, soooo pretty.]
[From the inside. How did they get the room so square?!?! Did people come later and make it so, or did the Nabateans do it? I need to research...]
Then we got to the Garden Tomb and climbed up an amazing ledge to see it. Pictures not included but I have some, family. 

[Doing something.]
THEN, we didn't have much time, so I had to put on my speedy boots to get to the High Place of Sacrifice and then back down the other side in time. So I trotted up that mountain and passed the Lion's Fountain thingy and also saw a herd of goats. Then I found the Place of Sacrifice and some nice girls from Belgium took my picture on it. Donkey shane, ladies.

[They came up here to sacrifice animals. This trip to a high place to offer sacrifice has other meanings too, which I was able to ponder on a little bit...]
[Waiting to head out...]
Then we hit that duuuusty trail and headed for Wadi Rum, the desert land of the Bedouin. We got to stay in a camplike resort that was really nice but was still supposed to feel like we were in the desert. And we were. We sped across the desert on some trucks and saw some nice dunes in the middle of nowhere. It was soooo pretty. There is such a unique beauty in each landscape. Wow, each thing was breathtaking. God made this world full of incredible scenery.

[On the trucks!]
[Epic dune shot.]
[Of course Logan had to make a sand angel. He IS an angel. We're best friends and we never have to be alone.]
[Of course I had to do a handstand.]
THEN, we had a great feast to break the fast and we saw the sunset over the desert hills. So gorgeous. Then we slept in some tents (pics not included). We woke up the next morning, got some delish breakfast and peaced out in our bus to Aqaba, Jordan's only Red Sea port. It's recently become a really nice tourist town and feels kinda like Southern California in some regards. Except the mosques in Aqaba are more frequent and everyone speaks Arabiiii! We checked into a hotel that had UNLIMITED water. Like, you could take a shower and not turn it off between getting wet, soaping up, and rinsing. It was really nice. And hot, too. I forgot how nice that is!

[This is a newer mosque on the coast. Too gorgeous to document.]
[Then we had dinner and I found something that I LOVE—ice cream.]
[So I did what I do to all things I love and devoured it with much noisiness.]
[The mosque at night.]
The beach at Aqaba was the absolute bomb. On saturday I swam in it for a few hours, snorkeling with the coolest fish I've ever seen. Then on sunday I did the same thing! I snorkeled and also went for a nice ocean swim. Mommy I missed you! You would've loved it soooo much. The water was perfect temperature and too blue. Gosh I was dying with excitement!!! It was heaven! Under water! Oh man just thinking about it makes me want to be back there. Oh man oh man. It was beyond comprehension. Too much beauty for this little boy! So I swam up and down the coast and found fishes of every kind. Big ones and little ones of every color. And a giant silver snake fish that I don't really know. 

And there was this sunken ship that we swam out to. Goodness it was soo nice. Okay, enough of that. One day I'll go back, insha'allah. God was so good to let me experience this weekend. I have no complaints!

[We had the beach all to ourselves pretty much. It's Ramadan, so all of the Muslims were gone!]
[A selfie. Man I want to be in that water! Israel is the foggy land in the center and Egypt is the foggy land on the left.] 
[Driving away. One of the saddest goodbyes of my life.,,]
I must write more on Ramadan. This is the month of fasting for Muslims, meaning no food or drink while the sun is up. They have a prayer at sunrise that starts the fast, and then another one at sunset that breaks the fast. I've fasted for the first few days to experience it with them. I'm not really fasting for them, but for God. I have so many things to fast for and I'm grateful for the chance to unite in an act of faith with them, for God. It is different in the city now that Ramadan has started. Our work day got cut down to 10-3 each day. Wow. And no one in on the streets during the day. People are tired, understandably, and sometimes a little irritable. But overall, I'm very impressed and lifted to see so many people unite in a religious act like this. It's illegal to eat on the streets, I'm told. I don't know how really illegal it is to eat in public, but several people have told me that you'll go to prison if you eat in public. Haven't tested it; don't plan on it.

Anyway, this is too big. More on cool things later! I'm gonna peace out like a little girl scout.


  1. I sooo want to go to that beach with you Paul!

  2. Paulie. You are giving me major saudades for all these places. Can't wait to see all your pictures and reminisce it up with you. Lucky boy!