Sunday, May 29, 2011

Journey to Jordan - Istiklal

This week Jordanians celebrated their independence. A group of us ate some shawarma and kanafe in Jabal Hussein before we walked over to Dawaar Dakhliah. It was awesome. Here are some pictures from the event:

What is kanafe? A Jordanian treat. It's like a sweet cheese. I don't know how to describe it. It clogs the arteries, for sure. Here it is:

Amman is built on hills. It has the most hills I've experienced from a city since Funchal. To make the city walker-friendly, staircases are built all over the place. They can take one from the highest road to the lowest. There are easily hundreds of steps in each staircase. On this particular staircase there are homes on either side. Could you imagine having to carry your groceries and/or (even worse) furniture from the road to your home? Insanity. Here's an example:

While most Jordanians have at least some grasp of English, misspellings are found all over the city. Signs that say "Family Dentaal" and the like line city streets. Following are just two examples. I had never been to a Grilled and Restaurant before. And no, I never found out what nargels actually are.

This weekend, my friend from Zaytoon visited Israel and my friends from BYU went to the Dana Nature Reserve, so only 3 of us remained in Amman. Bruce, Carol, and I explored some parts of the city together over the last few days. On one of our outings we were able to see an ancient Roman theater which lies in the middle of the city.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Journey to Jordan - Ajloun and Jerash

There was a bit of confusion when I came out here as to whom I belonged. There are two groups of BYU students out here: BYU interns and Zaytoon. There are about 7 BYU interns, all working with the Ministry of Social Development in one fashion or another. Zaytoon, on the other hand, is associated with BYU, yet semi-independent of any organization. All of its members just happen to be current or former BYU students. The BYU interns live across town; the Zaytoon people live in my neighborhood. Both groups thought I was from the other, so I think they were confused on how to include me (or if they should). I had to explain that I came from the U of U...and I came alone.

I tell you this because, though I live near and spend time with the Zaytoon fellows, the BYU interns are kind enough to include me as well. We had a delicious dinner at the girls' apartment on the other side of the city.

It was some mixture of meat and rice stuffed into zucchinis. The same combo was wrapped in grape leaves. Skeptical at first, I turned out to love the stuff and probably had way more than my share. It was great, and the company was even better.

There's a Marriott Hotel here. I walked in just to look around, and somehow ended up at the pool area. I'm sure I would have been able to take a swim without being challenged at all. I may need to go back and try it out.

One of my most favorite places in Portugal was Carrefour. It's a huge grocery store, comparable to Walmart, and it was always nice now and then to walk in and feel like I was home. Well, they have Carrefour here in a place called City Mall. It had been about 4 years since I last stepped into one and it was almost emotional. Imagine my response, then, when elsewhere in the mall I saw a Barrett family favorite:

This mall is great and rivals any mall in America that I know of.

Saturday a group of us hopped in a van and took off to see some sites. Destination: Ajloun castle. I wish I could tell you all the details and history about this place, but I can't. I can say, however, that it was an amazing place. There were so many different chambers and "secret" passages that after spending a few hours there I still am not sure we were able to see the whole thing. It sits atop a hill that gave an excellent vista in all directions. The location was obviously chosen in order to see any armies that may be approaching. Here are a few pictures...see for yourself:

Well, after the amazing castle at Ajloun, we packed back into the van to head to Jerash, a land of roman ruins. This place was intense - so many old structures. Pillars, arches, and articulate work was found all over the place. We spent several hours here as well. I don't know what else to say about it other than it was awesome!

Yes, those are Roman soldiers. Actual Roman soldiers.

In the amphitheater. You speak in one of these holes on one side and can hear the other person on the other.

Best bagpipers of all time. It started with one, then the other three joined. At one point a Scotsman stood with them to get a picture and they started playing "Yankee Doodle."

I have many more pictures, but hopefully that gives the idea of the place. It was incredible.

We really enjoyed ourselves.

Overall, the trip was great. I am sunburned now, but the experience was something that I'll never forget.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Journey to Jordan - Post 2

Marhaban! Welcome to Jordan!

This is where I will be working for the next three months (I come home exactly three months from today). It's the Ministry of Social Development, and it's about a 2-minute walk away from where I am living. I am in the legal department and share an office with a man named Marwan. I'll be doing other tasks as well, however, and I'm excited to stay busy.

Sleeping in an apartment by myself is interesting, to say the least. I've lived in foreign states and countries before, but never by myself and never not knowing the language. I must look Jordanian because people try talking to me all the time. I just have to stare, shrug my shoulders, and walk away in shame. I'm trying to learn some Arabic, but come on...Google some Arabic and tell me it's not the most intimidating language out there.

The people here are super nice. Almost too nice. Walking to work yesterday I was stopped by a man named Rashed. He spoke English (most people know at least some conversational English) and seemed genuine. He called his friend over, Eunice (a man) and we all spoke for a bit. Then Eunice asked for my phone number because he wanted to hang out sometime. Never thinking he would call, I didn't think much about it. Well guess what? Sitting at my desk today my phone rings....and it's Eunice. Why he thought of calling me then is unknown to me. Rashed got my number this morning and wants to go out for drinks. I had to learn the phrase "Haram fi diini" to get out of coffee and tea (it means "It's forbidden in my religion.").

Have I mentioned I live in a great location? Yes, I am by myself. And yes, my apartment smells weird and isn't the best. But I live directly behind some BYU students, and some more live down the street. I'm making some friendships, even though I'm forcing myself upon these people. They're all super nice to include me (or let me include myself). A few of us took a cab to a member's home for institute last night. The lesson: watching the first half of "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston. It was awesome. I've never seen the movie all the way through. There are some great lines in it! Plus I had no idea that Moses' wife is the same woman who plays Mrs. Warren in "McClintock," one of my favorites.

Again, the BYU kids are great. We're planning a trip south the Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba soon. And there's a possibility of me joining them on a trip to Israel. Wouldn't be foolish of me to live in Jordan and not go to one of the most historic, controversial, and spiritual places on Earth? I'm definitely leaning towards going.

Anyway, there's an update for the two who read this blog. More to come for sure. I'll leave you with a picture I took on the way to work. A little field jam packed with sheep. The field had no fences. When I walked by on the way home, the field was empty. I thought it was pretty funny.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Journey to Jordan - The beginning

I have been in Jordan for 3 nights now...only about 94 more to go! I don't even know where to begin. People kept telling me that this would be an adventure, and they certainly were right. I knew that coming here would put me out of my comfort zone, but I wasn't expecting such a drastic change. This truly is lunacy.

I arrived at the airport in Amman around 7:30 p.m. on Friday night. No cell phone, no internet service: just me and my bags. Luckily most things in the airport were written both in English and Arabic, so I was able to find my way around somewhat. To make a long story short, I bought a cell phone, called some Church members in Amman, and ended up at the "chapel" after a wild ride on a bus and taxi cab. I made a friend along the way - Vladimir from Russia. I wonder how he's faring.

I had tried to set up housing before arriving, but to no avail. I was able to crash on a bed at the chapel for my first two nights. There are BYU interns here, though they either wouldn't let me stay with them or there was no room for me "at the inn," so housing was left up to me. A man (now friend) name Bader helped me find a few options, and last night I got an apartment. Apparently it was a good deal, and though it isn't an amazing place to live, at least I have somewhere to go at night.

Yesterday the other interns and I were able to meet with the Minister of Social Development. It was interesting to hear her speak and see her desire to help her fellow Jordanians. *(There is way too much to write about here.)* Let's just say it was a good meeting and I'm glad I could meet the other interns here.

Loren and Brenden, brothers out here working in conjunction with the Ministry, were kind enough to show me around town yesterday. What an experience! We took a cab downtown, had amazing food at Hashem's, and just walked around. Roman ruins, right in the center of town. Pirated dvd's. I honestly don't even know how I can explain it. It was awesome. I didn't have my camera with me, but I'm sure I'll return. Pictures pending.

I was fortunate enough to land that apartment in the midst of other BYU interns and workers. It's so nice to have friends out here - people that understand as little Arabic as I do. I plan on learning some, but it is insane how different that language is from English.

Overall, I'm very excited to be here. It will be a huge growing experience, as I am doing things I never saw myself doing. Six months ago I would have slapped you silly had you said I would be living alone in an apartment in the country of Jordan for 3 months.