Friday, September 21, 2012

Home Is Wherever I'm With You

Number one reason I have been slow on the blog? A tall, handsome man by the name of Micah Larimer. Micah and I dated for a year and a half during our high school days and had an absolute blast. Shortly after graduation he left to serve a full time mission for the LDS Church. During these two years he served the people of Riverside, CA (glamorous, I know), teaching them about our Church, helping people with needs around the house, and trying his best to help others. Throughout the two years we wrote almost every week. We had the opportunity to talk on the phone for a few minutes on Christmas and Mother's Day (these are the two days each year that missionaries are permitted to call home,) which were easily the highlights of our entire separation for me.
While I was constantly missing him for those two years, I tried my best not to sit around and pine. I worked hard, traveled around New Zealand and Asia for four months, went off to college, and spent almost four months in the Middle East. You could say I was actually fairly productive. Needless to say, despite my grand adventures, I would have given an arm and a leg to have my best friend back.
Well 98 Letters, 9 care packages, 102 weeks, and 4 phone conversations later, he was home. Our reunion was magical, if not a little awkward. I'm pretty sure he patted me on the shoulder once. But after about five minutes, we were back to normal. It was almost as if he had never left. The things that we loved about one another had only been magnified. The things that worried us were gone. I was just overjoyed to be in the same room as him!
The last month that he has been home has easily been my best. Everything seems to be going right. And even the struggles seem a lot more manageable with him on my team. We have been having so much fun being together again figuring out our life. Things could honestly not be better.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Weapons of Potato Destruction

There is something about firearms that just makes you feel powerful. 
No, that is not pointed at my head...
we laugh in the face of danger
And there is something about watching your man hold a firearm
that doubles his attractiveness. 
For Labor Day a group of us thought it would be great to celebrate by letting off some steam. We drove up the canyon and had a festive picnic involving salsa, sandwiches, and lemonade in the woods. Sufficiently full, we headed further up the canyon to a shooting range. And the thrill of danger began. I was a bit scared, but really it wasn't so bad. I only shot some smaller guns (I was told they were .22 caliber...whatever that means). I got my thrill with those, but chose to leave the bigger guns to the boys. It actually takes physical strength to shoot these things! Some of them are heavy and the kick back can be something fierce. 
Micah enjoyed shooting at potatoes, pop cans, and plates. But poor boy got a sunburn. Man, he's pale. It did feel a bit strange being a human rights activist and opposing violent conflict while shooting some guns, but I guess that's the beauty of choice and individuality, right?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

And It Continues

Happy Day!
It's been a couple of crazy weeks, but I have not completely forgotten about Safe Harbor. So much has changed in the last few weeks, I don't even know where to begin. But I guess I'll start with the first big change. Micah, my best friend and high school boyfriend is home from his two year LDS mission! It has been unreal having him home. After two years of snail mail, four telephone conversations, a variety of care packages, and a few photo updates, he was completely and totally back in my life. So far it has been absolutely wonderful. It's all been very natural and normal, to be honest. We have both changed significantly in the last two years but not in way's that have troubled our relationship. We've enjoyed catching up and figuring it out. Who would've known it could be this easy? Now, we're back at school and enjoying this stage of life.
Classes are going great so far. Nothing too ominous or distressing. There will definitely be some stress and I'm sure I'll be cursing sociology when midterms roll around. For now, I'm feeling pretty excited about all the opportunities ahead.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Next

I've been asked by a few people about the future of Safe Harbor. Of the three people actually interested a blog of my musings, two are my parents. That tells you how far reaching it is, ha! Anyway, I am hoping to keep it up. Just because my adventures in Jordan are over doesn't mean the quest to escape the safe harbor is, as well. I have school, a new job, a boy, and more travels.
There are many more adventures on the horizon. Some abroad, some domestic. There is a substantial possibility that I get to school, get stressed about my schoolwork, get back to socializing, and completely forget about the blog. The dream, however, is that I will still remember to post every so often. This is really more of a record for myself, but if you're following I appreciate it and hope to keep you posted.
Also, here's a great video that always gets me excited and inspired.
Until next time, stay excellent.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Week One

Week one of American life has been, happily, relaxing. Decrompressing was the aim of the game. I've been surprised at how much I miss Jordan. I was absolutely dying to come home my last week there and, while I am basking in the joys of being home, I miss a few things about Jordan. I just want to tell everybody all the great experiences I had, crack all the inside jokes, and talk about the people who changed my life.
I missed the greenery.
So after my first day and a half of recover, my mom and I drove to California to visit all the family. Sadly, my dad wasn't able to get the time off work, so we left him to his own devices at home. We stopped in Grass Valley for a few days with my Aunt, Uncle, their dog, the sun, and the lake. This was exactly what I needed! I was just so surprised at the opportunity to show my legs in public.
Next, we were on to Lake Tahoe. Another one of my absolute favorite places in the world. Mom and I enjoyed a some time on the beach, a little kayaking, and good walking along the shore. Sadly, we had to leave the next day, but were on to other great things. Next was a visit with my Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Harley, along with their daughter and her two year old son, Jack. I spent the evening meeting Jack's dinosaurs, running around the backyard sniffing for "sharp-tooth" eggs, finding some (on the lemon tree), and then waiting for them to hatch. He was an absolute riot.
Next, on to my dad's side of the family. This time it was dinner and watching the Olympics with my Grandma, Aunt Bern, and Aunt Nancy. We ate at a restaurant, Melo's, that Grandma has been raving about for ages. My mom and I also stopped at a deli, Genova's, down the street and were in heaven. The place is like a little piece of New York life in the middle of Walnut Creek. That's when I told my mom I would live in New York one day just so she can come visit and we can get sandwiches at the local deli.
Lake Tahoe
Two more stops left....and yes, this was quite a whirlwind trip. We hadn't realized it, but we overextending ourselves a bit. Of course we love all our family and were happy to see them, but it was a bit intense moving around every single day. Next time we'll just have to take longer vacations.
Anyway, on to Kathy and Dave's house. My mom and Kathy have been friends since they were young nurses together. Kathy and I had a great discussion laying by the pool about her upcoming trip to Turkey. Since I went there a few months ago I tried to give any of the little advice or insight I had. It was really fun to have somebody pick my brain about my experience abroad. Many people are fairly disinterested and here I am just wanting to talk about it all the time. I keep going, "Well...in Jordan..." or "You know, Jordanians do this...." and I'm hoping I'm not driving anybody nuts just yet....
Finally, we hit Vacaville to visit my Aunt Kathy, her son Mike, and his family. We went out to dinner and then had another relaxing night of ice cream and Olympics. I missed the first half when I was in Jordan, so I was really trying to get my fill so that I could handle waiting another two years until the next Games.
All in all, I'd say it was a successful trip. I got to visit my family, eat great food, relax, and enjoy the sunshine. You can't ask for much more than that. But I am happy to have my own bed and absolutely no plans.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Home

It is said that home is where the heart is. I couldn't agree more. I love traveling, I love my adventures, I love all kinds of crazy new experiences. But, my heart belongs in Portland and I will always want to come back.
The journey back was an epic one. After three weeks in Turkey and three months in Jordan it was time for me to return stateside. 30 hours, a generous body search, six movies, an interrogation, and three hours of sleep later I was back in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. My mom picked me up from the airport which was a great reunion and then we headed to our cozy home, giant backyard, cupboards full of food, soft toilet paper, and my bed.
I showered without the fear of my water running out (oh and there was water pressure...awesome!) and then dove in to my mom's best meal...chicken enchiladas. After feeling quite satisfied, I laid on the couch for a few minutes in hopes of watching a movie, but faded fast. I brushed my teeth like a mad woman, stumbled to my room, and was asleep before the sun went down.
Twelve hours later, I was up and ready to face the day. That was seriously all I needed to recover. I have been completely coherent and adjusted (hopefully...) since. That day my mom ran some errands, I basked in the glory that is target, went for a run, napped, and then went to my favorite local barbecue restaurant. Let me tell you, that pulled pork sandwich was one of the best I've ever had. Another early night and then my mom and I were off on our next adventure...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The End

Sunset over Amman...yes, there might be
a metaphor in there somewhere.
Unbelievable. How could the summer already be over? I have learned amazing things in the last three months and am simply baffled that I'm done. Jordan has been absolutely amazing and the people even better. I cannot wait to come back. That being said, I have never been so excited to go home. In just a few short hours (only 14 to get me to New York, 5 more to Salt Lake, and 2 more to Portland...I can do it!) I will be with my family, friends, and home. So close! I will miss so many things here and I really hope I get the opportunity to come back. It has been a long and tough road this summer, but I have been pushed to new limits and better understand my abilities. I'm definitely going to consider it a win.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wadi Mujib

Floating through the canyon
On Saturday we went trekking through Wadi Mujib, near the Dead Sea. These slot canyons are apparently much like the ones in southern Utah. Sadly, despite living there for a year, I never got south of Spanish Fork, UT....sad, I know. So we went climbing/canyoneering/bouldering/swimming through this canyon until we finally made it to the final waterfall. It was beautiful and so fun. Mostly because my legs were enjoying being bare. I miss shorts. So much.
After hanging out at the waterfall we headed back out of the canyon. This time we were going downstream, so we attempted to float as much of it as possible. Unfortunately it was only a few inches deep in some parts so we each have some serious scrapes and bruises. Not our smartest idea. We then headed to lunch at a little restaurant overlooking the beautiful Dead Sea. After a full day of trekking and exploring we were wiped. Nap time! Then, our final dinner as a whole group. To top it off we watched some Olympics. What is it about the Olympics that get me so choked up. Maybe it's the world unity, the spirit of competition, or something...I'm not sure. But I was getting all sorts of emotional watching it! So it wasn't the most epic of days, but I had a good time!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adios Amigos

The end of an era
It really is the end of an era. The four musketeers/amigos/french fry eaters/nappers/adventurers have officially disbanded for the next few weeks. I have to say, I woke up this morning having a slight panic attack. What the heck are Rilee and I supposed to do in this country without the other half of our team? I think it calls for some cake batter cookies and chick flicks.
I have had a fabulous summer getting to know all three of them. The following is obviously a small list of the epic (and less epic) times we had here in Jordan:


  • Dead Sea. I think this was our first legitimate time hanging out as a team and bonding. We laid out a blanket on the middle of a paved road in front of the castle, huddled up because it got freezing, and tried to sleep despite Loren's chainsaw snoring. We talked until the morning call to prayer, ate some leftover carrot cake for breakfast, and then spent the whole next day trying to recover.
  • Farm in Ajloun. Yup, we had a few good long bus rides out to the farm and bonded over manual labor. We danced like fools around the fire and fell in love with goliat bandoora. We also dreamed up the awesome restaurant we are opening in Provo, called Ahmad and Ahmad's....I think Provo-ites will go nuts for falafal, pita, and hummus...not to mention sitting on the floor and eating mansaf with your hands.
  • Pretty much everyday of Jared bringing lunch to me and Rilee. He always knew exactly what we needed and when we needed it. He was definitely our knight in shining armor, so thank you! I will miss the spongy bread, falafal and hummus from Abu George's, and kiwi lime juice.
  • Napping. I feel like there were many naps involved in this friendship. There would be times we would just look at each other and know...sleepy time is going down,
We stressed. We argued. We yelled.  We laughed. We ate. We slept. We danced. We lived.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Aqaba Again

Aqaba, take two! This time it was a smaller group of us headed to the port town for some sunshine and relaxation. To be honest, we didn't do anything all that productive. The bus ride down was a little rough, though I think part of it came from the fact that our "air-conditioned" bus was CLEARLY note air-conditioned. We were roasting, tired, and hungry...never a good combination. Luckily, we made it and were able to have a nice dinner and some ice cream before completely passing out.
Horrible photo of us in the sea!
Shock and awe
Goofs in a pool


The next day we hit the beach. Despite the appeal of our hotel's pool, we couldn't go all the way to Aqaba without swimming in the Red Sea. We attempted to build some human pyramids and I only got the wind knocked out of me once (thanks to Jared and his inability to throw a person properly off the dock). It was the first day of Ramadan so absolutely nobody was there. We had the water and dock to ourselves which was helpful when trying to teach Celinda how to dive. I think we got her to around an 80% dive 20% belly flop. Success!
After our adventures in the ocean we headed back to town...to bad there was absolutely nothing open. We walked around for about a half hour looking for food and finally found a small shop that was open. When we walked in there were men huddled around a refrigerator stuffing their faces with sandwiches. When we entered they hurriedly hid there food, but then relaxed and continued eating when they saw that we were foreigners. Definitely an interesting experience.
That night we wandered around and eventually sat down for dinner. The streets really come alive at night during Ramadan. People don't start eating until after sundown and it seems like the festivities go all through the night. I like it!
Next day we laid by the pool. I read To Kill a Mockingbird and only moved to jump in the pool every now and then. That is definitely my kind of vacation. We definitely had some good times while we were there...too bad we had to get back to reality:(

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jordan Love


Wadi Rum
Okay, I feel a little bad about my list of things to look forward to about going home. I really do love living here in Jordan. I have had so many excellent experiences that I would not give up for anything. I have made friends, eaten crazy things, discussed religion, and completely fallen in love with the people and this place. I really do hope I have the opportunity to come back soon. Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to come up with a list of things I will miss about Jordan when I get back home.
1. Food. I have clearly enjoyed the food here. I will miss munsaf, maqluba, falafel, hummus, pita, everything! I know you can get a lot of this in the states and I can even try making some of it myself, but it won’t be the same. I will definitely miss eating with my hands and then taking a nice long nap afterward. Most importantly, though, I will miss the conversation surrounding each meal. I will miss the people I have been eating with, the things we talk about, the jokes we make, and everything we do together.
2. Call to prayer. This haunting sound that dictates the passing of the day will definitely be missed. It is a continual reminder to Muslims, and to me as well, to pray to God. It helps me maintain perspective and remember to be grateful.
3. Landscape. Jordan is absolutely beautiful. I have enjoyed seeing so many different types of landscape that are absolutely stunning. I love the farm out at Ajloun, the valleys and rock formations to the south, and the city scape here in Amman. This is definitely Bible country.
Getting friendly at the farm...
4. Adventures. I will miss going on random escapades downtown, driving out to the Dead Sea, and getting invited to random people’s homes. I have had countless impromptu meals or drinks with people that have been so fun. People here are honestly so friendly. They have been so kind to us, are great hosts, and cook amazing food.
5. People. I will definitely miss the Jordanian people I have met here. I have never met a more welcoming people. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know people, especially through my interviews with Rilee, that I might never have gotten the chance to know. I have met some amazing women that have completely changed my views on things. I will also miss my fellow interns. I have had some pretty hilarious experiences with some of them and have built friendships that I hope to maintain for long after we leave Jordan.
Obviously this is just a handful and I will probably keep thinking of more things I’m going to miss, but this is good for now. Needless to say, I have loved it here and could easily call this home.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Homesick :(

Alright, I think I've hit my wall. It's pretty darn hot here, I'm tired, Ramadan is starting and I am pretty much done. I have absolutely loved my time here in Jordan and wouldn't trade any of it for the world, but I am looking forward to going home. Part of it has to do with some of the exciting things coming up soon, but I am really looking forward to being back in Portland. First of all, it will be cool. After wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt in 100+ degree weather, I can totally handle anything the Pacific Northwest wants to throw me. The following is a list of things I'm looking forward to...
1. Seeing my mom and dad, duh! I can't wait to sit out on our back patio discussing life while eating fresh berries from our garden...that sounds heavenly. I just love being with them, getting their advice, joking, arguing, etc. I would whole heartedly agree that distance makes the heart grow fonder.
2. Mexican food. My mom makes the best enchiladas ever and I am definitely going to eat a hearty portion. An add on to this is comfort foods in general. I will enjoy some pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, Tillamook ice cream, girl scout cookies, date bars, and all the other goodies I can get my hands on in the two weeks that I'm home:)
3. Visiting family. Right after I get home I will be driving down to California with my mom. Time out on the boat? I think yes.
4. Cleanliness....of myself. I cannot wait for the constant sweat to cease. I just want to feel semi-clean and not have to change my clothes three times a day. This also includes being able to take longer showers. I will not have to fear running out of water in the middle of my shower...I will, however, have to fear my dad yelling, "Wrap it up, Em...that's my money going down the drain!"....so I guess it's a trade off.
5. Carpet. A strange thing to miss...but it will be enjoyed when I get home.
6. Air Conditioning. That's kind of a no-brainer, but fans do not cut it. I seriously think A/C is one of the greatest inventions of all time. It makes people more productive, happier, and slightly less crazy.
7. Drinking from the tap. I love love love Oregon water. It tastes so sweet and delicious, plus you don't have to run down to the store to get it.
8. Your brain might explode on this one...but I miss Provo. Who knew? I guess it's less temporary than I anticipated. I miss sleepovers, adventures, the beautiful landscape and....I miss school, too...what is wrong with me!?
9. Target. I just want to walk around in it. I know it's weird...but it's true.
10. Driving. Who knew you could miss the simple act of being behind the wheel?
11. All things Portland. The waterfront, the Pearl District, picnics at the Pittock Mansion, my favorite restaurants, Pioneer Square, the Park Blocks, Forest Park, and my house.
12. My ward! I can't wait to see all my friends and family from the Skyline area:)
Hopefully this wasn't too depressing. I don't want you thinking I hate my life. I love it here and am grateful that I have had the opportunity to come out. I am also glad to have the next two weeks to say goodbye to new friends, eat at my favorite restaurants one more time, get my souvenir shopping done, and prepare to say farewell to this amazing place.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Celebrating Celinda

Happy Birthday to my friend and bunkmate, Celinda! Yes, this is definitely very delayed, but I'm trying to catch up on my posts. Celinda's birthday was actually like two weeks ago, but things have been a bit hectic around here. I'll tell you about the excellent day we had celebrating her birth...
First, we woke up super early and headed to some soccer fields over by the King Hussein Mosque. It is one of the few places in the city with grass (it was turf...but we aren't picky at this point). There, a group of us played ultimate Frisbee, one of Celinda's new favorite things to do. We were joined by some hoards of kids and ended up having an amazing time with our new friends. It was also nice to be there really early before it got too hot.
Next, we had some breakfast consisting of pancakes and the assorted toppings. After breakfast, I had to head to a meeting, but Celinda got to hang out with friends, go to the gym, and relax. That evening, we celebrated in the best way we could think of....chocolate. So there is this thing where Celinda loves chocolate more than the average person...WAY more! Our friends Heather and Josh were kind and creative enough to find a bunch of delicious treats and then dunk them in chocolate fondue. Josh also made an amazing German chocolate cake. It was fabulous! We feasted on excessive amounts of chocoalte (if that is even possible) and celebrated the birth of our good friend, Celinda. One thing that Celinda's family does for birthdays is have everyone in the family tell the birthday boy/girl things they like about them. In keeping the tradition alive, here is a list of things I love about Celinda. As one of the few people who actually reads my blog, I hope she appreciates the list!
Busmates on the way to Petra...we were trying to avoid photos
1. So nice....seriously. Celinda is one of THE nicest people I have ever met. She loves everybody, is a friend to all, and is always trying to be her best self.
2. Hard working. You can tell this girl was raised to do serious work. She never complains and is always willing to help. When we went out to the farm in Ajloun and were doing manual labor, she was totally in her element. The best part, though, is that she can flip the switch and be a total lady when necessary. It's a crazy combination of ruggedness and class. How does she do it!? The hard work also translates into school work and relationships. This girl is a genius AND has friends and family that love her.
3. Values. She is very level headed and very obedient. She only speaks highly of her family and the way she was raised. She is diligent in her service to others and dedication to God. Celinda has definitely been a great inspiration for me these past few months.
4. Hometown Pride. And I thought I loved Portland! Celinda is from Cokeville, WY (have you heard of it?) and is obsessed with it. She has great stories about growing up in a small town and being surrounded by family. I absolutely love it!
The story of us...chocoholics
5. She is amazing at Arabic. It has definitely gotten us out of a few jams and for that I am thankful!
6. All in all, I would just say that she is an amazing person. She brings out the best in others and has a very sweet heart. She is funny, beautiful, happy, righteous, obedient, and fun to be around. I could not have asked for a better roommate! Thanks so much for making this summer a good one. I hope that we can make it through these last two weeks without sweating to death in our room....I would be really sad if that happened.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wadi Hasa

Safety gear=hot
The team!
This past weekend the whole team went on a pretty epic adventure. A few hours south of Amman is a place called Wadi Hasa (also called Wadi Zered). Its mentioned in the Old Testament a few times and sounds like a good place for people to pitch their tents back in the day. Sadly, no camping for us....BUT we did get a chance to go bouldering/swimming/jumping/crawling/climbing/etc. through the slot-like canyons in the valley. We slid down natural water slides, did a little cliff jumping, and waded through some pretty refreshing water. Despite only trekking three kilometers, the excursion took us the better part of the day. We were absolutely exhausted, soaked, and feeling completely blissful. After living in a place where water isn't readily available and it is so stinking hot, being able to splash about in the water was heavenly. Following our excursion, we needed some serious sustenance. Hamburgers? I think yes! Thanks to our guides, we found a burger place near the American embassy that really hit the spot. The Middle East is often overlooked as a place for tourists, but there is so much to do! We had an amazing day, some great adventures, and delicious food. It is very easy to navigate, everybody is so friendly, and the landscape is beautiful. I highly recommend it here:)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ajloun Adventures

Interview team with Miriam and Nusaba

Things are slowly wrapping up here in Jordan. I cannot believe it's almost over! Some of the interns from other programs are leaving this week and the rest of us have just over two weeks left. I have to get some souvenirs asap....I also have to hit all my favorite restaurants one more time before it's all over! I know the falafal and hummus will just not be the same back in the States.
Last weekend, our interview team had the chance to speak with a wonderful woman named Miriam. She participates in a co-op farm north of Amman in a small town called Ajloun. She was a wonderful woman with so much to share with us. She has had a very difficult life and has taken on the responsibilities of so many. She is unmarried (which can make things very difficult in Jordan), but is raising the handicapped child of her brother AND managing a farm. Despite many of the trials she faces, however, she has such an amazing perspective. She told us that she has hope everyday that she can be happy and enjoy life. She was also very progressive in some of her ideas about marriage, gender relations, and work. She was basically an amazing inspiration and after the interview we just kept going on and on about how cool she was!
The dream team on the farm
We have also been able to spend time out on one of the farms in Ajloun, which has been amazing. It is so peaceful and beautiful up there. It is an amazing escape from the city and has become one of my "happy places." Last week we even had the chance to spend the night out there. It was nice and cool (which is a complete novelty for us now) and absolutely beautiful. We sang songs, danced our hearts out to insane music (i.e. Maneater, Rasputin, Thriller, etc.), and ate delicious apple crisp. The next morning we woke up and spent the day trying to terrace the one of the hills on the farm. It was clear that I was not cut out for extended manual labor, but I had fun doing it for the day! It wasn't a half bad way to spend my time and was well worth the good times, great views, and excellent food we had. Basically, all is well. I am having such a great time but am looking forward to going back to Portland. I realized yesterday that I haven't seen my beloved city (or my bed) since Christmas! That is much to long for me. It's time to be back in the beautiful Pacific Northwest:)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Little Drizzle in the Desert

Stairway at Umm Qais
Hatha...no good. Josh bummed
about my sleepiness.
Last weekend our team had the opportunity to visit some of the ruins north of Amman. First, we hit the ruins of Umm Qais where the Jordanian, Israeli, and Syrian borders meet. No joke, this is Jesus land. When we explore more of this country and get a chance to see some of the more rural areas, I am blown away by how much history this place has.
Next, we saw Ajloun Castle. It was nice and cool inside, so we were all in heaven. We explored a bit, but I was basically walking around like a zombie since I hadn't received any sleep the night before. Somehow I have yet to learn that all nighters are never a good idea. It's kind of like getting sunburned. I'm not sure why I'm not smart enough to figure it out. My friend, Josh, kept giving me a hard time for basically being unconscious for a majority of the trip, so we sat outside the castle and ate cherries.
Finally, the magic happened. As we were heading to our final stop, the ruins at Jerash, I noticed some water droplets on the windshield of our bus. Could it be!? Yes, yes it could! It was raining. As someone who absolutely thrives in the Pacific Northwest, I was as happy as a clam. The cool droplets and amazing smell transported me right back home. The driving was slightly terrifying, but I would say it was well worth it. Sadly, the rain meant our final destination was out of the picture, so we stopped for dinner and then headed home. I could not have been happier. I have been having such an amazing time here in Jordan making great new friends and having unbelievable experiences. Every now and then, though, I miss Portland like crazy. I miss my mom and dad, Mexican food, carpet, rain, greenery, a temperate climate, berries, traffic laws, water from the tap, and a few other things. Basically, all I'm saying is that home is the best place on earth. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Festivus

I know, right?
This is going to be a long....but epic one. I’m not actually sure if last night happened or if it was just a bizarre dream. Either way it was crazy. Last week our friend Hatem invited us to the wedding celebration of his friend out in Jerash. Of course we wanted to go, so a group of us hired a van and drove out. Having never been to one of these events before, I didn’t know what to expect, so I chose a nice dress and actually put on make-up for the first time since I’ve been here. As soon as we arrived at the festivities, the men were swept off to one area and we were directed to another. Sadly, because the we were segregated by gender, us women were unable to take pictures of the events. The men, however, were able to, so hopefully pictures will be coming soon. For now, you're just going to have to look at some other random ones from the past!
Slowly more people began showing up and eventually we were herded into a tent in somebody’s backyard. It was slightly bizarre that the men had a giant area in the middle of this field with tons of space, lights, and chairs, while us women were segregated to a cramped tent with no decorations or space. There was definitely a fire hazard, but we didn’t have any fireworks or sparklers like the men. The concept of segregated spaces is so interesting to me. It felt as though the men were having a big party for the groom and all the wives and daughters of those men were just hanging out and waiting for them to finish. There were multiple houses around the men’s party where women and children had climbed onto the roofs or out on the balconies just to watch the festivities of the men. I couldn’t decide if I really enjoyed being with all women or if I wish that we were celebrating together.
Camel Crossing
So after entering the women’s tent we then proceeded to dance for about four hours straight. That isn’t even a joke. It was non-stop clapping, shouting, hip shaking, and hair flipping. Every time I tried to sit down to rest I got grabbed and pulled back onto the dance floor. The women were honestly so nice to us. They kept including us in everything and teaching (or attempting to teach) us how to shake our hips like Arab women. It was so interesting to see women really letting loose, taking of their hijabs, and behaving in a very care-free way. It was also interesting to observe their behavior when men entered the tent. A few times the sound system went out, so they had to fetch some men to fix it. Every time the women would make an announcement that men would be returning to the tent and they would all put their hijabs and full length clothes on. As soon as the men were finished, however, it all came right back off.
As much fun as I was having, there was a brief period of time where I thought I might die. First of all, I incorrectly assumed there would be food at this event, so I hadn’t eaten before. Little did I know we wouldn’t get fed until almost one in the morning! I was also experiencing massive amounts of pain from some particular female organs. But this was all exacerbated by the fact that I felt slightly accosted by some of our new friends. The adult women were more than welcoming and friendly, but the young girls were a bit aggressive. They were very fascinated by us and felt the strong need to touch and pull at us. It was slightly overwhelming getting jerked every which way and being followed around at every moment. Finally there came a point when I just needed to get out of the tent for some fresh air.
After taking a breather, it was back to the festivities. The best part came when the women gathered and carried a big platter of henna down to the men’s party. We slowly walked in and were overwhelmed by the lights, fireworks, guns, and shouting. The groom’s mother was so friendly to us and allowed us to come with her to the very center of the festivities. The shouting was out of control, there was gunfire, and we were getting jostled about with dancing. This was easily my favorite part of the night. My arms even started getting tired from clapping so much!
I'd say biblical
After we left the men’s section, we were finally fed. The wait was well worth it because the mensaf was unbelievable. It was easily the best one I’ve ever. I even managed to eat it with my hands without getting too much all over myself.
I cannot believe we managed to get ourselves into this situation. I felt so lucky to be invited to such an amazing event in somebody else’s life. I also cannot believe how friendly and inviting everyone was to us. The father of the groom even invited us to come back to his farm for dinner in a few weeks. This night was very overwhelming and a bit of a shock for me, but it will definitely go down as one of the highlights of my summer here in Jordan.






Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Amurka


Today, I went to America. Actually, it’s true. By stepping foot onto Embassy grounds, I was officially on American soil. Weird, right? Some of the women from church invited us to join them at the embassy’s pool for an afternoon of relaxation. Yes, please!
After trying to find our way to the official entrance, we finally figured out what we were doing. We flashed our passports, made it through security, and were welcomed into a club like any other you would find in the States. The pool area was nice and we had a great time out in the sun. The best part, however, came when we ate dinner. Yes, this was a delicious barbecue burger. And, YES, there was bacon on it. I haven’t been craving pork products, to be honest, but they are so hard to find  here that this was definitely a treat. The food, company, and atmosphere made it feel like an average afternoon in the States. It was way fun, but I think I’m going to enjoy my Jordanian summer for the limited time I have left.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Halfway Point

The Treasury at Petra
Half way. I cannot believe we are halfway done with our work here in Jordan. It has seriously flown by and I still feel like I'm just getting the hang of things. At the same time, though, it feels like ages since I've seen my parents and I've missed them! In the three months since they came to visit me at school I have finished my final exams (hallelujah), spent time in Turkey, and then moved here to Amman. We have been working diligently on our research and evaluation projects which has been such an amazing learning experience. So I decided I would compile a brief list of other fun things I have learned in the last few months from my travels and new adventures:
  1. Eating with your hands is harder than it looks. There is a technique required that takes time to be mastered. Luckily, eating this way is a great method of portion control because it takes so much effort just to get a mouthful of food.
  2. Reversing on a busy street in Jordan is totally acceptable...as long as you put your hazards on.
  3. Falafal is AMAZING. At first I wasn't so sure, but I could eat a falafal sandwich every single day for the rest of my life and never get bored.
  4. Siestas are a fabulous thing. When it is well over one hundred degrees out, sometimes there is nothing more you can do. You just have to give in, eat heaps of food, and take a nap to make it through.
  5. Things sound a lot scarier from the media than they feel here. There is obviously contention in the region, but I have felt nothing but safe and secure since I've been here. It's bizarre knowing there is danger in such close proximity to us, but nobody here appears too worried about the surrounding countries. 
  6. People everywhere are similar. Everybody seek the same thing: happiness. They value family relationships, religion, and good food.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Adventure Time

I had a massive adventure and don't even have photos to document it! I snagged this one from Rilee and it is crazy. The flash was so insanely bright that we all look really nuts. And this was at least our third attempt at a picture. Basically, it is an excellent indicator of how bizarre our adventure was. A few days ago a group of us were craving an adventure. Our friends, Steve and Gavin, needed to celebrate their last night in Jordan before heading back to Ireland. After gathering all the provisions we needed (swimsuits, sodas, and smores fixings) we piled in two cars and hit the road.
Sleeping on concrete? ALWAYS a good idea
It was insanely hot in the city and proceeded to get even hotter as we drove toward the Dead Sea. We were all sticky and sweaty by the time we parked on the beach. Clothes off, we jumped into the water. It was as refreshing as warm baby oil and salt can feel. We were bobbing along when we saw headlights approaching.
Uuuuhhhhh....yup....it was the Jordanian military. Apparently you aren't allowed to swim in the Dead Sea after dark. Whhhoooooops! When necessary, one can put on their clothes pretty quick. Within a few quick minutes we were out of there and on our way to our next stop. We drove up out of the valley and ended up at the gates of a castle in Mkawr. Barbecue and blankets out, we got started on the festivities. It even got cold while we were up there! I haven't felt chilly since I've been here, so it was refreshing.
We belted songs at the tops of our lungs, roasted marshmallows, and laughed hysterically at Loren's inhumanly loud snoring. We were still awake when the first call to prayer went off and watched the sun rise over beautiful olive groves and rolling hills. It has definitely been the highlight of my trip so far. We laughed. We feasted. We bonded. It was excellent.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Baptism and Buoyancy


Another great trip this weekend! This time we were able to see some historic and Biblical sites. First we went to Mt. Nebo, the location where Moses overlooked the Promised Land. I was expecting a massive trek up some cliff faces, but instead found an easy stroll up a slight incline. It was amazing to stand on the edge and look out over the River Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.
Next, we travelled down into the valley to the Baptismal site of Christ. It was blazing hot! To be honest, it wasn’t much of a spiritual experience, which was a little disappointing. It was pretty impressive to be there where Jesus supposedly walked, but I felt fairly rushed and so hot that I couldn’t quietly ponder the situation. Luckily, I have had a few opportunities this last month to reflect on the amazing history that has taken place in this region.
Finally, we went out to the Dead Sea. This was so great! We swam out in the water that is so salty you float like a cork. It was a struggle to keep your legs down. It was such a bizarre experience! The water was like a strange combination of salt and baby oil. It also made you painfully aware of any little cut and scrape you had on your body. After that we were jumped into a pool up above the beach. We all jumped in and just about drowned….we had become accustomed to the buoyancy of the sea and felt so weighed down by regular water! We struggled to swim to shallow area without dying. We got to play around on such a hot day and lay out in the sun. What a great experience! It is such an amazing luxury to wear a swim suit or shorts when we are so used to wearing long sleeves and pants every day in this blazing heat.
River Jordan. Lookin from Jordan
over to Israel.
This really is a beautiful and amazing country. It is amazing to think that so much amazing history has taken place here and this region is considered the cradle of civilization. How lucky am I that I get to live and work here?
"Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou are my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased."
Luke 3:21-22

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Southern Sojourn


We’re back from an epic venture south of Amman. Sorry it's been so long since I updated! On Friday we woke up at 4:30 AM (fun fact: the sun is definitely up that early here) and caught a bus to our first stop: Petra. Movie buffs will recognize it from Indiana Jones and Transformers. The rest will just recognize how beautiful it is. The ingenuity and skill of the people who carved this structure into the rock face is unbelievable. We trekked through some slot canyons until finally it appeared before us. After gawking at it for some time, we trekked around more ruins, passing countless donkey and camel, and slogging through serious stretches of sand. I have never been so hot, sweaty, and dirty in my life. I was clearly built for the Pacific Northwest.
Next, we journeyed further to Wadi Rum. This vast desert is accented with massive rock formations and inhabited by Beduoin tribes. We were driven over and around the dunes in some fairly janky pick up trucks and topped off the night with dancing, feasting, and stargazing.

After a satisfactory jaunt in the desert, we headed south to the water. Aqaba is a beach town on the Red Sea from which you can see Israel and Egypt. We spent a few hours on the beach, jumping off the pier and trying to stay cool. That night we wandered about the town, checking out shops, eating delicious tandoori chicken, and sitting on the pier. On our last day we spent the day lounging by the pool, only moving to fetch ice cream and cool drinks. Ideal, right? We bonded as a team, enjoyed long conversations and feasting in the back of our bus, got so dirty I thought I might never be clean again, and got a taste of more of what this beautiful country has to offer.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

As-Salted


Sorry about the butt, Cory, but this was
seriously the best photo I got in As-Salt!
Here he is juggling for our new friends:)
Our group of interns decided to get out of the city (sort of) and check out the neighboring town of As-Salt. Getting there was fairly straightforward and it was interesting to see the landscape change a bit as we got further toward the outskirts of Amman. It didn't really seem as though the city ever ended, but there were certainly parts with more open space and land. We also passed the University of Jordan on our way out which was actually pretty impressive. I was most pleased to see a vast increase in women in the area. I tend to get pretty excited about female education and wholeheartedly support women receiving higher level degrees. I will definitely be interested in going out to the university a few times to learn more and get to know people.
As-Salt was slightly anticlimactic. It was quieter than Amman, but also didn't have a whole lot for us to see. We wandered about most of the day, stopped for lunch, and had the opportunity to play with some little kids on a sidestreet. They were so sweet and so friendly to us. The people here are wonderful hosts, even children! They kept offering us fruit, toys, and anything else they had. I have been so impressed at how generous everyone here is. They work hard to please guests and make everyone feel welcome and cared for.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fireworks and Festivities


Celebrating in the street
Happy Independence Day, Jordan! Today was a day of celebration for the Jordanian people. There were parades in the streets, flags waving, and copious amounts of roucus young men. The girls and I strolled around Rainbow Street and Souq Jara during the afternoon. This is certainly an area that is vastly different from the rest of Amman. It's almost its own world. Women tend to outnumber the men and everybody behaves in a much more Western manner. Souq Jara, as we have heard, is a sort of artsy market for “the upwardly mobile.” As young adult women at least attempting to be fashionable, we fit right in!
Following that, we went to Annie's house on the eastern side of town. From her rooftop terrace we watched fireworks and crowds of people in the city. I have only been a resident of Jordan for a few weeks, but I’m loving it so far. The people are friendly and welcoming, the food is delicious, the markets are lively, and it isn’t even that unbearably hot (yet!). So today I salute this great country and its independence!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Healthy and Delicious? Impossible!


I know, right?!
There's this whole thing where the food here is amazing. Everything just seems to taste richer and more delicious. The colors are more vibrant and it's all cheap, making it that much more dangerous. The last few days have been a culinary exploration that I hope to continue throughout the rest of this summer. The fresh fruits and veggies are unlike anything I have ever had. Everything is sweeter, juicier, more natural and more flavorful. I'm discovering that I like fruits and veggies I didn't like before!
The first morning after my fellow roommate/interns got here I got breakfast ready for them. I figured with there bodies out of whack with jet lag and the journey they might need some sustenance when they woke up. As I was preparing, I peeled an orange. It was a struggle. I then realized that was because I've never actually peeled an orange due to my lifelong distaste for them. As I was peeling, however, I had a thought. Maybe I should try a little taste just to make sure I don't like them. Well surprise, surprise. I definitely LOVED it! Have I seriously been wasting the last twenty years of my life avoiding them?! I am hoping it is just a combination of the amazing Jordanian fruit and my maturing taste buds. Needless to say, I had a field day trying a variety of fruits and veggies that I once thought I disliked but now enjoy. As of today, I have been converted to oranges, kiwis, bell peppers, apricots eggplant, and tomatoes. Well, shucks. I guess I have to keep trying new stuff just to make sure...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Timing


Wandering in Wust El-Balad (downtown)
Things run on a different time frame here in Jordan. Some call it Insha'Allah Time. Insha'Allah meaning “if it is God's will” or “God willing.” Basically, everything tends to be a bit behind schedule and meeting times are flexible. I rarely look at my watch anymore since no one else seems to abide by the structures of Western time to which I am accustomed. We were supposed to begin work almost a week ago, but with some shifting around with our employer and a few changes in scheduling, we are yet to begin. It's been a great chance for us to roam the city and discover new places, but we're getting a bit stir crazy. There are only so many directions from our apartment we can explore and only so many nights we can watch Disney movies in Arabic.
All the same, it feels a bit like summer vacation. A perpetual Saturday, of sorts. We didn't have to do anything today and nobody expects anything from us tomorrow....? So we can basically do whatever we want. I'm trying my best to appreciate it while I can, because I'm guessing this will never happen to me again. Maybe we'll have another day off tomorrow. Or maybe we will get to start work. Insha'Allah.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Feasting

Yes, that is a gigantic malt ball
Josh eating Kanafe...it's magical
I have not stopped eating for the last three days. I'm not even joking. It has been continual grazing at nonstop parties and gatherings. I thought we celebrated with food back in the States. But here, they take it to a whole different level. I cannot believe all the people here aren't morbidly obese. I have had lamb sandwiches, matluba (an amazing chicken and rice dish), kanafa, pita bread, hummus, yoghurt, pastries, fruit salad, birthday cake, and so much more. I've been to a birthday party, a program dinner, a woman's luncheon, and everything in between. One of the weirdest was a Sweets Expo held at a local hotel. We found an ad for it on a calendar about events going on in Amman. Expecting it to be super lame, we decided to just take a peek. It was a gathering of international vendors dishing out samples of ice cream, chocolates, pastries, candies, and chocolate milk. It was basically every kids dream come true. A Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sort of excursion. I have never felt more in my element.
But at this point, I actually want to feel hungry right now...and yes, these are definitely first world problems that I'm complaining about. So that whole plan I had about coming home slim and tan. Definitely. Not. Happening. But that's okay, because I have been having so much fun! The festivities and feasting have been well worth it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Discoveries


More ruins from the citadel
I am naïve. Seriously naïve. I am daily discovering how little I know about this life. For some odd reason I thought I was somewhat cultured, somewhat knowledgeable about the world and the people in it. I thought I comprehended all the opportunities I might be able to seize in the coming years. Boy, have I been wrong. Just in the last few weeks I have realized there are so many ways to accomplish the things that I'm interested in and that my academic career could continue further than I anticipated. Now I don't want to scare my parents into thinking I will be an eternal student, but simply that I have been hearing of opportunities that intrigue me! It seems as though the further you get into your education, the more you realize there is to learn. Just a few months ago I hadn't chosen a major. Now I have, and doors are already opening up for me. But now, I'm not just interested in sociology. I'm interested in development, human rights, gender relations, class inequality, and racial minorities. I simply never knew all these things existed! College really is the place to go to find the things you're passionate about and seek out experiences that can broaden your horizons.
I have always thought men and women grew up to be doctors, lawyers, or teachers. I never imagined that they were really contracting security specialists, petroleum engineers, non-profit managers, or authors. I have some general ideas about how I might like aspects of my life to turn out and am now finding there are a myriad of ways to achieve those. Oh, and no. The picture is not some sort of metaphor for my life being upside down or in ruins or anything of the sort! Just a fun shot from the citadel :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Impressions

Early realizations from Amman:
Citadel Ruins
This is great :)

  • I thought I studied Arabic for a year at the college level, but apparently that was some other language that no one here can understand. So that definitely needs to improve.
  • The words, "Welcome to Jordan!" ring out from all over the place. Strangely enough, it is exclaimed by only men and in exactly the same tone of voice with the same inflections every single time. 
  • Fresh fruits and veggies are the greatest.
  • The yoghurt is fabulous and so cheap.
  • You can find "fahetas," "hamborgers," and chicken dogs around town. No pork to be found, that's for sure.
  • Stray cats and goats are common in these parts, but dogs less so.
  • Our apartment has a "guard" who watches over our area and takes care of maintenance. He already thinks us girls are so dumb. We call him when we need help and so far we have had issues with garbage, funky smells, and locking ourselves into our bedrooms which have all been quickly and easily solved. Sorry to be a bother, Ibrahim!
  • The streets are bereft of women after the sun goes down....as if we didn't appear out of place already.
  • There is definitely a sense of hope and potential here. I feel a slight hum of excitement regarding the future and dreams of these people. The young people here are going places.
  • I love it. It already feels like home.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Turkish Delight


Sunset at St. Nicholas Island
 I am getting pretty sleepy...must be all the tryptophan from all that Turkey! I have had an excellent time here and have had many great experiences beyond any of my expectations. I think the strangest part is that I still do not feel as though I can place of my finger on this country. I can't sum it up with a few short words or really nail down a distinct identity. The diversity is amazing and the blend of eastern and western cultures is impressive. But, since I do want to wrap up this leg of my journey, the following is a list of some highlights:
  • Food! Discovering my love for kebaps and walnut baklava.
  • New friends. Between the local employees at my hostels, students traveling to visit family, bonfires at Atilla's Getaway, and random strangers off the street, I have had some great conversations and enjoyed getting to know a variety of people.
  • It's an artform to make something that delicious
    My Blue Voyage: rolling out of bed to a feast of a breakfast and a swim in the Mediterranean? I think yes.
  • First views of the inside of the Hagia Sophia. I wasn't expecting much (sometimes it's easy to get museum/mosque/ruined out, but this was a powerful experience.
Lowlight:
  • There is only one and it isn't even that bad! I was simply overwhelmed at times by the amount of people in Istanbul. Between the sprawling masses of the city and the hoards of tourists, it was insane rush hour all the time. Even at three in the morning there are heaps of people walking around and doing business. So when it's hot, you're hungry and tired, this crowds of people can be a bit oppressive. That being said, I understand why so many people live in Istanbul. It is an exciting place with so many great things to offer.
Inside the Hagia Sophia
All in all I would definitely count Turkey as a success. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the friendly people, the beautiful ruins, and the outstanding food. I hope, in the future, to explore more of the coastline (including the Lycian Way) as well as delving further east. It is a country of many contradictions that somehow makes it all work. From my experiences, a successful melting pot.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Blue Voyage

Butterfly Valley
Life's tough
After a few days in Fethiye of sunning my self, scooting around on a vespa, and perusing the local markets, I hopped on to a gulet. These boats are well known for their route along the southwestern coast of Turkey, entitled “The Blue Voyage.” The water in this area is so blue you can't even imagine it. The photos do not even come close to depicting how gorgeous it looks. This boat was paradise...let me tell you! For four days my routine consisted of the following:
  • Wake up
  • Dive off the boat for a refreshing morning swim. That'll wake you up!
  • Eat a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast with Nutella, and fresh veggies
  • Jump in the water again
  • Sail to visit ruins/seaside towns/deserted island
  • Lunch.....swim again
  • Read my book/nap
  • Watch the sunset
  • Dinner
  • Turkish dancing/more reading
  • Sleep
  • Repeat
Hiking to the top of St. Nicholas Island for sunset
I know, right? It really can't get much better than that. I am one lucky girl, that's for sure. Our crew was amazing and the other passengers on board were so great. We enjoyed eachother's company and really enjoyed the sunshine.