Sunday, May 27, 2012


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


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


Yes, that is a gigantic malt ball
Josh eating'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


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 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.
  • 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.  


While I'm already back in Jordan, I still have a couple more things to share about Turkey! It has been a bit of a whilrwind so I'm feeling a bit behind.
Ephesus. An ancient Greek and later Roman city located near the modern day Turkish city of Selçuk. I reached Selçuk by overnight bus from Istanbul. I only woke up to a middle aged Turkish man stroking my hair and face once, so I would definitely consider it a successful journey. Upon reaching Selçuk, I checked into a wonderful guesthouse just outside of town called Atilla's Getaway. This backpacker's paradise is fabulous! And yes, I recognize that this sounds like an advertisement, but I seriously had a great time there and would recommend it to anyone. Mostly it was the great and interesting people I met while there, but the chilled out atmostphere, amazing barbecues, and pool definitely helped. 
A young Australian guy, Matt, joined me in exploring the beautiful ruins and countryside that make up Ephesus. Despite the hoards of tourists in some areas, the ruins were amazing. We were able to find a few quiet places to stop, take it all in, and eat a banana. 
I didn't really know much about the city except for my limited knowledge of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, but I was thoroughly impressed with the architecture and ingenuity still on display thousands of years later. After about four blazing hot hours of ruin roaming, Matt and I were beat. A celebratory banana atop one of the ruins concluded our exploration. We finally headed back to Atilla's Getaway for some relaxation and delicius barbecue. Turkey has everything, doesn't it?
In keeping with the history, here is a favorite scripture from the Epistle to the Ephesians:
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:12-13)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

(Sort of) Home Again

Alright folks, I'm back in Amman! I've already had two great days here with some fellow BYU students and am very excited to get started on work/life here. There has been much feasting upon hummus, falafel, fresh veggies, and fruit salads. I am quite happy to be back here. I'm borrowing a friends laptop now, so I have to make it quick. But I should be getting mine on Monday so updates will be coming then. Just now that I am happy, safe,and full of delicious food!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Cisterns and the Sea

Another fabulous day in the European Capital of Culture and Sports (that's a pretty impressive feat if you ask me). Last night, I met a nice Australian guy named Tristan who had plans to visit the Basilica cisterns just a few blocks from our hostel. We had another nice breakfast on the rooftop terrace before visiting the site which can be seen in From Russia with Love and Assassin's Creed (the latter of which will make Micah proud). It was beautiful and cool underground. The cisterns were used to supply water to the palace and other buildings in the area, but were only opened to the public in the 1980s.
We then strolled along the busy streets (are there any streets in this city that aren't busy?) until we reached the waterfront. Here, we jumped aboard a cruise of the Bosphorus. WOW. The boat took us all the way up to the, surprisingly named Bosphorus Bridge. We were able to see some beautiful houses, cafes, and parks along the waterfront.
Next, a stroll through the Spice Bazaar provided some delicious Turkish treats. This place is a wonderland for people who love desserts (though I'm not sure I know anyone who doesn't like dessert, right?). As we were exiting the jam packed stalls of the bazaar we stumbled upon a most interesting sight.....the set of the upcoming James Bond movie. I searched high and low for the delicious Daniel Craig, but was only able to spot a few stunt cars and camera crew. Still pretty exciting and I was able to quickly snap this photo before the security teams swarming the set spotted me. Everyone was in a bit of a tizzy about the filming, so excitement was in the air. All in all, a wondrous day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

East Meets West

Awaking in Istanbul. What a dream. I enjoyed a beautiful breakfast on the rooftop terrace of my hostel before wandering around the old historic center of Sultanahmet a bit. An old family friend, Ian, and his lovely girlfriend named Jen met me at my hostel a few hours later for lunch and a day out on the town. First, we headed down to the waterfront near Galata Bridge for fish sandwiches and good people watching. To burn off some of our lunch, we trekeed up the hill on the opposite side of the water to Galata Tower, part of the fortifications around the city built in the 1300s. The views from the top of the tower were stunning. Despite the panorama of rooftops and structures, we concluded that I still have seen only a small fraction of this enormous city. Bah!
Next, we strolled through both the Spice & Grand Bazaar. There were shop after shop of Turkish delight, handicrafts, spices, and anything else you could imagine. It was packed and very impressive.
After wading through the hords of people to see as much as we could, we ventured back to Sultanahmet to view the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (better known as the Blue Mosque). This structure was built in the early 17th century and has the unique quality of being the only mosque in the world with six minarets. Quite an interesting story about that one. The outside is impressive and the inside is even more stunning. There is beautiful stained glass and calligraphy that is unlike anything I have ever seen.
Following this, Ian, Jen, and I strolled through the district behind the Blue Mosque and found ourselves a nice little kebab shop for dinner and dessert. It's official, team, I am addicted to Baklava. I'm actually considering staying a few more days here just so I can eat more. I also found another one that is a close runner up. I'm not sure of the name, but it's shortbread, nutella (yes, I am in heaven here), and pistachios. I just realized I haven't taken any pictures of them yet. I will get on that, no worries. But it absolutely blew me away!
I said farewell to my friends, feeling quite content and satisfied (in my belly especially) and returned to my hostel for some backgammon and impromptu Turkish lessons from the employees here.This city is so interesting. I really can't seem to put my finger on it. I know it has something to do with the mixture of old and new, conservative and liberal, religiously fervant and cosmopolitan, but I can't quite seem to narrow it down. Quite intriguing, right? But I will continue to ponder throughout the next couple days as I explore even further.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Off the Grid

Things here in Turkey have been amazing and super busy. Internet is a bit dodgy and I'm headed on a boat today from Fethiye to Demre! Won't be able to update for at least a few days. Sorry guys....I'm gonna be too busy laying on a boat, swimming in the Mediterranean, and hiking through ruins. But I'll post as soon as I can. See ya!
Oh and a quick shout out to my good friends, Carol and Todd. Congratulations you two! I'm so excited to see you again when you're old married people. I love you and wish you all the best :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

What a day, what a day. I left lovely Amman behind for Istanbul, one of the greatest and largest cities in the world (plus, the only one to straddle two continents). The flight was quick and easy, just how I like it, despite my alarming lack of sleep the night before. After arriving at Ataturk Airport, I was able to catch the metro and tram into Sultanahmet, a beautiful district of the city with tons of great sites. This is the point where we need to establish the fact that this city is big...I mean REALLY big. It is home to well over million people and is over 2,000 square miles. I honestly have never seen this many people condensed in one place. It's pretty overwhelming.
After getting settled, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit an old family friend who has recently moved here. Ian and I met for lunch at a cafe near his work where we ate delicious pastries and enjoyed people watching and catching up. Following that, he invited me to come visit the English classes he teaches here in the city. I had an amazing time speaking with his students and getting to know more about Istanbul from their perspective. They gave me great advice about where to go and what to eat around the city. Finally, we headed over to Taksim square where we met up with Ian's girfriend, Jen, and her fellow teacher, Begum. We had great fun watching live music and enjoying the mass amounts of people out on the town.
 I stayed out surprisingly late for someone who received about an hour of sleep the night before, but we were having a good time in this amazing city. After finding our way back to Taksim Square from the maze that is Istaklal Street, we found that the furnicular and metro that were supposed to get me back home were closed. What the heck?! In a city with this many people, you'd think they would run at all hours of the night. Luckily, we had Begum, who is from Turkey, with us to find out where we should go and how best to get there. We caught a bus and then a taxi together to get back to my district. A quick jump into my comfy clothes later and I was OUT. What a great introduction to this city. Loving it so far :)