Friday, June 29, 2012


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


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 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. 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.