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 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!" 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 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.