Thursday, June 21, 2012

Friday June 15th (HAPPY BIRTHDAY NADINE OMG 16! AH!) and Saturday June 16th:

Last night we stayed at the Oscar Hotel in Petra, as the name entails, the hotel entranceway was adorned with giant floor-to-ceiling Oscar statues. I was too exhausted both at 1:30 am when we arrived  and at 8am when we left to take a pic so you'll have to use your imagination for this one. 

We left for the ruins at 8am to beat the heat (it was about 110 degrees by noon). Here are some pictures of the walk in, some rocksClaire with a horse and carriage that we were NOT jealous of (bumping around in one of those for 15 minutes sounds like something I should get paid to do, not something I should have to pay for), and jack sparrow. We also me this Bedouin who is in the Jordanian army and spoke with us for a while about the relationship between the Bedouins and the Jordanian government (whuteva, they do what they want) and managed to mix in a few vulgar jokes as well. 

We left Petra around 1 (when it was 115 degrees out and hundreds of tourists were pouring in, sucks to be them) and finally headed to Aqaba!!!! We arrived at the InterContinental (as Waed always says, only the best for conn college, and this really was THE BEST) around 2 and I immediately herded to the beach with Claire and Sarah. We got burgers on the beach (kind of expensive but so worth it) and stayed on the beach as late as possible (it may have been 110 degrees but we spent most of our time the water and couldn't have been happier). After the beach we showered (great water pressure, disappointingly cold) spent some time on our balcony (the view), and headed to a seafood place for dinner. The food was awesome and we were all stuffed and exhausted but we were only in Aqaba for one night so we headed to the souq (market) to buy some gifts and check out the scene. The store owners we met we very nice and not nearly as pushy as I was expecting. We also had funny experiences with our cab drivers; on both trips we asked the divers to turn on the meters but they told us not to worry. The trip there the driver asked us what we wanted to pay and we said one dinar which he agreed to, fair but a bit on the low side, on the way back the driver told us it was free, we clarified that we heard him correctly, thanked him and went into the hotel but apparently we were supposed to argue and insist he take our money. Woops.

The beds were SO comfortable and our room was so cold dad would have been able to sleep in it-it was also the first time in 3 weeks I've used a blanket. We woke up at 8 to get as much beach time as possible in before our 1pm departure and we are currently in the last few minutes of our 7 hr drive back (an added hour due to heat, and an added hour due to graduation traffic). Unfortunately, its back to school tomorrow :(.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thursday June 14th:

We met downstairs at 9:00 am and everyone was vey excited about the trip. We began the day with a stop for breakfast at a restaurant called Hashim which was not very far from our apts. I am not a huge breakfast fan but everything about this meal rocked. We had falafel, hummus, fool (fava beans) and of course, tea all served with bread we had picked up bread from the bread place next-door. 

All sufficiently stuffed, we boarded the bus for the 4 hr drive to Wadi Rum. Most of us slept the whole trip since we have been so busy with excursions, classes, and homework everyone is pretty exhausted. We arrived at Wadi Rum around 3, booked "jeeps" (pickup trucks with benches in the back), and watched a very poetic documentary about Wadi Rum (a national park). At the time it was too hot to go into the desert (115 degrees is apparently considered a "cool" day) so we headed to a campsite to hang out for an hour before our ride through the desert. There is no good way to describe our trip so pictures will have to suffice. We stopped four times, once to climb up this huge exhausting mountain (by "we" I mean everyone else did and I stopped half way), once to look at these carvings that are from thousands of years ago, once to catch this great view that doesn't photograph too well, and once at Lawrence of Arabia's campsite.

After our trip we watched the sunset and headed back to the campsite for dinner. I'm not totally convinced we were served actual Bedouin food because, being as picky as I am, I was VERY happy to discover that dinner was everything I could have wanted, rice, chicken, hummus, baba ganoush, salad, potatoes, and Jordanian style malfoof with a macaroon-like desert. Following dinner there was some dancing but the real party started when John and Claire were taken away without an explanation and brought back dressed in Bedouin wedding garb-hilarious. It was basically like being at disney, everyone wanted the picture taken with the happy couple. Following the "wedding" we left for the 1.5 hr trip to Petra, however we got a flat tire in the middle of the desert not far from the campsite. Two different people have stopped to help us change the trie (Omar the 20 yr old police officer and a mini market owner), more proof of how awesome jordanians are. As of right now the tire is still being changed....there are A LOT of stars in the desert (duh).

Saturday June 9th: Part II: Wedding day

We woke up at the usual 8am to go to some police station to do something with our passports and whatever. It was long, hot, early, and they only needed us for our fingerprints. We got back to the apartments at noon/oneish, ate, and headed out for our hair appointments with Waed (I'm not one to get my hair done except for my annual/biannual haircuts but Waed asked if we wanted to join and why would I say no to that!?) When we arrived at the hair place Waed got in a fight with the woman who worked there because once she saw our (american) hair she decided to double or triple the prices (she wouldn't be able to know the price for sure until she was done) sooo we walked out and Waed did our hair in her apartment which was great! Before we knew it it was time to leave, Muhammed came into our apartment minutes before we were supposed to be downstairs and I was still in my pjs (HAD to take a catnap) so of course I was in trouble buttttt I was still the first girl on the bus so ha!!

We arrived at the wedding hall and the whole experience was very similar yet very different from an american wedding. First off, there was no religious ceremony like there are at most weddings in the US. Secondly, the party was at a wedding hall filled with other weddings so when we arrived we had to ask what floor "our" wedding was on. This part of the wedding was entirely segregated so we said goodbye to the boys (who spent the night sitting around and eating mensif-slow cooked lamb and rice) and headed up to the party.

The room was huge and very elaborate. There was no food at the women's party (REALLY?!) but lots and lots of dancing. We were treated like part of the family which made it such a great experience but also meant that we were expected to dance much much more than anyone else. At one point I noticed that Sarah was dancing alone with two aunts and she looked a little trapped so I headed over to save her which somehow eventually lead to everyone leaving the dance floor to sit and eat cake while I was stuck dancing the entire time, fun but so RUDE.

The evening itself felt like an american wedding on fast forward. Once everyone arrived the music began and the two couples came out and danced with the family for one song. The next song was the "first dance" to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" (duh) and the song right after was the cake cutting (of a fake cake, like not the one that was served but an actual fake cake). The rest of the night (only about 2 hrs max) was a lot of dancing (especially for me!) and it was a great time.

After the wedding we finally got to be a part of one of the five thousand (ok not really but we see at last two a day!) car caravans. After weddings, graduations, birthdays, anything really, people drive through the streets of their hometowns and cities and honk the horn, scream our the window, and literally sit outside/on the car to celebrate. It was fun and the boys had an awesome time but after so much dancing (and no diner!) the girls were all pretty pooped (and by pretty pooped I mean I was exhausted and very cranky) so we were not really as into it as the boys were and were more concerned with getting dinner.

At the very end of the night we went to a restaurant, I was too tired to figure out the menu so I asked Muhammed to order me anything with rice and chicken. I ended up getting a HUGE meal with slow cooked chicken, salad, pita, and rice, SO GOOD. It ended up lasting me for days and has become my new favorite daily meal!

Friday June June 8th: Wedding Night Part I: Ta'lileh

Knowing that tonight was going to be a late night, and probably the only day we would be able to sleep in for the rest of the six week trip (actually though), Claire and I decided that we deserved to sleep in and didn't set an alarm. We woke up at 2. Woops. We lazed about until 7 at which point we decided it was time to get dressed and get breakfast/lunch/dinner (bruncer?) so we could be ready for our 8pm departure.

A brief Jordanian wedding overview: here the bride and the groom have separate engagement parties (no bachelor /bachelorette parties). The bride's engagement party is a few weeks before the wedding and consists of a big dinner (and maybe dancing?) and only women are invited. The groom, however, does attend and when Muhammed told us about Waed's engagement party it sounded like the most horrifying/terrible experience since he was surrounded by hundreds of women who were all staring, judging and discussing his every move.

The groom's engagement party (also known as the night party of Ta'lileh) takes place the night before the wedding at a large outdoor venue. Both men and women attend (the bride does not).  The men dance "Debke" on one side while the women sit and watch on the other. We were of course the first ones there, since two of Waed's brothers are the ones getting married, and we snagged these front and center seats. The whole occasion is pretty informal since it is an open event that anyone in the village can attend. Since there were two grooms Waed and Muhammed said they were expecting a turn out of hundreds of people but since a close relative passed away right before the wedding only a few hundred showed up, still a sizable party. Prior to our departure from the apartments, we met with Waed and Muhammed who told us what to expect/what to wear etc for the nigh party. They also mentioned that since the party is open to the entire village, there is always a chance that someone, out of sheer happiness, brings and fires a gun into the air and we shouldn't be concerned if it happens. Of course, within maybe half an hour of the party starting, a man who was dancing right next to Bo unholstered his gun and fired a few shots into the air. Bo said it was "awesome," and thanks to the segregation, all of the girls were a safe 200 feet away so no need to worry.

The boys danced the entire night and had a great time, I however was not jealous and enjoyed hanging out, watching, talking with lots of young girls, and drinking coffee prepared by the "bartender". This man came around serving an "indian dates" juice which I did not enjoy because it tasted faintly similar to pedia care (that medicine ruins everything) but everyone else really liked it. There was one boy in particular loved the juice so much he drank it until he began to throw it back up into his cup only to drink it again (the juice and the puke, just incase you missed that mental image). Claire snapped this picture of him, two hours later, with juice cup in hand. At the end of the night after almost everyone had left Waed's brothers and parents came over and we all danced together for a few minutes before heading home.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday June 1st:

First, the BBQ pictures as promised: the view, the laides, Claire and Molly making kabobs, Mohammed grilling, and the food!

Today we visited Jerash, Um Qays, and Ajlun, all of which have Greco-Roman ruins. It is incredible to think that they were not only constructed so long ago, but had managed to remain in tact for such a long time.  We fisted visited Um Qays, then Ajlun, then Jerash, here is a map of our trip that I stole from Claire.

Sorry Dad, there were no exhibits or signs detailing the historical significance of these cities so you'll have to refer to their wikipedia pages.


Um Qays: Lake Tiberius/The Sea of Galilee, where "the four corners of the Middle East" meet (Israel, Palestine, Syria and Jordan). Here is a picture, the mountains on the right are the Golan Heights. There was a large amphitheater, and many ruins, and some mosaic floors peeking through he dirt. We also found PUPPIES, this scary looking bug, poppies, and saw some incredible stonework.

Ajlun: The Ajlun castle had beautiful halls on the inside and great views of the surrounding city from the top. This man was selling DELICIOUS tea and coffee.

Jerash: The most impressive of them all (in my opinion), here is a picture of the gates and the baptismal area as well as the main "road." Another amphitheater but this one was much larger, complete with a stage and all. If you stand in the very middle of the amphitheater and whisper it can bea heard from any part of the audience, tested and true. At the amphitheater there were two Bedouins who started playing hit singles like yankee doodle and when the saints go marching in on bagpipes and drums, probably one of the more confusing cultural combinations I have seen.

After our long day of sightseeing in the HOT HOT desert we had this awesome meal and everyone slept on the way home.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thursday May 31st:

Dinner at Waed's parent's house last night was amazing. Her parents live in a beautiful house right outside of Irbid in an area called "Mother of the Wind". It is higher than Irbid so from the house there is a great view of the whole city. We met the majority of both her and Muhammed's families, all of whom were so nice and welcoming. Many of them spoke english but there was still a lot of arabic spoken. We spent the first part of the night gathered in the living room. The food was obviously incredible; we ate mensif, Jordan's national dish of slow cooked lamb and rice served with yogurt, essentially Metz Papa's favorite meal complete with hot sugar-filled mint tea. After dinner we went up and sat on the roof for a few hours, I forgot to take a picture of the view so you'll have to wait until our next visit.

Today was essentially a "friday" because the weekends here are Friday and Saturday so we spent the afternoon relaxing on the roof (view)instead of doing homework at B12 like we usually do. After a few hours Waed's brother Muhammed (as opposed to her husband Muhamed) showed up and told us we had to do something fun for our first weekend in Jordan. He asked if we would be interested in BBQing with some of his friends. Obviously we were interested as it was a food-related activity so he called his friends to pick us up. We went about 30 minutes out of the city and had a delicious dinner of chicken kabobs, hummus, grilled vegetables and pita. Pictures to come in the next post.
So going back to dinner at Waed's parents house for a second, Claire spaced and broke the cardinal rule and complimended Muhammed's sister on her ring, which of course meant that she gave it to claire. Here is a pic of clairey and her new ring!!! Also, an adorable picture of Waed's Mother and Sister with a heart-shaped potato.

Wednesday May 30th:

Things in jordan are going VERY well. The flight over was 12 hours long, thankfully I slept for most of it. All went well in the airport and then it was a one hour bus ride from aman to irbid. We are living in a brand new (still partially under construction) apt building and have 4 people to each apt with 2 people per room. Claire and I are (obviously) sharing a room, here is a pic of everyone in our kitchen/living room, and our bathroom

Jordan has a major water problem, and in terms of water it is the 5th poorest country in the world so there is zero water pressure in the shower. the only way to wash my hair is to awkwardly squat and somehow get my head under the bottom faucet, slightly annoying but at least it is a great calf workout.

Our classes have been going well, we have 4 hours of class every day which is kind of exhausting but we have a different teacher and a different subject each hour. We are taking fusah (modern standard Arabic), Amiya (jordanian colloquial Arabic, a listening class and a media class, all of which are going well thus far. 

We have been going to this cafe "b12" every day to do homework, it has wifi, great hummus, minimal air conditioning, and a great view so we have been reluctant to try different places but are planning to explore more sometime this weekend.

Tonight we are having dinner at waed's parents house (my Arabic professor from conn) and meeting her family's well as muhammeds family (waed's husband, who is also a professor at conn). It will be great to meet the families before we go to waed's two brothers weddings in a few weeks!! We were told to bring jackets since her house is apparently on top of a big hill with nothing else around it so we are going to spend most of the night n the roof where you can see all of irbid. Waed's uncle and aunt are making dinner which will be delishh and is a big honor in Jordan, especially since there will be about 30 people there tonight.

On Friday we are going on a trip to visit Ajlun, Jersha, and Um Qays all of which are cities a little south of irbid (since Jordan is so small almost all of our trips are only for one day and cover two or three cities.)