Photos from Flickr

May 31, 2009 at 11:54 pm (Uncategorized)

I couldn’t figure out how to add an RSS feed of Amman photos from Flickr, but this link should send you to tons of interesting pictures of life in Amman.

This is hopefully a slideshow of those same beautiful photos.


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May 31, 2009 at 11:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Many of you have asked exactly where Jordan is and which countries border it. This map from Wikipedia should answer some of those questions. You can see how close Jordan is to Israel/Palestine; there are apparently three border crossings, each of which apparently involves paperwork, a fair amount of waiting around, and several passport and luggage inspections.

Many journalists working in Iraq use Amman as a base, according to Qasid, and lots of Gulf Arabs vacation in Amman for the summer because it’s cooler than the Persian Gulf. Amman also has better medical facilities than much of the Arab world. I’d love to visit Syria, which borders Jordan to the north, but the visa is expensive and I would need to mail my passport to their embassy in DC, for which it’s kind of too late. Next trip! I hear it’s a great place to study Arabic because it’s affordable and since Damascus is the oldest continually inhabited city in the region, still has layers of history and civilization.


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“Jordan, easy and magnificent”

May 31, 2009 at 10:33 pm (Uncategorized)

Here’s another article from the UK’s Times Online on Jordan, this one from 2007. The desert photo below is of Wadi Rum, one of TE Lawrence’s frequent locales during the Arab Revolt of World War I. It’s within driving distance of Amman (well, most of Jordan is) and I hope to see it. Hopefully the sand won’t clog my camera, though, as it did in Tunisia! Photo is from the Times’ site.


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On Aqaba

May 31, 2009 at 8:19 pm (Uncategorized)

The UK’s Times newspaper talks up Jordan’s resort town of Aqaba as a haven for snorkelers and scuba aficionados. The photo is from the Times’ site.

“Jordan’s upmarket resort of Aqaba is twice as cool as its Red Sea rivals — and half as crowded…”


Aqaba is the town that TE Lawrence famously reached by walking THROUGH the desert. He reached the Turkish guns that were defending that area and was able to dismantle them because they were facing away from him–and toward the water.

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No Mirages Here

May 31, 2009 at 8:44 am (Uncategorized)

Maps of Amman are hard to find. Even Google maps does not map Jordan or its Arab neighbors. Here is a somewhat rudimentary map, which gives some idea of the general layout of my immediate area (near-ish to the center of the map is the faintly-written “Sports Center,” where the Qasid Insitutute is located).

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May 31, 2009 at 6:52 am (Uncategorized)

Hi everyone,

Please don’t call my cell phone number after June 9th; I’ll be using a local cell phone in Amman (or changing the SIM card and keeping my current phone). Either way, email will be the best way to stay in touch.

I do, however, have a fabulous new “netbook” (a small, light, laptop computer that surfs the internet) that I’m very excited about. It’s light, portable, my favorite shade of red, and hopefully effective (it hasn’t arrived yet). I’m proud to say that I didn’t pay sales tax or shipping. Sales tax somehow got to be 9.25% in California while I wasn’t looking. Gah!

In many ways, being on the campaign trail was like having my head in the sand for the better part of the year. In a good way.

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A Cautionary Tale

May 30, 2009 at 6:22 am (Uncategorized)

Lawrence of Arabia: The Battle for the Arab World – Part 1

Shared via AddThis

I just finished both parts of this PBS piece on TE Lawrence. It left me feeling sad and somber that Lawrence was basically an unfulfilled guy even though he’d played such an active role in the desert in World War I. It’s a very different take on his life from the famous movie “Lawrence of Arabia.”

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Royal Twittering

May 29, 2009 at 11:01 am (Uncategorized)

Even the Jordanian royal family has succumbed to the Twitter phenomenon. In a British magazine, Queen Rania opined on Scottish singer Susan Boyle’s newfound fame.

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Conflicts Forum

May 29, 2009 at 10:10 am (Uncategorized)

This New York Times profile of retired MI6 Middle East intelligence guru and negotiator extraordinaire Alistair Crooke immediately made me want to work for his organization in Beirut, called Conflicts Forum. There are similar organizations in the Middle East that I’m also planning to apply to.

The Times piece is called “Ex-Spy Sits Down With Islamists and the West”:
“Alastair Crooke, who worked for the British secret intelligence service, has been organizing confidential meetings between Western diplomats and Islamists for several years…”

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The Lonely Planet

May 29, 2009 at 5:27 am (Uncategorized)

I spent the train ride back from the East Bay today engrossed in the 2009 edition of Lonely Planet’s “Jordan.”  The Lonely Planet series is widely recognized as the best guide for “off-the-beaten-trail” travel, and their tome on Tunisia is what my friend Ginna and I used, for better or worse, for our trek in 1998. This new edition has a great section on ecotravel.

In related news, I’m trying to figure out the cell phone situation for Jordan. The school has offered to rent us phones for a reasonable rate, which I assume is the best deal. I’m also assuming we’d use local Jordanian cell networks at presumably reasonable rates. AT & T charges $2.50 per minute for roaming, so using my own phone is out of the question.

As for laptops, my PC is big and clunky, though new; my Mac is slightly more wieldy but otherwise on its last legs. I briefly fantasized about buying a new Mac until more research revealed that a true upgrade would require spending nearly $2000. So I struck up a conversation with a delightful Israeli guy at the Apple store who made getting the much cheaper iPhone sound like the solution. But then I’d pay an extra $30 per month for data that I couldn’t even use until I got back to the States, and I don’t know whether I could hook up to a local cell network once in Jordan to avoid the exorbitant roaming fees.

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T-minus 12 Days

May 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm (Uncategorized)

I leave for Jordan on June 9th around noon, flying on United Airlines to London’s Heathrow airport, from there to Cairo on British Midland Airlines, and finally to Amman on Egypt Air.

I hope to blog from Heathrow, depending on how awake I am and whether they have free wireless.

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Fit for a Queen

May 28, 2009 at 7:21 am (Uncategorized)

Or at least for an Arabic language student! I will be staying at a women’s hostel in Amman called the Queen Hostel:

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Global Zero

May 28, 2009 at 7:04 am (Uncategorized)

Jordan’s Queen Noor, widow of the previous king, is active in several organizations.  One of them focuses on the eradication of nuclear weapons, called Global ZeroHere is a funny clip from “The Colbert Report,” in which the queen pays a visit to the show (Noor means “light” by the way–my first Arabic vocabulary word!) and persuades Stephen to sign on to her cause:

Queen Noor on “The Colbert Report”

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Lawrence of Arabia 2.0

May 28, 2009 at 6:53 am (Uncategorized)

References to T.E. Lawrence are inevitable, since I’ll be spending the summer in his old stomping ground, including where some of the scenes of the film “Lawrence of Arabia ” were shot.

Do you remember the railroad he kept blowing up, to block the Turks?  That railroad is still there, and it’s still in use.  Apparently few, if any, upgrades have been made.

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Cat Versus Bag; Cockatoo Gets Down (videos)

May 28, 2009 at 6:49 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve been getting back in touch with my inner animal-lover, lately, and this silly video of a cat trying to tackle a cardboard box with more acrobatic aplomb than the average gymnast, perhaps, gave me a good laugh.

This second video is the one scientists attribute to proving that birds have a sense of rhythm. I found it simply hilarious (and I usually don’t recommend animal videos).

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Getting Stuck

May 28, 2009 at 12:59 am (Uncategorized)

I wanted to get some immunizations before going to Jordan, and after lots of web research, settled on a travel clinic in San Francisco that was well-reviewed on Yelp.

I had a great experience with these people. The front desk staff were efficient and friendly. Once my name was called, I sat with a meticulous nurse practitioner (and fellow Obama supporter) who went through a list of vaccinations, explaining why she did or did not recommend each one.

So I ended up with just two: typhoid and hepatitis A, having received my routine diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis booster at a regular check-up the week before. The prices were the same as other area clinics, and the clinic fee was a bit less.

I even got to take home a packet of in-depth travel health issues, including descriptions of some pretty exotic diseases, which made for interesting reading on the train home :-). I’m looking forward to NOT coming down with Japanese encephalitis or hemhorragic fever this summer.

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A Dusty Empire

May 28, 2009 at 12:26 am (Uncategorized)

I will be staying at the Council for British Research in the Levant for my first week in Jordan.  The Brits really got their hands into everything, geographically speaking! The Council has a hostel that is open to students at a decent price. 

I arrive in Amman a week before school starts (it was easier to find a cheap flight that way). The photo is one of the rooms at the hostel. I’m looking forward to possibly meeting some interesting scholars and learning about more resources in the area as I adjust to the time change.


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Oh, Olbermann

May 28, 2009 at 12:24 am (Uncategorized)

If only MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann had taken Rush Limbaugh up on his challenge to Keith not to mention his name on the air for an entire month. 

I don’t believe Limbaugh deserves any larger of an audience than he already has, and feuding with him just fans the flames. While Olbermann’s rivalries with Bill O’Reilly and Limbaugh have been humorous, I think he’s at times spent too much time and energy refuting ridiculous claims and giving legitimacy to hot air.

At the risk of adding still more hot air, here is the video in which Olbermann responds to Limbaugh.

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Inaugural Blog: from the heart of the Levant

May 28, 2009 at 12:13 am (Uncategorized)

This is the first post to a blog I’m thinking of maintaining while in Jordan to keep interested friends and family in the loop.  We’ll see how it evolves over time and whether I have the time to add to it. In the meantime, here is the link to the private language school I will be attending, the Qasid Institute.

Thank you and welcome!  I also have yet to add my Inauguration photos and stories online, so maybe I’ll do that here too (if I can figure out how).

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