Third Time Not a Charm

June 30, 2009 at 9:36 pm (Uncategorized)

So my third Greek salad was not as fantastic as the first two were. This one was at “Old Views,” which has a spectacular terrace and beautiful interior. The first two and truly divine Greek salads were at Books@Cafe and Mileva Restaurant, both near 1st Circle in Jebel Amman.

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Fulbright, Starbright?

June 30, 2009 at 8:59 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m thinking about applying for a Fulbright grant.

Other than studying Arabic around the Middle East for the foreseeable future, I don’t have a research proposal! Hurdle number one.

Hurdle number two. The medical exam (Fulbright includes medical insurance so I’m presuming they won’t cover folks with pre-existing conditions).

Hurdle number three. Having spent recent time abroad. As with everything, I’m hopeful that if I can frame my story properly, in perspective, this won’t be an issue.

Pro: Being a Fulbright recipient prob has many perks, not the least of which is the alumni network and spending months abroad doing something meaningful on someone else’s dime.

Con: The program wouldn’t start for almost a year, and while I think I’d be a good candidate, I don’t have a research proposal in mind.

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The Boss

June 30, 2009 at 8:53 pm (Uncategorized)

Some of you are following my Jordan experience on this blog, others on my Facebook account. I’ll try to keep the two relatively similar.

Here’s the video clip of when Barack Obama came to our staff training in Ohio. One of the best moments of my life. He’s truly a father figure. I’m standing fairly near the podium, to the left, but I don’t think I’m on video. He did shake my hand, though, as he left!

The video quality is best as a smaller image, as it was taken by cell phone camera, but I think you have to go to Google’s video site to get that smaller size.

As if this weren’t enough, I got to see Bruce “the Boss” Springsteen at Inauguration, playing “The Rising”! That was such a heady moment, a heady day, and a heady weekend.

For one brief, shining, sliver of a moment, it was as if we’d all reached the Promised Land.

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Cross-eyed

June 30, 2009 at 8:37 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m really tired. Much more to say but it must wait.

Goodnight to all!

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Taxi Circus

June 30, 2009 at 8:36 pm (Uncategorized)

Today was an interesting day, taxi-wise. I was unceremoniously dumped out of one taxi when the driver discovered I couldn’t speak much Arabic.

THAT has never happened before. I said I wanted to go to “C-Town,” which is only one of the biggest stores in the entire capitol. The word in English is the same as in Arabic, so I don’t know what that guy was smoking.

The next guy must have been the same cracked-out driver that Annie had this morning. He reminded me of the Billy Zane character from “Dead Calm,” complete with bad teeth. He drove painfully slowly and would periodically slam on the brakes for no reason I could discern.

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The Heat is [back] on

June 30, 2009 at 8:27 pm (Uncategorized)

Oh dear. I definitely spoke too soon, because the heat I’ve been swooning over is back.

When I stepped off the airplane in Amman, I remember the climate felt just a bit more humid than California, but not enough to actually qualify as “humid” (i.e. not like the east coast of the US in summer).

We’re pretty close to the Mediterranean Sea–separated only by Israel/Palestine and a bit of Jordan, so it’s much cooler here than in the Gulf (i.e. Saudi, etc). That’s not saying much, though, since it’s in the 120s there, at times.

What complicates my perception is the fact that we have a dress code and I try to dress according to it as much as possible. This means long sleeves, high-ish neckline, and long pants or a long skirt. This frequently means more than one layer, and even though I only wear cotton, that’s a lot of clothing.

Objectively, it’s in the 90s pretty much every day here. What that translates to, though, is me perspiring pretty much all the time and therefore grouchy almost all of the time. It does “cool down” at night (right now it’s 11:30pm and 84 degrees ) and there is a breeze occasionally during the day. It doesn’t cool down like the SF Bay Area does at night, however.

I went to a beautiful restaurant terrace this afternoon, with an incredible view of several Amman hills. I could see the Roman ruins to my left and the black-and-white mosque to my right. And above the hills, to my dismay, lay a thick band of pollution, which I assume goes along with heat. The restaurant was right next to the Royal Film Commission, which has interesting stuff going on a lot. There’s an upcoming Arabic/French film festival coming up.

And, in other 1st circle-related news, I’ve made an appointment at the Turkish bath!

I hope you’re well, Chris!

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Hi Julian

June 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm (Uncategorized)

Yes! I am updating my blog in between classes.

🙂

Julian is one of eleven students in my beginning Arabic class in Amman. I bring my spiffy red “netbook” to class because I’m such an internet/email/blog/news/social network junkie that I like to check up on the world in between classes.

Today, in between two of Ustaadh Amer’s humorous rant-and-rave bootcamp sessions, Julian innocently inquired whether I was updating my blog. I thought it would be fun to give him a slightly hard time about it, so here it is!

Your claim to fame, Julian (at least the one I know about :-))!

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No Napkins

June 29, 2009 at 6:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Jordanians are not big on napkins. Instead, boxes of kleenex are present at every food table and as well in our classrooms at Qasid.

I have literally never seen a paper napkin here. A cloth napkin, once. But really, why complicate matters? A kleenex is just as effective as a napkin, except I end up using a couple more tissues than I would a napkin.

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“Muslim Chic”

June 28, 2009 at 6:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Gioia Diliberto: Muslim Chic

I couldn’t agree more. Muslim women and teens often dress to kill around here, and I find myself taking fashion inspiration from them. Article from Huffington Post.

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The Amman Gap

June 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm (Uncategorized)

Goethe-Institut Euro-Mediterranean Academy for Young Journalists – Wealth and Poverty in Amman.

An extremely well-written article about the divide between rich and poor in Amman from the Goethe Institut’s website.

Oh, Abdoun!  I most experienced this tension at and around the American Embassy.

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The Amman Marriott

June 28, 2009 at 5:46 pm (Uncategorized)

Much of our class is planning to meet at the Amman Marriott to watch the USA v Brazil soccer match. I’m looking forward to seeing a new part of town and am currently ogling the photo of the pool at the Marriott on their website.

I want nothing more than to submerge myself in a blue body of water, having grown up in a pool, more or less. I’m catching up on Al-Jazeera’s reporting on the Taliban, which is even more depressing than usual.

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Amman Mourning

June 28, 2009 at 3:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Mideast Jordan Michael Jackson

This is one of the many posters promoting Michael Jackson’s was-to-have-been concert series in London, now with a black band to mark his passing.

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Dancing in Traffic

June 28, 2009 at 3:03 pm (Uncategorized)

No, not really. In fact, not at all. But Doug, Jessica, and I ventured out into downtown Amman traffic in order to cross the street to the Sports City complex. You can stand by the side of the road, looking for all the world as if you’re planning to cross, but no one will stop until you actually wade in.

I felt like we were daring them to hit us. Once we’d stood long enough to realize that no driver was going to stop for us (except for all the taxis honking their horns, thinking we needed a ride) we stepped into traffic. Lo and behold, cars slowed and stopped as we crossed. It’s a leap of faith, though, literally, since you have to start moving before they stop, and you don’t actually know if they’re going to stop until they do.

The army shooed us out of the gym area, it seemed like they were doing an exercise of some kind. Jessica and Doug wanted to find the running track, so we walked further into the complex until we reached still more soldiers, who told us the track had closed for the day. After a few rounds of fractured Arabic on our parts (Jessica probably the least fractured), we turned around, waded back through traffic, hailed a cab, and headed home.

He let Jessica off first, then Doug, then myself.

We’re planning to rendez-vous at the Marriott hotel later for the US/Brazil soccer match. I am starting to resent my curfew; I didn’t think it would be a big deal but now I’m starting to meet people and go out more.

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The little kingdom that could

June 28, 2009 at 10:54 am (Uncategorized)

Jordan has so much going for it, in spite of its challenges and limited resources, and it clearly strives to make the best of it. One of the reasons I think it’s a 2nd world country rather than 3rd world is that it works so hard on relatively “extravagant,” i.e. higher on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, projects like environmental conservation.

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Oh, Lebanon

June 27, 2009 at 8:34 pm (Uncategorized)

How poignant. Rafik Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri, is the prime minister-designate. Rafik Hariri was the beloved prime minister who was assassinated, most people believe by the Syrians, several years ago.

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The Tche Tche Cafe

June 27, 2009 at 5:22 pm (Uncategorized)

Is where I’m enjoying the other divine Greek salad of the Rainbow Street, the other is at Mileva Restaurant. This is where I left my Visa card yesterday, but I didn’t know it until, as I walked past today, the guy outside valet parking gesticulated frantically and said “Visa!” Bewildered, I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about and waited for someone to translate. All the waiters were aware of the situation and even greeted me by name.

Turns out I’d left my Visa card here yesterday! I never do things like that. The manager came down the stairs with my card to my profuse thanks. He said I was welcome anytime, and would I like a complimentary soda? In retrospect I should have taken him up on it out of etiquette, but I was on my way to do homework and explained as much.

I’ll check my bill to be sure there aren’t any fraudulent charges, but I can tell you right now I don’t believe there will be any. People treat each other like family here. I’ve never seen such treatment in the states.

Once a taxi driver observed a fellow taxi broken down by the side of the road. He asked me if I could wait one minute, and I said yes. He pulled over to ask the other driver if everything was ok, and the guy gestured yes, so we continued on our way. Yesterday, we passed a coffee stand and the cabbie asked if it would be OK to stop. I said sure. He brought me a free fruit drink before buying his own coffee!

Yesterday I was waiting in front of King Hussein Cancer Center for Mohamad and his friends. I sat down on some steps in the shade. A woman came over to give me a piece of cardboard to sit on. Moments later, a man came over with what looked like a prayer rug for me also to sit on.

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Broken Heat

June 27, 2009 at 5:10 pm (Uncategorized)

The heat of the last EVERY SINGLE DAY SINCE I’VE BEEN HERE has finally broken, and I’m relaxing into the mild mid-70 degree clime. To celebrate, I wore a short-sleeved shirt and my hair down. What a relief.

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The Jews and the Palestinians

June 26, 2009 at 11:05 pm (Uncategorized)

I don’t understand how two groups of such wonderful, loving people as the Jews and the Palestinians can together create such quasi-apocalyptic hatred and violence as they do.

I’ve recently become friends with a Jordanian named Mohamad. He’s a great guy. He’s sweet, kind, and considerate. We met on the bus back from Aqaba. His family invited me over for dinner and we talked about all kinds of things. Mohamad’s older brother lives down the street, and he and his wife and their 10-month old daughter joined us for dinner. Mohamad’s brothers Malek and Mahmood were there as well, as was their mother. His father was next door with his second wife and their two children.

Mohamad’s family are Palestinians who were kicked out of their homes during one of the wars with Israel. What I didn’t realize is that they are not allowed to return, not even to visit or even just to say hello. Furthermore, they consider Jerusalem “their city” and are not allowed to visit it either. Mohamad’s family has a photo of the beautiful mosque in Jerusalem on their wall because it’s so special to them. It’s one of Islam’s holiest sites.

I think the Israeli/Palestinian conflict may simply not be solvable, as I don’t believe their interests are reconcilable. Not if Netanyahu’s recent speech is any indication. It goes without saying that the Jewish people have experienced millenia of suffering, but it seems to me that they point to this fact as justification for creating a Jewish state out of violence and conquest.

Another problem is that Israel took Palestinian land by force. There is no way that is going to end well. It doesn’t matter how “right” the Jewish people are in claiming Israel as their homeland; taking land and livelihoods from millions of well-meaning, loving and hard-working people is hardly the foundation for building a peaceful nation.

I’ve honestly never paid much attention to this conflict because it seemed never to change. Now that I’m here I am learning. What is so confusing is that the Jewish folks I know back home are so wonderful and the Palestinians I’ve met here are so wonderful. Yet they demonize each other, and in one of the most holy and most storied places on earth.

Mohamad’s family are just wonderful people; so loving of each other and so welcoming of me. Everyone takes turns looking after little Jenna, who at almost one year has enough energy to keep everyone busy.

Across the street from Qasid is a fantastic felafel joint that bursts at the seams when students rush over for lunch between classes. I’ve had several delicious lunches for $1. Behind the felafel place is a tiny store that sells drinks and snacks. The guy who works there is the sweetest old man. Like everyone else here, the first thing he said when he found out I’m American was, “Welcome! Welcome to Jordan. You are welcome.”

Now that I know how to say “Where are you from?” in Arabic, I ask it of just about everyone, my own informal demographic poll. I quickly learned that tons of people here are Palestinians who have managed to make a livelihood in exile. So this older man is as sweet as can be. He said he was from Palestine (“Philistine” in Arabic), and asked if I had visited there. I said no, but I hoped to. He said it’s very beautiful and perhaps we’ll meet one another in Jerusalem some day.

It just about broke my heart because it’s his way of saying he wants to go back. But what really strikes me is the acceptance and the grace with which the Palestinians I’ve met face there situation. I’ve seen some anger and frustration from one person, but the rest are fairly philosophical. I haven’t seen much bitterness. It’s remarkable. It’s almost like people are so accustomed to suffering in this region that they don’t think much of it.

Another aspect of this tragedy is the difficulty of crossing borders. Once one has an Israeli stamp on one’s passport, one cannot enter countries such as Syria or Egypt. I want to see all of these countries so somehow I’d need to make Israel my last stop, but I hope to return so that doesn’t really work. Jordan has been an oasis of calm in the midst of all this tension largely because they’ve been so open and accepting of the Palestinians. Had they refused to accept them, the problem would have been much worse than it was.

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Numbers and Letters

June 24, 2009 at 8:52 am (Uncategorized)

It’s so humbling to be reduced to learning numbers and letters again! I feel like I’m all thumbs, and because we’ve been so focused on learning the alphabet and how to pronounce words, I haven’t made much progress in breaking the language barrier. I’ve spoken French for so long that this is really uncomfortable!

I would write the word for “little by little,” that we learned yesterday, but I forgot it!

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Cyber-Activism

June 23, 2009 at 9:31 pm (Uncategorized)

The Iranian situation is cyber-activism writ large, as it’s the first huge, pivotal political movement being fueled by (and fueling) social networking sites and unfolding in real time, also subsuming mainstream media.

Here is a link to Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook page, which I added to my Facebook account in solidarity.

Here is a link to a page for Neda on Facebook, which I shared on my Facebook profile so more people could see it.

And here is the link to aggregated coverage of the events as they unfold, also on Facebook.

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