Beirut Bound

July 29, 2009 at 9:52 pm (Uncategorized)

Wow. I’m going. Tomorrow. I wonder how my expectations will measure up to the actual place.

This is the city I’ve wanted to visit the longest of any place in the world.

Who knows? Maybe next time I add to this blog, it’ll be somewhere in Beirut!

I’m so busy, though. I haven’t had time to start this copywriting project that I’m not sure I’m qualified for. And the administrator at the copywriting company is leaving this week, so there’s a change of contact there, and I haven’t even met the director of the place, which I hope to.

I was up really late last night (well, this morning; the morning call to prayer came before I’d gone to sleep) trying to finish some homework I’d gotten behind on.

I kind of almost caught up, but I’m bringing my “al-kitaab” kitaab to Beirut along with my laptop. I hope to get the first stage of this copywriting project finished as soon as possible.

It’s late and I’m tired and I washed my laundry in the sink so it’s still drying to I can’t pack; I’ve set my alarm for 6am because I need to be at the 7th circle by 8am to catch the Royal Jordanian shuttle to the airport for my flight, which isn’t until noon, but that is the schedule the guy on the phone at RJ recommended.

I’ll have plenty of time for homework, at least! I still haven’t researched how much a Lebanese visa costs, and I worry there isn’t enough money in my account to both pay bills and have cash to get into town from the airport once I arrive.

My roommate Ying is on the 4pm flight to Beirut, and we’ll be meeting a friend of hers there. We have reservations at an affordable hostel, and I plan to call someone named Karim who had invited me to Beirut a month or so back and offered to give me the tour. He’s also American and from Long Beach.

Summer is in full swing here in Amman, and living on Garden Street is a great way to watch the tourist effect. A mass influx of “Gulf Arabs” come to Amman every summer to escape the 120-degree heat of their region. Once I realized I can read Saudi license plates, it seems like every third car is from there.


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[Work] Like an Egyptian

July 27, 2009 at 9:00 am (Uncategorized)

There are many workers here from Egypt. Does this mean there are jobs that Jordanians are not willing to do, even though unemployment is high in Jordan and wages are low?

Does this mean that unemployment is worse in Egypt than it is here?

Mohamad’s brother Saad drives a bus that transports Egyptian workers to and from their workplaces each day. I wonder how this situation compares with the one of day laborers and other immigrants in the US.

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Weekend Update

July 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s Sunday, but it’s not the weekend here in Amman. I’m told it is in Lebanon, though, since they stick to more Western calendar. I’m heading to Beirut on Thursday and couldn’t be more excited. Funds are low, though, as usual.

I’m going with my new roommate, Ying, and we’ll meet a friend of hers in Beirut. Tonight I’m meeting with someone who works in the Palestinian refugee camps to see how we can do some fundraising and grant-writing, insh’allah. This morning I met with a copywriting client, a large paint company that wants its mission statement re-written. I’m not sure how this will turn out! I’ve never done anything like this before.

And I still need to check-out of the British Council, even though I never really checked-in, and pick up my housing deposit from Queen (my old residence) and use it to pay rent at my new place, which still does not have running water in my bathroom.

Tomorrow night I’m having dinner at the home of a woman I met while playing Scrabulous, actually, on Facebook. We’ve corresponded for quite awhile and it will be nice to finally meet her. Wednesday night is salsa night at the Sheraton, by the pool, but it’s 10 JD and that’s probably out of my price range.

I think that’s it for now!

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Friday Night on Rainbow Street

July 24, 2009 at 6:28 pm (Uncategorized)

After moving into my new place on Garden Street and checking out Dynamic Gym with Ibraheem’s assistance, I headed to Jebel Amman for Souk Jara, which is a bazaar that happens every Friday featuring local artisans.

It’s kind of like the Art and Wine Festivals that are [unfortunately] ubiquitous in the states, but much much less commercial and classier. No drunk people or “over-sampling” of wine. Rainbow Street is already kind of a destination for weekend nights, so the “beautiful people” are out en masse, with fancy cars and fancier clothing.

I studied at La Calle for a bit (thankfully they’re offering tutoring at Qasid now) and, feeling under-dressed and under-accompanied (i.e. by myself), I retreated once the nightlife people started arriving.

I wandered through the souk a second time and ducked into the Tche Tche Cafe, wanting to use their wireless internet. And here I am!

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Cultural Dissonance

July 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm (Uncategorized)

The other day some guys were doing maintenance work at Qasid, and one of them wore a t-shirt that said “uterus” in big letters. Beneath the letters was an awkward sketch of a uterus.

Would anyone else be very surprised if he knew what his t-shirt said?

I later asked Mohamad what he thought, and he said this person was probably “a stupid,” and that he did not know what his t-shirt said.

My friend Sara optimistically surmised that this was a bold feminist statement, but I’m pretty sure that that’s not the case. In the Bay Area, perhaps. Not here.

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The Pure of Heart

July 24, 2009 at 2:08 pm (Uncategorized)

I am meeting amazing people here, people who are rich as kings on the inside even if they don’t have spectacular material wealth, which really can’t bring happiness.

Freedom from financial security is one thing, having enough money to take nice vacations and give to charity is good, but I prefer what my friends have here to a 10,000 square foot house any day.

On the other hand, most young people want to leave Jordan because there isn’t much opportunity here, job-wise or education-wise. So there is an understanding that a decent salary is worth a lot and necessary for quality of life.

An update–it’s been a busy week because I found an apartment, moved, had a midterm, and did a copywriting job all at once.

I thought about moving into a nice apartment in the Abdoun neighborhood, but it was a tad pricey and pretty far from my school. The woman who lives there, though, is amazing. She is from Iraq, and of Christian Assyrian background.

She works for the UN, and at one point was making daily flights into Iraq to deliver social workers and supplies. She says almost everyone who works in Iraq, and at this point there is a gold rush’s worth of organizations, entrepreneurs, contractors and social workers there–are based here in Amman.

She says that Iraq is actually submitting a human rights report of its own situation to the Human Rights Council (most countries do this), and she just got back from Geneva, where she’d accompanied Iraq’s group of folks who will be writing the report so they could see how it is done.

She said there is prison reform going on, and torture survivors are receiving some counseling.

Angelina Jolie is in Amman now, and also went to Baghdad recently, and released a very interesting statement. I’ll try to add it to this blog.

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No Day But Today

July 19, 2009 at 6:02 pm (Uncategorized)

[from “Rent”]

I have an avalanche of homework on the way (I can hear it coming), so this entry will be brief.

No amusement park or extracurricular activities this evening; Khalid and his sister re-scheduled for tomorrow when his work schedule is more flexible. I went to Rainbow Street after class to check on apartment listings and found a couple. Tomorrow I visit my first place at 6pm.

This morning I met Mohammad (not to be confused with Mohamad, who lives in Sweileh), who had offered to help me find an apartment. We struck out, as the landlords were either asleep or their properties were full. So we headed to Shmeisani to look at DVD usb players, but the cheapest one was 50 JD and I’m not ready to shell out that much money without shopping around a bit first.

After that he helped me a little with my wajib (homework) and then had to leave for work. I took a taxi to school and got started on more homework. The UNRWA meeting was slightly underwhelming; I think I’ll contact their office in Amman directly about working in the Amman refugee camps.

We’ll see.

Prayer time is so beautiful, though; I will definitely miss it. Barack Obama said it’s one of the most beautiful sounds in the world, and I agree.

I also looked at my first gym today, in Shmeisani, called Power Hut. It’s a decent facility but again more than I’m willing to pay before shopping around a bit. So I might hit up Dynamic Gym, where Mohamad’s friend Ibrahiim works, later this week.

We have our first big exam Thursday, so every moment I’m not doing all kinds of other things should be spent with my nose in a book, frowning at vowels or awkwardly clearing my throat, trying to pronounce them. Verbal gymnastics.

I emailed ACOR, the American Center for Oriental Research, about getting a room there until I find a permanent place. I should also email the British Library to cover all bases. ACOR is where the State dept is housing its large contingent of Critical Language people.

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Something is Rotten in the State of Iran

July 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Al Jazeera English – Middle East – Rafsanjani: Iran in crisis.

Something is simmering beneath the surface…a subterranean revolution?

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July 18, 2009 at 2:31 pm (Uncategorized)

Tomorrow’s schedule:

9am Apartment-hunting, gym checking-out, dvd usb-purchasing

noon Meeting with UN Refugee representative to hear about opportunities to get involved.

1-5pm Arabic class

5:30pm to ?? Amusement park and dinner with Maisa’a and Khalid!

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July 18, 2009 at 12:01 pm (Uncategorized)

Adorable one year-old Jenna is up next for a blog shout-out. Fair skin, dark brown hair and eyes that look bluer every time I see her, with tiny earrings to highlight her beauty.

Niece to Mohamad, she is the apple of her parents’ eye, and present at almost every gathering we have together. She is such a happy baby, with loud laughter and beautiful smiles. Her mother can literally change a tearful outburst into a laughter marathon with some of her own laughter. Amazing!

These days she sits in a toy that allows her to zoom around the house, the yard, or wherever her parents happen to be, without actually having to walk, which she seems to be on the verge of doing.

The family showers her with love and attention, from teenage Mahmood to father Saad. It’s amazing. People raise kids as a group effort here, and the love is palpable.

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A New Desperation

July 17, 2009 at 1:57 pm (Uncategorized)

A cultural twist on suicide: I met someone at Starbucks today to help him with his English, and as we left the cafe he pointed to one of the buildings and told a story I couldn’t have concocted.

About five people have either jumped or tried to jump from this building in recent months.

One of the individuals responded to the police negotiator by requesting a university diploma in exchange for not jumping!

I’ve met some people who say that university education here is too expensive, and jobs are hard to come by, so it’s a vicious cycle. People can’t afford university, but without degrees they can’t get the jobs that are in short supply to begin with.

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July 16, 2009 at 9:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Does anyone have experience with this particular certification to teach English? I’ve thought about getting a TEFL certificate for a long time, and after substantial research this seems to be the best one.

There’s also a certificate from the School for International Training (SIT), which sounds like a more progressive program, but because it’s American it seems to be slightly less recognized than CELTA.

The British Council in Cairo teaches a CELTA course, which would combine my desire to see Cairo with getting something useful done.

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Amusement Park?

July 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm (Uncategorized)

Tomorrow I’m meeting someone at 11am because he wants help with his English (we’re meeting at Starbuck’s, my first time to an Arab Starbuck’s in Amman). I’m going to bring my homework to see if he can help me with it.

Then I’m probably spending time with Mohamad and his family. Saturday I’m looking at a couple of rooms to rent and on Sunday I’m pretty sure I’ve been invited to an amusement park, but I’ll have the full report next week!

Sunday before class there is a meeting with a representative from a local UN women’s organization to learn about volunteer opportunities with Palestinian refugees. Monday before class there is a safety class for women since there have been a couple of incidents of late (somehow I think this entails drunk Westerners dressed inappropriately out late at night, but if I’m wrong I’ll correct the record).

Other than that it’s the usual schedule of Arabic, Arabic, and more Arabic. One of the students in my class, Alex, is headed home in a few short weeks. It makes me think about the second half of my summer as the first half will soon be over.

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Blue Fig

July 15, 2009 at 7:25 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not a huge fan of the Blue Fig Cafe, in Abdoun, but since I’ve decided that everyone in our Arabic class will get a shout-out in one form or another on this blog, I’m mentioning it.

Julian’s reference is further down the page from a couple of weeks back, and this is Tim’s! Earlier this evening Tim had asked whether smoking is allowed in the Blue Fig. I honestly don’t remember, but since most places here seem to allow smoking (but then, I’m not a smoker, so am I really paying attention?), I assume it does.

There’s also a patio in the back of the restaurant which almost definitely means that carcinogenics are more than welcome :-).

And THAT is the connection between the Blue Fig, Tim J., and this blog!

Actually, I thought about writing to Lonely Planet (who offer a discount on your next purchase of their merchandise if you give them helpful info) about how they mention just one place called the Blue Fig in Amman, while I’ve discovered at least two. One is a coffee place and the other a quasi-ritzy expat magnet, so they’re not easily confused. Hmmm…

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Our beautiful cat

July 15, 2009 at 7:18 pm (Uncategorized)


And the parakeet he never got to eat. We have no proof, though, that he wanted it, since no attacks were ever observed.

What could one expect from a cat that sleeps in the middle of the street? That’s right–NOT to attack a bird that is inches away from its nose.

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Salsa in Sweilah

July 13, 2009 at 10:36 pm (Uncategorized)

Today, Mohamad and Malek picked me up in front of the King Hussein Cancer, a local landmark and our usual meeting place. Sweilah is a neighborhood in Amman.

It was a fun and mellow afternoon filled with good conversation and laughter. Ultimately, we ended up salsa dancing a little, which was fantastic. I really miss it and am looking at places to do salsa in Amman.

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This I believe

July 10, 2009 at 6:45 am (Uncategorized)


Barack Obama says he has no “pride of ownership” when it comes to good ideas. I believe in giving away what has been given to me; it kind of keeps the flow moving.

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Lots of screaming and yelling

July 9, 2009 at 11:02 pm (Uncategorized)

My second day as a full-time volunteer on the campaign included a rally with Obama himself! Here is cell phone video of the event. I’m all the way on the left side, near-ish to the front. The event was delayed (all Obama events I attended were late, owing to the prohibitive security procedures, I presume). Every time someone would walk through the door people would assume it was Obama and start cheering. It wasn’t actually him, though, for awhile.

You can see and hear the electricity ripple through the crowd; I literally felt like I was at a Beatles’ concert. This was April 2, 2008:

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“And then Iowa happened”

July 9, 2009 at 10:37 pm (Uncategorized)

And the world was never the same. I was in a crowded bar in Allston, Massachusetts, after a fun New Year’s in New York. I was watching the returns from Iowa when I jumped on the Obama train, when I realized that something big was happening, and that I wanted to be a part of it. Techtonic plates were shifting, the shape of power and the vision of possibility changed. Here is the speech and that moment:

For me, Obama’s message has always been one of healing, one that says we can do and be everything we want; one that gave us permission to dream again. The things he said came true. We lived his vision. The campaign was made up of moments, and I would not have wanted to be anywhere else than those times and places, when we changed the world.

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Critical Moments

July 9, 2009 at 10:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Here is one of the most important videos from the campaign. It captures the essence, the spirit of the movement, which was more like an all-encompassing tidal wave, the center of which I was near for several months. There will never be another time or place like this one:

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