Archive for the ‘Patrick in Jordan’ Category

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Patrick: Wadi Rum, Petra, and Aqaba!

September 27, 2009

A few days ago the entire CIEE crew set out on a three day trip around Jordan. We boarded our tour bus promptly at 7am and headed for Wadi Rum – the notorious film site of Lawrence of Arabia. After a short stop at a bathroom/tourist trinket trap, we approached the “entrance” to Wadi Rum where we met a caravan of 80 camels and 20 Bedouin tour guides. The environment was rather hysterical. Imagine: 80 camels, a group of Western students (2/3 girls) who have mostly never been in the desert or on a camel, and 20 non-English speaking fearless leaders. Needless to say, there were a lot of camel groans in the air.

I walked up with a group and was hurried over to a shaggy looking camel. I looked around and saw everyone had padding and a healthy helping of blankets on their camels. I then looked down at mine (who was basically lying sideways) and saw a wooden box with one blanket over the hump. Well, this is going to be an adventure. I got on my soap box camel, and we all road off into the desert.

I brought my video camera along (coming soon) and started shooting the red sand and mountains around me. By the time I brought the viewer away from my eye, I had noticed something… I had started near the front of the pack, and I was now situated dead last… Great! I have an uncomfortable camel that just also happens to be the non-athletic type. At that point I officially named my camel Caboose (a name which stuck among my fellow travelers). We took a break at a Bedouin camp and had some tea. We were now about 1/2 way done with our trek and had a little less than two hours to go. As we headed back to our camels I attempted to pawn off Caboose on another student (thinking I could only trade up), but the stories of my not-so-illustrious camel had precipitously flowed throughout the group. So, to no avail, I had become stuck with my furry friend. I meandered on back to where I had left him (again he was sporting his less than upright posture), and hopped back on to continue the journey.

We arrived near our camp and watched sunset behind the mountains. Truly, it was an indescribable sight. After our cameras were surely spent, we headed down to our Bedouin camp site for the night. The accommodations were hardly roughing it. We each got our own “bed” inside very well structured tents made from goat hair (it’s better than it sounds). We all had a very good dinner that consisted of a Bedouin Buffet – don’t ask me the names of things, I just ate what looked appetizing. We capped off the night with some Arabian music by a campfire. The Bedouins started dancing, and many of us joined in. After the festivities, my friend Zuleikha and I wandered off into the night desert for a bit to take a moment to look at the desert sky. However, the ambiance was slightly disturbed by a Jordian party nearby that was playing American pop music. I suppose if American influence can make it the middle of the desert in Jordan, it can make it anywhere. I hopped into my sandy bed (sand is everywhere) and fell asleep…

The next morning came too quickly. I hurried into the shower (again, hardly roughing it) that actually had a bit of warm water, and threw my bag into the “open air bag truck” (my bag was covered with sand when I recovered it later that day). Outside waiting for us there were about 15 Toyota pick-up trucks that were from I’m guessing the early 80’s with benches in back. Most of my fellow students had already boarded, so I hopped in one of the last trucks and within about 60 seconds we were heading back into the desert. Our local drivers were not shy about hitting the gas over sand dunes, which would habitually cause our benches to slip and slide. We were hauling full speed when suddenly we heard a pop. Yup, flat tire! At this point I was certain I was cursed and would surely be bringing up the rear end for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, the tire was changed out rather quickly and we headed back to our bus. Next stop: Aqaba! Read the rest of this entry ?

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Patrick: Alive at the Dead Sea

September 15, 2009

Marhaba (Hello!)

The past couple weeks have been so busy I don’t even know where to begin or end. I have been living in a “homestay” for the last week and I’m glad I opted not to live in an apartment. I am staying with a Jordanian woman named Rene (and her dog Bonnie) along with a fellow American student. To put it lightly, we got lucky! Her house is very nice, and she is constantly remodeling (which she makes us fully aware of with her habitual inquires about what tiles we think would look best in a given room). She speaks English rather well and is more than happy to help me with my ever-evolving Arabic skills.

iphone dead sea 296In the past week I have visited almost all the corners of Amman from Hercules Temple to the open air markets. However, I will discuss much of these experiences in later blogs. The Dead Sea is the topic at hand. Right before we moved into our homestays and apartments, all of the students went to a 5 star resort on the Dead Sea. As our bus approached the beaches, and our phones all buzzed with texts saying “Welcome to Palestine” (as if to remind us that we can’t escape “Jordanian Big Brother”) the excitement in the desert air was palpable.

DSCF0017.JPGWe had a nice lunch at the hotel along with meetings for those who applied for internships (I was placed with the Young Entrepreneurs Association who received grants from USAID and the EU and do consulting work for local businesses). After that, it was time to swim… Correction, it was time to float! We suspiciously waded into the water and slowly sat down. One of my life long dreams had come true; I now know what it’s like to feel like a duck *please note a hint of sarcasm* As we bobbed around, a man with a bucket of mud came down and was offering Dead Sea Mud body treatments for 1JD ($1.41). Nearly all the girls quickly jumped at the offer. And, as you may have guessed, Rustin, Logan (our latest cohort), and I joined in as well (pictures later). Our fun in the sun had to come to an end and we headed back through the desert to Amman.

To touch on some other points of interest, classes have now been going on for a week and Arabic is fast-paced, difficult and exciting. Walking out of class and being able to use your recently learned vocabulary with the taxi drivers is an always satisfying exercise. Well, unless you end up at the wrong destination…

I hate to cut this blog short, but I’m about to pack for a three day trip into the desert!

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Patrick: Salam Amman!

September 1, 2009

As-Salāmu `Alaykum (formal greeting meaning Peace Be Upon You),

Amman iPhone 001I am now on my fourth night in Amman so I figure it is just about the right time for my first entry. After a lovely first class flight to Jordan (which we didn’t pay for), my fellow traveler Rustin and I were the first in our program to arrive at the Hotel. Getting to, and checking into, the hotel proved to be far less of a herculean task than we expected. The taxi cab driver spoke English fairly well, and all we had to say upon arrival at our Hotel was, “CIEE Students” and a room was ready (we decided not to make a reservation as there was a no refund policy, and we were flying standby).

Since we arrived during the Holy Month of Ramadan, we were culturally aware that eating or drinking in public (during daylight hours) was a bit taboo. So we brought everything up to our room, and patiently waited a couple hours for nightfall. Finally, it became dark so we locked our room (a task which always seems to take about three times longer than it should) and embarked out into the city for the first time.

After aimlessly meandering around the immediate city blocks, we decided to walk into an outdoor cafe that looked promising. Having no idea what was customary (Do we just sit? Find a waiter? Go to the register?) and the inability to read Arabic well enough to be of any help, we decided to walk to the main register. Immediately when we walked in all eyes were on us. I suddenly knew we made the right decision when I noticed one of the workers was sporting a University of Minnesota shirt. I smiled, pointed at his shirt, and tried explaining to him that’s where I went to school. No dice. He politely gestured he had no idea what I was talking about, and handed me a menu as if to nicely say, “Food is a universal language”.

The food was outstanding, but the entire time we couldn’t help but feel like typical Americans that don’t speak the local language apart from a few basics (at least we knew shukran (thank you) so we could be polite idiots. Good thing for us, 99% of Jordanians are more than willing to help and seem to have infinite patience.

We began to walk back to our hotel when we ran into another group of CIEE students that were there for the language only program. If we didn’t feel bad enough about our Arabic now, this was about to be salt in the wound. Most of them could speak Arabic with each other very well, but talking to Jordanians was a slightly more difficult undertaking (the local dialect is different than the Modern Standard Arabic that is taught back in the States).

We decided to head back out to the main drag with them. We sat down at another cafe, had some drinks (no alcohol of course), and some hookah. We all got to know each other: what we studied, where we’re from, why we are in Jordan, etc. The short time with them proved to be very useful as we picked up some knew phrases that we could test out the following day.

Here is a list of a few things I’ve taken note of since my arrival:

  1. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way. Traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death in Jordan, so looking both ways is a must to say the least. Most taxis don’t have seatbelts and they like to drive as if they are playing a videogame. So hold on, and if need be, don’t be afraid to tell the cab driver to slow the hell down.
  2. The food is awesome and fairly cheap. You can go down to a nice cafe and get a huge plate of food for around $5 with tip.
  3. During the week you may spot a few females out, but on the weekend (Thursday & Friday night) it is 98 percent males.
  4. Guys hold hands or arms. For some reason Rustin has fallen “victim” multiple to being pulled over.
  5. Girls dress anywhere from fairly western (jeans & and form fitting shirts) to the full burqa with nothing showing but their eyes. I’d estimate around 75 percent wear hijabs (head scarves).
  6. Most people assume we know more Arabic than we do. Although Jordan does have some tourism, the main parts of Amman don’t normally attract too many tourists. So saying “I don’t speak Arabic” (in Arabic) multiple times is not uncommon.
  7. Taxis are cheap. You can get a ride anywhere in the city for usually no more than 5 bucks.
  8. My computer constantly wants to change the default language to Arabic. Maybe that is a good thing…
  9. Did I mention the food is awesome?

Well, so long for now! Or, as they say here… “Shuuf” (later)

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