Posts Tagged ‘Amman’


Jon: Biblical Jordan in need of biblical miracle

October 16, 2011

For those that are anxious for new blogs from the happening place of Jordan, fret no more! For this weekend marked the end of empty weekends. Friday started out at the time every day should, 11:30am. Upon waking up I decided that the day should be holy and have no Arabic in it, as such I spent the entire day smoking argeela and planning my Eid trip.

For those of you who don’t know Eid is a Muslim holiday which results in many Arabs having off that entire week, ergo giving us time to travel. After a day of hard planning I believe I will go to Israel/Palestine for the first few days, visiting Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Be’er Sheva mostly. All of this is so exciting! Brian, my roommate, is preparing for a pretty sweet adventure too as he meets up with a college friend in Istanbul, Turkey for the week. 

Next weekend I will be going on a volunteer trip to a school in northern Amman as well as possibly rock climbing near the Dead Sea, then the next weekend is my Yoga retreat and then Eid!

As far as today… it was amazing. We started off going to the castle ruins where John the Baptist was held prisoner and eventually beheaded. We actually were able to go into his prison! Pictures are to come in the next day or two. Our next stop on this biblical Jordan trip was Mount Nebo, where Moses looked out and saw the promise land, where he struck his staff to the rock and out came water, and also where he is said to have died (although no one has ever found his grave). Basically every plant or rock there was planted, touched, produced, or somehow altered by some famous religious person… or so our tour guide said before he told us where we could go to buy a souvenir (for about $30 more than it should be worth).

Top of St. George’s Church

Next on our path was Maraba which is the mosaic capital of the world basically. We got to see how they are built and some of the oldest one’s in history. We also went inside the church of St. George and I must admit I felt at home. As soon as you walked in I smelt the familiar smell of incense. Looking around I saw all of the traditional Catholic church possessions that I remember playing with at St. Anthony while mom had practices. Being in that church and many of the other sites today did change my feelings for traditions a bit. I was proud to be raised Catholic a bit today, with our great Catholic guilt and long monotone services. Because in the end it is the same across the world and will always make you feel at home.

Lastly, we went to the Jordan river. This is where it got really interesting. The Jordan river is the dividing line between Jordan and Israel/Palestine, and because of improper water conservation use (mostly by Israel) the river has been decreasing in size for the last 70 years. As such the part of the river we went to was only about 3 meters wide. And yes, that means about 3 meters from where we were was the Israeli side of the river with a entrance to the river too. We saw Israeli soldiers (with loaded guns unlike the Jordanians who didn’t have loaded guns) and one Israeli man tried to ask across the river if we were from Amman but no one answered.

And with the mention of water I will end this blog with a brief mention of how my internship is doing. I started out being nervous I wouldn’t be doing a lot or anything important. Well that worry is gone now. I have been assigned to research and produce an education/lobby plan and 20 page research report on garden reform in Jordan… in two weeks and keeping in mind I am only supposed to be doing 10 hours a week. Although a lot, as a senior Political Science major I thought that was manageable. Then I was called in by my other boss. In addition to my water project, Abdel wants me to put together an annual report for the Eco-park. I’ll give you the hint that the outline alone for the report is 4 pages long. Secondly—yes it gets better—he wants to be come up with a complete operational manual for the park! As in a detailed report on daily tasks, maintenance schedules, HR policies, etc etc. For those of you who don’t understand the size of that job, a decent operations manual for a park like that should be at least 100 pages. And what’s my time line you ask? Two weeks. So it has been nice chatting with you all but I will now leave and see you in two weeks when I will be as close to dead as one can be. But then again I’m in the right region, maybe I’ll rise from the dead or some other miracle!


Jon: Sand and suits

October 9, 2011

First off I apologize to my avid blog readers (aka mostly Mom, Dad, and Grandma and Grandpa) for not posting in a while. School is definitely picking up so I’ll try and recap the past few weeks. As I put in mentioned before I went up to northern Jordan to visit the eco park my internship will be working with for two days and so missed school. Then that Wednesday Amman experienced one of the Middle East’s great pleasures… a sand storm. It wasn’t windy so I guess it wasn’t really a storm but you could see the sand in the air. Side note, Amman use to only get these storms once a year but now due to climate change Amman receives about four of these sand days a year which for the record is caused by temperature inversion in the air right above Libya which causes the sand to pick up. I ended up missing another day of school because I was up all night coughing from the sand… not fun.

Other than that it has been relatively slow paced. Yesterday I went with a friend to the downtown market where we went shopping. I bought a pin striped suit jacket for 2JD (about $3) and puma shoes that in the US would have gone for a $80 for $20!!

That’s about all I have for now. Looks like these next few weekends will be interesting though. The last weekend of October I will be biking around some desert castles, in two weekends I will be going to a weekend long Yoga retreat in Dani reserve which sounds amazing, and also will be going rock climbing at the dead sea! I’ll make sure to update after those.


Jon: Le Arabia

September 24, 2011

Arabic. I seriously believe it might be the death of me one day. This weekend concludes my first full week of classes, and I am very much looking forward to the break. Every day I have Arabic for 2 hours and then another hour of Ameea (what the Jordanian dialect is called), however in order to be prepared for class I have to spend about 4 hours a day prepping. That is a lot of Arabic, alas it is what I came here for. My other class, the Environment and Politics of Water, is turning out to be very interesting. We are right now in the pure science of it all so I’m having to double down on the reading and really try to pick it apart but it is intriguing. 

This Sunday I start my internship and I am extremely excited for this! I ended up interning with Friends of the Earth Middle East (, where I will be designing sustainability standards for one of their EcoParks. Also, the organizer for the internship programs at CIEE seems very intelligent, and has an amazing resume. She has worked on multiple UN projects among other development tasks, and her husband is in charge of the World Health Organization here.

The only other thing I want to comment on today though is about women here in Jordan as I have been consistently surprised here in this regards. In the US we view the hijab and burqa as oppressive, sometimes even as middle eastern women deny this. We also tend to assume the women who wear these garments are more conservative, yet through Amman I have been shown this is not true. Public displays of affection are outlawed in Jordan and while hand holding doesn’t completely fall in that category it is still considered a very ‘liberal’ thing to do in public. Yet I have seen multiple times Muslim women who are wearing the full body burqa holding hands and walking with their boyfriends in public! Honestly I have seen every combination of girls in how ‘liberal’ their clothing is and their own beliefs. Almost every girl wears the headscarf yet they do not seem any more oppressed by it than miniskirts are in America. My favorite example is my Arabic teacher Ghadeen. She wears a headscarf and dresses modestly (covering most skin up) and yet she is the epitome of, excuse my language, a badass. She is not allowed into Saudi Arabia because of articles she’s written, she races cars for fun (though can’t race again till December because of a racing accident), and goes to the shooting range at least once a week. I won’t say for sure if women’s clothing is oppressive, I’m not even sure that it is my place to. But I will say I am very much enjoying the opportunity to learn and live in the Middle East.


Jon: The Dead Sea

September 17, 2011

I am struggling to keep my eyes open so bear with me on this post. Today we woke up and had to be at our CIEE office by 8am. There we met up with about 20 other CIEE students and took buses to… the Dead Sea. On our way there our bus driver played a love song CD which all of us in the bus (all guys) found amusing. The CD started right as we were outside of Amman at the top of a hill with “Once… more… you OPENED the door” from Celine Dion. It was pretty epic. We then took a 30 minute bus ride out to the sea and the view along the way was amazing. Imagine seeing miles and miles and miles of hills with random villages, houses, structures, abandoned structures, and Bedouin (shepherds). It was amazing. I tried to take some pictures but really none could do it justice.

Then we finally got to the sea and it was a resort. When we first walked in there were pools, restaurants, and small tourist shops. Then you walk down a level to a family pool and then down a lot of stairs to the beach. They have to keep adding additional stairs because every year the Dead Sea shrinks by a meter. I did take some pictures and uploaded them onto my flicker account ( When we went in it was the weirdest sensation ever. You could feel your body being compressed a bit from the density but then once we couldn’t stand anymore you just floated up. It was a serious effort to stay standing instead of floating on your back or stomach. Later many of us opted for the mud they offer there and lathered ourselves up in that (pictures available at flicker). It is apparently suppose to exfoliate or something though all I got was a little rash reaction to it on my arms and legs. Though it did feel good after.


I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves but it was beyond amazing.

Afterwords we stopped at a shop on the way home where everything was made from local Bedouin or handicapped, disabled Jordanians in the area. I bought some soap since I needed some and marked the place down. Might be a good place to get some souvenirs for some people when I come back. Lots of lotions from the Dead Sea and they are suppose to be very good. 

Myself and Brian (roommate) in the pool 2 levels above the beach. Israel is in the background.

Once back in Amman we were all tired and so a group of us stopped and got McDonalds and then went home. (Mcdonalds was good as always).  


Jon: Arabic education… oh yeah, and 9/11

September 15, 2011

I never thought I would say this but I really want school to start. I have been here now for almost two weeks and we are just starting Arabic class tomorrow and I’ve had two other classes so far. Two days ago was my Arabic placement test though and we got the results today. My test score was not as high as I wanted so in order to be placed in the class I would like I have to retake the test. I will say this Arabic program and many others use a book called Al-keteb where as my school used a different book (throughout the US there are only about 3 books generally used, Al-keteb used the most). Because of this I learned vocab and grammar in a very different order making it difficult to place me in their system. Some people who have used my book are in Advanced II while I am trying simply to be in Intermediate I. Since Arabic programs are still very new in the US there is no standard program plan. After talking with people though and better understanding the format of the test I do not expect much issue in retaking the test and getting a score needed for Intermediate I, but it is frustrating. For someone who is better at critical thinking processes than memorization learning foreign languages is extremely hard. However once class starts up there are quite a few ways for me to improve including clubs, peer tutors and just studying with others.

I have started my the Environment and Politics of Water class which seems very interesting. The first half is based on science and the second half will be political. I am very happy with this model as I frequently get upset at my Political Science major for its lack of providing background information on policy issues such as biology, economics etc. Also it helps that the total cost for books for the class is about $4.00.

Lastly, I did interview with one organization yesterday for my internship and I received an email later that day saying the organization was “very impressed” and wanted me to intern there. I have another interview tomorrow with Friends of the Earth Middle East, a group that uses environmental issues as a point of commonality between Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians with offices in each area. They have received awards from the New York Times among other international awards for their work. Both groups seem very great and I would enjoy working with both. Heck if my program let me I would probably work for both but I’m assuming I will have to choose.  

Other than that no not much has happened. I did realize though that on 9/11 I didn’t mention much on here about what it was like being in the Middle East on that day. To be honest though that is telling in and of itself. I did not hear much mentioning of it in daily life here, such as at the University, taxi drivers, or on the street, yet that is very typical for political conversations. However seeing arabic news was interesting. I will assume most of you reading this are in America (has my nice blog audience tracker revealed, it also revealed over 53% of you are using safari as your internet browser). So I will first dispel the myth I have come across the most. No Arabic news station that I saw or understood endorsed the actions nor did any celebrate or even feel apathetic. Every station showed and reported extreme sadness at the lost of life. The loss of brothers, sisters, friends, and co-workers. The day of 9/11 the world stood with us. That said the events of 9/12, 9/13 and on show how America diverged and lost the worlds support. As John Stewart of the daily show put as the title for their special segment last night “9/13… the day where we forgot the lessons from the day we just swore we would never forget”.  I am not turning this into a large discussion on the wars in the Middle East but I will just confirm that the Middle East severely disagreed with America’s actions after the war.


Jon: Jordan’s third language

September 13, 2011

I love coffee. Anyone who knows my daily routines know me and caffeine are a great combination that do not do well when parted. So naturally I was a bit worried when I came to the middle east, and I will admit I am having some issues. The coffee they drink here almost always comes in a tiny cup and is the equivalent of espresso. Now while I love caffeine I am NOT able to ingest it like that. For those of you that have lived with me or seen me in the morning you will also know I do not do mornings… at all. George W. Bush and Iranian President Mr. Ahmadinejad get along better than me and mornings. So ironically enough in the morning I am to tired to put up with the taste of espresso. Heck even coffee sometimes I’m to tired for. So in order to start my day I am starting to get into tea here. I’ve found a few cups of tea in the morning help me get going till I can find somewhere with American styled coffee. 

Anyways, once I did manage to wake up and start my day today I went to the University of Jordan (UJ) to start Arabic. I attended Beginners II class today and to my surprise I think I might skip it. I will take a test tomorrow but it looks like I will be in Intermediate I, although I will have to do some heavy catch up on vocabulary. Afterward I studied for a bit then had lunch for the equivalent of… $1.20. And lunch was a huge helping of rice, chicken, potatoes, bread and a Pepsi. I love Jordan.

Lastly today I have fully realized that honking is truly the third language of Jordanians. We got in a taxi to go home from school, normally a 15 minute ride with little traffic, and were able to get near our home in about 7 in the middle of rush hour. Apparently side walks and parking lots are simply extended lanes for Jordanians. The reason why we didn’t make it all the way home in the taxi is because right after our taxi driver had skipped about 35 cars in traffic driving around them all and an intersection and had said something about leaving his life in god’s hands while driving he got into a car accident. Just a small fender bender so do not worry but can only be called the best karma timing in the world.


Jon: First weekend in Jordan

September 10, 2011

It is my first Saturday here in Jordan, and it has been quite a journey. From planes being delayed, to the craziness that is driving in Jordan I’ve been seeing a lot, and yet I am beyond anxious for more. Tomorrow I start my area studies classes at the University of Jordan (Jordanians week goes from Sunday to Thursday). 

Clock tower at University of Jordan
Library at the University of Jordan

Hopefully by the end of the week, I will be replacing one of those with an internship though leaving me with just one class about water in Jordan and the middle east. We also start reviewing Arabic tomorrow and take our placement test Monday. I am trying to study for it but I have no idea where to begin. For credit reasons back at the U of MN I am really trying to be placed in Intermediate Arabic but I would love to start over. For those that don’t know, the Arabic educational system in regards to the classroom is a bit different than the US. Professors are regarded as the fonts of wisdom and are not to be challenged or questioned. Critical thinking is something left to the professor and students are there to memorize. Also, the memorizing is done mostly at home and the student is expected to figure out what is important and what should be studied. Now as some of you may know I occasionally have some issues with authority but I feel confident I can still learn here. Now that I understand and know the culture a bit that is.

As far as things that have happened from my last post there hasn’t been to much. There is a wedding going on next door which is an event that lasts a few days it seems. Friday night was the bridal party we believe and today they have been playing music on and off for a while with a large amount of guests. It is interesting to experience, and I’ve really come to like Arabic music. I did go downtown and bought my first Sheesh (hookah). For everything needed to use it it cost a total of 14JD which is about $20! It is smaller but we plan on using that one till we can learn a bit more about Sheesh’s and construct our own. In many shops around here you buy the components individually and they are quite impressive. It does seem like that is a major part of the culture. Probably every other night I am ending up at a cafe smoking Sheesh with others chatting. Once we get our peer tutors I hope for it to be a Jordanian I am sitting with but for now this is nice. 

The only other thing is now that we are in our apartments cooking is left up to us. And while I do think I am a decent cook I am struggling here because I do not know how to cook any of the sauces, or use the spices here. I am signing up for a club to help with that but again I hope with a Jordanian peer tutor they can suggest a few recipes.

Jon: Rainbow Street

September 9, 2011

After a pathetically hard time with no internet for a few days we finally got the internet set up in our apartment in Shmeisani, Amman. I’ll upload some photos soon but the apartment is magnificent. We have in an open area a dining room, living room, tv room with a patio attached. There are three of us here, and each have our own room. One has two full beds pushed together and his own bathroom, I have two twins pushed together and a patio (although I can’t go out onto it because we weren’t given the key to it), and another decent room. Plus a big kitchen with a patio as well. It’s been a few days without a blog so I’ll try to catch up but I’m going to start with the most recent while it is still fresh. We started the day by meeting at the University of Jordan for the first time for a tour of the campus and then a tour of the CIEE office. We received some academic orientation and a security briefing which was all very tiring by the end. This brings me to one of the first and biggest philosophical issues I’ve really encountered. I have no large desire to drink or party hard here in Jordan as some young Jordanian students do. They are definitely the more liberal generation and are pushing the boundaries, some of which I very much respect and privately agree with. And that is part of the culture. HOWEVER, as an American even if I agree with the change I do not believe it is my position to encourage or participate in that movement. Even if it is promoting what I believe to be good feminist change, or good sexual freedom, if I choose to interfere I am no better than Bush or anyone else who alters the course of another culture. Not to geek it up but I am constantly reminded of Star Treks Prime Directive of not interfering in another’s culture even if I think it is for good.

Continuing on, a group of us went to a restaurant tonight and enjoyed dinner as well as some sheesha. I’m trying all the flavors but as of now double apple is still my favorite. There we met a group of Americans from another study abroad program who were in similar positions to us, which was nice to chat for a while. The only other thing worth mentioning though was the last thing that happened. We were going to end our night when we came across yet another group of American students who were wanting to go to a club. We walked with them for a bit but then came across a club that was quite fancy. About to split ways the boys came back and asked if the two girls with us would come in with them as the bouncer wouldn’t let just guys in (us two guys were invited as well) so we decided to go in for a short bit. Quickly, I and a few of the other guys realized we needed to get out of there. Upstairs where the “club/party” was, there was a hallway lined with doors marked “private” and saw a man come out, grab an ash tray and go back in. It was pretty obvious what we had stumbled on to especially when my friends who hadn’t gone upstairs were told us guys needed to come down “there are just bathrooms up there”… No. Those were not bathrooms. And to prove it a couple right after us went upstairs. Well I guess I had my first experience with a Jordanian brothel.

Please don’t let that last experience taint your view. These past few days we have been filled with very friendly polite Jordanians. While we do get stares everywhere we go, both because of our nationality and how “badly” we dress in comparison, but I have never felt unsafe or scared.

So in case you haven’t figured it out yet I’m not the best blogger so as I’m tired here are some last few random things.

  • Girls are stared at here… a lot. Catcalls are kept to a minimum as far as out right sounds but professions of love and marriage seem to be common.
  • The views are amazing. King Hussein (the first king of Jordan) ruled that all buildings in Amman must be made from limestone so they are all be the same color. As well the whole city is built on hills and every square plot basically has a building on it. Lastly the city is huge, and when I say huge I mean buildings go on for as far as the eye can see, and that is far. So in the view you can see hills and hills of buildings.
  • Pictures cannot even begin to capture and convey the awesomeness of the view of these buildings.
  • Secret police. Although we are sure we are being told larger numbers to scare us, we were informed 1 in every 100 people is a secret police. They are under strict laws though so this is viewed as good and safe here.
  • Everyone knows everyone, and everyone talks. Period. Our CIEE director knew some kids had brought alcohol into a building that same night because people in the area called people who called people who called her.
  • Jordanians do not recycle but they have an impressive cleaning crew so there is very little litter actually on the ground. FYI, 2/3 of Jordanians work for the government.
  • This is one of my most favorite facts I learned: The US has the same economic disparity as Jordan.

Jon: Ahlan Wa Sahlan!

September 5, 2011

Ok so the taxi cab driver didn’t say that to us right away like all the guides say they will but after we asked him how he was doing in Arabic he said Ahlan wa sahlan to us and was very friendly. My plane ended up being about 4 hours late but on the ride I did meet 5 other CIEE students. We all hitched a bus to our hotel and crashed in two rooms (which by the way were very expensive. American hotels in Jordan are not cheap apparently). We ended up getting there at about 1am my time and tried to all cram on one computer in an hour to all contact our families and then crashed. The nice part about having a 26 hour plane ride is I don’t really feel jet lagged. Although my eating habits will take a while to get realigned. I have to say though I was warned about getting sick from food but one a whole I feel more bad for people who travel to the US from here. I cannot imagine their stomachs digesting all of our highly processed foods after eating simpler more raw foods they have here. For breakfast I had bread and tomato with cheese on both along with yogurt and orange juice, it was delicious. So now I just have the day to relax and tomorrow we start a very intensive orientations, this should fully exhaust me.


Jon: Who doesn’t love a good accent?

September 4, 2011

So, I am now sitting in the London Heathrow Airport waiting for my gate information to be displayed. A 5 hour layover… I wish I could explore London but I guess I shouldn’t take the risk. But anyways, my day started off a bit rough when I learned my flight is not actually through BMI as I booked it but instead they contract out to other flights. With that I got off at the complete opposite side of the airport to begin with having to go from terminal 5 to terminal 1. Then I’m told since I’m flying through United Airways I have to follow their baggage rules instead of BMI which means I now have to pay $70 for a second bag. After that though it’s been pretty easy since. The person I sat next to on the flight was very nice, a chemical engineer from London. Can I take a break to say I really love the British accent? I mean, don’t get me wrong I’m a sucker for Middle Easterners but “Comm’ on mate” will get me every time. Upon arriving in London I was welcomed at security by an entire soccer (?) team, which was a nice welcome.  And now I wait, the only thing I’m really worried about is the taxi ride to my hotel upon entering Amman. The taxi’s there are not metered, purely negotiated and although I’m told Jordanians might even put my beloved St. John’s and St. Benedict’s Benedictines hospitality to shame I’m still cautious. Of course speaking very little Arabic doesn’t help either. Well my flight finally came on the screen though the gate information will only be told about 30-40 minutes before departure so I might be sprinting a bit. Well I should get to doing… something so I’ll end this my first blog, though if people watching is a hobby, people listening should be as well, and international airports are the Olympics of it. So many different accents and languages, different styles and mannerisms. I could spend much longer than 5 hours here just watching and listening.

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