Jordan 2008!

After Jordan 2006, and Yemen 2007 comes the much anticipated return to Jordan 2008!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Greater Salt Lake

We spend the day today hanging out at the dead sea, and let me tell you, good times at the dead sea. This is the greatest tourist concept of all time. "Why lie on the beach when you can lie on the ocean?" Seriously, it's boyant enough that you could probably take a nap on your back in the water and not have any problems. If that weren't enough of an attraction, anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of passing the very annoying dead sea kiosk in any provo mall knows that it has very desirable exfoliating properties. This made me wonder as we were approaching the water: so people have been bathing in the dead sea for thousands of years right? I can't imagine how much human "exfoliation" is in that water. Theres probably plenty of "dead sea skin" that I bathed in there. Of course, the reason for all of this exfoliation is the fact that the water is approximately 30% salt. My roommate John found this out personally when he tried to exfoliate his eyes. It's advisable to keep your face FAR from the water. The most popular method of exfoliation is to smear the mud nearest to the shore, which is roughly the appearance, consistancy, and smell of sewage, all over your body. Then you wash it off in the water. You are left so silky smooth that you leave the water thinking that the dead sea is actually the world's largest body of oil.

We noted the ease at which one could move about in the water. No effort at all is required to stay afloat so all you have to do is paddle a little and your moving right along. This is probably why there are no lifeguards. You would have to be a complete idiot to drown in the dead sea. We even jested that if an army wanted to attack Israel on the opposide side of the sea, all they would have to do is get their weapons and drift luxuriously to the other side. We quickly learned, however that this is NOT a plausible, nor comical idea. I and my roommate matt were drying off on the shore while our other 3 roomates decided to go out for a swim. They got further and further out, and we started wondering if they were really going to try to swim to palestine. Now, in any other place in the world, when you get a little far out, a lifeguard gets out his megaphone and tells you to come back, but in the absence of lifeguards the most sensible alternative of course is Apache helicopters. I know. This thing swooped down at about 20 feet above their heads, and I totally thought that it was going to blow them right out of the water. They obviously thought so too, because the turned right over and paddled for shore like it was going out of style, no longer worried about getting salty water in their eyes. Funny how priorities switch around so quickly. So if your interested in a nice day on a relaxing beach, exfoliating, or advanced military tactics, I suggest the Dead Sea.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Old School

Today, my entire apartment decided to take a hike to the city center to see the roman ruins there. It was a fascinating journey. Amman is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the entire world, behind only Damascus and Jericho, I think. So it's this crazy mix of ancient ruins and knock off name brand merchandise. I never really thought I would be able to say "HEY, LOOK! Roman pillars! ...and port-o-potties?" I could just imagine my tour guide saying, "On your left you will find 'As-Sabiil', an ancient roman baths, dating back to 2nd century A.D., and directly adjacent to that, you will find 'Baba Ishta's Stop 'n Shop' thought to be established in 1972." It's not just the buildings either, the people are the exact same way here. You'll see one girl wearing a burka, passing another who looks like a "Glamour" magazine. You'll see one guy who's wearing the latest in brands made to look exactly like real american brand at a fraction of the price, and another who looks like Saladin himself, ready to chase out some cusaders.

After getting a good look at all the Roman ruins in the area, we left the amphitheater to find a large number of camels just outside the entrance. Not something you see every day. You see, today is Jordanian independance day and they were getting these camels ready for a parade. They were all decked out. To me however, this seems a lot like adding parsley to a plate of spam. Camels are DISGUSTING animals. They bear their teeth, and make these dry heaving motions to intimidate children while making gargling/dying noises. I hope I'm not a bad person for this, but I really wanted to see one of these camels haul off and spit at one of the kids. That would have been hilarious. Aparently, camels are not without social niceties, however. There was a man there who seemed to know a lot about them, and he took it upon himself to educate us. It was very interesting, but the climax was when he said this: "Camels are very shy animals. They will not marry if people are around." I thought, "marry? what in the world does that mea- OH!" Apparently, camels prefer their privacy when procreating, and refuse to do so in the presence of humans, so if you want to turn 2 camels into 3, you have to build a huge tent, check the newlyweds in, and close the flap. This about the scariest thing I can think of. If there is ANYTHING more disgusting than a camel, it's camels making babies in a tent.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Living Waters

There is every amenity here that one could think of. If you really want something, you can get it, and usually cheaper than you can in the US. If you're really craving American cuisine, you can find anything from Applebees to Hardeez. I personally prefer the local foods like filafil and hummus (AWESOME), but it's there if you want it. We even have the internet here in our apartment (shocking). Something a little less obvious but a little more important: Water. Thats right, You can get a quarter pounder with cheese, but if you can't flush the toilet, that kind of just makes things worse, doesn't it? We ran out of water the same night our Iraqi landlady left for baghdad for a month. We began wondering if she ever really owned our apartment and thats why she asked for the whole three months rent up front. All such fears aside, the big water containers on the roof were empty, and we had no idea when they would again be full.

Not having water makes you think about the future. What will I smell like in 3 days? Are there alternatives to water? I know that there are certain species of desert hamster that use sand to bathe in and exfoliate; Is this possible for larger creatures? And what is that smell coming from the bathroom? The thing is, that when a creature is backed into a corner, it's mind will begin to play games with it, such as: "Maybe there the toilet will flush this time..." not so. With 7 guys in an apartment, and an intense need to use the bathroom, it doesn't take long for some of them to begin believing these lies in hope that somehow there will be enough water to flush everything down. Pie in the sky. Once we realised that this was just going to create a very nasty smelling apartment, we had to begin the work of containment immediatley. We permanantly shut the bathroom door, and declared everything outside of that area to be "the Green Zone".

Fortunately, we were able to purchase an entire tanker full of water for 20 dinars, which is pretty close to 30 dollars. After this we victoriously flushed the insurgency, retook the red zone, and pushed the foul stench of terror beyond our borders. Peace and democracy again prevails in our apartment. I was so excited to have water again that I took a picture of the Jordanian flag waving majestically above a water tanker which saved our lives and our hygene. I love water.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Jordan in General

You know, I think almost every American has similar images go through their heads when given the opportunity to travel through the middle east: great mosques, veiled women, bearded men, roman ruins, over 140 degree weather, being kidnapped and beheaded by al-zarqawi etc... However, this is not entirely true. Not all women are veiled. Just kidding. People here are really nice. Most of them actually really like Americans and the weather is actually a little colder here than it was in Provo before I left. People think Bush and his government is totally nuts, but judging by the polls, most americans think that too. People here actually have no problem distinguishing between a country's goverment and it's people. Which is fortunate for me. I probably wouldn't get a very good reaction if every taxi driver in Amman thought that he was about to chauffeur George W. himself around for the next 15 minutes. On the contrary, these people will welcome you to the country EVERY TIME YOU SPEAK. In addition to that, Jordan is the easiest place in the world to make friends... too easy. It's great for finding people to practice my Arabic with and just general friends to go visit all of the ruins with, but seriously, there is a little too much male to male hand holding going on around here for my taste. It is so funny. It's not acceptable for a boy and a girl to exchange open affection in public, but I have seen some VERY intense interdigitation between guyfriends. It's also not unusual to see lots of cheek kissing upon greetings. The sad thing is that I'm not allowed to date during this study abroad so if I'm going to have any kind of relationship involving kissing and handholding over the next three months, it's about 10 times more likely to be with a man than with a woman. *sigh. I love it here though, and it's all because of the people.

From America to Vienna

Well, the title here doesn't really accurately describe the point at which I find myself here in Jordan, but I've been here for almost three weeks and have only recently decided to start a blog, so I'm gonna have to do this a little retroactively.
After 12 hours and about 70 chapters into "The Da Vinci Code" I found myself in Vienna, ready for a 14 hour layover. You know, at first I thought, "GREAT! 14 hours is going to be just enough to scratch the surface of a city with as much history as Vienna!" The thing is, history repeats itself right? Well Vienna would be a great case study for this theory, because after about four hours, you can begin to tell the future: "I'll bet we're going to turn this corner and find this monumentally large building covered in naked gold children and capped off with a two headed eagle. OH MY LORD! IT'S JUST LIKE THE LAST ONE I SAW!" 14 hours is too much to spend in any city. Don't get me wrong though, Vienna is cool. It might be that for the entire 14 hours I was plagued with montezuma's revenge. Unfortunately, Vienna is probably one of the only cities in the world that actually have more cathedrals that it has water closets, and I'm not bragging about the number of bathrooms they have. What I've really come to appreciate about America from this experience is free bathroom use. It seems like an inalienable human right to use a bathroom, but there's a charge every time you want to go, and since I visited about every WC in Vienna, I left much poorer than I arrived. I've never been taken advantage of like that before. "Oh, you're going to EXPLODE, huh? 1 euro." Did I really have a choice? I always thought the European tradition of urinating on public buildings was discusting, but I now understand that this is a financial decision.
Seriously though, Vienna is cool.