Sunday, January 6, 2013

Farewell Week

So I have a lot that I need to catch you all up on.  To start…Im home now. And I have been for about a week.  My last post was about a week into December so I will try to catch up from then.  I will break it up too because I have a lot to cover and I don’t want this to be too long. Here we go:

Our last week of Arabic classes (MSA and colloquial) was the first week in December and finals in those classes were the following week.

The weekend before finals in Arabic I went to a desert castle near the Iraq/Syria/Jordan boarder with James, Alexia and our friend Evan.  We hired a private car which drove us the 3 or so hour trip out to the castle.  On the way we had to stop at a police check point.  We were told that we had to be accompanied by a police officer.  Im not really sure why he had to come with us.  It was either for safety because of where we were going or for directions on how to get to the castle WHICH by the way was in the middle of NO WHERE.  Literally we had to off road to get to it.  This castle has a small lake next to it and the castle was used by many different groups throughout the years.
We did some exploring but it was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t so much to see.  We headed back toward Amman but had to drop off our little friend at the check point first.  He invited us into the police station where we all enjoyed some tea and some Arabic practice with some boarder police.  James and our friend that went with us to the ruins apparently had some kind of bond because our escort gave James a keffiyeh.  We all posed for a picture before we left and then were on the road again toward another place with some ruins.  James thought it was wonderful.  I thought it was cool but I had no idea what it was.

The next day was Sunday.  THIS was finals week….well Arabic finals at least.  I didn’t have anything on Sunday but on Monday I had a presentation of my portfolio that I did comparing my host family to my American family (this was all in Arabic…yeah Im that good).  I also had an interview in Arabic that day AND history class! It was a full day.

Nothing on Tuesday, I don’t think. But Wednesday I had a skit I had to perform for my colloquial Arabic class.  That afternoon my class and I went to a café with my MSA professor.  We sat and talked for about an hour or so and gave him a picture that we took of the whole class in traditional clothing.  He loved it so we all went together to take our own picture.

That night was our first goodbye party.  It was a sad night.  All of the CIEE students and most of the falculty gathered at a restaurant off campus for a very delicious dinner.  It had so many courses of veggies, kabobs, French fries, fruit and two hookahs per table.  We had a wonderful time socializing with our friends but it was really the first time I started thinking about leaving.  I got my first "goodbye" hug that night and it just really hit me that I might never see those people again.  It was really pretty sad.

Thursday was our Arabic-post test and reentry training.  We had a three hour test in the morning.  When we arrived to the test the room was full so we had to go to a different room.  After about an hour in that room we had to move to ANOTHER room to finish our test.  That afternoon we had our re-entry training which basically told us how grades would work, suggestions to get to the airport and what to expect with reverse culture shock. 

Okay so that was a quick summary of my last week.  Next I will recap my weekend adventure! Stay tuned!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jordan Journey

I was asked to write an article for the Hilltop Monitor, Jewell's newspaper, about my experience in Jordan.

Today my article was published.  You can read it here.

Full Stomachs and Warm Hearts

Well its been a while but its two weeks left in the semester and I have been BUSY!!! I will try to catch you all up on what I have been up to these past few days.

I am pretty sure that CIEE- Amman has the best staff anyone could ever ask for, and I'm not just saying that cause they now have the link to my blog.  The office staff is great and so are the professors.  I will do another blog post eventually about my classes, inshallah, mumkin this weekend but right now I want to talk about what all I have done with CIEE since my last post.


For starters I have an amazing Modern Standard Arabic professor named Ahmed.  If you are friends with me on facebook you will have seen pictures of him and his shenanigans in class.  Well last week his brother got married.  Ahmed has been talking about this wedding almost since we arrived in his class three months ago.  Finally the time came and he mentioned that he wanted to bring us to the party.  Of course we were all excited about it and he said he would ask CIEE if it would be okay if we went, the party was in another town and we still had travel restrictions placed on us. The next day he comes into class with a really somber look on his face.  He tells us that he spoke to CIEE and……..THEY ARRANGED A BUS TO TAKE US TO THE PARTY!!!!

The day came for the part and we were all really excited.  The girls could wear shorter dresses which was quite exciting but difficult navigating in Amman in Taxies and food because the stares increased exponentially.  Eventually we all boarded the bus that would take us to the party.

The party was split in half, men and women.  I wasn’t able to take pictures in my party because the woman were all without hijab and that is haram outside of the house.  The women's party was held in the house/tent.  Basically they set up a Bedouin tent that was connected to the house, similar to a sun porch but no one could see in.  We rounded the corner to see two girls on their knees waiving their hair back and forth while the rest of the ladies danced around them. Clothing was anything from full traditional clothing with hijab to a ladies business suit to strapless short dresses to sweat suits.  I spent the whole night dancing, and by dancing I mean jumping up and down and yelling.

We did learn a few traditional debqa dances, traditional Jordanian dance, and some belly dancing.  I danced for like 3 hours straight before we went inside to eat mensaf, the traditional Jordanian dish.  Mensaf is basically rice and chicken or lamb with liquidy yogurt pored over it.  We sat on the floor and ate with my hands.  I love the rice, it is so good!  I was having difficulty with the chicken and finding the meat on the bones and then one of the ladies next to me started pulling the meat off the bones and placing it in a pile in front of me.  It was so sweet. I could tell that Ahmad was proud that he could share his house and family with his students. 

It was finally time to go and non of us wanted to leave.  Even the ladies at the party didn’t want us to leave and yelled at Ahmad when he told us we had to leave! He tried to explain that we had class the next day and they told him that we didn’t have classes and needed to stay at their house over night!  It was so sweet.  We eventually had to tell them goodbye and load up and go home. 


I was recruited to spend four Saturdays working in a small town outside of Amman to create a video about the community service project that CIEE worked on this semester.  We basically overhauled an all boys elementary school.

The first week we painted the exterior walls.  Each wall was a different color and pretty muted colors so the red looked like pink but that is okay.  The second week we painted the top half of the class rooms.  This was like a baby blue water based paint.  The third week was the bottom half of the walls, mint green oil based paint.  The fourth and final week was murals on the outside walls. Other projects include- building concrete railings so the boys don’t push each other off the stairs and break their arms, hands, legs, etc. (because that was happening), fixing desks, tightening screws and what not. 

Each week students got to sign up to go on the service trips and only the first 20 or so got to go.  I, however, got to go every week to make the video so I got pretty close to some of the kids, or at least I felt like we had a connection haha

On the last day we finished the murals and then had a few gifts to give the school.  The entire school was there.  They lined up in the court yard and did their usual morning routine for us.  This consisted of the singing of their national anthem along with the raising of the Jordanian flag, a few other songs and then an "attention getter" activity for the boys where commands were called out like "arms out" "arms up" "arms down" and they would have to do whatever command was given to them. 
Next was our part.  CIEE bought a winter coat for each of the students in the school.  They each came up one by one and got a coat.  The weather was pretty warm that day but they all put on their coats by the end.  I had to help a few cause they kept trying to put it on upside down…. 

We also gave at least one space heater per class room to the school to keep the boys warm during the winter.  Once they all had their jackets they wanted to present us with a gift.  Our gift was a coffee mug with a heart on it.  This will honestly be one of my most treasured possessions from my time here.  It meant so much to me to see the little kids so happy in their school and with their new coats.  So precious.

The newly redecorated school was the host to a Jordan vs  United States soccer game.  It was CIEE vs. the boys in the school. In the end Jordan toppled the US quite significantly but that is okay because afterward the US team received cookies and cake! 

Once our responsibilities were over we all ventured to a "park" WITH A STREAM RUNNING THROUGH IT!!! (so exciting to hear running water) and had a barbeque.  It was delicious. 
I really enjoyed getting to know the staff that arranged the volunteer experience and all the people in the group that went with us on each trip.  I also LOVED getting out of Amman and into the country side.  The land out there is unbelievably gorgeous.  I could spend all day out there.


In Arabic there are basically two languages.  You have the Modern Standard Arabic which is basically the Koran/Media Arabic and then each country has their own colloquial Arabic.  While in Jordan I studied both of these sects of Arabic.  My colloquial teacher's name is Aya. 

In class the other day we asked Aya about some of the foods in our book.  She sat down and described them to us and eventually invited us to her house to eat these things.  She is so generous!

We all loaded up in cabs after school one day and headed to her house.  After some trouble finding her  building we finally entered her house to smell the most delicious food.  I cant remember what it is called but it is basically five layers of giant pita bread soaked in olive oil with chopped onions in the middle topped with chicken.  

After dinner we moved to the living room and she had baked some kind of delicious deserts.  I have no idea what they were but I loved them.  Aya had also prepared some hot tea for us and some nargile.  At first I wasn’t going to try it because I always get made fun of when I try it but I decided that it might be rude to refuse so I tried it again and I got pretty good at it.  Its so common in the culture that Aya and her family have three nargiles in their house for whenever they have company over. 

One of the customs in Arab culture is to offer Turkish coffee to people when it is time for the night to end.  Once Turkish coffee was offered we all knew the drill.  Drink it and get out! Haha it was such a wonderful evening with lots of amazing hospitality.  I left with a full stomach and a full heart. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Find me out on the mountain top...

So for the past few weekends I have been working at a school in Iraq Al-Amir.  We have painted the playground area and the classrooms as well as installed a type of railing for the kids so they wont push each other off the stair cases.  It has been really cool to see all the work come together and the place is starting to look pretty darn good. 

While I really like going and working and spending time with friends outside the classroom, I think that what I really REALLY like is getting out of the city.  Now Amman isn’t a bad place and it really isn’t a very large city but it is still a city.  I wish that you could all see the landscape out in Iraq Al-Amir.  It is just beautiful. I think I am meant to be in the country side as opposed to the city.  Im sure growing up listening to bluegrass my whole life (title of this post is a song lyric from a Blue Highway song) might play into it but regardless I love being out of the city.

Today the weather was super foggy.  On the way to the school our driver had a little bit of trouble seeing the road because it was so foggy.  This, however, set the scene for one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.  Instead of talking about it I am going to post some pictures.  These pictures do not do the area justice in the slightest but it is all that I have to share right now....

The fog on the road in front of our poor driver.

More fog.

Iraq Al-Amir

Iraq Al-Amir

Iraq Al-Amir

Iraq Al-Amir

Cemetery in Iraq Al-Amir

Iraq Al-Amir