Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Start from the bottom and work your way up, these uploaded backwards for some reason...

The monestary

Last remnants of an old church

Some Byzantine mosaics

The goats

Part of the Tombs area

The Treasury

first glimpse of the Treasury

Walking into the city

This my friends, will be a work in progress. I need to upload tons of pictures, so this is going to take a while to be fully done (and it might turn into two blog posts instead of one...)

Nick and I woke up at 5:00 am to get down to the JETT station at 5:45 and get our tickets. We left Amman at 6:30 and then spent the next three hours driving to Wadi Musa, the town outside of Petra. We actually got dropped off at the main gate of Petra (aka the visitors center) and took a taxi back into Wadi Musa so we could check in at our hostel (the Cleopetra) and then head back in to explore the Rose City. The first day we wandered up past the tombs and then walked down through the city center and up up up to the Monastery, something I don't plan on repeating anytime soon. It was worth it though, but by the time we'd trekked the 2.5 miles (all up hill) back out to the taxi/bus area, we were pooped. We went back to the hostel, slept from 4-7, woke up to get dinner at a fantastic little Arabic place and then went back the hostel and promptly crashed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

sort of the last post

This is the last post from Amman. I'm gonna write more and post pictures from PETRA when I get back home and have better internet. I wish I had been able to write more while I was here in the last couple of weeks, but I had exams and then just running around tyring to get stuff together. And I was in total denial that I was leaving. I don't want to leave, but I do. I'm gonna miss Amman so much, and I can't wait to come back. But this post is just to let everyone know that even though I may be leaving Amman in less than 5 hours, I am not done with this blog. There will be probably at least two more posts about Jordan before I am finally done done. So here's to more!


Monday, May 9, 2011

"Don't you just love the things that limit our society?"

This is a legitimate response from a young Jordanian woman who was asked to come to my Arab Women Writers class and talk to us about life and women's issues in Jordan. This is the second discussion we've had this semester, only this time Jordanian men were invited to join as well. While some of the conversation was productive and illuminating, a lot of it was simply frustrating. For instance, the quote that starts off this blog is an answer to the question "What should be changed in Jordanian society?" and this young woman believed that any change would amount to a loss of Arab culture and identity, as she put it, "Becoming just like the rest of the world." Now obviously, I had quite a few issues with this point. One, the rest of the world is just as different and unique as Arab or Jordanian or Muslim culture, all three of which are very distinct from each other - just as American, collegiate, and Christian cultures are different from each other. Secondly, traditions and customs in her culture limit and HARM the people it embodies, which in my mind is not right. The moral of the story, deduced from my studies and my time in Jordan, is that it all comes down to choice. Having a choice in life is a right, not a privilege, and not something to be delegated to your parents, family, society, whatever. I will defend any woman's choice to go around hijab-less in Jordan just as much as I will defend the right for any woman to wear the niqab in France. Yes, individualism is not a stressed role in Jordan, but it is integral to create an identity and is not just some "Western" norm. And in my mind, this emphasis on choice is at the foundation of many issues in Jordan's society, whether it be wearing or not wearing the hijab, pre-marital sex, or simply a woman's right to work.

This element of choice is also the absent voice in conspiracy theories. Almost every single Jordanian, of about 14 in class, didn't believe Osama bin Laden was dead. Either it was because he was already dead, or he wasn't dead, or whatever, the details are not important. The importance lies in the underlying belief that every single news item or media coverage was a lie. CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera. It was all big business, and you couldn't trust anything. And yes, questioning the news (which is a business) and questioning sources is important for anyone. But there's a difference between skepticism and blind ignorance. One of my classmates made an excellent point: "In the age of WikiLeaks, people and the government are held more responsible than ever for their validity." This also is a good time to point out that we live in the age of facebook, twitter, and blogging, meaning that at any given moment there are thousands of eye witnesses to news events around the world. How else are we getting any coverage at all from Syria? Conspiracy theories, a belief in repressive customs being intregal to a societal identity, all of these point to the victimization card. Yes, Jordanians, Arabs, Muslims, many of these people have reason to feel discriminated and victimized. But holding onto that belief, of constantly being the victim and refusing to take a proactive role in correcting these wrongs, only perpetuates the wrongs and customs and traditions and stereotypes that repress and limit their society. Brooke pointed out to me, "There was no point to half of that conversation because it was so immature." For a real dialogue to take place, you have to be able to look at yourself and say, these are my strengths, and these are my weaknesses. If I'm not willing to acknowledge either of those, there is no point in having a conversation. Self-criticism is crucial for forward growth, and that group of students, for the most part, was unwilling to take on that responsibility.

Another thing that drove me up a wall was the conversation on stereotypes. The students were very eager to hear how our stereotypes, whatever they may be, had changed since we'd been in Jordan. For the most part, American students cited positive stereotypes or nuetral stereotypes that were mostly reinforced while abroad. If anything, the negative stereotype I encountered most of all was the role of vicitmization and defensiveness against America and the rest of the world. I attempted to explain this by saying that of all the stereoptypes Americans might hold against Jordanians, it depends on the individual. America is more diverse, and significantly larger both in population and geography, than Jordan is. The opinions and stereotypes of a New Yorker are significantly different than those of someone living in Columbus, or Seattle, or a small town in North Dakota. The stereotypes you are searching for, the negative ones, do not belong to anyone in this classroom - we volunteered to be here because we are interested in Jordan and its people and want to break the stereotypes that limit cross-cultural interactions. The negative stereotypes are found in the people who refuse to leave America, or broaden their horizons learning about other cultures. And to a certain extent, I think this went through. But it's difficult to have that conversation when there are so many negative American stereotypes floating around Jordan based on either media coverage (which they distrust when it comes to ME news, but not apparently when it comes to reality tv) and limited interactions between family members or friends who emigrate to the US. One girl said, "It's not fair that you criticize us for looking and staring at you when you walk down the street in a tank top, but its fine for my sister to be harassed for wearing her hijab in the US." to which we asked, where is your sister from? the answer: "Memphis." Of the three Memphis/Tennessee natives in the room, all said, "Oh. That's why." But more importantly, what we tried to bring across to her, is that it's not fair in the US to be harassed, and it shouldn't be fair here. No one is asking to be harassed, and yes while staring may occur, it happens. a hijab-clad woman in America is out of the norm, just as I as a white, sleeves rolled up to my elbows single woman am out of the norm here. The difference is that I do not victimize myself. I am aware that I draw attention simply by being me, but I do not let it bring me down. I do not chalk it up to intolerance, rather let it lie at mere curiosity.

More than ever, this conversation reinforced my belief that for women's rights and societal change to really occur in Jordan, it has to come from Jordanians themselves. Changing perspectives cannot be forced upon them from outsiders. Not only is there the inherent distrust of Westerners, but without a societal majority backing any change, that change will be hard to implement. If Jordanians continue to vicitumize themselves, acting passively instead of proactively, it will be impossible for anything to change at all. I'm sure there are plenty who will disagree with me, and to that I say: fine. Prove me wrong. Go out and do something about it. Right now.

That's my rant for the day. Potentially more posts like this to come soon. I'm home in two weeks!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

to appease my father

Well at this point I'm just procrastinating. I'm sitting in Turtle Green, a very trendy little cafe on Rainbow Street, sipping my mocaccino and listening to strange mod music. At least they break change here. For those of you who don't know, breaking change in Jordan is a big deal. It literally makes my day when I find someone to break a twenty for me, let alone a fifty. It's damn difficult. And it's not like people don't have change - I've been denied change for a 10 dinar bill at a grocery store while the register drawer was open and I could see stacks of ones and fives inside. People just don't like letting go of their small bills.

Hmm, other things I could rant about...my host brother has taken to calling me "Biss" which to him means Beth, but to the rest of Jordan means cat. It's also a common word used to (quite literally) cat-call girls. So now everytime some random shab leans out of the window of his car and goes "biss biss" I turn around. Thanks fufu.

I am schway sick, yay sinus infections, and my host family knows it, so yesterday when I came home and ate my lunch (green bean stew and rice) and then went to sleep at 6, they didn't wake me up. I eventually woke up at 9, then went out and was offered more green bean stew and rice, which I ate. And then my host mom said, "I know you are full, but here, take this apple and you can eat in your room." I was still a bit hungry, and I rarely get fresh fruit, so I ate the apple right there. I also got two cups of tea with dinner, which is another rarity since tea is usually reserved for tea time (which falls anytime between 8:30 and 11:30 p.m.) Brooke came home, ate, and an hour later it was tea time. So we went out for tea, had our tea and snacks (usually pita and cream for me) and then went back to our rooms. Then our host mom brought us Easter treats - habibeh's, which means they were awesome - consisting of one chocolate egg, one pastry/cookie thing with a fig in it, and one pastry/cookie thing filled with pistachios. Not as good as the fresh stuff, but still tasty. And then 15 minutes after that my host aunt came in with two plates of honeydew, which means brooke and I were each responsible for eating half of one. I didn't finish. I wanted to, and I couldn't. This is how feeding goes for me, quite often here.

What else, what else...it's going to be really nice to take a shower longer that 5 minutes. I've gotten REALLY good at economical water usage, which is a plus, but also means that I just want a chance to bathe in peace. Also, no more dry skin. I hate having winter skin in summer heat. It's just awful.

Basically the past couple of weeks have been my friends and me yearning for American comforts and other things, and while I love Amman, and want to come back here over and over, I miss home right now. I want Graeter's and the chance to wear shorts in public. Is that so much to ask for?

When I feel reflective I'll post a more substantial blog, but this is just to appease my father and to put my rantings in writing. I'm home in 20 days! Even though I'll be leaving a week later...for my internship in Connecticut! Which is really exciting! And I have a place to live! But I still just want to go home first. I can't wait, and yet I can. Ahhh.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

quick update

...to say hi, I"m alive and well, homesick, but also sad to leave here in less than a month. Also, got an internship in Connecticut and will be living there for 10 weeks or so this summer, so I'm only home for a week before I'm off again. I hope to give a more thorough, explanatory update on some things here that have been on my mind, but that comes after I finish my homework. Also, might be going to Petra soon which is pretty cool :)

Oh, and for anyone that was worried: I'm not going to Syria anytime soon. I didn't get a visa before I left (they cost $131) and the borders are closed now anyway, but I'm definitely not going. I know one person who managed to drive through to Lebanon, and he was damn lucky he made it.

Anyway, that's it for now. Off to class!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

pictures that aren't mine (from Beirut)

I was really lucky I got to go to Lebanon when I did. Next week, a report is coming out condemning Hezbollah for its role in the assassiantion of Hariri, and it's not going to be safe to go to Lebanon after that for a while. A lot of my friends are going Easter weekend, basically the last safe day to go. In any case, all of these were taken by Nick. I just pretended that he was my camera. All these pics are Beirut, the ones from Byblos/Jbail, Jeita Grotto, and the mountains haven't been uploaded to facebook so I can rip them yet :)

These are the mountains in either Syria or Lebanon, I can't remember which.

The city.

Our view from the hostel - the port.

1500 Lira = 1 US dollar

Here follows a series of pictures of the mosque near our hostel.

please note the ruins in the forefront. and the Virgin Megastore to the right.

Where we had breakfast every morning in Beirut.

ruins near the souk district.

Downtown shopping - very French.

creme brulee nick and I split - SO. GOOD.

found right outside the downtown shopping area - remnants from the war.

the abandoned Holiday Inn.

So. hopefully more pictures soon. Until then, Ma'a salaama!


Sunday, April 10, 2011


So I'm going to try to make this as complete and thorough as possible. I'm finally done with midterms, done with spring break, and now the only thing standing in the way of me and this blog is my laziness. So if this ends up being a two-parter, I apologize. But I want to give everything that's going on enough credence and detail, so bear with me.

Midterms were two weeks ago. It was a hell of a week, compounded by the fact that my precious, my prized possession, my Macbook Louis, broke. The power cord got caught in the protective case I bought right before I left (oh irony, you cruel mistress) and pulled my computer off the dresser, flipping it screen-side down, and landing on the tile floor. I now have a steadily creeping black spiderweb of cracks inking across my screen, and I don't know how long it's going to last. Inshallah, I fix it when I get back.

In happier news, spring break in Lebanon was incredible. I'd have pictures, but I was traveling with two obsessive (and talented) photographers, so I figure I'll wait until they post theirs for me to steal a few and put them up here :) The first day I woke up bright and early to catch a cab with Nick and drive down south to the airport. We met up with the rest of our group and made it to our plane, taking off at around 10 and arriving in Beirut around 11. It was a short flight, less than an hour, but you gotta fly when you don't want to cross the Southern border of Syria, or pay 131 dollars for a Syrian visa. Nonetheless, we made it into Beirut after trekking up and down looking for a bus, beating off the horrific taxi drivers, and struggling up the hill to our hostel. We ended up staying at this hostel for 5 nights total, since Beirut is so central and it takes only a couple hours or less to get anywhere in the country. On top of that, the hostel was dirt cheap and fantastically located right next to the downtown souks/shopping district, which was all European and French. I didn't realize just how French Lebanon would be, but I was served a number of menus in French with no English or Arabic on them, and I felt incredibly lost. My favorite breakfast place, Paul, is a French chain with all French menus, and the biggest struggle of the morning was always ordering. In any case, we had ample space to explore, and it was completely safe; it's hard not to be when on every corner were concrete blockades and at least 2 officers with M-16s. There are around 4 different kinds of Lebanese police I believe, all with different uniforms, and it took a little to get used to them. In Jordan, you have the regular police and the army, and that's basically it, although the traffic police have got the best hats you have ever seen in your life:

A minor annoyance about Lebanon is the currency. They use both Lebanese Lira/Pounds (1 USD = 1500 LL) and the US dollar. At the same time. I have many checks that I've saved that give the individual price of items in LL, but then give the total in both LL and USD. And oftentimes, we'd have to pay with both at the same time. And get change in both. So it's very difficult to figure out how much change you're getting, if you're paying the right amount, etc. Even worse is that both Lebanon and Jordan do not split checks. The practice is simply unheard of. If you all sit at the same table, you all pay together. And since not everyone takes credit cards, it can be hard to figure out who has to pay who and when and whatnot. So the moral of the story is that not only did I have conversations in Arabic, English, and French, but I also had 3 different currencies in my wallet the whole time.

The first couple days we did nothing but wander around Beirut and eat. On the third day we went to Jeita Grotto, which is absolutely incredible - you're not supposed to take pictures, but I know Nick snuck a few, so if those turn out I'll post them, but if not, I HIGHLY recommend you google image it: it's absolutely breathtaking. The only downside was that we went when a bunch of school kids were doing a tour, and it was mayhem inside. On the lower part of the grotto you can take a boat tour, but since Middle Easterners don't understand the concept of a line (not stereotyping, it's a fact) even when there are metal barricades forcing you into one, it was extra hectic and long trying to get on the boat. People, old and young, kept trying to push past us and some were hopping the fence too. We got an extra 20 minutes of waiting for being natural line-formers.

On the fourth day we went up to Byblos/Jbail, which is a town with tons of ruins dating all the way back to before 1000 B.C. It's one of the oldest continually inhabited towns on Earth, and many of the old ruins aren't actually ruins at all - they still house people and business, especially in the old souk district. The town is right on the coast of the Mediterranean, so we even got some beach time while we were there. Our hotel was rather miraculous - the price was heavily knocked down since it's the off season, and we got breakfast and an ocean view included. For four unemployed students, that's quite a deal. The beach was pretty dirty, covered in trash in parts, but we were determined for some beach time so we went out the following morning. We ended up having a little audience of three random Lebanese men, but they were mostly harmless. They didn't talk to Lindsey or I, but they chatted with Nick when he wandered off and Matthew when Lindsey and I left as well. After the beach, we went and ate lunch at a restaurant Lindsey and I had found the day before. Most of the places to eat are along the harbor, many of them seafood places and rather pricey, but The Cookery was reasonable and served my new addiction, Kinder crepes. If any of you have ever had Kinder Bueno chocolate, you might understand the gloriousness of Kinder chocolate crepes. They are heavenly. We managed to find another crepe place (uniquely called "the crepe factory") in Gemmayzeh, near all the bars. Speaking of which, Nick and I found a bar on our little exploration through Gemmayzeh during our first day in Beirut called, I kid you not, Beavis and Butthead. Needless to say, we went back during the night and had a couple drinks with the bartender, a lovely young lady named Anis who gave us some great advice on where to visit in Lebanon, as well as free internet. We ended up back at Beavis and Butthead 2 more times with different groups of people, just because the bar and this woman and her boyfriend were so amazingly friendly and fun to talk to.

Anyway. Back to Byblos. We spent two nights there then moved back to Beirut and caught a bus to Deir Addine and some other castle whose name I can't remember - after a while, all the ruins just start blending together...in any case, we stayed at this very very French hotel off the side of the mountain road, called La Bastide. When I get pictures, I'll show this little hotel: It had a wonderful view and a very nice, albeit strange Frenchwoman who ran the establishment with her chaffeur and brood of Asian maids. We spent the next day exploring the little village and walking to the castles, admiring the stepped farms along the mountainside. It was raining, and the clouds were sitting in the valley and made everything foggy. We were walking along the road, which probably wasn't a good idea considering how narrow it was, how horrible Lebanese drivers are, and the fact that it dropped away at a staggering rate down the side of the mountain. But, we obviously made it back alive, so all in all a fun adventure. I was disappointed that we didn't get to go see the Cedar reserves, and Matthew was disappointed we didn't get to go to Baalbeck, but over all it was a great trip. Our last day was spent at an internet cafe and our hostel, just laying about and relaxing before heading back to Amman and school.

The one thing that I absolutely hated about Lebanon was the cab drivers. They were vultures, all of them. Aggressive, wouldn't leave us alone, ripped us off, and would hound us in packs and corner us on the street asking us where we were going. I definitely missed Amman with its clearly identified yellow cabs and meters. But other than the taxi drivers, Lebanon was good. I'll probably give another update on a few other things that stuck out to me while I was in Beirut, like the unfinished skyscrapers and the bombed out buildings, but this post is long enough already and I want to go to bed. Inshallah, another update soon.



p.s. I got all the classes I wanted AND awesome housing for next year, so I have things to look forward to at home!

p.p.s. Randomly met a girl in a serveece taxi going through Beirut - she's from Tunisia and very nice, even friended me on facebook, and it just goes to show how friendly people are on this side of the globe.