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.