June 30, 2015 - Amman, Jordan

Don't worry, I'm alive!

I've been so busy this past week and a half, but I finally have time to breathe and sort it all out to share it with you guys! There's a lot to tell, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Thank you all for your lovely comments, it's so nice to see an email in my inbox telling me about another message from home.

Last Sunday (in Muslim countries the work and school week runs from Sunday to Thursday) we started classes at our language school. We met our new teachers: Ustadha ("teacher") Zeinab and Ustadha Umayma. They're both really kind, friendly, and interesting. That was a huge relief after we were told at orientation that our teachers would be strict, critical, and formal -- the classroom is a little more formal, but we feel comfortable already. At this point (as I write) we've had eight days of classes, and they've all been intense and exhausting, but fun. I can feel that I'm learning so much!

On Wednesday we went to EcoPeace Jordan, as one of our "Jordan Today" learning activities. These will take place throughout the program and they're a way to get a sense of modern culture in Jordan. EcoPeace, formerly called Friends of the Earth Middle East, is is an organization that brings together environmentalists from Jordan, Palestine, and Israel to work towards peace and protection of natural resources. We were lucky enough to meet with one of the leaders of the organization, who discussed EcoPeace's goals and philosophies with us. Their website is http://foeme.org if you're interested in learning more!

On Thursday we went to the famous Jerusalem Restaurant for mansef, the national dish of Jordan. It's lamb cooked over rice and drizzled with fermented dried yogurt. There were mixed responses from the other group members; I had rice and delicious vegetarian lentil soup! Afterwards, we tried to go to a Ramadan event called Citadel Night, but unfortunately the information Madison found was incorrect and they aren't happening this year. That was a shame, but instead we went to a little cafe and had some tea in an open balcony seating area with Jordanian music, which was lovely. Friday we tried to go to the Royal Automobile Museum, but that was closed early due to Ramadan. Although it is an interesting time to be here, scheduling will certainly be a lot easier once this month is over!

On Saturday, we went on an all-day trip to Madaba and Mount Nebo. Mount Nebo is the mountain in the Bible where Moses was shown the promised land before he died, and it has a memorial, beautiful views, and some mosaics, as well as an olive tree planted by Pope John Paul II. Madaba is a nearby city famous for its mosaics, as well as for being a Christian center in Jordan, with many churches. We went to the Church of Saint George, which had beautiful wall paintings, as well as the famous Map of the Holy Land. This large floor mosaic was enormously helpful to historians in pinpointing the location of sites from the Mediterranean Sea to the Eastern Desert, and is a beautiful work of art. We also visited the Shrine of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, which had another large and well-preserved floor mosaic. The shrine also had tunnels underneath it, with many more mosaics as well as a representation of Ruth's tent. Finally, the shrine's bell tower is the highest point in Madaba, so we climbed up for the view! Two group members climbed to the very top, but it was a rather precarious way up, so the rest of us stayed at the lower viewing point.

One more bit of news: along with all the work we're doing for our classes and our cultural excursions, we're also putting together something called an Ikteshaf Portfolio. Ikteshaf is an Arabic word meaning either “to explore” or “exploring”, and it is Madison's favorite Arabic word. Our Ikteshaf Portfolios are a weekly independent learning presentation, in which we choose a topic, create or buy an artifact, and present information about it in Arabic and English. Soon it will be only Arabic, but for now we discuss our research in English. This week I talked about the Roman Theater in Amman, and about Amman's history as a city. The Arabic was difficult, but I really enjoyed doing research about Amman from the time it was an Ammonite village, to its time as part of the Roman Decopolis, to the huge city it is today. This is also an explanation for the title: the word ikteshaf sums up this week and hopefully the rest of my time here in Jordan!

Thank you again for all your comments, and for following my adventures! I'm looking forward to more busy days.


University Street
Doing Laundry
City View


June 30, 2015
Yay, what marvelous adventures. So glad things are interesting - it sounds so busy!!!
June 30, 2015
Wow, sounds amazing! And your pictures are beautiful. Thank you for sharing all these stories, I love reading it all.
July 2, 2015
مرحبا Beckie. هذا يبدو وكأنه كنت تواجه وقتا رائعا. نحن نستعد للاحتفال الرابع من يوليو. مريم وعصابة لها قادم غدا. زرنا تريزا في Smuggs الليلة الماضية. شكرا لبلوق الخاص بك.
July 6, 2015
Unfortunately my Arabic is not as fluent as Grandpa's so I will just say "amazing".
News from here is that Xiao Fei and her and John's kids just left for two months in China. Immersing themselves in the language and culture with their Chinese grandparents. What global family we are turning out to be! John came here to join the 4th of July festivities for a few days. Finally some lovely weather here.
July 9, 2015
And I forgot to tell you...one of my first jobs out of college was with Friends of the Earth in Bristol. Couldn't get a work visa as Daddy and I weren't official yet but they gave me free lunch each day so I was happy. Worked on a transportation plan for the city.
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