Saturday, April 30, 2005

Running Out of Air 

I found two decent pictures from Aqaba from a friend's camera (still waiting for my USB adaptor to arrive...).

This Jordan flag in Aqaba is supposedly the largest flag in the world. It's pretty darn big and absolutely gorgeous on a windy but sunny day (this picture does it no justice at all).

Here is Ali, Jeta, me and Ali's brother Taed at Aqaba's most famous seafood restaurant: Alibaba.

Diving was amazing this weekend. We went down 78 feet to a shipwreck and up into an airpocket in the bow of the ship and I was actually able to take out my regulator and talk with Shane there. On the way back he saw a huge 8 foot Octopus which I missed because I ran out of air (on my first non-training dive!) and had to buddy-breathe my way to the top with one of the Divemasters... Oops...

On the second dive we went to this spot they call Japanese Gardens and we saw a huge Sea Turtle. Everyone was excited because I guess it is pretty rare to see them. It looked old and grumpy but at the same time surreal and majestic. I was pretty impressed. But I must have been too excited, because I had to go back with the early group of people who ran out of air too fast... again... but this time one of our other friends had to buddy breathe and not me. Movin' on up!

I guess I now understand what they mean when they say the most important thing to do under water is relax and let the current help you along, barely even kicking, like you are suspended in space. That's easier said than done for an impetuous klutz like myself, but I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of it.

I heard a rumor today that world travelers' brother Tony and sister-in-law Erica may be coming here for a quick trip at the end of May... That would be very very cool... I'll keep you posted...


Thursday, April 28, 2005


I actually look forward to my daily commute by Taxi.

First of all, after living in DC where a taxi ride of 4 blocks costs you $7.00, I love that I can go anywhere in the city for about 1 JD or $1.50. Plus there are like 6 taxis to every person looking to go somewhere in Jordan so you never have a problem finding one even on side streets.

Also, I admit I am proud that I can now do an entire cab ride in Arabic, which isn't easy because they don't have street names or addresses really here. So you have to do a lot of talking to get where you want to go. Anna bidi arduah duar taled, sharra el amir mohammad, dogeri, yemin, yassar, hone (I want to go to 3rd circle, prince mohammad street--and when they don't know where that is--straight, right, stop here). (Yes Joe, I know I probably butchered the spelling but you get the point).

And also, because they always know I am a foreigner (probably by the way I can't ever say that throaty "H" properly) so they usually start telling me their life stories or asking me about mine (which I almost always completely make up--just to be on the safe side--I'm a married woman from Bologna, Italy or Montreal, Canada if I don't feel like bringing back a few words in Italian).

Or like yesterday, they take out their casette tape of Amer Diab and put in Celine Dion and start singing along to "My Heart will Go On." Or the other day when the driver stopped at an ice cream shop mid-trip and bought us both ice cream cones. And the time the taxi driver kept asking if I had a friend he could marry to come to Canada with us. Or the time I jumped into a taxi pimped out with black lights and velvet curtains....

In other news, heading to Aqaba again tomorrow with Shane to do my first real, non-training dive. Getting ready for our trip to Egypt at the end of May. We had to shift gears away from Africa and on to Egypt since we only get a week off instead of the two we were planning to have. The other week we are saving for a trip home to the states in July, to do a Schiavon family reunion and a wedding of a very good friend of Shane's. I don't know which I'll have more to write about? My crazy family reunion or a trip down the Nile....


Sunday, April 24, 2005


I am finally learned how to post pictures (it only took me two years)!

Here's a photo from our scuba trip (Shane). Now the only problem is that we lost the USB cord that allows us to download photos to the computer from our camera and can't find a place here that sells them. Technology is so cool but such a pain!



So I really messed up our apartment building on Thursday. I headed off to work at 8am and left five eggs on the stove to hardboil for 5 hours. When I returned there was smoke literally billowing from under the door of our apartment. The doorman and I rushed into the house, I grabbed a fire exstinguisher because it seriously looked like the place was burning the way the smoke had engulfed the entire house. But all we found was a charred pot on the stove and chunks of burnt egg exploded throughout the kitchen.

In some ways I think we are very lucky. It could of been so much worse. I could have left something on the stove that involved oil or, if it hadn't been a holiday, I probably wouldn't have come home for lunch and the damage could have been worse. But in other ways I think we were not so lucky. After all, the incident cost us at least $200 worth of smoke damage repairs, cleaning supplies, drape & carpet cleaning not to mention three days of serious scrubbing and washing and a residual eggy funk smell four days later we still can't seem to fully rid the house of (thank you Shane for taking this all in stride!!). Plus, I think I got smoke inhalation or at least have been poisened by all the chemicals and artificial scents we've been exposed to the last couple of days. All because of a few overcooked eggs....

So that was my weekend.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Holiday, Celebrate 

I had heard that Jordan literally has more holidays than any other country in the world.

I only wish I knew they actually take off of work for all of their holidays before I came to work today on the Prophet Mohammad's Birthday.

So it's just me and the cleaning lady, Lori, who is Philippina and also just moved here. I guess she didn't know either....

At least I will know for next Sunday, May 1, when they they take off for their labor day.... and then again on May 25th when they take off again for their Independence Day.... and so on... and so forth.....


Wednesday, April 13, 2005


I'm finally getting used to what I call the "inchala" lifestyle. "Inchala," in Arabic, literally means "god willing." However, in practice, it works less like its English translation "as soon as possible" and more like the English phrases "in due time," "sooner or later" or "eventually."

And practically every request is answered with an "inchala."
"I will look over your sponsorship packages tomorrow inchala."
"I will get you some three-ring binders inchala."
"You will have your own computer tomorrow inchala."

Yes, I admit I am a person who likes to be in control and is professionally extremely anal about delivering an high level of customer service. But I should be, I deal with potential high-dollar donors all day!

But it doesn't matter what I do, I too must adjust to the way of "inchala."

Yesterday, I made my first step towards acceptance of this new, painfully uncertain and slow way of working. I received my first $15,000 commitment from a company that I ironically started a school-wide boycott against in first grade. I have nothing against them now, but that is another story...

Anyhow, like any good fundraiser would, I wanted to get them the contract as soon as humanly possible. I knew I could have it done in two hours tops, but I gave myself an "inchala" buffer until the next day at 4pm to write it and get it approved... I felt horrible about telling them I wouldn't have it until the next afternoon.

It's 6pm now and I'm still waiting for it to be approved......

No, it's not that bad. These folks work really hard and have a lot on their plates, and admittedly Americans are unbalanced workaholics. Okay, it's 6:10. I just got the contract approved and have to send it out to the company. I hope they sign it inchala!

I'm going to chill out and get into this inchala thing. Maybe tomorrow I'll even take a lunch break.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

The only thing you have to fear.... 

We have a permanent driver for our office. He is a very nice man, probably in his mid-40s. He has a wife and three young, beautiful children. He used to own a cosmetic store over by the Mecca Mall until he went out of business about a year ago. Now he is our full-time driver. The average income in Amman in around $300 a month, and I doubt he makes much more that that. Yet he is positive and sweet and takes me all over and teaches me about the city and how to get by in Arabic.

At one point I told him I grew up "near Chicago." That's when he told me he had actually lived in Chicago for a few years awhile back. But when I asked him if he enjoyed his time there, his answer was so interesting.

Our Driver told me he didn't like it in Chicago because he didn't feel safe there. He said he couldn't go out at night like he could in Jordan. He reminded me that they don't ever really have muggings or purse snatchings in Amman like they have every night in Chicago.

I found his answer very ironic. So many people were scared for me to come to the Middle East, and here is a middle-age Jordanian who was scared to go out at night in Chicago and complaining that he didn't feel safe living in the U.S.

And I guess it is becoming more dangerous to be an Arab in the U.S. and more dangerous to be American in the Middle East, however, he was right about one thing: I honestly do feel safer in Amman than I did living alone in Washington, DC. Yes, I know that I am American and hence there is a lot of animosity over here right now towards our Government, but at least I don't have to worry here that someone is going to attack me or rob me if I walk alone.

Plus, I don't really feel any animosity towards me even though my Government sucks. Especially, when we start talking politics and they find out I'm not another redneck businessman. If anything I am treated like I am smarter and cooler than I really am. The only negative vibes I have felt from anyone since I got here over a month ago are a few jealousy vibes.

I just wanted to write a quick post about this. I have learned so much about this culture and the politics and people here. I can't imagine having passed up this experience out of fear. And I admit I was scared for a couple days when I first got here (I even alluded to that in one of my first posts). But for once, I'm glad that I decided not to toe the line and took a leap. So far it has been incredible.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Ammarin Bedouin Camp 

I had a two hour meeting with the manager of the Ammarin Bedouin Camp which is a camp located down in Beidha which is right next to Petra. Most Americans have probably never heard of Bedouins let alone knew that there are many different tribes of Bedouins across Jordan. Well I was one of those people, but after yesterday I can tell you all about the Bedouins, especially the Ammarin Bedouins, and some of the issues and differences they have with the Petra "Wadi Musa" Bedouins. It's all very fascinating. And the sad thing is that unlike our Native Americans, little to nothing is popularly known about Bedouin cultural heritage. However, like our Native Americans, many Bedouins still live separately from the rest of the population and have a tough time (and no casinos). For the most part, the are still a nomadic people. For example, they don't really farm besides barley and oats to feed their sheep which is their main source of bartering/income and their children don't normally go beyond 8th grade.

Anyhow, the Manager of the Ammarin Tribe Camp that I met with yesterday is an amazing man. He actually grew up in Amman and then went to school in Louisiana and then got a masters in Florida. After returning to Jordan, he decided to get back to his roots. So he moved down to Beidha where he has been living for five years in the Government subsidized housing they built for the Bedouins when they moved them out of Petra six years ago.

Most of the people in the Manager's tribe still live in tents. He has made it his goal to raise the standard of living in the area while maintaining the unique cultural heritage of the people. My company, i Jordan, is working with them to plan and promote several festivals and community development projects. We are also working with him to promote tourism to the area where they have some nice tents with showers and they cook visitors traditional Bedouin meals. I actually get to go down there next weekend to meet with the tribe and the chief and stay over in the camp. I am very excited.

Wow, now I know why my brother wrote such long blog posts when he was in China! There's such a learning curve and so much to write about. But I'll wrap this up. Here's the website for the camp if you want to check it out: www.bedouincamp.net.


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