Thursday, June 30, 2005

Not Much Has Changed I Guess 

Because I admit it's pompous enough to have my own blog and expect that some people actually like to read my posts, I normally have enough humility to at least refrain from posting pictures of myself on this thing.

But I had to make an exception for this picture below. All modesty aside, this is a classic Schiavoni pose:

The history behind the captured moment is Shane and I sitting at this posh, grill-your-own seafood restaurant at the Dead Sea, apron on, white wine in one hand, chastising one of Shane's co-workers about something, the poor guy. It's probably me having a one-sided lecture session about Bush or the state of the world, but whatever it is, I'm clearly feeling passionate about it. Just thought the Lizzies, Emilys and Kirstins of the world would get a kick out of this one.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Emilia in Italia 

My friend Emily and her Italian-American man Mark are in my favorite place in the world right now: Italia. And since I have come to grips with the fact that my blog is nothing more than a travel log right now, I wanted to post some beautiful pictures from their fabulous excursions. I am also posting an excerpt from their email update. I didn't ask them if I could do this, so hopefully they will forgive me quickly:

"We've been cultured in Roma, Assisi, and Florence now were on the beach soaking up the sun and swimming in the emerald green waters. We discovered the true way to see the Tuscan countryside, on two wheels. We rented bicycles and peddled out into the hills stopping at the cutest B&B for a home cooked chianti feast including two jugs of vino (with 15 kilometers still to go). The next day we rented a scooter, and headed to the medieval town of San Giovanini."
I believe they are now in Marsala, Sicily staying with Mark's family. I sure am proud of Emily for hooking herself un ragazzo Italiano.

Perhaps my favorite place in all of the world, the Almalfi Coast (I think this is Positano).

A nice picture of the Roman Forum.

It seems like everyone who goes to Europe has to take at least one picture of the Smart Car.

Fiori of Italy


Monday, June 20, 2005

Star Academy 

On June 16th my company iJordan brought the Star Academy Tour Concert to Jordan. Star Academy is basically a cross between American Idol and the Real World. Eight aspiring stars from all over the Middle East live together in a house for a few months and put on concerts while being broadcast live out of Lebanon 24-hours a day on a satellite cable channel. This is actually the second season of the show and it has endured a lot of controversy (think single Middle Eastern women and men living together in the same house and it's not hard to figure out why there was controversy). They say many people of all ages are addicted to the channel but the main audience for the concerts (just like American Idol concerts) are teenage girls age 10-16.

So my company put on the production last week and it was really well done actually. It was in this huge theater with amazing sets and lighting. They also had about 10 incredibly talented backup dancers from the Ukraine (Shane and I personally thought they outperformed the stars).

A scene from Star Academy

Also, the cool thing about the concert is that we paired up with the Jordan River Foundation, an important charity in Jordan, to give part of the profits to their Child Abuse Prevention Program. We also provided tickets to the show worth $40 each and transportation for over 200 children from the Displaced Children Centers.

So there I was, running through the arena, navigating the hordes of teenage girls, my all-access iJordan pass dangling around my neck, trying to make sure sure Crest Toothpaste was happy with their sponsor booth and Leyalina Magazine bandanas were being properly distributed, when it dawned on me how completely random my life is right now.

If in 1998 when I graduated high school someone had come up to me and had me rank the likelyhood of 1000 options for my first five years out of college, the preceding scenario would have been maybe 992 on the list (and only that low if 8 options included criminal acts).

But I guess that is what makes this experience so fulfilling. That I have had to completely step out of my comfort zone to live in a random place and try to assimilate in a totally different culture for no real reason except the adventure of it.

Just as a side note--and talk about being out of my comfort zone--at the VIP reception, the winner of the show--this charismatic Saudi Arabian kid--found out I was American and starting telling me how he used to like going to Miami and New York on vacations, but after 9-11 he just didn't feel welcome in the states anymore. Hard to imagine Kelly Clarkson or any of the American Idol stars having similar concerns. It certainly is a different world over here.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Local Celebrities 

Jordan has quite a few of their own interesting magazines like this one called "Leyalina" (translated "Our Nights"):

In terms of print and design, Leyalina is comparable to any American glossy magazine. And though there are some other more substantial magazines here (such as Jordan Business Monthly and a great, thought provoking, English-language magazine called "Jo"), Leyalina barely has any articles. They usually lead with a photo shoot of a regional celebrity. Beyond that, practically the entire magazine is filled with photos of regular people (well, upper class regular people) at parties and weddings. Literally, it has pages and pages of posed people smiling at these random events. In fact, it is rare not to see magazine photographers at any decent sized party or event that you attend.

Can you tell who those dorky people are in this issue smiling for the camera?

Oh yeah, that's us.
We were sitting with the owner of the only golf club in town. High rollers ;o) But who could pass up belvedere Vodka tasting night at the Intercontinental Hotel? How snooty does that sound? Sure was fun though. Plus, I have a cool memento from my travels...


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