Thursday, September 22, 2005


My co-worker Lana invited me to her house for lunch on my birthday for a traditional Palestinian meal (reminder that around 60% of Jordanians are Palestinian). The dish, Maqluba, was ridiculously good. With a decent appreciation for culinary niceties, I feel the need to share the only English recipe I could find with all of you. This version seems simple enough to prepare but doesn't contain the chickpeas that you see here. I guess the word "Maqluba" is Arabic for "upside down" since the dish is prepared in a pan and then flipped over and served. It features rice, potatoes, lamb, eggplant and tomatoes. Yum!


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Quarter Life Crisis 

I turned 25 yesterday.

I consider myself a pretty stable person but I have to admit I am a little distraught. This age is a time of so many paradoxes where many of your wants and needs are literally mutually exclusive:

Balancing your desire to travel with your desire to have a stable career path...

Intense desire to be with someone who provides you with love and affection and yet desperately wanting to maintain your independence...

Feeling like you have achieved a lot over the past 25 years and yet not having a clear idea about what you want to achieve over the next 25 (too many choices!)...

Knowing a lot about what you don't want but not much at all about what you really want...

Realizing you are no longer young to be married and have kids and yet feeling less financially stable and more selfish than you ever have...

Feeling so much wiser than you felt in college to the ways of the world and yet feeling like you don't really know much about anything...

And these just to name a few. I hope my friends will add some of their thoughts in the comments.

Let's face it, at 25, you are no longer the precocious achiever you once were. In fact, half your office is younger than you and seemingly smarter than you!

But I don't want to get too gloomy here.

There are some positives to being 25 too.

I mean come on, getting to 25 and not being totally screwed up is a big feat and something to be very proud of!

And of course, you get to rent a car without spending an extra $15 per/day.


Sunday, September 11, 2005


On a whim, Shane and I traveled to Beirut this weekend. Our Jordanian friends rave about the Beirut party scene, the beaches and the pretty people, but not much else. But since our friends Dima and Issam were heading there for a wedding, we had a good excuse to check it out for ourselves.

Honestly, Beirut was a lot more modern than we expected. You can see why they call it the Paris of the Middle East. Unlike Amman, it is very lush and green. They say in the winter you can snow ski in the mountains and swim in the Mediterranean all in the course of one day. Besides their driving, things seem very calm there. Despite the recent attacks, I'd say the military presence there is no larger than in Amman.

So while I can't say we managed to check out the famous party scene (I guess we're getting too old) there was actually a lot to do there! We took a boat into a magnificent cave called the Jeita Grotto on top of a mountain. We rode a gondola from the ocean to the tallest mountain overlooking the Beirut coastline. We also visited Byblos, perhaps the longest continuously inhabited city in the world dating back some 7,000 years. And unlike the swarming temples in Egypt, there was nobody there except for us (the city was built by the Phoenicians but actually partly constructed with granite from Aswan, Egypt).

The people we met in Beirut were very friendly. We went out to dinner with our Jordanian friends Dima and Issam and their Lebanese friends Roy and Elias. The Lebanese guys were great. They told off color jokes and crazy stories of partying all night and my favorite story involved them accidentally using a landmine field for a pit stop. As funny as they were, they were also pretty fatalistic about the prospects for an all out war there in the coming months. They were both Christian. They claimed that while 5 years ago 50% of Lebanon was Christian, more recently it had receded to around 15% (although the CIA factbook still puts it at 39%). One thing that is abundantly clear from being in Beirut: religion is really important. There were churches and Christian symbols everywhere. The neighborhoods were all divided up by religion.

To make a long story shorter, there was a lot going on in Lebanon in terms of religion, politics, culture and history. We sure learned a ton in just two days but I felt like I'd need a few more weeks there and/or some serious reading to get a grasp on what made Lebanon seem so different. It just felt like such a rich place and quite a curious melting pot. From the French to the Phoenicians, to the Syrians and the Palestians--it sure has a fascinating history for a place with half the population of Wisconsin.

Here's a few pictures from this weekend:

We took a gondola to the top of a mountain that had a great view of Beirut.

The ancient Phoenician city of Byblos.

Religious symbols were everywhere.

The Jeita Grotto (I admit I pulled this picture off their website but they didn't let you take pictures in the cave darn them!)


Aint It the Truth 

(Thanks to Nada for forwarding this)


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thank You Ocean Creep 

The other day I looked back through some comments and discovered that someone had posted a trackback" on my post about the Jordanian Timesheet. I have to be honest, I didn't even know what a trackback was until this guy "Ocean Creep" posted one. Basically, I discovered that it is a link to his blogpost that is relevant to my blogpost. How cool!

Even though I guess I am technically a "blogger" I have to confess I am extremely technologically inept. It took me a year just to figure out how to post pictures. I know absolutely nothing about HTML except how to cut and paste.

So it also took me 5 months of living and posting here to discover that there is a thriving existing blogger community in Jordan. The community is underscored by a communal website called Jordan Planet that even lists some expat blogs from people like me who are writing about their experiences here (I have listed a few of them on my index).

As I write now I just checked back to the Jordan Planet Website and saw my blog was linked as a "Jordan Planet Friend!" Go Schiavoni files. Though I have to now admit that it was not a coincidence as I enquired a couple days ago about how to get added to that list;o).

So they had an article on the blogging community in this magazine called JO.

By the way, this is a cool magazine. Check out the front cover:

I think browsing the content of the cover teasers really helps give one a sense of the overt clash in Jordan between old and new, modern and antique, western and traditional.

Just read the first two teasers: "Mind Your Step - Will Jordan Be Landmine Free by 2009?" followed by "Talking to Strangers - Jordanian Bloggers Make Themselves Heard." Interesting juxtoposition huh?

That's one of the thing I really dig about this place. Similar to the U.S., it's a very interesting melting pot over here. You see and hear a little bit of everything on a daily basis and I find myself continually surprised. Kind of like finding out that Jordan has an active blogging community... and that they still have over 250,000 landmines to clear from Jordan before their 2009 deadline.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

What is going on over there???? 

Literally, we are all just stunned here to see the land of freedom and opportunity turned into a cespool of death and destruction for its most vulnerable citizens. I know that much has been written over the past few days on how incredulous the government's response to the crisis has been. However, I feel compelled to add my voice as a sort of therapy to myself. Because man I am feeling angry right now.

I am mostly angry that it has to take our own citizens being left to rot in the streets for the press and half this country to realize that the current administration is taking us back to being a developing country. Let's look at the facts: widespread corruption and deception, crazy pre-emptive war, 40 million people uninsured, and now massive famine and a refugee problem.

I am also embarrassed. Mostly, I'm embarrassed because I have to witness the world's reaction to our disaster. And people here honestly had no idea that the world's richest country has so many people that are so dirt poor. It's as if the water rushed in and our hidden poverty and race problems couldn't help but float to the top for all the world to see. (Sorry for the crude analogy but it seemed fitting.)

But please, let's let the administration keep cutting the social programs that FDR and others put in place to provide our citizens with basic humanity in favor of tax cuts to the rich.

So apparently almost everyone is appalled by the Government's response to the crisis. But then there are some people that are giving the Government the benefit of the doubt and saying that the lack of action was not because of race but because of socioeconomic status.

What a joke.

Yes, I'm sure class was the determining factor of whether people evacuated to safe areas, but you can't fool us into thinking the Government wouldn't have reacted much, much faster to scenes of sick white babies and white couples waving flags off the roof. I was personally disgusted to see reporters pan an entire scene of suffering African Americans over and over just to single out the one little white boy or a young white women in the crowd and reflect specifically on their misery.

We have seen this phenomenon many times before. It's the same reason American's empathized so strongly with the pretty white Bosnian victims and ignored the slaughter of Rwandans. It's also a contributing factor to why the story of 1,000 innocent people being trampled to death in Baghdad wasn't even front page news. It's time to acknowledge that this tragic bias exists and to figure out a way to make sure it never rears its ugly head again at least our own soil (and ideally the world but let's be realistic here).

Make no mistake, the entire world is glued to this crisis in the U.S. Even the channels that seem to purposely avoid reporting on the U.S. are showing this crisis round the clock. Why? Well, someone poignantly remarked how humbling it was to see the world's superpower humbled. That probably has a lot to do with it.

I was personally very humbled to see nations affected by the Tsunami offering to send the U.S. disaster relief.... and admittedly amused to see Cuba's offer of aid. The only teeny weeny silver lining in this great big cloud is that Karl Rove's master plan to finally win over the African American vote may be set back a few years. Did I just write that?! On a serious note, my heart goes out to all the people that have suffered so much. I can't imagine what it must be like to lose everything you have in one night. I hope as the richest country in the world, we can figure out a way to help all these people pick up and move on.


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