Monthly Archives: September 2009

Camels! Part 2


This is me trying to join a pack of wild camels. You are all jealous. On our trip to Petra and Wadi Rum, we saw our fair share of camels, but unfortunately, my camera died right before the our ride back so I didn’t get to take pictures of my two favorite camel sightings:

  1. On the way out of Wadi Rum, we drove through a pack of about a dozen camels (they were walking in and out of the middle of the road) who all had their front feet shackled together with a very short rope. This was either camel field day and they were racing, or these were camel prisoners going about their day making Jordanian license plates and the such. I wonder what their crimes were.
  2. Then, on the highway back to Amman, we passed by a truck with a large flatbed and (no joke) 7 or 8 camels sitting in the back of the truck. These camels weren’t shackled together, so they must have been able to walk. They were probably just being lazy. I’m sure the shackled camels must have been jealous because they were really the ones that needed a truck.

What’s next? A camel in my Physics class? A camel on the baggage carousel at the airport? A camel on my dinner plate? I hope they count as carry-on because I’m bringing at least one home with me when I return.

Arabic For Your Everday Life – Teneen (تنين) = Dragon

P8211127Amman is a city of cafes. A lot of people like to go out and smoke hookah (that’s the American word… actually called Argeelah, or Sheesha, or Hubbly Bubbly). I always feel like a Dragon when I smoke hookah though, thus I had to learn Dragon in Arabic. And now you know.

Dragon = Teneen = تنين

(I’ve decided to do a series called Arabic for your everday life, in which I will share Arabic words that are completely random but have somehow come up in my everyday life.)

Teacher Moment #1: The Grocery Store

Last night I bumped into one of my students at the grocery store and had my first teacher moment. Great kid, one of my favorites, but still he said something like “What are you doing here?” Uh, grocery shopping? Teachers eat too.

What I never realized until now though is that it goes both ways. In my head, I was thinking – “What is HE doing here?” I guess grocery shopping? Students must do that too. Maybe they aren’t just strange little people that sit and listen to you talk 5 times a week.

Ancient City of Wonders, Modern City of Characters

I just got back from my wonderful week long vacation to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and I have many stories to share. The next few posts will be all about that. In the meantime, if you want to check out pictures from some of the cool places around Jordan, I posted a ton on my pictures page.

8523_154781831802_778196802_3553378_5743334_nBartering in Petra

We spent two days exploring Petra, which is absolutely amazing. It was built by the Nabateans and absorbed into the Roman Empire around 100. It is an entire city carved into this beautiful red rock. There are hundreds huge tombs and monuments carved out of rock instead of free-standing. You could easily spend a full week exploring all it has to offer.

Again, here, there really aren’t many rules (see older post on the Rules at Jordanian Historic Sites). I liked climbing around inside the tombs (see left), even though some of them were filled with modern trash (unless the ancients drank Coke too, entirely plausible) and smelled like pee.

My favorite moment though of the two days came when randomly passing by three little kids who were selling necklaces. They tried to heckle me into buying a necklace, and somehow we ended up getting into a conversation. They then started bartering with me for everything I had. I really didn’t want the crappy necklaces so I decided to have fun with them instead. I didn’t feel that bad because they told me their names were Sagr (صقر), Nimr(نمر) and Thubbah(ذباح) which translate to Eagle, Tiger and THE SLAUGHTERER, so they were obviously having fun with me too.

They tried to trade my sunglasses, my backpack, anything I had (except apples… they didn’t want that) for their necklaces. They eventually asked me for mp3 music, so I offered them the CDs that I had in my backpack. This was very appealing apparently, because I managed to get one crappy necklace for 5 CDs. I gave them a few mixed CDs, Ben Folds “Songs for Silverman” and Michael Jackson’s number ones. They were pretty pumped about the Michael Jackson. Eagle informed me that he is, in fact, dead, along with Stevie Wonder. After asking me if I know Jeff (who is American and used to teach in their village – no I don’t know Jeff), arm wrestling with me (Slaughterer was the strongest, no surprise there going by name), and explaining to me that my name means “two owls” in Arabic (pretty cool – how’d I not know that?), we all left pretty pleased with the deal we just made.

I’ve always been sure of this, but this confirmed again that kids are kids are kids, no matter where you find them. I don’t have much use for the necklace that I now own, so if you are interested, let me know – I will trade it to you for 5 CDs.

New Page – Photostitching

Inspired by the many pictures I just took on my week off, I just added a page for all of the panoramic pictures that I have stitched together with Photoshop. There are a bunch from the trip to Southern Jordan that I just got back from (which was wonderful!) and then a few from my trip to Europe this past summer.

Here’s one from Wadi Rum, the desert in Southern Jordan, click to see full size. Click here for more.

Wadi Rum Panorama

Eid Mubarak – عيد مبارك

Ramadan is officially over. It was supposed to end either today or tomorrow depending on when the first sliver of this month’s moon showed it’s sorry face, but whoever is in charge of that call saw the moon tonight. Hooray. Now, this means that we have a weeklong break for Eid al-Fitr (عيد الفطر). Some fellow teachers and I are headed down to Wadi Mujib to hike up a riverbed in a Grand Canyon-esque setting, then to the world famous Petra to explore the ancient civilization carved into the side of these beautiful red rocks, and will end up in Wadi Rum to camp in the desert for two nights with some Bedouins. Sweet.

Three weeks on the job, then a vacation – not bad! And I might get another vacation very, very soon. The Jordanian government is so freaked out by Swine Flu that if TWO CASES of H1N1 are reported from our campus, we get shutdown (indefinitely… but at least one week). Every person coming onto campus will have to have their temperature taken. There are 800 students, faculty and staff who work here. Chances of having Vacation Jr very shortly after this one are pretty good.

Eid Mubarak! Goodbye until Thursday…


The streets of Madaba, celebrating the beginning of Eid. This later turned into a mini-riot, a little scary.

Drop It Like It’s Hot – Physics in Action

I originally applied to this school to be a Math teacher, but I am incredibly glad that they had filled all of their Math positions so that I could be a Physics teacher. This past week, our “lab” was dropping things off of our clock tower. We have been modeling 1-dimensional accelerated motion with equations, so basically they had to time how long their object (boxes filled with rocks – how have I not gotten fired already?) took to fall to the ground below, and use the aforementioned equations to calculate the height of the clock tower (it was a little more complicated than that, but I don’t want to bore you). The probability that this would end in broken bones was pretty high, but luckily the only thing that got hurt was the cement below the tower (oops!).


I don’t know if you can see in the picture above my sweet outfit, but on lab days I wear a nice white lab coat to look important, and this time I whipped out my UVa bow tie for the occasion, to really capture the look of mad scientist. I realized while wearing my bow tie around that day that they are quite a novelty here (one girl shouted as I walked by “Sir, I like your style!!” – I felt like a celebrity). Thus, I’ve decided to become the bow tie guy. I have already ordered a few off of eBay. Bow-man the Bow-tie-man.


Camels! Part 1

I’ve decided that I’m going to periodically post pictures of camels that I take. They are my favorite animals. There’s a running loop I do around the wall of the school, and I always pass by these two camels fenced into this field. I have no clue why they are there, but it makes me happy. They just stand there and follow me with their lazy eyes, staring me down the entire time I’m running by, all the while chewing on their whatever they chew because there’s no grass.

These camels were roaming around the side of the road on the way back from the Dead Sea.


The Rules at Jordanian Historic Sites: None!

Unlike historic sites in other countries, you can do whatever the hell you want at historic sites in Jordan. This past weekend, I went to an 800-year old Crusader Castle in al-Karak (about 2 hours away) and played jungle gym on an extremely old building. Instead of having signs telling you what everything was (really, there was no curation at all), you could just climb all over the castle and pretend you were a Crusader or something and learn what everything was for from that. I even accidentally walked in without paying – oops! No rules!

According to my field research, on the left is the spot where the crusaders would sit and hide to scare their little sisters, and right is where they would sit to try and spy on their neighbors. Behind me is like a 500 ft drop literally straight down (it’s the side of the castle) – no railings, no signs, no fun police, no real police.


But they really did put it in an excellent position. From the top there are great views all around to see them heathen enemies approaching in all directions. Too bad they missed me!



Buying Beebsee & Kookaa Koolaa at the Soober Maarkeet

One thing that is a constant source of amusement for me is the Arabization of English words (using the Arabic script and sounds to write an English word). You see it everywhere – on signs, products, business names, tattoos etc. Just like sometimes trying to write words in English from other languages proves difficult, it’s certainly difficult to render the English language in Arabic too. For example, unless you are writing a formal text, you do not write any of the short vowels in Arabic, just the three long ones (long A, long O, long E). This is because when you are familiar with Arabic, you can still read something without any difficulty and predict very accurately which short vowels go where. Unfortunately, the same familiarity can’t be said for Arabized English words, so all short vowels are made into long vowels so that people can actually read what is written. My name is written Boooooo-maaaaaan بومان .

There are other funny changes too, because Arabic doesn’t have a “p” sound or a hard “g” sound, or a “ch” or a couple of other pretty crucial sounds in English (“v”, “ng”) . Here are some examples (there are much funnier ones… I don’t know why I can’t think of them right now).

  • Pepsi – Beebsee بيبسي
  • Coca Cola – Kookaa Koolaa كوكا كولا
  • Super Market – Soober Maarkeet سوبر ماركيت (It actually says this at Supermarkets instead of the Arabic word for Supermarket… why? I have no clue)
  • Head and Shoulders – Heed Aand Shooladarz هيد آند شولدرز
  • King’s Academy – Keenghz Acaadeemee كينغز اكاديمي (Again, the school really has no Arabic name, just uses their Arabized English name for everything… so strange)
  • Computer – Combyoooter كمبيوتر

II’ve beeen theenkeeng thaaat I miiiight staaaaart speeeeaaakeeng Eeengleesh weeth oonlee loong vooweeels, but it’s kind of tiring. Also, feel free to call me Boooo-maaaan because I will certainly answer to that (Conor Grady has been doing this for about two years now). I’m also happy to write your name in Arabic and figure out what your super cool long vowel Arabic name would be.

This should just illustrate why Jordan’s actually a terrible place to learn Arabic. A huge percentage of the population speaks English very well, and English has even creeped into everyday Arabic – I’m rarely forced to try out my skeeellz and people just answer back in English when I do. I hope I can still leave here with some level of fluency in Arabic though, maaaaybeeeee sooooome daaaaaay.