Monthly Archives: January 2010


On March 4th, I’ll be participating in one of the coolest road races I have ever heard of. I’ve already had great experiences with road races in Jordan (see my post on the Amman International Marathon), but this one is on a different level. It’s called the Dead2Red – a 242 km (150 mi) race from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, more than halfway across the entire country. The Dead Sea is on the northern end of Jordan’s border with Israel and the Red Sea is at the very bottom tip of Jordan. To make it a bit worse, the Dead Sea happens to be the lowest place on earth, so the first (very long) stretch is uphill.

242 km/150 mi? Bowman, you can’t do that. Well, I won’t be doing it myself – you run in teams of 10. The rule is that one person has to be running at all times. The rest of the group waits in the bus and when it’s time to switch, the bus stops to let someone new out to grab the baton and take up the running. Most teams have the runners do 0.5-1 km shifts so you end up running every half hour or so, but only for like 3-4 minutes, running a total of about 24 km (15 mi) over the course of the race. The race takes almost an entire day – it starts in the evening on a Thursday at the Dead Sea and ends mid-day on a Friday in Aqaba.

We have a team of 10 faculty members participating, ranging from a few of the 22 year olds to a couple of faculty members in their 50s. There are two student teams, and we hope to crush their hopes, dreams, spirits, everything. I’m starting to “train” now (though I don’t think it’s really as intense as it sounds). Look for future posts about our progress.

what is arbic pepole they smook

The blog site I use gives me a list of all the search engines terms that people used to find my blog. Here are my favorites.

  • thubbah community in which country?
  • fun waterparks
  • school boy shirt untucked
  • salt lake utah floating swimmers
  • beebsee
  • jane jetson (43 times… the third most popular one)
  • wrinkly disheveled dress for work pictur
  • bowman i’m arabia
  • And in Arabic… وادي الموجب
  • عيد مبارك

But the overall winner has to be…

  • what is arbic pepole they smook

(was some drunk Jamaican trying to find out where to buy a hookah and stumbled across my blog?)

So if you’re one of those people that used a strange thing to find this site… welcome?

Balloon Massages and Rodinkh/Gingikh

Today, for the second time this year, I had someone pull out a camera to take a picture of what was happening in class (see post about the Physics Dance Party). We started our unit on electricity and magnetism today, so we did some simple charge experiments – it’s pretty easy to transfer some electrons to a balloon by rubbing it on a wool sweater, and then that balloon will stick to your sweater, to the wall etc. After doing a quick demonstration and doing some actual physics (I swear my class isn’t just some weird crazyfest) we had a contest to see who could get a balloon to stick to the wall for the longest only using electrical charge. Their schools sweaters didn’t work too well (probably made of some fake synthetic crap) so the class bunched around me and gave me a 13-person balloon massage. Good times.

Earlier in the class, we were talking about electricity and how Benjamin Franklin named the charges  positive/negative and that this was completely arbitrary – I said he could have named them the opposite, or named them red and blue, really anything. At this point, one my strangest but funniest students – a kid who’s not fond of the idea of homework, doesn’t seem to care when he gets bad grades – piped up with ZERO hesitation and shouted “Yeah, or Rodinkh and Gingikh!” What? Yeah, sure I guess he could have named them rodinkh and gingikh. I thought that meant something in Arabic that I didn’t know (because he used some Arabic letters in there, like the “Kha”), but I saw the same look of befuddlement on the other students’ faces. Turns out he just decided to give positive and negative completely random names, and these rolled off his tongue as a pair like “salt and pepper” or “hugs and kisses” or “snakes and planes”. We wrote them up on the board and now that class has decided that we are going to use rodinkh (رودنخ) and gingikh (جنجخ) for the names of our charges.

We’ll see how long that lasts…. (someone who knows Arabic better than me please let me know if this is some filthy thing that I am saying in front of my students)

Copyright, bah!

The concept of illegal copyright is pretty much nonexistent here – I’ve already talked about one of my favorite places in Amman (the Hamoudeh Pirated DVD store). I got a book of Physics demonstrations for Christmas (woohoo!) and the head of my department really liked it. He asked to borrow it, and then came back with two copies – what? Magician? No, he asked the copy machine guy at our school (yeah, we aren’t allowed to make our own copies… weird) to tear the binding off my book so he could put the pages through the copier and make one for him. Then, the binding on my book was glued back on (Sounds like a rough process, right? Well it was. His brand new copy looks great, and mine’s a little worse for the wear).

As funny as I thought that was, and as little as I care, it seems that the Jordanian government is starting to care. There are rumors abound that they are cracking down on copyright issues and that my beloved Hamoudeh Pirated DVDs incorporated will be shutting down! The faculty at the school are a little freakity freaked out – where will we get our cheap thrills now? A group of us is planning a big trip this weekend to buy out the place.

Let me know if you want anything before it’s too late…

Teacher Moment #4: Late with Only 2 Whiteboard Markers in Hand

The fact that this is only number 4 on my teacher moment series doesn’t really paint the full picture of how many of these moments I have had as of late. For example(s)… I’ve started to realize that I think I’m funnier than I actually am in front of the class (classic teacher trait), I’ve started to dress more like a teacher (corduroy, weird blazers, bowties and sweaters which are all worn in an attempt to not look like a student in my classic Navy Blue blazer), and I now have this teacher death glare down so well (and I’m never short of situations in which to use it).

But a good teacher moment the other day… I needed to get a second passport to help facilitate travel around the region (story for another day), but the embassy in Amman has ridiculous hours like 11:15 am until 11:21 am on Weekdays or something, so you have to find ways to get there during the school day. On Wednesdays, I have a nice little 3 hour break, so I decided to risk it and try to make it to the embassy and back before my afternoon class. I went in (about a 30 minute drive) with the school driver, got dropped off at the embassy and did my business. Surprisingly, it only took about 45 minutes after the ridiculous security checkpoints, so I left very pleased.

I called the driver to see when we were going back, and he said Give me 3 minutes and I will come get you.” Immediately after hanging up, he called back and said “did I say 3? I meant 30, give me a half hour.” Okay, fine, that will still be plenty of time. I walked around the area for a while trying to kill time – an hour passed. I gave him a call again to ask when we were going back and he said I’ll be there in a half hour.” Uh-oh. I now had class in 45 minutes, so a 30 minute wait plus a 30 minute drive equals an unattended classroom. I freaked out, hopped in a cab, and used all of my Jordan skills to make it back to school in 3 different cabs for a total of 6 JD (which is pretty good).

I ended up being only 5 minutes late for class, but the other snag was that I had left my bag in the driver’s car because I didn’t want to take it into the embassy… my bag with my lesson plan and all of my teaching materials. I grabbed 2 whiteboard markers from the supply room, went to the class anyway, and taught like I’d never taught before (unprepared that is). It actually ended up being an okay lesson… but that’s when I knew I’d hit the big time. If you had asked me to do that in September, I would have been tense and nervous, and probably would have just let my class go, but I managed to go with the flow and deal with it. Oh, the little victories.

I have to go back to the embassy to pick up the passport now that it’s ready. Maybe I’ll wait until we have a school holiday this time…

Garbage Disposal Eating Contest

One of my favorite nights I’ve had at school so far – we had a “Fear Factor” style eating competition that was a challenge from one of the girls’ dorms to my dorm, Nihal. Each dorm put up 5 contestants, for a total of 10 people vying for the prize. Each round, a disgusting item was brought out on a small plate (pickled plums, dried sardines, a very hot pepper, gross mixtures of various foods with mayonnaise, seaweed etc), and then the last person to finish their plate was eliminated.

To be honest, we hadn’t really given the girls’ dorm much of a chance – we have some pretty good eaters in our dorm (example 1, see the eventual winner below). The first round, a girl was eliminated, but then a boy, then another girl, but then TWO more boys (ones we thought would be phenomenal at eating contests)! This left us with 3 girls, whose total poundage was certainly less than 300 pounds, against 2 boys, whose total poundage was far more than 300 pounds. Another girl was eliminated, puking in front of the entire school, but then another boy was eliminated, which left these two TINY sophomore girls against a huge senior guy. He ended up triumphing in the end (see belly slap below), but barely by any time at all.

It was one of the first times I’ve seen the school really excited and really coming together as a community. It was also the first time I’ve seen someone puke in front of their entire school. Both were awesome.

Teacher Moment #3: The Madaba Turkish Bath

I never really understood why my Dad went to bed at 10 pm until I started teaching. I’m just exhausted every night, and especially every weekend. Sometimes I could be convinced to do something fun and crazy, but usually I just want to relax and do nothing.

I had a real teacher moment today when another teacher asked if I wanted to go to the Turkish Bath/Spa and sit in the steam room, relax in the jacuzzi and get a combination massage and exfoliating scrub down. Non-teacher Bowman would have been like “no thanks, I’m not into that” but teacher Mr. Bowman was like “that sounds wonderful.” And it was. My skin feels like a baby, I am currently radiating warmth and I got myself a two-in-one – not only did I relax and essentially do nothing, but I got out of my apartment and feel like I actually did something. Win, win, win.


We have school-wide morning meetings 4 days a week (Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). They aren’t all that exciting, but I like them because they wake the kids up. Unfortunately, I have this one class that meets at 8 am on Monday mornings, the day we don’t have morning meeting, so I have to wake them up myself. Yesterday, I decided to play really loud music and have a two minute dance party to wake them up.

I was the only one dancing, but I had so much fun that I decided to plan a lesson around a dance party. We are learning about heat, temperature and thermodynamics, so I decided to have a dance party today to talk about how heat is transferred between two objects of different temperature. It turned out to be a hit, and worked pretty well in teaching the material.

The only snag came when I was asked to host four visiting teachers from another school in Jordan. I didn’t really feel like changing my lesson, so I went forward with the dance party anyway. Turns out that they didn’t speak English, so there I was playing techno music and dancing with my students (the 3 or 4 that would volunteer to dance with me) and they really had no clue what I was doing. I wonder what they thought was going on and I wonder what they think of our school now…

I plan on having dance parties in class whenever they could even somewhat relate to Physics.

A Physics Teacher’s Shopping List

I’ve been teaching Fluid Mechanics lately, which has been a nice topic in terms of physical demonstrations that you can do. Here is my actual shopping list for the other day… oh how my life would have been different as a Math teacher (or a consultant).

  • balloons
  • straws
  • shaving cream
  • eggs
  • salt
  • lemons and limes
  • raisins
  • clear carbonated soda
  • a can of regular soda, a can of diet soda
  • marshmallows
  • tinfoil
  • candles
  • advil (but that was for me)

Wrong Airport

It’s 1:30 am in Jordan now, which is unfortunately only 6:30 pm in Washington, DC (where my body clock is currently set). On top of that, I was back on the college time zone (up real late, sleep kind of late), which sets me back even further. Even though I have had more than 24 hours of travel including an 11 hour flight from Chicago to Amman, and even though I’ve already had a few Advil PMs, I’m not really tired at all. Go figure. Waking up early and teaching will probably solve this dilemma for tomorrow night.

My journey went fairly smoothly except for one major hitch – my friend Brian drove me to the airport yesterday a few hours ahead of my flight. Now, one issue with Washington, DC is that there are two airports, Reagan and Dulles. Brian lives right next to Reagan so he would have preferred to drive me there than Dulles,  but unfortunately, I was flying out of Dulles… or so I thought. I got to Dulles and tried to check-in but my reservation was nowhere to be found. It dawned on me while I was waiting in an incredibly slow-moving people-with-problems-with-their-tickets that perhaps I was at the wrong airport. My blood pressure rose steadily as I waited for the airport people to slog through the line in front of me (yet I was still too non-confrontational to ask to cut someone). After the person working the desk informed me that I was in fact in the wrong airport, I sprinted downstairs and took a 40 minute, $60 cab back to Reagan. When we were about 8 minutes away, we drove right past Brian’s house. Wonderful.

Luckily, there was no one on the road and no one in the airport and for the first time I was thankful that the school made us travel back on a holiday. So I made it, and I’m excited to be back. Now hopefully I can get to sleep soon.