Monthly Archives: February 2010

Turkish Bath #4

Pretty much every other weekend since I returned from the states for 2010, I’ve been to some sort of Turkish Bath or Spa – one here in Madaba, one in Amman, one at the Dead Sea and one in Damascus. This is about an infinity times (approximately) more than I had ever been to something of the sort before. I’m beginning to become somewhat of an expert, and by expert I mean that I’m not 100% bumbling and awkward.

Each one operated a very similar way, but it’s a complex procedure and they don’t really give you any instructions. Step 1: Dudes only, no ladies. Once you prove your manhood and gain admittance, you sit in the steam room, which is my favorite part. The one at the Dead Sea had steam with menthol in it, which just chomped right through all your pores and cleared out your sinuses. Pretty sweet. Then, after that, you sit in the jacuzzi for about 20 minutes to soften your skin up for the next step, which is the rubdown. They take a really rough sponge thing and rub off all the dead skin on your body, and then lather you up with camel hair. It’s kind of gross because you can see the skin peel right off, and you feel like a snake or a lizard or some other type of reptile, except that they don’t make boots or belts out of your extras. It’s fun playing “Broken English vs. Broken Arabic” to try to figure out how he wants me to sit or lay down. After that, you get a mini-massage, which is more like a rubdown with soap (much more gentle than the other rubdown). Then you get 10 minutes to think about all the weird things that just happened to you in the sauna, before showering and enjoying some tea in the lobby.

Overall, very relaxing, but much more so after you have done it a few times. I kept imagining that the awkwardness was like going to a prostitute for the first time, but I imagine they might give more instructions. “Should I lie on my back now? What are you rubbing me with? Do I shower now, or later? Is this extra? Do I pay at the end? Why don’t we speak the same language?” Good times. If you come visit me, we need to go, and I’ll be the pro that can guide you through it…

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Habitat for Humanity and Mansaf (منسف)

I just spent a wonderful day with a group of awesome students volunteering with Habitat for Humanity here in Jordan. We worked on a family’s home who was building a new story above their current house for two of the brothers that just had gotten marries. It’s customary here for people to live with their parents until they get married, and then often when they do get married, instead of buying a new house, they just build another story on their parents’ house. How would you like that Mom and Dad?

The whole experience was really fun, but the highlight was probably the meal at the end. The homeowners cooked us a huge meal of mansaf (منسف), which is a very traditional Jordanian dish – in fact, the national dish of Jordan. It’s usually lamb (though this was chicken) with a sauce called jameed (جميد), which is fermented dried yogurt, all served over rice. If it sounds gross smelling, that’s because it kind of is, but it is still really good. The best part though, is that you are supposed to eat it with your hands. Jackpot. Check out a picture of the meal to the left.

Dimashq دمشق

Living in Jordan instead of the US reminds me of living in New Hampshire as opposed to Texas – from my home I could drive about 2.5 hours and reach 6 different states or Canada, where Texas is more than 12 hours across. From here in Amman, it takes only a few hours driving to reach a different country, and instead of just being in Upside-Down New Hampshire instead of right-side-up New Hampshire, you end up in a completely different culture. That’s what I did this past weekend when I took a two-day trip to Damascus (Dimashq, دمشق, in Arabic).

The trip itself was very smooth, only due to the help of a Syrian student here. His family helped us get visas (we met Americans at the border who had been waiting 9 hours!) and offered us a ride to and from the city right from school (since he goes home nearly every weekend in a pretty big car anyway). Then, when we were there, his family took us out to one of the biggest meals I have ever eaten. Truly Arab hospitality, very hard to beat.

But Damascus was a really wonderful place – it feels like you are transported a few centuries back into the past with the old, wandering streets filled with people. Highlights included being invited into a backgammon board (and other handicraft) workshop, watching the sunset and the lights come up over the city from above, taking a Turkish Bath, visiting one of the most magnificent mosques in the world and Syrian ICE CREAM! Below is a picture of me trying to fight the crowd to deliver the Syrian Ice Cream, which was a delicious vanilla-type flavor rolled in pistachios. I posted a ton more pictures on the pictures page, in addition to an album of pictures that I have taken from the windows of planes. Cheeeck it out.

Shocking Students

Reason #85 that I’m excited to be teaching Physics instead of Math: The Van de Graaf generator. You’ve probably seen it before, but basically it’s this big thing that creates a large static charge with which you can do a lot of electricity demonstrations (see hair standing on end in the picture on the left as Case #1).

We had a lot of fun with this, but probably the most fun involved the fluorescent bulbs from our ceiling lights. If you bring it close to the person touching the Van de Graaf generator, it will light up very brightly due to electrons coming from the … but it also gives the person a nice little shock.

I didn’t tell my volunteers about this before they put their hands on the generator, so I surprised them all by shutting off the lights and giving them a nice little zap. Then they were all mad at me and decided they wanted to get me back, so I offered to let anyone zap me whom I zapped. To the left is someone coming at me with a bulb, ready to inflict physics torture on me. I have a very nice relationship with my students.

PS If you were expecting a post about Damascus, hold your camels, I wanted to get all my photos uploaded first!

An Arabian Birthday

Today is my 23rd birthday, exciting. It was pretty fun celebrating my birthday as a teacher. The Science Department threw me a little surprise shindig, the highlight of which was the cake which said Happy Birthday, Rami in Arabic (عيد ميلاد سعيد رامي)… remember that Rami is my Arabic name. See the cake to the left along with the tweety bird happy birthday sign that our copy machine dude made me.

Then, my classes all sang happy birthday for me, which was fun, and one even brought me muffins and chocolate. All the students asked how old I was now – I said “guess” and most of them said “26!” “27!” When they realized that I was 23, someone goes “Then why do we call you Mr?” (Good question…)

And now, I’m off to Damascus, Syria for a fun filled weekend with two other teachers, which should be an absolute blast! I have wanted to go to Damascus for a long time, so what a great treat for my birthday.

Overall, a different (usually I celebrate with Bowmessica’s Birthday Box Social…) but wonderful Arabian birthday. 364 days until the next one…

Mohammad Mix-Up

Some of you may have learned from Superbad that Mohammad is in fact the most common name in the world. It should come as no surprise that since our school is in the Muslim world, Mohammad is in fact also the most common name in our school. There are no less than fifteen Mohammads. That’s way more common than the even the most popular American name.

Most go by their last name to avoid confusion, but this doesn’t always work. For example, two Mohammads with the same last name applied to our summer program one year, one who was a phenomenal kid and one who was a terror… but they accidentally called the awful one to tell him that he was accepted to the program and couldn’t go back on their word. Both ended up coming and the terrible one made it about a week before getting kicked out for breaking the glass on all the fire alarms in the dorm.

I had my own Mohammad mixup recently. There are two Mohammads in my class, both seniors, both live on my hallway, good friends with each other. One asked me to write a recommendation for him, so I did and sent it off to the college counseling office. The next day, the other Mohammad came up to me and said “Thank you so much for writing me a recommendation!” – turns out the college counselor had received my email and mentioned to the wrong Mohammad that she had received my recommendation. It took maybe 45 seconds of a blank, confused look on my face to figure it all out, but eventually we did.

Now, this wouldn’t have been a huge deal, except that this other Mohammad had asked me earlier to write him a recommendation and I had politely advised him that perhaps he should not get a recommendation from a teacher in whose class he has a D… Long story short, now I’m writing a recommendation for the other Mohammad! Honestly, I am happy to because he is one of my favorite kids in the school (he’s the goofball that I talked about in a much earlier post), but if you have any ideas how to express that to a college that you are recommending a student without going into detail about the whole this-kid-has-a-pretty-bad-grade-in-my-class issue, I’d love your thoughts…

Google Voice Wrong Number

I have this Google Voice account (434-535-BOBO = 434-535-2626), which is a US phone number that you can call in the states and it will leave a voice mail on my computer, which I can then listen to and enjoy hearing your voice. It also does free text messaging, which is sweet. The fun part about the voice mails though is that it tries to transcribe what you say, which is usually absolutely hilarious. Examples:

  • Bowman, Mystery Mayhem make it if you were in my life
  • Cats are okay.
  • Anyway, I don’t know if you’re in the lot. Needs, forms, recently, for like, blah blah blah blah raw healthcare healthcare
  • Is your dad yellow businesses
  • I don’t have that the past time out of the bath. I haven’t
  • I wanted to send you a message. I mentioned Evergreen.

Google thinks my friends say the weirdest things…  Anyway, it’s USUALLY hilarious. I got this message in my inbox the other day

“Hey father hi madam a wash in the hospital. Could you call my number home now, but I know this treaty with you, 54041741611 See if you wanna one see you. Thanks, Dad.”

I scanned through and saw “Dad” and “hospital” and was pretty freaked out. I immediately listened to the message, and it turned out it was a wrong number. I’m apparently good at attracting random people with technology. I listened again and was then really sad – it was a guy who sounded pretty drugged out who was calling his Dad because he was in the hospital. I hope things worked out… eeeeh. I tried to upload so you could listen for yourself, but maybe it’s best that it didn’t work…

I Got Wheels

Yesterday, my life improved a lot. I started leasing a car through the school so now I have some mobility. The campus is kind of in the middle of nowhere and it gets very suffocating to be stuck here. It has already been amazing just to be able to get a haircut, or to buy lemons for science, without a making a huge ordeal out of it. Driving is a little stressful because it’s somewhat every man for himself, but I’ll take that over being stuck on campus any day.

It’s a silver Toyota Corolla (كرولا as they write in Arabic). It doesn’t compare to my car sitting in the states (Webster!) but it does the job. The people I’m sharing the lease with and I are thinking about pimping it out Jordanian style – a lot of people have full back windshield stickers of the King holding a sniper rifle with a huge hawk in the background. I have a short paragraph of three sentences to describe how I feel about that: I. Want. That

Jordanian Sunsets

…are the best – evidence below. I enjoy these pretty much every night.