Category Archives: Jordan

Heading Back to Jordan (and just in time)

I’m headed back to Jordan today and am almost as excited today as when I boarded the plane about a year ago to come for the first time. I had a wonderful visit, but I’m happy that I am leaving before Pastor Terry Jones commemorates the anniversary of September 11th with “Burn a Koran Day.” If you haven’t been following the media-storm around this one, an obscure pastor from Florida, who believes Islam is Of the Devil, is leading his 50-member congregation in a psychotic ritualistic burning of the Holy Book of Islam to, quote, “bring to awareness to the dangers of Islam and that the Koran is leading people to hell. Eternal fire is the only destination the Koran can lead people to so we want to put the Koran in it’s place – the fire!” With the vitriolic debate surrounding the NYC mosque culminating in this hateful event, I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated with the growing Islamophobia in our country.

Many might rightfully point out that this guy does not represent the majority, or even a sizable minority in our county, but his voice is out there, is getting attention, and is being broadcast all over the world. Whether it’s fair or not, we will be judged by people like this. What’s that? It’s not right that a religious zealot with weird facial hair, twisting an otherwise peaceful religion to make hateful, condemning comments, via a face-to-camera video proclamation, backed by a small extremist band of followers, should come to represent millions and millions of people – the vast majority of whom completely disagree with him?

Well, I agree. It’s not right. But we should certainly know from first-hand experience that this is what happens. My frustrations for the past few weeks have stemmed not from people’s opinions on the NYC mosque itself, but from the rhetoric surrounding it and the dangerous, uninformed illogical leaps that people make to support their opinions. Terry Jones: is as representative of American views on Islam (and Christianity) as the violent jihadists: who took part in the attacks on 9/11 are representative of Muslim views on the West (and Islam itself). Terry Jones: Christianity as Violent Jihadists: Islam. The mass public in the US makes negative associations with Islam because of extremist images we see in the mass media, just as the mass public in the Muslim world will be affected by the images of their Holy Book being set aflame on US soil, by Americans – there have already been protests all over the world, from the streets of Afghanistan to the US Embassy in Indonesia, and General Petraeus himself has urged the pastor not to go through with the plans as “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort.” We should be able to see how misinformation and negative images of Islam have been poisoning a nation like ours, with a strong rule of law and smart, capable leaders. Imagine what kind of damage the same kind of filth could do to a nation as volatile as Afghanistan.

So before we condemn Terry Jones (which we obviously should) or worry that he’s spreading the wrong message (which we obviously should), we need to take a look at ourselves and wonder if we have been receiving the wrong message, from the wrong sources ourselves.

[For these same thoughts expressed with a sense of humor, check out this incredibly poignant must-read article from the Onion, the hilarious fake news source, titled Man Already Knows Everything He Needs to Know about Muslims.]

Dana Nature Reserve

[I’m headed back to the US for 2 weeks, so I am going to use that time to catchup on some old happenings]

Dana Nature Reserve in Southern Jordan is a pretty phenomenal place. Great hiking, cool places to stay, about a 3-hour drive from King’s – awesome way to have a relaxing weekend away from the stress of teaching. I’ve been there twice now, both with one of my new best friends here, Molly (who is currently taking a hiatus from Jordan in India). The place we stayed at the second time, in May, was this crazy, cave-like place with criss-crossing staircases and rooms improbably placed at all heights within the building (picture to the left). I just posted an album on the pictures page with lots of great pictures. One of my favorite things to do is to hike/climb to an improbable place while the other person stays far away to take a picture (like below), so there are a few of those. If these pictures aren’t enough, check out Molly’s Pictures, or my story from last time about the Bedouins we met – Hussein, who told dirty jokes, and Afaf, a 10 year old girl who became my new best friend.

Physics Extra Credit: Rube Goldberg Machine #1

EXPERIMENT: I decided to offer a year end extra credit assignment for my students, an option for which was to make a Rube Goldberg machine. I’m sure you know what it is even if you haven’t heard the name – they are those machines where dominoes fall over which hits a boot which knocks over a bucket, which pours water on a cat, which then wakes up and screeches, hitting into a ball perched on a ramp, which goes down the ramp…. etc etc until it performs a simple task in the end like lighting a match or pressing the button to make toast. My two favorite ones that you may have seen are the Honda Cog and OKGO’s video for the song This Too Shall Pass (same band who did the badass treadmill video too).

RESULTS: Absolutely. Hilarious. This is the first of a few I will post. Notice in this one that the original plan was to have their guinea pig start the machine, but it wasn’t being very cooperative.

Graduation: A Royal Affair

We had quite a momentous occasion the other day, celebrating the graduation of the very first graduating class from our school. After three years in existence, we are pushing our first products out into the world to see how they fare. I am going to miss some of my seniors terribly and will always remember them as my first students.

It was quite strange to be on the other side of the equation (really much more so than I thought it would be) – I marched in with the teachers, cheered for my favorites from our teacher section, marched out with the teachers and then felt really awkward breaking in on celebrating seniors to say congratulations. As close as you feel with students, there’s always at least a paper-thin barrier (that I am sure might thicken as I age). A few of my students immediately dropped the Mr. though, which I appreciated…

The ceremony was a nice mix between Western and Middle Eastern ethos, a perfect tribute to our school which seems to be attempting to fuse the two together into one high school experience. The whole affair seemed to mimic Deerfield’s ceremony from what I could gather with some important deviations to accommodate the fact that we were including royalty. We started with this strange but very cool march where the whole school is lined up facing each other in a two line gauntlet (see picture above) and then inverts so that everyone passes by everyone else – which means that since His Majesty was leading the line, that he passed literally inches in front of my face (and a few inches below – I’m much taller than him). It was quite an experience for me and one that I think I will truly treasure (I guess until next year when we do it again). Then, the actual graduation had a sort of formal Western structure to it with a Middle Eastern sense of enthusiasm and energy. There was almost non-stop cheering once the names were read, with little regard for the idea of remaining seated, and much excitement due to the presence of His Majesty until he departed piloting his own helicopter (see picture to the right).

The whole day just had a great energy to it and I think it was a nice end to the start of our school. To be honest, I think that the upcoming classes are far stronger than the one we just graduated, so I am excited to see the same enthusiasm that we had this year amplified for them. We’ll miss the class of 2010 though and I hope to keep in touch with many of them.

More than anything, I’m just a little weirded out at how fast everything is moving – my first year teaching is nearly done (6 class periods left, one homework assignment to grade, one final to proctor and then one final to grade), and this graduation happened to be at the same time as my fifth year high school reunion. I have this very strange sense of my age here, because sometimes I feel incredibly young (the oldest teacher is about 50 years older than I am) and sometimes I start to feel incredibly old (when my students do things that I know only teenage minds could possibly think of… or when my hairline continues to recede). I guess I should treasure that first feeling as long as possible.

Patriotism, Jordanian Style

Americans put mini flag magnets on their bumpers, Jordanians put HUGE PICTURES of the King with a sniper rifle on their entire back windshield. Who wins the patriotism contest? Jordan.

It is a little unsettling sometimes, because it looks like there’s a dude in the backseat about to put a bullet between your eyes. I still want one though, to add to my mini Jordanian flag in the front seat. There’s another version with the Jordanian flag billowing in the background on the left and then a big HAWK face on the right, so when I find that I’m buying it and then will take a picture of my car pimped out, Jordanian patriotism style.

Tower of Carrots

As promised, here is a picture of one of the carrot towers beside the road to Amman. Despite their store location, they are absolutely delicious. I have been warned about possible sicknesses that could be contracted from said produce but don’t believe in germs and have never had any issues, so they are alright in my book.

The Biggly Wiggly

Here’s a math equation that I never learned in college:

There’s this amazing hummus and falafel shop that is off of the highway on the way back to campus from Amman that I stop at almost every time I am coming back around dinner time, and it happens to be right next to the “Biggly Wiggly” convenience store (from which I obtained the bag above). It seems like this would be perhaps a rip off of “Piggly Wiggly”, the grocery store hailing from South Carolina, which is somewhat likely because there is a lack of distinction between the letters “p” and “b” in Arabic… but maybe that’s not what happened becuase the logo seems to be a rip off of the Vlasic pickle bird dude. And there is certainly a distinction between pigs and birds over here (you don’t eat one, and you eat the other with basically every meal). But maybe, since pigs are unclean, they would make a bad logo for a convenience store, so they changed it to a pickle bird (but just had to have that iggly-icious name)? Or maybe they thought that by violating two copyrights (if that concept existed here) at the same time it would be some sort of Double Jeopardy loophole and they would get off scot free?

Who knows the answers to these deep riddles. Maybe I will go in and ask where they got their name one day…

Goodbye Carrots, Hello Strawberries and Watermelons

One of the coolest things about living in this incredibly dry country is that despite the lack of water (or perhaps because of it?) Jordan produces unbelievable produce. I’m always shocked at flavor packed in carrots or the juiciness of the strawberries. Instead of buying the local produce in grocery stores, there are always tons of stands right off the side of the highway, with a 5 foot high stack of bright orange carrots, or cartons and cartons of brilliantly red strawberries or a big pile of small green fuzzy things (I haven’t figured out what they are yet).

The other cool part is that these stands are slaves to the season in which they can grow certain crops, which makes a cool rotating cycle of fresh things to buy. The good news is that, although the carrots are really tasty and delicious, carrot season (and green fuzzy thing season) is drawing to a close and strawberry/watermelon season is starting up, which means fresh roadside tasty delights for months to come. I’ll post a picture when I take one, because they really are beautiful.

I thought my car was skinnier than it was

I had a wonderful long Easter weekend a week ago with Brian and Val, but the car did not. Given the insanity of the driving here, I’m surprised it took two months but I finally made my first contact with another vehicle in Jordan. Pulling out of a parking spot in Petra in an extremely narrow road I scraped the entire side of my car along a parked truck… eeeeh. I thought it wasn’t that bad but then when Brian tried to get out of the passenger door, it wouldn’t open. And the window only rolls down halfway. And it looks like a Frankencar now. I feel absolutely awful because I share the car with two others, but such is life.

The good news though: notice the small Jordanian flag on the dashboard… pretty awesome. Another step on the road to becoming completely Jordanian.

I will be awarding a prize to whomever can guess closest to the cost of the repairs. Just leave your guess in the comments section on this post. It must be in dinars (1 JD = $1.40) and I will award prizes Price is Right style (closest to the answer without going over). I honestly have no idea because some things are ridiculously expensive, but others are frighteningly cheap. My driver’s license cost 215 JD ($300), but my monthly phone bill is usually about 4 JD ($5.60). It costs 1 JD ($1.40) for a move from the fake DVD store, but real ones from a DVD store in the mall are like 25 JD ($35). Guess away and I’ll do the same…

Camels! Part 3

I love camel faces! This is a picture from riding a camel in Wadi Rum during Brian’s visit. It was an absolute blast, but I ended up with strange bruises in strange places from the camel saddle… I guess I’m not surprised, the seat was awkward which is fitting for the most awkward animal this side of the Mississippi. I’m thinking about quitting teaching to become a camel dentist, but that might be too big of a task.