Saturday, June 30, 2012

Exploring the city

 Roman ruins 

 The Temple of Hercules overlooking the city. You can see remnants of Hercules' hand and elbow...apparently the statue stood 13m high centuries ago and gave the temple its name.

 Inside the Jordanian Archaeological Museum. Fossilized rhino teeth, ancient skeletons of children buried in pots, coffins with the deceased's face and hands carved into the clay, and clay tablets from the Nabataeans. Whoa. The museum has housed the copper Dead Sea scroll (look it up, it's amazingly cool) for years, but they were recently transferred to a different museum in Jordan. Boo. 

Entrance to the roman amphitheater 


Friday, June 29, 2012


I'm too jet-lagged to be tired. The last 36 hours have been spent navigating freeways, airports, and customs kiosks, and now, a day later, I'm on the other side of the world.  !!!

It's surreal being here and a tad like sensory overload. Our hotel was fairly cheap, but the lobby is magnificent. Marbled floors reflect a two store chandelier hanging above us, Rihanna sings from the little pub tucked behind the elevators, I can hear the cars honking in the street outside, and uniformed guards in berets guard the sliding glass doors. I've been in Jordan for a grand 3 hours and I already feel like I could write a novel. For the sake of time and lack of coherency, I'll stick with bullet points tonight.

* Flew over the Black Sea, Turkey, and Syria today. Whoa.
* Drivers in Amman are either the best or worst in the *entire* world. Lane dividers are completely disregarded, and as our driver drifted back and forth between lanes (or decided to drive straddling the line itself), I subconsciously pumped my non-existant break one of those drivers-ed teachers. And yet, despite the lack of blinkers, hand signals, or any sense of "keep to your lane" accidents! I even asked. Maybe they're just incredibly good at being horrible.
* During the 15 minute drive to Amman from the airport, I kept noticing cars pulled over on the side of the freeway or parked off-road in the small brush. Little bonfires punctuated the night air and the silhouettes of men, women, and children hovered around the glow. Turns out these are popular "picnic" destinations and families or groups of friends will bring their camels, donkeys, and cars out along the freeway to barbeque and talk. Our driver added, "Sometimes they just drink. Tea maybe, alcohol maybe. Sometimes it's just the lovers". He showed us the lovers' "section" of the freeway where it was the darkest and sure enough, there must have been over a dozen old cars from the 80s pulled over in the twilight while their drivers made out. Amusing, but're right on the freeway. Awkward.
* The freeway isn't just a social scene though, it's actually beautiful. We passed grand embassies made of stone, homes lit with tea-lights, and bridges arching over the freeway with the mysteriously elegant arabic calligraphy scrolling across. My favorite though, are the tall, narrow minarets that stood dignified against the sunset. There are dozens located strategically throughout Amman and her outskirts; I love the way they seem to guard the city. When we heard the muezzin's voice floating across the city, singing out the adhan - the Muslim call to prayer - I got goosebumps. It's an eerie, magical, beautiful chant.
* When you check into a hotel here, you get "welcome drinks" in little glass goblets. Chilled, thick, orange juice/nectar, it was incredibly refreshing and makes you feel like a queen. I'm liking that tradition.

Tomorrow we're going to get up a tad early to enjoy a jordanian breakfast, work on homework for an hour or so, and then explore the nearby markets. Pictures to come!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flight Itinerary

Thursday, June 28th
Depart: San Francisco - 10:06AM
Arrive: Chicago - 4:20PM

Depart: Chicago - 6:20PM

Friday, June 29th
Arrive: London - 8:25AM

Depart: London - 10:25AM
Arrive: Amman - 5:35PM

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

33 hours to go

I love watching the time and weather on the side of this blog. I'm two days away from leaving, but I'm nearly 100% there in mind. I keep checking the sidebar to see how "my" city is doing. What time is it? Is it sunny or are there rainstorms ahead? Right now it's 6:44am in Amman and already 75 degrees. It's like I'm kinda sorta there!

Today has been a day of adjustments.
* The company I ordered my textbooks through emailed and said that, due to managerial changes, my books would not arrive until July. I need them in less than 33 hours. So, after a bit of scrambling and lots of phone-calls, I contacted a student who went to Jordan last year with the program and she's overnighting the books to me now. Crisis averted. She's a saint.
* Discovered financial aid *will* come through before I leave which means I can actually pay for my tickets. So now I actually have my flights booked and confirmation numbers printed.
* I worked on packing and discovered many things I needed and more things I did not. I've discovered it's rather difficult packing for this journey as I really don't know what to expect...on many levels. I've therefore decided that, upon my return, I'm going to write a guidebook for future Public Health-ers traveling to Jordan. Particularly women. It will be humorous, practical, and detailed; full of wit, sarcasm, and vital tips. Maybe it'll be my break into the world of travel writing. I'm envisioning getting paid ridiculous sums of money to travel to exotic places and telling people where the best restaurants are and where not to use the bathroom. Mhmm, perfect.

For now though, I'm tingly with excitement. Dr. Al-Delaimy has sent out clinic assignments and I'll either be in chronic disease or women's health. Either will be incredible and more like a dream than reality. I have our syllabi and first homework assignments printed so I can read and do work on the plane. My camera is charged and ready. I'm counting down the hours.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jordanian Wardrobe

Sacramento was sweltering today; heat waves danced up from the asphalt turning the streets into shimmering mirages. Driving through the city, I rolled down the windows and let my hands float in the hot breeze. On a mission to find clothes for Jordan, I was thrift store hopping and the results were proving trickier than I had expected. It's not easy to find long-sleeve shirts and sweaters when it's 106 degrees outside, so my shopping turned into an epic treasure hunt.

The Jordanian dress code is not extreme, but it takes thinking. Women are expected to dress conservatively, which I completely understand and respect, but it's a bit of a wardrobe puzzle. I've got my floor-length hippy skirts, slacks for our time in class and clinic, button up shirts, and numerous 3/4-sleeve sweaters. I want to pack as little as possible, but don't want to forget anything vital. So I've officially created an organized pile of clothes on one end of my couch and keep arranging outfits I think will work. It's hard to know what to expect, temperature and culture-wise, as I've never traveled to the Middle East. It's been a flurry of texting and facebooking the other girls on the trip to figure out what they're planning to pack.

I've got skirts and scarves and sweaters and slacks. I think I'm pretty ready.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Finals are next week and I desperately need to focus, but I'm distracted. Jordan keeps teasing me, pulling me away from my studies and books. I find myself google-mapping our hotel, the Wihdat Refugee Camp, and the UNRWA headquarters trying to imagine myself there. I keep translating phrases into arabic and hope I'm pronouncing the foreign words correctly. My mouth feels clumsy and I'm afraid of mispronouncing something and transforming the word into something completely different....or offensive. Will I speak arabic with a spanish accent? I'm sure that'd be comical.

I've read almost every article on Palestinian refugees in Jordan google has to offer. There aren't many. I'm discovering this is a little-studied population which only increases my curiosity. There are books on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Egypt and Israel, but not Jordan. When I asked Professor Al-Delaimy about it he simply replied that the literature didn't exist. Why? I don't want to be *that* American who shows up culturally unaware and historically ignorant. So I'm combing BBC News, Aljazeera, and CNN for any political updates on the country and have a news filter set on my email in case something interesting pops up.

In just a few weeks I'll be there. In Jordan. In Amman. Only finals and few last-minute details stand in the way. I'm so excited I'm jittery and totally can't concentrate on studying.

Must.focus. 25 more days!