Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wrapping it up is bittersweet.

Rana Husseini invited us to see the Jordan women's soccer team practice.  It was great to see the women in a different element.  They were laughing, joking with each other and practicing a sport they love.  As you can see in the picture, some are covered, while others are not.  This is just the way of life here, and I love that about Jordan.

On Wednesday, I met with a former first grade teacher, Joana, who gave me wonderful ideas for the classroom AND a teacher connection at her school for this next school year!  I can't wait to start an international relationship with first graders here and my new class of first graders in WI.  How exciting!

We went to the King Abdullah Mosque on Wednesday morning too.  On the way there, our taxi driver pointed out this traffic officer who is 75 years old and has been entertaining this corner for years.  He was dancing around and swinging his arms like he was on stage.  The taxi driver got his attention for me to take a picture, and he ended up standing at attention for me:

It was a very large mosque with one big room for the men and a smaller room for the women.  I would have LOVED to see it during prayer because I am sure it is simply amazing to see.

Elmo was very respectful.  He took his shoes off at the door and was very quiet.
I had to wear a robe and cover my head. 

Today was another great day.  We had breakfast with our language instructor, we met with the Institute of Diplomacy and had a nice light political chat, and we had a lovely group dinner.

Oh yeah.  One more thing...we got PEDICURES!  Joana gave us the number to a great place.  We were so ready to sit back and relax.  They scrubbed 30 days of dirt, desert, car oil, rocks, sand, stone, and walking off my feet today.  I must say, they look delicious!  I am ready for the island!

Heidi, Aurora and I.

These are some happy feet!

Tomorrow we pack.  We have a few markets we want to hit too.  Then I say goodbye to this wonderful country.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I was told by someone they have tried to post comments, but I haven't seen them.  I haven't seen any comments in a while, so if you have commented, I am sorry I haven't responded!

We met with an amazing woman today - make that two amazing women today.  Our time here is so limited, but we are so lucky with the people we are meeting. 

One woman is going to connect a group of kids from Amman with my first grade classroom.  She was the first person who was truly excited about a project like this.  I am so very excited to have my students learn about the Middle East and its enriching culture through the eyes of children just like them!

The second woman invited us to her home and we had a wonderful meal and mighty good dessert (I will be making AS SOON as I get back - to all who know me is made with DIGESTIVES!!!).  We had a deep, meaningful conversation on perceptions and stereotypes and how to help change people's way of thinking about other cultures, with an emphasis on the Muslim culture.   Again, great things I will bring into my teaching and into my own life experiences.

Now we relax and decide what to do tonight.  We will be visiting the King Abdullah mosque tomorrow.  Elmo can't wait.

Peace and love.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday and Sunday

We went to the Citadel and the Roman Theatre on Saturday morning to beat the heat of the day.  The Citadel is on top of Jebel al-Qala'a, the highest hill in Amman (and the breeziest!).  This is the site of ancient Rabbath-Ammon.  Artifacts found date back to the Bronze Age.  The hill was a fortress or an open space for politics.  The pillars you can see for miles in Amman are the remaining pillars of the Roman Temple of Hercules.

There was a museum at the Citadel called the National Archaeological Museum which has a great collection of artifacts ranging from 6,000 years old skull to the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1952.  It was cool to be able to view the Dead Sea Scrolls so close up and really, all by ourselves.

From the top of the Jebel al-Qala'a, we had a great view of the Roman Theatre.  It is a remnant from Roman Philadelphia.  It was built somewhere around 2nd century AD.

Notice the old and new.

We had to walk down the hill to the theatre itself through a winding path that led us behind homes and onto streets. 

Once down near the theatre, it was more obvious how it is in the middle of the city.  You can hear the cars honking and see the smoke from the trucks while inside this incredible theatre that once entertained the Roman people.

There are two museums at the theatre, one is the museum of popular traditions - which contained costumes, jewelery, face masks and mosaics.  It had beautiful items and clothing.  The other is called the folklore museum, but unfortunately, that one wasn't open.

After the theatre, we walked back into downtown near the souq (market place) and ate lunch at Hashem.  This is a restaurant known for their falafel - which is one of my favorites here. Then to Habiba - the sweet shop known for their kunafa. 

This is not from Habiba, but this is what kunafa looks like in the sweet shops.
This sweet is Jolanda's favorite.  I prefer other delicious goodies.

Saturday night was a few of us together in my hotel room drinking some purchases from Madaba and having snacks.  While we were sitting around, we heard another wedding party arrive.  There were drums playing and the sound of a flute or bag-pipe.  All the guests clapped for about 15 minutes before the bride and groom exited the car.  We opened my window and watched.  This is the only shot I could get:

Beautiful bride and such a warm reception by the guests!

On Sunday we had Arabic class where we are beginning to talk in sentences....well some of us.  I am still trying to process it all. :)

We swam a little bit before we needed to head down to Rainbow Street for the night.  We wanted to do some more shopping at the handcraft places.  We had to meet the author, Rana Husseini, at 7:30 at Books@Cafe. (not a link)

Rana was wonderful!  She explained a lot of her book (Murder in the Name of Honor) and answered all of our questions.  She has written some amazing articles that push the envelope here in Jordan, and has brought a lot of attention to some very important women's issues. 

And she is human!  She talked about her fear of taking the U.S. GRE for grad school.  We assured her with a book on her resume, she should be just fine getting into a school in the U.S.  She is also involved with the women's soccer (football) team here, and invited us to come watch practice tonight!  I am definitely going because it amazes me to know they have a soccer team for young women.  Physical activity isn't promoted much after a certain age in Jordan.  And boys and girls are usually separated from any sport activities after about age 11 or 12.  Knowing that they are pushing for a national women's soccer team peaked my interest in this area!

Here we are with Rana:

And then "you know who" wanted to meet her and he did!

Thanks to Rana for being a great sport!

So today is Monday - our last Monday here.  It is getting so close to the end, but we still have a lot to accomplish this week.  I have been working on my projects today.  I have a few ideas to get underway also.  We have meetings every day this week with some wonderful people.  I want to soak up as much as I can before Saturday.

I am off to shop, the soccer practice and a meeting with a man who will be explaining Islam to us (I am VERY excited for this meeting!).  I must pack my headscarf, as I will be wearing it during this meeting. 

I hope all are well and those of you in Wisconsin, I hope you are dry too!

Friday, July 23, 2010

TA-Day (that's for your dad, Mandy!)

First, yesterday was a very productive shopping day for Jolanda and I.  We hit many Jordanian handicraft places and saw beautiful linens and things.  We had a few hours after class before the screening of the movie, Captain Abu Raed.

Captain Abu Raed.  Wow.  I am speechless about the film, so I am taking this quote from the website - "Captain Abu Raed is the story of everyday people intersecting across social boundaries. It is a story of dreams, friendship, forgiveness, and sacrifice." 

We got to see the movie at the Royal Film Commission, WITH an actor from the movie!  His name is Ali Maher and he plays a father in the movie. 

For anyone interested, I will be hosting a "screening" of the movie at my house!  Details to come....

Today was a trip to some biblical sites.  First stop was the baptism site of Jesus (heard of him?).  One of the interesting things about this site was that it was originally thought to be on the West Bank of the Jordan River, only to be found on the East Bank by an archaeologist.  The site in Jordan opened in 2000 for the public to view.  We were literally standing 20 feet away from Israel (with a small river between us).

Jolanda, Elmo and I on the river.  See how close Israel is?

My hand in the river where Jesus was baptized.

The Jordan River is pretty polluted, so the many people who want to be baptized at this site often do it from a small pool that is filled with fresh water everyday.  Now, my buddy, Elmo wanted to experience this too, but I didn't want him to fall in the here he is:

You can see he is becoming part of the Jordanian culture
and is now wearing the KEFFIYEH.

Second stop of the day was Mt. Nebo where Moses stood and pointed out the promise land.  Many believe his tomb is somewhere on the mountain.  The church is being restored, so we didn't have a chance to see the actual mosaic that was kept well preserved.  However, up at the top of the mountain, you can see (through the heat haze), many cities:

The cross at the top, called the Serpentine Cross, is symbolic of Jesus and Moses.

This area of Jordan is known for its mosaics, and it was unfortunate we couldn't see the one in the church.  But there were a few they were cleaning.  Here is part of one:

And before heading into Madaba, we stopped at a mosaic workshop where some men were creating beautifully skilled pieces.  Here are a few at work:

Cutting the stone pieces (stone from all around Jordan)

Carefully glueing the pieces into place.

A finished piece.

Being told there was free shipping to anywhere was tempting, but a piece like the one above as a table was about 1500 JD ($2000) depending on the size of the stones.  Smaller stones, bigger price.  However, knowing now what it takes to make one, I would pay that (if I had it) to get one!

Madaba is a city in Jordan that is 50% Muslim and 50% Christian.  It is also the city that contains St. George's Church and the ancient mosaic map of Jerusalem.

The outside.

The inside.

The mosaic.

We had a wonderful Madaba meal.  I can't remember what it is called - but it was delicious!  It was chicken and meat with sweet onions.  This is how it is cooked and served right at the table:


Now we are gathering in David's suite for a little party.  We only have one week left!  We have lots of touring of Amman to do tomorrow, so stay tuned....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

On Monday, we had the opportunity to meet with THE Minister of Education, the one who is appointed to the Ministry by the King himself.  His name is Dr. Ibrahim Badran.  It was a very official, yet comfortable meeting.  We sat around a large conference table, and he talked about the state of education in Jordan.

There were many parallels between Jordan's hopes and dreams for education and the U.S.'s hopes and dreams for education.  Some of the main points include increased salary for qualified, trained teachers, community involvement to enhance school environments, and curriculum that is innovative and non-static.  He stressed that students need to become problem solvers and critical thinkers.  The few items he did not touch upon was assessments (except the Tawji) and student learning.

A direct quote from the minister, "We have to emphasize the issue of education and innovation."

All of the teachers we have had a chance to talk to are a bit frustrated with the ministry because it is a top-down society, and the changes are very slow.  The public schools are still very much rote and recitation.

Tuesday was Arabic class.  We have learned almost all of the letters in the alphabet (27 out of 28) and now need to talk in sentences.  She seemed to pick on me a little bit this class!  Maybe because I had to miss a class last week, or maybe because I was right in front of her.  Who knows!  All I do know is I am learning this language very, very slowly.

We went to TWO malls on Tuesday afternoon.  Many stores were women's clothing stores, and the fashion reminded me of the London fashion scene.  I did have excellent raspberry and strawberry sherbet!

Wednesday, today, we had two meetings.  Aurora and I went to the Queen Rania Teacher Academy for an ESL Communicative language workshop.  We watched three teachers teach mini-lessons on persuasive speaking.  It was very similar to our own professional development workshops.  They had 3 days of practice, then today they applied the skills they learned.  It was a bit strange for me to be there without having been there for the other days, but very insightful to see how similar teachers are across the world - we are all HUMAN.  The biggest similarity I saw today with this workshop was that each teacher stated their objective and outcomes before beginning the lesson to make it clear for the students.

The second meeting was set up by the ministry of education.  This one was with the curriculum department.  There were about 8 different people from each subject area (ex. science, history, language).  We talked about what students study in each grade and how they are taught.  We were given actual textbook materials to take back to the states.  I got a first grade math workbook!  It is so cute, even though I can't read any of it yet! :)

After the meeting, we headed to a bookstore to pick up the book, Murder in the Name of Honor, by Rana Husseini.  It is a true story of a woman's heroic fight against honor killings.  The reason we went to get the book is because Jolanda got in touch with the author and we will be meeting her on Sunday!  I am so excited and will begin reading it as soon as I am done with this entry!

Tomorrow is more Arabic and the screening of the movie, Captain Abu Raed (will let you know about it after I see it).  There may be some of the actors from the movie at the screening!  Friday is Madaba and Mt. Nebo.  Then there is only ONE week left!  Yikes!  Time flies here in Jordan!

Until next time....

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunday....the Dead Sea

As we made our way up the "coast" of the Dead Sea, all I kept thinking was the tons and tons of fish that were swimming above us because we were at 350 feet BELOW sea level! 

The Dead Sea is very blue despite its 31% salt content.  It looked magical considering we came from the desert where water is so sparse. 

So the contrast I was talking about is the difference between waking up in the desert to camels grazing in the sand and being a guest at the Marriot Hotel Dead Sea Resort under the King Abdullah Development Fund and getting the royal treatment - all in one day.

It started with lunch at Champions restaurant, one of many at the Marriot.  We had to walk by two of the three pools to get there.  Champions was a sports bar with a Packer jersey, Montana jersey, Larry Bird jersey and hip-hop music playing LOUDLY in the background.  Needless to say, we were about to experience a "western" lunch.

The lunch was already ordered for us, so we didn't know what we were having.  But I must say, due to the stomach issues I had been having, I was kind of excited to have some "American" cuisine.  It started with a caesar salad.  Next came cheese fries and buffalo wings.  We ate like we hadn't seen food in a while!  Then the quesadillas came.  At this point, we were wondering if there was going to be a "main" meal or just these appetizers.  Well, the next plate that arrived looked like a fish fry, but it was chicken tenders and fries.  We thought for sure this was the main meal.  Nope.  It didn't stop there.  Next came fajita wraps of steak and chicken.  By now we were ready to throw up the white flag, but the waiter just laughed and brought out philly cheesesteaks and more fries.  Unfortunately, many of those were untouched because we couldn't handle anymore!  Until dessert.  Brownie and ice cream.  Somehow, most of us could fit that in!

This is an after shot.  Notice some surprised and confused looks.

Of course, we knew we needed to go "swimming" after all this food, but it was the Dead Sea.  There wasn't going to be any swimming going on! 

The hotel had a private entrance to the sea.  So we walked down and found the special shoes they have for you to wear.  I couldn't resist my famous feet picture with the funny looking shoes:

Feet pictured are Jolanda, Heidi, Aurora, Jill and I.

Would you believe someone insisted they go in first??

Yep!  Elmo was the first one to float in the Dead Sea!

Walking into the Dead Sea was just like any lake.  You don't feel much of a difference until you get out a bit further.  Actually, it was extremely warm - like bath water.  Once you get into an area where more of your body is in, you start to find it hard to keep your feet on the bottom - you just kind of bob up and down.  So the natural thing to do is turn on your back and float.  Just like Elmo is doing!

Here we all are floating in the salt, salt, salt water!

We were warned about a few things when it came to the Dead Sea.  Number one, don't shave before going in and know that you will definitely know if you have any cuts on your body!  Well, I found that out!  OUCH!  I had one on my lower back from the camel ride that I thought was just a bruise....oh was a cut and it hurt SO much!  Number 2, don't get it into your eyes either!  Number three, don't even try swimming, it won't work.  We just floated, or bobbed up and down, or did the running man in the water. 

It is really hard to describe what the water felt like.  It wasn't thick like I expected.  It just had a strong feeling to it that I can't describe.

The second part of the Dead Sea adventure is putting Dead Sea mud on your skin and letting it dry.  So we got extremely muddy!  After rinsing off, our skin felt much smoother.

The last part of our day was then taking a swim in the hotel's third pool.

Although warm, it was refreshing and relaxing - and a spectacular view of the sea.  It was a great way to end a perfect weekend!

Even Elmo thought so!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturday...Wadi Rum

Vast desert.  Mountains all around.  Camels grazing 100 feet from you.  No other people in sight.  This is Wadi Rum.

The experience of Wadi Rum was one I will never forget.  It started with our bus pulling up to 11 camels sitting and waiting for us to climb aboard.

I couldn't hold in my excitement!  They were so cute!  In the bus, Heidi and I were already discussing names for our camels.  I picked Grover because she loves Grover and misses him. 

This is Grover (real name, Sophie) 
Isn't she the cutest you have EVER seen?
I just want to pinch her cheeks!

Now I must say, riding a camel is NOT what I would like to do for long trips.  I am sure you can make your saddle more comfortable, but it was a little painful sitting on the camel.  However, it was so fun to watch all of us slowly make our way across the desert.  Sophie aka Grover wanted to eat ALL the time.  Every few steps she would bend down, grab a bunch of dry green bush and chomp.  You could literally hear her chomping.  You can imagaine what a camel looks like when he/she eats!

Some of the group taking it all in.
Note the young boys leading the camels!

Jolanda got to take the reins!

This is a view of what it looks like riding the camel. 
You can see, but you can't feel how it was. 
Trust me when I say, it needed more padding!

Elmo and Grover became fast friends!

In the last picture, you can see our next mode of transportation.  The "jeep" took us to 3 or 4 different locations throughout Wadi Rum.  If any of us fell off, we decided there was no way we would know our way back!  So we held on tight and watched the desert world fly around us.

We stopped in some shade for lunch right next to Lawrence of Arabia's home.  The lunch they prepared for us was so sweet. 

Another stop we made was to a canyon of rock that had petroglyphs from possibly the neolithic period.

The next stop was to a rock climbing experience!  We "spidermaned" our way up to the top, walked across this rock formation (nervous!) and crab walked back down.  I was very nervous the whole time, but really glad I did it!

Our final destination was camp before sunset.  Our camp was a two sided tent near a large rock formation (our third wall).  It was amazing!

On the right side of this picture was the mountain rock and the fire pit.

We had two bedouin men taking care of us that night.  They told us where to sit and watch the sunset.  So a few of us decided to go up on some rocks and relax in the desert air.

All you could see was desert and mountains for miles and miles.

The sunset was spectacular.

As we sat and had tea in our camp, the men prepared dinner for us.  They cooked chicken and potatoes underground!

After a plentiful meal, we sat around with some more bedouin tea and listened to the men play the oud and sing. (my pictures without flash didn't turn out that great, but you get the idea)

The Oud.

We had to set up where we were going to sleep.  We had three choices.  1. Under the covering.  2.  Out near the tables and seating.  or 3. Outside of the tent area under all the stars.  Well, we ALL chose number 3!  As this young man walked us around he started talking about a fox that comes to eat the leftover food.  I quickly became hestitant to sleep out in the open, to which he found very funny.  So he kept making jokes about the fox! :)

They had mattresses for us and blankets and pillows.  Some of us also brought sheets.  We dragged our mattresses out into the open and looked up at the stars.  I have never, never seen so many stars in my whole life!  It was incredible.  Surreal.  Peaceful.

Most of us fell asleep after a few rounds of laughter (like a big slumber party - except with snoring!).  Many had trouble sleeping, but what better place to have trouble!  Bryan saw comets and shooting stars all night!  About half of the group got up for sunrise (I saw it out of one eye for a second...).  At about 7:30, we all got up, put our bedding away and ate a light breakfast with tea, of course. 

I took advantage of a few minutes and sat down away from camp in the sand to reflect on this experience.  As I looked around, I couldn't believe I was watching camels grazing as if they were cows in Wisconsin!

Our night in the desert was over and it was time to pack up and head back to our bus.

You won't believe the contrast of locations we had on Sunday.  From Wadi Rum and the vast desert to the Dead Sea.  Stay tuned.....