Turkey and computers

So a blog post of my adventures in Turkey will follow but…my computer’s hard drive has crashed. It is interesting dealing with technological problems in a foreign country because computer terms especially don’t make sense to me in Arabic! I may have lost all of my data and it took me a couple of hours to get over the initial shock but I just have to remember positivity and good thoughts. I’m in an amazing country having the time of my life:)

My Time in the Badia

Day 1:
The first day in the Badia was incredible and definitely a culture experience. From my first moment there I had one of the most incredible cultural experiences I have ever had. After meeting a group of senators from Amman on a religiously significant mountain, our group went to a “committee meeting” luncheon held for important men in the area. We were amongst 70 or so military leaders, senators, a former Deputy Prime Minister, and more sheiks than I could count. It was really amazing to be eating tradition mansif (yes with our hands) with these influential people, but also the first time I experienced gender segregation. Some of the men wouldn’t shake my hand, and it become obviously apparent from the start that Robyn, Caitlin, and I were the only women. Throughout the meal we would catch the younger boys just staring and I even received my first marriage proposal. I think the major difference between the city and the Badia are the stricter gender roles and the separation of women. It was very rare to see the two genders mingling other than the young children. After the lunch I met my family, and for the rest of the night met many other of the women in the village, but only met two men. It was a harsh reality that women do the cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children very separate from the lives of the men. I went to bed with a sincere appreciation for the work the women do.
What I have learned throughout my time traveling is that many of the preconceived notions I have about a place are quickly shattered upon actually visiting and meeting the people. Fortunately, when I was young my mom traveled through Jordan and surrounding countries, so I grew up hearing her stories about the beautiful landscape and culture of Jordan and the Badia area. However, the absolute kindness of the people still took me off guard. I was not prepared to immediately feel as though I was part of the family, and to be greeted by everyone I met with a warm generosity usually lacking in Western culture. I can also write this journal from a unique experience because I have lived with two different families in Amman, really proving that while culture tends to be steadfast, just like in America, there is a great difference between families. There were many similarities between my city experience and my Badia one. Both my families in Amman eat with their hands and my first family actually spoke less English than some people I met in the Badia. I also noticed a universal trait in the constant attachment to cell phones, and the love of Bollywood.

My sisters

My sisters


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Day 2:
Day two had far more cultural differences for me than in Amman. The morning started off a really rural school. There could not have been more than 25 student and their resources seemed really depleted and outdated. It was sad to see at one point how the girls were not allowed to be in the group photo we all took.

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I got to experience my first goat slaughtering which in all reality was not as bad as I thought at all. I grew up in a ranching community, so while I have never witnessed a goat killed, I have seen deer, elk, cattle, etc. shot and butchered so that was not so different for me. Actually the Badia reminded me far more of my home in Colorado than Amman does. I am from a small ranching community that is very open and where time doesn’t really matter. In that sense, the Badia was the first time I felt like I could really take a deep breath and relax since I have been here. I love Amman but the country is where I feel really at home.
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Next we went to a real Bedouin tent and got to see the men heard the goats and sheep for the women to milk. We sat there as the sun set and it was a moment of pure bliss drinking warm goats milk and being detached from society for a little.
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Later I had a true traditional meal with the goat we had killed earlier. There were about 30 family members all huddled around the mansif talking about the week and getting together. It made me miss my big family gatherings and I though how special that they do it every Friday. I also had an interesting culture experience when I was put into a room to eat with one other girl as a sign of respect to the guest. They locked us in there and waited for me to finish before the men ate, and finally the women. It was a beautiful night of family, friends, and good food, although again the language barrier was painfully obvious.
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Day 3:
This day was spent doing far more touristy things. We saw Shobak Castle, Little Petra, and Wadi Arabia. The beauty of this country continues to blow me away with the vast expanses of the Wadi, along with the history of the castle and the shear awe of Little Petra. I can’t imagine how real Petra will be because I was almost brought to tears by magnificence of a building carved into stone.

Little Petra

Little Petra


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This day ended in a way I will never forget. Khald (Nolan’s father) took us to his uncle’s apple orchard. His friends made a bonfire and the eight of us sat around talking and staring at the stars while endless coffee and tea was served. I was fortunate enough to be offered argella (hooka) because that is not usually acceptable for a woman, and that made the experience that much more memorable. Luckily the English teacher from the school we had visited earlier was there to translate, so our conversations could go deeper. The most interesting was when one of the Bedouin men asked about the visa process for the United States and the marriage policies if he were to marry a Western women. We try to answer his questions as best he could, but I was embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of my own counties policies. Next we go into the topic of resources and in the most sincere way one man asked, why doesn’t Jordan have oil? Nolan tried to explain how oil is made in a scientific way and that Jordan was just unlucky to not have had the right conditions at the right time, but I could tell the men were not satisfied with that answer. In the same conversation we were also asked why King Hussein has given Saudi Arabia a lake in return for land. All of us just stared at each other because we didn’t know how to respond to all of his queries. I felt as though they thought Westerners had all of the answers and I felt like I let them down with my complete lack of certain topics. They were all very curious about our lives and religious preferences, and especially about our time in Jordan. We were happy to answer anything they asked and I think they were especially proud of their country when we said what an amazing time we were having. I was honest in saying I think I may one day move back. I travel for this reason; too have these cross-cultural experiences and talk with people and learn their perspective because the world is made up of so many people and each person has something different to contribute. While people come and go throughout life, they can deeply impact you for years to come. I don’t remember the names of the men on that farm, but our conversation with stay with me and effected how I look at the world. It is so important to step out our limited frames of reference, and see the world through the eyes of others, to learn through experience, not simply through pages in a textbook.
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Day 4:
My final observation is how lucky I was to be a guest as a woman. I got treated almost like royalty and I was constantly allowed to be around men. This would not have happened if I had really been a woman born in the Badia. I had an amazing time, but I also have an appreciation for the woman and all that they do. I loved my family and all of my siblings and I hope to see them again. I think the Badia consists of wonderful people and beautiful scenery and encompasses everything that Jordan is.

Observations and Mansaf

Sorry it has been a while since my last post because I have been so incredibly busy. I go to school Sunday-Thursday (because Friday starts the weekend in Muslim cultures) and I am in school from 9-4:30. I really enjoy classes and luckily the homework has not been too hard yet, but I don’t get home until 8 or 9 and then I socialize with my family. After school I usually go to a cafe with friends. Our favorite one is this place called Moca because they have the best cakes and good WiFi. Sometimes when we are there late they will also give us leftover bread or pastries from the day for free. The only downside is that every time we walk in they put on the same Abba CD, and it has become a running joke that Abba is slowly penetrating our subconscious because we count how long we have been there by how many times the CD plays in a row. I love the little nuisances of life here and the routine I have created.

Ok so for some cultural observations I have made:

1. Every morning I am woken by what sounds like an ice cream truck but really it is a truck that drives around selling gas from the back. I don’t know why or who buys it but every time I hear it I get hungry!

2. There is a serious feral cat problem. I have a dumpster right outside my window and the other night I heard one cat kill another. The noises I hear are interesting haha. They are everywhere and at time a little scary. My friend and I were stalked by one the other night, but the Jordanians revere cats so they don’t do anything about it.

3. Listening to the call of prayer will never get old. I am lucky enough to not live right next to a mosque so the call to prayer doesn’t wake me up every morning at 5, but I love listening to it in the afternoon. The other day we were at the Roman Citadel looking out over the city when the call to prayer came on and I had an existential moment. Usually all the mosques will be a couple seconds off from each other so its this wonderful and eerie echo across the whole city.

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4. MANSAF! The bane of my existence. It is the national dish of Jordan and absolutely terrible. I feel terrible saying this because other than the liver and goat knuckles I have loved everything else here, but mansaf is another story. The actual dish itself is rice and chicken, but then they pour this think yellow liquid over the top and I just can’t. It is about the consistency of vomit and it smells like it too. Unfortunately, because it is the national dish it is served all the time so I will just have to learn to love it.

5. Today the Tawjihi results came out which are national tests that every high school senior must take to graduate. They are somewhat like our SAT but mean far more and are a lot more stressful. The student chooses a path in high school, say like science, and then studies for this one test for four years. If they don’t get a high enough score not only do they not get into college, but any option of being a doctor or lawyer is impossible. The suicide rate sores after the results come out but for those that do well their is a huge celebration. Right now I am listening to gun shots (they just shoot into the air) and loud honking as kids drive around and scream out of happiness. The SIT staff told us to be careful because sometimes people die from stray bullets that land.

6. It truly is amazing how much you pick up a language living in the country. I have learned so much already and I can even have minor conversations with my family. It is really starting to feel homey here and I am so happy I challenged myself because it has been so rewarding so far. I could definitely see myself living in Jordan at some point in my life.

Other than Amman, I have only been to As-Salt which is a close town outside of Amman, so I am excited to go down south for my Bedouin home stay. I am equally nervous because it is much more conservative and I hope my Arabic holds up.

As for As-Salt it was so beautiful there. We watch the sunset from the top of this mountain and in the distance you could see Palestine. That was also a moving experience after learning more about the history in my time here.

Cityscape of Salt

Cityscape of Salt

Sunset over Palestine

Sunset over Palestine

First Week in Amman

I can’t believe I have only been here for a week! It feels like I’ve been gone for months because everyday something is different or new. This seems to drag time out because nothing has been familiar. The most challenging part so far has definitely been living with a family that speaks no English. Now a week in we feel more comfortable with each other, but it is still such a struggle just to have a basic conversation. I have been pretty sick these last few days and trying to communicate that was really difficult. They are so kind and really want to help, but it is really exhausting trying to explain daily life. When I get tired I can tell that my willingness and ability to speak Arabic diminishes significantly. I have learned so much though! In three days of Arabic classes I have learned more than I did in three semesters at college. Just being in the country where it is spoken everyday is so awesome.

I love the group of kids doing this program. I already feel really close with everyone because this experience bonds people like nothing I have experienced before. We all feel lost and out of our element but we have each other as support. Again I feel like I have known them far longer than a week. A group of us went to watch the Super Bowl at a place call Buffalo Wings and Rings, and while the result of the game was devastating :( it was so fun to have that experience with them. Afterwards we had a sleepover and my friend lives in a house that looks out over the city. It was so beautiful!! (Can’t tell how serene it looks)

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My family dynamics are also really interesting! I found out through my host sister’s friend (she speaks English and can translate) that my sister is marrying her cousin and doesn’t want to but already said yes and the date is set. Little things like this make me realize the cultural differences that exist. My sister is also sort of a rebel in Arab society and her friends took me to some Jordanian bars. Also alcohol here is ridiculously taxed so one beer is 7 JD’s or like 10 US dollars. We were going to go to this club last night call GiiClub because it was “Ladies Night” but I got too sick. I am really excited to experience a club here :) I have met a lot of really nice people and I am so glad I am making friends through the program, as well as Jordanian friends!

This city is really beautiful and pictures don’t seem to capture it in the right way. I will add more, but so far I haven’t taken that many because it seems like home and not like vacation. I keep telling myself I have three months to take pictures so hopefully I actually remember.

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My introduction to the Middle East

Sorry this post is coming so late but my internet has been terrible. I finally am in my home stay and luckily they have good Wifi so that actually makes things way easier. I will go back to them later.

My three days in London has nothing notable other than good friends, family, laughs, and a good time. We did end up missing the last train and spending hours on a bus to get back to the university, which meant I only had two hours of sleep before my flight, but all was well.

I have now been in Jordan for four days, but it feels as though I have been here for way longer than that. Our first couple days consisted of orientation and meeting all the members of our group. It felt a little like camp or freshman year all over again as we all spoke in small talk conversations, but by the end of the third day I started to become close with people. It was nice staying in the hotel because it was an easy way to meet everyone and bond with our roommates. The first actual day was a lot of sitting and listening to horror stories of what not to do and what can go wrong. At the end I think we all were a little taken off guard by the two hours of sexual harassment information we covered. The second day they decided we were ready to go off on our own and we did a “drop off” assignment. A group of four was given a location in the city, asks to find things (which required using Arabic), and then to get back to the building by 2pm. It was a good look at the city and made me feel far more confident in my ability to get around, although I realize how terrible my Arabic really is.

Yesterday we were given our home-stay families. I was, and am, the most nervous for this aspect. I thought my family would speak more English than they do because the mother used to be a teacher and they have four children, all educated and older. I am realizing now just how isolating not speaking the language can be. Last night my host sister took me around town and I met some of her friends. It was nice of her to introduce me but I really just sat there because they didn’t really speak English either. Luckily one of Lena’s friends speaks English so she translated a little, and it was the first time I felt comfortable all night. I don’t expect anyone to speak my language and I am excited that this will force me to learn more, but this past day and a half has been really hard. I’m looking forward to becoming more part of the family and interacting with them!

Scotland has my heart

These last three days have been some of the best of my life and I created friends and memories that will last a lifetime. Edinburgh is an amazing city and I would strongly suggest going in your 20’s because there are so many amazing and brilliant students exploring the city as well. I am writing this as I head to London, wishing I could have stayed longer. Wherever I go, it never seems as though I am there long enough, but as far as Scotland is concerned, I know I will be back. I could have spent weeks or even months in this amazing country. Here is a breakdown of my time here.

Edinburgh Day 1:

First of all if you are staying in Edinburgh, stay at the Light House hostel. It is clean, cheep, and breakfast is included. Also, I am biased but I think the best people stay there.

I arrived in the late afternoon and the culmination of jet lag and no sleep for 24 hours took its toll. I was not really feeling going out which worked out perfectly because I met Harry (this is the Americanized version of his name because I tried to pronounce the Greek way several times with no avail). We talked for probably around six hours about every topic including politics, economics, school, and even the differing cultural norms around sex. It was so fascinating hearing his version of the economic crisis in Greece as well as all the other perspectives we both had. I was sad to learn he was leaving in the morning, but we swapped information and he told me that if I was ever in Greece he will show me around and we can stay in one of his 10 houses. I’m definitely taking him up on that offer J The people I met this trip changed my life, some of which I will never see again or only met for a couple of hours. People come and go, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can have an impact on you forever.

Oh ya and I almost blew up the hostel trying to charge my laptop. That was fun.

 

Edinburgh Day 2:

Most of the students in my hostel were also traveling alone, and the first morning I was there I met an Aussie woman named Sarah. Over breakfast she invited me to tag along with her to the castle and climbing Arthur’s Seat, really the only two things I had planned on doing. It was nice to be able to be with someone and talk throughout the day. As we headed up Arthur’s Seat, the tallest hill in Edinburgh, we realized we were wildly unprepared. Both of us were in leather heel boots and jeans, not really hiking attire, especially when the rain started. The views from the top were stunning and well worth our little struggle. The way down was far more of an adventure however. We thought we saw a shortcut to the trial (NEVER take the shortcuts haha) and our nice little trail went straight down the muddy, rocky hillside. Unfortunately for him, a Chinese man followed us thinking we were brilliant. The sight of the three of us sliding and clamoring to the side must have been hilarious. At one point I decided my purse was more of a hindrance than anything so I decided to throw it assuming it would land on the flat section right below us. However, it landed on its side and kept rolling. My heart sank as I watched it plummet out of sight over the cliff side. I can’t tell you the feeling I had in my stomach as I watch my passport, all of my money and credit cards, camera, and phone sail out of sight. After we finally got back on the trail, the man asked, “You find purse?” I just looked at him and shook my head. He looked back at me and said, “It ok I find purse!” There it was hanging off the only tree on the entire hillside. I was SO lucky it really could have disappeared into the foliage below. We then explored the city and the castle, but the sun goes down around 4:30 so there isn’t much to do after that. Sarah and I went our separate ways and while I spent 8 hours with her I never learned her last name and will never see her again. That’s just how it is sometimes.

Later that night a new girl, Lucia, came into the room of six. Marc the Spaniard, Garret the German (he was gorgeous J), Lucia from Uruguay, and I all decided to roommate bond and go to the pub. Similar to the conversation Harry and I had, we talked for hours over beer and good company. It did get a little awkward however when Marc told Garret that he believed the Germans were going to take power like the did in WWII. Each of us looked around not really knowing what to say. In the end though we headed home and snuggled into bed each happy that we met the other.

 

Edinburgh Day 3:

I decided that coming to Scotland I had to see the Highlands, so I booked a day trip with a company to take me around. Before I go on, EVERYONE MUST GO TO THE HIGHLANDS!!! It is hands down one of the most exquisite places I have ever seen.

There is so much history there and the beauty is unmatched. I only saw a tiny section of it, but I really want to go back with a group of friends to do a backpacking trip in the summer because it’s cold as hell in the winter. I met these two old ladies who took me in and even paid for me to do this boat tour on Loch Ness. They were so kind and told me that they expect one day to see my name in the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners haha. Pictures can say more than I ever can with words about the Highlands so I will add those.

I got back around 8 so Lucia and I decided to go to this pub call the Last Drop. It is where they would take the prisoners to have their last meal and whiskey before being hung, so we thought it was worth a try. There we sat down with a group of students from a different hostel. At our table was a Uruguayan, Australian, American, Dutch, and German. The American boy was the first I had met my entire trip and he said in the month he had been traveling I was the first American he had seen as well. We all talked until about 1 and decided to call it a night. I don’t remember any of their names but it was still great to meet them and here their stories of traveling the globe. I discovered I am the youngest of everyone I meet, even earning the nickname of  “the baby” at the hostel. Oh I even met a group of Malaysian girls also studying in Jordan, so they gave me their information and are going to show me around. Lucia and I became really close and I am determined to go visit her in Uruguay.

Even at the train station heading back to London, I ran into Marc, the Spaniard. I now have friends around the globe, and the camaraderie between us is indescribable. Just seeing Marc’s face in a sea of unknowns made me smile.

All in all it was an incredible trip. That is the only word I can use to describe it. Go to Scotland, and go alone, I can’t tell you how much I have learned and changed in these three days J

Here are the countries of people I met throughout this trip:

Greece

Spain

Germany

Holland

Belgium

UK

India

Malaysia

Uruguay

Australia

Poland

US

France

South Korea

Hong Kong

China

For the love of travel

 

Bye Denver

Bye Denver

So today I realized (actually I realized this a long time ago but it was solidified today) that travel must be a part of my life. Most people have a “thing”; a sport, playing music, cooking, etc., but mine is exploring; traveling. I love figuring out how to get from point A to point B, and meeting people along the way. There are moments during this period of transition that change how I view the world. For example, today I was sitting on the train heading up to Edinburgh with a cup of coffee and a good book just staring out at the misty green countryside. In that moment everything was perfect and these little glimpses of sublimity continue to take me off guard. The world is an incredible place just waiting to be explored; I think fear being the ultimate cause of our timidness.

This is my first time really truly traveling alone. It is so easy when alone to retreat into a shell and block everyone one out, but that is also extremely lonely and takes out half of the fun of being “alone”. It is so much easier to meet people when you are by yourself as I quickly discovered. Within an hour of being at my hostel I have met two amazing men. One is from Greece and is studying in Scotland hoping to get his masters, and the other from Spain working in a sustainable community for the disabled. All of these people are around us, but we don’t take the time to listen and learn. Traveling solo forces me to completely discard fear, and replace it with curiosity. The world is a beautiful place filled with astonishing people. In this technological age of constant feedback we rush around trying to prove our lives are as great or greater than everyone else, without actually living and experiencing. Slow down, talk to that old lady next to you, grab a coffee and sit in the park, and actually participate in your own life.

I’ll leave you with song I was listening to as I landed in London. It seemed apropos to the international life I hope to live :)

A Thanks To My Amazing Town

This has nothing to do with my travels, but I wrote something for the local paper yesterday to highlight the kindness of my community members. Here is my letter to the editor…

I am proud to call Steamboat Springs home and incredibly grateful for the people that make up this amazing town. Not often enough are they applauded for their caring spirit and service to others. Today, January 10th, our legendary “Champagne Powder” fell in abundance, great for skiing but AWFUL driving conditions. Having grown up in Steamboat, I would like to consider myself a decent winter driver, but today caught me off guard. This morning I was driving past Wildhorse when I completely lost sight of the road and high centered on the snow bank. Backing out was futile. I was stuck with no shovel, no gloves, and no snow pants (I should know better!) and after several attempts to reach family and friends was in a fix. Within minutes of sitting there, three people stop to ask if I was all right. A man pulling his girlfriend out of the ditch ahead of me came over, and without my even asking, a total stranger took time out of his day to assist me. When his pull strap broke, he drove home to retrieve another one. He demonstrated unbelievable kindness despite needing to get to work. And for this I am truly appreciative and grateful. Unfortunately, his truck didn’t have the power to extract me from my predicament.

Within an hour a friend came out with a shovel, a Wyndham employee stopped plowing and came to help; and a third man pulled up with a chain and heavy-duty truck. With the help of those three, I was successfully freed from my snowy trap. Only after my ordeal, did I realize that one of the men was a family friend, and as we shook hands he left with “say hi to your mom for me.”

As I drove away I knew I wanted to write this not only thank everyone who helped me, but to acknowledge the entire community. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and now more than ever do I realize how lucky I am. Recently, it seems as though crime is increasing and our small town is growing impersonal. However, as I watched countless others in my earlier situation being helped by community members, I was struck with a new found appreciation for the paradise we are lucky enough to call home and the indefatigable people who make up Steamboat. From one local to another…thank you!