Last Post Before My Mission

Dear friends and loyal fans, this is the last post before my mission. I had big plans to finish updating my blog with posts on the University of Jordan, Arabic Style Part 2, Food in Jordan, Weddings, and City of the Dead and Garbage City in Egypt, but those things just took lower precedence on my "things to do before I leave on a mission" list. So they (and you) will just have to wait until I get back.

Therefore, this blog will become inactive until approximately April 2010.

Until then, I will be in Taiwan, speaking Mandarin, and having a "real" mission this time.


An allergy...to my contacts?

Well, I finally went to the eye doctor yesterday. I figured if I had something mortally wrong with my eyes I should probably go to a doctor before leaving the country again (even if I will be in the MTC for three months!). For those who don't know about my eye problems from the Middle East, you can read about them in this post.

Anyway, the doctor said I might have developed an allergy to my contacts, of all things. It is not like I am not already allergic to everything, so this shouldn't be surprising.

I am just relieved that it is not a side effect from the spider bite, or something like that!


Public Transportation: Jordan

I suppose I should finish my "public transportation in the Middle East" two-post series before I head off to Taiwan and forget everything Middle-Eastish.

I have to admit that public transportation in Jordan was not my favorite. Perhaps it was because they didn't have a Metro (and no women's car), or perhaps it was because I had to spend so much money on it throughout my stay, but something just didn't sit right between me and the public transportation system. It was, however, always an adventure, and one that I was lucky enough to have any time I wanted to go anywhere, since I didn't live within walking distance of anything, and people just don't ride bikes in Jordan. (I think I saw two the whole time I was there.)

The most convenient and certainly most expensive type of public transportation was definitely the taxi.

In one of the guide books that I read, it said that 25% of the cars in Jordan are taxis. Which might make one think that taxis would be easy to catch, but that would be a wrong assumption, as I found out entirely too many times.

Most of the time taxi prices are calculated by a meter, which starts at 25 cents and goes up incrementally, depending on how much gas is used. So if you are stuck in traffic, the meter is going to be more expensive than if you were driving on a highway.

Taxis in Jordan are much cheaper than taxis in Israel, and they are even cheaper than Egypt, because they have a cannonized meter which is set by the government. You do, however, have to bargain prices if you are going out into the countryside, or somewhere that the taxi driver probably won't be able to find a customer for the way back.

Taxis also have a set of "rules," usually posted on the dash and written in both English and Arabic, which includes NO SMOKING (which is not observed, but you can call them on it, and they might or might not get angry), don't throw things from the vehicle, and this strange rule: "radio and cassette player prohibited with annoying form." ?! The Arabic makes a little more sense, being يمنع تشغيل الراديو أو المسجل بشكل مزعج (for those readers of my blog who speak Arabic), but I always laughed at the English translation.

Oh, and the final "rule"? "Driver is fully familiar with the rote and Should reach the final destination in each trip." The "Should," capitalized in the original, is the clause that makes this sentence true, as I found out that often my taxi drivers didn't know where to go (like my taxi driver who didn't know where the American Embassy was?!)

The best way to get around Jordan, since they don't have a metro, is the "micro," or mini bus. They have large busses too, but I couldn't ever figure them out, so I mostly stayed away from them.

A micro is about half the size of a normal bus, and they are cheaper, which was always a bonus for me. For 25 or 30 cents, you could ride on any set route around Amman, and for slightly more, you could take a micro to most cities (or villages near main roads) in Amman.

The micro has its "route" painted on the side of the bus, which includes the cities in which it stops (or the main parts of the city, if it is an inner-city micro).

The best thing about a micro is that you can get on or off anywhere along the route that you want. The "system" goes something like this: a micro will start at the beginning of the line, and when it fills up, it takes off. There are two people who work on each micro--the driver and the "micro caller," who walks around collecting the money, tells the driver when to stop, and opens and closes the door. This is usally a man in his late teens to mid-twenties, but once I saw a boy who couldn't have been more than 13 (and he thought he was pretty hot stuff) as the micro caller.

So once the micro takes off, the man walks around, collecting the 30 cents from everyone. He also starts calling off "normal" stops, like "the mosque," "the bridge," "City Mall," and the like. Of course, this is all in very fast Arabic, and if you are not familiar with the route it is more than a little difficult to know where exactly you want to get off.

You can also request your own stop, as I always did when I was going home, since I lived in the "rich" area and most people didn't ride the "dirty" micro around me--they had their own expensive cars and the like. Anyway, I could never fully communicate with the micro caller where exactly I wanted them to stop, since I lived in a remote area, so I would tell them "Elba House," and then when we got close to that company, I would stand up and say, "Stop here. I want to get off here." And then the micro caller would always try to get me to sit down, because I was a woman and clearly I shouldn't be standing when the vehicle was moving, and I had to tell him again, "right here. I want to get off at this street right now!" and the micro driver would pull over to the side and squeal to a stop, and I would get out, most of the time while the micro was still moving.

So here is the system. If you are standing on the side of the road and see a micro coming, you raise your hand and flag it down, and most of the time they will stop, even if they don't have any seats left (if there is only one or two of you.) They just pull over to the side and you hop on and they squeal away, weaving in and out of traffic to pick people up and let them off on the side of the road, and the whole time the micro caller is calling out destinations, taking peoples' money, and asking who needs change. When you need to get off, you just signal the micro caller, he tells the driver, and the driver pulls over to the side of the road, you jump off while it is still moving, and it squeals away.

This is a bunch of BYU students on the inside of a micro.

And these are two looks at the inside of a micro. I found that Arabs really like decorative things, and not just Arab women, either. This decoration with the tassels hanging from the roof of the micro was quite commonplace. And check out those hearts hanging from the rearview mirror?!

My favorite part of the micro, though, was how the cultural interation (or non-interaction) between men and women came across. If a woman borded by herself and there were only open seats by males, the woman would just stand there with a look on her face that said "I am not sitting by a strange Arab man," and then the micro caller would say, "Ok, one of you men need to move so the woman doesn't have to sit by a man." And if no one would move, he would pick someone and tell them to move so she didn't have to sit by a man. Since I was a foreigner, I am sure everyone expected me to not mind sitting by a man (because I am a Western woman and have no morals, right?), but there was no way I was not going to take advantage of this cultural expectation and sit by a man, so when I borded alone, I borded with the same look on my face, and most of the time it worked.

Oh, and people don't walk, by the way--perhaps because sidewalks are unpredictable and have trees planted in the middle of them!


In honor of my almost-MTC date (for those who have forgotten, it is the 17th of September!), and with the joy that comes from watching others enter into full membership of the church, I thought I would post about the baptisms that I witnessed while I was in Jordan.

The man in front-center is Samir. I was able to help with the translating of several of the discussions that he received from the Cooks, the missionary/service couple (and district president) serving in Amman, as they did not speak Arabic.

Helping with Samir's discussions was an incredible experience, one that I am not sure will be replicated the whole time I am on my mission. He knew the Book of Mormon like one who had studied it diligently for several years, and when he came to discussions, he came with all of the material read and with questions he had while he was reading written down in a little notebook. Each time a new principle was introduced to Samir, he thought about it for a minute and then said, "That makes sense! I won't have a hard time having faith in that principle."

When he was taught the lesson on the Word of Wisdom, he immediately stopped drinking coffee and tea, although those liquids are Arab staples and an integral part of hospitality. Culture meant less to him than committment to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

I think for all present at Samir's baptism, each person's personal committment to live the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ was renewed. Samir now has the Aaronic priesthood and my last day in Jordan, I watched him pass the sacrament. It was one of the most beautiful things that I witnessed there--a newly baptized member progressing in the church, line upon line and precept upon precept.

Shortly after Samir was baptized, Suleman and Amir were baptized. They are standing on either side of President Cook, the grinning senior missionary in the picture. I was also privileged to help with translations for them, and it was a beautiful experience to watch them as they learned that there was truth beyond what they had learned in their former Christian religions. Shortly after they began taking the missionary discussions, they decided that they, too, wanted to follow the example of Jesus Christ by entering the waters of baptism.

Their story is beautiful--they were Arab Christians who wanted to worship at a place closer to their home. One day Suleman found our small branch building in Amman and asked if he could worship with us. Muslims are not allowed to attend our church meetings because of Jordanian laws that the Church respects, but Christians are always welcome. He invited his friend Amir and six months after, took the missionary discussions and decided to be baptized. I would describe their faith as childlike--their faith in the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ saturated their very lives, and while Samir's baptism was a thrilling and exciting experience, their baptisms (held on the same day) were a peaceful reassurance that Heavenly Father does love all of His children, in whatever country they may reside.

Three others were baptized while I was a member of that branch--an eight year old American boy, whose family was in Amman working with the Embassy, a sister from Syria who flew down to Amman with the other 3 (active) members of the branch to be baptized, as they don't have a font in Damascus (and I am not sure if LDS baptisms are legal or recognized there), which was also a beautiful experience, and a Phillipino sister who was married to an American in the branch, who was also working for the Embassy.

This many baptisms in such a short time is quite unusual, and I feel that it was a tender mercy of the Lord that I got to witness the restored gospel of Jesus Christ changing minds, changing hearts, and changing lives as people accepted covenants to follow the example of the Savior and be baptized in the name of the Son.

And if I never witness a baptism in Taiwan? That still does not take away my desire to serve my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, by preaching the gospel of peace and glad tidings of salvation!


Arab Effectiveness

What is the point of having a garbage can if the bottom is open? I am sorry to say this was not uncommon in Jordan!

Loyalty to the King

And sometimes, when one wants to show loyalty to the king, one gets a whole bunch of tiny pictures and sticks them all together. Hey, look at me, I have all these sweet pictures of the king! And they are conveniently all in one place, too!

The Dead Sea

Head in Dead Sea=death, or something equally scary, by the looks of this picture!

Is That Really What I Think It Is?

Does it look like these fish are screaming to anyone else?

A peacock in the middle of a Catholic church complex?!

Umm, a star of David in the middle of Islamic art?

Cute, a scorpian!

The same cups I have in Provo?!! Found at Safeway in Amman.

Does this need a caption?

Here is a close-up, in case you couldn't see the other one.

How many languages are spoken here?

Really? No Swimmung? Too bad!


If you look closely, you can see the blood pooling in the bottom of the bags...

A goat running through the middle of town?

Chicks for sale at a bus stop?

Graffitti on Dome of the Rock?

Jews on Temple Mount? (Strictly forbidden because of the holiness of the site, as decreed by the Temple Mount rabbi)

Shade, or the Lack Thereof

I really have a lot of catching up to do before I leave on my mission, so I think my posts will come in spurts for the next two weeks!

Since I just posted about the lack of water, I thought I would post this picture to give an idea of how important (and sparse) shade was in the hot desert of the Middle East.
This is Ginny and Jason (who lived in Egypt for a year and a half--you would think he would be used to it!), crouching in the shade cast by other peoples' shadows as we listened to the tour guide in Luxor, at Queen Hatshepsut's funerary complex.


Today it rained in Utah. I didn't see rain once in Jordan, so I thought I would post about the water crisis in the Middle East, especially in Jordan.

(Side note: I love rain. I love it so much I ran outside and danced in it today because it has been so long since I have seen rain, not counting the airport in Georgia on the way back from Jordan. I guess it is a good thing I love rain so much, since I will be getting a lot of it in Taiwan, eh?)

Crisis is the one word I would choose to describe the water situation in Jordan. First of all, Jordan has very few natural water resources. (I am not a geography expert, and I haven't even taken Chad Emmett's geography class at BYU, so I really don't know facts and figures about this problem. Everything here is just what I saw and experienced in Jordan.) Israel controls the Golan Heights, which is where the water flows for the Jordan River begin, and whoever controls the Golan Heights controls the Jordan River (as I understand it).

Anyway, I don't really think that political and geographical reasons are that intriguing on a blog, so I will continue with my own experience. I will just say that Jordan has so little water that it (the government) bought water from Israel this year. This sort of explains the water problem in Jordan.

In most housing areas in Jordan, the water system goes something like this: instead of water pipes throughout the city, the government sends out a truck once a week to fill up each house's water tank(s), which are stored on the roof. You can get as much water as you want (within certain limits) but you have to pay for all of it, which greatly decreases what some people are able to buy (ie, it is expensive). This is all of the water that you have for that week. If you run out, you have to come up with creative solutions, like buying large jugs of water from the corner store by your house, or (as some of the married couples on our program did) taking your large water bottles and filling them up in places that have a lot of water, like a university.

These are the water tanks on top of my homestay. My host family, of course, were quite wealthy, and have a tank for each level of the house. We never ran out of water as long as I was there, but I was always afraid that we would.

Because each house has limited water, people use water as little as possible (well, they are supposed to, anyway). Showers become a real difficulty. I showered every day, but I did the get wet, turn off the water, soap up, and rinse off method so I would use as little water as possible. I did get to shower every day, but my feet were never in water long enough to rinse all of the dirt out of the cracks in my feet (sorry for being graphic). One thing that I really appreciate about America is that my feet are finally clean!

Most Jordanians, however, do not shower every day. Many of them only shower once a week--Thursday, because the water comes on Friday (not for everyone, but this is common out in the country-ish areas). As you might imagine, a once-a-week shower in combination with intense heat, crowded areas, and the overabundance of clothing that many of them wear (at least the women) did not help very much with the stench surrounding many people (sorry).

Although they have so little water, bottled water is actually quite cheap in Jordan. I could buy a bottle of Dasani or Aquafina for 25 Jordanian cents, which is only about 30 US cents. I was always shocked at how cheap the water was, and made good use of it, as most water is not safe to drink since it sits in the tanks on the tops of houses for a week or more (and that is definitely less than sanitary). My host family had a water purifier on their tap, so that was nice because we could drink the water there.

One other thing that shocked me was how much Jordanians wasted water. All too often (and sometimes everyday) I would see water running down the street (!) or people hosing down their sidewalks with water instead of sweeping them. There is a lot of dust in Jordan (no grass, you know) and so instead of sweeping, most people hose down an area (especially outside) and then squeegee the water into the street. Each tiled room in a building is also equipped with little holes in the ground where you can squeegee your water into. Really I was shocked to see such a waste of water when people can't even shower every day, but I guess it is just what is culturally acceptable, right?

Anyway, for your biblical twist, I really understood, even more than when I lived in Jerusalem, the importance of water in every day life and how precious it was. Stories like Elisha healing the water in Jericho, or Isaac's neighbors fighting over his wells, and most especially what it meant when the Savior spoke of the water of life made a lot more sense to me and became much more significant in my life.

And, for your enjoyment, here is a picture of the desert. This is the Negev, the desert in southern Israel. How would you like to be trapped in that for 40 years?


For the Enjoyment of All Viewers

Arab Toilets

I really like visuals, so I hope no one is offended that I put a picture of a "toilet" (or at least a human waste receptacle) on my blog.
Suffice it to say, I avoided using these as much as possible, but often there was just no choice...


Petra, Part 2

Remember my Petra post? Well, I mentioned some steep rock faces that we climbed up, and I thought I would give you a visual.

It was after this stretch that we realized that we really didn't want to go back down the way we came up. Smart idea, eh?

The problem was, I was in the lead, and I am just not known for saying no to possibly dangerous things if I think I might be able to do them. The hike went something like this: I would pick a way and start climbing up, yell to Lorien and Gretchen when I made it safely and found handholds the whole way up, and then Lorien would scamper up while Gretchen would shout things like she didn't want to die or risk her life for a silly hike in Petra (which was probably wise, but who was she to damper my blind enthusiasm?), so I would hike back down and pull her up the mountain. Literally.

It was probably wise that I waited until all knew I was safe until I posted these pictures, eh?


My Journey Back: The Full Story

Warning to readers who get bored easily: this will be quite a long post. I won't be offended if you take a few days to read it...after all, it took me a few days to experience it.

My final day in Jordan was...well, almost heart wrenching. Ok, let's be honest, not even a little. Two things I noticed, though--it was overcast. Overcast. I almost fell over, I was so shocked. I have seen clouds maybe 3 times in Amman. White clouds. But when I looked outside Friday morning, the sky was covered with greyish, almost rain clouds. But without the rain part.

Rain, by the way, is my favorite weather. I looked long and hard at the sky and thought, ok, Jordan, maybe I will miss you a little. But one day with clouds is not enough to make up for four months of intense heat and no rain.

The second: my branch. I took a little bit of liberty (and this would get me in a lot of trouble later--a mistake costing about $4000) and decided that I didn't have to get to the airport 3 hours early, realizing that I wanted to go to church for one last time more than anything. My branch in Amman, after all, was my favorite part of being in Jordan, and I could hardly resist this chance to attend, even the first part of sacrament meeting, since my flight had been changed to an hour later the week before. Ok, I'll admit it, I really just wanted to see everyone's reaction when I walked into church, since it was the first week that all the students would have been gone. (By the way, I wasn't disappointed. Everyone was so shocked and asked me if I had missed my flight or something. Don't worry, that will come.) And, I got to play the piano one last time there. It was beautiful. I almost shed a tear, realizing that I would miss the people in the branch, and maybe I did like Jordan. Just a little, though.

Fast forward about an hour. I am feeling slightly rushed because we only have about an hour until our plane leaves--but only slightly, because the Queen Alia airport in Amman is quite small, with only two terminals, and only one or two flights to America per day. Plus, the security there is, well, Arab security, and really not that tight. Imagine my surprise when I walk into terminal 2, where Delta is housed, and ask where the Delta counter is, and all the security men get a panicked look upon their faces and say "Delta is closed! Run! Leave your luggage here!"

Now I feel more than slightly rushed. I drop my luggage by the scanner and run through the metal detector and over to Delta. I stop at the first available Delta person and start explaining in Arabic that I need to get on the flight, and why is everyone telling me that it is closed when I still have 52 minutes?

Without changing his facial expression, the man at the counter waits until my tirade is over and then says in English, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Arabic." I almost burst into tears! "Neither do I," I said, and proceeded to explain in English. He again waited until my tirade was over and then said, "I am sorry, you will have to speak to the manager of the flight. I can't do anything for you." (Hint: if this is ever you, please interrupt the person before they finish their tirade if you can't do anything for them to save them time!)

Well, neither could the manager of the flight do anything for me, and neither would any of the Delta employees do anything for me. It turns out that the airport in Amman completely closes their flights one hour before the plane is supposed to take off because of "Middle East security precautions." Was this on my ticket? No. Was this in any of the information I received about my flight? No. Now really, I know that we are advised to be there three hours in advance for international travel, but remember the Queen Alia airport? I thought we would be fine.

After pacing for about an hour and a half, trying to get something done with the Delta employees at the airport, I realize that it is a futile effort. No one will do anything to help us. My father decides to call Delta in America, thinking that surely they would do something for us, so he asks if he can use my phone. (Remember the phone throughout this story--I was planning on giving it to members in the branch, but I completely forgot, and I was upset when I got to the airport and realized that I still had it. It was actually a miracle that I kept it.)

This would have been no problem, but I had just recently finished off my international phone card, so I had to buy another one. No problem, except for the fact that I am inside the security checkpoint, and the place to buy the phone card is outside of the security checkpoint.

I walk up to the metal detector and try to communicate with the security guard in Arabic that I need to leave the area to buy a phone card. No problem, he says, I just have to talk to the "Daubit," or the officer in the army, explain my reason for leaving, give him my passport, send all bags through the scanner, walk back through the metal detector, buy the card, and then repeat the process to get back in.

I walked up to the Daubit and explained my situation. I don't know if he had a lot of time on his hands or was curious about my situation or just wanted to talk to this strange foreign women who was trying to speak Arabic or what, but I had to explain for at least 2 minutes why I wanted to leave the area. He finally agreed to let me go (what was I going to do? All I wanted to do was leave the secured area, in the opposite direction of the planes. Now why did I have to leave my passport with him?) and I bought the card.

Passing through security again, I dialed the number on my phone card, only to have the same annoying Arabic message that I heard way too many times while living in Amman--the message that said that even though I was using an international calling card that doesn't use the minutes on my phone, I didn't have any minutes on my phone and thus would need to buy another Zain card just to use the international calling card.

On the verge of tears from frustration and anger, I went and talked to the Daubit again, gave him my passport, went through security, and went to buy a Zain card. The only glitch was the "wander" woman, or whatever those security officials are who pat you down, was really irritated because I had just passed through there 3 minutes before. She asked what I was doing (I wanted to tell her that it was none of her business and she should talk to the Daubit, but I didn't) and I explained that I had to get a phone card. Clearly irritated, she asked, "Did you talk to the Daubit?" When I verified that I had, she put on her angry face, sighed heavily as she rolled her eyes, and let me walk back through.

I wanted to buy just 1 dinar of minutes, since I wasn't even going to use the minutes anyway, but just my luck, the kiosk only had 5 dinar of minutes--and for some reason, the taxes for the phone cards was way more expensive at the airport than in Amman. I bought the 5 dinar card (and this would become very important later on) and went back through security, got my passport from the Daubit, dialed the number, and gave my phone to my father.

10 minutes later, he walks over to me. Guess what else, my phone had just died! Being the prepared person that I always am, I just happened to have my phone charger in my carry on. The next challenge? Finding a plug. Remember how we are in the check in area--between security and the outside world, but also between a plane ticket and the terminals? After unsuccessfully asking about 5 different people (in both Arabic and English, since they couldn't seem to understand in either language--I should have tried Chinese) where I could find an outlet, I finally found one in the bathroom. Of all the unlikely places, there was finally a plug in the bathroom (it was the first plug in a bathroom I had seen in Jordan, both public and private!). Relieved, I gave the phone to my father once again and he went into the bathroom to finish the phone call to Delta.

And I went back to my seat, sat down, and started crying. This was a little more than I could handle--trying to communicate in Arabic, missing my flight, not knowing when I could leave this country, buying all of those stupid phone cards, etc etc.

I finally calmed down and fixed my makeup in time to see my dad coming from the bathroom, holding my phone, and asking me to buy another phone card because the other one had just run out of minutes.

You are kidding, right? I thought. I don't think he would be so anxious to keep buying phone cards if he had been the one that had to pass through security each time! But of course, I was the one that spoke Arabic, so I got to do all the dirty work!

I spoke with the Daubit one last time, apologizing profusely but telling him that I had to buy more minutes. I passed through security and was almost out of the secured area when one of the other security officials (by the "pilots only" entrance) started shouting to me and asking where I was going. Not again, I thought to myself, and tried to hold myself together as I explained once again that I had to buy some minutes for my phone. He told me that I couldn't leave without my passport, and when I exasperatedly told him that the Daubit had my passport, he let me through, saying something like "I wouldn't believe you except I can see from your eyes that you are telling the truth." Or maybe he just said that he was messing around with me because I looked like I was falling apart. Some Arabic phrase like that that I had never before heard.

And just when I thought things were going to start settling down, I try to buy an international calling card for four dinar, but because of the incredibly increased taxes of the phone cards, I am five cents short. Meaning, that I would either have to buy a two dinar card and risk not having enough minutes (and I did use all of the minutes on the card and wished I had more) or go back through security again, get five cents, go back through security, buy the card, and go back through security. I looked at the card, looked at the man, almost started crying, looked at the card again, and just when I was about to say I would buy the two dinar card, he said he would give it to me. Well, I guess there is some good in the world, right?

Final call to Delta in America, and my father comes out with bad news. They, of course, would do nothing for us. Beautiful situation, we find out that the next flight out of Amman to America with space on it is the 31st of August.

Wait a minute, the 31st? We would have to stay here for 9 more days?! No longer did I feel like I would miss Jordan. I just wanted to get out of the country, that day. No way was I waiting 9 more days...that would give me approximately 1.5 weeks in America to get everything done before leaving on my mission!

In full panic mode, ready to have breakdown #2, I call BYU. BYU Travel, to be exact, realizing that I am having an emergency, and they have an emergency line, and if anyone could help us, they could.

Well, I was right. BYU is beautiful and wonderful and its employees are more than a little helpful. They are incredibly helpful, in fact, and Nancy at BYU Travel got us a flight back to America the next night. The only problem? There really weren't any flights out of Amman until September, and so I told her that we could fly out from Tel Aviv. There were flights out from Tel Aviv, but we needed security clearance from the Vice-President of BYU to fly out of Israel, since it is on the US Department of State warning list, or whatever that is called. And since it was 6:30 in the morning their time, she couldn't get the clearance until everyone arrived at work.

Wasting no time, my father decided that he would rather get to Tel Aviv immediately and sit in the airport all night rather than miss his flight again, so we took all of our luggage, passed it all back through the scanners (tell me again why we needed to have our luggage scanned when we were leaving?!), and got a taxi to the north border (we had conveniently dropped our rental car off in the parking lot several hours before--the rental car that we had rented from the only car rental at the north border!) asap, since we couldn't cross the border by Amman and Jerusalem (and much closer to Tel Aviv) because it was now Friday afternoon, almost Shabbat, and the Allenby bridge border crossing was closed.

Going through all of the security at the north border for the final time (!), we finally passed into the Israel side. And, of course, each piece of my luggage had a problem as they went through the scanner. You see, I had packed carefully and I had several books in each bag to help distribute the weight. So of course each bag had to be opened and inspected, and each book had to be opened and inspected. I winced as they pulled out my Arabic books, especially my Quran, and had to explain at least three times why I was in Jordan and why I was studying the language of their enemies. But I like organized stress so much better than disorganized stress, so I was fine, right?

Of course, when we exit the building, it is 8:30 Friday night, Shabbat is in full swing, and there are no busses, taxis, or anything. And of course the north border is far away from anything of convenience!

My father asked an Israeli guard to call a taxi, which he does, and which was decidedly more expensive than it should have been (what other option did we have? It was Shabbat!), and which picked us up from the border and droped us off in Bet Shean while the driver went to fulfill some other duty until he could pick us up again and take us to Tiberias.

So picture this: 3 adults, 7 pieces of luggage, and a phone that is still picking up Jordanian cell phone waves sitting in a deserted parking lot on the edge of Bet Shean in the middle of the night--more specifically, the Shabbat night, meaning that nothing is open and very few cars are driving by on the deserted road.

Thankfully, my phone was still picking up Jordanian cell phone waves, so I was able to call my branch president in Amman to figure out how to make phone calls to Israel from Jordan (you have to dial 00 first, and then 972, and then the number) and then call my friends at the Jerusalem Center to get the number for the new missionary couple in Tiberias, and call a couple of hotels to see if they had any spots open.

Of course, being the end of vacation season, as well as being Shabbat, no one does have any room. Self, great day! And, remember how my phone costs 25 Jordanian cents per minute to call another country? And since I was using Jordanian cell phone waves, even though I was in Israel, calling places in Israel was still long distance for me. Luckily I had 5 dinar of minutes, but those were eaten up quite quickly as we were sitting and waiting to see if our taxi driver would show up again.

Finally, the taxi driver did show up, we did make it to a hotel, they did have two rooms available, it only cost about $430 (as they only had suites available), and we even made it to the airport the next morning (which taxi ride only cost us about $250), and we got permisison from the Vice President of BYU to fly out from Tel Aviv. The tickets only cost about $1,000 each, since Delta would not refund any of our money from the missed flight (even though the flight was full! I don't see why they wouldn't give us Delta credit, since we still had a Delta flight just the next day and from a different country! Delta wouldn't have lost any money) and flying out from Israel is much more expensive than flying out from Jordan.

Oh, and we only got to the Tel Aviv airport about 12 hours early this time, so we had plenty of time to wish that we had gotten to the airport in Amman a little bit earlier.

Well, $4,000 later, we got home. It was quite possibly the most expensive church meeting I have ever attended!


My Mountain Home So Dear

Friends, enemies, and countrymen, I am finally back in America.

A moment of silence, please...

It is beautiful. America, I mean. Silence is beautiful, too, but I am still waiting for that.

When we flew into Atlanta, I almost started crying. It was raining. Raining! Have I mentioned that rain is my favorite weather? And that I haven't seen it for several months?! It was a beautiful experience.

Then, the passport official in Atlanta asked me what I had been doing in Jordan, and when I said I had been there for study, he said, "Is this home to stay or just a visit." I told him just a visit, because I am going to Taiwan next!

The next words he uttered were the most beautiful I had heard in my life--"Well, welcome back to America."

Thank you, thank you! Life is beautiful. And in about 5 mintues, I head to Provo, my real mountain home. And for those of you who still read my blog, in a couple of days, you will get the full airport story, as well as more posts on Arab style, music, public transportation, and backroading in the Arabian desert.

Get ready...


Post #100

Well, I was really hoping to get 100 posts in before I got back to America, and I got my wish. This post won't be much of anything (such a shame for such a dignified number) but needless to say, I missed my flight yesterday from Amman to America and after contacting Delta (who was not helpful at all, in Jordan or in America) and BYU (who was helpful, as usual, and answered my phone call at 6:30 in the morning and got us a flight) and realizing that there were no flights out of Jordan that had any space on them until September, my parents decided they would rather pay for 3 new tickets and fly out from Tel Aviv.

Naturally, I didn't really want to stay in Jordan either.

The story now? I am in the Tel-Aviv airport, using their free internet (as I have for the past 7 hours), and waiting to board my flight in the next half hour. Details to follow.

America, here I come!


Hebrew Adventures

So as much as I like to claim that I know Hebrew, I really don't know much modern Hebrew at all. And by not knowing much modern Hebrew, I mean I can say about 20 words--and ten of them are numbers. Impressive, eh? What I do know is Biblical Hebrew, which is about as different from Modern Hebrew as Beowolf is from the New York Times, or if you want an Arabic example, as different as Egyptian Arabic is from Quranic Arabic.

Anyway, I have a lot more opportunities to practice my Hebrew in Israel than I ever had in Jordan (surprising, I know). Like when I say please and thank you, and sometimes I even throw in a hello or goodbye just to be impressive.

Today, however, I accomplished my greatest feat. I wanted to take my parents through the Kotel Tunnels (they are tunnels that run under the Western Wall), but when I went to make a reservation this morning, the attendant asked me if I spoke Hebrew--apparently the only tour she could squeeze us in was a Hebrew tour. I told her no, and she said "Even a little?" I quickly realized that my experience in Biblical Hebrew could qualify as "a little," right(?) so I said yes, we would take the Hebrew tour. After all, I had already been through twice, and I basically have this history memorized. And my parents wouldn't know what they were missing!

When I walked up to the entrance, a guard asked me what time my tour was. When I said 12:20, he asked "Is it in English?" I said no, Hebrew, and at his shocked look and hand motion which said, "Why are you going on a tour in a language you don't speak?" I answered with a shoulder motion which said, "What makes you think I don't know Hebrew? I know this site so well I don't need a guide!"

But really, I only did the shoulder motion because I don't know how to say any of that in Hebrew!

So the tour was fine. I understood so much more than I expected. I knew Arabic and Hebrew were close languages, but some of the Hebrew phrases were the same as the Jordanian phrases, which really surprised me! And my parents were quite impressed with my translating ability, even though my dad for some reason thinks I know modern Hebrew.

All went well until the very end of the tour. The guide stopped about 20 feet from the exit, about to explain a water cistern, and my parents and I decided to quietly sneak away. The guide saw us, though, and quickly told me (in Hebrew) that if I didn't leave with the group I wouldn't get an armed escort back. I wasn't worried (the Kotel tunnels come out on the Arab side) because I am not Israeli (and my Arabic skills are pretty much amazing) but I didn't know how to say that in Hebrew. And I was totally embarrassed to speak English to him (although I am sure he spoke it) after attending a whole tour in Hebrew. Awkward! And with the whole tour group looking on!

So I opted for the easiest choice--I just smiled and said "ok, thank you" in Hebrew and quickly walked away.

I thought I handled the situation pretty well, all things considered!


Windows of Jordan

Ok, Jordan, I guess you can have a turn too.

Personal Business

For those of you who care about my personal life in addition to my Arabic life, I finally finished my program. And my parents arrived in Amman. And we are now in Jerusalem.

I love Jerusalem. I really do. But I never realized how stressful directing my father in a rental car around the streets of East Jerusalem without a map could be. Directions are not a problem--I have the city memorized. Literally. But the problem is, I usually walk. And walkers don't care about one way streets.

Do you know how many one-way streets are in Jerusalem? Too many.

And, I accidentally made one of our hotel reservations for the wrong night. Hmm, that was a slight problem, since the hotel was full. Have I mentioned that I love Israelis? The hotel staff made a reservation for us at the next-door, more expensive hotel for the same price. Wait, do I really miss Jordan--already?! Ok, I just missed going to church on Friday. And I miss not having to be in charge. But I don't miss taxi drivers. And I don't miss smoke. I don't have to--there is plenty of it here!

Other delights--I went to church today and realized that, since the students went home three days ago, I knew all but 2 people in the branch. They were either my friends/co-workers from BYU who are now studying at Hebrew University, or they were in Jerusalem when I lived there last year, or I met them last time I was here (in June with the BYU Arabic group).

Small world, eh?

Ah well, six more days and then I get on a plane. And I am no longer in charge. And then three weeks later...



Arabic Style, Part 1: Hijabs

One thing that has intrigued me quite a bit while living in the Middle East is the "hijab style" that is so prevalent. There are almost as many styles of hijabs as there are women in the Middle East, at least in Jordan, so I thought I would give you a little sampling.

First of all, you must know that style is very important in the Middle East, especially for women. Society is definitely based on a class system, and the richer you look, the more respect you get.

In addition to the hijab (the hair/neck-covering veil), there is also the nikob (which fully covers your face except your eyes--even Jordanians call them "ninjas"), but I don't have any pictures of that.

The hijab itself can be wrapped several different ways. Most people use a stretchy spandex under-hijab thing, which I can only describe as like one leg from spandex bicycling shorts. This is worn underneath the hijab to keep all of the hair in.

On top of this spandex thing is wrapped a scarf, in any shade or color. Jordanians especially like glittery things and bling blings, and I have seen people who have a hijab to match every outfit.

My favorite hijab, however, is the double-spandex white one. My Jordanian friends dressed me up in hijabs once, and it was miserable. There was so much fabric on my head, and I could never wrap it right, and they had to stick a bunch of pins in to keep it together.

Not very efficient or comfortable, in my opinion.

But then, one day, I was in the girl's restroom in the library and I saw a double-spandexed hijabed woman take off her hijab and put it back on. I was shocked. The over-hijab was just like the under-hijab, made of white spandex, but it was just like a bigger pant leg. While other girls were un-pinning and re-wrapping their hijabs, she took hers off and put it back on in less than 30 seconds.

I was sold.

So, although I never will, if I had to wear a hijab I would definitely choose the white-spandex kind. It is so much more efficient!

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