3.27.2008

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall"


Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.
The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.

My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!"

I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."


I read this poem ("Mending Wall" by Robert Frost) the other day in my American Literature class and I thought it was particularly applicable with some of the pictures of walls I took in the Middle East--especially the separation wall between Israeli and Palestinian territory. I just took pictures of what I saw and observed--I won't put my personal political views here. I just set this forth to show what I saw and in some way what I felt.

3.21.2008

"You want to go over in the middle of that mess?"

This is usually the response I get from people when I tell them I am about to move to Jordan. I just laugh (naturally) because, understandably, most people are ignorant about Jordan. Perhaps images of the Gaza strip or Saudi Arabia flash into their head and they think I am throwing myself into a war zone.

However, I always think, what mess?

So here are a few political/demographical facts about Jordan:

Officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jordan has been a monarchy since just after WWI. Jordan (I compare it to Switzerland) works hard to maintain peace with all of its neighbors--including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq--and they are incredibly successful. (When was the last time you heard about Jordan in the news?)

Plus, the country is economically stable, and everyone loves their king--the previous king, especially, was well-loved by his people. His wife was British, and the king now (their son--so half British) and his wife were educated in western styles.

The most recent terrorist activity in Jordan was in 2005 (November 9) when three suicide bombers attacked hotels in Jordan. It was big news because this sort of stuff never happens in Jordan.

Personally, when I went to Jordan last year, I was pleasantly surprised at the warm hospitality exuded by Jordanians to me as an American. Everyone that I talked to wanted to know if I knew their cousin in Chicago, or their brother in Houston. Actually, no, I did not.

And a funny story--I really wanted to go back and live in Jordan, and I applied for an intensive Arabic program last summer in Jordan! And now I am going to live for four months. I am excited--both for the experience for myself and also to let others know more about Jordan and our Arab friends...and that I am not "throwing myself into a mess" over there!

3.20.2008

"Your First Trip to the Middle East is not your Last": Prep Class, Day 3

This week our prep class was about how to be an effective language learner while in country. Although he did tell us that our first trip to the Middle East would not be our last, we do need to take as much advantage of our situation as we can--meaning that we need be effective and efficient in our language learning. He told us several things to do that will help us learn the language better, and I have some pretty lofty goals...so I thought I would write them down so I can remember them--and so that I will be responsible for them to the people who read my blog!

1--I will only speak English when I am talking to someone who does not speak Arabic or when I am in an English-teaching position.

2--I will take every opportunity to speak/interact in Arabic.

3--I will involve myself in the branch there and take all the opportunities I can to get to know the members.

4--I will attend all of my classes prepared.

5--I will do all of my homework.

6--In down time, I will study Hans Wehr or the scriptures in Arabic.

Ok! Like I said, they are pretty lofty goals--but I really want to learn Arabic. I will let you all know how it goes--but after the sacrifices I have made for this trip, I can't imagine not taking advantage of this incredible language-learning opportunity that is offered to me!

Oh, and my favorite part of the class? Spencer was telling us about his CASA experience in Egypt. And he told us about this guy that knew practically every word in the Arabic language. And I could tell that this guy just bugged Spencer--because when someone in the class mentioned that when people are that much better than you, you should hang out with them so you can pick up similar skills, he countered that by saying that he couldn't handle hanging out with that guy so he just hung out with Arabs! If easy-going Spencer can be bugged by people on his program and still learn Arabic, I think I can too.

Of course, there were (as always) the random comments about people growing up reading dictionaries, and the same question asked twice within one minute, and the comment about kicking the half-brother out of the house, and a continual comparison of Arabs with French...

We are going to Jordan people, not France!!!

As always, it was a class of thrills. Can't wait till Jordan--with all of these same people!!! :)

3.16.2008

Arab Music

video

This was a concert at the Jerusalem Center--the first or second week we were there, as I recall (you can see the Old City stretched out before you through the windows...it is probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life, but this movie doesn't do it justice!). I think it might have actually been Turkish music, but I can't find the program and I don't remember. But in any case, you get the point.

Dil, in part of our "culture shock" lecture last week, told us about Arabic music. And how they don't have the same kind of meter or rhythm as Western music, and how instead of harmony they focus on single lines of music--melody more than harmony. He said that he was leading a tour group from Dartmouth in the Middle East and was giving them a lecture about Arab music on the bus. He explained about the different rhythms and meters, and then had the bus driver turn on the Arabic radio station. He said after about 3 minutes they shouted at him to turn it off--they couldn't take it anymore!

Personally, I think this is beautiful, and every time I hear it, I can smell the streets of Jerusalem and I feel like I am walking in Damascus Gate. It is a sound full of history and emotion, and I love it.

Naturally, I just laughed when I heard Dil's story.

I am curious to know what any of your first thoughts are when you hear this!

3.15.2008

Why Arabic is so difficult

These are just a few of my own opinions on why Arabic is a level 4 language, right up there with Russian and Mandarin:

First of all, the grammar is very difficult. Arabic is not written with vowels, but they have a very complicated word-ending vowelling system that we have to learn (because formal Arabic is vowelled, like the Quran and the Bible) that deals with case, such as genitive and accusative and nominative, and if it follows a preposition and if it is in a construct form, etc. And then they have some very confusing grammatical structures...especially in "high" Fusha (the name of the written language), that make little or no sense in English but make very beautiful Arabic.

In addition to the complicated grammar and multi-synonymic language which results in huge amounts of vocabulary words, there are several different dialects of Arabic: Fusha, which is the written language and which is the same in every Arab country, and then Amiyya, which is the name for the dialelcts. There is a different dialect for every country, and we learn Egyptian here and in Jordan we will learn, of course, Jordanian.

This is difficult not only because of the different words we learn and the different situations in which they can and cannot be used (for example, the verb "to want" is a different word in Fusha and Egyptian and Jordanian and Moroccan, etc) and the different pronounciations that each country uses of the same letters, but the grammar is completely different between Fusha and Amiyya. I pride myself on really understanding the grammar of Fusah (occasionally!), but I am unable to speak Egyptian or Jordanian because I speak too formally. All of the grammar that I studied so carefully just goes out the window with Amiyya!

In short, it is a frustrating language. It is delightful and thrilling when I understand something a grammar principle or remember my vocab, but it is distressing and upsetting when I am unable to make those connections.

It is just like learning anything, I suppose, but my biased opinion puts Arabic right up there with other incredibly difficult things.

And I can't wait until I am in country and it becomes really difficult! :)

3.13.2008

Jordan Study Abroad: Mission Prep 101

Last night we had our second study abroad prep class. I have recently been thinking about all the ways this study abroad will help me prepare for my mission (which, by the way, I will hopefully be leaving on a week after I return to the states...I start my papers on Sunday!!) and I had some beautiful insights yesterday.

First of all, Dil was our "special speaker" last night and he spoke to us about Arabic culture and all of the things that will probably drive us crazy...the whole time we are there. He told us some funny stories, like his experience of eating BEANS every day for breakfast when he lived in Egypt with a poor Egyptian family. After about 3 weeks, he couldn't handle it anymore! Who eats beans every day for breakfast?

Then he told us two things that will help us: being anthropologists and humility. I am realizing more than ever that this study abroad will help incredibly as I prepare for my mission. I will need humility as I try to speak a new language in a new country with a new culture. I will need humility as I live with a new family and adjust to their own culture and rules. I will need humility as I suffer with the Jordanians and their lack of water and shower two or three times a week (!!). I will need humility as a foreigner in a country that is very different from the one in which I live...and that is warring with their friends and families. I will need humility as I work with my fellow students and follow the rules that BYU imposes on me.

And, this humility will prepare me for my mission. And always being with a companion. And possibly living in a new country. And speaking a new language. And being a foreigner in a country where my message might not always be accepted. And being rejected even though I am bringing my brothers and sisters the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of the plan of happiness. And trying to learn a new culture and a new people...even if I go to the states.

Needless to say, I am stoked.

PS--a few more of my favorites from last night's "things to expect in Jordan": hole-in-the ground toilets (been there...), constant heckling and harassament, expectations to stay at dinner with your host family for 2-3 hours at the least, showering every other day with cold showers, the ultimate heat oppressing me constantly, the disgusting food Dil talked about, awkward stories about saying the wrong Arabic phrase at the wrong time, and I could go on and on.

I can't stop laughing with glee at the stories I will have when I get back.

3.10.2008

Part of the Call to Prayer in Jerusalem

video

Perhaps I should explain about the prayer call. When the Muslims hear the call to pray (the actual call is about 2 minutes long and happens 5 times a day) the devout Muslims immediately stop what they are doing to pray. I don't know very much about the content of the prayers themselves--perhaps that is something that I should find out in Jordan! But they pray on small prayer rugs and they face Mecca (FYI, when Muhammad started this, they faced Jerusalem, but then he changed it to Mecca later...I learned this from being a TA for MESA 250!). The first phrase of the prayer call is (in Arabic) "God is the greatest."

Really, I guess I don't know very much about the prayer call at all. I only know that it woke me up every morning at 4:30 and is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard. It echos through the whole city and they have several minarets (towers on which loudspeakers are placed) to broadcast it so everyone can hear--so if you stand in certain parts in the city, you can hear two or three minarets at once--and they are sometimes in slightly different places in the call! I thought it was delightful...but obviously not everyone could handle the caucophony of confusion.

Anyway, this is one thing that I really missed about the Middle East and something I am very excited to return to.

3.07.2008

Why, when I know what I am getting into, am I still doing it?

Wednesday was our first study abroad prep class. We have 5 more, and they are for two hours every Wednesday night. As I was sitting in the class, looking at the 30 pages of rules and signing contracts to protect BYU from lawsuits, I started feeling a little claustrophobic. Who am I kidding...a little? Why am I willingly giving up my freedom (and possibly my sanity) to move to an Arab country, speak Arabic, and live with an Arab family? Especially when Arabs are so touchy and like to be close to you when they talk to you. And I don't like to be close to anyone--my personal space is quite large. And, I am not allowed to go anywhere alone while living in the Middle East (and more specifically, Jordan).

I know all of this because of the experience I had last time I lived in Jerusalem. Don't get me wrong, I had an incredible experience. But there were several times I thought, "If I had known it would be like this I never would have signed up for this! This was not in my contract!!!" This included power-hungry professors, a severe lack of freedom to choose where I went and what I did, and incredibly long bus rides without being able to listen to ipods, in addition to more serious frustrations and disappointments.

As I was sitting in the class, I thought to myself, I don't think I can do this again! And this time I actually know what I am getting into! And then I realized how silly I was being, because as long as I know what I am getting into, I am fine! I agreed to this! Anyway, this is not making much sense, but I realized that since I am going into this experience with eyes wide open as to what might, can, and probably will happen, I think when hard things come along, they will be much easier to handle because I agreed to them beforehand. So basically, I am doing this because I know what I am getting into.

Then I thought about a talk given by Richard C. Edgely, in which he said:

"In our preexistent state our Father in Heaven presented His plan for mortality, which Alma described as the “plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8). I believe we all understood that by coming to earth, we would be exposed to all of the experiences of earth life, including the not-so-pleasant trials of pain, suffering, hopelessness, sin, and death. There would be opposition and adversity. And if that was all we knew about the plan, I doubt if any of us would have embraced it, rejoicing, “That’s what I have always wanted—pain, suffering, hopelessness, sin, and death.” But it all came into focus, and it became acceptable, even desirable, when an Elder Brother stepped forward and offered that He would go down and make it all right. Out of pain and suffering He would bring peace. Out of hopelessness He would bring hope. Out of transgression He would bring repentance and forgiveness. Out of death He would bring the resurrection of lives. And with that explanation and most generous offer, each and every one of us concluded, “I can do that. That is a risk worth taking.” And so we chose...

"There are few of us, if any, who don’t walk the refiner’s fire of adversity and despair, sometimes known to others but for many quietly hidden and privately endured. Most of the heartache, pain, and suffering we would not choose today. But we did choose. We chose when we could see the complete plan. We chose when we had a clear vision of the Savior’s rescue of us. And if our faith and understanding were as clear today as it was when we first made that choice, I believe we would choose again."
(Richard C. Edgley, “For Thy Good,” Ensign, May 2002, 65)

What a thrilling and empowering doctrine! We knew what would befall us here! We knew that there would be pain, sickness, Arabic, long days, disobedient children, and the list goes on and one...but yet we chose to come here and experience life--because we knew what the Savior could and would do for us!

In drawing parallels, I realized that I am chosing to go on this study abroad because I want certain outcomes: I want to become fluent in Arabic, I want to understand and live Arabic culture, and the list goes on. In order to accomplish these objectives, some certain things must be endured. For example, my personal space is going to be violated--all the time--and that is Arabic culture!

In life, and since premortality, we have had certain objectives: we wanted to become like our Heavenly Father and live with Him forever. The hardships and trials in this life also lead us to this objective--and we chose to suffer them because of what the Savior would suffer for us! This is, in my opinion, empowering and hopeful in the midst of dark days of despair and suffering.
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