Sunglasses are one of the most brilliant things I brought with me to the Middle East. Not just because I look so attractive while wearing them, but also the protect my eyes and my honor.

Let me explain.

The first thing: my honor. Ok, so maybe it isn't so dramatic. But while I was in the America, I searched everywhere for a pair of sunglasses that were so dark that you couldn't see my eyes through them.

I think I suceeded--and they look particularly CIA-ish, cleverly disguising my face giving the impression that I am looking at you, even when I am not, or the impression that I am not looking at you while I am. Ha.

Actually, lets be honest, most of the time I just look silly, like I am a CIA agent in some comedy where I walk around whistling my own theme music. But most of the time I don't whistle out loud.

Anyway, everyone stares at me here in Jordan, as I look so much different than everyone else. I mean, really. I have two eyes (which happen to be blue) and hair (which is the really strange part, because I don't wear a hijab. And my hair happens to be red). The men don't wear hijabs either, and their hair is exposed, but somehow that is less tantalizing to the women than women's hair is to the men. More on this later.

Anyway, everyone stares at me because I am an "ignebia," or foreigner. Or maybe because I have big ears. In any case, I have noticed that I get a lot less attention when I wear sunglasses. People stare less because they can't tell if I am staring at them or not--which most of the time I am. Clever, eh?

Secondly, it is completely normal to wear your sunglasses everywhere here. Almost all of the Jordanian girls have them, especially at the university. And they sell them everywhere. The Jordanian girls really like the big sunglasses, with bling blings on the side, which I personally think look ridiculous. But they wear them everywhere, sometimes even inside.

When I am in the America, I find it rude when people don't take off their sunglasses when they talk to you--mostly it bugs me because I can't see their eyes. So when I was here for the first little while, I would take my sunglasses off when I walked into stores or was ordering food, etc.

That was a mistake.

I don't know what it is about my brilliant blue eyes, but people (and by people here, I mean men) would do a huge double take when they saw my eyes. It was startling, actually, and scared me a couple of times when they would jump backward because they were so shocked. It was like I had lasers coming out of my eyes, or something.

Anyway, now I keep my sunglasses on all of the time--riding busses, in taxis, walking into stores, etc. And so do all the Jordanian girls, so it is not so weird.

Secondly: eye protection. For those who don't know, I have been having major eye problems (but haven't found the nerve to go to a doctor here) in which air and light caused incredible pain to my bloodshot/infected eyes. (Did I mention that the sunlight is intensely burning here? Not so good for the eyes.) So for a week or so, I wore my sunglasses everywhere--in the middle of the night, in class, and even in the hotel in Petra.

All the other hotel guests stared at me as I was eating, but I am sure it was just because they were jealous, or wondering if I was part of the CIA.

So sunglasses. Definitely a necessary part of any wardrobe for the Middle East.

Taiwan in Arabia

For those of you who don't know, I am going on a mission to Taiwan. In less than six weeks. (!)

Anyway, I have recently been wondering what I am doing in Jordan right now. I mean, three weeks after I stop living in the Middle East learning Arabic, I move to Taiwan and learn Mandarin Chinese. Logical? Not really. At least, not to me--the Lord keeps telling me that He knows slightly more than I do. Actually a lot.

Anyway, I have found bits of Taiwan, even in Arabia. For example, in the language center at the University of Jordan, there are posters on the wall advertising beautiful places in Jordan. And other places in the Middle East, and Turkey.

And secondly, right after I got my mission call, the first counsellor in the branch presidency here in Amman apologized because he had told Sister Cho about my call to Taiwan before he let me tell her. I was ok with that, because I didn't know Sister Cho was--TAIWANESE! She actually lives in Taipei and her husband is working for the embassy here--but they go back to Taipei next year. I will most likely see her and her family--I might even be in her ward again! What a small world the church is!
This is Tutu, Sister Cho's son. We were pretending to be sharks, after I distracted him for a whole Enrichment (while his mom was trying to demonstrate how to cook shrimp balls) by drawing an elaborate scene of sharks and fish under the ocean. My drawing skills are pretty much amazing.


Makin' Cookies

Last Friday, my friend Lorien and I decided to make cookies after church. (Remember, the Sabbath is on Fridays for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here, because of the way the work week works--Sunday is the first day of the work week and everyone has Fridays off.)

It was really a beautiful idea. I have really been missing cooking (although lets be honest, how much cooking do I do when I am in school? Maybe muffins from a package occasionally. But that is really beside the point) and my former roommate, Ghee, left me a cupboard full of "making cookie" supplies. (Remember how I have my own kitchen?) I realized that I should take advantage of my rather large and beautiful kitchen, since no one else (except Karina and Spencer) on this program has a kitchen like I have, not even the married couples. Jason and Brian don't even have a stove--ha!

Anyway, taking advantage of the free kitchen, free supplies, and free time after church, Lorien and I made cookies.

True to form, I forgot to check and make sure I had all the ingredients before I started. I really like doing things--but sometimes the "preparing" part gets left behind in the rush. Thankfully, we had everything we needed except butter, but we got Crisco from Bashira (the mother of the family with whom I live). I am not really a fan of Crisco--I prefer butter. Actually, I prefer margarine, but that is a different story (everything's better with Blue Bonnet on it!). Sorry for those of you who like Crisco cookies. I just like tasting more cookie than Crisco, personally.

Anyway, we ran into only a few snags--first, the oven. I know how to light ovens in the Middle East, but I was afraid because I wasn't sure when the last time was that my oven had been used. Everything is run by gas here, and so to turn on your oven, you turn on the gas, get a match or a lighter, and then stick it into the gas pouring out of the bottom of the oven, hoping it doesn't exploed in your face.

Don't worry, it didn't explode, and I got it lit.

Next stop: conversions. I had a cookie recipie from my mother, and I thought I would have to change the measurements into liters, etc.
Well, I might have had to, but I forgot about measuring cups. They were conspicuously absent from my kitchen.

Never fear, though, because I know how to "eyeball" things, and we had some mugs that looked like they were about 1 cup. And I never measure vanilla--I found out early on that the lid on vanilla is almost always 1 tsp!

With several hurdles overcome, we ran into another--the brown sugar. It was so hard it felt like a rock. Definitely not stirrable, especially since we didn't have beaters and were stirring the cookies with a fork.

Again being the resourceful one, I had Lorien break it up with a fork and, after 15 minutes or so of stirring it with a little water, it became palatable.
Well, this post is getting long and kind of boring, but suffice it to say that after all of the hurdles, the cookies were beautiful. Amazing. Delicious. And so very American.
Don't they look beautiful and amazing? They were.
Suffice it to say, we were pretty proud of ourselves. That mug is what we used for our "1 cup" measuring source.
I, obviously, was more than a little excited for them. :)


Aren't Arab Children Beautiful?

Sometimes they even look like me, with red hair or blue eyes--but rarely both. Whenever this happens, all of the women make a big deal about it--how this Jordanian child looks like me, a foreigner--and it is natural!


Amman has recently been blessed with a cool spell. So cool, in fact, that it is almost chilly, like Utah in the fall.

Ah, Utah.

Anyway, the break from the intense heat made me realize that I have never written a post about the weather here, which would be quite helpful if any of you are planning on living here or visiting in the summer, and might even be intersting for those of you who are not. Then again, it might not, but who chooses to read this thing? You.

Anyway, enough with my sarcasm. The weather here in Amman is, in my opinion, anything but delightful--at least most days. Let me just start out with the fact that I really don't enjoy heat. At all. Actually, it is more than a non-enjoyment--it is a full out dislike. I actually have a heat disorder where I am unbearably hot without a coat on when it is snowing in January in Utah, but that is another story.

Needless to say, the heat here, although Jordan is cooler than most places in the Middle East (weather-wise), is more than I wish I was suffering through. For those of you who were with me in Jerusalem, remember how I complained about the heat in February?

Well, it is almost August now, and except for this beautiful cold spell (can I call it cold?), is getting hotter every day.

I don't know how hot it is in Farenheight, but it has been between 38-43 degrees Celcius lately. Ok, that converted is hovering just around 100 degrees Farenheight--I guess I do know what it is.

That's hot.

The best part? Most people here don't believe in air conditioning. And if they do believe in it, they don't know what central air is--it is more like an air-conditioning fixture, which is usually broken, like the ones in our classroom that drip water on the poor students sitting under them. My house, too, does not have air conditioning, and I sleep on the fourth floor. Blessedly, my floor has an overabundance of windows which create a nice air tunnel, and I have a fan in my room (pointed straight at my bed!).

Amman's weather has one redeeming grace. Ok, two. The humidity is usually between 40-60%, so at least most of the time we are only dripping with our own sweat, not everyone else's (or something like that).

Secondly, the weather cools down quite a bit at night. It is beautiful. It is wonderful. I keep wondering how it gets 20 degrees cooler at night than it is in the day, but it is still a mystery.

The final good thing? I live in a province of Amman, Sweileh, and it is the cooler than Amman because it is built on a bunch of large hills and has excellent wind most of the time.



Arabic Phone Calls

Now that I have introduced you to the world of Arabic greetings, I thought that a small taste of Arabic phone calls might be in order.

I don't really know how to describe in English how much I despise calling people or receiving calls in Arabic. I like it almost as much as I like going to the dentist to get 11 cavities filled, or getting an intensive, 3-month long Hep shot in 3 weeks, or taking a 3 hour Arabic final.

Ok, maybe I like Arabic phone calls a little more than I like taking a 3 hour Arabic final--but only a little.

First, you must know about cell phones in Jordan. People don't have minutes plans here, like my plan in America, where I got 450 minutes a month, free calls after 7 and on weekends, and 15 cent texting (a total rip-off) for $40 a month (another total rip-off, even though I got a BYU student discount).

Instead of minutes plans, people buy their minutes, minute by minute (could I have used the word "minute" more times in that last sentence?). So first people have a cell phone, and then they have a SIM card, and then they buy little cards that look sort of like credit cars with a big number on them, like "3," which stands for how many dinar one paid for said card. (A dinar is worth 1.5 dollars.)

To add to the confusion of this post, let me explain how I bought my phone and how I came to be stuck with Zain as a provider, instead of the ultra-cool Orange or the strange-sloganed Umniah.

Rewind to the first week I was here. Still living in the disgusting Ambassador Hotel (which gave us Ajax instead of shampoo--no joke) and not really knowing Jordanian Arabic but trying every way possible to get people to speak to me in Arabic instead of non-intelligible English garble, I went with my friend to buy a cell phone. It went something like this:

First store: Me (walking in with my friend, in Arabic--instead of walking in in English, which is what I would do in the America)--"Do you have used phones?"

Cell phone man--"We have really cheap new phones."

Me--"But not used phones? I want something cheap."

Cell phone man--(pulling his cell phone out of his pocket)--"This is the only used phone we have. I will give it to you for 25 dinar."

Me--"Too expensive!"

Cell phone man--"Ok, 20 dinar."

Me--"Maybe. I might come back."

Me--(exiting the store laughing, this time in English; I am still not good at laughing in Arabic)--"I can't believe that he tried to sell me his own cell phone! And for such a ridiculous price!"

Next store: Me--"Do you have used cell phones?"

Cell phone man: "We have cheap new ones."

Me--(remembering the old used cell phone trick) "How much?"

Cell phone man: "What do you want"

Me--"The cheapest."

Cell phone man--"These are 23 dinar..."

Me--(interrupting some long Arabic ramble) "I'll take it."

Cell phone man--"What kind of SIM card do you want?"

Me--(thinking, what is a SIM card? I have Sprint in America. We don't have SIM cards. We just have phones and batteries.) "The cheapest."

Cell phone man--"Zain cheapest...(Arabic ramble)...everyone loves Orange...(more Arabic)...Zain is 5 dinar, Orange is better and 8 dinar."

Me--(thinking I know the Middle Eastern trick of trying to sell you up and not falling for it) "Zain is cheapest? I'll take it."

Not bothering to change the instructions into English, or even finding out how to use the cell phones here or SIM cards, or asking why Orange was better (I didn't know that much Arabic, remember?), I exited the store, rejoicing that I had spoken Arabic the whole time.

Now, however, I am stuck with Zain. I recently realized that Orange would have been a much better deal, as I am paying way more for my cell phone minutes than those lucky folk who went with the trendy Orange. I seriously have to buy minutes like every other week.

Anyway, so people here don't really like spending their minutes on their cell phone. Did I mention that there are no answering machines on cell phones? Which I find very lame. Anyway, so people all the time will give you a "missed call," which means they call you and then hang up. Which means either they didn't want to use their own minutes and want you to call them back, using yours, or they want you to know they are thinking about you, but not enough to use their own minutes, or they are giving you their number, which you didn't have before.

The word for this in Arabic? "Missed call." No joke.

Since minutes are so precious, people speak very quickly on the phone. In Arabic. (Well, at least the Arabs speak in Arabic--the Chinese usually speak Chinese, and the Indonesions usually speak something else, etc.)

Normal Arabic phone calls go something like this (but in Arabic): "Hello?"


Me--"I...am at the language center...had class, I...you at library? You meet me today? You speak Arabic with me now?"


Me--"I coming language center. No, you coming library. No, I go to library."


Me--"I come library. I see you in two minutes."

"Ok yalla bye."

The worst thing about Arabic phone calls is that they show off how I really don't speak Arabic that well. I have three stories about phone calls.

The first is by far the best. Back in the America, those who had lived in the Middle East before had warned us about giving our phone number away. Arabs call all the time, they said, and we have discovered that they send these strange "love texts" to their mass email list, too. Ask me when I get home about these.

However, my Arab friends really don't call me that often--actually, most of the time I have to call them to see if they want to meet and speak with me. I have given my phone number away to probably 30+ people but no one ever calls--at least not that often.

No one, that is, until I mistakenly thought that by giving my phone number to a 12-year old girl at the community center in Sweileh would produce the same non-results.


The day I gave her my number, she called. I was away from my phone, so she called again. And again. And again. Remember how there are no answering machines on phones here?

In all fairness, I answered her phone calls twice that night, and I had about 28 missed calls from her. No joke. And since then, she has probably called me another 25 times, including AT MIDNIGHT--5 times in a row before I turned my phone off.

The second funny story has to do with a man calling me. Now, I really don't like talking to men at all, and especially not on the phone, because I just can't understand people on the phone. Anyway, but I brought a trunkload of junk from America for one of my friend's family here in Jordan (I have a hard time saying no sometimes...) and I had to get it to his family. So I finally called his family, and I think I told them that I would meet someone the next day at the university with the stuff.

The next day, some man called me, and as soon as I heard his voice I said, "I am not at the University yet." After more unintelligible ramble, I told him (I think), "I will call you when I get to the University." I just happened to be going to the community center in Sweileh that day, and so when he called again, I asked one of the women at the front desk to answer for me and tell him what he was saying, because I couldn't understand him at all. When she answered, I heard her say, "This isn't Breanne because Breanne can't speak Arabic. She can't understand you. Oh, you speak English?" And then she handed the phone to me.

It turns out that he had just returned from getting his PhD at BYU. Small world, eh? And HE SPOKE ENGLISH! The phone conversation was much better after that.

Finally, this is perhaps the funniest phone call, in my opinion. One of my visiting teaching companions was a less active Arab member, and I had never met her. I didn't even know if she knew what visiting teaching was, or what to tell her about it, or how to introduce myself, or even if she was friendly to the church.

Fighting back a lot of fear, I finally called her and said this: "Hi, my name is Breanne, and I am from the Mormon branch in Amman. You and I are supposed to visit these girls from the church. Can you visit them sometime this week?"

After that awkward conversation and setting up a time to meet, and another awkward phone call, I found out that she, too, speaks English fluently. I asked her what she thought when I called the first time, and she said she had just awakened and was in that half-dream stage, and after it was over she didn't really know what had happened or if I had really called.

So the solution? If I didn't want to learn Arabic, it would be clearly to speak English on the phone and just hope that they respond. And secondly, be careful who you give your phone number to!


Arab Greetings

Ok, enough with my hilarious adventures. It is time for some more information about Arabs and Arabic.

Arab greetings are one thing that I kind of wish Americans would pick up--but in English, of course. When you greet someone, it is a sort of mini-contest to see who can say the most greetings the fastest.

This is how it goes (between girls, at least--I don't really talk to the men here, so you will have to find a different source for that gender). A girl/woman (just know I mean female of whatever age when I say girl) will walk up to another girl, and start the greetings. These include sayings such as:


"How are you?"

"Where have you been? I haven't seen you in [2 days, or some sort of long period of time like that]! Have you been avoiding me?"

"What's your news?"

"What's your color?" (My personal favorite, and which Iraqis say--I always respond with "yellow")

"How is your family/your studies/your work?"

And all of this while they are kissing each other on both cheeks.

After they finish the first round and the kissing (one on the right and anywhere from 1-3 on the left, depending on how good of friends they are) they start it all over again.

"How are you? What's your news? What's your color?"

This can go on for several minutes before they get to actual conversation.

So, how about it? What's your color?

In Iceland, they speak...Icelandic

I am sorry for those of you who are bored by posts in which I talk about my different nationalities which I claim as my own. If this describes you, stop reading now.

Today I told my taxi driver that I was from Iceland. It was evening and I was coming home from the University by myself, and I didn't want him to know I spoke English so I could pretend not to understand him. And remember how it is more dangerous to be an American girl because of the Green Card issue?

Anyway, so when my taxi driver asked me where I was from, I said Iceland. I have been thinking about this for a long time, and I finally decided on Iceland as my country of origin--after all, who knows anything about Iceland? No one really knows what they look like, or what language they speak, or whatever, except for the people in Iceland and surrounding countries. With this country, I knew I would be safe.

It worked. As soon as I said "Icelandia," my taxi driver said "oh" and left it at that. He was so surprised, he didn't even say "Welcome!"

I tried to ignore the taxi driver for most of the ride, which was a lot easier because I pretended I didn't understand any of his English--because I didn't speak it, remember?--and that I didn't understand very much Arabic. He finally asked if I would speak some English, when I told him (in Arabic)--"I don't really speak English. I speak Icelandic."

He was so shocked that I think he missed that last part. (He obviously didn't know his geography, because he asked where in America Iceland was. I told him it wasn't in America.) He asked what language they speak in Iceland--French?

I said no, Icelandic.

He kept asking--is Icelandic like English? I said no, it is like Denmark or Sweden. And he kept asking me if I knew how to translate certain Arabic things into English!

I don't speak English, remember? I speak Icelandic!

It was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing. Next time I come here, I am definitely coming with a man--but until then, Icelandic it is.


Windows of Jerusalem

I don't want to let you all think that I only loved the windows in Egypt. As I said before, I am just fascinated by windows. These are from Jerusalem and surrounding areas.



Petra and "Confirming my Hero Status"

These pictures are mostly for my little brother, who is seven, and who obviously thinks I need my "hero status" in his eyes confirmed. But what can be cooler than a sister who has lived in 4 countries in two years and speaks 4 languages? Perhaps a visit to Petra and reenactment of the Indiana Jones film?!

Although I didn't run into any slicing knives or fireballs, I did have an encounter with something extra-terrestrial...

And rode a donkey up to the Monastary (up about 800 steps) which was one of the scariest things in my life (as there were steep drop-offs and I was on an animal with no quick way off if he fell!)

And climbed some amazing mountains and got some pretty sweet jumping pictures.

I do have two stories, though, that I will tell. The first is about a demon-eyed attack goat.

Yes, that apple in that goat's mouth was mine at one time. I was walking on a mountain and we came across a random little cafe-type place that sold water, tea, and coffee (although why anyone would want a hot beverage when it is 110 outside is a mystery to me) but which was empty...except for two visiting archeologist students from Canada and a herd of goats.

How cute, I thought, and went in to investigate--while eating an apple (all I had remembered to pack for lunch).

The baby goats were cute, and the white goat (with denomic eyes--but they were blue, not red) seemed to be more interested in me than I was interested in her, and walked up to me and jumped on me as I was talking to the Canadian girl. Realizing the goat wanted my apple, I screamed and threw it--right at the archaeologist! The poor girl screamed and ran away (as it had hit her on the shoulder) and the goat ran over and ate the apple.

She won, obviously.

The second story has to do with amazing free-style rock climbing skills that I discovered I possess.

The first day in Petra, we visited all the "normal" sites--the Treasury, the Monastary, the High Place of Sacrifice, etc. It was an exhausting day and I wasn't sure if I could endure another day like that.

The next day, however, I wanted to go on what I thought would be a simple hike above the Treasury which my friends had done the day before and which they had highly recommended. In addition to amazing views from above the Treasury (the Indiana Jones relic), the hike also included 3 Nabatean altars (which I am quite interested in), a water cistern, and broken pottery.
Clearly a must-do for one who studies the ancient Near East.

The hike started out innocently enough. As I had terrible eye problems which had escalated to the point of extreme pain the day before, I elected myself as guide. :) We started climbing some stairs that were cut into the rock face and soon found ourselves clearly not on a path and clearly free-style rock-climbing up some pretty steep rock faces. The only thing that kept us going was the thought that if we turned around, we would have to go down those sheer rock faces!

Well, after a heart-felt prayer by Lorien and some incredible maneuvers on all of our parts, we finally found the trail...right as it was ending above the Treasury!

Excited to find the trail, as we had only one hour to get back to the hotel before our bus left, we were more than disappointed when it ended with a large sheer rock face.

Definitely not passable.

(This is Lorien, looking worried when all of our "trails" dead-ended with cliffs)

We finally went down a "no climbing" zone rock slide and got back to the bus 5 minutes before it was supposed to drive away--with only a few scratches and very dirty clothes as proof!

By the way, for those who might try this hike at sometime in the near future, this is a trail marker.

A pile of rocks set up strategically and spread abundantly throughout the trail. Strangely enough, these were conspicuously absent the way we climbed up!


Culture Shock...for Arabs

The other day some of the children in my host family came with me to my place of volunteering in Sweileh to help me and learn some new songs. This was exciting and fun for me, but quite an experience for these poor children.

Let me explain.

I live with an older couple, whose youngest daughter is 30. She still lives at home, but the rest are married and live all over the world. Two of the daughters, one who lives in Texas with her husband and three children and one who lives in a British compound in Saudi Arabia with her husband and three kids, are here with their families to visit for the summer. (Remember, I live in a large house, with a place for all of these people to stay for an extended period of time.)

I really admire the parents of these families, and especially the mothers (since the two fathers are in their respective countries working throughout the summer) who have raised their children bilingually.

But for both families, the primary and first language is English. My favorite is the children from Saudi Arabia, who have red hair and blue eyes (remember Zaina?) and who speak English (and Arabic) with a British accent.

Arabic, then, is a struggle for them, especially for the 7 year old (Hashem) from Saudi Arabia (Zaina, his sister, doesn’t speak Arabic at all). And although these kids are Arab through their bloodline, they are really American.

Imagine their shock and horror, then, to visit the community center at which I volunteer in one of the poorest areas of Amman. I don’t really think they had been exposed to this sort of trash-on-the-street, everyone staring at them and the women squeezing their cheeks, disorganized Arab society, and it was more than humorous to watch them.

First off, when we got to the community center, there seemed to be something large and important going on, because the room in which I usually teach was occupied.

With an overly large stack of clothing, spread all over the table.

Waiting for the room to be cleared out (this has never happened before or since, by the way), we sat in the front entrance. The community center is (I think) a converted house, so it is set up like a house and is in the middle of a tightly packed neighborhood, with people wandering in and out often. Like I said, something unusual was going on today, and there was a large amount of people in the front waiting room, including me and four children (along with men bringing in large crates of fruits and vegetables and setting them in the hall).

The women at the center naturally thought Raseel (9) and Jude (11) were adorable and kept squeezing their cheeks and asking if they were twins.

Raseel’s answer? “No, we’re not sisters…we’re cousins” (with all of it in Arabic except the word “cousins”).

And of course they were totally weirded out by the whole experience and kept complaining things to me, like “The room stinks!” and looking uncomfortable that everyone was touching their faces. And when I explained that we were in a poor area and most of these people were really poor, the 9 year old from Texas said to me, “Yeah, but at least in America poor people don’t sell you things at stoplights!” (which they do here—mostly “Fine,” or Kleenexes, but sometimes hats and little sweets and things like that through the window of your car).

I really would have expected the same thing if I had taken my little brother Bronson and my little sister Avalon to the community center—awkward smiles, a lot of complaining, and wanting to go home.

It was all I could do to keep from falling on the floor laughing—after all, these are Arabs!

And then, once class started, they kept speaking in English, and I had to translate for the rest of the class!

I guess all of us feel culture shock at one time or another in our lives!


A Missionary Update

Ok, enough of my grumblings. Everyone gets trunky, and I allowed myself a little bit of self-pity on my blog. But lest all of you blog readers out there fear that my blog might become depressing and boring, never fear. I have plenty more funny stories to tell. Just have patience, my friends. To those who comment on my blog or email me, thank you. It is for you that I write this record.

On to the missionary update. As I mentioned before, I always wanted to serve a two-year mission. So, since coming here to Amman, I have tried at every opportunity to be a missionary--every legal opportunity, that is. I do not talk about the gospel with my Muslim friends, as it is forbidden by our program, but I do live my religion. And it sure comes up a lot when we talk about coffee and tea, since these are Arab staples but Mormons do not drink either.

I have, however, had the marvelous opportunity of participating in missionary discussions that the Cooks, the humanitarian missionary couple here, have been giving. This required quite a bit of proactivity on my part, but after a lot of work, I am now invited to every lesson.

Samir, our friend about whom I spoke before, has committed to baptism. He is getting baptized this Thursday evening, and he said his wife and daughter will be in attendance.

I could hardly contain my excitement when he committed to baptism at his discussion on Wednesday. He is more than ready and through participating in his discussions, not only has my Arabic improved, but my testimony has grown as I have seen his faith and humility. He will be a great strength to the branch here, which is severely lacking when it comes to the activity of the Arab members. (In fact, the last question Samir asked Wednesday night was why the Arabs here stop coming to church not long after their baptism. I am sure you can guess many of the reasons--they are found in every branch and every ward of the church, all over the world.)

Isabella has gone back to Brazil. I was in Israel when she left but I am working on getting in touch with her and making sure the missionaries where she lives is aware of her and her two sons.

And as another exciting note, the Cooks are teaching two older brothers in Arabic and they are amazing too. They have been coming to church for quite some time now and are quite familiar with the scriptures and the doctrine. I attended their first discussion in Arabic and it was a beautiful experience. I feel that they, too, will be baptized soon.

Missionary work is beautiful and incredible. And I have finally realized that ordinary members of the church, even those who can't speak the language very well, can be member missionaries and do a lot of good. And prepare for missions, even missions in different countries and different languages!


The Odd, The Creepy, and...Time

In the way of creepy:

In the way of odd...

(Have any of you ever tried vine leaves-flavored Lays?)

And in the way of time...I was reading a book in Arabic (recommended by my friend, but more than a little boring) entitled "262 ways to use your time wisely"--loosely translated.

Imagine my surprise when, after reading page after page of Arabic, I ran into these strange English lines:

I think you will be more motivated to use time wisely if you repeat these English phrases to yourself over and over than if you just repeated the Arabic...the Arabic, after all, makes sense!

Just remember, "time is inclusti, we can not phase are use of it"

"My X-ray Vision is Gone!"

One time when my little brother Bronson (who is 7 now) was 5, he was sitting in sacrament meeting, under the bench, just thinking to himself. Suddenly, he sat up, turned to my mother and said, "My x-ray vision is gone!"

This was quite tragic for him because he has always (does he still?) considered himself a super-hero, and to lose his magical powers--even if it was only his x-ray vision--was traumatic.

After living and studying in Jordan for several months now (and with only 5 weeks left!), I feel as though my x-ray vision is gone.


When I was in the America, before coming on this trip, I listened to Dil and Kirk talk about how others had failed in this program. The way to success, according to them, was to not spend much time with Americans, tolerate hanging out with Arabs no matter how much you don't like them, live with an Arab family, eat beans every day for breakfast, and not spend very much time on the computer/email to your friends/family in America--as that won't really help you learn Arabic.

Gung-ho as ever and thinking I was a super hero, I tried this for a long time. On the weekends, instead of going to fun places with my American friends, I stayed with my Arab family and did Arabic things, like studying.

At the university, instead of spending time at the Language Center with the Americans and the Arabs who speak English, I spent my time with Arabs, speaking (and sometimes understanding) Arabic, for hours at a time.

As for internet/Skype time, well, I tried to keep it to a minimum.

And then, after several months of this, I fell apart. As Spencer told me yesterday, Dil's way and Kirk's way to learn Arabic is not my way. I went from one extreme to the other, and now I no longer want to be here, I no longer want to learn Arabic, and I hate Jordan.

Fun, huh?

The hours and hours spent reading newspaper articles about bombings and people killed and earthquakes and Palestine and talking to people in the streets and seeing their anger and hopelessness is really getting to me. It is affecting my dreams/nightmares and tearing me apart emotionally. And I am just tired of learning Arabic, especially since in nine weeks I will start learning Mandarin Chinese!

For those who don't study Arabic and don't understand how this could happen, reading this article about how most Arabic programs go will help you understand that I can only be a part of these depressing things for so long without feeling some of that depression and hopelessness myself. (For those who do study Arabic, I am curious to know your feelings and responses to this article.)

Anyway, I don't want this post to depress anyone--just warn those who come after from making the same mistakes I so carefully made.

The solution? I am still working on it. But yesterday, Spencer said, "You are more important than the program." So, for the next five weeks, I will keep that in mind. If those of you who have learned other languages have any suggestions, I would appreciate them!


Language Learning and Contact Lenses

As I have been having eye problems recently and haven't been able to wear my contacts, I have been thinking a lot about eyesight and what happened when I got contacts. I lost my eyesight rather suddenly during November/December (the doctor said it was because I studied too much--I personally think it was from the tiny fonts Dil used for my Arabic homework) and didn't realize what a problem it was until I got contacts.

The day I got home from the doctor, I stood in my apartment and looked out the window and was amazed at what I saw. I could see a stop sign a block away! It was absolutely amazing. The whole world was transformed because I could see now.

Language learning, at least for me, is not like this at all. I keep waiting for some miracle to happen, something to snap into place so I can finally understand conversations or I can make my wishes known without stumbling over every word.

Instead, learning Arabic is painful, tedious work. It takes 2+ hours of speaking to Arabs every day and not understanding half of what they say. It takes days and weeks of awkward conversations where I have to think about each word before I say it, and then saying several of the words incorrectly, or saying the wrong words. It takes hours of translating newspaper articles and memorizing vocabulary and writing pages and pages of Arabic...and still I struggle.

And each morning, I get up, already exhausted, and I don't want to do it for another day. I am tired, my eyes hurt, I hate awkward conversations, I don't like Jordan, and I am about to learn Mandarin Chinese. And I lose motivation, fast.

And then I kneel down and pray and tell Heavenly Father than I don't want to learn Arabic. And He tells me that He wants me to.

And somehow, that is enough. That gets me out on the streets and talking to people and translating newspaper articles and memorizing vocabulary. And mostly, it gets me to class, no matter how much I dislike my teacher.

In any case, language learning is hard. It is hard to be pleased with the little successes--but I am. I am pleased when I can argue with a taxi driver over five cents. I am pleased when I can give a prayer in Arabic. I am pleased when I can carry on a conversation for an hour with someone and understand most of what they say. And mostly, I am pleased when people don't speak English to me because my Arabic is better than their English.

And this, I guess, will have to be enough, at least for the next six weeks!


And Today, I Stood On American Soil

Ok, so it was actually yesterday. And it was just the American Embassy. But it was wonderful. I ate bacon (not available in the Middle East) and played with the branch president's children (President Leavitt) and spoke English. I miss America just a little bit!

This is Savannah.

And this is Halen.

And their sweet goggles (the American embassy has a pool).

Aren't her eyes stunning?

Now really, do I look like I am from Russia?

Savannah is five and she took this picture. Pretty good, don't you think? (Quite artistic, with the chair in the background, etc.)
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