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Dragons_F13
Your loved ones are now on their way back to you from Jordan.  After three months in a country without rain, this morning gave us fresh drops, marking the last night with a bright clarity and a sense of renewal.  We found ourselves awake in the rain after a sleepless night of packing, laughing, writing – connected to all those sensations and questions of belonging, community and connection to self and other.
Like the dramatic Jordanian landscape that has inspired us throughout our time here, its sandstone monoliths shaped and smoothed by time and wind, we too have been changed by the last three months together.  We return, seasoned in the art of greetings, of moving through a nation with gender roles that both challenge and enliven their own, of joyfully becoming learned in the rituals of Bedouin teatime, and falling into the rhythm of urban markets, calls to prayer, and family.
Your daughter, or your Michael, would like you to know a few things about their new ways of being, so they have compiled a list to guide you:
-       We’d love a good first meal – no bread
-       Do not ask, “How was it?” It was good. Be specific.
-       Accept that my English vocab now includes random Arabic words, like furshamumkin, and shooks. Start using them too.
-       Don’t ask me to show you photos.  I’ll show you in my own time.
-       No Middle Eastern food. Don’t even joke.
-       Let me take a long, hot shower.
-       I need a massage and a haircut.
-       Bring my dog (except Maeve)
-       Bring a warm coat, for goodness’ sakes
-       Respect my personal space, but don’t leave me alone.  I’ll need a few weeks to process.  Be gentle.
-       I may be very emotional (except Michael).
-       Bring snacks to the airport.
-       I need a few months to catch up on sleep.
-       I’m nervous about coming back.
-       Please still love me.  You haven’t forgotten about me, have you?
-       Don’t mind the flip-flop tan.
-       Please bring a washing machine to the airport.  I haven’t done laundry in over a week.
-       Please don’t laugh at my new leopard print pants
-       Don’t ask me to demonstrate my Arabic
-       Refer to #1
Enjoy this season together reconnecting with family.  Despite the geographical lines of time and space that separate us now, lets stay in touch and continue to share as a community! Jordan will always welcome you with open arms.
salaam wa re7la s3aida
Amany, Kara, Matt and Rebecca
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Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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Final reflections and requests from the student group

Tim Hare,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

Description

Your loved ones are now on their way back to you from Jordan.  After three months in a country without rain, this morning gave us fresh drops, marking the last night with a bright clarity and a sense of renewal.  We found ourselves awake in the rain after a sleepless night of packing, laughing, writing […]

Posted On

12/8/13

Author

Tim Hare

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    [post_date] => 2013-12-07 20:13:40
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    [post_content] => Dear Middle East Semester Friends and Family,

The arrival time has changed for the Royal Jordanian #261. The most current information has the flight arriving to JFK at 4:30pm. This is an hour earlier than previously posted. Please make note of the change and let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Warm regards,

Dragon's admin
    [post_title] => Updated flight information
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Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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Updated flight information

Dragons' Admin,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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Dear Middle East Semester Friends and Family, The arrival time has changed for the Royal Jordanian #261. The most current information has the flight arriving to JFK at 4:30pm. This is an hour earlier than previously posted. Please make note of the change and let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Warm […]

Posted On

12/7/13

Author

Dragons' Admin

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    [post_date] => 2013-12-03 12:13:43
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-12-03 19:13:43
    [post_content] => Dear Middle East Semester Students & Families,

It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed since embarking on this incredible adventure! It won’t be long and students will be boarding their planes back home. We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival!

Below is a reminder of the return group flight information for eagerly awaiting families:

December 8th, 2013
Royal Jordanian #301
Depart: Aqaba (AQJ) 8:40am
Arrive: Amman (AMM) 9:30am

December 8th, 2013
Royal Jordanian #261
Depart: Amman (AMM) 11:45am
Arrive: New York (JFK) 5:30pm

We will have a Dragons Administrator on call for the duration of the travel day. Starting on Friday, 12/6, should you need any assistance after regular office hours, please call our “on-call” number at 760-709-0848.

We wish all students a great trip home!

Sincerely,

Boulder Admin
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Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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Return Group Flight Information

Dragons Admin,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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Dear Middle East Semester Students & Families, It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed since embarking on this incredible adventure! It won’t be long and students will be boarding their planes back home. We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival! Below is a reminder of the return group flight information […]

Posted On

12/3/13

Author

Dragons Admin

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2013-12-02 09:55:54
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    [post_content] => There are times, here in Jordan, when the glorious desert that stretches to the horizon like a painting by an artist who has never heard of realism holds no appeal, when none of the castles or temples built, conquered, and rebuilt since man first piled one stone on another possess any kind of attraction, when even an alley in Amman where heaven is served on a plate for less than a dollar fails to excite. Sometimes, despite everything, you just want to run for the airport. When strange men ask to marry you as you walk down the street, when you discover that Jordan's most popular children's game is Throw Rocks at the Foreigner, when even an English-speaking family cannot comprehend that bologna is not vegetarian, when Jordan's proud ignorance of the concept of punctuality makes you four hours late, it can be tempting to hail a cab, get as far away from Jordan as possible, give away everything you bought there and never look at another grain of sand.

But there are other times. Instead of following signs to the departure gate, you find yourself searching for apartments. Instead of disowning your sand-bleached possessions, you have an urge to buy dressers to keep them in. And when you think of sand, you see it arranged in a neat lawn. Sometimes, Jordan gets to you like the smell of Habiba's fresh kinafa, and all you desire is a slice for yourself. These are the best times.

Here are ours.
MICHAEL: Polly, Eric, Captain Punch, Featherface, Spot: These are good names for a falcon. Pants... is not a good name for a falcon. Nonetheless, Pants was the name of the falcon that Hussem, my homestay father in Disi, kept and trained. The day we began training Pants, Hussem and I drove out to a spot in the desert so flat that the car was the tallest thing visible before the low hills that ringed the horizon. A thin dusting of sand covered a floor of perfectly smooth sandstone marked by long, twisting cracks. Hussem tied Pants to a long string, reeled it out, and clicked his tongue to summon Pants to the raw meat Hussem held in his glove. Each time he reeled the string out farther, Pants came faster, shooting from the ground to Hussem's glove, and, after Hussem had finished demonstrating, to mine. It was magical, watching as Pants briefly rose to the top of the world and then fell like a comet onto my fist. So I've made a decision for when I return home. Apparently falcons are quite expensive, though, so I guess I'll have to save my pennies.
ERIN: I got home from class one evening a few days before I was to leave my homestay family in Aqaba. I had repeatedly heard how cold it was in Amman from my homestay mother, Mai, and had very briefly expressed to her that I was nervous about not having any warm clothes. She came into my room carrying a hot pink, puffy winter jacket and gave it to me. This was one of the three jackets I received over the course of my time with the Katameen family. Mai's warmth and care has made me want to buy land in this country. Just yesterday, I received a text from her at about 2 in the afternoon saying: "Good evening and how are you? I miss you and I love you."
EMELIE: My best moments in Jordan have been spontaneous encounters with random Jordanians. I love talking with locals and seeing how excited they get to hear that I speak Arabic or that I'm interested in their culture and religion. Just by showing this interest, I am welcomed into their community.
BAHEYA: When I was in Tweisi, I spent a wonderful evening at the neighbor's house playing dodgeball with my siblings and the rest of the neighborhood children. Shortly after the game began, an intense rivalry emerged between me and my host sister, Shayma. She had been taunting me endlessly for speaking Egyptian dialect, and I had reached a boiling point. I was convinced that I could silence her taunts with a perfectly aimed shot that would put her out of the game, but, in my excitement, I missed the first few shots. She figured out that I was after her, and began hiding behind a tree, cutting off my line of fire. Incredibly frustrated, I resorted to the technique which she had been using to great effect: teasing. "Are you afraid of me!?" I shouted in Arabic. "Chicken!" All of the kids began to cheer me on, and the spectating mothers began to laugh. I never actually got my host sister out, but I remember feeling at home in that moment. Shayma could not have felt more like a sister to me than she did then. Without a doubt, the lure of playing dodgeball, teasing Shayma, and laughing with all the neighborhood kids will always tempt me back to Tweisi.
ANA: Relaxing in the sun on the boat after a day in the colors of the Red Sea, I remember knowing there was still more to see.
MAEVE: I remember walking through Amman at night and not knowing exactly where I'm going, smoking shisha in an open air cafe, riding a cranky old horse at the Jerash ruins, and realizing what an amazing place I'm in and how I've (surprisingly) fallen in love with it.
RACHEL: My homestay family in Aqaba truly made me feel like a part of the family. I loved relaxing in my pajamas and suddenly being called into the kitchen to partake in eating cheesecake or creme caramel. Or the fact that when I walk the streets of Aqaba or Amman and I am feeling a bit poor, there is always a cheap but amazing falafel or shawerma twenty meters from where I am standing. It's the little things that make my experience here so incredible. I wouldn't change a thing.
SEJIN: I remember sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum, squeezing into the back of a pickup truck at sunset, finally learning to love all the different kinds of olives, trying freshly hand-picked grapes and figs in Disi and being amazed by the sweetness. The beauty of my time in Jordan here is that so many people and things have melted my preconceptions and ways of thinking, helping me taste the sweetness in everything handed to me. And for that, I will be forever grateful for my three months here.
TORY: The relationship I formed with my homestay mother in Tweisi has yet to cease amazing me, even though I only spent two short weeks in her home. On the first day of meeting her, before I had even entered her house, she told me that I was now her fifth daughter and I should feel comfortable approaching her with anything. By the end of my time in Tweisi, she jokingly told me I should marry her eldest son so that way I would "really become part of the family and never have to go back to America."
MADDIE: Hanan, my homestay mother, is among the strongest people I've had the pleasure of meeting in Jordan--more resilient, ambitious, loving and commanding than any of her male counterparts (contrary to Jordanian popular belief). She is not only a gender-role defying go-getter, but also a deeply reflective, sage-like mother, who frequently drops nuggets of wisdom against the chaotic backdrop of screaming toddlers and last minute dinners. She espoused some of this wisdom to me in one of our many late night chats. We were discussing the sudden infiltration of Facebook into our lives, the pros and cons, and how we would later be friends on Facebook when I left to keep in touch. She told me, "Social media is a double edged sword (a phrase I had recently taught her in our "saying of the day" lesson): it makes you closer to those who are far, but further from those who are close." "Bizebt!" (Exactly!) I exclaimed. She had hit it right on the nose (another phrase we would later learn). What left me spell-bound, aside from the literal accuracy of this statement, was the context in which it came: just one generation ago, her family was illiterate, living in poverty, with little chance of social mobility. In the span of just 20 years, she was the one schooling me, a privileged Western student pretentiously "studying Arabic language and authentic culture in the Levant," on the role of social media in modern life. The speed of her mobility and knowledge acquisition was both astounding and humbling. I thought I knew so much about this thing called Facebook, when really a (somewhat) random Jordanian school teacher had so much more insight. It also struck the cord of the increasing universality of our experiences as modern people, in that Hanan, a woman from such a different background, had the ability to capture a feeling (Facebook's (dis)connecting duality) I had been so challenged to articulate myself. Those words drew me closer to both Hanan herself and the Jordanian way of life in which she's been able to develop her character. If I were ever to buy land here, it'd be right next to Hanan, so I could keep on having these after-the-kids-are-asleep conversations, soaking up the vastness of what she has to share.

Our time in Jordan is almost over. It has not been easy, but as these memories show, it has been worth every second. For the hospitality we have been shown, for the communities we have joined, for the food and drink we have tasted, for the lifestyles we have experienced, for the camels we have ridden, for nights under the stars, for full-body five-sense spirituality, for friends, for strangers, for each other, for pastries, for shisha, for hot men, for embroidery, for bus rides, for our homestay families, for the yaani principle, for our many instructors, for desert sunsets from the backs of old pickup trucks doing highway speeds over the sand, for Hanan and Shayma and Pants the falcon, for all this and more, we are eternally grateful to Jordan. These are the best times.
    [post_title] => The Best Times
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The Best Times

Everyone,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

Description

There are times, here in Jordan, when the glorious desert that stretches to the horizon like a painting by an artist who has never heard of realism holds no appeal, when none of the castles or temples built, conquered, and rebuilt since man first piled one stone on another possess any kind of attraction, when […]

Posted On

12/2/13

Author

Everyone

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2013-11-11 15:59:50
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-11-11 22:59:50
    [post_content] => We've been here in Jordan for 75 days now. Where has the time gone?! I pause to reflect and journal on a gratitude for everyday I've been here--every 24 hour cycle I've been fortunate enough dive, head first, into the depths and unknowns that is this culture and place. I only come up for air and respite by night--in my dreams (and in moments like these), where I silently unwrap the days' discoveries with the excited anticipation characteristic of Christmas morning. For in the day, under the sun's joyful gaze, there is far too much to do and see--life beneath the waves is too novel, too engaging, and too busy to have time to bob up to gasp for breath. In this rush to take in the everyone and everything below the wrinkled ocean surface, I can sometimes forget to come up for air all together. But when I finally do (sometimes by force), I find a certain peace and gratitude, a certain calmness of breath inaccessible in the density and newness of the ocean floor. After all, I am still learning to use my gills, still growing into their quirks and inconveniences (bring my own toilet paper everywhere?Don't look at men in the eyes?), but they feel more and more natural everyday I hop into the water. I first dove in with slight trepidation--am I doing it right? Is my headscarf perfect? I now jump without looking back to shore, knowing that what's underneath is far better than the lovely but flat view from the top. From up here on the land, I have a different sort of vision, retrospective and reflective, grand and glimmering with gratitudes for my time below the surface. Here's a list of my gratitudes. I am thankful for:
1. This view of the perfectly gradient (almost like a 5th grader's painting: from clear, to aqua, to turquoise, to a deep, royal blue) Red Sea--extending undisturbed for miles, marked only by distant sailboat and the hazy outlines of Israel's desert mountains across the bay.
2. The yummy dumpling-like dough ball stuffed with spinach and cheese I just ate, made fresh last night with my homestay aunts. The stuffing and baking party was just like making mundo with my real aunts on Korean New Year. Family and food (together) is certainly a universal value.
3. The group yoga session we just had--was super sore from my run at Janna's Lady Spa and Gym yesterday (yes, finally worked out!).
4. The durability of my Birkenstocks (but not the striped tan I'm getting from them).
5. My friend Maeve, who I see meditating under the beach umbrella next to me.
6. My health (mashallah).
7. Learning a list of 10 ways to say "leave me alone" in Arabic, one of which I just used to tell a random guy to stop talking to me.
8. The gentle breeze. It's a perfect 72 (winter in the desert climate).
9. The unique (and often taken for granted) freedom I have to travel anywhere I want, especially across the sea to Israel, unlike the dozens of Palestinian refugees I've met here who have never been able to return to their homeland.
10. Access to wifi--get to read the New York Times every morning over coffee and a to-go, homemade pita, zatar, and scrambled eggs sandwich.
11. 30 cent chicken shwarma.
12. The way my host family exclaims "Welcome home Madleeeeen" every time I come home from school. They've made me feel like a real daughter (including assigning all the household chores).
13. Peach and cinnamon flavored hookah (shisha) enjoyed over slow hours in outdoor cafes--just sitting, chatting, laughing, being with my group.
14. My rhinestone lined abaya.
15. The smell of zatar (thyme and sesame).
16. Zatar wa zeit zeitun (zatar and olive oil) for every breakfast.
17. Hanan (my host mom)'s telling bedtime stories to her four year old daughter, Hala. Hanan has endless energy at work and home: she works full time as an English teacher, organizes a photography class after school, has coordinated an exchange between us Americans and her 50 student class, is getting another teaching degree, is working on a grant to build a library, and still has time for housework (cooking, cleaning, taking care of her aging mother) and for being a mom to her three lovely kids.
18. Souk by the Sea--the Aqaba version of Off the Grid (such good chocolate balls for nos dinar!)--could really do well with some food trucks (missing Chairmen Bao--need some pork buns ASAP). But really, food trucks could be the next best thing here in Aqaba. The ShwarCar momken?
19. Kara, Rebecca, Matt, and Amany--holla at the best instructors out there. Each are so different as individuals, but somehow run like a well oiled machine when stuck together as an I-Team.
20. The call to prayer--like a public clock on loudspeaker.
21. The (relative) diversity of Aqaba--met a Filipina woman and Thai woman the other day. (alhamdulilah @Asians).
22. The incredible view from my patio (including a giant Israeli flag billboard in Eilat, quite funny)
23. The gentle nervousness with which Hanan (host mom) asked me to not tell any of her family that I'm Jewish (wasn't planning on it....!)
24. Society's general focus on the basics--just feeding your family, going to work, eating dinner. Much simpler, slower pace (Hanan is an exception).
25. Apple flavored Fanta.
26. The Mecca channel on TV--essentially an endless of loop of pilgrims circling the Kabbah--strangely cathartic.
27. Attending my first ever church service (who knew it's be in a Muslim country)! Thanks Father Adam (and his nine person all expat congregation) for welcoming us!
28. Becoming good at using squatty potties.
29. Desert sunsets.
30. No pressure, just learning for the sake of it.
31. The intensity and baklava-esque filo layers of Middle Eastern politics.
32. Learning how to write in Korean (again, who would guessed it'd happen in Jordan?!). Thank you Sejin! Gonna go home and impress Halmoni and Hadabaji (Korean grandparents).
33. Endless cups of soda-sweet "shai" (tea) served in dainty shot-glass-like cups from old heavy tea pots.
34. My grandma's stuffed zucchini.
35. The look on locals' faces when we speak Arabic.
36. All of the incredibly different life experiences us as a group of students bring to the table. Among us are a ski enthusiast and future foreign war correspondent (maybe) from Maine, a yogurt lover  living in Zurich, a YMCA camp counselor from Connecticut who I can laugh with about anything and everything, a fellow Arab-Israeli conflict devotee living in Saudi Arabia, a gifted artist from New Hampshire whose spent semesters in India, Gambia, and Mozambique, to name a few.
37. The chewiness of warm, fresh pita.
38. Maeve's oud (sitar-esque 10 stringed instrument).
39. My six, six year-old cousins (Yusef, Lamees, Muhammed, Sara, Hala, Lewjayn).
40. How it's still 60 degrees at 10 pm.
41. Impromptu, late night trips to the bakery with Hanan. After a full, long day she's still up for an adventure.
42. Selfies with the Disa babies.
43. The way Hanan writes down and repeats every single new word I mention (yesterday's was "entrepreneur," the day before "meander"). She's actually a "life long learner" kind of person.
44. Blogspot.
45. Homemade olives, just like my grandpa's!
46. The layers of history and peoples embedded in this land--Nabatean, Jewish, Roman, Crusaders, Arabs, Ottomans, Colonialists, Jordanians...
47. Reading Arabic street signs!
48. Never having to worry about my hair (thanks hijab).
49. On that note, only having a few outfits to rotate through--not too much choice/effort!
50. New words like "alhamdulilah," "sah," "tamam," and "shooks" that have seamlessly slipped into my English.
51. Arab's Got Talent on Saturday nights.
52. The abundance of nice, conversational taxi drivers, all with giant stickers of King Abdullah on the back winshield of their cars (bringing one home).
53. Dead Sea salt scrub at Janna's Lady Spa.
54. The buzz of downtown Aqaba--men yelling, cars honking, shopkeepers outside smoking shisha with their neighbors.
55. The silence of Friday mornings.
56. Crossing the railroad tracks every morning on my "vibrant" walk to school, along with hordes of little kids in blue and green uniforms.
57. Learning about the Muslim Brotherhood from actual Brothers (inshallah).
58. Michael's Nutella filled hamentashen.
59. Putting sage in tea.
60. Eating meals from one giant platter with groups of ten people--first feels a bit too close and uncomfortable but turns into a pleasant intimacy.
61. British candy (yes to Aero bars!)
62. Discovering new candy, namely Two for You (knock off Kit-Kat) and Wheels.
63. My janky Jordanian Nokia phone, dating back to circa 2004. At least it's indestructible.
64. Understanding and humming along to the Quran readings broadcasted on the radio.
65. Increasing my mediation capacity (work in progress).
66. Watching a goat being slaughtered--whole new meaning to farm to table. Probably the freshest meat I'll ever eat!
67. A gelato store in the neighborhood (when knafe and baklava aren't cutting it).
68. Seeing the linguistic similarities between Hebrew and Arabic.
69. Leading a workshop on White Privilege, and introducing forms of systematic oppression people of color face on a daily basis. Doing the step up, step back game. Thanks Lick!
70. The realness, openness, and family dynamic we've developed in our "tribe." Feel like I could write biographies of my group mates.
71. My family (at home!)
72. American standards of medical care (contrast here, where  a tech didn't sanitize my arm before a blood draw, or give me a bandaid/gauze afterwards, and where the hospital was cash only and I had to scrounge around the bottom of my backpack for change to cover the bill).
73. Abbreviating "shukran" and "afwan" (thanks and you're welcome) to, "shooks" and "awf," and the confused looks when I accidentally say my versions in stores or restaurants.
74. Perfectly crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, piping hot falafel, available at any time of the day.
75. Being happy right where I am.
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Life Beneath the Waves: A Gratitude for Each Day

Maddie Chang,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

Description

We’ve been here in Jordan for 75 days now. Where has the time gone?! I pause to reflect and journal on a gratitude for everyday I’ve been here–every 24 hour cycle I’ve been fortunate enough dive, head first, into the depths and unknowns that is this culture and place. I only come up for air […]

Posted On

11/11/13

Author

Maddie Chang

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    [post_content] => I've always been the sort of person that likes to know what's going on. Some sort of set routine is best, but at the very least, I really appreciate an advanced notice as to what the plan is. Over the past couple of months here in Jordan, however, it's become pretty clear that very few Jordanians share in my desire for daily structure.

My home-stay family here in Aqaba, similar to my family in Disi, keeps me always on my toes. The other day, I arrived home from a day out in the city and hopped in the shower. Within seconds after I stepped out, I heard banging on the door: "we want to go out now," yelled Dalia apologetically. Luckily, I had experienced the exact same situation many a time in Disi, so I'm now an expert at being ready in a minute. I threw on my clothes and off we went for a quick evening visit to Chinatown! My family here is so random; we go out at the most random times in the evening to the most random places - I'll just be settling down on the couch with my book at 9pm when one of my five sisters will announce that we've got to go out to buy jackets or to get one of their hair straightener's fixed - and we leave at a different time every morning. I'd say that, for the past two weeks here in Aqaba, I've had absolutely no idea what's going on 85 percent of the time.

One of the most important abilities I've acquired over the past couple of months is flexibility. It's been an immense growing experience for me having to learn to just let go and go with flow. With the language barrier, I can rarely extract any sort of plan from my host mum or sisters, and even when I do, it seems to be constantly changing. To be honest, I don't think they even know their own plan most of the time. Any efforts to establish a routine or make plans in advance, I've learned is just a waste of energy and causes me completely unnecessary stress and unhappiness. I really just have to embrace the fact that I can't control everything here. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but I've come to really appreciate what a liberating way to live this is. I've learned to find excitement in the unknown, not to fear it.
    [post_title] => Embracing the Unknown
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Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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Embracing the Unknown

Erin Lueck,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

Description

I’ve always been the sort of person that likes to know what’s going on. Some sort of set routine is best, but at the very least, I really appreciate an advanced notice as to what the plan is. Over the past couple of months here in Jordan, however, it’s become pretty clear that very few […]

Posted On

11/11/13

Author

Erin Lueck

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    [post_date] => 2013-11-11 15:52:01
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    [post_content] => 
I've always found cities to be their best at night. You can see more in the day, go to more places and interact with more people. But I also think they're uglier in the light, as you can see all the dirty nooks and crannies, the garbage, the sad, rundown places. While I've come to like Aqaba by day, I love it even more at night. At night the temperature cools and there's a pleasant breeze in the air from the mountains and the Red Sea. Sitting outside my room on the roof I can see parts of downtown Aqaba, the lights of Eliat in Israel across a pool of black I know to be the Red Sea. Further south in the dusty blackness is Egypt and Saudi Arabia is over the mountains. On my little oasis I'm surrounded by lights, the orange-yellow street lights, harsher whites of little stores and muted colors of houselights through curtains. A little off in the distance fireworks pop in the sky; I'm not sure if they have a permit for it, if such things exist, because it's coming from a residential area I know is filled with apartments. Scattered through the yellow lights are the minarets of the mosques of Aqaba, lit up with the peaceful green of Islam. Barely visible through the darkness and thick city air are the mountains that guard Aqaba, faint shapes of a slightly lighter color than the sky. The tall flagpole that proudly flies a huge Jordanian flag is farther off by the port, discernible only by the flashing light at the top to warn pilots. Every now and then a plane will cut across the the sky and I'll look up and watch it fly overhead. Aqaba's airport is still too small to attract a lot of traffic. Down in the street the hum of passing cars fades in and out, occasionally a horn will cut across or the screeching of tires of somewhat reckless Jordanian drivers. Arabic pop pluses from a couple streets away. There are very few stars in the sky, the night is too polluted by light and dust or fog to be the inky black of the desert so it settles for a dark violet. Sitting up here, among the lights of Aqaba with the breeze playing with my hair, I can forget the unpleasant aspects of city life. I can forget the stares, the rudeness of children, the challenges of being a white, blond foreigner in an Arab country, the sweat of a humid, hot day. All of that disappears from my mind and I can enjoy being here, being present and being grateful that I'm in Jordan. [post_title] => The Nights of Aqaba [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-nights-of-aqaba [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-03 14:42:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-03 21:42:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://wheretherebedragons.com/?p=94371 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 204 [name] => Middle East Fall 2013 Semester [slug] => middle-east-fall-2013-semester [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 204 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 240 [count] => 88 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11.1 [cat_ID] => 204 [category_count] => 88 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Middle East Fall 2013 Semester [category_nicename] => middle-east-fall-2013-semester [category_parent] => 240 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2013/middle-east-fall-2013-semester/ ) ) [category_links] => Middle East Fall 2013 Semester )
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The Nights of Aqaba

Ana Reinhold,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

Description

I’ve always found cities to be their best at night. You can see more in the day, go to more places and interact with more people. But I also think they’re uglier in the light, as you can see all the dirty nooks and crannies, the garbage, the sad, rundown places. While I’ve come to […]

Posted On

11/11/13

Author

Ana Reinhold

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    [post_author] => 26
    [post_date] => 2013-11-07 11:58:16
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-11-07 18:58:16
    [post_content] => Hi Everyone! I started my ISP this week which has been very exciting! For my project I am studying women in Aqaba through photojournalism. Yesterday I interviewed Hanan, Maddie's home stay mom. Hanan is an English teacher in a high school near our program house and she has a really amazing and inspirational story. She is the eldest daughter in a half Bedouin half Egyptian family. Her parents were illiterate, but this did not stop Hanan from pursuing an education and being a driven student. She eventually went on the university to study English and even traveled to America. Her younger siblings say that she paved the way for them to go on to university and beyond. Hanan's life defining moments, she told me, were the death of her first husband and her divorce from her second husband. She told me about the ordeal she went through after both events. Being a widow she said was better then being divorced, because people looked at her with pity, not judgement. Her divorce, she said, brought judgement from society and also unfair Bedouin laws that her children should be taken away from her. This was the hardest moment for her because she had to choose between staying with her husband who treated her badly and keeping her children. Now, after years of going to court and finally marching up to the Mayor of Aqaba and demanding custody, Hanan has all of her children with her. She has not remarried, but she she told me she wants to soon. She said that being a single woman is hard, but it has made her strong, just like everything else she has been through. Throughout the interview she kept on saying that she knows she is strong within herself and when she knows that, everyone around her can see that. She is not afraid to go out by herself because she knows that if she is strong, nobody will mess with her. Hahan is one of the most special women I have met here. Nobody stops her from doing what she believed in. Her story inspires me because I have struggled a lot here with gender roles, covering and not feeling respected as a woman. Hahan, I think, sets a good example of not letting these things change her and make her think less of herself. Even though she wears the hijab, which faces lots of critique from the west as being oppressive, she looks like a fierce woman not to be messed with. Covering for her has nothing to do with societal pressure. It is something that makes her feel respected and connected to her religion. Talking with Hanan was the first time that I understood this. Being a strong woman requires accepting that society may not see you that way, but finding the strength within yourself to feel empowered and to live around those boundaries and not inside them.
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Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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ISP

Emelie Chace-Donahue,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

Description

Hi Everyone! I started my ISP this week which has been very exciting! For my project I am studying women in Aqaba through photojournalism. Yesterday I interviewed Hanan, Maddie’s home stay mom. Hanan is an English teacher in a high school near our program house and she has a really amazing and inspirational story. She […]

Posted On

11/7/13

Author

Emelie Chace-Donahue

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    [post_date] => 2013-11-06 16:54:12
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    [post_content] => Hijab has been something that I've struggled with for a while. Before I came to Jordan, I didn't understand what it was or what it meant. Now that I'm here and my questions have been answered, it's been difficult for me to implement hijab into my time here and to fully comprehend the controversy that surrounds it.

In Disi I had to cover whenever I left the house, but now that I'm in Aqaba I haven't used a headscarf in over two weeks. This is due partially to the fact that there are a lot of tourists in this city, but there is also a lot of diversity within the local community in terms of religious and social conservatism. Walking down I busy street, I'm just as likely to pass a woman who is covered everywhere but her eyes as I am to see a woman who color coordinates her hijab with accessories and heels. It has been so interesting, as well as confusing, to see what hijab means to different people and how location can affect that opinion.

The family that I'm living with right now is the complete opposite of Hoala and her family back in Disi. The mom, Simona, is from Romania and her husband is Jordanian. They have two older sons, Suhaib and Rakan, and a 14 year old daughter named Rania. When they told me that they accept all religion and that what matters about a person is inside, I almost fainted.  I was even more surprised when Rania told me a little about her experience with hijab. She just started wearing it last year and it was unclear as to whether or not she liked it, but what really stood out to me was the fact that it was her choice. Her family even told her that she shouldn't wear it. Simona told me how hard it was to cover after coming from Romania and even today she only wears a minimal head wrap.

So it really got me thinking. Is wearing hijab actually a choice? I guess it is, but there are definitely consequences. I think that wearing hijab here is one of the social norms that young women feel extreme pressure to conform to, even if their families feel the opposite. Girls are treated differently depending on their choice. I've been brought back to my original question of "what does hijab even mean?" Supposedly it brings one closer to God, but some Muslim women don't wear it and I think it would be idiotic to say that they aren't as valid in their beliefs and faith as a women who do cover. It's sad to see how judgement is such a rampant human behavior, no matter where you are. I mentally applaud all of the Muslim women who choose not to cover and also the non-Muslim women living I'm conservative communities that have bravely decided against hijab. You go ladies, all of you.
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Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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To hijab, or not to hijab?

Maeve Briggs,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

Description

Hijab has been something that I’ve struggled with for a while. Before I came to Jordan, I didn’t understand what it was or what it meant. Now that I’m here and my questions have been answered, it’s been difficult for me to implement hijab into my time here and to fully comprehend the controversy that […]

Posted On

11/6/13

Author

Maeve Briggs

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    [post_date] => 2013-11-06 10:33:27
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    [post_content] => A few nights ago, as I was crawling to bed to go to sleep, I noticed something glowing in the corner of my eye. I rolled over in my bed to see, and had to stop myself from choking with laughter at the sight I encountered. On the bedside table in between my bed and my host sister's bed was a green, glow-in-the-dark, foot-tall Jesus statue. I sat up, alert to take a closer look, and found that surely enough it was just what i saw initially: a glow-in-the-dark Jesus statue. Somehow, never in my life would I have thought that I would put the phrases 'glow-in-the-dark' and 'Jesus Christ' together-- especially in Jordan, a Muslim country, of all places. But sure enough, there he was, with his long, robed arms spread in open embrace, his weird, neon greenish light welcoming me into his arms.

 

This is not the only Jesus statue in my home-stay, though I must confess that it is my favorite. If you enter the home and look to your right, you will see a near life-size figure of Christ in white and red robes with candles lit at his feet. If you look to your left, you will see another two-foot tall statue of Christ sitting on the dining room table. Walk down the hallway towards the, and you will see Jesus. Into the bathroom-- Jesus. Even next to the computer which I am typing this yak on, there is a Jesus statue. And Jesus isn't the only indication of Christianity in this household: there are equally as many statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the garden alone, there are three Mary's: one housed in an enclave in the wall, and two hidden underneath pepper and tomato plants. There are Bible quotes and prayers framed on the walls, and photographs and paintings of holy sites.

 

What is there to learn from the overwhelming presence of Jesus in my home-stay? Well, firstly, my family is Christian. Secondly, they are very Christian-- they value their religion above almost everything else. In the first two days here, I had already gone to two church services and one youth group meeting. Thirdly, being Christian is a huge part of their identity. As Christians, they are minorities in a Muslim-majority country. Their religion connects them to a very specific, close-knit community. It defines the way in which they interact with Muslims. Whereas the call to prayer plays loudly through the city five times a day to remind everyone of Islam, no such recognition is given to Christianity. Thus, my family compensates in their own way: the Jesus statues.
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Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

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The Jesus Statues

Baheya Malaty,Middle East Fall 2013 Semester

Description

A few nights ago, as I was crawling to bed to go to sleep, I noticed something glowing in the corner of my eye. I rolled over in my bed to see, and had to stop myself from choking with laughter at the sight I encountered. On the bedside table in between my bed and […]

Posted On

11/6/13

Author

Baheya Malaty

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