Back in the States

So it's day 2 of being back in the states and jet-lag has yet to hit me. I have spent every minute since I've been back working on compiling the video from the trip and I'll just say that it is quite spectacular. It's been great to work on all the video because it has allowed me to skim through all the places we visited really quickly, and it is just incredible how many sites we were able to see in our short time.

On the flight back from Jordan, I was able to request the very last row in the plane, and happily people-watched from my back seat for a good portion of the flight. Throughout three-quarters of the trip, one Jordanian kid entertained himself by walking up and down the aisles non-stop. When flight attendants would serve food, he would follow behind them. At night when people were sleeping, he would pretend to sneak past everyone in the dark. When people slowly began waking up, he picked up the speed and threw in a few sprints up and down the aisles. He was having a blast and was able to entertain himself for 12 hours in a plane.

As I sat there watching him race through the plane, I couldn't help but think that a kid is a kid, no matter what country or culture they grew up in. And their top priority is to have fun. When we were visiting a lot of the ancient ruins, we would frequently come across kids trying to sell postcards or rocks to the visitors. It was sad that these kids had to spend their days trying to make money from tourists, but then I watched more closely. And despite the fact that these kids were caught up in the tourism of their home, they still made sure to have fun. The little boys selling donkey rides in Petra would race back and forth on the dirt roads, laughing with one another as they went. As we walked by one of the many side stands selling jewelry, a mother and her 1 year old daughter sat to the side. The daughter was fascinated with the blue stone jewelry and kept trying different pieces on. She was by far more interested in it then many of the tourists, yet she probably spent most of her days sitting at that same stand looking at the same pieces. Driving from town to town, we saw numerous pick-up soccer games taking place on the side of the road, yet none relied on an actual net or ball. At a rest stop outside of Amman, three siblings were determined to mount an unusually tall see-saw in a little park. After numerous failed attempts, they resorted to the metal slide. Climbing up it backwards with their bare feet, we were amazed that their feet didn't burn.

And kids in Africa played the same games. In Australia and Jamaica as well. Kids are consistently kids, it's a nice common comfort when traveling between different cultures.

Perhaps I notice that kids are consistent because I've been one. I haven't exactly reached adult yet and I'm still finishing up being a student. Perhaps it's easier to pick common traits out after you've gone through that stage. Regardless, it's nice to know that there are still traits that can unite cultures. Sometimes it feels that people, or perhaps Americans, don't take the time to really understand and appreciate different cultures. It's easy to ignore parts of the rest of the world because we are isolated by oceans and make do in our own little section of earth. Yet Jordan was a completely different scenario, with so many countries surrounding its' borders, Jordanians had to have an understanding of many different cultures. I know that for me before the Jordan trip, I knew very little about Middle Eastern culture, it's amazing what 2.5 weeks in Jordan did.

One of the neat things about college today is that many of your friends end up traveling and studying in some other country. Although traveling to every country in the world would be an awesome accomplishment, the odds are slightly unlikely, so it's so nice to have friends report back and share about their experience. Share about the dress and the food and the customs and sports. To bring back pictures and stories. In doing so, I have been exposed to more cultures and countries than I would have ever guessed before coming to college. The next step is to take the lessons and appreciation learned from various people's travels, and apply them to our own lives and people within them. But that's another blog post...

Awe - (5/21)

Today I turned 21, and the day brought with it quite a few awesome opportunities and experiences. We started the day off by visiting the location where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. From here, we drove to the Dead Sea where we covered ourselves in mud from the water and then continued to float around on the salty water for part of the afternoon. Lunch was a buffet and for the first time this trip, they had a huge chocolate mousse cake as desert. After lunch we drove to a new camp ground for the night. Our tented village happens to be in the middle of a huge mountain valley. The only way to get to it is by a modified jeep which looks as if it was taken out of an Indiana Jones movie. Before dinner, we sprinted off into the rocks and Leah and I found a little nook where we were able to do some rock climbing which lead us to the top where we could see the sunset on the mountain ridges. After dinner, we came back outside and after resting in a Bedouin tent for a few minutes, we went back up to the rock ridge to watch the stars. I don’t know how I get so lucky that days like this happen to fall on my birthday, I was very grateful and in awe most of the day.

But the best part about today was that it got me thinking back to the summer one year ago. During my trip to Australia and Tanzania, I had a few songs that were continually stuck in my head, and wherever I went I ended up singing them to myself. As I was sitting on top of the white capped rocks blanketed by the stars above me, I started humming “Pure and Holy Passion” in my head. The one verse really caught me.

This world is empty, pale and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord,
So lead me on and I will run after You
Lead me on and I will run after You.

So I started thinking about that line as I looked out over the hazy blackness. This world is empty, pale and poor. As we drive from site to site on this trip, we almost always have to drive through some type of desert or semi-arid landscape. The ground is dry and brown. An indecisive horizon blends from tan to blue all around me. The recent drought hasn’t helped, everything looks thirsty. These places that we are driving through are the exact places that the Israelites spent years wandering through in search of the promise land. I can see how they could have related to empty pale and poor. I wonder if I could have trusted God’s leading for forty years after being lead through such scourged regions.

As we were watching the stars tonight atop our rocky perch, we began thinking about the purpose of the stars. To think, that 3000 years ago there were people sitting most likely in the very place we were, staring up at the same sky, and wandering what it all meant. Here we are thousands of years later and doing the same thing. We were trying to determine the purpose of the stars. What made God decide to create these complex balls of gas light-years away from planet Earth?

The only thing I could think of was direction. God made the stars to lead his people. For thousands of years, stars have stayed in relatively the same position, and people over the years have used them for guidance and bearing. Do you think when God was creating stuff he thought, stars will be the easiest way to provide directions for these people. Or perhaps the complexity and intricateness of the stars is meant to show us that God’s leading doesn’t always tend to be simple or easy. Sometimes our paths that he leads us on are complex. And for me, when I see an easier solution (at least in my mind) I tend to lean towards that path. But I’ve been finding that God enjoys using complex paths to guide us. Sure there are times when the path is simple and easy to follow, but the majority of the time, the path is too hard to fully see. We sit and question why it has to be so intricate, just as I was thinking about the stars. If God wanted to, he could have just made a giant compass in the sky. That would have been easy.

But then there would have been no discovery. No awe. No questioning or learning.

As I climbed the side of one of the many rock formations scattered across the mountain valley and reached the top, I stood in awe for a few seconds over the view in front of me. It looked as if God had made those sand drip castles out of rock all over the ground. The mountain cliff emitted a soft red glow bouncing back from the setting sun. The birds took their final flights across the valley as they returned back to their nests for the night. A small beetle slowly maneuvered around some fallen debris, the rock side portraying a miniature Serengeti for him to explore. The bush to my side rustled as a lizard rearranged itself in the mess of thorns it beautifully produced. The rocks told a story. Their colored lines and shallow crevices told stories of the water, of their birth and of their growth. They sat in silence and talked to me. I wonder if 3000 years ago God painted the same picture from that rock cliff. What would have been different? What new awes would be laid out in front of me?

I’m finding that awe is a large part of God’s path, yet there are still times in my life that I forget to soak in the awe all around me. The last few weeks of school were a whirlwind to say the least. My projects and finals consumed most of me, and I slowly began to loose God’s awe in my work. People say I sometimes get lucky. I can’t really argue them. But I don’t think having all these things happen on my birthday was complete luck, sometimes God has important things to tell you and will therefore find ways to make his message known. Sometimes that message comes through awe-filled moments disguised as joyful moments. But sometimes the awe finds its place through tragic and unexpected moments. I’m still wrestling with this difference.

Yet what I have found out is that God talks to us continually. I believe that he wants to fill us with awe; this is why he created so many different and beautiful creations on the planet. I have had the privilege to see just a few of these places, and the common thread from every trip is the awe I’ve experienced. The challenge for me is how to discover the awe in my day to day routines. It’s there are looking back on my work I can see it. But it’s when you are in the moment and struggling over where God is working; those are the times when you desperately need to discover the awe.

Sean being Sean

So quick update for today, if you want a more thorough description of what we did check out the class blog. While we were talking at one of the local’s house, Sean started talking with the mother of the household. Now because Sean knows Arabic, we always let him go, because we never have any idea what he is saying. And usually he gets by without making too much of a fool of himself. But today he managed to nearly walk into a wedding. Somehow, his conversation with the mother quickly changed from wanting to become a diplomat to that he should marry one of her daughters. Sorry Hillary, it looks like Sean may have his eye on a Jordanian woman in the future. I bet his new brown eyes (Sean got contacts for his trip here so that he can blend in more with the locals) is what nearly settled the deal.

Street side welcomes

So as we travel around the country, we continue to run into locals. As in trips past, the locals are always so incredibly friendly. Today we arrived in Madaba and after dinner, Leah and I had the chance to quickly walk around the city. As we walked past the shops, the majority of the locals on the side of the street would wave and say welcome to Jordan. They always ask how our stay has been going and offer us tea or coffee. But it doesn’t come across as if they only want business from us, it appears to be more that they are concerned with how we like our stay in Jordan. It’s amazing what a simple smile and welcome can do. It’s sad that America has such a distorted view of the Middle East, the people here are so friendly. Now of course there are those that are not the most welcoming, and those are unfortunately the minority that have begun to form the image of Middle Eastern countries for many Americans.

The other day we had the opportunity to visit a Date Farm and we were able to talk with the manager of the farm. Afterwards, he invited us up to his office and offered us dates and told us all about the company. When we asked for some of their soil data, he immediately called up the head technician and had him bring up any data he could find related to the agricultural production. It was awesome to see how willing they were to open up and teach us about their business because we were students. Talking to us hardly benefitted his company yet he was willing to go above and beyond to show us everything about the operation. There’s something about the people’s pride here.

I’ve been reading a book during the trip called “Out of Poverty” and it is about the approach a group called IDE, International Development Enterprises, takes to providing assistance to dollar-a-day one-acreage farmers. In the book, he talks about how the method he sees as being most effective to end poverty is by allowing poor people to buy their way out of poverty. Rather than have outside agencies donate money into the communities, he feels that poor rural people need to use their own money to invest in technologies and methods which allow them to increase their income. In doing so, they develop a sense of ownership over their business or farm. This ownership turns into pride and the individual is more likely to maintain what they have invested in and ensure that it lasts into the future.

That same principle can be seen here in Jordan, much more so than the US. Whether the person is a street-side shop owner, to a tourist police, to the guy who hands you your towel in the bathroom; everyone here is so proud of what they have built up and what they are able to do. It’s an interesting contrast to the US where many of us feel that too many jobs are beneath us. We always have the desire to have the corner office or manager position, that we overlook the jobs required to reach those positions. When we develop mindsets such as these, we also tend to overlook the people being placed in front of us because of the current job we have. For the street-side shop owner, that business allows him to interact with hundreds of people daily who walk by on the street. And from the way he welcomes each of us as complete strangers on the streets; it appears that he values that opportunity with the highest of responsibilities. I hope to take back this same mentality with me to the states.

May 15th-17th Update

It’s May 17th and we have been in Jordan for just under a week. We are currently staying at Ajloun Nature Center and this morning we spent 5 hours hiking through a better part of the valley on an 8 mile trek. The trail was called the “Prophet’s Trail” and was meant to show where Elijah had wondered through these mountains. After trekking through a couple forests, a wheat field, and a couple sheep pastures, we made it to the peak of the final mountain. On the top of the mountain were the ruins from an old church and is said to be where Elijah was taken into heaven. Stone walls bordered and tiled mosaics covered the floor of the old church. From here, you could see the entire mountain range we had just hiked through. Beyond the mountains lay the Jordan Valley and past that, the West Bank.

After getting back from the hike, we had lunch at the camp site and were then given the rest of the day as a rest period. Although we should have taken the opportunity to take a little nap, Sauder and I decided to try our hand at Aboriginal painting instead. With plastic bags in hand, we ventured out into the woods to find berries, flowers, and dirt to create die for our painting. After successfully collecting the die material and a couple rocks to serve as a mortar and pestle, we came back to the tent. Sadly, our yellow looked like… well we’ll just say it didn’t look yellow, and our red turned green, go figure. But we did manage to make a nice brown and green color. Now, after semi-succeeding with the painting, we’re taking a break. Dinner will be in a few hours and we still have a few videos we need to make. Every night we have been making some sort of random video. We’ve had everything from songs about bidets to Arabian slapboxing. But first, let me update everyone on everything else that has been happening.

May 15th: Today we left our hotel in Amman and boarded three 4x4’s. Our first stop was an old Roman/Nebutaen (I can guarantee you that is not spelled correctly) site, Umm Aljmael, with multiple ruins of a military barrack, homes and cisterns. We toured many of the ruins and every now and then would stop to analyze the soil. From here we got back in the cars and after making a brief stop at a mine pit, traveled to Jawa. Jawa is an ancient Roman city with the first recorded man-made dam in the world. Currently it is located in the middle of the desert, but during Roman times it would have been situated in a forested region with rivers flowing on either side of the city. However, the only catch is that to get to Jawa you have to drive quite a distance through the desert. And unless your drivers know where they are going (which in our case they didn’t), it can take quite some time. We found ourselves driving in the middle of the Basalt desert for a couple hours until we were all stopped by a text message that all of the drivers received which said: “Welcome to Syria, enjoy your stay!” Apparently in the desert they don’t worry too much about defining country borders, and we had managed to cross from Jordan into Syria, it all looked the same though. We stopped and got out of our cars, and as a celebration, we created a pile of rocks on the side of the road. Surprisingly enough, although the desert consists of only millions of rocks and few if any people, somehow every so often we would come across stacked piles of rocks. Sometimes, nomadic and pastoralist people would create these piles as monuments to important sites, but there’s no way that there were that many important sites in the middle of nowhere. Regardless, we felt it fitting to create our own pile of rocks. After finding our way back to Jordan, we managed to eventually come across Jawa. We went and explored the ruins and checked out the remains of the oldest dam in the world. After our tour, we had lunch outside the cistern and then got back in the cars. We made one last journey through the desert where we arrived at our next hotel in Azraq.

May 16th: After spending the night at Azraq Lodge, a restored war hospital, we went to visit the Azraq wetlands. Although suprising to most, Jordan does have wetlands. However sadly the wetlands have been destroyed compared to what they once were, primarily because of water being pumped from the wetland to supply the larger cities with drinking water. However conservation efforts have been underway in an attempt to save this ecosystem. Azraq used to be the pitstop for roughly 400,000 different bird species on their migration route from Africa to Europe, however this is no longer the case. It is still an excellent bird watching location and many tourists come here to observe the wildlife. Once at Azraq, we took a walk through the wetlands where we arrived at a bird watching hut. Continuing on, we checked out the history museum and then finally wandered back outside. As we were standing looking back on the wetlands, we saw something moving in the distance. With the aid of some binoculars, we quickly realized we had found some water buffalo grazing near the water. Conviently they were right in front of the bird watching hut, which I remembered how to get back to. Grabbing the camera, Drew and I sprinted, a quiet sprint, back to the hut. Looking out the window, we found ourselves a few feet from the herd (or possibly flock, gathering, or cluster). A few seconds later and Sauder dashed into the hut and began clicking away. We quickly found though that water buffalo are easily startled by the sound of a cameras shutter. Although the video makes it appear to be natural, in reality Sauder just spooked all of the animals. But it made for a cool video.

After capturing the shot, we got back in the cars and traveled to the next location, Desert Castle #1 (because I forget the name of it). Driving through Jordan’s desert you come across many Desert Castles, which are buildings built as rest stops for trade routes throughout the desert. DS#1 had one of the world’s oldest hydraulic pumps in the world. Inside, the walls and domed ceilings were covered with old fresco paintings. Desert Castle #2, also known as El-Kharaanah, was massive and resembled a miniature European castle made out of sand. The castle had too floors and many rooms to explore. The most interesting thing about the building was it’s ventilation system (I guess I am an engineer). In the walls were narrow slits resembling slots in a castle in which arrows would be shot from a bow. However, these slots were angled down towards the ground outside. Because of this, wind would blow in from the desert, and any sand that was carried with it would be trapped on the walls of the slot. It was very effective. After exploring most of the castle, we came across a group of locals with many kids with them. They were naturally very curious about the camera (probably because my microphone looks like a dead animal on top of the camera) and wanted to see themselves in it. It was really refreshing to interact with kids again, that’s always one of my favorite parts about trips. If I would have had more time, I would have probably asked them if they wanted to play hide-and-seek tag in the castle, it would have been awesome! After the two desert castles, we got back in the cars and headed for our current lodge, Ajloun Nature Center.

It’s now 6:00pm and getting time for dinner. Food has been really good here except for one problem, the portions. Let’s just say we all rejoice when we see a beffet, not because we can get a lot of food, but because we can get a little bit of food. Nearly every meal we’ve had so far, none of us have been able to finish. The one night alone, we counted over 50 appetizers spread out across the table. The meal starts by us sitting down, and then a procession of people following us each with multiple little plates of food. That part is fine because we can pick what we want, but then they come around again and serve us a whole separate round of appetizers directly to our plate, that round is unfortunately much harder to avoid. The ironic part about the whole situation is that throughout the past semester in our class, we talk a lot about the population problem and being unable to feed everyone in the world. However we have wasted so much food in Jordan because the portions are absolutely huge, and we have no way to tell them no because we never get to order, they just bring the food. Anyway, we are finding now that we are outside of Amman in slightly more rural areas, the portions tend to be smaller, and buffets are more common. Thank goodness. We’ve never been more happy to be hungry.

Other minor things to note, the temperature is surprisingly cold at night in our current lodge. Actually, we are sleeping in fancy tents elevated off of the ground (which I would prefer to the fancy hotels before). Last night I slept with two thick blankets and most of my clothes on.

Also, quickly in the trip, the rest of the group got very used to Eric and I constantly recording what is happening. We haven’t been able to find a picture yet where either of us don’t have our cameras in our hands. Today during our hike, we ended up filming a mock of “Tuck Everlasting” by searching for the Fountain of Youth. We also filmed some musical clips from “The Sound of Music.” Editing all of this video should be fun.

Well, it’s about time I wrap this entry up, I have to go clean up the mashed berries and leaves on our porch. As we travel through the rural portions of Jordan, internet will be in and out. I’ll continue writing posts on my computer and when I finally get online, I’ll post them all at once. Looking forward to seeing everyone when we get back!

Day 2 in Jordan (5/13)

Day 2 in Amman and things are going very well. Today we went and visited RSCN, the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature. They were a really neat NGO who realized that nature can not be saved solely for the sake of nature, that in order to bring about real change you have to stimulate economic development as well. The man we met with, Chris Johnson, was from Britain and worked with the World Bank. He had been sent here to Jordan to help start up ecotourism sites throughout the country. After our talk with RSCN, we drove to a nearby mall and then back to the hotel where Sean, Eric and I decided to head off into the city. We caught a 20 minute taxi (only $2) and got off in another shopping district, this one for the middle class and walked through some of the street-side shops. We managed to stumble across a local bakery and were immediately drawn to the fresh bread coming out of the oven. After staring at the wall of dough in front of us, Sean trying to read the Arabic and Eric and I trying to pretend that we knew Arabic, we picked up a few loafs. We paid for the bread and moved onto the next stop. As we walked from store to store, we found ourselves in the middle of two soccer matches taking place on the side of the street. Although tempted to play, I was distracted by attempting to film the scene as it happened around us. Continuing on, we then came across quite a comical site. Now we are quickly realizing that smoking is a huge deal in developing countries. I think around 75% of the country smokes, including the three men dressed in teddy bear costumes selling balloons to the little kids on the side of the road. On three separate occasions, we ran across men dressed up in bear costumes, with the head of the bear off and against their back, all trying to light a cigarette. It made all of us laugh, they really didn't look like they wanted to be there. Afterwards, we came back to the hotel where we met our group for dinner. Food was great, as normal, and soon after we were back in the hotel. We decided to end the night on a good old game of Dutch Blitz, and then called it a night. As we all scattered off to our rooms, Eric and I proceeded to the top floor where we were hoping to find Sean, because he had wandered off earlier in the night. Well, we opened the door, and were greeted by magazine-spread Sean lying asleep on the bed. This of course lends itself to some fun. Now, Sean has been very worried about losing his passport all trip, and therefore is very protective over it. Well as expected, Sean was lying asleep with his passport zipped away in a money belt around his waist. The only thing left for Eric and I to do, was attempt to steal the very thing he had been so watchful over. Naturally, we succeeded. Currently Sean is fast asleep and his passport is lying in the drawer beside my bed. Below is an action shot of the ordeal, it looks slightly wrong but was well worth it!

So that was the day in a nutshell, but there were a few things from the day that got me thinking.
First was that my image of Jordanian fashion prior to the trip was completely different that what it actually is. Walking throughout the mall, nearly every person (ok, maybe every person) was dressed better than me. Jordan is a free country and therefore women are not required to wear head dressings. Even some who do, don't seem to wear them strictly out of religious customs. Looking back at history, the head scarf was a cultural thing before it was a religious thing. It's just like different parts of the US have different clothes they are comfortable with wearing, Jordanian women appear to be comfortable wearing the head scarf. Then again, I'm not a Jordanian woman, so I can't speak for them, only observe.
The other thing that I started thinking about was the image of the Arabic language. For me, Arabic was similar to German, they both sounded harsh and very different than what I was used to. In high school I took German, and after learning the language and becoming familiar with the sounds, it no longer sounded harsh. The same has been happening with Arabic. For most of the regions that Eric, Sean and I traveled to today, there was absolutely no English written anywhere. And because Sean likes speaking with the locals in Arabic (which is awesome), we don't hear much English. So by eliminating those two variables, I began focusing on the people's body language. Simply making that switch has changed my impression of Arabic as a harsh-sounding language to a welcoming one. However, that doesn't change the fact that Arabic is a difficult language to pick up. I've got a few words down, but I think I'll let Sean handle the talking for most of the trip.
And the other thing I started thinking about today was where I was finding God's work in this new place. As with any trip, nature is always the part that I find myself most in awe over. From the Serengetti and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru in Australia, God's signature always seems so clear and impressive in places like those. And going into this trip, I knew that we would be seeing our fair share of natural gems. For the past few days though we have been in Amman, and although part of me is itching to see the desert and dead sea, the other part is slowly trying to soak in the city of Amman. Where is God's signature in a city? The first signature hit me when we were visiting with RSCN and overlooking most of Amman. Standing from their overlook, we were able to clearly see miles of white cube-like homes scattering the hillsides. Ancient Roman columns stood atop the hill to my left and a Jordanian flag flew alongside them. The cookie-cutter homes slowly faded into one as they distanced themselves from me. The border of the roofs and the thin film of dust in the skies created a cloudy horizon. It appeared as if someone had photoshopped the city and had layered a slight sepia tone over the entire view. As I searched the horizon, I came across a mosque standing tall and straight into the sky. A neon light glowed at it's peak, and soon a voice echoed a prayer throughout the hillside. The prayer bounced back and forth between the tightly stacked buildings, creating a choir of voices. A city was speaking. The whole experience was an awesome reminder of God's presence, of his ability to see over our lives. There was something calming about the whole scene; between the prayer and all white buildings.
For me, cities always seem to be in hurry (which is how I tend to be though) and I can't fully take the time to soak in the sights (or perhaps the sights don't seem as evident to me). One of the lessons that I am learning from the prayer call is to stop the busyness that I am currently dealing with and to take time and appreciate the sights that God has surrounded me with (even if at times they are harder to recognize). The sights such as Petra and the Dead Sea will be the ones that God has placed smack dab in front of me, I would hope I don't miss those. But it's the sights that are surrounding me within Amman that take more effort, that are less obvious. Those are always the ones that teach you more however, and are the ones that many of us miss.

Oh and if you want to check out more photos from the trip, Eric will be posting pics to the following website:

Day 1 in Jordan (5/12)

Driving near Amman

Well, by the looks of the picture above , we made it to Jordan all safe and sound. Another 12 hour plane ride down and one more stamp for the passport. After a day in the country however, I can tell that this will be quite a different trip than past ones. Although there are quite a few things that bring back memories from past trips. Driving from the airport to Amman, we were passed by multiple 15-passenger vans serving as taxis, identical to the dala-dalas found in Tanzania. The landscape we drove through was a vast dusty plain, resembling portions of inner-Australia. At dinner, we were served these meat balls which were very similar to alligator balls served in Louisiana. And lastly, as I lay here in bed writing this blog, Jordanian music is playing in the streets as people occasionally clap and cheer, just as they do in Jamaica during the night. It’s amazing how such a different culture can have such similar attributes as places halfway across the globe. And as with any other trip, standout moments are already happening on this trip. Just to list a few…

After checking our luggage through JFK airport and preparing to go through security, I realized that I had forgotten my wallet in the rental car (which was parked a considerable distance away from the terminal). Given that we arrived a tad early, I felt that there was plenty of time to go back and retrieve it. After jumping on three different tram cars and stopping in multiple terminals, I arrived back at the car rental station. I quickly found the manager but rather than taking me to our rental car, she just drove away. So resorting to plan B, I found a guy cleaning a car and asked him if I could help him out. He looked at me strangely, but agreed. Soon after, I had the wallet I had come looking for. Then after a mad dash back to the terminal, I rejoined my group and was ready for the long flight ahead of me.

2) 2) After arriving in our hotel room, I came across a bidet, which was a first for me. After confronting Sean and Eric on how to properly use the device, we decided to Wikipedia it. We found that you ride a bidet much like you ride a pony, good to know!
3) So Sean decided to wait for a haircut until he arrived in Jordan, so that he could get an authentic Jordanian haircut. Well he got one, and it’s pretty sweet! So the below picture is without the gel, tomorrow we'll get a proper picture and post it!

And don't forget to check out the class blog to get an update of the serious things that are happening on the trip as well! Until the next entry, ma'a salama! (which is Arabic for good-bye)

Overseas again

So another summer is quickly approaching and luckily enough, I have the opportunity to travel overseas once again. This time I will be spending two and a half weeks looking at soil in Jordan. The past semester I have been taking a class called Soils and Civilizations, which looks at how the natural resources of an area affect a civilization and consequently how that civilization impacts the natural resources. We analyze cultures from every continent but spend a good deal of time looking at the culture of the Near East. As a conclusion to the class, some of the students will be traveling to Jordan to look at the soil and culture of the country. It's getting difficult to study for my machine design final on friday when I know I will be leaving the country soon. The group will be leaving from JFK on May 11th and arriving back in the US May 28th. If you would like to track the trip to see what I'm up to, I will be periodically updating personal entries on this blog. The trip will also be posting information from the trip on another blog site:

This will be a slightly different trip than last summer because it will involve people I know and traveling around for the most part with a tour group. The tour is tailored however, consisting only of my class, and we'll have the chance to visit some neat places like a desert irrigation systems and even a Mennonite Central Committee site. It will be a change to fly on a plane with people I know though.

Below is a video which outlines most of the places we'll get to travel to. I'm excited to dive into another culture and see new places. To see new art and new ways of looking at nature. One thing that always amazes me is how much nature impacts a culture, I guess that is one concept that my soils class has repeatedly stressed over the past few months. To get a full understanding of a different culture, it's almost necessary to step back and look around at where you are. If you want an idea of the nature of Jordan, check out the video below.

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