Monday, April 29, 2013

My Weekend Update

Hello,

My weekend was so busy, I did not even have time to post on Friday (as a college student, I have the right to count Friday as part of my weekend, though I do have one class that meets in the early afternoon).

Friday, I planned to wake up early - around 9 am. Well, that did not happen.  More like sometime after 11 am I woke up and had to rush to finish my homework before class started at 1230.  After class ended, I thought I would be a good student and go to Kimmel for lunch and to study.  I obviously never bothered to learn the dining hall hours, and little did I know that Kimmel closed at 230 when normally it closes at 8 pm. In the end, I still found a cozy place to do work in the new building attached to Kimmel.  Work would have ensued if I had not thought to check hulu first and find that the two newest episodes of Elementary were available and of course, I thought to myself, "I can watch one episode before starting my work."  Two episodes and two hours later, I finally realized I did not have much time left before I would have to leave to get ready for the event I was going to that night.  I try to quickly do some work.  Something to know about me, but once I start something, I really hate to not finish it.  As in, it is very hard for me to leave something unfinished.  I tried to reason with myself, saying that I had to run, but I refused to leave my German homework uncompleted.  As a result, I worked myself into a really bad mood because I could not go run and therefore just felt really fat and lazy (especially since it took me much longer than I thought it would).

To add to my increasingly awful mood, a woman asked if she could join my table and do work as well.  Since there was no other tables available in that area, I could (and would) not say no.  However, I am really bad at sharing work space to do work.  I really hate it when people invade my work space - It feels like they are invading my private bubble.  I know it is completely irrational and dumb but it just really irks me.  I don't know why but it has always been a problem for me.  I can be a great sharer, but personal space is just something I have real difficulty sharing.  And I am 6 feet tall and this woman stretched her legs out (and she was nowhere near as tall as me) all the way onto my side.  I could not handle it - she was encroaching on my territory.  So of course, I was distracted and it took me even longer to do my work and just got into such an awful mood.  By the time I was finished, I had barely anytime to get back to my room and change to get ready for the opera.
That's right I said opera - Die Walküre to be exact.  Die Walküre is the second opera in a series of 4 called the Ring, composed by Wagner - an Austrian, so the operas are written in German.  I had to race to Lincoln Center and did you know that if you are late, you have to go to a television viewing room to watch until the first intermission.  This opera is 5 hours long, with three acts and two intermissions.  I found the beginning to be a bit slow, but the last two acts to be extremely powerful and moving.  At the end of the last act, I was tearing up - it was so hard to see Brunnhilde and her dad Waton part from one another forever - all because of the Dad's pride.  The voices of the cast were incredible.  To be honest, I had student tickets so I was up on the top level - family tier and with my terrible eyes I could not see the faces very well but I could definitely hear the voices and it was just incredible!  Also, there was a very large orchestra which was beautiful.   Whenever I leave musical performances, I always think back to the times when I sang, played piano and my cello, and I just want to pick up everything again but when do you really have the time?  Next semester, I am taking private lessons to relearn how to play my cello, and I am very excited, but again, I won't be playing for any operas.  Here are some photos from the night:
This was the chandelier in the entrance hall to the opera building at the Lincoln Center.  I thought it was very unique - not necessarily my style but appropriate for the building.  Below is an image from one of the outdoor balconies during the first intermission looking out to the square in front of the center. 




 During second intermission, I took some shots of the theater and it is just so huge.  So many tiers/floors and during the show it was completely filled. 
After each intermission, the cast that performed in that act would appear and take a bow.  This photo was taken at the end of the last act.  They received a standing ovation, as did the orchestra and rightfully so.  The performance was amazing.  While I wish I had attended with someone, I totally had confused the dates, and forgot that Shabbat for 2000 was the same night (which I felt terrible that I missed because I was supposed to go and left S all by herself there!).  As a result, none of my friends could come with me - and I am quite single, so I had no man that I could force to come with me.  But I would also like to say that, I have never been on to wait for some man to ask me to do something.  I am not quite sure when Die Walküre will be performed again so I decided to not wait.  As a New Yorker, I am quite independent and usually like doing things by myself.  I did wonder what the couples on either side of me thought of me being there by myself but I enjoyed the evening - all five hours of it - on my own.  Honestly, it is the 21st century, and while I would love to have a boyfriend or at least be dating someone it just is not happening right now.  That is ok with me.  I have the rest of my life ahead of me, but I am not going to wait around to do stuff that I want to do, just because I can't find a guy or friends to go with me.  I have to admit, I do sometimes worry that my attitude will end up leaving me a spinster but at least I will be a spinster that has gone to see operas, shows, exhibits, etc.  So take that world.

Of course that night was a late one and as always S and I ended up talking pretty late into the early hours (1 am) because whenever we are apart we always have to fill each other in one what the other one missed.  And because we are so similar, we both tend to get distracted and go on long tangents.

However, there was to be no sleeping in.  After both of us found it difficult to wake up early on Saturday morning, we finally managed to with only 15 minutes left before we had to leave to go uptown.  S and I did end up leaving 15 minutes late but made it to my aunt's apartment perfectly on time to meet up with my other aunt and my dad and we headed to breakfast before heading to the service.  I should have taken a picture of the breakfast place, Sarabeth's, but I was starving and could only think of food and freshly squeezed orange juice (with everything starting to bloom, my allergies are in full swing and I need my vitamin C to help me out!).  But it is such a pleasant weekend brunch/breakfast place to eat at and is pretty popular in nyc.  The one on the upper west side is just lovely and the food is so delicious.  I decided to have the goldie lox omlette, because for some reason lox and eggs and cream cheese sounded good to me, weird but good.  It was delicious! But extremely filling, but that could have been the fact I was eating the omlette by putting some of it on slices of english muffin before chowing down.  Afterwards, we all headed down to midtown to the service for my Uncle that I posted about earlier.  I just can't imagine losing someone who I love so much.  It makes me scared and I honestly just don't like thinking about it.  But he is in a better place, with God and not in pain anymore, which is much more merciful and something to be happy about.

After the service, the family members and close friends gathered at Hurley's Irish Saloon & Bar - a famous place for actors and stage hands to hang out at after shows are done late at night.  We ate together and listened to different people tell stories.  After it was over, I had to say good bye to my dad because he had to catch the bus to head to NoVa to spend the night with my mom, who arrived on Saturday back from Italy.  S had to go to a meeting downtown and I headed uptown to meet a friend, C, from high school who attends the Music School of Manhattan - she is an amazing opera singer, just incredible.  Honestly, I had not seen her in three years because uptown and downtown are actually really far apart and neither of us ever really crossed paths.  However, last week, via facebook I was invited to her junior year recital and I could attend.  It was amazing to hear her sing again and she was so grateful that I came.  So we agreed to meet and catch up with one another.  We walked to a cute little coffee shop right by her school and then walked to Sakura Park.  Uptown is so much quieter than midtown or downtown - so much more serene.  I really like it though her area is right at the border of where Harlem begins, so it can be a little sketchy - especially at night (she is right by Columbia, you get off at the same subway stop).  It was great to see her and catch up - about the good and the bad.  To think that I was in high school 3 years ago, and to see how quickly time has passed was slightly frightening and it was also sad that I had not tried harder to keep up with her.  It just made me recognize, that I really need to put more energy into the relationships I want to keep in my life - I am really of the mind, that I just want to keep good and positive and loving people in my life - that is, I mean to say people who bring me good karma and chi and who I want to emulate.

While I wish I had taken some pictures of the park, I did take a picture of this girl in the a pink poof as I referred to it - obviously, it was her quinceanera and I thought it was both adorable and funny.  I also felt terrible for her because it was kind of warm out and her dress had to weigh a lot - if it had been me, I would have been sweating as if I had run a marathon.
By the way, if you want to check the park out, it is right next to General Grant's tomb.  It is really beautiful and serene.      


My Saturday evening ended with a nap, a delicious dinner (that included vegetables, meat and pasta - hit all the food groups), being very productive with homework (high five!), and then a midnight run to grocery store (because why not) with S and then we watched Mulan (because S has never seen it, can you believe that?  I can't she was deprived as a child - yet she can name every character in a film that involves sports) till 230 am.
Sunday plans to be another busy day! I will edit this post tomorrow night to include the day's events.  I also know that I need to keep posting more about Jordan, and I plan to do that tomorrow but it is just really late and I have to be up early!
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Before I talk about Sunday, I just wanted to share some more photos:
So, I was going to make dessert to bring with me to the team dinner Sunday night at our Coach's house but as I was going through all the box mixes my mom had given me when she cleaned out our pantry as well as storage room (since we are moving sometime in the future and she is not going to use them) I started to notice that the boxes expired in 2010 or 2008.  A little concerned I looked up how long box mixes stay good after their expiration date - turns out for most cake mixes, its only 6-7 months before they tend to start developing mold spores.  So we proceeded to sadly throw the mixes out and recycle the boxes - sorry mom but after we discovered that I could not in good mind make it and give it to people to eat.  So I was then left with this box to make peach cobbler and it had a recipe that would turn the box mix into peach cobbler cake. Sounded delicious.  But I could not find a expiration date.  So I went online and proceeded to look for a way to tell if the box mix was bad - to be honest the peaches in the preserved package looked disgusting but I thought maybe there was cinnamon or something that turned the stuff brown - you never know.  I go to the website and it turns out if the box was manufactured before 2010 it has a serial code - which mine did and they allowed you to enter the code and they would tell you when it was produced.  Keep in mind, right next to this box is another box explaining how long their products keep : 12-18 months.  I am already nervous because I know the box is manufactured before 2010 because it has a serial code but how old really was it? Turns out, it was produced in 2005.  I would have needed to be in 7th grade in order to eat this.  Therefore the peaches were definitely not good - they were definitely sploosh (like from the movie Holes).  I am glad I decided to look up the expiration date information because that was just wrong.  So again we rightfully discarded the package and I was left with nothing to make for the dinner tonight. However, we all did get a good laugh out of it.
 So after all that fiasco calmed down, I remembered that S had never watched Mulan.  (I mean really...I can't believe it) so we decided to watch it as I mentioned earlier and in the scene where she is trying to prove that she is a man (early in the movie) and tries to "hock a loogie."  It reminded S of how I always seem to be drooling (which is only because I am always thinking of food haha) but it reminded me of my little sister who we all fondly refer to as the "droolmaster." - inside joke but it still got me rolling on the floor laughing!

Photos from Sunday:
After I attended church in the morning, I enjoyed the beautiful weather (that seems to be so rare these days in the city despite it being Spring and almost May!) and met SC for a walk along Central Park West - so beautiful! Again, I need to remember to take pictures but sometimes you are just so in the moment.  Well After doing work for a few hours (and of course taking a nap!), S and I met with some of our teammates and our coaches to head over to our head coach's house outside of the city.  The drive was long and I got a bit car sick so could not do work but it was nice to get out of the city! And, the food was delicious. Well here is S being silly with one of our teammates.  Of course S and I being the cool people we are, wore only running shorts and long sleeve work out t's, while everyone else looked a bit more suitable. oh well!

Some of our other teammates -- I creepily took photos! its ok... they were too focused on the coaches taking photos of us! As I said, we had some delicious food and there was food everywhere! I've got to get my butt into shape eventually but with finals beginning next week - I have a feeling I will be succumbing to my weaknesses:

plus cans of vanilla frosting! they are all so addicting! And always satisfy my sweet tooth.  My little sister also introduced me to the starbucks birthday cake pop - the most delicious thing I have ever tried and I promise that I will find the recipe and try it out some time (and obviously blog about it!).

Before I end this super long post, I want to show off coach's cute two dogs -- it is always fun to play with dogs when you miss yours so much! I can't wait to get down to Texas just so I can snuggle with my Zeus (Zeus man!)  Oh I miss him! 
And here is my main man:


Zeus how I miss you!!!

Thanks for reading. As always, I am praying for my Aunt and Uncle Eddie's kids.

With joy,

A
        

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Uncle, Eddie Ackerman

Hello,

Today was my uncle's memorial service at St. Malachy's Church, in the heart of the theater district.  The service was a celebration of his life.  So many people came out to support my aunt and my uncle's kids and to pay their respects. 
 
  
Last year, my uncle was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.  It was difficult to watch as he became sick, went through chemo and surgery and then to think he was getting better just to watch the end come so quickly in the last few weeks.  I always knew that if I ever needed him, he would be there for me.  The same was true for many people who knew him.  He would drop everything he was doing at a moment's notice to come and help.  He was my big, strong protector and handy man.  I loved him and I can't even imagine what my aunt or his kids are going through.  It is such a comfort to me that he is at peace and being reunited with his past loved ones and no longer in pain. 


The church was beautiful; it was Roman Catholic and one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in, and also the stage hand union was present.
S came to support me and pay her respects.  I am so happy that she did because I must say I teared up more than once and it was good to know that she was there.  
 
Many different casts from Broadway shows came to pay their respects; the Inspirational Voices, the woman who plays Rafikki in Lion King, the cast of Mary Poppins, and the cast of Sister Act all performed songs in honor my uncle Eddie.  My aunt also performed a solo and it was the most beautiful and affectionate piece I ever heard - it truly came from her heart.  

The service ended with a communal sing-along of Lean on Me and it was so hard to sing while holding back tears, but it was so moving to see all the stage hands that came to show their support for Uncle Eddie as well as hear the church filled with such beautiful music.  

I will be praying for my aunt and the Ackerman children. 

A


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jordan Continued (1st Week)

Hallo.  So I thought I would really delve into my trip to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. As I mentioned, I lived for two months in Irbid, Jordan - only 10 miles from the Syrian border but also only a hour from Amman (the capital).  Irbid is considered to be the second largest city in Jordan, following Amman, but it is really only because of the University and that certain villages/tribes have moved in closer to have their children attend (at least during the Summer when they are not farming/working).  I would not consider it a city in a western context, just more people.  I was with a group with students from several different schools and we all lived in a complex within the walls of the university - by the south gate.  Within the University, people could speak English to an extent, but we tried to speak Arabic 100% of the time within SN's and my room - not really the case :) 
There were two separate entrances - one for men (in the back) and one for women (in the front).  Men could not (or should not and I believe we all followed the rule) enter the women's door and vice versa. Most of the time, you would find people would gather out front/to the side and bring down food for dinner and what not and talk.  Everyone in the group, for the most part was super chill, but SN and I did end up kind of sticking together for most of the trip, though we made some friends as well.  What was crazy was the number of roaming cats - sadly, I am not a cat person.  I would never wish them harm, but they are eery and I must have read too much into Ancient Egyptian history and stories but I kind of agree with them where cats can see into your soul and/or see dead people.  Basically, they freak me out.  But seriously everywhere - no picture - but it is kind of sad because some cats are so small/thin, and others have been injured but cats are almost revered where you can't kill a cat (I never knew if it was an actual law or just a social one) but cats are very popular throughout the Middle East, while sadly dogs are almost hated (well in Jordan).  Calling someone a dog in arabic (kalib) is basically the worst insult you can use (and sadly I had to use it quite a bit at shabab that liked to follow or harass us).  But literally these cats were pretty bold, there was one with only one eye and it would somehow find a way into our building (though we kept a sign up to remind all the girls to shut the door when entering and leaving) and would scare the heck out of me but would be begging for food - funny enough it was one of the fatter ones.  

I just went through my photos and realized I only started to show you my first week of photos! So I think I can give you a much better explanation of what was going on and what we did the first week before I continue on to the second week - probably be my next post.  
This is the main road outside our living quarters with in the university.  The summer months are some of the busiest for the university.  But there are two main roads and they basically make a t, one road going north and south the other going east and west with gates at each end.  Also, couple of things to notice: palm trees (not really seen outside of the university because they cost a lot to keep but they also spruce the school up and make it appear nicer/more pleasant to international students another place you see palm trees are at Aqaba in the South.  Jordan is very dry and especially in the summer has little water so Palm trees are not necesarily, in my opinion, a great use of that resource...) and that the boys are wearing more western clothing (though in Jordan, you don't see them in shorts - the boys were advised against wearing shorts as well).  Over the last few years, just like in Egypt, Jordan has become more and more religiously conservative and women are fully covered even in the heat of the summer.  They wear a head scarf, and over their clothes, always wear a trench coat that, at least to me, appeared to always be on and closed, and some even wore gloves.  Basically, you only saw their face - even their hair was completely covered by the head scarf (hijab) which is different from what I saw on the other side of the peninsula in Abu Dhabi.  Even mannequins in storefronts had hijabs on.  It is a sign of how things are changing (reverting backwards as some would say), and I was in the north - the south is considered much more conservative with a great Saudi influence (and Saudi tourist population), so basically you would see more women in burkas - where you can only see their eyes.  I don't have many photos of women, because it is inappropriate to take pictures of Muslim women - you need to ask their permission (usually they say no and move), so any pictures of women that I have are just accidents with them in the background.  I will talk more about women later because I don't think this is the right place to talk about the women I met/encountered/saw in Jordan.       
 This is the south gate right by the apartments we stayed in. 
 These were our beds -- it was so hot there we kept the shades drawn but our fan did not work (no air conditioning) so I had to go buy a fan, and we slept on top of our sheets and would freeze towels to keep us cool.  Basically we had heat stroke every day we were there, for the most part, slightly delirious and never got a good nights sleep because we would have to wake up and change our towels to keep us cool.  Also, because the heat made us so tired it was only at night that we could do work because it had cooled down and if we were up for it would go to the outdoor track by the "gym" to run around and work out.  I actually really enjoyed my runs out there though it was a bit repetitive and I do wish I had gone swimming when the girls could go swimming, that is - we had girls night at the pool twice a week I believe, but I am not much of a swimmer so I preferred running.   It probably could have cooled me off - better than the shower sometimes it was freezing cold but most time boiling (without the help of the water heater) because the water tank was on top our apartment building, so just got the sunlight all day, and there also was not good pressure.  Funny story, I once got so sick, probably from the heat and not able to really eat, and I was about to leave for Israel - Jerusalem - the staff was worried about me going but I refused to go to the doctors/hospital in Jordan (reasons I will explain another time) so they said to me, "at least if you die in Jerusalem, you will be buried there!" However, in the end I survived, I guess that since I grew up in air conditioning, I really can't live without it - I mean it is very expensive to have air conditioning in Jordan and most live without it.  No cab has it, neither do the "buses" - white vans not the same as buses as we think - and not safe for women (especially myself- girls in the group) though we did see some women ride in them though I would say more took cabs after their classes in the afternoon, and also most houses did not have air conditioning - it is a luxury, but being American I guess you forget that. 
 Where all my classes were - 4 minute walk from our building - two blocks - basically not far at all.
 Right when we arrived, graduations were going on - they lasted a week so there was much celebration in the street and it was my first time to hear guns being fired in the sheet, the first of many (again for another day!).
The mosque (mosjid) located within the campus, but there were others outside of campus, and the calls to prayer did not occur at the same time, unlike in Abu Dhabi, but rather went off one after another - you get used to it and it can also be really pretty - in the right context, not waking you up at 4 am in the morning. 
 I guess Irbid is more of a city, I mean this photo shows you that but there are not any high rises, just extends in every direction. 
 SN posing for me at the Irbid Museum!
 Mosaics/Frescos have been found at several sights in Jordan, and are considered some of the oldest.  This one was at the Irbid Museum, that we went to with the program on our day tour of Irbid. 
 From the bus tour around Irbid, to a part of town I think I only went one other time, and was like I don't need to ever do that again - we went to the vegetable market one other time (this picture was on a bus provided by the program to see Irbid and visit museums) and we could get the same vegetables across the street from the south gate and not have to deal with harassment or at least as much so I did not go back.  I know other people liked going exploring, but after the amount of attention I had gotten, its kind of like night in NYC, do I really want to leave my place to have to deal with that - sometimes its just not worth it. 
 One of a few soccer stadiums, I don't think I was allowed to enter - I never went but I don't want to misspeak but I am fairly certain that women are not allowed into the stadium, but it is ok I got to watch the Euro Cup and cheer on Deutschland at Tsche Tsche (a somewhat western restaurant that had ok free internet).  The internet was locked in our building until 3 or 4 pm so SN and I would go to Tsche Tsche and to also get air conditioning.  However, I got to proposed to (my first of a few...) by a waiter there so I kind of felt uncomfortable to return unless a guy was there with me.   
 A picture of King Abdullah II.  His image is pretty much everywhere. His presence is everywhere, though I heard some people disgruntled with him, not necessarily with the royal family but directly with him.  Otherwise, the royal family is pretty loved, at least that was my experience.  On my way to Jordan, I read Queen Noor's book and found it insightful, easy to read, and also very informational.  I mean it is obviously one side of a story.  But it was well written and it definitely gave me a better understanding of Jordan. 
 During the first week, (I think before classes even started) a bunch of the girls went out during the day for snack/lunch.  Since I am always hungry (or well not stuffed to complete capacity), I was down and we went into a cafe that looked nicer.  Something that is interesting about the Middle East, more so in Jordan and not really in the UAE, but as females we had to sit on the upper floors of the cafe so that way men could converse downstairs - honestly don't really know the real reason, I think it was for privacy reasons but it was one of those annoying sexist things.  But I will say, its nice to not look out the window and see men staring at us from the road (I would say sidewalk but in Irbid that does not exist - dirt and some establishments did have one but they made it and so it would change height at the next store/restaurant or disappear). 
 So these are some compounds with olive trees - have you ever had fresh olive oil - literally the best thing to taste.  I brought some back for family and friends and I basically drank a whole bottle!  That's what is great about the Mediterranean. 
 A beautiful mosque! One of many in the city.  My favorite is an all black marble one but we could never get near it, did not go to that side of town but I could see it since it was on top of a hill.  However, I looked it up and it is an extremely conservative mosque (women could not enter).
 One of the remaining churches in all of Jordan, but there is still a christian town - Madaba, which we visit a few weeks later.  It surrounded with barbed wire and surveillance.  I thought it was interesting.
 The taxi driver took us up on this hill and we could see the coliseum... its kind of weird to see because its surrounded by homes and just kind of alien compared to its surroundings. 
 Our cab dropped us off, and little did we know we were by a really famous and old mosque (mosjid).  It is where the large protest occurs after morning prayer on al-juma, and I accidently got caught in it one time but the police helped me get away.  It is not safe for women, let alone western women, to be near on Friday mornings. It is also an area, that I would suggest for women not to be alone, because you have to walk through small alleys and its an area with more conservative (and poorer) group of people.  My best recommendation, though you should always have a man with you, but if you can't, at least have a group of women around you.  No matter what, you are going to draw unwanted attention but its better to be with men and in numbers than be alone.  However, I will say I did wander sometimes on my own, but it's because I can get testy when surrounded by people all the time, but I always dressed conservatively and I am 6 feet tall so I did tower over most people and I kept my face extremely serious and eyes downcast and moved fast.  No one messed with me though, I knew people were staring.  On rainbow street, where its more cosmopolitan, its ok if you are by yourself, but you just need to always be very conscious of what is going on around you as well as who. 
 Just after we arrived by our hostel, for that first weekend, and SN was thirsty.  As I said, one of the best things about the Middle East is the importance of fresh fruit juices.  They really are delicious, and I wish I had gotten more! I miss them - but at least NOHO cafe, near the gym is owned by Egyptians and they make fresh juices, at a cost!  But great place so if around NYU should go.  I also enjoy their bagels (especially in the morning when they make egg, cheese on a bagel!)
 Arabic graffiti - on Rainbow street - on the cement blocks in front of the British consul.  The Saudi consulate has soldiers in a vehicle outside of the building with a large machine gun - not quite a tank but very close - its always a sight to see. 
Another image of Books @ Cafe - its a funky place -- alot of the images/furniture kind of reminds me of the 60s.
Souq Jara, which is on al-juma (friday) and is located at the end of Rainbow street, is a tourist trap - and is not at all what I thought a souq would look like.  But has some good food (potato on a stick fried and with spices, kind of delicious) and some trinkets but pretty overpriced and some of the stuff is not necessarily made in Jordan.  There is one stand, where goods made by Bedouin women are sold through this organization - Queen Noor also had focused some efforts on this cause: In the 80s and 90s, men were leaving their women and families behind to find work in the cities, i.e. Amman, and elsewhere, and were leaving the women with nothing and no connections.  Queen Noor and some other organizations sought to find a way to help these women, but remaining to their Jordanian/Bedouin roots.  They learned to make rugs and create/stitch traditional dresses.  With the money that came in, they were able to go to a doctor and buy better food for themselves, their kids and for other women.  The stand that is at the souq, sells jewelry made by some of these women.  It is a worthy cause and I think is a cool use of micro-loans and how those work.    
 I saw this beautiful house just by Rainbow street, and while it is nothing compared to some houses in the US it was still very beautiful, especially with the flowers - it stuck out to me.  When walking around that area, you will definitely see most houses enclosed with a wall/gates and sometimes security.  Some will even have a sign explaining who owns the house, and a lot of the times, it is someone related to the royal family - kind of cool. 
Back in Irbid, I found Japanese item at the grocery store -- I thought it was super funny! But I learned that actually people in the Middle East (especially women) are obsessed with Asia/Asian culture.  They love to learn Korean, eat sushi (in the nice hotels, and not cheap, but I would also warn against it because when I went to look for where fish comes from, I found out its coming from Vietnam, so not something I would recommend, especially because there is such better food you can get there), watch Korean films. 
I was so excited to find avocados at this "supermarket" -- grocery store but when I saw they were 5.50 Dinars I almost threw up because that is almost $15.00 <-- no thank you! They were also coming from Mexico and I was like I get those back in the states guac is going to have to wait!

Ok so that is a lot.  And that was only the first week! Tomorrow I will work on the second and if I have room/time maybe try to also include the third week.  Hope you enjoyed the photos and my notes. 

On another note, this morning, S thought it would be great if we woke up and danced to Celine Dion - gosh she is an oldie but goodie ;) but seriously her music was what the room needed this morning.  I was able to finish all the homework I needed to do before class while singing full volume - take that opera singer down the hall!

Songs I am listening to right now: Far From Home by Basshunter;
But what I can't get out of my head: Blue Jeans by Lana Del Ray

Before I go, my mom is currently in Rome - at the Vatican for a conference event.  She has sent me a few photos, but I begged her for a photo of the Swiss Vatican Guard.  Don't you just love them:
With joy,

A