Thursday, April 25, 2013

Look Back On The Last Year, Pt. 1

Firstly, just got back from Institute to watch one of my favorite shows - PSYCH on USA. As always, S and I got talking and even though the tv was on to the show, we still missed the beginning.  Total fail!  
Literally, the best show ever! If you haven't watched it... you should! It is on netflix for instant que.  I once got to meet Gus - it was one of the coolest days ever and he even talked to my best friend T on the phone because she goes to school in Chicago and could not be there.  Pic below - you can't see his totally creepy thin mustache...

To go along with that, I am pretty much obsessed with deduction crime shows, i.e. Sherlock and Elementary.  I can't believe its been over a year since the BBC show Sherlock aired.  While the episodes are super long (90 minutes), they literally blow your mind.  I convinced my mom to watch the show and we ended up watching the first season all in one night, forgoing dinner, and then the second season the next evening.  Both seasons are also available on Netflix instant que.  Again, check it out!

But to get to what I wanted to really talk about.  One year ago, I had just told the coaches that I was going to take a "break" from basketball indefinitely - in fewer words, I quit.  I finally was in control of most of my life, for the first time, and it was awesome doing yoga daily, and running on the West Side Highway regularly - so beautiful, if ever in NYC you should check it out, at anytime of day, it really is awesome! I was doing a lot of thinking - I can't meditate sitting in one spot, have to be moving, so running was my way of meditating.  I started pursuing different faiths and trying to understand myself better <-- cliche much* but true!  Honestly, I never had the time - or had not made the time for faith - but since then, I have been working on that and I continue to build upon my faith every day.

Before I knew it, sophomore year was over and I was packing to leave for Jordan - as in the Middle East! Quick note, I studied Arabic for two years and my professor had recommended this program to continue studying Arabic but also be immersed in it and Jordanian Arabic is very close to Formal Arabic and would also expose me to the culture, so I jumped at the opportunity.  I am not sure how much detail I will initially go into the trip - might break it up.  My stay there was difficult and I have become such a different person because of it.  I would do it all over again but I would wish that maybe not be so naive or optimistic.  But what I want to do, is show some of the photos I took.  SN, a fellow NYU student that happened to be on the trip, and ended up being my roommate always called me the National Geographic photographer.

Here are photos from my first week in Jordan - Included the beginning of classes at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan (10 miles away from the Syrian border) and my first trip to Amman.
Doing homework during one of the blackouts with the light on my Jordanian phone.  Blackouts happened a few times, but for some reason I expected more.  It ended up being a very dry and hot summer and there was constant water shortage, though the university really made an effort for us to always have enough water for a quick shower, though pressure was not good and had to learn how to use a water heater. 
My first trip to Amman and this was my dinner.  It was well deserved after being completely ripped off by a taxi cab, but that turns out to be pretty consistent - either you agree on a fee before he drives or expect him take a long way or try to keep the meter running from previous client but mostly meter is never turned on, however this taxi driver offered to drive us to multiple sites on our way to the hostel but it still was nowhere near as much as he asked - 4 dinar.  But I tried a delicious kebab platter but the plate had so much food I only got through half of it before I offered others to try it!
 After dinner, the group went from the valley, where we were staying in a hostel, to visit Rainbow Street and it seemed much more international/cosmopolitan and there were bars and restaurants and many more international folk.  
 Friday morning a bunch of us thought it would be a great idea to get up and going - and also the air conditioning was not working so well in the hostel and it was going to be a hot day so we figured it would be a good idea to get going to beat the sun - until we discovered its al-juma (friday - sabbath in Islam) so nothing was going to open till late morning/early afternoon.  Did not stop us, we "window shopped" by walking by alot of the ruins - which are everywhere.  Jordan was a Roman city and has so many ruins and the government is working hard to preserve them. 
Since we were out and about before morning prayer, which has to happen before people get going for the day on al-juma, we were able to see bread being cooled outdoors and we stopped by the bakery.  Such delicious food, unluckily, SN is gluten free - not too many options in Jordan but she definitely met the challenge and I got to enjoy her delicious cooking - anyone say fresh spring rolls!

After realizing everything was closed, we figured we would go up to Rainbow Street to see if there was anything open.  Unfortunately, almost everything was closed except for one place.
We had heard about Books@Cafe and it decided to check it out.  After waiting an hour, our food finally came and we could not believe how much food there was and so delicious - but that could have been that we were also starving.  It is one of the biggest restaurants in all of Amman and if you are visiting Amman, check this place out its a good mix of Arabic and western.   
Finally, places were open and so we checked out the coliseum and took some a pictures.  SN was my muse and took a ton of pictures of her.  
Our guy friend, that acted slightly as our body guard/deterrent from the shabab (youth - boys), he somehow managed to climb basically to the top.  Honestly, I am terrified of heights so could not go very far and also the steps are super high.  Something you will notice among the trips/photos, there is no rope to keep you away from climbing all over the sights or exploring - you don't have to stay on the path designated unlike in the US - you go where you like. 

 Group photo of the gals!
From the Coliseum, took some photos of the surrounding and could see the Amman Citadel that we visited later in the day.  Amman is a valley surrounded by several hills and over the last few decades has exploded in population and it was not until recently that the government tried to establish a building code so buildings are not entirely safe and they are also literally on top of one another.
Needed air conditioning after the coliseum, so we took a cab to Taj Mall (get why its funny?) in the ritzy part of town and walked around.  There was a Starbucks and a very western food court, but weirdly, half of the mall was empty - no stores.  It is one of the issues with Jordan, some companies are unsure of the stability of Jordan as well as the possibility to earn a profit since the economy/population is not as relatively wealthy - there tends to be two extremes, either very wealthy and fairly liberal or poor and extremely conservative and these two groups do not tend to mix.  The wealthy tend to stay in the hotels, while the poor are more out on the streets.
The Citadel, which we got to later in the day.
SN happened to finally get a photo of me - do I really look like a national geographic photographer? I guess its a compliment.  My parents got me a new camera for my travels to document everything so I went a bit crazy with it. 
Best thing about the Middle East - hands down - Limonana - Lemonade, Mint, Ice and who knows what else - so delicious.  Perfect way to cool down after being outdoors in the heat and it is just naturally refreshing.  Got this at my favorite place to take refuge on Rainbow Street - Turtle Cafe (Turtle Green Bar Cafe? I don't remember it being called that but I looked it up online).  Again, check this out such a great place! Fresh juices are literally my favorite thing and juice stands are everywhere in the Middle East.  

So that was a collection of photos from my first week.  I figure that this post is now officially way too long and if you made it through it all! Congrats.  next post I will talk about some of the things that happened to me while over there and show more photos from Jordan.  

With joy,

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