Discovering Tyre

It’s true that I have been traveling every weekend in Lebanon to somewhere new. But, it wasn’t until this week that it occurred to me that I MUST keep doing this EVERY weekend in order to properly see as much of Lebanon as I can with my budget and time here. So, on Friday I managed to organize a group outing with my classmates to Baakline for next weekend, and yesterday I decided to go to Tyre (Sour). I was initially was gonna go alone, but then I decided to invite one of my classmates along since I know he is also new to Lebanon. Yes, I am aggressively planning each weekend here so I don’t waste a weekend. Museums and others things in Beirut I can always do on the side on Sundays or during the week.

Tyre, (or Sour- the name they use in Arabic, pronounced like “soor”, or like “Sur” in Spanish) is a small city in Southern Lebanon, just 40 minutes away from the Israeli border. It’s the birthplace of some mythological figures, such as Europa and Dido (Elissa), and the city is known for its ancient sites recognized by UNESCO. Most of the archaeological sites are from the Roman times. It’s been a trend I visit the cities with ports to the Mediterranean Sea, so once again, I swam in the sea!

It’s like I want to sprain my ankle again….

My classmate from Abu Dhabi

I felt like I was in Tomb Raider at some point, except I can’t climb…

After we left the first historical site, we were trying to walk by the beach to find something to eat, and vaguely looked at a map and kept in a direction that we knew would eventually get us there. What we didn’t realize is that we would end up crossing El-Buss Refugee Camp, which we unknowingly entered and crossed to get to the sea. We eventually realized this because there was a lot of political statements on the walls, the area was quite residential, and we passed by a sign that said “UNRWA”, a relief program established by the United Nations that supports Palestinian refugees, (also present in Jordan, which is why I recognized the sign.)

Leaving the El-Buss Refugee Camp

Small sign on the door says this building was built in the 16th century, called Khan, but the second floor was damaged due to some Israeli aggression in 1982. We were able to go inside and check it out…

Inside the Khan building, we went up the uneven stairs, and walked down a hallway filled with small rooms. In one of the rooms, there was a black and white cat sitting in the corner. I think it was startled a bit. It stared intensely at my friend, yet he called me over to see the cat. I walked up to the opening of the room, and the cat hissed with a highly aggressive look, and sprinted away. It really thought we were going to be attacked!

flirting with ducks on walls

thought it was funny there’s luscious green plants and then there’s underwear right above it

The last thing we did was end the day with a nice swim in the Mediterranean. The water and sun were warm, and there was soft breeze, too. It had been a while since my feet touched soft sand, since the other beaches in Jordan or Lebanon I had been in were mostly rocks and pebbles by the shore. Overall, super happy with all the walking we did, since the small city was enough to discover in one day. There is apparently an even more beautiful beach further along the coast, not too far from where we swam, so now I know for next time.

Thanks for checking in, next week will be my trip to Baakline, Lebanon.
Peace from the Middle East!

Blue Skies and More Castles

My second weekend trip in Lebanon was to Saida, or Sidon. Saida is just 45 minutes south of Beirut, and the third largest city in Lebanon. It is also bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, and has similar sites to see, like those of Byblos, from the last week. We got to see the Sidon Sea Castle, the Old Souk, and the Sidon Soap Museum.

Sidon Sea Castle, built in the 13th century

Also with lots of stairs, but I was careful this time and took my time to climb down

view from the sea castle

Wonderful fish lunch, we chose the fish, and we got the price of 1 for 2 fish! yes! The lunch included 2 grilled fish, Fattoush salad (tomatoes, lemon, cucumbers, fried bread, balsamic, and olive oil), Mutabbal (eggplant, tahini sauce, garlic, lemon, olive oil), and french fries

The café was called “Milk Time”…okay.

This incredible building is a café, right in the Old Souk of Saida, owned by a humble old man. We walked inside to peek at the architecture of the building. The man reading the newspaper struck up conversation with us, asking us where were are from, etc. And again, when he found out we were new and I was from Colombia, he invited us to a refreshing lemon-mint juice. It was really cold, perfect for the hot day, and generously sweetened. The kind man didn’t let us pay, even though we insisted. We thanked him for his generosity and continued on our way…

As I drank my lemon-mint juice…

This Old Souk is really magical. We spent around 4 hours walking around the Souk. **Notice my ankle brace

The Old Souk was filled with local artisans, handmade household items, and fresh food everywhere. There were vendors hand-sewing bed comforters, making shoes in front of you, hand-making and putting together furniture, or people selling carefully made wooden toy boats. This city holds close to its traditions, and the Old Souk is a great example of this, as it is a necessity to the people who live around the area. It contains everything you would need in your home: furnishings, food, clothes, toys, etc. People also live in the souk, as you see from the pictures with windows above all the shops and clothes hanging to dry. We walked in the souk, just discovering, and finding hidden old cathedrals, Turkish baths, and even an old convent.

Another thing Saida is known for is soap. This is a picture from the Sidon Soap Museum, a collection of artifacts from old forms of soap-making, and development of this handcraft. The museum smelled really fresh, of course, and it was super cool. I know it sounds boring, but it was informative and interesting. Next time, I want to find the house where they still make the soap in. One of the producers are a family business, and are located not far from the museum. The guard at the museum told us it was most likely closed, so I think next time I visit, I’ll go searching for it.

Since I’ve been taking the design course, I pay close attention to all of the Arabic writing around me. The mosaic I spotted wasn’t calligraphy per say, but it looked really cool, and I felt the two guys were photogenic, especially the guy with the hat.

Well, that’s it for my weekend exploration in Saida, Lebanon. On to the next one…

Thanks for checking in!
Peace from the Middle East!

Beautiful Byblos (Jbeil) and One Sprained Ankle

My first weekend in Lebanon, I traveled to Byblos (Jbeil) with one of my roommates. Byblos is a Mediterranean city, (just under an hour away from Beirut), that people believe to have been occupied first between 8800 and 7000 BC (super super old.) You can find old castles, citadels, old villages that are beautiful and still retain a lot of their unique characteristics.

Unfortunately, when I was going down the stairs that day in the citadel, I sprained my ankle. I was still able to walk for the rest of the day, but limping and with pain. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything major, so within a week I was already healing. Now, I can walk again long distances without much problem. Just another few days and my foot should be 100% fine again.

Walking inside the Old Souk of Byblos, with beautiful trees and magenta flowers, lurking over the roofs

Byblos Castle, built in the 12th century

Mediterranean Sea, I see you!

Climbing this was kinda scary because behind it was a long way down…..

moments before my sprained ankle…

Mesmerized by so much green in Lebanon… (also realizing how short I am)

Sculpture garden in a small park in the Old Souk

so much greeeeeeen!!!!

So, as that day went on, my ankle kept getting progressively more swollen and sensitive. My roommate and I walked to a small souvenir shop, (because they are a weakness of mine) – I was looking for cool magnets. We went inside, and asked for prices. The man spoke to us in Arabic, asking where we were from, where we live in Lebanon, and so on.
[ I’ve realized in the Arab world, it’s much more interesting to say I am from Colombia, than to say I’m American. This way, they keep speaking to me in Arabic, instead of switching to English. Also, your heritage and where your parents are from is really important here, so it’s not like I’m lying. ]

When I told the man that I was Colombian, he got so excited, he brought us two chairs and invited us to Turkish coffee. Within 2 minutes, the hot coffee was brought out, and we were both overwhelmed with an enormous amount of energy from the small cup he had just served us. We timidly drank the coffee, as we made conversation with the man, half in French and half in Arabic. (My roommate is French.) At the end, I asked him where the beach was because my body was boiling from walking in the sun all day. He directed us, and we headed towards the beach.

When we reached, I was lured by the natural blue hues of the beach. That day was REALLY humid and we were both sweating. I was contemplating whether I should head back to Beirut, or stay and go for a swim (I had packed my bathing suit just incase). My roommate was tired and headed back to Beirut, and I, swollen ankle and all, went in for a swim. Because I didn’t want to hurt my ankle more, I just sat at the edge, where I was still getting splashed, but I didn’t have to put pressure on my swollen ankle afterwards to get out of the water. The water was neither hot nor cold, but refreshing enough where I was happy. I felt comfortable at this beach because there were a lot of families and females, not just men. I enjoyed the beach for around an hour and a half, and then I headed back to give myself enough time to limp back to find the buses back to Beirut.
My ankle was REALLY swollen at this point.

View from the ledge, as we walked from the souvenir shop. I was contemplating whether or not I should stay, since my roommate was leaving, and I didn’t really know how to get back. But the beach was calling my name….so I stayed.

I went to the hospital the night I came back from Byblos because it was hurting a lot. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t fractured. Everyone in my design course has been so helpful with my sprained ankle! One girl lend me a walking cane, so I didn’t have to put so much weight on the foot, and a special brace to keep the ankle from twisting again. My professor also offered to pick me up in the mornings, and my classmate to drop me off after class. But as I mentioned before, it’s been healing well, and now I can walk. So glad to have such nice people in my class, the brace and cane really helped! It really could’ve been worse, so I am thankful in so many ways!

…And I have another update coming, from my trip last weekend to Saida!
Thanks for checking in.
Peace from the Middle East!

Happy One Week in Lebanon to Me!

**WARNING, LOTS OF PICTURES**
Hello I have officially lived in Lebanon for one week.
What can I say about Beirut? It’s absolutely magnificent. It’s a little Miami, a little Colombia, a little Brooklyn, with a hint of East Village. There is a lot to see and to digest, after understanding what happened in the war, and how the city has come along in restoring its neighborhoods. There are many old buildings still standing, empty and abandoned, some are owned by people who want to preserve the buildings, and others are just being destroyed to make room for new ones. It’s an astonishing sight to see a building that looks renovated, next to an old one with plants coming out the windows. In an area like downtown Beirut, which was mostly destroyed by the war, has a fresh new look. However, the old buildings have a sense of character: window details, railings, colors, ceilings, etc. The “hipster” and more urban areas, like Gemmazye, have embraced the old look and turned all these buildings into art studios, creative spaces, restaurants or pubs. Gemmayze is one of the creative districts which houses lots of design galleries, independent movie screenings, and cultivates creativity. Mar Mikhael is similar, but fosters more nightlife with all of their pubs, along with their galleries and creative spaces as well. And of course, there are areas very commercialized and built up, but I pay attention to the more “urban” Beirut, because it appeals more to me.

Area: Raoucheh —-Famous Raouche rocks, these are always part of your basic Beirut postcard. They’re really beautiful, so I don’t blame them

Area: Downtown Beirut, near Beirut Souks

Area: Downtown—- Example #1: Old building not in use, next to the huge mall called Beirut Souks

Area: Gemmayze, street art

Area: Gemmayze, End of Hamra——Mohammad Al Amin Mosque in Beirut, seen walking towards Gemmayze

Example #2: Old building not in use, near Hamra

My Arabic typography class is hosted at the American University in Beirut, which is absolutely stunning [so many trees, clean areas, and lots of cats.] They are planning to make it into a smoke-free campus next year, which I find so interesting and a great initiative. Although, I am sure people will find a way to keep smoking regardless. But anyways, my class was easy to find on the first day. There are only 6 students in the class, including myself, which means there will be a lot of attention for the students from the teachers. I am the only American, and there is only one other student from outside of Lebanon, and he’s from UAE. Our first week we worked on handwriting old traditional Arabic scripts, that date back to when the first Qur’an was written. This script is called Kufic, and it takes a lot of patience, and is really difficult. There is a visiting Iranian calligrapher visiting hosting a week long workshop on how to write the letters, read them, and connect them in their letter forms in the Kufic Arabic script. The class is 6 hours long, with an added 2 hours break for lunch. So far, I’ve learned a lot and everything has been excellent.

There was an event at AUB campus that was alien themed, and they saved the props. Now there is an alien on campus. She was friendly because she let me hold her hand.

 

My attempts at the Kufic scripts. We don’t use a regular pen, it’s done with a bamboo calligraphy pen and ink. It’s difficult, involving changing the angle of your wrist as you write, the amount of ink you use, and being patient with each letter. We are learning all the letters of the Arabic alphabet, and we add on more information everyday (combinations of letters, attaching letters, etc.) We spend 6 hours daily doing this–and this is just the “easy” workshop for the first week. By the end of the course, we will have had to design our own typeface based on this traditional script, which is why we are learning the nuances of this beautiful calligraphy

Vahid Jazayeri, Iranian calligrapher who has researched and studied ancient Arabic scripts, dating back to the text found in old versions of the Qur’an. His research includes understanding the exact science of how to write each letter, the heights, relationships to the other letters, etc. He is a true expert. We are with him for a week understanding and gaining a foundation of the traditional Kufic Arabic script

cats everywhere at AUB, even inside the classrooms they will crawl on the tables and sit on everything

Café Em Nazih, really cute and huge cafe, with lots of trees and hipster vibes

Area: Gemmayze –pubs, restaurants…

These next set of pictures are specifically from the 4 hours I was out, on a hot summer day in Beirut lost for 3 hours. I did not put on sun screen (even though I brought a huge bottle with me), I did not bring enough money to even take a taxi back home, and I did not bring enough water. It’s always fun exploring by myself, but this day I was fried by the end of adventure.

Getting Lost #1: found some street art along the way…

Getting Lost #2: more art!

Getting Lost #3: cool logo and colors

Getting Lost #4: trees, oh my!

Getting Lost #6: I remember watching “Ed, Edd n Eddy” these cartoons as a kid

Getting Lost #7: Spotted these benches, as I walked around Beirut lost for about 3 hours. This is the area by sea called the corniche– I found these benches decorated with different colors

Getting Lost #8: Not sure if you can tell how red my face was, after getting lost, I found my final destination– Raouche rocks! In retrospect, it was only 15 minute walk from my apartment…

On Saturday, my roommate asked me to go with her to explore Byblos, in the Jbeil district of Lebanon. Byblos is an area towards the North of Lebanon, with ancient ruins and a beautiful waterfront. I’m looking forward to take pictures, and making my 6-week stay in Lebanon worthwhile by seeing as much as I can.
Next week, the Arabic course might get more intensive, but I enjoy it, so it’s okay. During lunch breaks, I go back to my apartment and cook lunch. It saves me money, and a healthier option than eating out all the time. In August, I will have a longer commute, so I might try to pack lunch. I’m trying to save as much money as I can, so I can do little weekend trips and not worry about overspending.

Well, that’s it for me. Thanks for checking in!
Peace from the Middle East!

 

Initial Explorations and Thoughts On Beirut

Now I am off on my short-adventure to Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. Lebanon sits right at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, bordering Syria and small part of Israel. The climate is extremely humid here, because of the sea. So, it’s been a bit reminiscent of sticky summers in the USA. But, because there is so much moisture, trees are so vibrantly green. I walk down the streets touching the leaves on the trees because they look too green to be true. Jordan has dry heat and arid soil, which means there is vegetation, but it’s never vibrantly green, even during the spring.

Besides the over-priced taxi ride from the airport, Beirut has been wonderful. I arrived at my apartment, which is the heart of the city, in an area called Hamra. It’s one of the liveliest parts of the city–home to many restaurants, cafés, and shops. Beirut has many different areas, many which are booming in the arts; Mar Mikhael, Gemmayzeh, Achrafieh, and others too. It also has many historical parts of the city and outside the city, which will be worth seeing during my stay in Lebanon. Just by walking around, I’ve already seen some street art, eaten at local “hipster” restaurants, and walked by the ocean front. I think I will enjoy seeing more, especially since I haven’t really touched upon the artsy districts. This is only the beginning…

Apparently really good and cheap food, still need to try.

National Museum of Beirut

lovely alleys filled with cafés, bars, people, art…

I found color, with a little ice cream shop to the left

During morning walk to buy groceries for breakfast

Chilean street artist, found some of his work!

promoting riding bicycles in the city over cars, an attempt on reducing traffic

my famous self timer– as my camera hung on the rails of a fence, with the help of the friction of the strap, it kept still and took my photos

Tomorrow I want to go hiking next to Beirut’s famous rock Raouche, which my roommate said you can do. I’ll go in the day by myself, then another day venture to the same place hiking, but at night, with a companion from the university perhaps (or wherever else I make friends). My classes don’t start until Monday, so I still have one day to walk around, at my leisure. It’ll be fun, I’m excited. So far, only two bad things about Beirut: expensive city & too much traffic. This will be fun on a budget.

Thanks for catching up, wanted to make sure you were all caught up with my change of environment. All is well, I am happy, healthy, and working on a tan.

Peace from the Middle East!

 

Eid Celebrations!

The end of June marked the end of Ramadan, as well as the beginning of the Islamic calendar, known as Eid-Al-Fitr. This is a three day celebration, where everything closes, and people eat more than than they did during the whole month. While some people are thankful to get lunch back, and to be able to drink or eat in public, I think Ramadan was a special time. I think as long as you cook and change your eating hours a bit, you are able to eat with your friends during Iftaar, and it’s fun. Nights won’t be as lively outside of Ramadan, but now I will be looking forward to next Ramadan!

This 3 day holiday I took a trip to Aqaba, in the southern tip of Jordan, to tan and swim in the Red Sea. The weather was hot, and I spent it in good company.

Red Sea waters are far from red…such crystal clear water, with beautiful coral underneath

Just like Americans shoot fireworks for the independence day, during the end of Ramadan there are also fireworks. These were unique for many reasons. 1: They were right by the water, and there was two sets being shown off at the same time. 2. There were being set off as if they were about to finish, and this went on for 2 or more hours. 3. Longest fireworks of my life, the best way possible

I was interested in this way of making coffee: they fill a large pan with sand, and underneath is the burner (gas stove), they place the tin coffee maker within the sand, and the sands help the coffee warm up faster for the client. I hadn’t really seen that before, but I thought it was smart!

festive decorations for Eid!

I won’t be back in Jordan for a few months, so I made sure to see my friends one last time before I won’t see them for a while. We went out for Yemeni food and then to a café to play Mafia (some of my friends had to leave so not everyone’s in the picture).

new outdoor-cute-artsy places in Amman. Not many, but starting the trend is not such a bad thing 🙂

my friends might make a trip to Beirut, coincidentally I will be there too…so I hope to see them there 😀

 

Thanks for catching up with me! My next blog will be about my arrival in Lebanon.

Peace for the Middle in the East!

Chillin’ out, Maxin’, Relaxin’ All Cool

The sunshine is really not too bad here. Maybe because I can take cold showers and it feels refreshing, and maybe because I don’t spend too much time walking in the hot sun. Either way, the summer is not in it’s worst. But, I won’t be around for that so, lucky me. I’ve just been relaxing…and taking Arabic classes.
**WARNING: LOTS OF PICTURES AHEAD**

Nice little ramadan decorations, in this hipster-ish little Arabic learning center

Community place for lunches and breaks at the Arabic learning center

 

Last week, I went hiking to Iraq Al-Amir, and even though it was hot, it’s always nice discovering a new place, especially when everyone is inside avoiding the sun and fasting. Meanwhile, my friend and I would drink water behind trees, and try to avoid public eye when doing this, so no one would feel bad. It was nice to get away, and see some green trees. The only bad thing is we went on a Friday, and there were little to no people, which meant getting back to the city was a bit time consuming, and almost uncertain. I always think to myself…
Will I end up living here forever?
Probably not, so we’ll find a taxi.
And we did.

Iraq Al-Amir- Qasr Al Abd (castle name)

 

With some friends downtown for juice and people watching

These are from a mulberry tree around the neighborhood. People kept telling me these are blackberries. But I looked it up, and it’s not! They’re mulberries, called Toot in Arabic! I like the fact that Jordan has random fruit trees planted all around the neighborhoods, so you’ll be walking and stumble upon lemon trees, or tomato plants, mulberry trees, fig trees, etc. It’s a bit magical, if you ask me…And it’s fair game if the trees is over-growing onto the sidewalk. With this tree in particular, I’ve seen a bunch of people come with bags picking berries. They grow in bunches and they keep coming…

Kids having fun with their fiery globe

Yay for hijabi barbie on cereal!

taxi driver with pictures of Sponge Bob and Squidward next to him

Recently, it seems I’ve been going a lot to this place called Escape the Room, it’s popular in the U.S and they brought it over to the Middle East, and it has gained popularity here. The point is they lock you in a room, with only one hour to escape. They give you puzzles and clues to escape to the next challenge, and you have to solve it all within one hour, with the help of your teammates. It’s really addicting, and much cheaper here than the USA, so I’ve done like 4 already. Because its Ramadan, they open late and this one we did was SAW themed, like the gory movies, and it started at 11:30pm. It was insane and terrifying, but we enjoyed it and we escaped!

 

 

After our escape, we ran to get smoothies. The streets were filled with people, as if it wasn’t 1am….

smoooothiessss

So, Ramadan is halfway done, went by pretty quickly. But I am definitely learning so much more about it, now that I am in a predominantly Muslim country during this month. It’s always different hearing about it, than actually learning from experience. Just a few days until I fly to Beirut, still homeless, but life is good. I’ll figure it and it’ll work out.
Thanks for checking in, as always!

Peace from the Middle East!

Ramadan Kareem رمضان كريم

Hello! We have now entered into the month of Ramadan. At first, I wasn’t sure what Jordan would be like during this time, since most of the country honors this Muslim holiday and shuts down during sunlight hours. This is my first Ramadan in the Middle East, so I decided to see what it’s like…

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims where people fast from sunrise to sundown (like 3:30am to 7:40pm). This means, there is no eating or drinking water or any liquids during sunlight hours. The purpose of the fasting is a month of self-reflection and changing perspective of your daily life, putting yourself in the shoes of those who don’t have food to eat everyday. During Ramadan, it is also customary to donate money to the poor and to give back to others.

How does one prepare for fasting? You wake up around 3:00am, to start preparing your food that will hold you up for the rest of the day. This can be lots of water and juice, soup, maybe cereal, fruits, etc. Then, you stop eating before 3:48am, Fajr prayer call, which you then stop eating and go back to sleep. This meal is called Suhoor.
Then, during Ramadan, work hours are cut, so you go into work around 9am until around 3pm. Some people tend to go home and sleep until 5pm or 6pm, when they should start preparing food for the breaking of their fast. This meal is called Iftaar.

How does one get ready to eat? Iftaar is a kind of magical time. You can literally start smelling food around 6pm, walking around the neighborhood and catching a whiff from the open windows, as people are cooking delicious, heavy, and extravagant feasts for their families and relatives. Iftaar is usually eaten around 7:40pm, right at the Magrib prayer. Around 7:00pm, all tables start getting prepared with plates, cups, and utensils. As the time gets closer, people will start getting everything ready, so at 7:40pm all they have to do is dig in. A variety of dishes are cooked, usually including salads, a main dish with rice and meat, and traditional sweets only made during this month. It is customary to break your fast with dates consumed in odd numbers only, as this comes from the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him) customary habits and consumed foods. It’s said to be better for your body to eat natural fruit sugars first, and then a bunch of heavy food.

So, this means that Ramadan has very chill daytime hours. The streets are not as congested, people move slower, not many shops open, if at all. But, at night, it is the ultimate nightlife! Cafe’s open at 7:00pm or later, and stay open until 3:00am or so, since in this time frame people can eat as they wish. During the day, for people who don’t fast, supermarkets are still open, some restaurants are, but they have to cover up their windows to any visibility of eating in public. They usually have a small “OPEN” sign, and it almost seems like a U.S speak easy or something underground or illegal. It’s a bit fun, I admit, to find those few places open, and enjoy a meal like in a hidden oasis. If you’re in a taxi when the Iftaar meal is supposed to happen, there will be people in the streets handing out dates, cookies, water to the taxi drivers and customers who haven’t made it home to their families. This is so nice, I think, and considerate, especially when you’re finishing work and all you want to do is give the last customer a ride. The people handing out dates and water are normal Jordanians just doing a good deed.

…but they’re still open and inside taking orders

notice the paper they use to cover the windows

 

THERE IS NO EATING OR DRINKING IN PUBLIC. It’s just not nice, since most people around you haven’t eaten all day. And Iftaar’s are fun with friends, because you don’t only have to break fast with your family. It’s a fun time to be in Jordan.
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Also, I turned 24. Happy birthday to me! My friends had a little surprise for me, it was lovely and nice to have everyone over my new apartment! We had a nice Iftaar BBQ!

Ramadan finishes around the 24th of June. By this time, the whole country will go back to normal routine. Still have around 20 days to go, but I am glad I stayed in Jordan for this time. My university friends all observe the holiday as well, so I get to go hangout with them at night and enjoy Iftaar with them some days. Usually, if I schedule to meet with them for Iftaar, I fast for that day as well.

Everything else is well, and just relaxing for the time being. It feels nice to bring in my 24th year of life here in Jordan, thankful for all the opportunities that have come my way this year.

Thanks for checking in!
Peace from the Middle East!

Fulbright Almost Over…

Here we are, almost at the end of my journey with Fulbright. Time really flies. I am officially done with work, so no more teaching. As of for the rest of May and June, I will be allocating more time for Arabic classes and tutoring and doing more day trips. Perhaps going to museums or places I have not had a chance to…just within and around Jordan. Maybe some side trips outside, but I am trying to save money for the summer. Many Fulbrighter’s are leaving before June ends, so goodbye’s will commence soon.

The first set of pictures are from Umm Qais, and the ancient ruins of Gadara. These ruins are located in the North of Jordan, close to the city of Irbid, which I also was able to visit on the same day. Irbid is known for beautiful hiking spots, fresh air, and the Guinness World Record of a university street holding more than 150 internet café’s in less than one kilometer! It’s a bit funny sometimes how traveling to places like Irbid or Jerash, is cheaper than taking a taxi to some parts of Amman. Now that I have so much free time, I can definitely save money by traveling farther to different Jordanian cities, castles, and exploring more.

Umm Qais

Irbid, Jordan with Sea of Galilee in the background, the lowest freshwater lake in the world

AMAZING avocado smoothie, which sounds super healthy and gross, but actually, it is so delicious. On top, coconut, pistachios, cashews, almonds, strawberries, cream, and honey. yummmmmmm

Playing a fun game here called Jackaroo

At our favorite little café in Wast Al Balad, Jameeda Khanum

Farmer’s Market on a beautiful Saturday, with kale chips, soaps, accessories, watermelon juice, and even natural peanut butter.

I was notified 2 weeks ago that I was accepted into a graphic design 6-week course in Beirut, Lebanon. I am so excited and fortunate to have this opportunity, and will look forward to being in a new city for a few weeks, since many have said Beirut is absolutely fantastic. After that, I will be doing some traveling and returning to Jordan for my job hunt and commence of a second year abroad.

That’s all for now, thanks for checking in.

Peace from the Middle East!

The Force of the Unicorns

So, I’ve mentioned a bit about the English Language Olympics competition, but I will elaborate more on what happened during the three days. First, let me just say I had the pleasure of working with a great group of high school students (plus one in 8th grade). Although it was stressful at times, and difficult to manage everyone, they all held strong and finished all the work needed to be done by the deadline.
There were four components to the competition, all revolving around the theme “Education in 2025.” The last component was a Junior TOFL test.

Research Project : This was a 10 page paper on our topic: Lack of Creativity in the Jordanian Educational System. They learned how to find sources from books, websites,  and even inquiry from professionals like teachers within and out of our school. On top of this, they had to come up with a possible solution, that if chosen, could get proposed to the Ministry of Education in Jordan. Their proposal was an online curriculum that includes subjects like Art, Music, Biology, Physics, Geology, and History. Each tab has educational videos that are part of an integrated curriculum, promoting different types of learning. It caters to different learning methods, as well can be updated each year. This application is called Creativity House, available on Google App Store.

Community Service: They held  2 day bazaar (bake sale) at school during recess selling pastries, food, and also educational books. With that money, as well as our sponsor, we bought and donated 13 tablets to two organizations, with 5 educational applications downloaded like Duolingo, Qulzlet, English for Kids, Learnist, and Classical Words. One organization is an orphanage, and the other is a center that houses and takes care of cancer patients in Jordan.

Film: The film was a stop-motion comparing education now to the ideal education in the future, which included technology in the classroom, a change of setting, proper teacher to student interaction, and engaged students.

We met 3 to 4 times a week during their recess, and would work on some weekends as well, in a café. My job as a coach was to support, refine their ideas, and even work alongside the group, while my supervisor would work on the administrative stuff like booking buses, appointments with the centers, inquiring questions from the competition organizers, and other important parts of the projects. I made sure that in their presentation, they broke down all facets of the project, so the judges wouldn’t have many questions.

This competition helped them on writing skills, presentation, professionalism, organization, teamwork, and competitive mindset, to name a few benefits of this English Language Olympics. And, I keep reminding them that this will go on their resume, and that they need to write everything they did for this competition on it. This will help their university prospects, especially those seeking education outside of Jordan. ( When the time comes…they are only 16.)

right before their presentation…they were AWESOME!

At our table at the competition, waiting to present. To kill time, they would play a rap song in Arabic about the competition, and the chorus said “ELO, ELO…” so everyone sang along. They must have played it 20 times in those 3 days.

Gifted with a frame of appreciation from the cancer center

In front of the orphanage!

 

Demonstrating the applications on the tablets to some girls from the orphanage

This was their official team poster. When they were judged for Teamwork during the competition, they came into the judging room with this poster and talked about their process in making this, as well as how they worked together.

This was part of the Teamwork, they had to create a poster in 45 minutes. This was their work…with my help a bit.

Needless to say, this team worked great together, thankfully. There were some bumps in the road, but they always stuck together and stood up for each other no matter what. Such great team spirit, with a name like Unicorns of Equilibrium, because they bring balance to education in Jordan. It was fun being a coach, and really rewarding. I know they’ll go on to do great things, and hopefully they will compete next year and win first. Trust me, they have all the potential to win first.

There’s so much more, but I don’t want to make this post longer. So, that’s all for now.

Peace from the Middle East!