Sometimes I Want to Eat the Sky

Another two weeks have flown on by, as I continue to design, workout, cook, and enjoy the warm sunshine during the autumn days in Jordan. I do love the fall because it is such a festive time. In September, I remember feeling excited because a new school year was starting  *** I was a nerd. Then, the leaves start changing, people start apple picking, and marks the beginning of the fall festivities. When people aren’t getting into the mindset of Halloween and re-watching Casper or Halloweentown, then it’s all about pumpkin patches, warm colors and giving thanks, and then Christmas hits like a bomb. It’s pretty magical because it’s an ongoing season of festivities, at least for some Americans.
I am guilty in always partaking in such festivities, because I am a festive person by nature.

It’s fun and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. But, Halloween was different this year. This was the first year I didn’t dress up or go anywhere. Having only Jordanian friends means they don’t usually celebrate Halloween. And, I didn’t feel like paying lots of money to go to venues that were hosting a Halloween event. This year, I carved a pumpkin, blasted Michael Jackson’s, “Thriller” and that Ghostbusters song, ate lots of chocolate, and watched a scary movie. It made me happy I was able to do at least a few
Halloween-ish type activities. (My costume was going to be Jason, but maybe I can save that for next year… wherever I am.)

food, cooking, healthy, breakfast, oats

Keeping my daily breakfast healthy….chia seeds soaked in milk, oats, honey, nuts, and dried fruit. YUM!

Halloween, pumpkin, carving

Starting the pumpkin carving operation…it had been while since I had carved a pumpkin, and it was my boyfriend’s first time doing so.

Halloween, pumpkin, carving, weird, couples

Being weird on Halloween

friends, coffee shops, mafia, smiles

At a lovely coffee shop called Zokak, playing mafia and drinking mocha coffee. Yesssssssss

On a lovely Friday morning, my boyfriend and I decided to go on a trip, since the day was beautiful and he also had his work car. We decided to go to Ajloun Castle, I place I had yet visited. As we were driving, we decided to take a longer route, to stop by a mountain side with a view, and to pick up his cousin so he could join the adventure. First, we stopped in Tal-Al-Rumman, a small quiet, suburb. We drove to a dead-end, and to my right was a postcard view! Wow, I must have spent 20 minutes taking self-timer pictures, running down some stairs, into what seemed like a painting.

pomegranate, views, postcard, traveling, sky, middle east

Driving North and stopped in an area called Tal-Al-Rumman, which means Pomegranate in Arabic. I need to come back and see this in the spring, when the trees and flowers are out!

jumping, middle east, jordan, irbidjumping, traveling, middle east, jordan, irbid, friends
Then, we reached Ajloun Castle, and walked the around aimlessly, taking pictures. Each room in the castle, had another room inside of it. And the mountainous area around the castle was full of green trees, and more postcard views.

jordan, tourism, ajloun, midde east, castles

Ajloun Castle

Inside Ajloun Castle…or time traveling?

The castle was hungry for sky

Blue sky oh so blue, and millenials taking a selfie *classic!

My scarf was crazy, but I liked it. Also, self-timer yay! One of these days my camera will fall off the ledge and I will be so sad…

View from Ajloun Castle

The most expensive coffee and tea I’ve paid for in Jordan, right outside a touristic site. He charged 3x what one is usually. I was searching for gold inside or for the coffee , or for the cup to transform into a human and belly dance…but nothing happened.

Last night, I took a spontaneous night trip to Irbid, just 70 km north of Amman. Irbid has the highest population density in the kingdom, and is just 25 minutes outside of Syria. You can call it a college town– since the area is home to at least two large universities. This means there are lots of local businesses that cater to university students like cupcake shops, cafe’s and gaming centers. It is much more conservative than Amman, as most of the foreigners usually live in Amman. When Peace Corps was still active in Jordan, they would serve in Irbid, because of its prominent population of refugees and lower-income population. Now, people continue to live their lives in the refugee camps, as their whole lives have been there, and some, as refugees from the Arab-Israeli war.
I do like this city, as it doesn’t feel as crowded as Amman, but particularly I love some of Irbid’s public spaces.
>>>>For example, Irbid has really large and cool roundabout sculptures. Each one unique, and some more colorful than others. Some of them reach at least 8 meters high (imagine four Vanessa’s stacked on top of each other vertically). Also, Irbid has beautiful public parks, that stretches out farther than a football field, which in Jordan, is huge for a park. Parks are not really well-designed or cared for here, which is ironic because so many families go on picnics on the weekends, and choose a small patch of grass on the side of the road to rest on. How doesn’t anyone see Jordanians need their parks?! Anyway…One park I visited, there was a great variety of children’s swings, slides, even a giant giraffe slide! There was a turf field, lots of benches, lots of garbage cans, and security officers. Even, there was a mixed range of people at the park, not just groups of young guys. This park made me really happy and I want to come again!!

Giraffe slide!

Just another lovely evening in Jordan, feeling the slight breeze of winter coming. The clouds were so beautiful…I love my balcony so much!

Being silly with my boyfriend’s little brother. He came over unexpectedly, I hadn’t really spent one on one time with him. He spent a few hours with me, speaking to me in Arabic, taking pictures of the sunset, eating popcorn, and bonding over our love for Japan.

sunset, middle east, jordan, travling, balcony, views, colors, ice cream

Rainbow Sherbert sky I would like to eat

I’m excited to start thinking of what to pack and what to do while in the states again. Just a few more weeks and I’ll be seeing my family again. Grateful to have stuck to my workout routine, that the days still have blue sunny skies, and my new-found respect and appreciation for icon design.

Thanks for reading the update! See you in 2 weeks!
Peace from the Middle East!

Daylight Savings Time and Sweater Weather

“Spring forward, fall back.” Jordan also changes time in the fall and spring. It means the seasons are relatively similar to the NYC metro area, maybe Jordan being a bit warmer with each season, but nonetheless, we experience the seasons like the U.S. There are things that Jordan does differently, but throughout the same timeline. Instead of apple picking, this season is perfect for olive picking (common in the Mediterranean countries) and they make olive oil or bottle up fresh olives from their farm or the nearest olive tree. (There are olive trees within the city, people go out to their front door and pick hundreds olives off the trees, first come first serve!) Some people try to get pumpkins (or pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks), and make seasonal sweets, soup, or some try to carve it and use it as decoration. Fall is a time for people to get their last trips to the Wadi Rum desert, Wadi Dana Reserve, Wadi Mujib, or the Dead Sea, before the winter hits and some of the eco-tourism closes for the season. This time of year is the best time to do outdoor activities because you don’t get so over heated, and snuggling up to blanket is so much more cozy than sweating. The desert is very cold at night, but it’s so much better to hike and explore the desert during the day in sweater weather, and not in the dry heat of the summer.

Some of the downfalls of this time of year is starts to rain a bit more, so drying your clothes outside becomes more of a nuisance. Walking or exercising outside is less of an option, unless you have the proper clothing. Your plants start to die! (This is soooooooooo sad, as a plant owner.) The weather can be a bit unpredictable. It rains one second, then the sun shines for a few hours, it becomes dark again, and the nights are usually cold.

Two weeks ago, I met a young Jordanian woman on a bus, on my way back from a job interview in Salt, a city close to Amman. Some might find it strange I make friends with people quite quickly in public spaces, but I tend to do this a lot. We spoke for a bit, I got her contact information before getting off, and I ended up visiting her home the same week. Her family had Mulukhiya for me, a traditional meal the includes large pan of meat over rice, with a side stew of Jew’s Mallow (looks like spinach), which is a bit bitter, but super delicious with the meal. After the meal, we drank tea, had some Oreo cookies and took turns riding her bike around her neighborhood, which was just outside the city, but only a cheap bus ride away. (It is cheaper for me to go outside Amman, than it is to travel within Amman.)

Kareoke with friends!

Exploring my new friend’s neighborhood on a bike!

Trying out new recipes. Pictured: Stuffed peppers with eggplant and onions, topped cheese and an egg on top, over tomato sauce and some parsley on top. It was delicious!

Relaxing on my apartment balcony, on a beautiful night, after a game of Mafia!

Enjoying the last few weeks of drying my clothes outside!

My boyfriend and I at a Halloween event at Weibdeh Heights hotel. It was a pumpkin carving competition with teams, candy, and prizes. I volunteered to help out with set up and judge the competition.

In the last few 2 weeks, I’ve been at my apartment, cooking new things, exploring new personal projects ideas in my head, but most importantly, working as a freelancer. The weekends I try to see some of my friends, so it’s nice to work hard during the week, and then have nice company to see on Thursday night, Friday, or Saturday. Hope to have more pictures for you next week.

Thanks for checking my update!
Peace from the Middle East!

Balance is Key

It has been a crazy packed 2 weeks, and also a difficult 2 weeks. To be honest, it sucks having to be job searching again, especially since I haven’t been without a job for such a long time. Don’t get me wrong, since I finished my Fulbright grant in June, I’ve been traveling and seeing family and friends, as I’ve been posting about, but all throughout still unemployed. And now that I am back in Jordan, I am adapting to having so much free time, while constantly looking for jobs.
What I have been doing is aiming to keep a balanced lifestyle, so I don’t feel extra bad when I don’t hear back from jobs. I workout every day, I try to cook as much as I can (avoid restaurants too much), and I also give myself a quota of how much time I spend a day searching for work.
Yesterday was the first time I had heard back from a freelance job, and I am so happy. It feels nice to get the ball rolling. Even though it’s been uncomfortable, having time to myself hasn’t been bad at all. Honestly, I feel like it gives me a clear head space to think, get some personal design ideas flowing in my head, and dust off some old ideas I have been sitting on for a long time.

One of the best part of these past 2 weeks is I’ve been busy with friends and going out almost everyday. Remember last year’s Amman Design Week? Well, it’s back this year, and it has been wonderful!

Just a few days after my arrival back to Jordan. My boyfriend cooked for us a Jordanian traditional dish called Magloobeh. It literally means, “flipped over,” and it contains eggplant, cauliflower, rice, and chicken (or meat of choice). SOOO GOOOD!

A public event called “Art in the Park,” held a few times a year, and that weekend was one of the last times held before autumn. It is a great way for young Jordanian artists to sell their artwork, eat good food, and listen to live music from 10am until 10pm. Long hours, but the night time was my favorite!

Lots of people at Amman Design Week!

Amman Design Week: same artwork as above, but at night it was lit up really beautifully

Amman Design Week: Eyen Design, vending machine that with just 5 Jordanian Dinars, gives you a beautiful publication made by a well known calligrapher of the region, Fahres Al-Khattat

Amman Design Week: logos, typography, Arabic, and so much color…I am in love!

Amman Design Week: Interactive installation by Anmahian Winton Architects, explores ideas of movement in Wadi Rum desert. We mostly just explored the movements in our chins…

Amman Design Week: Crafts District, showing off practicing artisans doing glass blowing, weaving, felting, mosaics, metal work, and more!

Local Jordanian artisan making these beautiful rugs by hand.

A friend who I met in the Arabic Type Design course in Lebanon (left), was in Jordan for work and had some time to visit design week.

Eating pavilion, and the white parts that you see are made of disposable plates.

Amman Design Week: Spanish guitar trio, every night there was live music played by different Jordanian musicians with instrumental music, both classical and contemporary

Amman Design Week: Sungate by Yanone and Reham Sharbaji

Well, I’m so happy design week happened, to keep me occupied! I’ve gone at least 4-5 times, and I might go one last time before it’s over.

I am excited for what’s to come, for more freelance jobs, and what blossoms out of my personal projects. Overall, feeling pretty good, even if it isn’t always the most comfortable. I am thankful to being sticking to my system of working out and cooking new things.

Thanks for checking in, see you in 2 weeks!
Peace from the Middle East!

The End of My Long Vacation…

The week after returning from Colombia, I had only a few more days to see my family and friends. Some friends were coming down from Boston to see me for the weekend, so I had their visit to look forward to upon my arrival from Colombia. Because my parents live so close to the city, I always take people to wander around NYC. With my friends who drove from Boston, we walked down the High Line, explored the Chelsea Market, and had dinner at Empanada Mama in Hell’s Kitchen. I love going back to Jersey and New York and visiting my favorite places to eat, because if they still are doing well, it means they have good business!

New York Salsa Congress with my friend Audrey and eating tacos and churros afterwards in Times Square

Smithsonian Hirshhorn museum with my friend from Jordan, working in the US through an exchange program as a summer lifeguard

At a Colombian restaurant with my family and friends from Jordan and Czech Republic, and my high school friend, Ursula

Fulbright colleague and friend, Nina, and my friend, Miranda, drove 5 hours from Boston to see me for a weekend….that’s love!!! Such hardworking and inspirational women, that I am happy to call my friends!

Stumbled into a festival in NYC, not sure what was the occasion, but it was a lot of food from around the world. This kiosk said Japan Festival…but there was also Jamaican food a few steps away.

My beautiful friend Ursula, who I always see when I go back home. She is one of a kind and an amazing UX designer/artist!

small get-together, to finally meet my mom’s friends, and to see my friends one last time before my trip

Now, I’m back in Jordan.
I’m happy to be back to smell the fresh Yasmin flowers on the streets…
I’m happy to be back and see my friends and my boyfriend…
I’m happy to be back and start cooking for myself again (since being home means I don’t do much cooking)
I’m happy to be back for Jordanian sweater and tea weather…
I’m happy to hear Arabic around me again!

I’m SO rusty in Arabic. I need to start hanging out with my friends again to practice Arabic. Also, my time in Jordan will be dedicated to pushing myself forward as a graphic designer and working as a freelancer, until my next trip to the U.S. This is an exciting time for me since it is out of my comfort zone to work in freelance and under my own schedule. It’s always good to keep myself trying new things, learning more about myself and finding out what works best for me. The best method for me I think will be to develop a routine in structuring my day.

Thanks for keeping updated! Let’s hope no more hurricanes creep up for the rest of hurricane season.

Peace from the Middle East!

Impromptu Trip to Colombia

The past week, I traveled to Colombia to visit my grandparents (both maternal and paternal). My parents had been telling me it was something I should do, and that they would buy my ticket. Mostly, I was hesitating because it meant taking time away from family and friends, with my remaining few weeks in the U.S. But nonetheless, I took the plunge, my dad bought my ticket, and I surprised both my grandparents– two living in Calarcá, Quindio and my grandma in Cartago, Valle Del Cauca.

My uncle picked me up from the airport, and we took a 40-minute bus ride to Armenia. From there, we arrived at grandpa’s doctor appointment, where I would go in and surprise him. I stayed with him for the rest of his appointments until lunch time, then back on a bus to Calarcá, where I would arrive in time for lunch to see my grandma, and some other family members. My other uncle (a local artisan), who was across the street working in his studio, was surprised when he saw me sitting at the dining room table, ready for a delicious Colombian meal.

I am a big fan of surprises and it made me really happy I could go and see everyone, without ANYONE suspecting a thing. The purpose of this short trip was mostly to spend time with my grandparents because they are experiencing different health issues– memory loss, recovering from cancer treatments, and other issues that require patience and attention. So, even if it was the whole evening spent with them watching the Pope arrive in Colombia on television, as long as I was around, that was enough. This actually happened. The Pope arrived in Colombia the day after I came. Everyone was glued to their TV’s. 

Plaza Bolívar in Armenia, Colombia – These murals are all around the city and throughout Calarcá and they are so beautiful!

View from my aunt’s apartment

My grandma is so cute. She never liked the idea of getting used to cell phones or fancy technology besides the television. So, when I asked her for a photo, she got super anxious and nervous. I stood near the mural, smiled for the camera, and she kept asking me what to do. She kept saying she only saw her face. She was not adjusting her eyes because of the reflection in my cell phone from the sun, so she couldn’t actually see me. It was not in selfie mode, it was simply the reflection. I kept trying to tell her to see the image of what she sees in front of her. She did manage to capture a few of me, but soon after, she gave up and handed my phone to a passing family that could take our photo.

Seen next to a Catholic church in Calarcá

Facing the same Catholic church in Calarcá

Lovely muralists really kicking up their game in the small town of Calarcá!

View from outside my grandma’s house

After my time in Calarcá was done, I wished my grandparents goodbye and took a bus to Cartago. Cartago is the small town where my dad was born and raised. My grandma lived in the U.S for over 20 years, and when I was 13, returned back to Colombia. Many of her brothers and sisters live in Cartago, so they keep her in good company. Even though my dad is an only child, he grew up with many aunts and uncles, which means my grandma grew up in a large family. NONE of them knew I was coming, except one of my grandma’s brothers, who picked me up from the bus station.

When I arrived at my grandma’s apartment in Cartago, her brother opened up for me, I snuck in and caught her watching the Pope on television, laying on her bed. I stood outside the doorway of her bedroom, she looked at me in confusion, let out a loud cry/yell, and got up immediately to give me a hug and cry of happiness. She was SOOOO surprised, and even more ecstatic to know that I would be staying for a few days.

She sat on the couch to lay on my lap and talk on the phone haha

Eating grilled Chunchurria (cow intestines). These are grilled and placed over an arepa, a corn-four based patty that can be eaten with butter and salt, and in company with any savory food in Colombia. The juice pictured is called Lulo, a tropical fruit found in northwestern South America. It is citrusy like an orange, and super delicious!

My grandma making Buñuelos, which she hasn’t made for ANYONE in 11 years since she moved to Colombia. She used to make them all the time for me in the U.S, which is why I asked if she still makes them. It is basically a fried dough ball made with cheese, and its flavor consists of what kind of cheese you use. Homemade is better always!

I can’t go anywhere without my cards!

Enjoying fried Mojarra (similar in size to Tilapia) with rice, fried plantains, chicken soup, and salad.

Taking a stroll in the park after a big lunch

tearsssssssss

Alas, my week in Colombia has come to a closing. Both grandparents very satisfied with my visit, but very sad I was only there for such a short amount of time. It was really sad for me to leave and see how my grandparents benefit from family’s company. If I could pause my life for a few years, I would love to stay with them and go back and forth between cities. I would stay to massage their feet, remind them to bring a jacket, go with them to doctor’s visits, and give them hand massages until they fall asleep for their afternoon nap. All of these actually happened.

I really love visiting Colombia. I love seeing all the green and such tropical plants and mountains. I love smelling the food and being in the environment that reminds me of all the memories I have of coming for two months with my mom and brother. My brother and I never had anyone our age to play with, but just walking around, enjoying yummy food, and seeing happy people was enough. Really, if anyone gets the chance to discover a country in South America, take a stop in Colombia. I can’t actually say I know many parts of the country since I always come to see family. I would love to see Peñon de Guatapé, landmark inselberg, or Caño Cristales, a river referred to as the “river of five colors” because of the minerals inside the waters. I do promise myself to discover so many beautiful sites, festivals, and natural wonders that are present in the diverse, tropical paradise that is Colombia. Such a magical place that will never leave my heart.

Thanks for keeping up-to-date!

Peace from Jersey!

Hooooooome!

Hi! I am finally back home, after one year of being away. It feels great to be back, even if only for a little bit. I actually didn’t tell my parents I was heading back, and the reason why didn’t mention on my blog about my specific travel plans as well. They thought I was going to Turkey and then back to Jordan. Which, honestly, was a believable lie since I could have actually done that. But, I love surprises and all the happiness that comes with it. So yeah, surprise!

I love the feeling of being reunited with people after so long, and keeping the friendship/family dynamics exactly the same. As my family works during the day, I spend it at home organizing and throwing out/donating old items I don’t want or need anymore. It’s insane the buildup of things I forget I have…old books, clothes, artist collectable toys, etc. It is fun to see my old self as an outsider. I used to put stickers on every agenda I’ve ever had in school. Each year I had different technique of decorating with the stickers. Either way, it’s beautiful to see this–my thinking, my development, and particularly what aspects of my old self still exist today.

I know my brother is really ugly, but I try to squint so it doesn’t hurt my eyes like it used to. ( JUST KIDDING I LOVE HIM, DESPITE HIS UGLINESS)

Surprising my dad for breakfast!

I’ve never really been one to use filters, but my brother thought it would be funny to try them. We spent an hour singing and recording ourselves in funny voices….I GET IT WHY PEOPLE DO THIS. My mom in the left corner

The bulk of my time while I’m in the U.S will be with my family, but I wanted to take a few days to drive down to see my college friends! So, last week I took my mom’s car and drove 5 hours down to Virginia to see my friends and it was wonderful. I spent time between Washington D.C, Richmond, and Manasses. I am fortunate to have made really great friends over the years, so without much planning of where I would crash, many offered to have me stay with them and generously pampered me with lots of love. I also made it a mission to eat at some delicious restaurants in Richmond, like Foo Dog, The Alamo BBQ, and Pho So 1.

My first stop in my drive down to Virginia was to visit a friend who lives in Jordan, but did a work-cultural exchange in the U.S for the summer. It was so surreal to be hanging out in Chinatown-Washington D.C, when we had met in the middle of the mountains playing mafia in Jordan just a year before. So much happiness that day!

One of my first friends at VCU, my friend Karina! We were attending her little cousin’s sleepover-birthday, not only because we helped decorate it, but we actually wanted to play with the glow sticks…

Eating at the Alamo BBQ restaurant in Richmond with my old roommate Katie.

Going back to Richmond, I visited my university to see all the new changes and buildings. It was so cool to see how they are trying to make student feel more comfortable and at home. Had to take a picture with this new VCU sign, right by the design building

Spontaneously attended the Washington D.C 2017 Bachata Congress. My friend Krizia, bottom, took a picture while I was dancing salsaaaaaaaa

At a boardgames bar in D.C, with a friend Andrew (right), who drove from North Carolina and Rebecca (left) from Richmond, to meet up in D.C for a fun night of Cards Against Humanity. YAYYYY, I won!

At the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. I thought I looked really good until I took this picture and saw I this wig is not the cutest.

At a free and popular spot in D.C for dancing called Bachata Brunch, where they play really good music and great dancers come to have a good time. Pictured sweaty because I was, and it was glorious.

Already halfway through my trip, and I feel like there is not much time. Funny enough, I haven’t made it to New York City since I’ve been back. Anyone who knows me knows I love the city, but I really am trying not to be ghost for my family. I’ll go later with friends and remember it with more saturation in my mind.

So appreciative that despite my absence, my friendships can remain as loving as always. I know not everyone has that so, for this and many other things I am thankful. Hope I can still keep seeing more friends I haven’t seen, but other than that, just need to overload on Colombian food and family loving.

Thanks for checking in and I will keep posting every 2 weeks, as always.
Peace from Jersey!

Leaving Lebanon

Last two weeks in Lebanon were a bit of a blur because it went by so quickly.
FIRST, I moved out of my shared bedroom apartment in Beirut, and tried out couchsurfing with a family 20 minutes away from the university. I found them through the couchsurfing family, read their reviews, and contacted them once I read over their profile. They seemed quite experienced in hosting and open minded in general, so I messaged them and arranged to stay with them after the month of July. While the commute was not 10 minute walk anymore, it was still straight forward and I had no problems in using the buses and transportation in Beirut. In total, it was an hour commute, but since I’m used in to commuting to work in the U.S, I had no problem with this daily switch.

For the Arabic Type Design course, the professors took the time to take us on an excursion to a convent in the mountains, housing Middle East’s first Arabic printing press founded in 1734. What is most interesting about it is the reason it’s in a convent is because the printing press for Arabic was mostly used by missionaries. The small museum inside the convent included the press, the individual letters, block letters used for titles, decorative tools, etc. It was really amazing to see.

Arabic Type Design class on the field trip

The first printing press in the Middle East

hand carved letters made for the Arabic press

Moveable Arabic type, you can see some of the separations in the letters. Really beautiful work, since Arabic does not function like Latin letters, this is well done in accommodating to Arabic script

The last two weeks of class were the most intense because they expected scans, type files, finished letters, and a presentation to showcase what we had accomplished in these 6 weeks. It was a lot, but I am so happy to have taken the time to travel to Lebanon and learn so much in such a small amount of time. I do expect myself to keep working on my letters and to expand all the features and funky characteristics I added. Take a sneak peak!

Couchsurfing means you make new friends

The last day and a half spent in Lebanon was absolutely wonderful. It had been planned for weeks. I found out as soon as I arrived in Lebanon that one of my favorite bands – Mashrou3 Leila – was going to playing in Ehden, 2 hours away from Beirut. As I spoke out my interest to one of my classmates, he told me he often sees them in concert and that he would be willing to drive and go with me to the concert. Of course, I agreed immediately to go and a few weeks later, we went. The ride was 2 hours, closer to 3 or 3.5 with traffic. And it went along with my plan of getting to know a new area of Lebanon. Since my flight was just a few hours after, I brought all my stuff with me, and headed to the airport after the concert. It was a great night with awesome energy, listening to the talented Mashrou3 Leila!

Ehden, Lebanon

Ehden, Lebanon

I contributed to the stage design by picking up plastic at a public event promoting recycling and cleaning up different areas in Lebanon. The clean up I attended took place in Raouche Rocks, and all the plastic bottles collected went straight to the set of Mashrou3 Leila, an Arab-indie band that has been rising to fame over the past few years. It was a great show!

my friend and I

I had a 14 hour layover in Doha. What did I do? I called some friends and chilled in Qatar for the day. My beautiful friend who granted my wish to visit the restaurant “Asiana” one more time to eat some delicious breaded cauliflower in spices with Roti bread and spring rolls….YUMMMMM

This picture was an area I didn’t really explore before. It’s called Qanat Quartier located in The Pearl

Once I arrived in Doha, Qatar for my 14 hour layover, I entered the country with no problem and got to see some friends. We hung out for the day, ate delicious food, I went back to my university where I studied abroad 3 years back, and explored new areas. It was an excellent use of my time and then went back for my flight to the U.S. My parents didn’t know I would be arriving, so I was really excited to surprise them. I hadn’t seen my family or friends in year, so it was about time. I’m really happy to be back.

I feel very satisfied right now, to be close to family and friends again. I feel fulfilled with my discovery of Lebanon and to continue another year in Jordan after my trip. Now, time to enjoy the U.S and the people that come along with it.

Thanks for keeping updated.
Peace from Jersey!

Fish Nibbling at my Feet

This weekend, I traveled to Baakline, one of the many mountainous areas of Lebanon. Finally made it away from the coast, into the middle of the country.

We got on the bus early in the morning, and not quite sure where we were supposed to get off. Finally, after my friends checked Google Maps, we realized we had passed the area we wanted to reach, and we hopped off the bus and took another one to the correct town. I honestly had no idea how I was getting to the river, since there weren’t many resources on hiking in Lebanon online. Many of the trails are reserved for paid guides that can take you on excursions, and I didn’t want to pay $40 for that, so I came with the intentions of exploring with my friends. I expected to follow a rough path of where the paid guides usually take guests. At last, seeing we couldn’t exactly find an entrance into the forest that was shown on google maps, (and also it was a giant valley), we decided to ask a man working at the grocery store where we can find the river. He was kind and drew us a map of how to get to the river. So, with his instructions, and some signs we saw along the way, we walked on a path that led us to the river. It was a road, not big enough for two cars, but isolated where we saw just mountains at one point and signs for the river kilometers away.

<<I’m truly amazed that Beirut’s transportation system is quite easy to handle, considering I can get to many places very easily, and for under $5. Even through the city of Beirut (without using a taxi) for less than $1, this is a system that Jordan has yet to establish. I feel like in Jordan, there are more buses available to lower income areas, university areas, or places populated by refugees. I believe it’s somewhat similar in the USA, where the buses accommodate to places where people need cheap transportation. Areas made up of mostly expats in Jordan are usually higher income, which means no buses because they assume people have cars. This is why I take a taxi everywhere or walk in Jordan.>>

They did not change a single thing about Dexter from Dexter’s laboratory….I guess Cartoon network hasn’t found out haha

When we were about 2 kilometers away from the Baakline River, there was a giant truck slowly driving by on the road, approaching us. It sounded as if it was a manual truck, driving on the wrong gear. The truck driver saw us, stopped, and asked us if we needed a ride. We were tired at that point, and took a leap of trust when we all squeezed into passenger seat. It was extremely dusty, as if he hadn’t had a passenger in ages, but he was nice enough to drive us down in the same direction he was going in, without a problem or complaint. When he dropped us, we thanked him, and went down to the river.

Because the river was clean, and natural, there was plenty of fish swimming inside. If you stood still, you could feel them nibbling you a bit, and then scurrying away. It was pretty amazing, and also extremely cold and refreshing water

feeling like an Herbal Essences commercial


Only two more weeks in Lebanon, and then onto more traveling! Currently, I am couchsurfing with a Lebanese family, so my adventures continue on, even a month into my stay here. I thought it would be a great to integrate myself into one family and learn more about the Lebanese culture by staying with a family. They have two kids, so its also learning how to express myself in Arabic too, since they don’t speak much English. And of course, from here on end, its the most intensive part of the course I am taking. I shall work hard and get as much as I can out of this class.

Cheers to enjoying the last 12 days in the beautiful country of Lebanon!

Peace from the Middle East!

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!